How’s your team doing? Outhouse or penthouse? It’s Week 14, and the first week of the playoffs in many leagues. If you’re playoff-bound, you probably have your starting squad pretty firmed up by now. But for those of you in leagues where waiver pickups are still an option, you might still need to use them if you are a Marc Bulger, Ronald Curry, Priest Holmes, or Steve McNair owner. But have no fear…the playoff edition of our waiver wire picks have arrived to help you fill you fantasy flaws!
This week’s format will be a bit different than those of the past. There’s really no sense in picking up someone who will be anything less than an immediate starter, if even for only one week. Because at this point in the year, every week could be your last, right? So here are a few guys who make respectable spot starters…I’d rather have an established stud than any of them, but they all have either favorable matchups, are in good positions due to injury, aer just plain hot, or all of the above. So enough spouting here…let’s go!!
Billy Volek QB Tennessee Titans
With the Titans way out of the playoff hunt, they have little reason to rush back a physically and seemingly emotionally battered Steve McNair. And Volek has been carrying the torch quite well in Air’s absence. He posted some fine fantasy numbers against the Colts this weekend: 270 yards and 3 TD is a good day, even in a blowout loss. The Titans have a nice matchup next Monday night against a horrible Chiefs defense, then play a lousy Cardinals team. If McNair looks to be out for another week or two, Volek could be considered a top 10 QB based on matchups alone. If you’re really hurtin’, don’t be afraid to pick up BV as your QB. U see?
Drew Bledsoe QB Buffalo Bills
What? Drew Bledsoe on my fantasy team? Never!! But wait a minute…the Bills have rather quietly been one of the hottest teams in the league of late, and Bledsoe is putting up some good fantasy stats in the process. After being an even bet to even crack 100 yards passing a month or two ago, the Drew-man is slingin’ the pigskin again! A 4 TD game against the lowly Fins last week follow up a 275 yard performance against the Hawks the week before and a 3 TD game against Rams the week before that. And consider that the Bills play a Cleveland team that’s given up close to 100 points the past two games, then a Bengals game that the aforementioned Browns recently scored 58 on…do the matchups get any better? Drew’s not going to get my All-Pro vote this year, but he’s a pretty good plug-in the next couple of weeks for your needy fantasy squad.
Larry Johnson RB Kansas City Chiefs
Decent RBs on the waiver wire in Week 14 are as rare as an Andy Rooney eyebrow-trimmer sighting. But we may have found one here. With Priest likely shelved for the year, Johnson is getting carries and making the most of them. He torched the Raiders for 118 yards on 20 carries and proved he can catch too with 3 grabs for 56 yards. Add 2 TDs onto that and you have a nice fantasy find on your hands. It’s hard to say if he’ll continue to get more carries than Blaylock (he had 12) for the rest of the year, but if he does, I hope I don’t have to explain the value of having the KC RB on your team. Upcoming matchups against an inconsistent Titans team an decent but not overpowering Broncos team make “Don’t call me GrandMaMa” a good gamble at your #2 RB squad if you’re in need.
Lee Evans WR Buffalo Bills
As was mentioned in the Bledsoe blurb, the Bills passing game has been reborn and has some favorable matchups. Evans is the Bills deep threat and can torch opposing defenses for long touchdowns the next few weeks. Favor him in games with good weather…it’s hard to throw a 50 yard bomb in a snowstorm or with gale-force winds. But with 110 yards and 2 TDs last week follow up a 70 and a TD game the week before…this rookie is establishing a chemistry with Bledsoe that you can use to your advantage. Be the Lee!!
Antonio Bryant WR Cleveland Browns
The Smokin’ Hot pickup of last week proved the disbelievers wrong with a 7 / 115 / 2 TD statline against a stingy Pats D last weekend. As I said the week before, Bryant is a huge talent that is benefitting big-time from a change of scenery, and even with lowly Luke McCown at QB, he’s clearly the go-to receiver on a team that’s putting up some good passing yardage of late. With a confused Jaguars and a decent but not invincible Chargers D next on the schedule, Bryant isn’t a bad play at all. Ride the hot hand when it comes to playoff time….you’ll be glad you did!
T. J. Houshmandzadeh WR Cincinnati Bengals
T.J. who? Well, even if anyone this side of Ken Jennings can’t spell this guy’s name, he’s been making his presence known the past few weeks. He absolutely demolished the previously solid defense of the Ravens with a 10 catch, 171 yard and a TD game last week…who woulda thunk? But for those of you thinking this was a flash-in-the-pan performance, consider he’s following up a 79 yard and 2 TD performance against the Steelers. With Peter Warrick out of the picture, TJ is torching the best defenses in the league! New England next week looks tough…but didn’t the last two look impossible too? He’s a boom-or-bust play, but if you’re a gambler, put him in…they’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done!!
Well, that concludes the Waiver Wire column for the 2004 season. This was my first year writing it and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Hopefully you gleaned some advice that helped you win a game or two. The Monday nights I spent writing the column kept me out of the bar with my buddies more than I would have liked, but perhaps the money I was saving for a new liver can now be used for other more constructive purposes. In any case, good luck in your playoff endeavors!