With bye weeks now a thing of the past, fantasy owners have one less thing to worry about as the playoff push begins. However, it’s also a great time to start looking ahead to identify guys who can help you during the fantasy playoffs and to pick them up while you can.
This week we’ll look at not only guys who can help in the short-term but also those who may pay dividends when it matters most.
As always, players listed here are owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: QB
Alex Smith (48%), San Francisco
Smith’s 267 yards against the Cardinals represented his second-highest total this season, and it was his first multi-TD game since Week Five. In a Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Ravens, Smith may need to air it out more often given Baltimore’s stout run defense.
That being said, the Ravens have been among the best at limiting the fantasy production of opposing QBs, so Smith becomes a risky play this week. However, he faces the Rams and Cardinals the following two weeks, and then he finishes with the Seahawks and Rams in the season’s final two games.
Andy Dalton (42%), Cincinnati
It’s tough to draw a firm conclusion from Dalton’s performance against Baltimore on Sunday. On one hand, he threw for 373 yards without his top receiver. On the other, he threw three picks. Still, Dalton now has multiple TDs in six of his last seven games.
Like Smith, his short-term schedule isn’t great with Cleveland (who is better against the pass than you might think), Pittsburgh, and Houston in the next three weeks, but fantasy playoff matchups against St. Louis and Arizona make him worth stashing.
Matt Moore (8%), Miami
The Dolphins are no longer sucking for Luck, and Moore is a big reason why. After tossing three TD passes on Sunday, he now has six scores during Miami’s three-game winning streak. He’s also completing over 70 percent of his passes over that span, which should have him full of confidence heading into a Thanksgiving matchup with Dallas. The Cowboys have been tough against opposing QBs, but Moore plays the more forgiving Oakland defense in Week 13 and has favorable matchups with Buffalo and New England during the fantasy playoffs.
Rex Grossman (6%), Washington
The good news is that he had three total TDs against the Cowboys, and he also has games remaining against New England and Minnesota. Grossman is also likely to throw plenty of passes next week given his team’s inability to generate a running game and Seattle’s tough run defense.
The bad news is that he’s Rex Grossman.
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: RB
Ryan Grant (35%), Green Bay
James Starks left Sunday’s game with what the Packers are calling a knee sprain. With a short week before Thursday’s game against Detroit, the likelihood that he plays isn’t terribly high.
Grant would be the main beneficiary, but keep in mind that Grant and Starks have scored only one TD between them, and that was in Week One. With guys like B.J. Raji and John Kuhn tallying more TDs than Grant, he’s a flex option at best this week if Starks is out.
Chris Ogbonnaya (34%), Cleveland
For at least a couple reasons, Ogbonnaya reached the pinnacle of his fantasy relevance with 115 rushing yards and a score against Jacksonville on Sunday. First, Montario Hardesty practiced during the week and should see some portion of the carries next week. Most importantly, Cleveland’s schedule is brutal with the exception of a Week 15 date with Arizona. Outside of that, the Browns face Cincinnati once and Baltimore and Pittsburgh two times a piece.
C.J. Spiller (16%), Buffalo
Given how little Spiller has shown when lining up in the backfield, any recommendation to add him is based solely on Fred Jackson’s health. Jackson missed most of the second half against the Dolphins with a calf injury, which he says isn’t serious. Spiller wasn’t particularly effective in his absence and was stuffed on a pair of goal line attempts. However, he’s a potential flex play with a full workload, particularly in PPR leagues.
Joe McKnight (12%), New York Jets
With both Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson banged up, McKnight seized the opportunity with 121 total yards on 22 touches against Denver. While Greene should play against Buffalo, McKnight’s play has likely earned him additional playing time, which against a Bills defense getting worse every week is a pretty nice matchup. A number of the Jets’ final opponents have given up a lot of points to fantasy running backs, which makes McKnight a decent speculative add.
Kevin Smith (11%), Detroit
I mentioned Smith briefly last week, but he’s now gone from unemployed to the most sought after fantasy waiver wire addition in a matter of weeks.
Image Source: The Cover Two
Against Carolina’s porous run defense, Smith went off for 140 rushing yards, 61 receiving yards, and three total TDs. His lengthy injury history makes you forget he’s just 24 years old, so there is plenty left in the tank. Smith and the Lions have a few solid fantasy matchups down the stretch, and there continues to be no timetable for the return of Jahvid Best.
