Luck, faith crucial in guiding stretch-run free agent targets

Publish date:

It's down to the wire in fantasy football, with most leagues in the final week of the regular season this week. You'll need to focus on short-term solutions and one-week plays, especially if you're on the outside looking in.

The biggest injury of Week 12, if you can believe it, was Matt Leinart breaking his collarbone against the Jaguars. Leinart looked good in limited action; his backup -- rookie T.J. Yates -- didn't and isn't really a fantasy option.

But there was another injury that may give your fantasy team a spark, though it wasn't a new one. On Monday, the Lions placed Jahvid Best on injured reserve, officially ending his season due to two concussions suffered this year. On Thanksgiving, Kevin Smith suffered an ankle sprain in the Lions' loss to Green Bay and is likely out for Sunday.

That means the starting running back job falls to Maurice Morris, who's only owned in 37 percent of leagues and faces the Saints' defense on Sunday. New Orleans has allowed the eighth-most points to opposing running backs this year. Morris has additional value in points-per-reception leagues; he caught 9 passes for 83 yards on 10 targets on Thanksgiving. If you're looking for a back that's likely available and could be a one-week fill in, Morris is your guy.

Carson Palmer, Bengals (62 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues): He's slowly disappearing in leagues, but Palmer tossed for 300 yards despite not throwing a touchdown pass on Sunday. His next two opponents are Miami and Green Bay, two teams without great pass defenses. With or without receivers, he could put up great fantasy numbers the next two weeks.

Kyle Orton, Chiefs (18 percent): The Chiefs nabbed Orton off waivers after the Broncos released him and journeyman Tyler Palko didn't look great on Sunday night. It's only a matter of time before Orton is starting. Matt Cassel wasn't a fantasy stud this year, but if you're really looking for a quarterback Orton is available in most leagues.

Roy Helu, Redskins (57 percent): The rookie got 30 touches -- 23 carries, 7 catches -- on Sunday and rushed for 108 yards. He caught all 7 passes thrown his way for 54 yards. Shanahan now says he's the guy. Can we believe him? No. Absolutely not! Just the other day Shanahan said Helu wasn't ready to be the No. 1 back. It's late in the year, though, and you may not have any other options.

Donald Brown, Colts (13 percent): Joseph Addai was the starter in name only, as Brown rushed 14 times for 80 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers leaky run defense. The Colts face New England this week, a team in the middle-of-the-pack for allowing fantasy points to running backs. He has an outside shot of putting up a good day.

Marion Barber, Bears (24 percent): The Bears' backup rushed 10 times for 63 yards Sunday. This week, he gets the Kansas City Chiefs, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season. It's a long shot, but if you're absolutely stuck Barber is not the worst flier you can take.

Johnny Knox, Bears (32 percent): That's two big games in a row for Knox, who was targeted a team-high 10 times on Sunday, catching 4 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. If new starter Caleb Hanie is going to be looking Knox's way as the starter, Knox should at least see enough targets to make him an option with a lot of upside. He won't catch 81-yard touchdowns every week, but he might be a third or fourth fantasy wide receiver.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks (25 percent): Sidney Rice left with a head injury on Sunday and probably won't play Thursday against the Eagles. Baldwin was targeted a team-high 10 times in Seattle's loss to the Redskins. If you're in a PPR league and looking for a fill-in guy for a week, Baldwin could pick up some catches and yardage against Philly's shaky secondary.

Scott Chandler, Bills (34 percent): The tight end was targeted 7 times on Sunday, catching 6 passes for 50 yards. Those aren't great numbers, but Buffalo takes on Tennessee next week, a team that gives up the second-most points in fantasy to tight ends. San Diego (16th) follows. The Bills' offense is starting to move the ball again.

Brent Celek, Eagles (36 percent): It's a short week for the Eagles, but the Seahawks aren't great against the tight end (eighth most points allowed to TEs), and the Philadelphia offense is moving the ball up and down the field even though it's not scoring a ton. (The Eagles, amazingly, are on pace for the seventh-most yards in league history.) Andy Reid's going to throw all the time, and Celek has worked his way into the offense. He has lots of upside.

Olindo Mare, Panthers (5 percent): Mare's still out there in almost every league despite consecutive good fantasy days. His only recent misses are a 50-yarder against the Titans and a blocked kick on Sunday. The Panthers have good matchups the next few weeks with Tampa, Atlanta, Houston and Tampa again the next few weeks. This is the kicker to pick up for the stretch run if you need one.

Redskins (21 percent): Washington's defense hasn't had many big days but it usually puts up palatable numbers. The Redskins face the Jets this week, who don't score a ton and turn the ball over a lot. The Jets are giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. (Yes, I realize in the sense of actual football, the preceding sentence makes absolutely no sense. Shush.) The Patriots and Giants follow, so this would probably be just a one-week play.

Patriots (60 percent): If they're available in your league, the Patriots play the Colts next week and don't have an imposing schedule down the stretch (Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins). If they are available in your league and you need a defense, the Patriots could put up good numbers in three or four of those games.