Week 13 Waiver Wire: Top Pickups
Week 13 is the finale of the fantasy regular season, so this might be the last Tuesday night of having a full slate of competition for the top options off waivers.
Things tend to get easier as teams are eliminated from contention, if half of your league hasn't given up already.
We break down the free agents to consider by position, putting a special emphasis on their Week 13 opponents but not losing sight of the true prize: potential to score in the fantasy postseason.
Here are all of the ones to add and monitor, and even analysis on those to ignore in a six-part slideshow.
Quarterbacks: Resurgent Carson Palmer, Cardinals Have Great Matchup at Philly
Quarterbacks to Add
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
You have to love what Palmer is doing under Bruce Arians' aerial scheme, especially with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and emerging tight end Rob Housler. Palmer has a road game looming at Philly, and the Eagles are dead last against the pass and fifth-worst against fantasy quarterbacks. This could become a shootout against Nick Foles and coach Chip Kelly.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs might have lost back-to-back games, but Smith is doing a better job of getting the ball to Dwayne Bowe of late. Smith, available in 32 percent of CBS Sports leagues, is coming off three touchdowns against the Chargers, and he now faces a Broncos team that is fourth-worst in fantasy against quarterbacks and third-worst against the pass. We should expect a lot of points in the Chiefs' biggest game of the year.
Josh McCown, Chicago Bears
We might have buried the lede here. McCown is coming off 352 yards and two touchdowns and draws the Vikings—second-worst against fantasy quarterbacks and fourth-worst against the pass—in climate-controlled conditions in Minnesota. If you hate trusting those two quarterbacks above in shaky weather conditions, you have to love McCown as a sleeper as the Bears fight for their playoff lives.
Quarterback to Monitor
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans
He has developed some good things with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and tight end Delanie Walker, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. Also, the Colts proved incapable of stopping the Cardinals and Palmer through the air last week. We fully expect the Colts to play better at home, so consider Fitzpatrick more of an option in two-quarterback formats.
Quarterback to Ignore
Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders
We understand the allure of McGloin against the worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks, but he wasn't as convincing last week as he was in his debut. Also, Denarius Moore (shoulder) is expected to be questionable on the short week. Leave him on the pile, unless you're desperate in two-quarterback formats.
Running Backs: There Are Few Options If You're Replacing Fumbling Stevan Ridley
Running Backs to Add
Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams
Zac Stacy was a fantasy beast because the Rams have become committed to the run with Sam Bradford (knee) out for the season, but now Stacy is going through the concussion protocol. There is no telling Stacy's status at this point, so Cunningham's 13 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown Sunday clearly earned him the starting job if Stacy cannot go. Cunningham won't be a great play this week against the 49ers' solid run defense, but he is a must-have as a Stacy handcuff at the very least.
Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans
Ben Tate (ribs) hasn't been 100 percent, so the run-heavy Texans leaned a bit more on Johnson this past Sunday. Johnson responded with 13 carries for 74 yards and another 13 yards receiving.
It makes him intriguing off waivers, even if Tate will remain the starter against the Pats, as Gary Kubiak told the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith:
There were a couple of times where there really wasn't any room for [Tate]. I don't know if he ever got in a rhythm with what he's doing. We know what he's battling through. He's not practicing during the week; he's just playing on Sundays. So I know that's tough from that standpoint. But we definitely appreciate with some of the things going on. The young guy, D.J., was running so well. He did some good things, so we gave him some more opportunities. I think Ben will bounce back.
Johnson will still get some touches this Sunday, especially if he shows well early, Kubiak told Deepi Sidhu of the Texans' official website:
We had planned on playing DJ [Johnson] some, but when he went in and he just looked so good running the ball, so we played him a little bit more. It's just the way it happened. Ben hadn't been practicing all week; he's just been playing for us. Obviously, DJ did some good stuff, so I left him in the game.
The best news about the woeful Texans is New England was ripped by Knowshon Moreno and the Broncos on the ground Sunday night. The Pats are now the second-worst run defense in football. If Case Keenum can keep the Texans in the game long enough, there will be production to be had for both Tate and Johnson.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
We already delved deeply into the Pats' running back carousel in Bleacher Report's Biggest Takeaways on Monday, so there is not much to add here. We should expect the Pats to go back to Stevan Ridley as their starter, but Shane Veeren will get a bigger piece of the running pie. Bolden is a flier for Ridley owners, though, just in case the Bill Belichick doghouse is locked at the front door.
