We're closing in on the fantasy playoffs, with a few leagues already beginning the elimination rounds. This is why you did all that research, made all those waiver adds, worked out all those trades, and spent hours poring over podcasts and spreadsheets (if you're obsessed like me). With injuries and dark-horses coming out of the woodwork, you may be desperate at the most wonderful time of the year. I'll go over a few of my favorite lightly owned long-shots at each position below.
Brian Hoyer VS Buffalo Bills
The Bills were torched by Alex Smith (255 yards is getting torched when it comes to Smith) in a tough loss on the road, and the Bills will be hosting a Texans team that had a relatively pedestrian air-attack in their dominant performance over the crumbling New Orleans Saints. Hopkins was held in check for the first time this year, and that may have been due to a hamstring injury that has him on this week's injury report. However, Hopkins finished the game and I expect him to go this Sunday. If Hopkins does play, he'll have a big opportunity against a Bills squad that seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
The Texans were able to close out the game against the Saints last week by running the ball and playing tough defense. You never know, that might happen again this week, but I think that we'll see the Texans lean more on the passing game when they travel north. The Bills and the Texans are pretty evenly matched, and that should force the Texans to pass to move the ball. Hoyer should be a solid start for you this week if you're feeling shaky at QB.
Matt Hasselbeck VS Pittsburgh Steelers
Hasselbeck isn't posting insane numbers, but he is looking solid while filling in for Andrew Luck down in Indy. Last week we saw Matty Icy-Hot put up over 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns against an improved but still struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers team. This week, the Colts will travel to Pittsburgh to face a Steelers side that just surrendered 145 yards and 3 TDs to Doug Baldwin (345 yards and 5 touchdowns through the air in total). Hasselbeck has a nice floor, and against this Steelers defense he has the potential to hand in another very nice day if you're stuck holding the bag at QB.
Stepfan Taylor VS St. Louis Rams
The Cardinals' backfield got smacked by the injury gods last week, losing Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington in the same game. Rookie running back David Johnson, who has looked amazing at times on limited touches, is expected to get the bulk of the workload, but we really don't know how Arizona's carries are going to be distributed. All season, head coach Bruce Arians has elected to go with an aging, stable veteran instead of taking chances with the high up-side youth on the roster. I'd hate to bet my entire fantasy season on Taylor, but as thin as the running back waiver wire is, Taylor may be this year's last big out-of-nowhere pickup.
James White/Brandon Bolden VS Philadelphia Eagles
This is cheating, I know. But, I heard that this is allowed since this is my article. The Pats are starting to get desperate for offensive production, and we've seen both these backs contribute this year. The trick is, now as it has been for years, trying to peg who will get the work out of the Patriots backfield. This is a swing for the fences that could, in all reality, end up getting you a big goose egg on Sunday. The risk may be one you have to take if you're desperate.
DeVante Parker VS Baltimore Ravens
Parker is coming off his best game of the year, notching 80 yards and a TD last week against the New York Jets. DeVante should be in line for more work this week with Rishard Matthews nursing a couple of broken ribs. We've been waiting on this electric rookie to get his shot, and now is the time. With Miami perhaps looking to see what it has on its roster for next season, Matthews will have a chance to step up against a Ravens pass defense that is quite generous to opposing wide-outs.
Tyler Lockett VS Minnesota
Seattle's passing game was on point last week against the Steelers, unfortunately the Seahawks have now lost Jimmy Graham for the season. Graham wasn't tearing it up this year, but losing him does create some opportunity for the other pass-catchers in this offense. Lockett has flashed brilliantly, and has sometimes been invisible in his rookie campaign. The Vikings are not a cupcake matchup, but I wouldn't be surprised if Lockett breaks a long one this week.
Vance McDonald VS Chicago Bears
McDonald has put together 2 nice weeks in a row, pulling in 60+ yards and a touchdown in each those games. The waiver wire is pretty thin at tight end, and last week we lost 3 top options with Rob Gronkowski, Tyler Eifert, and Jimmy Graham all getting banged up. It is really hard to count on Blaine Gabbert, but he has put up decent numbers since stepping in at QB for the Niners. It's a tough pill to swallow, but McDonald might be your best desperation play this week.
Cameron Brate VS Atlanta Falcons
This is Brate's 2nd appearance in this column, the first recommendation ended up being an awful one. But, Brate has also strung together a couple of good games and faces a Falcons team that is doing a great dead goldfish impression. We know Jameis Winston loves to throw to his big targets, and Brate has proven reliable when called upon.
Miami Dolphins VS Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens managed a win last week, but Matt Schaub picked right up where he left off throwing touchdowns to opposing defenses. The Ravens have lost so much to injury this year, it is amazing that they have been able to hold it together as much as they have already. This week, though, Miami is going to be able to harass Schaub and get a few sacks and turnovers.
Washington VS Dallas Cowboys
Washington will face Matt Cassel and a Cowboys team that would be wise to pack it in and start looking to next year's draft. I think we're in for a real stinker on Monday Night Football this week, and it's always fun having that last spot going for MNF. Washington is available in 88% of leagues, so plug them in if you're stuck.