In Week 13 and beyond, the dynamic of the waiver wire changes. Bye weeks are over, which means you’re not desperately searching for a key replacement, and in deep leagues you’re not praying to our fantasy overlords for…something, just anything or anyone at all. Instead, you can now be selective, and pluck favorable matchups. That applies universally unless you own a running back who just broke.
More forthcoming on that in a minute. First, let’s stream some quarterbacks.
1. Matt Flynn: First off, let’s do a housekeeping note. Again, bye weeks are over, which clearly affects your level of desperation at any position and for any player. But it especially changes your thirst for a quarterback, because barring an injury most of you should only be carrying only one on your roster at this point, because unlike the two other major point-producing fantasy positions (running back and wide receiver), most leagues only start one quarterback. The exception are those who passionately claw and stream quarterbacks every week, which is where filth like Flynn come in. If you’re brave enough to do this during what is for many leagues the final week to clinch a playoff spot, Flynn has a matchup that’s pretty neat. Barring a miraculous healing hand on Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone, Flynn will start Thursday, and he’ll do it against a Lions defense that just allowed rookie Mike Glennon to post a passer rating of 138.4.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 3%
2. Andy Dalton: I did the ol’ double and/or triple take upon noticing that Dalton’s availability is over 50 percent in one of the two major sites we use around these here parts. Look guys, I get that he’s been inconsistent. But in Dalton we’re discussing a quarterback who has 169.5 fantasy points, which is more than Tom Brady, and only slightly behind the far more widely owned and highly drafted Matt Ryan and Robert Griffin III. Much of Dalton’s point total (81.5 points) comes from a three-week stretch against horribly inept and/or injured pass defenses (Bills, Jets, Lions). Oh and hey look, now he gets to chuck balls against the Chargers and their secondary giving up 8.4 yards per pass attempt and 276.0 per game.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 47%, Yahoo – 74%
3. Alex Smith: He’s out there more than you think, with Smith available in nearly 40 percent of Yahoo leagues. If your league is on the favorable side of that percentage and you’re also one of those streaming kids, go ahead and give Smith a spin this week. Two weeks ago against the Broncos, Smith’s Chiefs were down by two touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter, and given the crumbling along their defensive line it’s pretty easy to imagine a similar (or even more likely, far worse) result this week when the two teams meet again. That will lead to an abundance of passing, a scenario which resulted in a season-high 45 pass attempts in Week 12 for Smith, and 22 fantasy points. Over the past two games which have been filled with tears for KC, Smith has 43 points, a mini stretch which is a step above his season average of 15.5.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 66%, Yahoo – 61%
4. Carson Palmer: Much like Dalton, I understand why you hate Palmer. Mostly, it’s his flat-footed nature, and that combined with a poor offensive line usually leads to the worst kind of endings. But here’s the deal: if you’re already searching the waiver wire for a spot start, landing on Palmer this week could end in something much different: happiness. Palmer goes against the Eagles in Week 13, and thus the league’s worst secondary, and the only one allowing over 300 passing yards per game. Against similarly awful pass defenses over the past two weeks (Colts and Jaguars), Palmer has completed over 70.0 percent of his passes in both games with 733 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 10%, Yahoo – 40%
5. Mike Glennon: If you’re a Rodgers owner in a deep league who’s been clinging to life week-to-week by rolling with, well, anyone who looks remotely appealing (many a man has ended a night this way), then Glennon remains an option. I’ll give you the good news here before the horrible news, because that sounds pleasant. Glennon has logged 15 or more fantasy points over six of his last seven starts, which is phenomenal for a guy who’s still almost universally out there in ESPN leagues. During that same stretch he’s also thrown just two interceptions over 207 pass attempts. All of that would be swell if he wasn’t about to get smacked by the Panthers and their defense that’s allowed the second fewest passing touchdowns in the league (nine), and is giving up only 6.8 yards per attempt while crunching opposing QBs 34 times. However, there’s hope here after Ryan Tannehill threw for 310 yards against Carolina this past Sunday, 127 of which went to Mike Wallace.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 5%, Yahoo – 20%