Donald Brown (8%), Indianapolis
Joseph Addai’s status is unclear coming out of Indy’s bye week, but whoever gets the starting nod against Carolina is a solid fantasy option given their complete inability to stop the run. Brown started the last game for the Cols, so he’s worth a look if you need RB help.
Toby Gerhart (5%), Minnesota
The ankle injury to Adrian Peterson certainly didn’t look good, and the same could be said of Gerhart’s play after he replaced AP. Gerhart managed just 18 yards on seven carries, so even if Peterson misses this week’s game with Atlanta, there isn’t a ton of upside here. The Falcons have allowed opposing running backs to score just four touchdowns on the season and only two since Week Two.
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: WR
Michael Crabtree (49%), San Francisco
Just when it seemed like Crabtree’s fantasy value was disappearing again, along came the Arizona secondary. Crabtree lit them up to the tune of 120 yards on seven catches, and it could have been even more.
As I mentioned with Alex Smith, this week’s matchup will be challenging against the Ravens, but then again, Baltimore just gave up close to 400 passing yards on Sunday. Throw in some additional late-season matchups against inferior defenses and Crabtree is back on the fantasy radar.
Earl Bennett (46%), Chicago
Bennett has at least 75 receiving yards for three straight weeks, with two touchdowns over the same span. His chemistry with Jay Cutler dates back to their days at Vanderbilt, so the loss of Cutler is a blow to Bennett’s value. That said, the Bears have plenty of favorable matchups down the stretch, so keep an eye on how he looks with Caleb Hanie under center next week.
Jabar Gaffney (41%), Washington
I touched on Washington’s upcoming schedule earlier, and with a number of injuries in the receiving corps, Gaffney is the de facto go-to guy. He caught seven passes for 115 yards and a TD on Sunday, and he will continue to dominate the targets in the Washington passing attack as long as Santana Moss is out.
Nate Burleson (33%), Detroit
Over the last two games, Burleson has 15 grabs for 146 yards after being virtually invisible since Week Two. Starting with Thursday’s game against Green Bay, the Lions have a number of games left against poor pass defenses, which makes Burleson an attractive option, particularly in PPR leagues.
Jerome Simpson (29%), Cincinnati
With A.J. Green out, Simpson stepped up for the Bengals on Sunday with season highs of eight receptions and 152 yards. While it was his third 100-yard effort of the year, Simpson has been anything but consistent. In the three games after his first time hitting the century mark, he totaled eight catches for 72 yards. He was held to four receptions and 57 yards between his second and third 100-yard performances, so long story short, don’t bank on a repeat.
Fantasy Football Week 12 Waiver Wire Pickups: TE
Heath Miller (45%), Pittsburgh
He’s not a sexy pick, but Miller has traditionally been a steady producer for the Steelers. The post-bye matchup with Kansas City is a decent one, particularly because the Chiefs may still be reeling after Monday’s matchup with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Jermaine Gresham (39%), Cincinnati
Sunday’s numbers could have been even better if his late TD had not been nullified, but he should be able to bounce back in Week 12. Gresham faces a Cleveland defense prone to being victimized by opposing tight ends, including himself after he racked up six catches, 58 yards, and a score in the first meeting.
Marcedes Lewis (17%), Jacksonville
After a breakout performance last year, Lewis has been a huge disappointment in 2011, but he put that aside on Sunday against Cleveland, where he finished with seven receptions for 64 yards. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert seemed to look for him more this week, but beware of a matchup with a stingy Houston defense that has allowed just two opposing tight ends to find the end zone.
Jacob Tamme (1%), Indianapolis
I mentioned Tamme as a potential PPR league option last week given his previous performances when Dallas Clark has missed time. And yes, I realize that I have now recommended two players from a winless team in the same column.
Streaming Defense(s) of the Week
Seattle (12%) vs. Washington
Grossman is good for at least a couple turnovers, and the Seahawks have an underrated defense. They’ve given up just 24 points in their last two games and should be able to use a normally boisterous home crowd to their advantage.
Have any questions or feedback? Leave them in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@andybottoms).