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Waiver wire moves

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Fantasy owners can see the playoffs, the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. By now you have a good 1/3 of your league that is dead because they are out of the playoff hunt; another 1/3 is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture; and the final 1/3 has a spot in the dance all locked up. What that means is 2/3 of the league won't talk trade, while the final 1/3 are willing to deal just about anyone before the trade deadline if they think they can improve their chances.

The problem with trading is people will do a tradeONLY if they think they are clearly winning. Most of the time I don't even bother offering trades for that exact reason. So instead, I am a waiver wire hawk that keeps my ear to the ground and is ready to swoop in and snatch someone before those big-box websites talk about him. The problem is, waiver wires are picked clean by Week 11. That makes things even more difficult because you have to be on top of your game to get the one or two guys worth adding in any given week.

This week that player is none other than RB Christine Michael. Michael was cut by the Seahawks on Tuesday evening, then claimed by the Packers on Wednesday evening. Landing with the Packers is about as good as things could have gotten for Michael, who wasn't really given a fair chance to succeed in Seattle. Seattle liked C.J. Prosise (3.7 YPC) and Thomas Rawls (1.3 YPC) over Michael (4.0 YPC), and steadily tapered down Michael's carries from 20 in Week 3 (on which he gained 106 yards and scores 2 TDs), down to 5 carries (1 yard) in Week 9.

Green Bay has all but abandoned the run since Eddie Lacy went down, but Michael is a similar back that could change all that. He's a must-add player in any league in which he was cut. But know this, you shouldn't play him this week if he is active. He's more of a fantasy playoffs add, as he will need time to acclimate to the Packers, and learn the playbook, before he is given meaningful touches.

Start 'em

Marcus Mariota – Titans: Mariota is finding his stride as a quarterback, and it is paying off for fantasy owners over the past six weeks. Over that span, Mariota has thrown 17 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions, while averaging 259.5 passing yards.

This week the Titans get a Colts defense that is generously giving up 23.8 PPG to fantasy QBs, 4th-most in the NFL. The Colts have given up 17 passing TDs, while taking away just 3 INTs, stats that mirror what Mariota has been able to do this year. Maybe his owners will get lucky and he will toss another 4 TDs while going after his 2nd 300-yard passing game of the season. 

Kirk Cousins – Redskins: With Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Trevor Siemian all on a bye in Week 11, fantasy owners may be hitting the waiver wire looking for a streamer option at QB. The Redskins take on a Packers defense that just gave up 4 TDs to Mariota. The Packers look like a team falling apart on both sides of the ball, and the Redskins are getting DeSean Jackson back this week.

Cousins isn't a name on the tip of your tongue for someone you want as your starting QB, but he is averaging 340.3 yards, 1.7 TDs, and 0.3 INTs over the past 4 weeks. Those type of numbers are hard to argue with, regardless what format you play in.

Spencer Ware – Chiefs: Ware has been one of the bright spots on the Chiefs this season, averaging 71.5 yards on the ground, 40.5 receiving yards, and has scored 3 touchdowns. His only drawback would be for those who own in him standard scoring formats, where his total yards aren't enough to compensate for him not scoring often.

This week Ware will try to reach 100 rushing yards for the 2nd time this season when he takes on a Bucs defense that is giving up 20.9 PPG to fantasy RBs (8th-most). Their 900 rushing yards allowed is 9th in the NFL, and their 455 receiving yards allowed to RBs is the 7th-most. Look for RB1 numbers from Ware this week in all formats, with those in PPR formats getting a solid bump in numbers from his receptions. 

James White – Patriots: With Dion Lewis back at practice, fantasy owners are wondering if they should sit White and play Lewis for Week 11's matchup against the 49ers' atrocious run defense. Coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday that Lewis would be in for a "certain buildup process," which is another way of saying he is rusty and not up to speed yet.

Lewis is certainly worth owning in PPR formats, but he isn't worth playing yet. White, on the other hand, could be in line for RB2 numbers in PPR leagues. That is if LeGarrette Blount doesn't hog all the touchdowns again this week. 

Rishard Matthews – Titans: Matthews is a guy you can get off the waiver wire and stick in your WR3 slot for a reliable 50-60 yards and a touchdown this weekend. You have to understand that 50-60 yards is about all you'll get from him, but the TD gives him nice upside at a spot (WR3) that is often boom-or-bust anyway.

The Colts have given up 2 TDs to WRs in each of the past two games, and Matthews has caught 6 TDs in the past 6 games. His ceiling is limited, but he's a decent option while he is producing.

Cameron Meredith – Bears: Alshon Jeffery is suspended for 4 games for violating the league's P.E.D. rules, which vaults Eddie Royal and Cameron Meredith into the No. 1 and No. 2 WR roles. Royal is well past his prime, with 60-plus receiving yards just once this season and no endzone visits since Week 4. Meredith, on the other hand, is a young kid who stands 6'3" and runs a 4.42 40-yard time (same as Amari Cooper).

The only question is will Jay Cutler lock in on Meredith the same way he does Jeffery, or will he check down to Jordan Howard and Zach Miller? I'm pushing my chips in Meredith's direction since Cutler is a gunslinger who is auditioning for teams (next year as a backup) over the final 6 games.   

Martellus Bennett – Patriots: Rob Gronkowski is not going to play this week, which puts Bennett back in the starting lineup. Bennett showed great rapport with Tom Brady last week when he reeled in 7 of 7 targets for 102 yards.

