Luck needed for late-season finds
Time for the stretch run. Bye weeks are finally over. Most fantasy leagues start playoffs in Week 14, so you might only have three weeks left in your season unless you shape up now.
Unfortunately, at this point in the season things have pretty much shaken out. There isn't much left on the waiver wire. Now it's all about taking chances. At this point in the year, if you need a running back you need to cross your fingers and click "Add." Just don't root for injuries to the starter. It's so uncouth.
Shaun Hill only tossed one score on Sunday but did compile 323 yards on 50 pass attempts. Some owners probably balked at picking up Hill last week even though he threw nine scores as the starter earlier in the year. The Lions' running game is anemic right now. Matthew Stafford is out indefinitely. Amazingly, Hill's going to win someone a fantasy league this year.
• Jon Kitna, Cowboys (13-for-22, 327 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT): He might not put up great completion numbers but Dallas' running game is so bad he's a serviceable starter, especially as he continues to get comfortable with starting again. He's still out there in most leagues.
The Mike Shanahan running back carousel continues. On Monday, with Ryan Torain active, Keiland Williams took the bulk of the carries and ran for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns on 16 carries. He also caught four passes for 50 yards and a score.
Williams is out there in almost every league, and Shanahan may run with him for the rest of the year. Who knows? The injured Torain didn't get a carry. Clinton Portis, who's also probably available in your league, could be back next week. And Williams only got going once the game was out of reach (after the first quarter). As usual, though, he's worth the pickup if you absolutely need a running back.
• Jerome Harrison, Eagles (11 carries, 109 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 15 yards): You never know. The Eagles acquired Harrison on Oct. 13; maybe it's just taken him that long to learn the offense? Most of his yardage came on a 50-yard touchdown run, but the 59 yards on his other 10 carries wasn't too shabby either. He won't match this production against the Giants next week but he ran off a bunch of huge games at the end of last season.
• Mike Goodson, Panthers (23 carries 100 yards; 3 catches, 13 yards): Both Panthers starting running backs (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart) have been incredibly disappointing this year. Williams should be back next week, but if you like stockpiling running backs Goodson will be available.
Giants receiver Steve Smith actually strained his pectoral muscle while attempting to catch a ball in practice late last week. Now, he's expected to be out until December. The recipient of a lot of his passes Sunday: Mario Manningham, who caught 10 passes on an outrageous 16 targets. He only had 91 yards (and a score), but those are still solid numbers even in leagues that aren't PPR. Manningham is starting opposite Hakeem Nicks and should continue to get a bunch of looks. Keep Smith if you have him -- he'll be valuable come playoff time -- but for now attempt to get Manningham if he wasn't picked up late last week in your league.
• Nate Burleson, Lions (4 catches, 47 yards; 1 carry, 17 yards): The Lions continue to throw a lot, especially with Jahvid Best struggling. Calvin Johnson isn't always going to be open, and Hill targeted Burleson eight times on Sunday. He's one of the best options among guys who are available in most leagues.
• Brian Hartline, Dolphins (5 catches, 98 yards): This one's a bit of a gamble. Hartline's been decent the past few weeks but now will have to get passes from third-stringer Tyler Thigpen, who came into the game in Week 10 after Chad Pennington and Chad Henne both got hurt. If you're desperate, Hartline could be a passable third wide receiver.
• Anthony Armstrong, Redskins (3 catches, 83 yards): Armstrong is available in most leagues and is Donovan McNabb's No. 1 deep target. He only got five looks on Monday night but one went for 76 yards. Armstrong is bound to get a deep look or two a game; at this point in this year, that might be the best you can do on the waiver wire.
The Giants may have laid an egg against Dallas, but Kevin Boss caught 5 passes for 81 yards and a score. With Smith's continued absence, look for Boss to continue to get targets (7 on Sunday). He doesn't have good matchups in the coming weeks -- even next week's opponent, Philadelphia, has finally improved against TEs this year -- but he should get a decent amount of looks and is available in most leagues.
• Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (5 catches, 72 yards, 3 TDs): Aaron Hernandez has been a hot pickup for the Patriots recently, but got nothing on Sunday night as the Patriots' other rookie tight end, Gronkowski, had a career day. Gronkowski's been a red zone target all year -- his three touchdowns before Sunday came from 1, 5 and 1 yards -- and is a definite fantasy starter if he continues to get the ball all over the field.
San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding is likely to be back Sunday, kicking for the first time since mid-October. The Chargers score a lot of points and have an easy schedule coming up. Kaeding, who's available in most leagues, could put up excellent numbers.
The Falcons defense has been solid this season. It's also available in most leagues and Atlanta has a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way. Fourteen interceptions and 18 sacks aren't bad numbers so far this season.