Just two teams on bye in Week 12, but Carolina and Pittsburgh aren’t the only teams whose players may not be available. Denver, Indianapolis and New Orleans are among the teams who may have to dig a little deeper into their depth charts this week. And the same can no doubt be said for a number of fantasy owners. The flip side to this coin is that injuries always present an opportunity for someone else on a roster to emerge, as was the case for a New England running back this past week. And don’t forget about the impending return of a certain wide receiver in Cleveland either.
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Carolina, Pittsburgh
Week 11 Recap: Josh McCown made it back-to-back strong outings with 288 yards passing, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a victory over Washington. Drew Stanton helped his Cardinals beat the Lions and threw for 306 yards, but his two touchdowns were offset by two interceptions. Teddy Bridgewater could not get much going against the Bears, finishing with just 158 yards passing with a touchdown and a pick and only two yards rushing.
Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills
Orton threw for as many touchdowns (zero) as you or I last week, but things should be better this Sunday. The Bills host the Jets, who are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. Yes, the Jets are coming off of their bye and Orton is apparently dealing with a minor toe injury, but he also put up by far his best numbers (238-4-0) against New York just three weeks ago. It’s a bit of leap of faith to trust Orton in a week where only Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger are on bye, but his matchup against the J-E-T-S certainly looks appealing.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Tannehill’s roller-coaster season continued Thursday night with 240 yards passing and two touchdowns (one fumble) against Buffalo. Here is Tannehill’s fantasy output (Athlon scoring) the past five games: 27.9, 16.6, 34.2, 13.3, and 22.3. If this trend were to continue, Tannehill would be in for a down week. However, the Dolphins will be in Denver Sunday to take on a Broncos defense that is allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Perhaps this is the week Tannehill breaks his pattern?
Week 11 Recap: C.J. Anderson didn’t score and had just 29 yards rushing, but he caught eight passes for 86 yards in the Broncos’ loss to the Rams. Anderson also escaped unscathed; something Montee Ball was unable to do, re-aggravating a groin injury. With Ball and Ronnie Hillman ailing, Anderson should see a heavy workload Sunday against a solid Dolphins defense. Alfred Blue filled in admirably for an injured Arian Foster (groin), rushing for 156 yards on 36 carries in the Texans’ win over the Browns. Blue could remain in the RB2 picture should Foster miss another game. Fred Jackson apparently returned too soon, as he was held out of the Bills’ Thursday night loss in Miami, somewhat because of the quick turnaround from the previous week.
Jonas Gray, New England Patriots
When Stevan Ridley tore his ACL, the thought was that Shane Vereen or Brandon Bolden or even rookie James White would get the majority of the carries. That was until Gray made his presence known with an 86-yard effort against the Bears a couple of weeks ago. And that’s definitely the case following his monster 201-yard, four-touchdown breakout performance Sunday night against the Colts. The Patriots fed Gray early and often (38 att.) and the third-year pro answered with an impressive and record-setting (rushing TDs in a game by a Patriot) showing. I wouldn’t expect 35-plus carries moving forward, especially Sunday against a stout Lions run defense, but there’s no reason to think Gray won’t get his fair share of touches either.
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams
Mason picked up 113 yards on 29 carries on Sunday against Denver’s No. 1-ranked rushing defense. It was the first 100-yard game for the Rams’ third-round pick, who has averaged 21 carries over the last three games. Mason seems to have grabbed hold of the No. 1 job in St. Louis’ backfield and Jeff Fisher has a reputation for running the ball. The Rams’ next two games are against the Chargers and Raiders, which are 14th and eighth, respectively, in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Richardson is averaging a woeful 3.4 yards per carry and has scored a total of two touchdowns. But with Ahmad Bradshaw now sidelined, likely for the rest of the season, with a fracture in his fibula, Richardson is now the Colts’ No. 1 back. This doesn’t mean Richardson will turn into a fantasy monster, but touches shouldn’t be an issue. That is unless Daniel Herron seizes the opportunity and emerges.
Week 11 Recap: Jordan Matthews posted his second straight 100-yard game against the Packers and now has four touchdowns in his last three contests. It certainly looks like he and Mark Sanchez are on the same page. James Jones caught just two passes for 35 yards, but that was better than either Dwayne Bowe (2 rec., 18 yds.) or Preston Parker (1, 9).
Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland Browns
Yes, Josh Gordon is back on the active roster and will immediately become the Browns No. 1 wide receiver. However, Gordon’s addition also could benefit his fellow wideouts, especially if tight end Jordan Cameron continues to be sidelined by a concussion. Hawkins has the better statistics (45-601-2) and more experience, while Gabriel is an undrafted rookie who is averaging 18.2 ypc and has posted four games with at least 81 yards receiving. Hawkins is probably the safer flyer option between the two, but it all depends on how Brian Hoyer distributes the targets with Gordon back in the fold.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were on bye last week and still suffered a loss. This time it was on their roster, as rookie Allen Robinson, who was leading the team in catches (48) and yards (548) was put on injured reserve because of a broken right foot. Robinson’s loss should be Shorts’ gain. Shorts has been the Jags’ top target in each of the past two seasons and he was second only to Robinson this season, despite missing three games. Allen Hurns leads the team with five touchdown catches, but Shorts should be the one who replaces Robinson as Blake Bortles’ top target.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
The Saints will be without first-round pick Brandin Cooks for at least a month because of a broken thumb, which means more snaps for Stills. Drew Brees still has tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Marques Colston to throw to, but as the No. 3 wideout Stills has managed three fewer catches than Colston (31 to 34), despite 18 fewer targets (42 to 60). Stills should replace Cooks, who was second only to Graham in all three receiving categories, as the No. 2 wide receiver, and it’s safe to expect the explosive Stills to be used in a similar manner. It’s now up to Stills to take advantage of this golden opportunity.
Week 11 Recap: Jared Cook got five targets (3 rec., 19 yds.) in Shaun Hill’s first game back as the Rams’ starting quarterback. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and the rest of the Buccaneers took a back seat to the Mike Evans (7-209-2) show, as the big target caught just one pass for seven yards in the win over Washington.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Dwayne Allen left the Sunday night game early with an ankle injury and Fleener took full advantage. With the Colts trailing the Patriots the entire game, Fleener caught a season-best seven passes for 144 yards. And this comes on the heels of a four-catch, 77-yard effort (on a season-high 11 targets) two weeks ago before Indianapolis went on bye. It’s also possible that Fleener will be able to maintain this level of production moving forward, especially with Allen’s health up in the air and the added loss of running back Ahmad Bradshaw (broken ankle). And don’t forget Andrew Luck and Fleener were teammates at Stanford, so chemistry isn’t an issue either.
Week 11 Recap: Cleveland not only let a rookie, backup running back gash them for 156 yards on the ground (213 total), the Browns’ defense also managed just one takeaway (INT) against an offense that featured a quarterback making his first career NFL start.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have scored 108 points in the last two games, and while Aaron Rodgers certainly had a big part in this, let’s not overlook the defense. Green Bay’s DST has put up 51 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) in dominating wins over Chicago and Philadelphia, including 32 on Sunday against the Eagles. While Rodgers and company filled up the stat sheet against the Bears and Eagles, the defense and special teams got into the act as well: seven sacks, seven takeaways (4 INTs, 3 fumbles) and four touchdowns (2 INT returns, fumble return, punt return). Next up is a Minnesota offense that managed 243 yards of offense against a Bears defense that had given up 106 points in its previous two games. The Vikings also are sixth in the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs, including the 24 (6 sacks, 3 TOs, INT returned for TD) they yielded to the Packers back in Week 5.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.