Bennett is a 6'-6", 275-pound target that fits right into the role that Gronkowski has left vacant. Brady loves to throw to his TE in the redzone, making Bennett an elite TE option this week.

Miami Dolphins defense: This is about as cut and dry as it gets; the Dolphins get a dream matchup against a rookie QB (Jared Goff) making not just his first career start, but seeing the field for the first time ever in the regular season. The Browns are a shoe-in for the #1 pick in the draft, and the 49ers look like a good bet for the 2nd pick, but the Rams are looking like a team throwing in the towel this year in the hopes of getting the 3rd overall pick.

Goff has the looks of being the new Ryan Leaf: a draft bust. Maybe he will grow and prove me wrong. But the Rams have a group of WRs that would ride the bench on most other teams in the NFL, and their offensive line is the 5th-worst in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. The Dolphins are a top-5 fantasy defense this week, and an elite streaming option.

Sit 'em

Dak Prescott – Cowboys:Prescott's play as a rookie has forced Jerry Jones to give in and admit Tony Romo is no longer the Cowboys' starting QB. His dual-threat ability ranks him as fantasy football's #10 QB through 10 Weeks, but his 3 fumbles this season are a little concerning.

This week he gets a Ravens defense that gives up the 9th-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season at just 18.3 PPG. The Ravens have given up 16 passing TDs (11th-most), but they've also racked up 11 INTs (2nd) in the process. What's equally impressive is they've given up a total of 38 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD to QBs all year.

Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins:I've seen a of those talking heads out there recommending Tannehill as a streaming option this week given his matchup against the Rams. While the offense is a total nightmare that is going to get people fired after the season, their defense is giving up just 18.1 PPG to QBs, the 8th-fewest of any defense in the NFL.

The Dolphins are a running team behind Jay Ajayi, limiting Tannehill to fewer than 30 passing attempts in 6 of 9 games this year. His 265 passing attempts this season rank him 28th, and that number is going to fall even further with Tom Brady right behind him at 166 attempts.

Dion Lewis – Patriots:I have to reiterate again; Lewis should NOT be in your lineup this weekend, regardless of the position or the format. Lewis is well behind White on the depth chart as the passing-down back right now. That won't be the case forever, but it is the case right now. Lewis hasn't played a down of NFL football since November 8, 2015. That is over one year without seeing a single snap of live action as he recovered from knee surgery.

There is going to be a lot of rust that needs to be knocked off Lewis before he overtakes White in a fulltime capacity. Until we see the touches swing in Lewis' direction, he should remain on your bench as a stash.

Mark Ingram – Saints:Mark Ingram is the starter in New Orleans, but that title is more of a symbolic gesture than a show of who holds the reins on the job. He is pretty much in an even time-share with Tim Hightower, and is doing little to distinguish himself as the better back. Last week Ingram saw 13 touches to Hightower's 10, but he gained just 63 yards to Hightower's 55.

It's hard for anyone to get into a rhythm when they are coming out every other play, or sitting on the bench every other possession, so his lack of production can be understood. But what makes this week worse is that the Saints take on the Panthers and their 3rd-ranked run defense against fantasy RBs (13.6 PPG allowed). With the Panthers giving up little to RBs, and Ingram not able to see a full workload, he is going to be a hard to trust flex option at best. 

Kenny Britt – Rams:Where to start with Britt and the Rams? For all the same reasons I would play the Dolphins, I would sit Britt. The Rams are basically giving up on the season by starting Goff, a rookie that hasn't even taken a snap in garbage time this season. If you think a guy is going to go from the inactive list to holding a clipboard on the sideline to starting a game without ever taking a snap—and being productive—then I have some magic beans I'd like to sell you.

Goff could prove me wrong, but I highly doubt it. There is no way you look SO bad in practice that the coaches decide to leave you at home for the season opener, but magically progress in practice enough to become a legit NFL starter. I want no part of anyone in a Rams uniform (offense or defense in IDP leagues) from this point on.

Stefon Diggs – Vikings:Diggs has been on a roll for the past 3 weeks, racking up 42 targets, 320 receiving yards, and scoring a touchdown. Most players who put up those numbers over a 3-game stretch would be a shoe-in to start in the 4th game. Well, Diggs is the exception to that rule this week.

Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians said Patrick Peterson will shadow Diggs this week, knocking his value down to the WR3 territory. Peterson has given up just 2 TDs this season, and is within the top 15 cover corners this year. The Cardinals defense as a whole gives up the 5th-fewest fantasy points to WRs this year at 20.2 PPG, and Diggs is the only "good" WR they have to possibly bring help for. With the Cardinals being able to play man-coverage on everyone else, they can focus on shutting down Diggs.

Houston Texans defense:The Texans have actually done a nice job defending against the pass this year, ranking #2 against fantasy QBs (16.2 PPG allowed). Their problem comes against the run, where they are the 12th-worst because of the 19.3 PPG they give up to RBs. This week they take on the Raiders, who have scored the 6th-most points on offense (245) this year. Even with the Texans being an elite pass defense this year, the combination of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree might be a lot for their DBs to handle.

Add in Latavius Murray, who is 5th in the NFL with 8 rushing TDs despite missing 2 games, and you have a problem I'm not sure they can handle. If you need a streaming defense, give the Dolphins or Giants a look.

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