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Each week of the NFL season, we sift through the deeper options at each position with an eye toward identifying streaming fantasy commodities with valuable matchups to consider.
There are no more bye weeks this season, so your main reasons for needing a pickup are usually due to injury or suspension. Sometimes, though, it’s also because you’re unhappy with the production you’re getting at a certain position and you simply don’t have a better option on your roster.
In deeper leagues, those in which you start two quarterbacks or those with an “OP” (offensive player) or superflex position, you may just need the best warm body available with upside. And no matter your league size, it should go without saying that we strongly advise streaming at defense/special teams (D/ST) throughout the season.
That’s what we’re here for — to identify widely available options that could provide the relief you are seeking this week.
While Bortles hasn’t been a model of consistency this season, he’s a viable candidate whenever he finds himself in a favorable matchup. That’s the case in Week 13 when his Jaguars face the Indianapolis Colts. Earlier this season, Bortles completed almost 70 percent of his throws for 330 yards and a score versus these same Colts. Those numbers are in line with his 2016 performances against them as well, when Bortles averaged 255 passing yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game versus Indianapolis.
The Colts have been one of the friendliest matchups for quarterbacks this season. While there are 12 teams that have allowed more fantasy points to opposing signal-callers, this matchup is juicier than it initially appears because the Colts just lost their best corner, Rashaan Melvin, to injury on top of recently releasing Vontae Davis, another starter. This screams opportunity for Bortles to shine. Look for him to press the 300-yard mark again with a real opportunity for multiple scores. — Daube
Siemian was rightfully rostered in just 3 percent of ESPN leagues given he wasn’t even the team’s starter in Week 12, but the Broncos appear set to give him another shot behind center by default. The Dolphins have the league’s sixth-lowest pressure rate against opposing passers, while Siemian has the league’s 13th-highest touchdown rate when working from a clean pocket. It’s not advisable to stream Siemian as a QB1 in leagues of even 12 teams, but for truly deep formats and multi-quarterback scenarios, this could be a nice matchup against a somewhat toothless Miami defense. — McCormick
The only backfield in the NFL that may be more frustrating for fantasy owners than the New England Patriots is the Seahawks. While the Patriots backs at least perform at acceptable levels when they get the ball, you cannot say the same for most of the Seahawks runners. That may change this week, as McKissic deserves an expanded role based on his performance. He has an 81 percent catch rate on his 29 targets and his 4.5-yard average per carry doesn’t just lead the Seahawks, it’s almost a full 2 yards per carry better than the production of either Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls.
Drawing the Philadelphia Eagles isn’t the best spot for McKissic, but there are a couple of paths for this game to take that lead to increased touches for him. The first is for Pete Carroll & Co. to realize that McKissic is head and shoulders more productive than their other options. Alternatively, the Seahawks coaches can allow Lacy to continue to fail, which should allow the Eagles to open up a lead, which puts McKissic on the field in a hurry-up setting later in the game. Neither is more likely than the other, but either should produce double-digit fantasy points for McKissic. — Daube
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
With the most “wiggle” to create his own yardage among the team’s trio of tailbacks, Booker is an interesting flex option for managers in need of a plug-and-play tailback. He had a touchdown called back in Week 12, and the hope is that he can regain the impressive usage he earned in Week 11 against the Bengals. The Dolphins have allowed the sixth-most rushing yards and sixth-most yards per carry to running backs this season, so there is some evidence Booker could shine, even with limited touches in Miami on Sunday. For those interested in stashing a tailback with some potential upside in the weeks ahead, Seattle’s Mike Davis could make some noise if he can get healthy for the next few games. — McCormick
Dede Westbrook, Jacksonville Jaguars
At this point, if you are looking at a streaming option to replace a recently injured player, you should look for immediate opportunity and upside for the rest of the season. Westbrook fits that bill. The rookie has been targeted 16 times total in the two games since being activated off the injured reserve list. This past Sunday, Westbrook turned his 10 targets into six catches for 41 yards. Such a low yardage total is very atypical for any receiver with the 4.34-second 40-yard dash speed that Westbrook possesses. Like Bortles, Westbrook will be facing a depleted Colts secondary, making this as good as it gets anywhere on the waiver wire. — Daube
The market has been hesitant to invest in the Cleveland pass game this season. This makes sense when looking at the overall passing metrics, but Coleman has been quietly awesome since returning from injury two weeks ago. A glaring drop on what would have been a sure deep touchdown in Week 12 might have created a wave of hype for Coleman heading into this matchup with the Chargers, but he remains available in two-thirds of ESPN leagues. The Chargers are a relatively stingy secondary for big-play wideouts, but Coleman’s workload of late is comparable to the Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins tier. The key stat for Coleman is 29.3 percent — this is the rich target share he’s enjoyed during the past two weeks. With an average depth of target nearing 13 yards, Coleman could see enough vertical shots this week to get untracked for a big game. — McCormick
It may seem like Howard and Cameron Brate have been randomly alternating which Bucs tight end has the better game, but Howard is starting to take the clear lead. In the Buccaneers’ past two games, Howard has been targeted eight times, producing six catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Brate, during those same two games, was targeted just five times and managed just two total catches for 18 yards. Don’t expect Brate to suddenly rebound, as he’s been targeted on less than 11 percent of his routes in those two games, compared to almost 20 percent for Howard.
