Another week, more quarterback injuries (and a notable QB bye), and more gold — both fool’s and otherwise — among the wide receivers. Oh goody, let’s dig in.
1. Josh McCown: Believe in the power of McCown, and feel it. Jay Cutler was ruled out for Week 11 immediately before the Bears even started their week of practice, which hints strongly at a multiple-week absence. McCown’s matchups over the next few weeks seem less than appealing because, well, they are. But the Ravens this week and the Rams a week from now present a similar foe: they’re defenses with pretty hurtful pass rushes, but vulnerable secondaries. So basically, if McCown can survive the first part, he’ll do just fine while chucking deep balls to the outstretched wing spans provided by Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. That’s particularly true this week against a now young and promising Ravens secondary, but one that’s given up the most +40 yard catches in the league (14, and they’re one of only two teams in double digits).
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 8%
2. Alex Smith: You’re thinking a few things here, and I’ll try to do the mind reading. First, you may be thinking that Smith is surely owned in your league, but while he’s widely claimed as you can see below, there’s still a very good chance he’s waiting for employment. Then you’re thinking that he barely passes, which is also true, as Smith is averaging only 35.0 attempts per game (20th). But quantity may matter far less than quality this week against the Broncos and the league’s third worst pass defense (allowing 287.9 yards per game, and 7.8 per attempt), leading to opportunities for chunk yardage, even if it comes in typical Chiefs dunking/dinking with a few doinks. Smith also runs far more than you likely give him credit for, as he’s averaging nearly 30 rushing yards per game. You could do worse for a bye-week replacement, Tony Romo owners.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 66%, Yahoo – 56%
3. Jason Campbell: Guys, I’m beginning to think we may live in a world where Jason Campbell is matchup proof. I know, I just had to pour a cold beverage on myself for even allowing that thought to be real. But consider that over his first two starts he ran the gauntlet of Kansas City and Baltimore, and yet over 75 pass attempts he hasn’t puked out an interception yet, and he’s thrown for 556 yards at a pace of 7.5 per attempt. Oh, and in both games his passer rating has been over 100.0. That’s pretty alright, and now he draws a Bengals defense that’s lost both its best cornerback (Leon Hall), and arguably the best interior pass rusher in the league (Geno Atkins).
Percentage owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 10%
4. Nick Foles: This is pretty much just a reminder note that tonight (as in pretty much right now) will be your last chance to hop aboard the Foles express, a cushy ride filled with underthrown deep lobs that still land in the end zone because higher powers love you. The ownership numbers below are a little scattered, but Foles is still unowned in over half of ESPN leagues, and even being out there in over 30% of Yahoo leagues sort of feels wrong and immoral. This is a quarterback who’s made history over the past two weeks with his 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over a two-game span, and now he gets to tee off on the Redskins, and their defense that’s allowing 8.3 yards per attempt, and is tied for the third most passing touchdowns allowed (19).
Percentage owned: ESPN – 45%, Yahoo – 67%
5. Scott Tolzien: No, seriously. You have to be in a special state of desperation to actually do this, and clearly the waiver price you’re paying for Tolzien should reside between very little and none at all. But don’t completely scoff at this idea, because considering the situation — an undrafted rookie entering a game cold, with minimal reps — he wasn’t at all horrible this past Sunday, throwing for 280 yards against the Eagles with a touchdown and two interceptions, while completing 61.5 percent of his passes. Now, maybe that’s just a statement on the Eagles’ defense and its awfulness, and fair enough. But the Giants this week also offer little to be scared of with their 14 sacks.
Percentage owned: 0%, Yahoo – 1%
1. Andre Brown: Hi there. I’m the guy who , like most of you, thought Brown would be eased in by the Giants during his return from a broken leg. Oh, I figured he’d get a decent chunk of carries still, but at best that would result in a time share. So of course he then led all running backs in Week 10 with 30 carries during a win over Oakland, turning that into 115 yards and a touchdown. Sure, that high carry volume resulted in a plodding 3.5 YPC, but whatever. With Eli Manning still chucking a lot of footballs to guys wearing the wrong colored jersey, Brown will be a workhorse going forward. And it’s quite rare that you can obtain a running back who meets that description for the cost of a mere waiver claim at midseason.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 25%, Yahoo – 51%
2. Bobby Rainey: For some reason, the name Bobby Rainey makes me think he should be smacking some sucker in a 12-round heavyweight fight, instead of embarrassing the Dolphins. Can’t you hear Bruce Buffer saying “BoBBBBBBBYYYYYYY RainEEEEEEYYYYY” all Buffer-like? Anywho, wipe that tear away, former Mike James and Doug Martin owners, because there’s a decision to be made. With James likely (and cruelly) gone for the season after fracturing his ankle last night, the running back duties in Tampa will be split between Rainey and Brian Leonard. The former has a little more value because, as he did last night while running for 45 yards on just eight carries (most of which came on a 31-yard run), Rainey will likely get most of the goal-line work.
