As we near the official halfway point to the NFL season rosters are in flux, depth charts are changing by the day, and fantasy owners are scouring their waiver wire for replacement players just so they can put out a competitive roster each week.
I'd love to tell you I have some hidden gems for you to grab, but the truth is you have to read the Tuesday article to get that kind of info. By the time Thursday rolls around, the hot waiver wire pick-ups have already been claimed. You can look and see if Mohamed Sanu (51.0 percent owned on NFL.com), Odell Beckham (13.5 percent owned), Brandon Bolden (1.0 percent owned, but 20,000-plus adds this week), or Andre Holmes (5.3 percent owned, but 69,000-plus adds this week) are available still. If they aren't, all I can say is get on your knees and have a conversation with God because you are throwing up a hail-Mary!
This week fantasy owners get back Mark Ingram and Reggie Bush, which can only help. The problem there is Ingram may be eased back into the offense and Bush has a tough road to go down with no Calvin Johnson to keep the defense honest. The key to winning at this point of the season is in being able to let go of the hope that guys will figure it out and perform, and embracing the fact that lesser-known guys are on the waiver wire and putting up numbers.
Joe Flacco is owned in 51.7 percent of NFL.com leagues, yet he is ranked 8th in total fantasy points for them this season; Alex Smith is owned in 72.9 percent of NFL.com leagues, yet is ranked 22nd in fantasy points for QBs. Stop wasting your time with a guy like Smith who is NOT getting the job done, and see if Flacco is either available or can be had in a trade for a reasonable price before it is too late!
Carson Palmer – Cardinals: Palmer put up 250 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and didn't throw an interception during the Cardinals Week 6 win over the Redskins. It was a nice showing for his first game back, but you also have to understand it was against a Redskins defense that gives up a league-high 25.3 fantasy PPG (FPPG). This week Palmer gets the Raiders, who are hit or miss for defense. My money is on Palmer and his gunslinger ways.
Tom Brady – Patriots: Brady started the season off slow, throwing for less than 250 yards in all of his first four games. He has turned that around in his last two games, of which he had yardage totals of 292 and 361, with 6 touchdowns combined. Brady gets a Jets defense that gives up 24.2 FPPG to QBs this season, 4th-most in the NFL. With the game being in Foxboro, Brady could put up QB1 numbers with a ceiling in the top-5 range this week.
Branden Oliver – Chargers: Oliver was my must-own waiver wire pick of last week, and he didn't disappoint as he finished with 30 touches for 124 total yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. The Chargers have another divisional matchup, this time facing the Chiefs who are much better on defense. With that said, Oliver is a dual threat-type of RB who should leave his mark on the boxscore whether it is on the ground or via the air. Oliver is a borderline RB1/2 for this week.
Justin Forsett – Ravens: I'm leery of trusting any of the Ravens RBs because the coaching staff keeps talking up all three. And it is hard to know what to think of Forsett's 6.4 YPC average this season. Nevertheless, the Ravens lock horns with the Falcons this week, and their generous defense is allowing RBs to rack up 29.7 FPPG this season. Food for thought: The team giving up the 2nd-most fantasy points to RBs this season is the Panthers, who are an astounding 5.2 PPG behind the Falcons at 24.5 PPG.
*Storm Johnson– Jaguars: I'm not prepared to tell you to stick the rookie into your starting fantasy lineup, but I will certainly tell you he is worth owning in 12-team leagues with deep benches, or 14-plus team leagues. If Toby Gerhart continues to miss time, the Jaguars should continue to increase Johnson's carries to see exactly what they have in the rookie. Sometimes it is good to just grab a player and hold on to him until we know a little more about his role down the line.
Andre Holmes – Raiders: I have the best/worst feeling about Holmes this week. The Cardinals give up 29.7 FPPG to WRs this year in standard scoring formats (2nd-most in NFL), and 46.1 FPPG in PPR formats (most in NFL). So, I love the matchup with Holmes being the apple of Derek Carr's eye. I have a bad feeling because… well… it's the Raiders. No matter what, I've promised myself that I will follow wherever the stats lead me, and the stats say Holmes is a solid WR3 play in Week 7.
Mohamed Sanu – Bengals: With A.J. Green out with a toe injury and Marvin Jones hitting the injured reserve, Sanu is now the No. 1 WR on the depth chart. I'll say it again, last week he was targeted 14 times! With that he hauled in 10 of them for a robust 120 yards and an endzone visit. This week the Bengals travel to Indianapolis, where the Colts are actually giving up the 4th-fewest FPPG at 16.2. Even though the Colts typically don't give up a ton of points to a certain position, Andy Dalton has proven time and time again that he is better than the national media gives him credit for. I'm going to say what nobody else is willing to say this week, start Sanu as a WR3 this week.