1. Montee Ball: Welcome to the insurance purchasing portion of our proceedings. It begins with Ball, who Knowshon Moreno owners need to spend all the dollars on, and now. We’ll be able to get a better gauge on his status tomorrow when practice resumes, but after a career day Sunday night (224 rushing yards), Moreno limped away from Sunday night’s game on crutches. Mike Klis of the Denver Post is calling Moreno “questionable at best“, so proceed accordingly. If he’s out, Ball will most likely be the next man up, with Ronnie Hillman receiving work on passing downs.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 73%, Yahoo – 50%
2. Benny Cunningham: This is a similar case of adding absolutely necessary yet at this point speculative insurance. Those who have been riding Zac Stacy were dealt some awful when he left early with a concussion after posting 87 yards on the bears at a pace of 8.7 per carry. It’s all good, though, because then Cunningham came in and chugged along for 109 yards at 8.3 per carry. We won’t know much about Stacy’s status until tomorrow, but anyone using him as an RB2 has to claim his backup. And if you’re a jerk who wants to screw over a Stacy owner, go ahead and do that too.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 0%
3. Bilal Powell: When Chris Ivory is healthy, he is a wonderful human (238 rushing yards over two games prior to last week). But sadly, that doesn’t happen often, and now he has both an upper and lower ankle sprain, which sounds terrific. Add Powell if he was dropped in your league, and hope that somewhere deep down he can summon the guy who rushed for 149 yards way back in Week 2.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 35%, Yahoo – 40%
4. Dennis Johnson: Gary Kubiak is still calling Ben Tate the starter in Houston, which is a borderline meaningless title. Tate may still be struggling with his four cracked ribs, which is fine because somewhere deep down he’s human. But regardless, if Tate’s one yard — one — one seven carries against Jacksonville its defense that’s giving up 133.5 rushing yards per game wasn’t just a one-off nightmare day, Dennis Johnson will continue to receive more work. The likely scenario here is a near-even platoon going forward after Johnson’s 87 total yards on 15 touches against the Jaguars.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 12%
5. Brandon Bolden: I almost put Michael Bush here, thinking that if Matt Forte’s carries are somewhat limited after his minor knee injury, his backup could have some value. But then I remembered Bush had seven carries for -5 yards with a touchdown Sunday. I didn’t think that was allowed or possible. Instead, if you’re in a deep league and have the need to dig into backfield depth, go with Brandon Bolden, who’s now possibly the “lead” back in a Patriots dumpster fire due to Stevan Ridley’s perpetual struggles with the fumbling disease. With four fumbles overall this year on his 135 carries, Ridley is averaging a turfing once every 33.8 carries. That sounds bad enough, but then when we narrow our scope to the last three games when Ridley’s fumbled in each, he’s dropping one once every 14.3 carries. So yeah, you’re seeing why there’s about to be a committee in the Patriots’ backfield, with Bill Belichick at his most Belichickian. By default that makes Bolden a value add and flex play, because LeGarrette Blount fumbled Sunday too and he’s mostly a short-yardage back, and while Shane Vereen has value, his versatility makes him a passing down specialist. That’s the same equation which led to a season-high 13 carries for Bolden, which he turned into an also season-high 58 yards and a touchdown.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 7%
1. Michael Crabtree: He’s now officially been activated, a move which was a mere formality. Yet even though grandmothers everywhere knew that was coming since Crabtree has been practicing for a few weeks, he’s still readily waiting in many, many leagues for you to pluck immediately. Now, before you do that, please be aware of the circumstances in which such a move makes sense. If you’re in a league with a shallow bench and you’re grasping for a playoff berth, don’t bother. And if you need immediate production, also don’t bother, because although he’ll play this week, Crabtree will get the same treatment that Percy Harvin received in his first game back, and be featured in only a handful of snaps. Realistically, you’re not playing him until at least next week, but even then you might not because Crabtree has a brutally horrible matchup against Seattle, which is then followed by some time on Revis Island in Week 14. So pick him up now due to the mere potential for fine numbers at next to no cost, but do it knowing that actually activating Crabs could become only a one-week deal. Huh, that sucks.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 12%, Yahoo – 32%
