Didn’t we just have our fantasy drafts? Most fantasy football playoffs start in four weeks (after Week 13), so the next month affords you time to consider trades, cement your lineup, and make a push to the postseason. This is a critical time and we’re here to help, so let’s get to work:
THE PERFECT TEAM
Quarterbacks — Philadelphia’s Nick Foles unleashed a career day against Oakland on Sunday. He easily had the top fantasy effort of the weekend with an astounding seven TD passes. Dallas’s Tony Romo, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, and New Orleans’s Drew Brees each threw for two TDs and more than 300 yards. Carolina is on a four-game winning streak and Cam Newton has been one of the top performers in fantasy football during that run. On Sunday, Newton ran for a touchdown and threw for 249 yards and a score. New England’s Tom Brady rebounded from a string of subpar performances with a gem. He threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns.
Running backs — Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, a must-start because of his home run potential, probably won for many of his owners on Sunday. Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller finally came through with a nice effort, picking up 116 rushing yards, but I wouldn’t blame Spiller’s owners if he wasn’t in their lineups. He’s hard to trust, and teammate Fred Jackson has had a steady season. In Washington, Alfred Morris continues to run hard, and picked up 121 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, but he lost some goal line carries to fullback Darrel Young, who finished with an improbable three touchdown runs. Prior to the San Diego game, Young had just two carries, so despite his terrific output he’s not worth a roster spot.
Wide receivers — Considering Foles’s effort, it’s no surprise Riley Cooper has a place on the team and DeSean Jackson (five catches, 150 yards, one touchdown) knocked on the door. Jerricho Cotchery of the Steelers, an average performer, exploded for three touchdowns against the Patriots. And Andre Johnson displayed cohesion with new Houston quarterback Case Keenum (available in most leagues).
Tight ends — A great weekend for the gold standards of this position. Jimmy Graham of New Orleans, Rob Gronkowski of New England, Jason Witten of Dallas, and Tony Gonzalez of Atlanta all delivered. If Gronkowski’s owners survived while waiting for him to return from injury, the reward over the next few weeks could be fantastic.
Kickers — Nick Folk of the Jets went 4 for 4 on field goals against the Saints and is an ideal fantasy kicker because his team’s offense isn’t inept but isn’t explosive. Folk is 23 for 23 this season.
Defenses — The Dolphins, likely available in most leagues, were a surprise on Thursday and have a favorable matchup at Tampa Bay next Monday night.
QUARTERBACKS — If you’re struggling at this position, Nick Foles is available, and if you have a budget for waiver acquisitions, you have to overpay for him. At this point in the season it’s worth a shot. Cleveland’s Jason Campbell had a nice day against Baltimore and has proved serviceable since signing with the Browns. If you’re carrying one quarterback and have some room, Campbell may be worth a roster spot.
RUNNING BACKS — When the Jets acquired Chris Ivory, they envisioned him spearheading a ball-control offense. On Sunday, that vision was finally realized. Ivory barreled for 139 yards and a touchdown and further marginalized another Jets runner, Bilal Powell. If Powell is on your roster, he’s taking up space.
WIDE RECEIVERS — San Diego’s Keenan Allen has cemented himself as the No. 1 wideout for Philip Rivers, particularly following his eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against Oakland. Allen needs to find his way into your starting lineup. Buffalo’s Marquise Goodwin, who ran a 4.27 40 at the combine, had a nice touchdown grab against Kansas City and is definitely available. He doesn’t receive a lot of targets but he’s earned his way onto the field in three of the last four games. New England’s Danny Amendola had his best day as a Patriot and, if healthy the rest of the way, could reward owners who have stashed him on their benches. Baltimore’s Marlon Brown, who opened the season with two strong efforts, caught two touchdown passes and a 2-point conversion. He’s available in most leagues and could provide depth for your postseason roster.
QUARTERBACKS — Jeff Tuel of Buffalo is someone you should not consider acquiring under any circumstances. Tuel is filling in for the injured EJ Manuel and throws an awkward ball. He’s a mistake waiting to happen. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco had a decent day against a rugged Cleveland defense but there’s a reason Flacco is available in many leagues. You can’t count on him from week to week.
RUNNING BACKS — If you’re counting on DeAngelo Williams down the stretch, look elsewhere. He was outpointed by two other Panthers backs on Sunday, Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart, who returned from an injury. Williams had been an average flex option, but no longer. Another flex option who was compromised on Sunday was Washington’s Roy Helu, who had been taking goal line carries away from Alfred Morris earlier this season. On Sunday against San Diego, those goal line carries went to Darrel Young. Helu still sees a good chunk of action and also lines up at receiver, but suddenly there are too many options inside the 5-yard line for the Redskins. New England’s LeGarrette Blount received a garbage-time goal line carry against Pittsburgh and converted, but he’s unlikely to provide useful depth on your roster with Shane Vereen close to returning.
WIDE RECEIVERS — Stevie Johnson of Buffalo has a problem and that problem is listed above — Tuel. With Tuel under center you cannot count on any Buffalo receiver or tight end. The Dolphins’ Brian Hartline had a nice start to the season and appeared to be developing into a fantasy gem, but after Week 3 his production dropped, and he’s clogging fantasy rosters. Hartline is good for three to four catches and less than 60 yards per game. It’s not good enough.
QUARTERBACK — Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor left Sunday’s game against the Eagles in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. His backup is rookie Matt McGloin, who played at Penn State.
RUNNING BACKS — The talented Darren Sproles left the Saints’ game against the Jets with a concussion and did not return. Sproles is an erratic fantasy performer but is owned in all leagues because of his game-breaking ability. If Sproles misses time, New Orleans back Pierre Thomas becomes more valuable. Thomas had seven catches for 66 yards on Sunday. Oakland’s Darren McFadden lived up to his reputation as a fantasy disappointment by starting against Philadelphia, getting five meaningless carries, and leaving with a hamstring injury. Backups Marcel Reese and Rashad Jennings are once again worth consideration.
WIDE RECEIVERS — Jeremy Kerley of the Jets suffered an elbow injury, which appeared serious, in the second quarter and did not return. Kerley is strictly roster filler and can easily be replaced.
TIGHT ENDS — Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings caught a TD pass against Dallas before being forced out with a foot injury. Rudolph’s backup, John Carlson, caught four passes against the Cowboys and may be worth picking up if Rudolph misses time.