Week 17. If you’re still playing, then I’ve got some good news and bad news. The bad news is that your settings are unusual and questionable and may be worthy of reevaluation in the offseason. The good news is that you’ve made it to the fantasy championship! Give yourself a pat on the back, but you only get five minutes. Now let’s get back to work. You’re almost to the finish line; stay focused. You don’t win fantasy championships by daydreaming of what you’ll do next week. Outwork the other guy, out-research, out-study, out-analyze. Most of those aren’t even words, but you don’t care. The only thing you care about, picking up studs. Keep in mind the advanced defensive strategy of the Fantasy Prevent formation. You can keep points off your opponent’s roster in a maneuver to improve your winning margin. But more importantly, you need the points on your scoreboard. If you can score the most points, you’ll be daydreaming next week about how sweet all that work paid off. Now pick up the sports section, open some browser tabs, and stare at numbers until your contacts wither up and fall out of your eyeballs. It’s real, it’s serious, it’s fantasy.
Here are some thoughts on the top waiver wire pickups to add to your fantasy football lineup.
Eli Manning (owned in 34.2 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since Week 12, Eli Manning has completed 69.8 percent of his throws for 297.2 yards, 2.2 touchdowns, and 0.4 interceptions per game. During this stretch, his 95.1 standard fantasy points are the fifth most among all quarterbacks (19.0 per week). Manning ranks 10th in the NFL with 3,981 yards and ninth with 29 scores. He is the 11th highest scoring passer in fantasy this season, with 250.3 standard points (16.7 per game). Manning is known for being postseason clutch, and has carried that reputation into the fantasy playoffs this year. In the last two weeks, Manning has been the highest scoring player in all of fantasy, with 49.3 points (24.7 per match). That came on back-to-back three-touchdown performances, with no interceptions and an average of 320.5 yards in each outing. The Giants will finish their season hosting the Eagles’ 28th ranked pass defense who has nothing left to play for.
Teddy Bridgewater (owned in 6.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Over the last four games, Teddy Bridgewater has connected on 73.0 percent for an average of 255.3 yards, 1.8 touchdowns, and 1.0 picks. He has been the 13th best fantasy quarterback over this span, with 67.1 standard points (16.8 per week). Facing the number four pass defense last week, the rookie completed 73.1 percent of his passes for 259 yards, two scores, and one interception. For the season, Bridgewater has thrown 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with a 64.2 completion percentage and 225.8 yards per game. Minnesota hosts the Bears’ 31st ranked pass defense in the season finale, when Jay Cutler will return under center for Chicago.
Honorable Mention: Unfrozen Caveman Hoyer, also known as Brian Hoyer
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Matt Asiata (owned in 47.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Matt Asiata has been the third best fantasy rusher over the last two weeks, with 36.3 standard points (18.2 per contest). Only Marshawn Lynch (39.1) and Le’Veon Bell (37.1) had more standard points over these games. Against the Lions’ number one run defense Week 15, Asiata got 18 touches for 86 total yards and a touchdown. When he saw the Dolphins’ 22nd ranked unit last week, the third-year back produced 77 offensive yards and two scores on 19 touches. In the last four weeks, when being fantasy clutch is most critical, Asiata ranks 11th in the NFL with 19.3 touches per game. Touches lead to yards lead to touchdowns. Start him. The Vikings wrap a bow on their season by hosting the Chicago defense who ranks 15th in stopping the run, and 30th overall.
Joseph Randle (owned in 22.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
After playing 76.5 percent of team’s offensive snaps through Week 15, DeMarco Murray was limited to just 31 of 64 snaps (48.4 percent) Sunday against the Colts. The NFL’s leading rusher had hand surgery last Monday. It would be understandable for Dallas to rest their stud in the final game of the season, which is mostly meaningless. The Cowboys can’t finish below the number three seed, and they would need a loss by Seattle to the Rams to earn a first round bye. Other than the NFC South winner, all other NFC playoff teams currently have 11 wins. The winner of the Green Bay-Detroit game will finish with 12 wins, and Dallas will lose the tiebreak to either of them.
Joseph Randle rotated into the game for 22 snaps Sunday, after having seen the field for just 63 snaps all season. He got 14 touches for 44 total yards in the 42-7 blowout win. Expect to see plenty more of Randle, not only to rest Murray, but for Dallas to prepare him as an insurance plan for the postseason. The Cowboys travel to see Washington’s seventh ranked run defense this week.
Toby Gerhart (owned in 19.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
During the last two games, Toby Gerhart has gotten 14.0 touches for 61.5 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per week. No other Jaguar has more than 5.5 touches per game during this time. Within the red zone over the last two games, Gerhart and Storm Johnson each have one carry, while only Gerhart’s converted for a score. Jacksonville will travel to Houston and square off versus the 14th ranked run defense this week.
Andre Williams (owned in 46.4 percent of ESPN leagues)
Rashad Jennings missed Week 16 with an ankle injury, after getting just three carries combined through Weeks 14 and 15. Meanwhile over the last three games, Andre Williams ranked third in the NFL with 68 carries (22.7 per week) and sixth with 285 yards (95.0 per game). Playing the Rams’ 12th ranked run defense Sunday, Williams posted 26 carries for 110 yards. This week, the Giants will send off their season with a divisional showdown against Philadelphia and their 18th ranked run defense.
