Remember when Chris Johnson was a safe top 5 pick; Michael Vick was the consensus best option at quarterback; and the same was said about Roddy White at wide receiver? That was draft night, and this is now. Reflection for reflection's sake is fun (especially if you didn't draft Johnson, Vick or White in the first round), but it also serves to remind us just far our fantasy season has come. In other words, it is Week 11 and that means we are in fantasy crunch time.
As an (I hope) playoff-eyeing owner, you fit into one of three categories:
• 1. Content with your starting roster, reserves and upcoming matchups, you do nothing, assuming your guys will remain productive and avoid the widespread injury bug. I do not recommend this route.
• 2. Content with your roster for the most part, but a new or nagging injury has affected your team and you need help. Even if every player on your roster has a clean bill of health, you are not the complacent type, and are always looking to upgrade.
• 3. Flat-out awesome roster. There are no injuries and everyone is still productive, yet you are still hovering around .500 and plotting for a playoff spot. You are the unfortunate soul who always loses to the team with the high score that week. (And you surely never complain about it.) You are looking for any advantage you can get.
Here is where I like to implore you to utilize a bye-week tactic called waiver blocking: Look at the rosters of your upcoming opponents, and do everything legally in your power to minimize their scoring. Say an opponent's starting running backs are Arian Foster and Rashard Mendenhall, who each have byes this week, and her backup running back is Knowshon Moreno, who just tore his ACL. If you can afford the roster spots -- key to utilizing this strategy -- pick up Kendall Hunter and Chris Ogbonnaya, the only viable running backs who may be available. You may not use them, but neither will your opponent. Waiver blocking is best used for bye weeks, but also works for injuries, arrests, unforeseen poor play, and players who are deactivated late in the week because they are unhappy with their contract situation and miss a team meeting.
Waiver blocking is mean and a little dirty, and again, only works for a select few fantasy owners. But if you want to sniff the playoffs, sometimes you have to pull out all the stops.
Or you can just lock your opponent in a closet for the week, hack into his account and and change his starting lineup. That strategy helped me narrowly beat my husband last week. And gave me control of the remote -- bring on Grey's!
If you are in category No. 2, there is a decent chance you were affected by yesterday's stunning quarterback developments.
In Houston, early reports say Matt Schaub will miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc injury to his foot. This is devastating news for a Texans team poised for their first playoff run. From a fantasy perspective, new starter Matt Leinart may be worth picking up. He hasn't played since 2009, and was a big disappointment as Kurt Warner's "heir apparent" in Arizona. But the Texans should be getting Andre Johnson back after the bye and have solid weapons in Jacoby Jones, Owen Daniels and Arian Foster. I would not be comfortable starting Leinart at this point, but if he shows some savvy running the offense, that could change.
In Kansas City, Matt Cassel may be lost for the season with what Todd Haley is calling a significant hand injury. At the very least Cassel will miss several weeks, and Tyler Palko will assume starting duties. Kansas City's offense is anemic, and I wouldn't consider Palko for a roster spot at this point.
Unless Carson Palmer is up for grabs in your league, you'll find the waiver quarterback options less than appealing. If you are desperate or just want to throw a dart, my recommendations would be John Skelton, Sam Bradford and Alex Smith. Yes, I'm in love with the NFC West.
Here are some other waiver options I am much more comfortable recommending:
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco RB: Frank Gore injured his ankle in the 49ers' win over the Giants, possibly re-aggravating the same ankle that gave him trouble in practice last week. While Jim Harbaugh already projected Gore would start against Arizona this week, he will likely be limited in a split situation with Hunter. Although Gore is not replaceable, Hunter provides a nice spark and brings the outside running skills currently lacking from the San Francisco running game. The Gore injury is one to monitor throughout the week, but expect Hunter to have a nice workload this Sunday -- and maybe beyond.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta WR: With Julio Jones questionable after being forced out of Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, Douglas could be a nice addition. He was the leading receiver for the Falcons on Sunday (eight catches, 133 yards) and in two earlier weeks when Jones was sidelined. The Falcons are a run-team first, even after Sunday's failed fourth and inches call from their own 29 in overtime, but Matt Ryan can certainly air it out and has found a weapon in Douglas.
Lance Ball, Denver RB: The Denver running back situation just got a little murky. Moreno is lost for the season. Starter Willis McGahee was pulled in the first quarter Sunday after a hamstring injury. John Fox says McGahee will be ready for Thursday night against the Jets, but hamstring injuries can linger, so pick up Ball. Besides, anyone who is part of the Broncos running game is a guy you want on your roster. Just watch out for that Tebow guy, who could steal some goal-line carries.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati TE: Gresham returned from a hamstring injury to play for the first time in three weeks Sunday, and had a touchdown catch. He is a nice weapon for Andy Dalton, especially against the swarming defenses on the Bengals upcoming schedule, which includes the Ravens and a rematch with the Steelers. Gresham doesn't often put up big yardage numbers, but he has scored a touchdown in four of the seven games he has played.
Ed Dickson, Baltimore TE: Every time I flipped to Sunday's Ravens/Seahawks game, Dickson was being targeted. He wound up with 10 catches for 79 yards and two scores. Dickson should not be considered an elite fantasy tight end, as this was his best game by far, but he's a nice option for Joe Flacco, especially considering that the Ravens receivers have been well covered as of late.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland RB: Many owners dropped Ogbannaya after his abysmal performance against the Texans two weeks ago. He did make a comeback on Sunday, with 90 yards rushing and 19 yards receiving, although it was against St. Louis, which has the worst run defense in the league. Jacksonville is next on the schedule and will provide a much tougher test, but with Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty still out, Ogbonnaya will at least get a decent number of touches.
Vincent Brown, San Diego WR: Brown, an injury replacement for Malcolm Floyd, is putting up big numbers. He has nine catches, 176 yards, and an electrifying touchdown in two games as a starter. He also had another touchdown overturned against the Raiders last week. It looks like Floyd's hip injury will keep him out again this week, so Brown should get a chance to continue his hot streak. Take advantage.
Denarius Moore, Oakland WR: Moore is another breakout star from last Thursday's Raiders/Chargers game; he had five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Now, Moore had strikingly similar numbers in Week 2 (five catches, 146 yards and one touchdown) but this time he has a better chance to maintain his current level. Carson Palmer is his quarterback. Jacoby Ford is hurt. And Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to have taken an untimely vacation in Hue Jackson's doghouse.
If you have any waiver questions, trade quandaries, or would like to learn more about waiver blocking, please ask away.