The Buccaneers will face the Green Bay Packers this week, and at first glance, the Packers are the best in the league at defending the tight end position. However, that’s largely a product of allowing just one touchdown to the position so far. In terms of receptions allowed, there are seven teams that have allowed fewer. In fact, the Packers allow less than one catch per game below the league average, hardly a significant reason not to start a tight end against them. — Daube
I’m going back to Thomas for a second straight week given the confluence of positive usage and matchup trends. The Broncos have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends in ESPN PPR scoring. This allowance rate appears to be fueled by some subpar coverage from the team’s safeties, which suggests it could be a persistent window for the Fins and Thomas to exploit. As for his rising role, Thomas has hauled in 78.6 percent of his targets and is fourth on the team in routes during the past three weeks, signaling he’s a consistent option across the middle for Miami. –McCormick
If you have streamed for the whole season and find yourself in a bind this week, deep down the waiver wire, the Raiders make for an interesting play. They have done a good job recently stopping the run, as the Patriots are the only team in the past two months to average more than 5 yards per carry against them, and that game was played in Mexico City at an elevation of 7,200 feet. During that stretch, excluding the Patriots game, the Raiders have allowed less than 3.5 yards per carry, which would place fifth overall for the season.
The New York Giants are a little more than depleted within their receiving corps. Only Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram remain from what was expected to be one of the top groups in the league. Those two aren’t enough to seriously threaten the Raiders secondary, which should have any reasonable person questioning just where the Giants’ offensive production will come from. And top it off, they benched Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith for this one. — Daube
It’s not exactly surprising to see this D/ST rostered in fewer than a quarter of ESPN leagues as of press time, as the Titans have four performances with fewer than two fantasy points this season. We know this position is largely influenced by matchups, though, and facing this sloppy Houston passing game has been a rewarding setup for several weeks now. Tom Savage has the third-worst passer rating when under pressure this season among 38 qualified arms, while the Titans’ once-dormant pass rush has 11 sacks during the past two games and could create some rewarding havoc in the pocket against the statuesque Pitt product. — McCormick
Individual defensive players
Sheldon Richardson, Seattle Seahawks
Sticking with another Seattle endorsement, it’s easy to appreciate Richardson’s recent results; he’s tallied 12 tackles and a sack in the past two games. The Eagles allow a sack rate of 5.9 percent, which is essentially league average, while Richardson could do some damage off the left side against the Eagles’ young left tackle. — McCormick
While he’s netting a snap rate only around 70 percent the past two weeks, it’s important to recognize Ragland is earning high-value snaps in run defense, which can translate to rewarding tackle results. With 18 tackles in his past two outings and a meeting with a Jets team that could funnel touches to their backfield on early downs, Ragland is a worthy streaming asset this week. For another rising tackle machine to consider, the 49ers’ Reuben Foster remains widely available in ESPN leagues and should be busy chasing down the Chicago backfield on Sunday. –McCormick
Morgan Burnett, Green Bay Packers
It’s not very often you find an elite playmaker like Burnett floating in free agency in nearly 90 percent of leagues this late into the season, but it’s more reasonable when we consider he’s missed the past two games due to injury. A gifted tackler in the box who has at times registered linebacker-like numbers, Burnett is in a good spot against a mistake-prone Tampa Bay passing game this week. Going a bit deeper, how about Bradley McDougald of the Seahawks? He’s playing a ton of snaps with Kam Chancellor out, and he could be busy patrolling the passing lanes against a potent Eagles offense. –McCormick