For some of you, it is playoff time in fantasy football. For others, the next week could be the week that decides your fantasy football playoff fate. Either way, the next week of fantasy football for most of you will be the most critical week of the season. It is a great time to take advantage of the waiver wire and look for backups, insurance policies, great matchups, and an opportunity to take away some major sleepers from your opponents.
The waiver wire is routinely played by fantasy football players that need a fill-in due to injury or an upgrade to a disappointing position. However, we are at the time of the year where the winners need to pick up some insurance policies for the playoffs. If you own Brett Favre, Drew Brees, or Peyton Manning, you need to grab a backup immediately. Those are three players that are likely to sit in Week 17, and maybe even some of Week 16. The same goes for the running back position if you own Joseph Addai, Adrian Peterson, and Pierre Thomas. Injuries and lingering questions regarding Matt Schaub, Mark Sanchez, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams, and Matt Hasselbeck also puts you into the free agent market. That said let’s take a look at this week’s bonus-sized playoff edition of the fantasy football waiver wire and free agent recommendations.
Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders – Did I really just recommend a Raider other than Zach Miller? Bruce Gradkowski has taken over the starting the job and is improving every week. Teams are taking the Raiders lightly and Gradkowski is making them pay. He had three touchdowns in Pittsburgh this week and put up close to 30 points in one of my leagues. He has developed great chemistry with Louis Murphy and the Raiders have turned into a throwing team. This isn’t just a one-week wonder. He has been putting up double-digits for the last three weeks. Now I wouldn’t take him for this week as he is playing the Redskins who have a great passing defense. However, he plays Denver, Cleveland, and Baltimore after that. All three of those teams have holes in the secondary and have given up big passing yards this season. Look around, and pick him up even if you don’t need a quarterback. You don’t want to be playing the guy that has him in the playoffs when he is putting up 25 points on the Browns.
Chris Brown, Houston Texans – While I am still on the Steve Slaton bandwagon (with a lot of room), Slaton’s injury changes the game when it comes to the value of Chris Brown. Slaton had numbness in his arm this week and missed the game. Right now he is week-to-week with a strong possibility of being done for the season. Matt Schaub dislocated his shoulder and is one bad hit on that shoulder from coming out of the game. Do you expect this team to be throwing with Rex Grossman in the game? Brown is very appealing because with Slaton gone he becomes a rare starting running back who stays in on goal line carries. Ryan Moats is not even a part of the equation at this point. Brown didn’t have a lot of points this week, but he has matchups against Seattle, St. Louis, and New England who all have subpar rushing defenses. I don’t love him, but he is probably your best bet out there if you are in need of a running back.
Jason Avant, Philadelphia Eagles – Keep in mind if you own Reggie Wayne, Sidney Rice, or Marques Colston, their value takes a huge drop in the final weeks if their gunslingers are sitting down. The Eagles lost DeSean Jackson with a concussion, and now Jeremy Maclin is hurt. That immediately thrusts Avant into the top spot on a team that loves to throw deep. He didn’t have a big game Sunday, but he had three strong weeks prior. The Eagles face four soft passing defenses the rest of the way and even with Jackson and Maclin back, Avant will get his catches. The Eagles are in a tight race for a Wildcard spot, so they will be playing everyone the rest of the way. Jason Avant could come in handy in the final weeks if you need a boost at wide receiver.
Robert Meachem, New Orleans Saints – Meachem is a tricky one, because his value immediately drops to nothing once Brees sits in the final week of the season. Until then, Meachem could be a great fill-in to get you to the title game if you are struggling at wide receiver. Shockingly, he is still available in a ton of leagues. The guy has had monster numbers for the last five weeks. The Saints play soft passing defenses the rest of the way who won’t be able to slow their show down. If you can grab him, claim him, and start him immediately next week.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans – Britt was drafted by Tennessee to be a vertical threat, yet never had many opportunities with Kerry Collins. That all changed when Big Bud called for Vince Young and this team finally added a vertical dimension to their offense. Britt is available in most fantasy leagues, and should be claimed and played immediately. Britt has had three double-digit weeks in a row since Young took over the quarterback position. The Titans play four very soft passing defenses over the next few weeks which, makes him an even more appealing pickup. Young and Britt have better chemistry by the week and Jeff Fisher has become confident in letting Young air it out. Teams will be planning on stopping Chris Johnson and Young from running, thus opening up the passing for Vince and Britt. I love his matchups and his upside. If you are in a keeper league and out of it with a bad team, he would be a great pickup and keeper for next year.
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