The trade deadline in the NFL has come and gone. Next up? The fantasy deadline.
When contemplating deals at this time of year, our No. 1 priority should be getting difference-makers into our starting lineup. We’ve grinded all year to build up enough depth so that we can afford to give two good players in exchange for one great one. Our second priority should be setting ourselves up with plus matchups in the fantasy playoffs.
Thanks to early season injuries and some tough matchups, Cam Newton’s raw stats are not overly impressive. But make no mistake, he’s playing at an extremely high level right now — utilizing both his arm and legs. In Weeks 14 to 16, Newton and the Panthers will face a dream trio of Swiss cheese defenses: the Saints, Bucs and Browns. His go-to guy will be rookie sensation wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who just went toe-to-toe with Richard Sherman and won the battle. Benjamin will feast late in the year.
Buffalo wild things
If you want to know just how bad E.J. Manuel was, watch Kyle Orton move this Bills offense. He’s turning Sammy Watkins into a star and that will open up the field for Fred Jackson, once he returns from his knee injury. It’s worth targeting all three of these guys for a potential shootout with Green Bay in Week 15 and a cupcake against Oakland in Week 16. Deep leaguers should also keep stashing Bryce Brown if possible, as he projects to seize the C.J. Spiller role down the stretch.
Hunting our prey
Yeah, you’ve heard it before, but now it’s really all coming together for Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter. He’s played on 94.3 percent of the snaps over the last four weeks, Zach Mettenberger’s big-armed/vertical style is a perfect fit and Nate Washington injured his shoulder in Week 8. With the Titans quickly spiraling toward irrelevance, they’ll focus on their young pups even more, including Hunter, Mettenberger and Bishop Sankey. Perhaps most importantly, they’ll face two of the leagues worst pass defenses in Weeks 15 and 16: the Jets and Jaguars.
Pickups of the week …
1. Charles Sims, RB, Bucs – This Lovie Smith staff is rightfully down on Doug Martin. Sims, nearly healed, is the one they targeted in May.
2. Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts – The size/speed freak is obviously passing up Hakeem Nicks for No. 3 wideout duties.
3. Michael Vick, QB, Jets — In real life, Vick is an injury-prone and turnover-prone liability. In fantasy, he’s gold.
NFL matchups …
Fire up these borderline wideouts in Week 9:
1. Torrey Smith at PIT – Without Ike Taylor, the wheels have come off this Steelers CB unit. Torrey will bounce back big off his airball.
2. Odell Beckham vs. IND – The likely absence of Vontae Davis will allow both Beckham and Rueben Randle to roam free.
3. Andrew Hawkins vs. TB – Baby Hawk’s role spikes when Jordan Cameron (concussion) is out. He’s also facing a Bucs secondary that loves to give up crooked numbers.
Follow Metro fantasy sports writer Adam Levitan on Twitter @adamlevitan.