This week’s waiver wire column is going to explore the returning player. The focus is on the players who are coming back off lengthy layoffs after injuries. Of course, we’ll still try to catch lightning in a bottle too and help your team that way. That said, let’s dive in.
First, let’s talk about Adrian Peterson. He’s not coming back from an injury, but from a suspension… or so we hope. There is going to be some legal wrangling this week over whether or not Peterson can come back to play this season or not, so it will need time to play out. Hopefully a decision gets made this week to give us some clarity. Even if he’s not 100% ready to go, you need to stash him on your roster. If nothing else, ensure that other owners don’t get their hands on him. With his talents and a plush schedule, Peterson could be the ultimate shot-in-the-arm add to any fantasy team. If he doesn’t pan out, you can toss him back and try again. If it does, you have fantasy gold. The thing to keep in mind is there is some internal strife within the Vikings front office about whether or not to bring him back. Minnesota is 4-5 and three games behind 7-2 Detroit for the top spot in the NFC North. Sure, there are other factors at play, but it is worth giving consideration to adding AP. I’ve been picking him up much as in the same way it’s time to get another guy in the same boat.
That other guy is Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon. It’s worth checking the wire to see if the dynamic wide receiver is there. He would make awesome trade bait if you can pick him up. Things set up nicely for Gordon with his schedule (HOU, ATL, BUF, IND, CIN, CAR, BAL) and that matchup against Carolina on championship week is inviting. We saw Mark Sanchez abuse the Carolina defense last night and Gordon could go nuts.
Realistically, it would be difficult to see either of them being available on the waiver wire but we mention them anyways. Take a second and scan anyways. Let’s go to reality now.
Arizona lost Carson Palmer for the season with a torn ACL and it leaves Drew Stanton to call the shots for the 8-1 Cardinals. Stanton is a serviceable quarterback but he is only worth rostering if you need to fill in for someone who is on a late bye. Arizona has a tough game with Detroit this week but they face a weak Falcons defense in Week 12. Stanton could be the guy to keep an eye on if you need a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton.
Kyle Orton of the Bills is an intriguing option if you’re needing a boost at the position. Orton’s schedule has favorable games on it the rest of the way with Miami (Thursday), NY Jets, Cleveland and Denver. Green Bay and Oakland come in the playoff weeks and a finale with New England in case your league plays the full 17 weeks. (Yes, some do.)
Mark Sanchez of the Eagles looked good against Carolina with 332 yards and two touchdowns in the rout. There’s little doubt that Chip Kelly’s system is set up for virtually anyone to have success in it. Look at his next three games and Sanchez becomes the quarterback to pick up this week. The Eagles are at Green Bay, host the woeful Titans and head to Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Go ahead and file your claim now.
Derek Carr of Oakland is a super-deep option for those in larger leagues, multiple quarterback leagues or those who are just plain desperate.
This is where the look-who’s-back theme is going to take over. A couple of good backs come back this week from injuries and we’ll help you sift through them.
The first candidate is Ryan Mathews of the Chargers. He missed several weeks with a sprained knee ligament but is ready to go for San Diego against Oakland this week. But that’s where the enthusiasm should end for most people. After this week, the Chargers end their season with St. Louis, Baltimore, New England, Denver, San Francisco and Kansas City. Those matchups aren’t terribly easy and Mathews could be limited in his effectiveness. The other factor to think about with him is how the Chargers will balance out the touches between him, Branden Oliver and Donald Brown.
Speaking of muddled backfields, Pierre Thomas of the Saints is scheduled to be back this week. Thomas has more value in a PPR format but needs to find his place alongside Mark Ingram. The Saints’ schedule down the stretch does them a lot of favors and will add to Pierre’s value.
Their December looks like this: Carolina, Chicago, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Those are the kind of matchups that will make fantasy fans drool. If you play PPR, Thomas is the guy you need to get.
The situation in Denver at the running back position has gone sideways quickly. Ronnie Hillman was seen limping around the team facility and is listed as day-to-day. Montee Ball (groin) is back at practice but his availability for Sunday against the Rams is unknown. CJ Anderson had a monster game against the Raiders and Juwan Thompson is still around too.