2. Justin Hunter: By their very nature, flex spots are the places to make a high-upside gamble. So if it’s immediate production you seek — or at least the potential for it — then it’s Hunter you desire. Hunter will be inconsistent, because that happens when your quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even more fundamentally, when you’re still playing roughly half of your team’s offensive snaps (he was on the field for 41 of the Titans’ 81 plays in a win over Oakland). But it’s the big-play possibility that’s appealing, as suddenly in Week 12 Hunter emerged with 109 yards on six catches. How many receiving yards did he have over his previous nine game appearances? 122.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%
3. Cordarrelle Patterson: With 11 targets during a tie with the Packers with really happened, Patterson led all Vikings pass catchers, and it wasn’t close. Jerome Simpson was a distant second with four targets, and he was once Patterson’s primary competition for playing time. Add in Patterson’s nine targets in Week 10, and nearly 40 percent of his looks on the season have come over just the past two weeks. He’s rising fast.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 19%
4. Julian Edelman: Caution comes with this claim. Yeah, Edelman scored twice while finishing with 110 yards during New England’s 24-point comeback and eventual win over Denver. But he did it on 11 targets, which was more than his last three games combined, and a result of the lopsided first-half score, the Patriots’ frequent fumbling, and Danny Amendola being shut down. But there’s a flip side to that, as you could make this claim and flex Edelman knowing that in this version of the Patriots offense, the receiver who goes boom is random and sporadic. Against Houston and their ability to shut down deep passing (only 23 receptions of 20 yards or more allowed), Edelman could be targeted often again in short range.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 28%, Yahoo – 40%
5. Tiquan Underwood: Be warned that Underwood’s 85-yard catch is an outlier defined, as that one catch and that one play currently represents nearly 40 percent of his yardage on the season. But then also know that if you’re in a deeper league (14 teams or more), you could do worse for a reaching flex. In such a position you’re looking for chunk yardage, and of Underwood’s 13 receptions, five of them have gone for more than 20 yards.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 2%
1. Ladarius Green: I don’t even really know who Antonio Gates is anymore. I believe he’s an old, old wooden ship used during the civil war era (your yawn over a dated reference is null and void due to the best film in history coming out in less than a month). Gates’ role has still been steady, though we should note that of his 685 total yards, a pretty sizable chunk (285 yards) came over just two booming games which have skewed his per game average of 62.3. Now Green is finally being utilized often, with his speed that doesn’t at all resemble that of a tight end. He has 161 receiving yards over his last two games, and to put his field burning into perspective, half of Green’s 14 receptions this year have gone for +20 yards. Gates has only three more such bombs despite 45 more catches.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%
2. Tim Wright: He’ll keep appearing here as long as he’s still being targeted often. And yeah, that’s happening, albeit not consistently under Glennon. Wright was targeted nine times against the Lions this past weekend, and he turned that into 75 yards. It was the third game this season he’s reached eight looks, and one of those came against the same Panthers defense he’ll face in Week 13, a time when Wright also scored one of his two touchdowns.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 17%
3. Charles Clay: He’s still available in nearly half of ESPN leagues, so let’s go back to this well. Clay has been about as inconsistent this year as the entire Dolphins passing offense, scoring five times and topping 90 receiving yards twice, but finishing below 30 yards in four other games. This week, though, he has a chance to be featured heavily with Ryan Tannehill likely having to duck and cover the on-rushing bodies of Jets’ defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, and he’ll therefore again have little time to find Mike Wallace deep. That will likely mean more yardage in small chunks for Clay, and more opportunities to imitate construction machinery.
Perception owned: ESPN – 54%, Yahoo – 66%
4. Scott Chandler: Oddly, despite now having the 24th-ranked pass defense, the Falcons are giving up only 38.0 yards per game to tight ends. But Chandler is still worth a stream, because if you’re the type who does that with your tight ends, rolling with someone who’s facing a defense that’s given up the second most passing touchdowns (23) is always a good idea.
Percentage owned: ESPN – 15%, Yahoo – 19%
5. Heath Miller: Another fine streaming option, Miller will be doing his high percentage safety valve thing against a Ravens defense giving up 59.2 yards per game to the position. He’s also a week removed from being targeted a season-high 10 times against a Lions defense that’s equally blah while attempting to defend tight ends (61.3 yards per game)
Percentage owned: ESPN – 14%, Yahoo – 47%