Latavius Murray (owned in 29.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
In the last three games, Latavius Murray ranks sixth in the league in carries (19.3 per week) and touches (21.7 per contest), and 10th with 220 yards (73.3 per game). Oakland’s second-year back has not scored since his electric coming-out party Week 12. In that game against the Chiefs, Murray ran four times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. One of the scores was a 90-yard rush in the second quarter that rose plenty an eyebrow around the NFL. Murray is running at 5.4 yards per carry this season, and will finish the year versus Denver’s second-ranked run defense. If the Patriots win their 1 P.M. game against the Bills Sunday, the Broncos may have nothing to play for at 4:25 P.M.
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Danny Amendola (owned in 2.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Julian Edelman (concussion) was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Jets, and New England shook the dust off some guy named Danny Amendola. He has the fourth largest contract on the Patriots, with $28.5 million over five seasons. Only Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Jerod Mayo have biggest numbers beside their names. $6.8 million in dead money is left for this player, who has produced 809 yards in two seasons with New England. Amendola has started nine games in 2013 and 2014, and caught 77 passes and three touchdowns. He was signed on March 13, 2013, the same day Wes Welker signed with the Broncos.
Time to play, “How Much is That Worth?” This year, Amendola has caught 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. He has earned $4.406 million per score, $191,576.09 per catch, and $25,035.51 per yard. In six years, Amendola has never exceeded 689 yards or three touchdowns in a season. He averages 4.3 starts, 45.5 catches, 422.5 yards, and 1.7 scores per year. In his career, he has earned $11.2 million, and made $1.1 million per touchdown, $433,459.30 per start, $40,964.29 per catch, and $4,411.54 for each yard. As contrast, the league’s leading receiver is Antonio Brown, who is currently getting paid $352,929.69 per score, $282,343.75 per start, $34,714.40 per reception, and $2,697.55 per yard. That accounts for 32.2 percent of Amendola’s pay per touchdown, 65.1 percent of the money per start, 84.7 percent for catches, and 61.2 percent for yardage pay. That’s probably enough math for now.
Last week, the former Ram reeled in eight of 11 targets for 63 yards, while also returning five kicks for 91 yards and three punts for another 63 yards. In leagues that reward special teams play, Amendola is a particularly useful pickup. New England closes out their regular season against Buffalo’s fifth ranked pass defense, in a game the Patriots likely need to earn top seed. The Bills are fourth best against kickoff returners (20.0 yards per return) and fifth against punt returners (6.2 yards per return). No one has returned a kick or punt for a score against Buffalo this season.
Kenny Britt (owned in 15.5 percent of ESPN leagues)
Since Shaun Hill returned as starter Week 11, Kenny Britt has led the Rams with 38 targets and 398 receiving yards. This season, the receiver is averaging 5.3 targets for 2.9 catches, 47.3 yards, and 0.2 touchdowns per game. In the seven games with Hill starting this year, Britt has averaged 6.0 targets for 3.3 receptions, 56.9 yards, and 0.1 scores. During the remaining eight games, he has recorded 4.6 targets for 2.6 catches, 39.0 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns per game. Last week against the Giants’ 14th ranked pass defense, Britt caught nine of 11 targets for 103 yards. St. Louis concludes their 2014 campaign against the Seahawks’ top rated defense, who are best against the pass and second best in scoring.
Marquess Wilson (owned in 1.8 percent of ESPN leagues)
Brandon Marshall‘s season ended after Week 14, and Marquess Wilson has stepped in during tough times for Chicago. Last Sunday against the Lions’ number two defense, and with Jimmy Clausen at quarterback, the second-year wideout caught seven of 10 targets for 66 yards, earning 6.6 standard fantasy points for his owners. Wilson logged 7.6 points in Week 15, when he snagged three of five targets for 16 yards and his first NFL touchdown. The 6-foot-3 receiver from Washington State led the Bears Sunday with seven receptions against Detroit. From 10 targets, Wilson put up 66 yards on the league’s number two overall defense. Chicago travels to Minnesota this week to see the sixth ranked pass defense.
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Zach Ertz (owned in 33.6 percent of ESPN leagues)
Not since 2012 has any tight end gotten as many targets or receptions as Zach Ertz did Sunday in Washington. The second-year player caught 15 of 18 targets for 115 yards against the league’s 18th ranked pass defense, who is 10th overall. Jason Witten caught 18 of 22 targets in Week 8 of 2012, as the last tight end to match or surpass either of Ertz’s impressive marks. In the last three weeks, Ertz leads all Eagles with 25 targets, 20 catches, and 186 yards. In the nine games with Nick Foles this season, the young tight end caught 3.1 of 5.1 targets for 44.8 yards and 0.3 touchdowns. During the seven games since, Sanchez has hit Ertz on 4.1 of 6.0 targets for 41.1 yards and 0.1 scores per week. Philadelphia will drive to New York to face the Giants’ 14th ranked pass defense, who allow the 13th most points to fantasy tight ends this year (7.4 per game).
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Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, spotrac.com, footballguys.com, fantasypros, and profootballfocus.com.
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