Percentage owned: ESPN 1%, Yahoo – 4%
3. Brian Leonard: Your Bucs running back claiming priorities should be determined by league format. In standard leagues, Rainey has the advantage due to that goal-line plugging. But are you a PPR aficionado? Well then do I have a deal for you (*said in local car dealership owner sleezeball voice*). Go with Leonard, because even with James healthy he had 10 receptions between weeks 8 and 9 for a total of 80 yards.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1$, Yahoo – 6%
4. Mark Ingram: Ingram exploded and should earn at least a few more touches, though please restrain yourself. If you’re a depressed soon-to-be former James owner or you’re desperate to fill a bye (hello there, DeMarco Murray owners), Ingram is a fine plug and play in leagues with moderate to not-so-moderate depth. But please remember that his kaboom of 145 rushing yards came in a blowout win over Dallas which had reached that status because Sean Lee exited, and DeMarcus Ware was mostly just physically present, and not at all himself. Again, there could be a little bit of an uptick in work coming for Ingram, but even during his massive game Pierre Thomas still received more carries (17 to Ingram’s 14). Given the lack of anything useful at all among running backs on most wires at this point in the season, there will be a guy in your league who drastically overpays for the Ingram we saw Sunday. Don’t be that guy.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 65%, Yahoo – 16%
5. Shane Vereen: I almost put Rashad Jennings here, and if we assume Darren McFadden remains out, he’s an appealing option again this week for your short-term needs after recording 289 total yards in only his past two games. But for those either capable or able to see more than a few days into the future, Vereen is the better add. He’s practicing now, and he’ll likely return in a limited capacity this week against the Panthers under the MNF spotlight. That’s a horrible matchup which you care little about right now. Barring another bone snapping, if you advance to the money round of your fake football league you’ll be getting six weeks of a guy who, when healthy, is essentially Aaron Hernandez-lite with his usage. Vereen’s value will become exceedingly high in PPR leagues, and he’s reasonably available in leagues that don’t have a stashing hoarder.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 69%, Yahoo – 49%
1. Rishard Matthews: I don’t actually hate to say “I told you so”, because if I’m being honest it’s one of my favorite things. And I fell less self-aware and douchey if I point out a failed prediction directly below (see: directly below). So with that said, I just found something, and the date on it says Oct. 29: a recommendation in praise of one Rishard Matthews. Now you’ll have to sever every limb to obtain him on the waiver wire after his 120 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches, with all of those numbers greater than his totals over five previous game appearances this year. Even better, since Ryan Tannehill has little time to look deep before being smacked, Matthews’ targets could become mountainous fast. He received 14 looks last night, and was on the other end for 120 of Tannehill’s 229 passing yards.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 4%
2. Marquise Goodwin: Alright, so my Goodwin super sleeper flex play didn’t work out so well Sunday when the boom or bust speed man definitely did the latter, totaling just nine yards on two catches. But that happened mostly because E.J. Manuel couldn’t throw accurately to a group of fat clowns. But now with both Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson possibly out this week and Manuel disposing of some rust following his return from injury, there’s reason to hope again, because Goodwin will now receive targets by default. Combine that increased volume with his grass burning speed (he has two +40 yard catches, despite just 10 receptions in total), and wonderful things could be forthcoming.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%
3. Tavon Austin: I won’t spend much more time here gushing, salivating, and doing things I shouldn’t do in public while thinking about Austin’s 310 total yards Sunday, with his speed finally showcased. But for our purposes here, having to sacrifice your mother to acquire Austin’s services through the waiver wire if he’s available is not a wise thing. Oh, there will be that guy in every league, just as there will be with Ingram. We know that species as a boxscore grazer. What they don’t see is that while Austin’s 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just two catches was, in a word, WOWWWWWEEEE, that came on just three targets, and only 15 total offensive snaps. If available (look at that Yahoo number…) he’s still worth a low cost claim based on the possibility that the Rams have finally figured out how to get him the ball in space and his touches will increase. But there’s a far great possibility that we’ll look back on Austin’s week 10 output and see it as a massive outlier.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 72%, Yahoo – 44%
