Fantasy moves to consider for Week 14
For those of you who missed the playoffs, I offer you this solace: Fantasy is almost entirely rooted in luck. It's not your fault half your team was decimated by injuries, you could never find suitable replacements on the waiver wire and you were so enthralled with the Mitt Romney/Rick Perry/Herman Cain rotation on the Sunday morning talk shows, you simply forgot to submit your lineup.
OK, most playoff owners know I'm lying. To succeed in fantasy, you have to devote a certain amount of time to shrewd waiver wire maneuvering and smart lineup decision-making. Of course there are those lucky outliers who brag and say, "Fantasy is easy. I did auto draft and never had to make a move. I'm 13-1 -- crazy considering I never heard of most of my players. Wait, is this Aaron Rodgers guy related to Mr. Rogers?"
Maybe that story is believable in another year (or sport) but certainly not this season, the year of the injured. The lockout effect has kept fantasy owners scrambling like crazy, leaving current rosters drastically different from their draft night counterparts.
Congratulations to those who have persevered and won a spot in the postseason. You may have outlasted many of your opponents, but that doesn't mean your work is done. Further roster tinkering remains on the agenda. Week 13 had its fair share of major injuries and a few new standouts. If you need an injury replacement or are looking to upgrade a roster spot, here are your best options.
Marion Barber, Chicago, RB: Poor Matt Forte, Monday's MRI revealed a Grade 2 MCL sprain (the same injury Jay Cutler suffered in last year's NFC Championship Game), leaving Forte out two to six weeks. Barber is an obvious pickup, but adjust your expectations. Barber did not run well against the Chiefs. He only had 44 yards on 14 carries, and the Bears face a tough Broncos run defense this week (even tougher if Von Miller is healthy). The Bears are a hot mess on offense at the moment, so I am not comfortable resting my playoff hopes with anyone on that unit.
Maurice Morris, Detroit, RB: Cue the violins for Kevin Smith, who just cannot stay healthy. Smith reinjured his ankle in Sunday's game and was replaced by Morris, who is a great add if Smith can't go Sunday against Minnesota. While he was ineffective on the ground, Morris had five catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. A great PPR (points per reception) option only if Smith is out.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis, RB: Brown is a running back worth stashing. Last week, he had 14 carries, one more than Joseph Addai and also scored. Brown should remain on the bench next week -- when the Colts head to Baltimore -- for fairly obvious reasons. However, he becomes a decent play when Tennessee, a team that has allowed two 100-yard rushers in its past three games, comes to town Week 15.
Matt Moore, Miami, QB: Moore is my favorite of the quarterback options. Quite frankly, I'm baffled as to why he is still available in so many leagues. Moore has five touchdown passes in his past three games, including three against the Bills, a team the Dolphins face again in Week 15. Moore is playing mistake-free ball and leading an offense that is jelling at the right time. And don't forget about that scrambling ability!
Christian Ponder, Minnesota, QB: Move over Cam Newton, you're not the only rookie gunslinger these days. With six touchdown passes in his last three games, Ponder has been lighting up the fantasy scoreboards. Last week, he threw for 381 yards. I wouldn't expect those numbers again this week against Detroit since well, not even Drew Brees is regularly throwing up that kind of yardage. But if you're in need of a quarterback, Ponder is not a terrible option. Just monitor the situation with his hip pointer injury this week.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco, WR: The 49ers have a passing game -- who knew! If Crabtree is available, now is the time to get him. Crabtree's 96-yard receiving, one touchdown effort last week was his second stellar showing in three weeks. Expect more of the same as the Niners take on the lowly Cardinals secondary this week.
Nate Burleson, Detroit, WR: Burleson is another decent receiving option, especially in PPR leagues. Last week marked Burleson's fourth straight game with at least five receptions. The Lions face the Vikings this weekend, which bodes well for any soon-to-be Burleson owners. Extra bonus if your league awards points for offensive pass interference calls.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver, WR: Yes, Thomas is a wide receiver for the Broncos and yes, he had a great game Sunday with 144 yards and two touchdowns, but I am not a believer in Tim Tebow the passing guru, so I can't recommend Thomas.
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis, TE: Tamme is also a nice PPR grab. Dan Orlovsky targeted his tight end six times, resulting in five catches. Facing the Ravens is a scary proposition for Tamme owners, as it should be, but there is probably no better option on the waiver wire.
If you have waiver or other fantasy questions, please ask away. I will also be holding my regular ESPN.com chat at 3 p.m. ET Thursday. Please join me. Tough lineup questions optional.