Congratulations! If you’re reading this then in all likelihood you’ve made it to your fantasy football league’s playoffs. It’s been a grind all year and you’ve outlasted your opponents’ horrible lineup choices and inept draft decisions to get to this point.
There have been some major headlines coming out of the weekend — Kareem Hunt has gone bye, bye and James Conner‘s injury is more severe than first thought — and it’s time to get you primed for some make or break waiver wire candidates.
Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans) / ESPN – 19.5% owned
If you haven’t boarded the Mariota train already, then it’s certainly time to jump on board. With the exception of his Week 11 clash with the Indianapolis Colts — he left the game early and threw for just 85 yards with an interception — he’s been lights out recently. Mariota has at least 21 fantasy points in four of his last five games and even though he gets a somewhat stingy Jacksonville Jaguars defense this week (13th-fewest FP/G allowed to QB’s), they’ve been vulnerable at times this season.
Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) / ESPN – 3.7% owned
The Bills are a dismal 4-8 overall this season and for much of that they’ve owned the NFL’s worst offensive numbers. However, amidst the pile of rubble there has been a lone bright spot and that is the rookie gunslinger. Allen has proven to be fantasy-relevant over the past couple weeks, doing the majority of his damage on the ground, totalling 234 rushing yards in that span. He now gets the New York Jets this week, a defense that has allowed at least 40 rushing yards to QB’s twice in their last five games along with multiple touchdown throws in all but three games this year.
Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) / ESPN – 47.1% owned
Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins) / ESPN – 4.4% owned
Jaylen Samuels (Pittsburgh Steelers) / ESPN – 3.4% owned
Well, the Steelers backfield certainly became interesting with the news that Conner will miss this week’s game against the Oakland Raiders and could potentially be out longer as he deals with a high-ankle sprain. I’m not sure what Mike Tomlin and Co. intend to do here moving forward, but Samuels is the next man up on the depth chart and would appear to have the inside track on the starting job (although Stevan Ridley could see some touches too). The former N.C. State tight end amassed 407 rushing yards on 78 carries and added 12 touchdowns in his senior year. If he is the guy then he will face a cupcake matchup against a Raiders defense giving up the sixth-most FP/G to RB’s.
Jeff Wilson, Jr. (San Francisco 49ers) / ESPN – 0.4% owned
Wilson was the beneficiary of a Matt Breida ankle injury in Week 13, turning his opportunity into 15 carries for 61 yards and eight catches for 73 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. He was no flash in the pan during his time at North Texas either, piling up 2,151 yards on 357 carries and adding 30 rushing touchdowns between his junior and senior years. With Breida already ruled out this week against the Denver Broncos, Wilson will assume the “bell-cow” role.
Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks) / ESPN – 21.5% owned
Damien Williams (Kansas City Chiefs) / ESPN – 19.1% owned
Justin Jackson (Los Angeles Chargers) / ESPN – 12.2% owned
Curtis Samuel (Carolina Panthers) / ESPN – 12.5% owned
The Panthers laid an egg on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but Samuel was a lone bright spot with his best performance of the season — six catches for 88 yards. Greg Olsen has been placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and Devin Funchess was eased into last week’s matchup as he deals with a neck injury. It’s safe to say that opportunity knocks for Samuel — along with fellow wideout D.J. Moore — for more targets in this offense down the stretch.
Dante Pettis (San Francisco 49ers) / ESPN – 2.3% owned
Pettis has been on fire since the injuries to Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. Over the past two games he’s hauled in nine catches for 206 yards and three scores and now has four-plus receptions in three straight games. Since Week 9, the Broncos have allowed the fourth-most FP/G to opposing WR’s, so Pettis will have a great opportunity to keep the momentum going.
Kenny Stills (Miami Dolphins) / ESPN – 27.1% owned
DeVante Parker (Miami Dolphins) / ESPN – 18.7% owned
Chris Conley (Kansas City Chiefs) / ESPN – 13% owned
Ian Thomas (Carolina Panthers) / ESPN – 0.3% owned
Thomas did well in relief of the injured Olsen last week, hauling in five balls for 46 yards. With Olsen out long-term he becomes the de facto TE1 in Carolina and potentially even next season with the 33-year-old’s future up in the air. He likely doesn’t carry TE1 value the rest of the way, but the target share should put him ahead of other options around the league and the Browns are surrendering the eighth-most FP/G to TE’s this year.
Jonnu Smith (Tennessee Titans) / ESPN – 10.9% owned
Dan Arnold (New Orleans Saints) / ESPN – 0.5% owned
by Jamie Zadow – @jamiezadow