Time is winding down on our fantasy football season (shed tear). Pretty soon you will be off to start paying attention to your hockey squad or closing your laptop in time to get some glimpses of the sun before we head into whatever weather winter plans on sending our way.
By now, you should be starting your playoffs or be in the final week of your regular season. And if you are reading this, I would like to congratulate you on making the playoffs or having one last shot at sneaking in with a Week 14 upset. I have to assume those seeking advice would only be doing so because they’re still fighting.
However, if you are not one of those people who are in your league’s postseason and are here to spoil someone else’s fun with an upset of your own to thwart their chances, I applaud you. Nothing can sweeten up a disappointing fantasy season than getting to knock a ‘friend’ out in a last ditch effort. Kudos to you for keeping up the league’s integrity and following the Fantasy Football Moral Code of Ethics (yet to be actually written down).
Anyway, let’s jump into some free agents who you could use to play shenanigans on your opponent.
Rex Grossman WAS (Yahoo 11%, ESPN 8%) vs. New England
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get to write about 'Sexy Rexy' as a worthwhile fantasy quarterback. Maybe in a league of quarterbacks who weigh over 250 lbs. But not here, not now, when your 2011 fantasy life could be at stake. Oh, but alas, I have reason to believe he’s a solid play this week. The last two weeks, Grossman is 10th in passing yards. The last two weeks, he also has had a guy by the name of Santana Moss catching passes for him. Moss had been out with an injury since Grossman lost the QB job in Washington. Now it isn’t to say Mr. Moss is getting big yards. But his presence alone offers a safety blanket for Grossman, as he has 19 targets in two games while catching nine balls. And it isn’t as if the Patriots hang their hats on the defense stopping the opponent to win games. Since Week 6, only KC QB Tyler Palko failed to throw for 250 yards and a touchdown. Come on, even winless Dan Orlovsky still managed two touchdowns and 353 yards last week, though those scores both came late in the 4th quarter. Vince Young and Mark Sanchez are in that mix too. By 2011 standards, they aren’t exactly the picture of a perfect QB.
Devin Aromashodu MIN (Yahoo 1%, ESPN < 1%) vs. Detroit
Certainly anyone who took the time Sunday to watch Tim Tebow fell into a trance as Tebow-mania ran wild in a game that was not lacking in big plays in the second half between the Broncos and Vikings. QB Christian Ponder was successful in exploiting matchups and finding both Percy Harvin, who was all over the field, and Aromashodu for sizeable gains. Much of Aromashodu’s career has been lackluster in production. For the first time all season, he had more than two catches in a game and was targeted 15 times. Not exactly what you would expect from a guy who had 41 catches in his three previous seasons. But he averaged 15.0 yards per catch in hauling six Ponder passes for receptions. With Adrian Peterson looking likely to be sitting again, it could mean more passing plays and more concentration from the Lions secondary to Harvin, who had 156 yards last week.
Brad Smith BUF (Yahoo 3%, ESPN < 1%) at San Diego
I can’t believe the number of Bills receivers who have had big production for one or two weeks this season. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has a knack for finding chemistry quickly with guys. He also had his first back-to-back games without throwing an interception. But that’s beside the point here. The case is being made right now for the quarterback turned gadget man turned late season receiver. Smith has 70+ yards in his last two games, has 14 catches in his last three games and is averaging 8.5 targets in that span. He has become the No. 2 option opposite Stevie Johnson.
Dexter McCluster KC (Yahoo 36%, ESPN 20%) at New York Jets
The multi-faceted McCluster finally found his groove in Week 13 to the tune of 107 offensive yards and a touchdown to boot. Sure, it was the only touchdown scored in the game and it came on a prayer of a bomb at the end of the half, but style points aren’t going to give you a win. With the questionable QB situation in KC (Orton’s finger remains up in the air, Palko’s skills are even higher), you would think Todd Haley is going to work more plays in for the game-breakers including McCluster. Consider that he is a solid runner (5.6 YPC in 4 of last 5) and pass catcher, whether he is in the backfield or lined up wide. The Jets have been prone to allow running backs of his same ilk to succeed in recent weeks.
Week 13: Roy Helu – 100 rush yards, 42 rec. yards
Week 12: C.J. Spiller – 55 rush yards, 35 rec. yards
Week 9: Fred Jackson – 82 rush yards, 38 rec. yards
Marion Barber (Yahoo 36%, ESPN 17%) at Denver
I’d like to say that I predicted this was going to happen, that Matt Forte was going to get hurt just as we entered the final weeks. But seven weeks back, I had tossed out the notion that teams would cut back on the usage of their stars due to wear and tear of a shortened training camp, opening the door for guys like Marion Barber. Here we stand (or sit if you are Forte), the Bears holding on for dear life to a Wild Card spot, using Caleb Hanie as the on-field manager. It’s not looking great for the Bears. Lest, they get a Denver defense that allowed big-bodied Toby Gerhart to go for 100 on the ground. And Barber is now the go-to guy, no longer relegated to playing the role of the vulture. In three of the last four games, Barber has seen an increased workload, with double digit carries.
Jermaine Gresham CIN (Yahoo 43%, ESPN 24%) vs. Houston
Gresham is consistent and that’s really what you need from the tight end position. Correctly predicting when a tight end is going to go off is too risky in my book. All season long, rookie QB Andy Dalton has looked to Gresham, though it isn’t as if Dalton’s relied solely on him. Outside of Week 2 when Gresham had two catches for eight yards, he has managed 3+ catches and 20+ yards in every game. Your thought should be ‘why do I want someone who only gets 20 yards?’ and I wouldn’t disagree with you. But he has scored a touchdown in two of the three games he only had between 20-30 yards and also had 4 or 5 catches in those games, so in a PPR league, he has worth. In his last three games, Gresham is averaging 13.9 YPC while the Texans’ defense has allowed tight ends to go for 12.9 YPC the last three weeks. They have given up only two touchdowns to tight ends this year, though, so a touchdown would come as a bonus for you.
Matt Mullin is a sports producer at philly.com. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin