February is still two months away, but for fantasy owners in their championship game, the Super Bowl has arrived.
Though there is still a week of regular-season play, Week 16 is widely recognized as the championship in most fantasy leagues unless you play in a year-long rotisserie format or have a league that stretches into the playoffs.
That means more than ever, making the right move on the waive -wire is of the utmost importance. Obviously, if you've gotten this far, your roster is pretty great and it's unlikely that you need to make many roster moves.
However, there are two ways to look at the waiver wire. There's the traditional way, where you simply pick up a player, put him in your lineup and hope he performs well. There's also a more sinister way, where an owner picks up a player simply to block him from his opposing owner's team.
In championship week, anything goes. With that in mind, here is a look at a few guys worth adding to your roster, whether it is to use them or simply block them from going to your opponent.
Kirk Cousins (QB, Washington Redskins—at Philadelphia Eagles)
Yes, I'm talking to you Mr. RG3 owner who didn't heed my advice last week and went with Brandon Weeden or Jake Locker and somehow still made your championship game. Cousins went out last week against the Browns and was nothing short of brilliant, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns against one interception in the Redskins' win.
That passing performance gave him more yards than any Griffin start and ranked him 10th among fantasy quarterbacks in Week 15. To put it another way, Cousins was better than both Manning brothers and Cam Newton in his first start.
With a matchup against the Eagles coming on Sunday, there's little reason to think Cousins will be a one-week wonder if Griffin sits. Though Philadelphia ranks 13th in the NFL in terms of pass yardage, the secondary has worst touchdown-to-interception ratio (26-to-7) in the league. And with only 28 sacks, it's not like the Eagles are getting much pressure, either.
Obviously, the hope for both Washington and fantasy owners is that Griffin plays. Still, Cousins needs to be rostered by every RG3 owner. If the Griffin owner in your league is too dense to make that move and you have a droppable guy, play some prevent defense and grab Cousins yourself.
Dennis Pitta (TE, Baltimore Ravens—vs. New York Giants)
Jim Caldwell taking over as offensive coordinator may now have led to any third-down touches for Ray Rice, but it did help continue the re-emergence of Pitta.
The early-season stud went through a bit of a dry phase midway through the year (or a world-record drought, depending on your world view), but has been excellent of late. Carving the Broncos defense underneath, Pitta grabbed seven passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday.
That performance was his second consecutive with five or more receptions and a touchdown and third in the past four games. Baltimore is 1-3 in that span, so say what you will about how effective a Pitta-heavy passing attack is for the team.
However, it seems like he's emerged as an integral part of the passing game just in time for a matchup against the Giants' bipolar secondary. Heading into Week 16, New York has picked off 20 passes, good for third-best in the NFL. The secondary has also allowed 23 touchdowns and given up 8.2 yards per attempt, the latter of which ranks dead last.
As most owners know, tight end is an inherently risky position. But there's little reason for Jermichael Finley owners to be hoping against hope that he'll grab a touchdown while Pitta is available in over 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Cecil Shorts (WR, Jacksonville Jaguars—vs. New England Patriots)
It took fantasy owners weeks upon weeks to finally get with the Cecil Shorts program. It took them exactly one week of inactivity due to injury in Week 14 to start jumping off the bandwagon and dropping Shorts in droves.
Shorts' ownership went down nearly nine percent between that Week 14 absence and last Sunday, and he's now available in 39 percent of leagues. I usually abstain from putting players owned in more than half of leagues in this space, but Shorts is far too good to pass up.
Following missing Week 14, Shorts responded with six receptions for 101 yards last week—his fifth 10-plus-point fantasy performance in six weeks.
If recent history is any indication, Shorts should have no trouble having another solid performance against the Patriots this Sunday. New England ranks 29th against the pass in yards allowed and has given up 26 touchdowns through the air thus far (tied for 25th in the league).
If the Shorts owner in your league was short-sighted (get it?) enough to drop the Jaguars wideout, be sure to grab him before someone else does. He'll be a top-tier flex play and could even slide in as a low-end WR2.