Seasons can be won and lost on the waiver wire, perhaps more so in baseball but no matter the sport, the claims following week 1 are by far the best. Up until we see some real stats opening weekend, we must comb through the hundreds of expert opinions and browse the preseason box scores. While injury opportunties will provide leading free agent candidates all season long, week one settles some depth chart question marks.... well, sort of.
A seemingly never ending week of football started at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day and wrapped up Monday night at the Linc in Philadelphia. As we wind down and enter the fourth quarter of the season, the cream is certainly rising to the top. Many leagues are approaching the playoffs and the alwayys tricky managing of lineups as some teams look at young talent with their season's basically over, while others rest stars to keep them healthy for the post season.
We head into the season's second half with only two bye weeks remaining. Those with week ten off include Larry Fitzgerald and Jordy Nelson, along with marginal fantasy talent in Cleveland and Washington. The good news is Wes Welker returns, the Jets, Niners and Rams do as well, but no surefire wide receiving talent reside with those clubs. Lets take a look at surprise producers in week nine, those that disappointed and the season totals for all that are averaging at least half a dozen targets a game.
Did you properly space your bye weeks during your draft or auction? It amazes me that so many owners, especially veterans, fail to track this all important consideration. Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans return from bye in week seven, with fantasy studs like Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall and any number of Saints wide receivers return to lineups. Have a dozen teams have week seven off, including Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego. Notable players you'll have to do without include dangerous duos on the Falcons, Eagles and Broncos, Dwayne Bowe and Malcolm Floyd. Of course the knife cuts both ways, perhaps you won't have to face these guys in your matchup this week.
As we roll into the second third of the season, fantasy teams welcome back stars from their bye week. Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson and Calvin Johnson are a few of those back to inject life into receiving corps across NFL fantasy nation. While Dallas, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Detroit return, Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans have the week off. Owners of Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall and Marques Colston will have to do without, testing their reserve rosters. Reggie Wayne gets this week's honors as the top target, while Danny Amendola and Brian Hartline share the weekly "down to earth" award.
With the season now a month old, numbers begin to have more meaning. Injuries continue to play a role and make up a majority of the movers and shakers on the waiver wire. As always, stick with the studs like Larry Fitzgerald. If someone new moves to the forefront, maybe wait a week and see if they can turn a repeat performance. We waded into the byes in week four with only a pair of teams off with Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay taking a break in week five.
The number of targets a receiver gets is relative. Relative to what they had been getting and/or expected to get. While nine targets is a breakout performance for one receiver, it is a disappointment for elite fantasy receivers. Danny Amendola and Brian Hartline had nine targets in week three, which is most likely reflective of them dropping down towards a number we can more likely expect on a regular basis. Receivers like DeSean Jackson and Victor Cruz probably saw double teams in week three, with their regular partner at the position out with injury.