It's crunch time, ladies and gentlemen. Most fantasy leagues have two weeks of regular-season play left on the schedule. That's two shots at locking up a playoff berth (or a better seed, if you're so blessed).
And with the way this season has gone, some of you might be scrambling for the final pieces to make those shots count. That's what I'm here for. Let's land ourselves some week-winning waiver studs!
As always, these are the most intriguing players who are rostered in less than 60 percent of NFL.com leagues. If you have questions, my DMs are open: @MattOkada on Twitter ... or X ... or whatever it is.
Yes, I know Wilson hasn’t reached 20 fantasy points in a game since Week 4. Yes, I know he’s averaged an abysmal 176 passing yards per game over that same span. But hear me out. First, Wilson has rediscovered his rushing chops recently, hitting 30-plus yards on the ground in five of his last seven games and even scoring with his legs in Sunday’s win over the Browns. He’s also thrown 20 touchdowns on the year, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. In the right matchups, I believe he can cobble together all the pieces to return start-worthy value down the stretch. And boy, are the right matchups coming ... Over the remainder of the fantasy season, here are Wilson’s opponents and their schedule-adjusted ranks against QBs: Texans (25th), Chargers (32nd), Lions (28th), Patriots (5th, skip this one) and the Chargers again in championship week. Chef’s kiss. If you’ve lost your QB over the course of the season (and many of us have), Wilson could be your savior.
OK, what I am doing here? Carr hasn’t hit 20 fantasy points once this season and scored just 10.9 in a great matchup with the Falcons on Sunday. Have I lost it? Maybe. Or maybe I have faith in Carr to put it all together against the Lions in Week 13. Oddly, Carr has hit 300-plus passing yards in four of his last five full games and has thrown multiple touchdowns three times since Week 5 -- but he’s only hit those two marks together once, when he scored 18.3 fantasy points in Week 8 against the Colts. Fortunately for Carr, Detroit’s defense has surrendered 22.9 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks over its past five contests, even including a four-point stinker by Jimmy Garoppolo. The other four QBs the Lions faced in that span all hit 21-plus points, and we just watched Jordan Love dice them up for nearly 27 on Thanksgiving. Carr is a QB1 this week and is also streamable in Weeks 15 (vs. Giants), 16 (at Rams) and 17 (at Buccaneers).
If you charted Love’s weekly fantasy points on a graph, you’d have the makings of a perfect smiley face. We all recall his hot start, and many of us remember his struggles through the middle of the year. But over the past two weeks, he’s curving back up, averaging 23.8 fantasy points per game (with both outings including 20-plus points and multiple touchdown passes). A couple of Green Bay's young receivers are starting to make consistent plays, and it’s showing up in Love’s stat lines. While you’re absolutely not starting the youngster against the stifling Chiefs defense in Week 13, he enters legitimate QB1 consideration against the Giants in Week 14 and Buccaneers in Week 15. And incidentally, he probably has more upside than any of the other guys in the column this week, as evidenced by his 26.6-point performance against the Lions on Thanksgiving.
Alright, so Mayfield was disappointing (again) in the Week 12 loss to Indianapolis. He only managed 199 yards (after topping 230 in five straight) and had two turnovers that really hurt his fantasy output. That said, he did throw a pair of touchdown passes for the fourth time in his last five games. Adding him this week is really more of a plan-ahead move, as Mayfield draws a Panthers team that’s been incredibly stingy to fantasy QBs of late. However, he gets the Falcons in Week 14 and the Jaguars in Week 16, both of whom are much friendlier to the position. If you’re streaming and can combo Mayfield with a guy to start in Weeks 13 and 15 (cough, Derek Carr, cough), you’re in good shape.
Honestly, I’m not even going to shame anyone for dropping Hubbard after he failed to hit 11 fantasy points even once from Week 6 through Week 11 (including his Week 7 bye). It was a discouraging stretch after he seemed to lock down the lead role in Carolina. Well, it’s time to hop back on the train after Hubbard put together a versatile 20-point performance against the Titans in Week 12. The starter hit 45-plus yards both on the ground (on 14 carries) and through the air (on five catches) and notched a 5-yard touchdown run, as well. While Miles Sanders did get 16 opportunities of his own, he totaled an abysmal 28 yards on those chances -- Hubbard averaged a much more reasonable 4.8 yards per touch. If Hubbard can maintain this kind of usage as a receiver, he can be a flex-worthy RB down the stretch.
