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Fantasy Football Week 14: Wandering the Waiver Wire

By Alexander Hough in News on Dec 6, 2011 7:40PM

Fantasy football playoffs have arrived. To those who have lived to play for a few more weeks, congratulations. Your hard work, abetted by a significant amount of luck, has paid off.

Winning a fantasy football championship is, of course, the ultimate goal, but the thrill is more nuanced. True, there's the primary joy of a job well done, but victory’s true happiness comes from lording your success over your league mates and, more generally, being an asshole about it.

But here’s the beautiful thing about fantasy football: That ultimate payoff can be yours whether you win or lose. You can be an asshole even if you didn’t make the playoffs! In many leagues, non-playoff teams still compete, albeit for pride rather than a trophy. Well, pride, and the joy of terrorizing your friends.

With that in mind, here are five simple tips for the non-playoff-bound teams:

1. For God’s sake, keep trying.
Playoff teams would love to have the entire waiver wire to themselves. Don’t give them that luxury. Every minute you spend tweaking your roster can blossom into several minutes of aggravation for playoff-bound owners. That return on investment is too great to pass up.

2. Value players through the eyes of your league mates.
Remember: It's more important to make your friend's playoff team lose than it is for your team to win. A team in your league is probably reeling from Matt Forte's knee injury (more on that below) - you might not need the best RB on the waiver wire, but you should probably add him anyway, even if it means dropping your only kicker and playing your meaningless game short-handed.

3. Do not drop anyone who might be useful to someone else.
Even if opening a roster spot seems necessary, do not let go of anyone a playoff team would be excited to pick up. Think of it as the opposite of the Hippocratic Oath: First and foremost, do no good.

4. Drop a player who’s not useful, and think about replacing him with a D/ST.
We recently cut Giants WR Mario Manningham. He was quickly picked up by a playoff team that's a little thin at WR, but Manningham might not even play again this season, let alone help that owner in the playoffs, and we told him as much, using profane, disparaging terms. With our empty roster space, we added the upstart Seattle D/ST, whose upcoming schedule includes the Rams, Caleb Hanie’s Bears, and a Niners team that might have nothing to play for by then. Not that having another D/ST is that helpful, but it's the position with the smallest pool of options (only 32, of course), so snatching up a good one will have the greatest effect, especially for an owner that rotates defenses off the waiver wire. Pay attention to whether someone’s D/ST scores less than the one you picked up, and make sure to let that person know of their error, preferably in profane, disparaging terms.

5. Be present when league mates set their line-ups.
A couple years ago prior to the semifinal round, we talked our friend out of starting Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles just before kickoff. Charles proceeded to run for 154 yards and a TD, and the decision cost our friend the game. You can do this, too. It’s not hard to rattle a nervous fantasy owner. Be subtle and pretend to be both helpful and somewhat disinterested.

Now onto the Week 14 waiver wire issues:

Matt Forte (RB, CHI)
More bad news, Bears fans. With QB Jay Cutler already sidelined for the rest of the regular season, Forte went down with a knee injury in Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. On top of that, Kansas City scored its only touchdown on an end-of-half Hail Mary. It sure seems like God has it out for Chicago, eh? This is particularly troublesome as they play the Lord’s QB-on-earth Tim Tebow next weekend, and in the stadium closest to heaven, to boot.

Anyhow, Forte’s injury is a mid-grade MCL sprain, which is relatively good news for the Bears but bad news for fantasy owners. The typical time frame is two to four weeks, which means the best-case scenario is that Forte returns for the Week 16 game at Lambeau Field. Owners don’t have much choice but to hold onto Forte, in case he makes a quick recovery. Marion Barber is worth an add, but you’ll see more of Kahlil Bell, too, since Bell is faster and Barber is injury prone.

