By popular demand, the “Waiver Wire Wonders” returns! You asked for it, we provide it. Thanks, as always, for your support and interest in the column. We’ll keep things brief while trying to sift through some of the players that can still chip in for those leagues that still have the capability to make moves. We’ll list things by position with a brief note or two about each player for easy reference.
Alex Smith, San Francisco
The 49ers are in a dog fight as they try to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs. A healthy Smith got the starting nod from coach Mike Singletary this past week, and he didn’t disappoint, going for 255 yards and three touchdowns. A difficult matchup is on tap against the San Diego Chargers, as they are statistically the top defense against the pass. However, if there was a team that would be able to move the ball in the air against San Diego, it would be this desperate San Francisco unit. The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals fill out the rest of the schedule after the Chargers, both favorable matchups.
Jason Campbell, Oakland
Despite missing a couple of plays, Campbell was on the field long enough to rack up 324 yards of passing offense while tossing a pair of touchdowns. Oakland has very favorable matchups going forward, with Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City as its remaining opponents.
Ryan Torain, Washington
He may not be available in many leagues, but if he is, he’s healthy and has assumed the starting role in Washington. More importantly, he has assumed the “work horse” role for the Redskins. A huge Week 14 had him rush for 173 yards against a tough Buccaneers defense. A tough Week 17 matchup against the New York Giants looms, but Dallas and Jacksonville are on the docket in the short term.
Tim Hightower, Arizona
The big question here is whether his recent explosion is reality or a mirage. Eighty-one yards against the St. Louis Rams the previous week, 138 yards and a couple of touchdowns against the Denver Broncos this week. Denver looked horrible, but Hightower does seem to be taking the starting role in Arizona with both hands. Carolina, Dallas and San Francisco are his remaining matchups so I see him as a 75-100 yard guy on a weekly basis the rest of the way.
Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville
Despite tallying more than a hundred yards last week, most of that came on a late game 74-yard touchdown run. Maurice Jones-Drew owners would be wise to add him as insurance.
Javarris James, Indianapolis
The health of Joseph Addai and Mike Hart are the key here, but for the time being the Colts are trusting James. Whether in crunch time or at the goal line, James has been getting the call. Not a very high ceiling here, but steady (albeit low) numbers expected here.
Earl Bennett, Chicago
Here is a real find if he is still on your waiver wire. The Bears looked awful in the snow this past week, as the entire offense struggled against a suddenly hot New England Patriots’ defense. Despite that, he still went for three catches for 53 yards this week. Prior to that, he had weeks of seven catches for 104 yards, and 56 yards with two touchdowns before that. The Bears can’t pass block against anyone, but that is creating opportunities for Bennett as Chicago has adjusted to a short passing game. Despite the difficult matchups coming up (Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers), I look for Bennett to be in the range of 75-100 yards on a weekly basis for the rest of the season, with the potential to find the end zone any week.
Brandon Gibson, St.Louis
Though his numbers have dipped of late, he remains consistent within the 30-70 yard range. He is the top target for the Rams and has favorable matchups remaining against the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Jacoby Jones, Houston
He will always be overshadowed by Andre Johnson, and the Texans aren’t going to be able to pass the ball every week like they did in the second half against a tired Baltimore Ravens squad. A bit of a stretch here as I don’t believe Jones is a fantasy starter right now, but Johnson is battling through some injuries right now, which is creating a shade more opportunities for Jones and the rest of the Texans’ passing game. Worth keeping an eye on, especially since the Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars are the remaining opponents.
Owen Daniels, Houston
He sure looked pretty good on Monday night after missing the last five games. The Texans didn’t even have him listed as being the starter, but once he got up to speed, he played a major role in the offense. Matt Schaub looked his way 11 times and he ended up catching five of those passes for 91 yards. He is once again a legitimate fantasy starter.
Bo Scaife, Tennessee
The ultimate hit or miss, he has been missing a lot lately. However, he found his way into the end zone twice in Week 13, so that drops him onto a desperate fantasy owner’s radar screen. The Titans haven’t scored a lot in recent weeks, but it looks like Kerry Collins has a favorite red zone target.
David Buehler, Dallas
Ferris would be proud to see his namesake in the column this week! Buehler has settled down since some mid-season struggles to the point where the Cowboys are satisfied with his performance. A somewhat rejuvenated offense has created scoring opportunities and Buehler hasn’t disappointed, booting nine successful kicks in the last three games. He’s 3-of-4 from 40-plus yards in that span, so the coaching staff isn’t afraid to use him from long distance. Dallas should continue to create chances for him with the Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles left on the schedule.
Jay Feely, Arizona
For leagues that give bonus points for length of kick, Feely was one of the top fantasy plays in Week 14. He connected on 5-of-6 kicks this week, and even tacked on a rushing touchdown. Prior to that, he’d been consistently getting two field goals per week, which is not bad for consistent scoring. The Cardinals have the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers left on the schedule, so their offense will continue to provide scoring chances.
Jeff Reed, San Francisco
He’s locked in as their starter for the remainder of the season, and in two games, he hasn’t disappointed. Four-for-four this past week, three-for-three the week prior. That includes two successful attempts from 40-plus yards. San Francisco is in the playoff hunt, so their kicker will get plenty of scoring opportunities the rest of the way. The San Diego Chargers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals remain on the schedule, all teams that can be scored upon.
The coaching change has done wonders for this unit, as they are playing well as a unit. They are giving up a ton of yards, but they are creating turnovers on a weekly basis. Favorable matchups the next two weeks against the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals are on tap, so look for the Cowboys to be a sneaky good defensive play these next two weeks.
A tough week for them this past week, as the New York Giants lit them up for nearly 400 yards. That’s going to happen when you are on the field for most of the game (see also: Ravens, Baltimore). Their pass rush is back, and an extremely good matchup this week against the Chicago Bears will have them tallying several sacks and accumulating some interceptions as well. The Philadelphia Eagles present some difficulties in Week 16, but they should again be huge against the Detroit Lions in the final game of the season.
A bit of a reach here, but this is a unit worth considering, especially in division games against the Denver Broncos (this week) and Kansas City Chiefs (final week). The Indianapolis Colts in between are somewhat intriguing, though Peyton Manning appears to have corrected his throwing of interceptions, the Raiders are always tough to play in Oakland.