Well, well, well. You give Mitchell 11 touches, he gives you 89 yards. Imagine that. Mitchell is the latest in a slew of players to support my proposition that NFL teams should hire fantasy analysts as talent spotters. We all know Mitchell is the best back on the team -- maybe the best skill-position player, period -- and we’ve known it for weeks now. Hopefully his double-digit touches on Sunday Night Football are a sign of even greater things to come. If John Harbaugh and Todd Monken are watching the same tape I am, Mitchell will be getting 15-plus opportunities a game down the stretch. He’s an absolute must-roster for the upside, even with Baltimore's Week 13 bye, and is a viable start in the right matchups (namely, most of them).
Alright, well ... We had high hopes for Chandler as a waiver pickup heading into Monday Night Football ... where he was nearly non-existent, finishing with 2.1 fantasy points on five touches. There are two ways to look at this. First, most of Minnesota's offense was anemic for the bulk of this game, and Chicago's defense has been very good against the run. So maybe Chandler gets a pass. On the other hand, Alexander Mattison was one of the few Vikings who looked good throughout the night, averaging 5.2 yards per carry ... almost as if he had a starting job to defend. Still, this game felt more fluky than prescriptive. I think Chandler is still worth 'stacheing in your last bench spot (though that becomes even tougher to do through his Week 13 bye). Minnesota gets the Raiders in Week 14, which should offer a much more useful evaluation of the offense -- and the backfield, in particular.
A previous resident of this waiver column, Johnson had a very intriguing performance on Monday Night Football with D'Onta Foreman inactive. The rookie led all Chicago running backs with 10 carries for 35 yards, but more importantly, he caught all five of his targets for 40 yards. He played 75 percent of the snaps to Khalil Herbert's 22 percent and looked very solid (quite literally, as his 6-foot, 225-pound frame is one of the most impressive at the position). It's nearly impossible to tell what the Bears want to do with this depth chart down the stretch, which makes it difficult to assess how valuable Johnson can be. But at the very least, he has flex-worthy upside if he's going to be part of a committee and remain involved in the air attack.
After carrying a few of us through the first couple months of the season, Moss disappeared as Jonathan Taylor hit his stride a few weeks ago. Moss' nine-point baby bounce-back in Week 12 was encouraging, and with Taylor now set to miss a couple of weeks with a thumb injury, Moss could become an instant league-winner. He's readily available after a disappointing stretch (and a bye week) and should be your No. 1 priority on the week if he's on your waiver wire.
GUYS TO 'STACHE: I am once again reminding you about Tyjae Spears, backup to Derrick Henry in Tennessee. If you're currently holding on to some low-upside WR4 that you're unlikely to need, drop him for Spears. Should anything happen to Henry, Spears could be a championship-winning 'stache. In a similar vein, I'm mildly intrigued by Ezekiel Elliott as a handcuff to Rhamondre Stevenson in New England. Zeke has continued to look surprisingly good and could have an impact for fantasy if Stevenson were to suffer an injury.
Reed made both the waiver column and the Thanksgiving preview last week, and he came through once again with 15 fantasy points against the Lions. He’s now scored a touchdown and hit 15-plus fantasy points in each of his last three games while averaging 75 scrimmage yards per game over that span. Once again, he was right in the mix with Christian Watson (29) and Romeo Doubs (28) with 25 routes run on Thursday, and he actually led the team with eight targets. Plus, he had two carries versus Detroit, bringing his total to five in the past two weeks. We have yet to see the true upside Reed could reach if Jordan Love and the Packers would feature him more -- and in fairness, it might not happen this season. If it doesn’t, Reed will still be a hit-or-miss flex play who’s absolutely worth rostering. If it does, he could be a league-winner.
Samuel has been a bit of an enigma this season -- like much of the Commanders' offense. He had a stretch of double-digit performances in October, which came mostly on the back of touchdowns, then essentially disappeared from Week 7 through Week 11. On Thanksgiving, all of a sudden, he drew a team-high 12 targets and converted them into nine catches for 100 yards (also both team highs). His Week 14 bye is sandwiched between games against the Dolphins and Rams, both of whom are susceptible to slot WRs like Samuel. And if the Rams’ 37-14 win over the Cardinals on Sunday is any indication of Los Angeles' offensive momentum, both games might be blowouts that lead to a chunk of targets for Samuel once again. If you’re struggling to find a flex play, he’s worth a look in those weeks.