Running Backs to Monitor
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
He returns from his bye week as the Bengals' starter, and he is still available in 30 percent of CBS Sports leagues. The Bengals will play in the balmy San Diego conditions this week, but there will be some wintry games for BGE to run the ball in down the stretch. You might want to take a flier here, especially because BGE remains the goal-line back for a team that figures to need one in future weeks.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
He got a bigger share of the load versus Chris Ivory last week, as the Jets fell behind and were forced into more passing situations. Powell is the Jets' passing-receiving back. The good news is the Dolphins are next up on the schedule. Miami has been the seventh-worst team against the run and in fantasy against running backs. There is a chance, perhaps, Powell can steal his feature-back job from Ivory again.
Running Backs to Ignore
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson had dealt with a groin issue, but he sure didn't look bad Sunday. Gerhart didn't either, rushing for 91 yards on eight carries. Still, Gerhart remains nothing more than a mere handcuff for one of football's all-time workhorses. If the Vikings had a more productive offense and quarterback situation, Gerhart would be more intriguing in fantasy.
Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders
The 2012 sleeper reached the end zone on a receiving touchdown from Matt McGloin, but this was his first significant inclusion in the Raiders offense in weeks, if not months. Dallas is dead last in fantasy against running backs, but you don't have to bother with Reece on your fantasy roster, unless you're desperate in PPR formats.
Wide Receivers: Own Michael Crabtree, but Expect Him to Be Eased in This Week
Wide Receivers to Add
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said after Monday night's return to prominence by Colin Kaepernick that Crabtree (Achilles) is expected to play this coming Sunday against the Rams, according to the 49ers' official Twitter account.
You should expect him to work his way in slowly like Percy Harvin and Mario Manningham have, but you have to own Crabtree in all leagues because of his incredibly high ceiling. He is arguably a top-10 fantasy receiver when healthy—although he is almost certain to be limited initially in his quick return from injury (in terms of an Achilles tear).
Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
We already chronicled Burleson's pending importance to fantasy in Bleacher Report's Biggest Takeaways on Monday. He is back from his broken arm and got into the end zone in his debut. The Lions have a potent passing attack, and they have sorely needed a sidekick for Calvin Johnson. Burleson might not only be a must-add, but he might be a must-start as well for Thanksgiving Day.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
We cannot pretend to know which way the Pats will go week to week with their receivers, but you have to love what Edelman did on arguably the biggest stage of the year. He is still a favorite of Tom Brady in crunch time, and there should be plenty more big moments for him for fantasy owners—even if Danny Amendola should still be considered the Pats' best slot receiver.
Wide Receivers to Monitor
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
Despite getting plenty of snaps against the Giants as the Cowboys' No. 2 receiver, Austin didn't muster much. He should steadily get more and more involved with Tony Romo, especially against a Raiders secondary that is fifth-worst in fantasy against wide receivers and eighth-worst against the pass. Don't start Austin in any standard fantasy leagues until he proves productive, but he lines up as a nice sleeper play in daily salary-cap formats.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans
This rookie receiver has shown flashes of brilliance for the Titans, and Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean tweets he has earned more playing time going forward. Pending free agent Kenny Britt is toast, Nate Washington is old and Damian Williams is banged up and looking like a never-will-be. If you are looking for a sleeper stashee for keeper leagues, Hunter is a potential long-term beast.
Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
Matt McGloin will continue to start for the Raiders, and he has shown he has a good rapport with Streater, especially with Denarius Moore (shoulder) out last week. With Moore unlikely to be 100 percent for Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys, if he plays at all on the short week, Streater is a sleeper for fantasy owners. He is another gem for daily fantasy players.
Wide Receivers to Ignore
Kenbrell Thompkins, New England Patriots
Yet another Patriots receiver we cannot seem to figure out. Thompkins has trumped Aaron Dobson in recent weeks, but we have to still figure Dobson is going to rise back to take targets again. Regardless, Thompkins is behind Amendola and Edelman in the fantasy pecking order for the Pats and Brady. You cannot trust Thompkins week to week with so many options around him, so don't go diving all-in on him.
Tiquan Underwood, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
His two-touchdown week makes him intriguing, but let someone else get sucked in on last week's surprise performer. Underwood is still well behind Vincent Jackson as the Bucs' go-to receiver, and you shouldn't trust Mike Glennon to make too many fantasy stars in the Bucs' passing game down the stretch. Underwood is a bad, bad play against the Panthers defense, which is No. 4 in fantasy against wide receivers.