4. Kenny Stills: Over the Saints’ last four games — so a quarter of the season — Stills has 203 yards with four touchdowns. At first that sounds sort of meh, and then you realize that Stills is scoring consistently and he’s averaging nearly 50 receiving yards per game in an offense where he’s often the fourth receiving option behind Marques Coltson, Jimmy Graham, and Darren Sproles. The Saints are one of just five teams averaging 40 or more pass attempts per game, so there’s plenty of target love to spread around.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 43%, Yahoo – 40%
5. Tiquan Underwood: Some more minor word eating here, or at least apprehension. Yesterday while pondering some questions of interest prior to whatever it was that we all watched last night, I stated a belief that of the two primary Bucs pass catching options who aren’t named Vincent Jackson, Tim Wright is the one you want to own. I still believe that deep in my heart, because he’s far more versatile, and has the title of tight end just because we have to call him something. However, Underwood will have his fine games, and evenings when he gets more targets and opportunities since he’s the No. 2 receiver with Mike Williams gone. Monday was one of those times, as Underwood led the Bucs with 64 yards on just three catches, including a 30-yarder.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%
1. John Carlson: Kyle Rudolph now exists solely in our memories for the rest of this year, so pour one out. But enter Carlson, who had the second-best game of his career last Thursday with 98 yards while catching all seven of his targets, most of which came from Christian Ponder, who will likely be healthy enough to play Sunday after sustaining what at first looked to be a serious shoulder injury (his non-throwing shoulder was dislocated on an end-zone dive). Sudden spikes are inherent with the tight end position, but the consistent deep-ish looks Carlson received gives us reason to be encouraged by his Week 10 performance. Of his seven catches, four of them went for 15 yards or more, including his 28-yard touchdown.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 2%
2. Delanie Walker: This is one of those times when we can find hope amid the smouldering depression. With Jake Locker out and Ryan Fitzpatrick set to embarrass himself weekly, the production potential of Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, and Nate Washington gets torpedoed to a degree. But since Fitz Magic has a spaghetti arm, his tight end automatically receives an upgrade. That tight end’s name is Delanie Walker, and he was targeted eight times Sunday (seven of which came from Fitzgerald), his highest target number since Week 3.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 12%, Yahoo – 10%
3. Brandon Pettigrew: He’s back? No, I’m not sure that Pettigrew ever really arrived at all, but he’s here now anyway on some level and he’s worth streaming this week. He’ll face the Steelers, and they were gifted a thoroughly rusted E.J. Manuel Sunday, but herein lies a secondary that’s a week removed from giving up 143 yards and a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski in a game that also featured three Patriots receivers with 120 yards or more. Oh, but that’s just Gronk and he’s really good, you say. Not so, as the Steelers are giving up a not quite Bronco-like (more momentarily) but still generous 61.0 yards per game to tight ends. Match that up with the Lions leading the league in pass attempts per game, and swell things could happen again for Pettigrew after his season-high 70 yards on five catches against the Bears.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 28%, Yahoo – 30%
4. Rob Housler: After spending the offseason as a Jordan Cameron-lite sleeper candidate (young tight end in a new pass-oriented offense with the veteran ahead of him now gone), Housler was derailed by an early-season injury. But slowly he’s emerging now, with 50 or more receiving yards in two of his last three games, a stretch that includes a season high seven targets in Week 8, and a season-long 26-yard reception Sunday in a win over Houston.
Percentage owned: ESPN 1%, Yahoo – 7%
5. Anthony Fasano: I hate myself for doing this, but we’ve arrived at this point if you struck out with the options above and need to either stream a tight end this week or cover Jason Witten’s bye. Here’s the deal: the Broncos are the absolute worst against tight ends, and I almost mean that literally, as only the Cardinals are allowing more yards per game to the position. Currently the Broncos are averaging 85.8 yards allowed per game to tight ends, making Fasano (or going even deeper, Sean McGrath) a deep league sleeper, and giving him/them a very real opportunity to do something of note.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%