Adrian Peterson (RB, MIN)
Good news! There has been speculation that Peterson will return from his high ankle sprain this week. Bad news! There has been speculation that the Vikings will put Peterson on IR. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but either way, add Toby Gerhart, who put up decent numbers (4.3 yards/carry) against the Broncos and could do the same over the next three weeks against the middling rush defenses of Detroit, New Orleans, and Washington.

Kevin Smith (RB, DET)
In support of our recommendation of Smith, we cited the talent he flashed in his productive 2008 rookie season, and he proved us right in his second game back, scoring three times and putting up 201 total yards. Unfortunately, we skirted over the fact that Smith’s lack of productivity in the intervening seasons was due to chronic injuries, which we were reminded of in the next game when he sprained his ankle. He somewhat surprisingly played on Sunday night against the Saints, and then somewhat unsurprisingly re-aggravated the injury. The course of action with Kevin Smith is clear: You can’t drop him, in case he returns as the most talented back playing against average or worse rush defenses (Minnesota, at Oakland, San Diego, at Green Bay). But at this point, we don’t expect him to play anytime soon. Given the limited options out there, we like Maurice Morris. Detroit’s offense remains potent, and Morris has been a prolific pass-catcher over the past two weeks (14 catches for 128 yards and one TD).

Ricky Williams (RB, BAL)
Starting the Ravens back-up would be ballsy, but we think he could find a useful (and risky) role similar to that of Texans RB Ben Tate, in which he puts up good numbers against poor teams with bad run defenses. The next three weeks fit that description: home agains the Colts, at the soon-to-be-Norv-Turner-less Chargers, and home against the Browns.

Andre Johnson (WR, HOU)
Bears fans, if you think your injury luck is bad, take comfort that at least you don’t root for the Texans. Houston has lost its best pass-rusher, its first- and second-string QBs, and now its best WR for the second time this season (punter Brett Hartmann also tore his ACL, but whatever). Johnson pulled a hamstring, but at least it wasn’t the same one that has kept him out of the past six games. It’s unclear how bad the injury is, but it doesn’t really matter - no Houston WR is the clear beneficiary, especially with T.J. Yates - or, God forbid, Jake Delhomme - as QB. Here are some non-Texans names to check out as a replacement:

Golden Tate (WR, SEA)
Tate had an impressive performance last Thursday against the Eagles - his TD catch in particular was easy on the eyes - and is in the starting line-up as the replacement for Sidney Rice, whose season recently ended after his third concussion in the span of a year. The Seahawks play the crappy Rams this Monday (seriously, that’s the Monday night game) and Arizona in Week 17, although they face the Bears and the Niners in between.

Santana Moss (WR, WAS)
Moss is a better bet than Tate, but he’s less likely to be available. Rex Grossman targeted Moss 12 times in Sunday’s Jets game, and the ‘Skins have the Patriots, the Giants, and the Vikings on the docket, all of whom rank in the bottom six in pass defense. The only match-up we’d worry about is the Giants, who might stick CB Corey Webster on him.

Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford (WRs, OAK)
These guys are gambles. Not only are they questionable to play this Sunday against the Packers, there’s no telling which one will put up better stats. Play at your own risk.

Damian Williams (WR, TEN)
With Nate Washington dealing with an ankle injury and the Titans playing the Saints (30th against the pass) and the Colts (22nd) over the next couple weeks, the heavily-targeted Williams could put up good numbers.

Fred Davis (TE, WAS)
Rising stars Davis and LT Trent Williams will both miss the remainder of the season after failing a drug test (their third, if you’re counting). Apparently they tested positive for marijuana. This is total bullshit. Steroids, sure, but weed? We may be somewhat biased - we did just recommend Ricky Williams, after all - but, really, why are athletes tested for non-performance-enhancing drugs? Can anyone give us a good reason?

Anyhow, this news makes us nervous about our Santana Moss recommendation. Moss will now be the clear-cut top receiver on the team, but the loss of their best offensive lineman might mean trouble against those aforementioned juicy match-ups; as bad as New England’s, New York’s, and Minnesota’s secondaries are, their pass rushes can pose problems.