Week 14 of the fantasy football season was treacherous. Big names like Andy Dalton, Vincent Jackson, Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Thomas Rawls, Tyler Eifert, and LeGarrette Blount all left their respective games.
Such losses are a killer in the fantasy football playoffs. If you lost Andy Dalton or Thomas Rawls, those losses came early in the game, which cost many owners dearly. I lost one playoff game by 4 points, having lost Dalton and Rawls in the 1st Quarter of their games. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
If you survived the carnage, then you can reload and retool for the second week of the fantasy playoffs. What was a disaster on Sunday is an opportunity in midweek, because all-new fantasy players suddenly become relevent. Below is a short list of players who might help in the coming matchup.
Players on the Mend
It looked at first like Greg Olsen might be out for a week with the Carolina Panthers. Now, Greg Olsen is saying he’ll play in a plus-matchup against the New York Giants’ 32nd-ranked passing defense.
After some speculation he was injured due to limited carries on Monday night, Lamar Miller said he was fine and could not account for the lack of touches in a close game — he had 68 yards on 6 carries early on.
The Dallas Cowboys said Dez Bryant would not be shut down, so he remains a (marginal) starter with Matt Cassell at quarterback. Charles Clay is likely to miss Week 15, so Clay owners need to find another option at tight end.
A.J. McCarron, QB, Bengals
A.J. McCarron is the Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. No one has more confidence than AJ McCarron, going back to his days leading the Alabama Crimson Tide to National Championships.
There’s reason for confidence. A.J. McCarron inherits a Bengals team full of offensive talent. Also, the team plays the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15. McCarron came into a tough situation against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1st Quarter on Sunday. Despite being down and without a lot of practice, he posted 21 fantasy points in 3+ quarters of play. With a week’s practice, he should post a higher total versus the Niners in Week 15.
While I wouldn’t recommend starting AJ McCarron over your regular starter, if you had Andy Dalton and no one else most of this season — or if you’ve been tied to the likes of Matt Ryan or Sam Bradford — I’d rather start McCarron with a good match-up and AJ Green as a target. AJ-to-AJ could be fantasy playoffs gold.
Bryce Brown, RB, Seahawaks
Bryce Brown is the latest starting running back for the Seattle Seahawks. He’s a 6’0″, 220-pound runner in his 4th year out of Kansas State. Brown has spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills. The Eagles drafted him in the 7th round in 2012, after he fell down the draft board due to shoulder surgery. Bryce Brown is a big back with speed, but his skill set has never translated to production on the field. Like Fred Jackson, he was waived by the Bills earlier this year, after the trade for LeSean McCoy and the emergence of rookie Karlos Williams.
Bryce Brown gets a plus-matchup with the Cleveland Browns in Week 15. This is a good chance for a breakout game. Brown is fresh, runs on one of the best offenses in the NFL right now, and is playing an awful defense. With the Russell Wilson-to-Doug Baldwin combo rising to elite status, Bryce Brown is likely to have running lanes.
Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots
The New England Patriots moved LeGarrette Blount to Injured Reserve on Tuesday, ending his season. That leaves Brandon Bolden as the Patriots’ new most-used running back. While I am not a big fan of relying on Pats’ runners, he could provide a much-needed boost for teams needing RB options in the playoffs.
Fozzy Whittaker, RB, Panthers
Fozzy Whittaker looks like he’ll take the bulk of the carries for the Carolina Panthers this week, replacing Jonathan Stewart. This is likely to be a committee situation with Mike Tolbert taking some of the short yardage and goal line carries, so I would not rely too much on Fozzy Whittaker.
Still, the Panthers are the hottest team in the NFL right now, they play a Giants Defense coming off a short week, and Whittaker had 30 yards and a touchdown in limited play last week. You could do worse than starting a fresh running back on a team likely to be grinding out a win with lots of 2nd-half running plays.
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
Julian Edelman had his first practice in pads. The Boston Globe reported he was running with no limp and was leading the team in sprints, which is standard. Edelman’s return to full practice is a surprise, because it’s only 4 weeks removed from surgery. The initial diagnosis was a 6 to 8-week recovery time. While Edelman is likely to sit out Week 15 and Week 16, those who have the roster spot might consider taking a flier on him, in case he’s a starter for the championship weeks of their fantasy playoffs.
You might think there’s no way he’s available, but the 6-8 week time frame caused many owners to drop him, assuming he was Out the rest of their fantasy season. I noticed Julian Edelman sitting out in free agency this week in one of my local leagues. It’s a 12-team, 20-man roster league, so it’s not a shallow league by any means. Those in leagues with smaller number of owners and smaller roster sizes might check their waiver wire, too.
Willie Snead, WR, Saints
Also, check to see if Willie Snead is on the waiver wire. Because he isn’t a perennial fantasy star, it’s possible he might have been dropped after an injury limited his production in November. Willie Snead was Drew Brees’s favorite target in September and October, and he appears to have returned to that form this past weekend.
Week 14 against the Buccaneers was the first time Willie Snead was fully healthy since the original injury. He collected 100 yards and was the most-targeted receiver by Brees. Nothing says he won’t return to his place of prominence in the Saints offense. Even better, the Saints offense is beginning to control action and look like the offense of yesteryear. Willie Snead could be a difference maker for you in the playoffs, if someone lost patience and dropped him in free agency.
Seth Roberts, WR, Raiders
While Seth Roberts is the Raiders 3rd receiver and I wouldn’t suggest starting him except in case of an emergency, he has put up 4 weeks of moderate or better production in a row, with one week of elite production. He even posted 10 points against the Denver Broncos last week. While he isn’t likely to be a star player, Seth Roberts is a stop-gap player with a roughly 25% chance of bigger numbers.
Donteea Dye, WR, Buccaneers
I do not suggest you start Donteea Dye, the starter opposite Mike Evans, in Week 15. Dye is the starter, because Vincent Jackson is out for the next 2 weeks. If you have room for a total flier or you need a replacement for Jackson, then add Donteea Dye for the end of your bench. The rookie has not been impressive as a starter a couple of other times this year. He had 1 reception for 16 yards against the New Orleans Saints Defense, of all things.
But if he has a big Week 15 against the Rams on Thursday Night Football, Donteea Dye might be worth a start in deep-deep league in Week 16. In all likelihood, you’ll just cut him next week. But the Rams are without Robert Quinn and might be vulnerable through the air.
Zach Miller, TE, Bears
Zach Miller continues to be productive as the fill-in for Martellus Bennett, who went to IR last week. Over the past month since Marty B first got injured, Zach Miller has been a solid option. He’s a good plug-and-play option for those who are TE-deprived.
Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals
Tyler Eifert left the game with the Steelers with a concussion on Sunday. He is still in the concussion protocol and missed Wednesday’s practice. While he might play on Sunday versus the 49ers, I expect Tyler Eifert to miss the game. He has a history of head injuries and the Bengals are likely to be cautious with their star tight end in a game they should have an advantage.
If so, then Tyler Kroft becomes the Bengals’ new starting tight end. Such a starting position loses some of its luster with A.J. McCarron as the quarterback this week. But two things might recommend themselves about Tyler Kroft. One, the San Francisco 49ers give up a lot of fantasy points, especially to tight ends. Two, as backups, AJ McCarron and Tyler Kroft have worked together in practice a lot and presumably would have their timing down. If McCarron is looking for a familiar face for a checkdown on Sunday, he might look to Tyler Kroft.
Waiver Wire Picks for NFL Week 15
Those are a few of the better options likely to be on the waiver wire in your league, though one or two might be on rosters already. The 2015 NFL season has been a war of attrition. The contest is almost over, but teams are at their most depleted level right now. That is an opportunity for smart owners willing to do a little research. I’ve done most of the research for you, so grab one or two of the free agents above and stash them on the roster (or start them, if desperate).