Week six was another interesting chapter in a 2014 season filled with opportunity. Victor Cruz lost his season to a torn ACL and MCL, while lesser injuries could affect the futures for Darren Sproles and Giovani Bernard. A.J. Green may be back sooner than expected, while Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham might be on the shelf for a couple extra weeks. The Giants are left with an offense of replacements, and that didn’t bode well for them on Sunday. After losing 31-0 in Philadelphia, the G-Men are now 1-1 in the NFC East and two games behind second place. The 1972 Dolphins were able to crack the champagne a week ago, when Cincinnati became the season’s last undefeated team to lose. And this week, Donovan McNabb got to celebrate the Bengals and Panthers finishing in the first tie of the season. Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Carson Palmer (owned in 30 percent of Yahoo leagues)
It’s a small sample size, but through two starts Carson Palmer holds a passer rating of 100.5. He hasn’t finished a season above 90 since 2006, a feat he’s accomplished just twice. On Sunday, the former number one overall pick completed 28 of 44 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Palmer has yet to throw an interception, and is completing 64.2-percent of his passes this year, his best since 2007. His two opponents this year have been San Diego and Washington, who respectively own the fifth and 13th-ranked passing defenses. His upcoming schedule is at Oakland, hosting Philadelphia, and at Dallas. The Raiders (11th-ranked pass defense) and Cowboys (12th) have been surprisingly good against opposing quarterbacks, but the Eagles have allowed the second-most fantasy points (21.2) to opposing passers.
Kirk Cousins (owned in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Kirk Cousins started his eighth NFL game on Sunday, bringing his career totals to 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He currently leads the NFL with eight interceptions, which is notable considering he didn’t hit the field in week one. Blake Bortles is right on his heels, however, with seven interceptions through three and a half games. Pro Football Reference tracks the percentage of throws intercepted, and Bortles (4.9 percent of passes turned over) ranks first, followed immediately by Cousins (4.3). While Cousins is doing little to end a quarterback debate in Washington, he is putting up the volume for the time being. He ranks third in the NFL with 314.2 passing yards per game. For fantasy purposes, Cousins is a younger Jay Cutler, though with a ceiling unknown. He can be expected to have more 300-yards passing days, marred by growing pains.
Brian Hoyer (owned in 11 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Brian Hoyer’s middle name is “Axel,” and his coolness just begins there. Monday was the 29th birthday for Unfrozen Caveman Hoyer, and no doubt he was celebrating a huge home victory against the Steelers. Though Pittsburgh boasts the league’s number four offense (396.5 yards per game), Hoyer and the Browns were able to dominate the game en route to a 31-10 victory. Cleveland’s quarterback completed 8 of 17 for 217 yards and a touchdown, which earned a passers’ rating of 113.0. Through five games, Hoyer has won three games, while throwing seven touchdowns and just one interception. His 0.7 percent interception rate is third best in the league, and 13.6 yards per completion has him ahead of all NFL passers.
Ronnie Hillman (owned in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Montee Ball will be sidelined at least a couple of weeks. As the Denver Post’s Mike Klis reports, the Broncos’ starting rusher will be “out for a while.” In his two games of extended action, Ronnie Hillman has filled in with 42 touches for 180 yards. The backup running back has yet to score this season, but these two games were played against the third (Cardinals) and eighth-ranked (Jets) run defenses. Arizona has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points (10.8) to opposing runners, where the Jets are sixth best (11.2 points). A favorable running matchup for the Broncos won’t come until week ten, when Oakland’s 30th-ranked run defense hosts Denver.
Branden Oliver (owned in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Prior to week five, rookie Branden Oliver had 12 career rushes for 34 yards. From the fourth slot of a decimated San Diego backfield, the undrafted free agent has stepped up nicely over the last two weeks. Running in place of injured Ryan Mathews, Donald Brown, and Danny Woodhead, Oliver has turned 53 touches into 306 total yards and three touchdowns. In week five, he produced 182 yards of offense against the Jets’ 8th-ranked run defense. His next three games are against Kansas City, Denver, and Miami.
Juwan Thompson (owned in 2 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Last week, Ronnie Hillman led the Broncos with 24 rushes for 100 yards, while Juwan Thompson got eight carries for 38 yards. C.J. Anderson played just one snap and did not touch the ball. In the red zone, Hillman had three carries for nine yards, while Thompson rushed twice for seven yards. While Thompson got just a quarter of the rushing workload, 40 percent of the red zone carries is certainly something to write home about.