Speaking of enigmas, how about Dortch? Prior to Kyler Murray’s return, Dortch had 1.2 fantasy points ... on the entire season. Over the last two weeks, he has 25.3, with double digits in each. Most importantly, he has 17 targets over those two games, tied with Marquise Brown for most on the team. He’s basically been the “1C” option in Arizona alongside Brown and tight end Trey McBride. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t completely out of nowhere: Dortch had a handful of strong fantasy performances in 2022, as well. Obviously, it would be incredibly bold to roll him out in a starting lineup in Week 13, but I really like him as a speculative pickup heading into the playoffs. If nothing else, he gets the Eagles -- the team allowing the most fantasy points to wideouts all season -- in championship week.
GUYS TO 'STACHE: After making the column last week, Seahawks rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba led the entire team in receiving on Thanksgiving, albeit with 41 yards. Not the most exciting output, but he still has legit upside heading into winter if opportunity swings his way. We've been waiting all year for a Giants wideout to step up in this offense, and Jalin Hyatt might have finally done it with his 109-yard performance in Week 12. He ran the second-most routes on the team and turned his career-high six targets into the first 100-yard game by any Giants pass catcher this season. With Tommy DeVito slinging it out in Jersey, Hyatt could be a sneaky sleeper start. Even in an overtime thriller where Josh Allen threw 51 passes, Khalil Shakir had just five targets (though he did rack up 47 yards). Primarily responsible for this disappointing usage: Gabe Davis and his 12 targets. That won't happen every week, and I believe the pendulum swings back toward Shakir enough to make him an interesting 'stache.
Following the firing of former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, we were all intrigued about the potential breakouts of WR George Pickens and RB Jaylen Warren. It turns out we should have been hyping up Pittsburgh's tight end. Despite being drafted as a top-10 TE back in the summer, Freiermuth had done absolutely nothing all season (missing five games along the way). Then, in the first game of the post-Canada era, Freiermuth led the team with a monstrous 11 targets, nine catches and 120 yards. It was the most catches any Steeler has posted in a game all year and resulted in 21 fantasy points, most among tight ends in Week 12 -- and he didn't even score a TD. We can’t expect this every week of the Mike Sullivan/Eddie Faulkner era, but even half of that production would be startable in fantasy. Freiermuth is a must-add, regardless of if you’re OK at tight end or not. He could be a great backup option, and you'd potentially take him away from league mates in need.
I’m honestly surprised Likely wasn't added in more NFL.com leagues following the potentially season-ending injury to Mark Andrews. As I mentioned last week, he was good for fantasy in both of the games Andrews missed last year. Likely looks like he’s picking up where he left off, scoring eight fantasy points on a team-high 40 receiving yards against the Chargers on a Sunday night when Lamar Jackson was uncharacteristically unproductive as a passer. Likely is on a bye in Week 13, which makes him a little less of a priority this Tuesday. If you need a tight end down the stretch, though, it's better to snag him now than hope he's still available next week.
The Colts are in the midst of an absolute cakewalk of opponents and have produced accordingly so far. They posted 26 fantasy points against the Panthers, 16 against the Patriots and 11 against the Buccaneers in their last three games. Here are their opponents through the home stretch (and each foe's starting QB, for educational purposes): the Titans (Will Levis), Bengals (Jake Browning), Steelers (Kenny Pickett), Falcons (Desmond Ridder) and Raiders (Aidan O’Connell). Good heavens. You can pick up Indy and ride the defense for the remainder of the season if you’re so inclined.
You know it’s a tough week for D/ST waivers when the Chargers and their typically porous unit make the list. Here’s my reasoning. One, they looked better against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football than they had maybe all season. Two, they get the Patriots in Week 13, which is clearly the key factor here. The Giants just tagged the duo of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe for 12 fantasy points on the merits of three bad interceptions. Whether it’s Jones, Zappe or both under center next Sunday, the Chargers can play opportunistic ball and come away with a handful of sacks and takeaways.
Are you desperate? If not, do not read on. If so, read on with hesitance. The Jaguars' defense has not been all that good since the Week 9 bye and has been somewhat spotty all year. However, while the unit is very poor against the pass, it's very tough against the run. In Week 13, the Jags get a Bengals offense led by Jake Browning, who, to put it mildly, does not concern me. If Jacksonville shuts down the run (like the Steelers did on Sunday), it could easily put together double-digit fantasy points (like the Steelers did on Sunday).
The Titans' D/ST, rostered in only five percent of leagues, just put together 10 fantasy points against Carolina thanks to four sacks, a takeaway and just 10 points allowed. That’s been the story for most of Carolina's opponents this season. (Spoiler alert: The Panthers' offense is very, very bad.) Carolina's Week 13 opponent? That would be the Buccaneers. I don’t think I need to say much more. You can stream literally anyone against the Panthers.