Tight Ends: Dennis Pitta Still Might Impact Leagues During Fantasy Postseason
Tight Ends to Add
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
Housler's four catches for 51 yards might not seem like much, but he is truly on the verge of a fantasy breakthrough. Now he gets the last-ranked Eagles secondary to work against. While the Eagles are quietly No. 1 in fantasy against tight ends, despite some big passing holes, they will have to expend their resources to double Larry Fitzgerald and keep the top on Michael Floyd this week. That should open up Housler down the seam or underneath in the red zone. Housler is seriously viable in all fantasy leagues right now.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta's season is not over after all. His hip has healed to the point he might be able to return in Week 14. If you are looking for a sleeper tight end stashee for the stretch run, Pitta is your man. He is a potentially elite option, especially because the Ravens and Joe Flacco need a trustworthy target in the passing game to play off wideout Torrey Smith.
Tight Ends to Monitor
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
The early-season gem rebounded in Week 12 with 80 yards and a touchdown, but a matchup against the still-tough 49ers defense looms. San Francisco is fourth-best against fantasy tight ends, so consider Cook a bad play this week but a potential impact performer for the fantasy postseason.
Brandon Myers, New York Giants
The Giants' offensive line has played better of late, so Myers has been able to get out in pass routes more often rather than being a mere option to help in max protection. The Redskins are in the bottom 10 of fantasy against tight ends and in the NFL against the pass, so you can use Myers as a desperation play in standard leagues this week.
Tight Ends to Ignore
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
He had a surprise big touchdown last week, but Antonio Gates is still Philip Rivers' tight end of choice. Green has a future for the Chargers and in fantasy, but perhaps not truly until the future Hall of Famer Gates is out of the picture.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
The rookie got in the end zone again Sunday, but he doesn't draw enough targets to truly be considered a fantasy option week to week. Pending free agent Brandon Pettigrew is the better play if you are looking at the Lions for a sleeper tight end play in fantasy.
Defense/Special Teams: Jump on the New England Patriots Defense at Houston
Defense/Special Teams to Add
New England Patriots
The Pats didn't show well in the first half against the Broncos, and they are terrible against the run (ranked 31st), but they did do enough to beat Peyton Manning on Sunday night. Now they get the woeful Texans, who are second-worst in fantasy against defense/special teams. The Pats are available in 32 percent of CBS Sports leagues, but they rank as a must-start in all formats this week.
The Cowboys are third-worst against the run and second-worst against the pass, but they score fantasy points. That is what matters to us here. They face the Raiders at home on a short week and should enjoy a huge performance in their annual Thanksgiving Day showcase against an undrafted rookie quarterback.
Defense/Special Teams to Monitor
New York Jets
They have looked pitiful the past two weeks, but the Dolphins are in the bottom 10 of fantasy against defense/special teams, so consider the Jets a deep sleeper play. We should not count out a Rex Ryan defense righting itself, especially at home and as the days get colder in the New Jersey weather.
This unit is not at the top of anyone's wish list, but the Jags are the opponent that fantasy owners who stream defenses always look at—rightly so—because they are fourth-worst in fantasy against opposing units. The Texans were a big letdown against Jacksonville, though, so we shouldn't count on Cleveland in this spot.
Defense/Special Teams to Ignore
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
They intercepted Matthew Stafford four times last week, sacked him twice and forced a fumble, but the Panthers have been one of the NFL's best at home this season. Carolina is also fourth-best against opposing units. The Bucs are talented defensively, but a bad play here.
New Orleans Saints
This unit has emerged as viable for the fantasy postseason, but a matchup at Seattle in prime time is rarely good for anyone. It is terrible for a fringe unit like the Saints. This game is going to get loose, as it might decide NFC home-field advantage.
Kickers: It Is a Good Time to Jump Back on Ravens' Justin Tucker Here
Kickers to Add
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
He has been a disappointment this season, but the Ravens have shown more life of late. They face the Steelers on Thanksgiving night, a team that tends to bend but not break. The Steelers have given up the 11th-most field goals this season.
Nick Folk, New York Jets
The Jets have been horrible on the road in the past two games, but they return home to face a Dolphins team that has given up the fourth-most points in fantasy to kickers. Folk can be a fantasy factor here.
Kickers to Monitor
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
He was a fantasy gem a year ago when Adrian Peterson was an unstoppable force, so if A.P. can stay hot down the stretch, Walsh can be a consistent factor in fantasy leagues again. We still cannot trust the Vikings' offensive consistency with their shaky quarterback play, though.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
He was given six field-goal opportunities last week, so perhaps the emergence of Rashad Jennings and Matt McGloin can get this one-time big-name kicker back in fantasy's good graces.
Kickers to Ignore
Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have offensive line issues still, and a trip to New Jersey is an awful time to be jumping on their kicker.
Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
You can like the Rams' offensive progress, especially as it relates to the running game, but you cannot like the shaky status of Zac Stacy (concussion) or the matchup at San Francisco. The 49ers are the best team in fantasy against kickers.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.