Larry Donnell – Giants: Tight ends are always hit or miss, and with back-to-back duds for fantasy owners it is time for Donnell to break out again. The Cowboys give up 12.9 FPPG to TEs this season, the 2nd-most in the NFL. Manning isn't someone I personally care to own or play, but I could see Donnell having another top-tier TE game in Week 7.
San Diego Chargers defense: Can you believe that the Chargers defense is owned in just 33.7 percent of NFL.com leagues, despite being ranked 9th overall this season in total fantasy points? This week they get a Chiefs offense that is ranked 21st in the NFL for total offense with 335.0 YPG. The Chargers give up just 308.3 YPG on defense, the 3rd-fewest in the NFL. There is some risk involved here with Jamaal Charles, but the matchup favors the Chargers at home. If you need a streaming defense, the Chargers are a top-10 fantasy option this week.
Matthew Stafford – Lions: Without Calvin Johnson to throw to, Stafford is a mere shell of himself for fantasy purposes. Golden Tate will be targeted a ton, but he stands just 5'10" and has never had enough talent to come close to being a No. 1 WR. Reggie Bush is almost a lock to play this week, which is good news for Stafford owners. But, in the end, there will still be no Megatron on the field and Stafford has yet to produce without him this season.
Eli Manning – Giants: The Giants and Cowboys have one of the fiercest rivalries in the NFL, so both teams are a little extra pumped for this matchup. But as we saw last week, the Giants have real issues on the O-Line and [Eli] Manning isn't going to engineer many game-winning drives like his brother [Peyton] does. It may surprise you to know that the Cowboys also give up the 6th-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season at 17.4 PPG.
C.J. Spiller – Bills: Spiller played a season-low 12 snaps in Week 6 and finished with just 19 yards on the day. Spiller is currently owned in 93.0 percent of NFL.com leagues, which is about 43 percent more than he should be. The Bills are either fazing him out of the offense, or are frustrated with his 3.4 YPC average this season. No matter what the reasoning, Spiller looks more like a handcuff than a guy who is owned in virtually every fantasy league out there. I wouldn't trust him until his snap count gets above the 50 percent mark.
New England running backs: As I said on Tuesday, trying to predict what the Patriots are going to do with their backfield from week to week would drive psychic Dionne Warwick insane! Shane Vereen is a pass-down back, with a season high of 9 carries; Brandon Bolden projects as the RB most likely to take over Stevan Ridley's spot, but Ridley would see his carries go from 5 one week, to 27 the next week, and back down to 10 the following week. The Jets have a far tougher run defense than they do a pass defense, so the Patriots are probably going to use Brady more than Bolden or Vereen on the ground. With that said, I'd give all the Patriots backs a week off so we can evaluate what the gameplan is for them going forward. Those in PPR leagues can give Vereen a play, but your guess is as good as mine as to what he will do.
Wes Welker – Broncos: Welker is, in my opinion, the biggest fantasy red herring out there this season. He is owned in 91.0 percent of NFL.com leagues, but plays on a fairly loaded (for pass-catching players anyway) Broncos team and there are only so many passes Peyton Manning can throw in a game without his arm falling off. Welker is a handcuff in case of injury. Play him at your own risk until an injury bumps him up the depth chart.
Marques Colston – Saints: The Lions are the stingiest NFL team when it comes to giving up fantasy points to WRs this season at 14.2 FPPG. The Saints come into this game ranked 2nd in the NFL for passing yards per game at 309.8, but Colston is accounting for just 49.6 of them. Colston has just 29 targets on the season, which accounts for just 13.0 percent of the Saints' total targets. I don't want to say Colston is being worked out of the offense, but he is clearly showing his age (31) this season. He's a boom or bust WR3 until he proves otherwise.
Jason Witten – Cowboys: Witten is owned in 90.9 percent of NFL.com leagues, and started in 75.9 percent of those leagues. Both are pretty high numbers for a guy who has a season high of 61 yards on 5 receptions. This one is pretty cut and dry; Witten is owned purely on name recognition, not his ability to produce fantasy points for his owners. Did you know you could still grab Dwayne Allen off the waiver wire (46.4 percent owned on NFL.com) and be better off than by running Witten out there to flop each week? Work smart, not hard!
San Francisco 49ers defense: The 49ers are normally a strong defense to own and just plug-and-play every week. Well, that is until they travel to Denver and take on Manning and Co. This has far more to do with the Broncos offense than it does with the 49ers defense. Manning is bound to have a bad game this season, but I wouldn't even attempt to predict when that would be. Just pick up the Browns, Bills, or Cardinals to use as a streamer if you own the 49ers.