You have one last bullet left and time is running out. It’s Week 13 and your window for getting into the fantasy playoffs (or earning a first-round bye) might be closing.
If you’re on the outside of the playoffs looking in -- needing not just a win, but some help in the “Total Points Scored” category to help boost you into the playoffs, then it’s time to start considering a “boom or bust” strategy.
Rather than choose steady players who often score 10 fantasy points per week, think about starting high-risk, high-reward guys who score either 20 points or three points. Deep threats (John Brown, Kenny Stills) and home-run third-down backs (Darren Sproles) might make more sense than medium-scoring consistent players. If you’re seventh or eighth in the standings, you don’t want consistent -- unless you lead the league in scoring and have just had a brutal schedule.
Each week, we’ll share 8-12 players we think are worth a look in standard fantasy football leagues based on performance and upcoming matchups. Each of these players listed are owned in fewer than 30 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo! leagues.
Since they are barely owned in more than 30 percent of CBS leagues, you won’t see these rising players on this list: Josh McCown, Dan Herron, LeGarrette Blount, Justin Hunter, Andrew Hawkins, Kenny Stills and the Browns defense.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota (Owned in 18 percent of CBSSports leagues, seven percent of ESPN leagues and three percent of Yahoo! leagues) -- Fantasy teams that are probably going to make the playoffs -- but probably not going to get a first-round bye should consider adding the rookie out of Louisville. His rise coincides with the ascension of WR Charles Johnson, and the Vikings have a soft schedule coming up. After a Week 13 matchup against the Panthers (27th against QBs), they’ll face a Jets defense (32nd against QBs) in Week 14 -- the first week of the fantasy playoffs. But then he’ll get Detroit and Miami after that, so owners assured of a bye should look elsewhere.
Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee (10 percent, 4.1 percent and four percent) -- Two rookie quarterbacks!? Understand that rookie quarterbacks, especially late in the season, are generally playing on teams that aren’t in the NFL playoff picture. Since their teams are bad, they’re likely playing catch-up in the second half of most games, which means lots of pass attempts. In Mettenberger’s case, he’s a recommended pickup in larger leagues because of his upcoming schedule. After playing at Houston this week, he’ll face the Giants (26th), Jets (32nd) and Jaguars (25th) in the fantasy playoffs.
Latavius Murray, Oakland (28 percent, 10.3 percent and 26 percent) -- With just four rushing attempts last Thursday, Murray made Raiders fans happy and mad in the same instance. They were happy because it appears they have a promising young running back who they can rely on weekly; they were mad because the Raiders waited this long to start him. Another problem is that he suffered a concussion against the Chiefs, and now he’s a question mark going into Week 13. Regardless, he deserves top waiver-wire consideration because of what he has done in limited action over the past few weeks: eight carries, 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Marqise Lee, Jacksonville (eight percent, 1.5 percent and one percent) -- It was Lee, not Allen Robinson (foot) who was supposed to be the breakout rookie on this team. But now that Robinson is done for the season, Lee is starting to emerge, leading the team in targets (five) and receiving yards (52) in Week 12 at Indianapolis. Going forward, the Jaguars should be throwing a lot, and the schedule lines up nicely, with games against the Texans (32nd against wide receivers) and Ravens (31st) in Weeks 14 and 15.
Charles Johnson, Minnesota (two percent, 0.3 percent and one percent) -- We’ve seen it happen plenty of times before -- a young backup wide receiver emerges from the depth chart not too long after the backup quarterback moves into the starting lineup. Bridgewater targeted Johnson, a second-year player out of Grand Valley State, a team-high 11 times Sunday. With 4.38 speed, this is one of those make-or-break players we’re talking about if your team is on the outside looking in for a final playoff spot.
Tim Wright, TE, New England (27 percent, 4.5 percent and 16 percent) -- There might not be a player who better exemplifies what I mean by “boom or bust” than Wright. In his past seven games, he’s posted scores of 12, 14 and 15 points in non-PPR formats … and games of 0, 0, 6 and 6. You’ll also be happy to note that he’ll face the Jets in Week 16, a defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati (20 percent, 11.5 percent and eight percent) -- While Gresham didn’t repeat his two-touchdown performance from Week 11, he did get six targets against Houston. He’s coming up on a schizophrenic Buccaneers defense in Week 13, and then in Week 14, Cincinnati plays the Steelers, who are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Randy Bullock, Houston (13 percent, 4.1 percent and 11 percent) – There’s not a lot to love among the free agent kickers this week, but Bullock is kicking well and he’s facing two teams back-to-back that rank among the worst against kickers (Titans and Jaguars). Since Week 7, there are just three kickers who have attempted more field goals than Bullock.
Keeping an eye on: Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff.
N.Y. Giants, DST (13 percent, 4.5 percent and 11 percent) – Let’s not pretend the Giants have a good defense, but when you look at the offenses this team has faced recently, you might look at them differently. Since Week 5, the Giants have gone up against the Falcons, Eagles, Colts, Seahawks, 49ers and the Cowboys twice. Only the 49ers rank outside the top-12 scoring offenses in the NFL. But this Giants defense faces the Jaguars, Titans, Redskins and Rams in Weeks 13-16. All four of those offenses are giving up a ton of fantasy points to opposing DSTs, ranking among the bottom eight in the NFL.