The WR position is the only one that has friendly one-week matchup plays that can still be found on the waiver wire. Players such as Brian Hartline, Plaxico Burress, David Nelson and Darrius Heyward-Bey could help you to your fantasy championship victory this week. These and other great tips provided by the editors of Pro Football Weekly await you as you prepare for the game we all dreamed for, yet most of us won't make.
Believe it or not, Brian Hartline is second on the Dolphins in receiving yards with 461 yards — not WR Davone Bess (453 yards), even though Bess has 14 more catches. With Hartline's speed on the outside and QB Matt Moore's confidence in throwing the ball downfield, that connection was productive last week, with Hartline catching three balls for 69 yards. Hartline is a prototypical boom-or-bust player, as he had only one catch in Week 13 and Week 14 after going 4-77 in Week 12, and he only has one touchdown. If you are in need of a No. 3 wideout or a flex and are willing to take the risk, Hartline is not a terrible option and he did post 4-47-1 on seven targets in Week One against the Patriots. Expect the Dolphins to put up big numbers in the passing game against the Patriots' defense, and Hartline is the big-play threat outside Brandon Marshall. In larger leagues he deserves injury fill-in consideration this week because of the upside against the Patriots.
Jets WR Santonio Holmes has been frustrating for fantasy owners this season. Without the consistent production of a No. 1 receiver, which is due in part to shaky play from QB Mark Sanchez, Holmes hasn't been a surefire start each week, even as a No. 2 fantasy wideout. This week is a good matchup for Holmes, though, as well as WR Plaxico Burress. The Giants' secondary has had many breakdowns this season, and the Jets' receivers should be able to take advantage. They're allowing 207.8 yards the past four weeks to WRs, giving both Holmes and Burress great upside as this game could be high-scoring, and the Jets may be playing from behind if Eli Manning has success on the other side. Obviously, Holmes and Burress are directly impacted by Sanchez, but going against the Giants should make you feel comfortable with Holmes as a No. 2 fantasy WR and Burress as a No. 3 or flex play this week.
Bills WR David Nelson didn't live up to his early-season hype, and his numbers have gone down along with that of his offense. But he did have six catches for 60 yards last week against the Dolphins and, if you're desperate for another wideout to start, take a look at Nelson. The Broncos' secondary is far from elite, and Nelson has similar size to that of Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, who torched Denver's defense last week. With the Bills expected to throw the ball often while likely playing from behind, as they have during the losing streak, Nelson could see some looks. He's been averaging 7.25 targets the past four games, his best run of targets from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. He's a recommended fantasy bench but has sleeper potential in larger leagues.
Browns WR Greg Little racked up a club season-high 131 receiving yards in Cleveland's loss to Arizona on Sunday and worked well with QB Seneca Wallace, adjusting his route as Wallace scrambled on a play that turned into a 76-yard TD catch. The Ravens struggled against the Chargers' vertical passing game in Week 15. Although the Browns aren't known for stretching the field in the passing game, Little and Wallace improvised with success against the Cardinals' blitz on the long TD, and perhaps that is a way Cleveland can take some shots down the field in their West Coast scheme. Regardless of the scenario, Little remains a desperate injury fill-in in very deep leagues but should remain on your bench if possible. Odds are he's not the reason you're in the finals.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith caught just one pass against Cleveland in the first meeting between the clubs, but he was a step away from sprinting away from the Browns' defense on what was ultimately a 32-yard gain. Smith, who has TD catches in each of the last two games, has the big-play ability to make him an interesting option as a flex or a No. 3 wideout, especially in distance leagues that give bonuses for longer TDs. Smith has rare speed, and his value increases with Anquan Boldin (knee surgery) out for the regular season, as does Lee Evans' value. With Boldin out, he will likely most often face Browns CB Joe Haden, limiting his upside. Smith makes a No. 3 or flex-play WR this week. Evans has no value right now.
Texans CB Johnathan Joseph has been worth every penny of the $23.5 million guaranteed he received to call Houston his new home. Joseph has consistently shut down the opposition's top wideout, although he did not have a good day in Week 15 against Carolina's Steve Smith. Still, big days against Joseph have been few and far between this season, which could limit Colts WR Reggie Wayne's value on Thursday night. The same can't be said for Wayne's running mate, Pierre Garcon, who could be in line for a big game against Texans second-year CB Kareem Jackson. Garcon has been rather quiet since his 150-yard, two-TD outburst in Week 13 against the Patriots, but he could use his dangerous wheels to get behind Jackson, whose weakness is staying stride-for-stride with formidable vertical receivers. Garcon is listed as an injury fill-in but is more of a flex or No. 3 fantasy WR with this matchup, whereas Wayne continues his role of injury fill-in.