There’s no indication how Denver will use its backs or who will be healthy for this week against the Rams. I’m shying away from this situation since the Rams took Arizona stud running back Andre Ellington and shut him down last week. The Rams defense is more vulnerable to the pass than the run so this could be a tough week for whoever carries the ball. I would add Anderson first, then Ball then Thompson as a rough estimation of what order I expect them in assuming Hillman is out of the picture.
Charles Sims of the Bucs got off to a rough start with 40 yards and a lost fumble but better days are ahead. The NFC South is a quagmire of poor teams that can’t play much defense so Sims will get his chance to shine down the stretch.
Two real solid options exist here in Odell Beckham Jr of the Giants and Martavis Bryant of the Steelers. Beckham went for 108 yards on seven catches in a loss at Seattle while Bryant rolled up 143 yards and an 80-yard touchdown catch on four receptions.
So if you have to pick one, who do you take? The answer is Beckham. The Giants set up very nicely with their schedule after this week’s game with San Francisco. The rest of the way they have Dallas, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington, St. Louis and Philadelphia in that order. The matchups are there and the Giants should be throwing plenty on those weak defenses.
Bryant is still a solid option and he has six touchdowns in his last four games. The Steelers offense cooled off this week and they lost to the Jets. (Damn you, Justin Bieber!) Bryant caught the only touchdown pass Roethlisberger threw so that helps his value.
They take on the Titans on Monday Night and then have a Week 12 bye, the last one in the league. Bryant should be able to take advantage of a Cincinnati secondary (twice) that isn’t very skilled. They’re going to have to step up to try and stop the running attack of Le’Veon Bell so Bryant could find himself outside in single coverage. The Steelers also take on Atlanta and Kansas City so there are chances for him to score in every game the rest of the season.
Bryant is starting to make a name for himself in the red zone as the Steelers take advantage of his 6-foot-4 frame to create mismatches. Basically, he’s the new Plaxico Burress without the weapons charge.
Jordan Matthews of the Eagles looked sharp last night and becomes another option. Matthews scored twice and rolled up 138 yards on seven catches. He’s only a rookie but looks like a seasoned veteran and is fitting in nicely as a compliment to Jeremy Maclin. Teams are so busy with Maclin that Matthews can find separation and take advantage of it in one-on-one matchups. The schedule sets up nicely for him and he can be a difference-maker as a flex player from week to week.
Cecil Shorts III and Allen Robinson of the Jaguars are both promising wide receivers to own. Allen Hurns left last week’s game with a concussion and will have to go through the protocol before getting back on the field. There’s little doubt Jacksonville will have to throw a ton this season and those two are the top receivers. We prefer Shorts over Robinson simply based on experience and track record.
John Brown of Arizona made a great catch to give the Cardinals the lead over the Rams with his 48-yard touchdown catch. The only thing better than the catch was his celebration dance afterwards. But we’re still not rostering Brown yet. Stanton under center is a concern and Brown is a feast-or-famine receiver. He could make a big play that makes the highlight reel or he could post two catches for nine yards; both are equally possible. Because of that reason, we’re not picking him up.
This position is growing super thin in a super quick fashion. Delanie Walker of the Titans has a concussion and the big-name guys are the only ones producing consistently. We’ll need deep options to bridge the gap.
Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings is expected back this week after missing several weeks with hernia surgery. A healthy, big body and a matchup against a miserable Chicago defense look very promising. Chase Ford will get the call if Rudolph can’t go for some reason.
Same as last week, pick one.
Defense & Special Teams
Since we can’t pick on Jacksonville this week, we have to find someone else to make our whipping boy. The Cleveland DST is picking up a good number of points consistently and has a favorable matchup with Houston. The Texans are starting Ryan Mallett this week and Arian Foster could be limpy with a hamstring.
The San Diego DST takes on Oakland so they’re an option. The Pittsburgh DST should be a good choice against the Titans on Monday night as is both sides of the Miami-Buffalo matchup.
That should give you plenty of targets. Leave the comments below and we hope your teams are doing well as we come closer to the end of the season.