Chris Ivory (owned in 69 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Chris Ivory ranks sixth in the NFL in missed tackles (19) and sixth with 216 yards after contact. He’s only 19th in volume of work, however, as the Jets are giving him just 13.4 rushes each week. Ivory has 13 red zone carries, 11 more than any other Jets running back.
Rueben Randle (owned in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Victor Cruz went down in Sunday Night Football’s loss to Philadelphia, tearing his patellar tendon. He underwent surgery Monday, and will not return this season. Of all Giants receivers, it’s Rueben Randle who actually leads the team in targets (49). Cruz was second with 41 targets, followed by Larry Donnell (34). The 6-foot-4 receiver is averaging 4.7 receptions for 41.2 yards and 0.3 touchdowns. Randle also leads his teammates with 12 red zone targets, eight more than any other wide receiver.
Odell Beckham (owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues)
After being selected 12th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Odell Beckham, Jr. was unable to play until week five. Since recovering from an injured hamstring, the rookie has caught six of nine targets for 72 yards and a score. His lone touchdown was an athletic 15-yard grab to take the lead over Atlanta in the fourth quarter of week five. Beckham will make his first NFL start in Cowboys Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It remains unknown whether the slot becomes the home for Beckham or the former Buccaneer, Preston Parker.
Mohamed Sanu (owned in 60 percent of Yahoo leagues)
With A.J. Green in plain clothes Sunday, Mohamed Sanu caught 10 of 14 targets for 120 yards and a touchdown. Green told ESPN writer Bob Holtzman that he will likely miss another game, but head coach Marvin Lewis said the receiver has “a shot to play this week.” Should the three-time Pro Bowler miss more time, Sanu’s abilities have already presented themselves.
Brandon LaFell (owned in 7 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Over the last three games, Brandon LaFell has led the Patriots with three touchdowns, three red zone targets, and 236 receiving yards. His scores have come from 44, 18, and 56 yards out. The New England offense was already in need of talent before losing Stevan Ridley last Sunday. The starting rusher tore his ACL and MCL and will not return this season. “We’re trying to figure out a lot of things on offense,” Tom Brady said last week. “We have who we have. That’s the way it goes.” The quarterback is 19th is passing yards (240.7 per game), 19th in completion percentage (62.7), and 22nd in the NFL with 6.9 yards per attempt.
Cecil Shorts (owned in 38 percent of Yahoo leagues)
After missing much of the season with a nagging hamstring, Cecil Shorts started week six and led all Jaguars receivers with 16 targets, 10 receptions, and 103 yards.
Andre Holmes (owned in 6 percent of Yahoo leagues)
In the Raiders’ last two games, Andre Holmes leads all receivers with 20 targets, 195 yards, and three touchdowns. Derek Carr didn’t look bad against San Diego’s fifth-ranked pass defense. Oakland’s rookie quarterback completed 18 of 34 for 282 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Larry Donnell (owned in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues)
For those 19 percent of leagues who still see Larry Donnell available, it’s becoming more likely that your tight end decisions are not the right ones. On Sunday Night Football, Donnell made a highly athletic catch while on his back in the end zone. The play was overturned because of penalty, but the live viewers saw something special that stat nerds may overlook. The void left by Victor Cruz means more opportunity for the 6-foot-5 tight end. Donnell is producing 4.3 catches for 40.3 yards and 0.7 scores per game. The third-year breakout ranks second on the roster with 11 red zone targets, and first with four touchdowns.
Tim Wright (owned in 24 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Last week in Buffalo, Tim Wright caught a one yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. That’s two weeks in a row that the former Buccaneer has scored for New England. Against the Bengals in week six, Wright caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady. That was his biggest game of the year, totaling five receptions for 85 yards and the touchdown. This is the second NFL season for the Patriots’ 6-foot-5 tight end.
Dwayne Allen (owned in 61 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Dwayne Allen ranks fourth among tight ends with four touchdowns this season. Indianapolis hosts the Bengals’ 22nd-ranked pass defense in week seven. Cincinnati allows the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends (12.3 points per week).
Jace Amaro (owned in 2 percent of Yahoo leagues)
While Eric Decker was limited with a hamstring injury, Jace Amaro was able to dominate the less-than-exciting Jets passing game. Amaro caught 10 of 12 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. New York’s 6-foot-5 tight end also led the team with three red zone targets.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, and profootballfocus.com.
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