We are on the doorstep of the fantasy postseason, and the waiver wire is littered with broken dreams.
If you're 9-1, you can take the long view. But if you're .500, you need players who can help you now.
You don't need a calendar to tell you the fantasy playoffs are coming.
You just need to look at the waiver wire.
The suggestions below are a function of matchups, expected opportunities and other factors. As a general rule, we will focus only upon players available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (owned in one percent of Yahoo! leagues) — Need a quarterback? Pick him up. Don't need a quarterback? Pick him up anyway. Sure, it's possible he may not play Monday night vs. Chicago if Alex Smith (concussion) is cleared, and even if Kaepernick does play, he's no slam-dunk start by any means against a ferocious Bears defense. Nevertheless, he's an ideal claim-and-stash proposition, especially in leagues that play through Week 17. What if the 49ers are locked into a playoff seed and rest Smith? Kaepernick, who's rushed for three TDs in limited action this season, could be a fun final-week play.
Eagles QB Nick Foles (five percent) — In their final seven games, the Eagles face the Redskins (Weeks 11 and 16), Carolina (Week 12), Dallas (Week 13), Tampa Bay (Week 14), Cincinnati (Week 15) and the N.Y. Giants (Week 17). There isn't a single standout pass defense in the bunch. Foles is a plug-and-play option Sunday vs. the Redskins (20 passing TDs surrendered) if QB Michael Vick (concussion) can't go, and the rookie from Arizona has some season-long value if it comes to that.
Rams QB Sam Bradford (18 percent) — His value increases with WR Danny Amendola back in the fold, as evidenced Sunday at San Francisco, when the 2010 No. 1 overall pick threw for 275 yards and two TDs. If you're planning ahead, note that the Rams play the Buccaneers and their porous pass defense in Week 16.
Cardinals QB John Skelton (four percent) — Skelton's not an unreasonable starting option on Sunday. The Falcons have surrendered at least 292 net passing yards in three of the last four games, and the Cardinals might be in sustained comeback mode in the Georgia Dome.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (13 percent) — Well, I can't exactly endorse him with great confidence after he threw three picks and no TDs against the Titans' struggling defense a week ago, but the Bills' defense isn't exactly stout, either.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells (21 percent) — Now's the time to pick him up if you haven't done so already. Sidelined with knee and toe issues for much of the season, Wells can return to action in Week 12. He's very likely to be the Cardinals' No. 1 back once he comes off injured reserve.
Saints RBs Mark Ingram (26 percent) and Chris Ivory (13 percent) — Ingram received 16 carries in Week 10, as many as any Saints back has had all season. The Raiders' run defense, though surprisingly solid in Week 10, shouldn't be stopping fantasy owners from considering Ingram this week. Ingram gets a slight edge over Ivory on the basis of carries; Ingram's had 23 in the last two weeks compared to 17 for Ivory. However, Ivory does have a pair of TDs in this span, and he's definitely worth claiming, too.
Raiders FB Marcel Reece (35 percent) — If Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are again out another week with high ankle sprains, Reece is the Raiders' back to claim and start against New Orleans. The numbers tell the story: In Week 10, Reece carried 13 times for 48 yards and added seven catches for 56 yards. In all, he played 77 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps. Meanwhile, Taiwan Jones had just three touches (two carries, one reception) and played just six of Oakland's 75 snaps.
Packers RB James Starks (14 percent) — Sad stat: Packers running backs have two rushing TDs — two — in nine games. If you can look past that, however, you might be willing to take a chance on Starks, who's still available in far more leagues that he should be. Starks had more carries than Alex Green (17-11) in Week Nine and got the bye week to rest after his most extensive action of the season. Starks isn't an unreasonable plug-and-play option this week in big leagues; the Lions are 27th in yards per carry surrendered and are dealing with numerous injury issues.
Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers (38 percent) — He's had more rushing yards than Michael Turner in two of the last three games — and in far, far fewer carries. He's a must-add if depending upon Turner and an attractive proposition in all formats, frankly.
Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas (31 percent) — Why not give him a look this week? The Bills are allowing 163.7 rushing yards per game and have allowed nearly two rushing scores per contest entering Week 11.
Others worth considering: Colts RB Vick Ballard (43 percent), Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer (41 percent), Texans RB Ben Tate (39 percent), Patriots RB Danny Woodhead (32 percent), 49ers RB Kendall Hunter (22 percent), Patriots RB Shane Vereen (seven percent).
Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (33 percent) — I'm surprised Shorts is available in so many leagues. He's been targeted 10 times or more in three of the last four games, and he's gaining nearly 20 yards per catch (29-561-4). I can understand skepticism about the Jaguars' offense, but Shorts' big-play ability and big role can't be ignored. Also, you don't even have to like the Jaguars' offense to realize Jacksonville could continue to find itself in some obvious must-pass situations going forward. Finally, consider this: While the Jaguars face the Texans' stout defense in Week 11, the schedule turns more favorable thereafter, with games againse the Titans (Weeks 12 and 17), Bills (Week 13), Jets (Week 14), Dolphins (Week 15) and Patriots (Week 16) to close out the slate.
Chargers WR Danario Alexander (five percent) — In the last two games, Alexander has caught eight passes for 195 yards and a TD, and he's played the vast majority of the Chargers' offensive snaps. His statistics are perhaps a little inflated — his 80-yard TD vs. Tampa Bay in Week 10 began with some poor Tampa Bay tackling — but he's nonetheless a player to pick up this week.
Broncos WR Brandon Stokley (18 percent) — Doesn't get too many passes thrown his way (36 targets), but when he gets his chances, he makes the most of them, hauling in 28 passes for 332 yards and four TDs. A safe pickup.
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd (six percent) — In the last two games before the Cardinals' bye, Floyd was targeted 18 times, catching 10-116. If you like his upside, pick him up now; the Falcons' defense has taken a step back in recent weeks, and if Floyd has another solid game, his popularity could rise next week.
Others worth considering: Browns WR Josh Gordon (41 percent), Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (28 percent), Seahawks WR Golden Tate (23 percent — on bye), Dolphins WR Davone Bess (28 percent).
Raiders TE Brandon Myers (40 percent) — His stock continues to rise. The Raiders' running game is in shambles, leaving the passing game to carry the offense. QB Carson Palmer has thrown 45 passes or more in 5-of-9 starts, and he's completed more passes to Myers (44) than anyone else.
Bills TE Scott Chandler (36 percent) — Yes, the receiving TDs (five) are nice. But I also like that Chandler's getting a healthy number of targets, too. He's racked up a combined 116 receiving yards in the last two weeks.
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (28 percent) — Caught all five passes thrown his way in Week 10 and scored his first TD since September. More of a complementary target in the Baltimore offense than a primary one after a fast start, but he has some value in bigger leagues.
Others worth considering: Jets TE Dustin Keller (38 percent), Broncos TE Joel Dreessen (27 percent), Broncos TE Jacob Tamme (37 percent), Colts TE Dwayne Allen (15 percent), Buccaneers TE Dallas Clark (12 percent).
St. Louis (13 percent, vs. N.Y. Jets) — The Rams aren't afraid to take risks in the kicking game. Oh, and their defense draws the Jets on Sunday. A solid pickup indeed.
Dallas (37 percent, vs. Cleveland) — Scored two TDs on defense and one on special teams in Week 10 and get a favorable matchup on Sunday vs. the young Browns.
Cincinnati (22 percent, at Kansas City) — You may have heard of the Chiefs' turnover issues.