The 2012 NFL playoffs may still be very much up in the air coming into Week 14, but for fantasy owners, the time to win or go home has arrived in most 12-team leagues.
That means finding the right player languishing on the waiver wire is more important than ever. With injuries hobbling weekly starters like Jordy Nelson and the continued absences of the Ben Rothelisbergers and Percy Harvins of the world, finding the perfect lineup fit could single-handedly send you to the semifinals.
While you may already have a contingency plan in place, there are a few guys available that could be better than your current fix. With that in mind, let's take a look at all the best waiver-wire pickups on the Week 14 market.
(Note: All ownership percentages are courtesy of ESPN.)
Ownership: 33.6 Percent
By now, if you don't know who T.Y. Hilton is and why he's worth picking up, then it's likely your league is too shallow for him to be relevant. He's been a guy that's appeared on countless waiver pickup lists since his outburst in Week 9 and has been a strong performer ever since.
Regardless, it seems like every week Hilton's value keeps soaring. In last week's scintillating comeback win over the Lions, Hilton grabbed six receptions for 100 yards, both very solid pickup-worthy numbers.
More impressive than the counting stats, though, was the fact Andrew Luck targeted Hilton 12 times. That figure was more than Reggie Wayne and shows the growing bond between Hilton and his quarterback in recent weeks.
Especially in leagues where return yardage is counted, Hilton should be a no-brainer target this week for owners. Just as long as you don't expect him to hit double-digit targets each week. Hilton is still stuck behind Wayne and Donnie Avery on the depth chart, and Luck certainly won't be chucking the ball around 54 times ever Sunday.
Nevertheless, Hilton's performance over the last quarter of the season has proven he's a worthy every-week flex start.
Ownership: 22.1 Percent
Like Hilton, Brandon Myers has been appearing on these lists for weeks now. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, if he wasn't on your roster last week, you almost certainly missed a career-best performance from the Raiders tight end.
Finding consistent holes underneath in the Browns defense, Myers grabbed 14 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the 20-17 loss. That performance gave him five straight weeks with five or more receptions and he's scored four touchdowns in those contests as well.
Though touchdown production is hard to project (especially for tight ends), there is little reason to think Myers' place in the offense will change anytime soon. The Raiders have continually fallen behind in games of late, leaving Carson Palmer to chuck the ball around the field 40-plus times in an unsuccessful attempt to make a comeback.
Spoiler alert: Oakland won't be improving anytime soon. By sheer volume of targets and opportunity, Myers should be among the five most consistent tight end options down the stretch.
He may not grab over 10 balls every week, but other than nostalgia, there's little reason for Antonio Gates to be owned in over four times as many leagues as Myers.
Ownership: 41.2 Percent
It may have taken 13 weeks, but Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin finally realized something most analysts realized a while ago: Jonathan Dwyer is quite easily Pittsburgh's best running back.
With Dwyer now leading the charge atop the depth chart, fantasy owners should be able to reap the rewards down the stretch. While his numbers last week (16 carries, 49 yards, one touchdown) won't be inspiring anyone, you can pretty much throw out any fantasy takeaways when the Ravens and Steelers play one another.
We'll get a far better picture of how Dwyer handles the full-time RB1 role this week against the Chargers. Though San Diego comes into Week 14 sixth in the NFL against the run, teams have gone over 120 yards on the ground in each of the past three weeks.
With the season essentially over, it will be interesting to see how the final quarter of the season plays out for Norv Turner's bunch.
Keep Dwyer as a flex play this week, but don't be shocked if he becomes the latest back inducted into the Jerome Harrison Hall of Fame for Unsung Fantasy Playoff Heroes down the stretch.
Ownership: 48.8 Percent
Speaking of unquestioned top running backs, it's become readily apparent that the job in Denver is probably Knowshon Moreno's for the season's duration.
Thought to be languishing at the end of the bench, Moreno usurped Ronnie Hillman's spot on the depth chart and has gotten an overwhelming bulk of the work the past two weeks. In victories over the Chiefs and Buccaneers, the fourth-year back got 24 touches in both contests and averaged 97 total yards.
Those aren't world-beating numbers by any stretch, but if Moreno is getting 20 carries a week, he'll have starting value. That's otherwise known as the Ryan Mathews corollary.
With starter Willis McGahee out with a regular-season-ending knee injury, it's hard to expect Moreno to get any fewer than eight points in a game the rest of the way. It may not be much, but it's better than taking a massive risk and getting a goose-egg on the scoreboard.
Ownership: 45.7 Percent
With each passing week, it's becoming more apparent that Alex Smith won't be seeing the field again in 2012, barring a catastrophic performance or injury.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh once again named Colin Kaepernick the starter for this week's game against the Dolphins, a move that should surprise exactly no one and excite fantasy owners. Despite the second-year quarterback having a down performance by any objective measure against the Rams last week, Kaepernick still managed to put up 14 fantasy points.
To think about that is a little bit astounding. Kaepernick did not account for a touchdown, had two turnovers and still had as much fantasy value in Week 13 as Aaron Rodgers.
His long-term viability as the 49ers' franchise quarterback is still very much in the air. However, there is little if any question that Kaepernick is a top 10 fantasy signal-caller the rest of the way and he should be owned in all formats.
With a matchup against Miami (27th in pass defense) coming up on Sunday, Week 14 may prove to be Kaepernick's fantasy coming out party.