Week 14 Waiver Wire: Last-Minute Starters to Plug in for Playoffs
With the fantasy football playoffs kicking off in most leagues in Week 14, some lineups may be damaged by injuries, disappointing production from marquee names or simply in need of fortification against enhanced fantasy competition.
Thankfully, there are some last-minute acquisitions that can be made in the majority of leagues to give your team an extra boost for the postseason.
Here is one player at every major position to count on for this weekend and beyond as the year winds down.
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
All that concern about being under six feet tall? It looks pretty silly right now, unless you're John Schneider, the Seahawks GM, who has absolutely crushed the past two drafts.
Not least of his recent prowess in the war room was the chance he took in the third round on Wilson. It turned out to be an outstanding bargain rather than a risky investment. Wilson may be overshadowed by the higher profile Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but that hasn't stopped him from being arguably the most impressive rookie quarterback.
After going 23-of-37 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for 71 yards to boot, against one of the best defenses in the league in the Chicago Bears, it's hard to argue Wilson isn't a rising star.
That's why he has to be at least considered as a fantasy starter for the remainder of the season. Despite a relatively difficult schedule to trudge through, Wilson has shown improvement virtually every week. That should only continue with such a great defense and running back Marshawn Lynch backing him up.
Don't underestimate Wilson just because he's short in stature. He is clearly devastating with both his legs and his arms. The Arizona Cardinals may have one of the better pass defenses in the league, but so did the Bears, and look what Wilson did to them.
Wilson just continues to beat the odds. Betting against him seems to be less wise the bigger the moment becomes.
Week 14 will be no exception to that with the home crowd behind him, in an environment where he hasn't thrown an interception all year.
RB Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
It's a minor miracle that the Colts are 8-4. With the exception of one game, Indy really loses when they lose. The games aren't close, and the absence of a running game is largely to blame for it.
Andrew Luck throws more passes than almost any other QB in the league. As SI's Peter King pointed out in his recent cover story, Luck's passes travel more than 10 yards in the air, which is far more than the next closest competitor in the league.
Offensive coordinator and interim head coach Bruce Arians is definitely giving Luck free reign to sling it, but it is resulting in mistakes. As the last quarter of the season unfolds, the colts will need to develop a more viable running game if they're to become a legitimate playoff team.
That's where Ballard comes in. Only five players on the roster have more than seven years of pro experience, and the running back is one of several rookies playing key positions for this Colts team.
With Donald Brown recently hurt again and out for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans (h/t ESPN), Ballard is a viable spot starter when the Colts take on their AFC South rival at home. He proved in the last matchup that he can catch out of the backfield and make plays, as evidenced by his game-winning touchdown in Indy's overtime victory.
Ballard is a bruising runner, and will definitely be the workhorse moving forward. It also helps that the Titans have the 27th-ranked rush defense in the league.
That should allow the Colts to stay more grounded rather than put the ball in Luck's hands so frequently. Luck's down-field style has him tied New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees for a league-high 16 interceptions.
WR Mike Thomas, Detroit Lions
The hits keep on coming for Detroit. After one promising year in 2011, the Lions have struggled just as they have in recent memory despite owning the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL.
That passing attack may take a hit, though, due to the ACL injury to Ryan Broyles and the placement of troubled WR Titus Young on injured reserve, as reported by Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press and USA TODAY.
What may be the silver lining for those who are looking for a fantasy fill-in is the Lions' recent addition of Thomas in a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars. With two big pieces missing from the team's aerial equation, Matthew Stafford could be looking significantly more in Thomas' direction.
Considering how good Stafford has been despite the circumstances—and despite how bad he may tend to start games—it's reasonable to assume that Thomas could fill in and be a viable flex option at the very least.
With the benefit of Calvin Johnson drawing double coverage, Thomas could easily contribute in a big way right off the bat in spite of his limited involvement to date.
Week 14's opponent is the Green Bay Packers, who should shred the Lions' defense for much of the afternoon in an NFC North showdown. That will once again lend itself to a lot of passes for Stafford—and a lot of opportunities for Thomas.
TE Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
As the fantasy gurus at ESPN point out, the Washington Redskins have given up an NFL-high 80 receptions to tight ends this season. That bodes well for Pitta, particularly because Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron continues to put his faith in Joe Flacco throwing over superstar RB Ray Rice pounding the rock.
Pitta is also the third-most targeted Raven behind only Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. The Redskins are going to try to control the clock by running the ball on Baltimore's uncharacteristically leaky defense.
They will likely succeed, which will force Flacco to sling it. The 6'4", 245-pound Pitta is a capable red zone target, and is second on the team with four receiving TDs.
Washington is extremely thin in the secondary, but what defensive backs they do have will be distracted by the dependability of Boldin and the blinding speed Smith provides on the outside.
Originally a hot fantasy commodity after his performance in Week 1 against Cincinnati, Pitta has been largely inconsistent in 2012. This Sunday will prove to be one of those weeks where his stock is once again up.
New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett torched the Redskins on Monday Night Football for five catches, 82 yards and a touchdown. Don't be surprised by a similar performance from Pitta.
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