In Week 16, the fantasy football waiver wire is trickier than ever. Only teams in championship or semifinal games are looking to make moves, and with most leagues' waiver period coming on Wednesday or Thursday, most solid guys are snatched up by Sunday morning.
Key word there: most. As is always the case, some guys have slipped through the midweek cracks and are still available in most formats. With solid matchups and opportunities, these players could even be more valuable than the stars who have brought your team to fantasy playoff glory.
At the worst, they're players worth grabbing to sabotage your opponent, a fun fantasy pastime that's especially joyous during the holiday season.
In that spirit of giving, here is a look at a few waiver-wire gems still available and worth putting on your championship-week roster.
Sam Bradford (QB, St. Louis Rams—at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Rams fans may never forgive management for not drafting Robert Griffin III, but Bradford may actually be a better fantasy option this week. While that may seem like blasphemy, the St. Louis signal-caller has actually been a reliable fantasy option for much of the season.
Bradford hasn't had fewer than 10 fantasy points since Week 4 and has only had single digits twice all season. He's also coming off a game where he carved the Vikings' secondary for 377 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 27-point fantasy day. That was the third most of Week 15 and by far Bradford's best performance of the season.
Based on his matchup this week, I have a hard time seeing Bradford's hot streak ending on Sunday. The Buccaneers head into Week 16 with by far the worst pass defense in the NFL, giving up 310.6 points per game, a figure nearly 25 yards worse than the 31st-ranked team.
Tampa Bay is also bottom four in sacks, passing touchdowns allowed and yards per attempt against. To put it another way, if Nick Foles can drop 31 fantasy points on the Bucs then Bradford should have no trouble ending Week 16 inside the top 10.
Jackie Battle (RB, San Diego Chargers—at New York Jets)
Obviously, this is an "only if you're desperate" type of situation. There are at least 25 running backs I like this week more than Battle and he's likely to split the carries with Curtis Brinkley on Sunday. However, if you're in a 14-team league or a deep 12-team league and need a flex player, there are a ton of worse options.
Essentially, Battle's fantasy relevance stems from his matchup. Coming into Week 16, the Jets rank 29th in the NFL against the run, giving up 138.7 yards per game. They also have been unable to stop opposing backs from getting into the end zone, as their 15 touchdowns allowed ranks fourth worst.
While Battle hasn't exactly been a bastion of effectiveness this season, he's had a nose for the end zone when getting extended work. All three of his touchdowns have come in games where he's gotten 10 or more carries and it would behoove Norv Turner to pound the ball this week.
It's not a guarantee, but something like 50 yards and a touchdown seem like a reasonable projection. If you're desperate enough to consider Battle, he's probably going to be your best option.
T.Y. Hilton (WR, Indianapolis Colts—at Kansas City Chiefs)
I'm not sure what Hilton needs to do in order to get respect from fantasy owners, but putting up double-digit fantasy points obviously isn't it. The Colts' big-play threat has 10 or more fantasy points in four of the past five weeks, but is only owned in a little over half of ESPN fantasy leagues.
Here's another wacky fact: Hilton's ownership percentage went down between this week and last week after he had 78 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Texans.
Tell me what part of that makes sense. Don't worry, I'll wait.
Regardless, other owners' missteps can only be your reward. Indianapolis hits the road to play the Chiefs this week, a team that actually seems rather stout until you look at the underlying numbers. No team has been thrown on less than Kansas City, yet the secondary has still given up 25 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
With an 8.0 yards per attempt average, opposing quarterbacks also have the highest quarterback rating in the NFL against the Chiefs. Those figures are wholly indicative of the secondary's penchant for getting burned down the field. Considering Hilton's skill set, this should be a perfect matchup for the young receiver.