Titans WR Nate Washington followed up his best performance as a Titan in Week 14 (6-130-1) with another strong showing last week, grabbing seven catches for 62 yards and a score in a losing effort against the Colts. Washington, who exploited Indianapolis' inexperienced secondary, this week will see another group of CBs who have been pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries. Jacksonville has lost its top three CBs this season, leaving journeyman Ashton Youboty and undrafted rookie Kevin Rutland to contend with the Titans' wideouts on Saturday. Jacksonville has surrendered seven TDs through the air in the past month, making this a very favorable matchup for Washington, as well as teammate Damian Williams. Washington makes a No. 2 fantasy WR, and Williams makes an injury fill-in.
If the Raiders fall short of the playoffs, fans in Oakland are going to have nightmares for months about Calvin Johnson streaking through the Raiders' secondary in Week 15. The Lions receiver is the latest in a list of wideouts — the Packers' Jordy Nelson (3-81-1), the Bears' Johnny Knox (4-145-1) and the Vikings' Percy Harvin (6-73-1) — who have had big games this season vs. the Silver and Black. This week Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, who had six receptions for 76 yards the first time the teams met this season, should be in line for a strong showing. The Raiders are allowing 215.3 yards and 1.8 TDs per game to WRs the past four weeks. So, too, could Bowe's teammates, WR Jonathan Baldwin and WR-RB Dexter McCluster. However, Bowe is the only one with fantasy value as he makes a quality No. 2, with Baldwin a recommended bench. McCluster should have value as a WR in PPR leagues, but with Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones sharing the RB role, he's also a fantasy bench play this week.
Once considered a draft bust, Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is in the process of finishing a solid season. In Week 15 he had his best game, going for 8-155-1. With Oakland desperately in need of a victory, it would be a surprise if QB Carson Palmer didn't lock in on Heyward-Bey after he led the team with 20 targets in the past two weeks. Palmer will try to get him the ball as much as possible, and he makes a third wideout or flex starter this week. Temper expectations as the Chiefs are allowing only 91.3 yards and 0.5 TDs per game to WRs the past four weeks and shut the Packers down last week, handing them their first loss.
Leading many to believe that a shootout is coming in Dallas is the fact the Eagles could be without CB Asante Samuel, who has not been a full participant in practice this week. That bodes well for the Cowboys' Three Amigos — Dez Bryant (who often lines up where Samuel would be), Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie likely would fill in for Samuel at left corner, his most comfortable spot, but he has been out of the lineup three out of the five past weeks and is not 100 percent. All the Cowboys WRs are a go this week, with Austin as a No. 1 fantasy WR, Bryant as a No. 2 but with upside, and Robinson a low-end No. 2 or flex-play receiver.
Lions rookie WR Titus Young has been targeted 17 times in the last two games and has a TD catch in each of those contests. He's now second on the club with four TD catches. The Chargers are in the bottom 10 in yards per pass play allowed, giving the rookie a window as a deep threat. However, he's risky as the Chargers have been outstanding the past four weeks, allowing 102.3 yards and 0.8 TDs to WRs, making Young an injury fill-in in all formats.
Falcons WR Harry Douglas has been very quiet over the past two games, making only three catches for 24 yards, but he'll face the team he had a career day against earlier this season when the Falcons play the Saints Monday night. Douglas had eight catches for 133 yards vs. New Orleans in Week 10. With the Saints consumed with defending WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones and TE Tony Gonzalez, don't be surprised if Douglas finds himself in a favorable matchup and capitalizes. He's not a factor in the red zone — he only has one TD catch this season — but with the Saints allowing 210.3 yards and 0.8 TDs per game to the position the past four weeks, he has low-end No. 3 WR value in deep leagues. Remember, he's still the No. 4 receiving option on the team, so this is a complete boom-or-bust play if you go down this road.
Keep an eye on Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald Saturday, as he could have decent downfield success against the Bengals' secondary. Late in the Rams-Bengals game last week, Rams WR Danario Alexander leaped high for a jump-ball TD catch, which is Fitz's specialty. With the Bengals allowing 130.5 yards and 1.5 TDs per game to WRs the past four weeks, Fitzgerald makes not only a No. 1 WR but one with upside.
The time could be right for Seahawks WR Golden Tate to make his fantasy presence felt. With Mike Williams going down for the count with a season-ending left ankle injury, the Seahawks' starting wideouts are now Tate and Ben Obomanu. Doug Baldwin remains a viable weapon in the slot, but Tate, who is a playmaker, was a key weapon vs. the Bears last week, going 4-61 on seven targets. With teams loading up the box to close down Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks will need to come through with some sort of passing game to avoid being one-dimensional. Creative usage of Tate could be a key along those lines. However, facing the 49ers won't be easy, and he's a bench play this week.