It’s that time of the year. In the thick of a playoff fight, every week is important. Injuries are mounting, byes are still on the schedule for six teams and in most leagues the trade deadline has passed. The waiver wire is like Studio 54 in the mid-70’s; you probably won’t find Mr. Right, but you might find Mr. Right Now, and that’s the name of the game if you need a win. Whatever gets you through the night.
Here are some players that are less than 50% owned who are worth looking at if you need a plug and play option this week at QB, RB or WR.
Jameis Winston, Saints (3% owned): Drew Brees is out for at least a couple of weeks. Jameis is looking at a home start against Atlanta, a team whose loose defense would also have been at home at Studio 54 back in the day. He isn’t without risk as we can expect to see plenty of Taysom Hill packages and a strong ground game, but there are a lot of weapons to work with and I suspect that Sean Payton may use Atlanta to get Michael Thomas back on track. Winston has a big arm and while Brees is an all-time great, Winston can make throws that Brees can’t (as well as some that Brees knows better than to try, but I digress), and that may lead to some new wrinkles in the offense. If you are streaming QBs or have Josh Allen on a bye, Winston is a high ceiling option.
Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins (45% owned): He hasn’t had a real breakout game, but the last two weeks have been solid enough, the Dolphins are playing well and they are visiting the Broncos, whose season is on the verge of collapse. Historically, Denver has been a tough place to play, but they are 1-3 at home this year, and road teams in general have fared better across the league this year (as we hypothesized in August). Tua can do it with his legs or arm, but the Dolphins have only needed him to be a smart game manager so far.
Philip Rivers, Colts (22% owned): He’s at home, but has a tougher matchup with Green Bay. Particularly if star corner Jaire Alexander remains out, but even if he isn’t, Rivers should have a good day. The Colts will need to score more than usual and Rivers has found his groove with short passes to backs and tight ends, making up for a disappointing Colts running game. He adds nothing on the ground, but with Aaron Rodgers on the other side, Rivers will probably throw 40 passes.
Salvon Ahmed, Dolphins (8% owned): More out of desperation than genius I picked up Ahmed last week and enjoyed his 85 yards and a TD against the Chargers, so he gets the blog photo above. Matt Breida may return this week, but Ahmed looks likely to lead the Dolphins backfield in Denver. Myles Gaskin will remain on IR through week 12, so if Ahmed does well in Denver he will likely tote the rock against the Jets in week 12 as well.
Nyheim Hines, Colts (42% owned): A three man backfield is more like a minefield, but in a PPR format, Hines has a reasonable floor. He’s had three 2x TD games and has averaged 11 touches per game over the last month. The danger for Hines as well as for Rivers is if the Colts get ahead and are able to run against a weak Packers front to shorten the game. In this scenario, Jonathan Taylor may finally get his due, but we believe the Colts will need to score some points, keeping Hines on the field.
Kalen Ballage, Chargers (20% owned): While Ekeler is unlikely to be back this week, Justin Jackson might return. Ballage has seen 20 touches/week for the last two and would be in line for another good workload against the “Tanking for Trevor” Jets if Jackson misses another week and he remains the lead back.
Sammy Watkins, Chiefs (38% owned): Remember him? He was among the Chiefs target leaders before his usual spate of injuries. Facing the Raiders on Sunday night, Watkins is a dart throw, but KC has scored 12/15 offensive TDs over the last four games via pass, including the last nine in a row.
Jakobi Meyers, Patriots (48% owned): Apparently he can throw them as well as catch them. He has a road game against the reeling Texans and while the Patriots are clearly run-first, Meyers and Newton are establishing a connection. Note the crucial 3rd and 3 catch that Meyers made late in the Ravens game to move the sticks and keep the clock moving.
Jalen Reagor, Eagles (26% owned): His targets are on the rise, leading the team with seven against the Giants. The Eagles are getting weapons back (Ertz was activated off IR, Jeffery and Sanders came back last week), but Reagor will be in the mix. The matchup in Cleveland isn’t bad, the Browns have surrendered the 5th most points to fantasy WRs. If you prefer the name brand, Alshon Jeffery is only 19% owned, but not recommended.
Caveat Emptor: If you are streaming defenses, it appears that Andy Dalton will be able to play this week for Dallas. Temper your expectations if you are looking at Minnesota. Dalton isn’t Dak, but he’ll be a marked improvement over Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert. The best streamer this week is probably the Chargers against the Jets, but the Patriots and Dolphins look like reasonable plays too.
Here’s a funky live version of the column’s title track featuring the underrated Stephen Stills on lead guitar and lead vocal.