Week 14 is now nearing its completion, as teams across the NFL are beginning playoff preparations. Additionally, injuries continue to take a toll, as both Andy Dalton and Thomas Rawls were lost this week and seem unlikely to return this season. In the world of fantasy football, playoff time has come. Teams are starting to rest key players in order to assure full health come NFL playoff time. Other players are also starting to step up when it matters the most. Below, I have outlined five players that should be looked at on the waiver wire this week.
QB A.J. McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, left Sunday’s game early in the first quarter after breaking his thumb while attempting to make a tackle after an interception. Now, it looks like the Bengals once-so-promising season lies on the arm of the former star Alabama quarterback, A.J. McCarron. While McCarron has not had a lot of NFL experience to date, he has plenty of college experience, in which he played in many, many big games. His big-game experience at the collegiate level should certainly benefit him moving forward in the NFL. While the Steelers knocked off the Bengals on Sunday, McCarron had a nice day, other than throwing a pick-six. On the day, he completed 22 of 32 passes, throwing for 280 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. McCarron will get the start in next Sunday’s game at San Francisco, which should hopefully build his confidence moving forward.
RB Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints
Hightower, the former star running back for the Arizona Cardinals, has been out of football over the last three years due to a knee injury. However, he returned to the NFL this season with the Saints, and now appears to have locked down the starting job for the Saints after the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Mark Ingram. Additionally, C.J. Spiller has been extremely unimpressive all season long, so it looks like Hightower will get the majority of the carries moving forward. Hightower played a key role in the Saints’ victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday, as he rushed for 85 yards on 28 carries, including his first touchdown since the 2011 season. He also caught one pass for 10 yards.
RB DuJuan Harris, Seattle Seahawks
Harris, the former Packers running back, seems to be the next man up in the backfield in Seattle. Marshawn Lynch has missed the last several games due to injury, and his reliable backup, Thomas Rawls, was lost in Sunday’s game for the season due to a broken ankle. While the Seahawks also have former Bills starting running back Fred Jackson, Harris out-carried Jackson 18-7 in Sunday’s game, so it looks like it will primarily be Harris getting carries in the Seattle backfield moving forward unless someone else is brought in. Harris is an explosive back, and if he’s given enough carries, he can really make an impact on the Seahawks offense. The only question moving forward lies on the health of Lynch. If the Seahawks continue to win, and the playoffs are easily clinch-able, Seattle may look to rest Lynch leading up to the playoffs to ensure that they can get him at full strength for another long playoff run. If this is the case, I expect Harris to get nearly 20 carries per game during the remainder of the regular season. He ran for 42 yards on 18 carries in Sunday’s blow-out victory against the Ravens.
WR Albert Wilson, Kansas City Chiefs
Wilson, a second year receiver out of Georgia State, caught the Chiefs’ lone touchdown pass during Week 14 in a sloppy, unexciting 10-3 Chiefs victory over the San Diego Chargers. Wilson finished second among receivers in targets, with six, behind Jeremy Maclin. He also received more targets than tight end Travis Kelce on Sunday. Wilson had a relatively slow start to the season, as he was far on the depth chart among receivers, but he has come along as of late. He has yet to record a 100-yard receiving game this season, but had a season high 87 receiving yards, leading all Chiefs receivers on Sunday. Moving forward, I expect Wilson to be the #2 receiver in Kansas City behind Maclin. The Kansas City running game continues to struggle without Jamaal Charles, so Wilson and his fellow Kansas City receivers may get some added looks from Alex Smith in the weeks moving forward. Again, Wilson led all Kansas City receivers with four catches and 87 yards, to go along with a touchdown, in Week 14.
WR Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
Kearse is most famous for the miraculous catch made in last year’s Super Bowl, which eventually resulted in the Malcolm Butler goal-line interception to end the game in a historical fashion. Russell Wilson threw for five touchdowns in Seattle’s blowout victory in Baltimore on Sunday. Three of those touchdowns were thrown to Doug Baldwin, and two were thrown to Tyler Lockett. So how does that make Kearse relevant? While he did not catch a touchdown pass, he caught the most passes among all Seattle receivers, with seven. His eight targets came second to Baldwin’s nine targets. Wilson has great chemistry with Kearse, and he has a history of catching big touchdowns, so his touchdowns may be coming in the future. Wilson’s increased confidence in his throwing ability, along with the absence of the Seahawks’ top two running backs and star tight end Jimmy Graham, may lead to increased targets for all Seahawks’ receivers moving forward. Kearse finished Sunday’s game with seven catches for 74 yards.
Photo via Fox Sports.