With so many owners with an eye toward the future and league trade deadlines nearing, we're temporarily abandoning the traditional Noisemakers format to bring you five widely-owned, but underappreciated, players playoff-minded owners should strongly consider dealing for. Each could be a cornerstone on championship rosters. (Note: Numbers next to each team denote points allowed rank)
Reggie Bush, Mia, RB
Remaining Schedule: Buf (5), at Dal (24), Oak (4), Phi (6), at Buf (5), at NE (13)
Why Buy? Since Kim Kardashian's short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries dissolved a few weeks ago, Bush has displayed extra pep in his step. Maybe he's trying to re-attract his former lover. Maybe he's simply grown a pair. Whatever the case, Tony Sparano's loony preseason declaration Bush was "an every-down back," despite dancing tendencies, actually appears prophetic.
Earlier this season, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll moronically deployed the svelte Bush between-the-tackles, hoping he would suddenly transform into Larry Csonka '72. The result, unsurprisingly, was laughable as the pussyfooter notched just 3.2 yards per carry. However, over the past three weeks Daboll has designed a number of sweeps and tosses giving Bush space to create, which he's done brilliantly. The rusher has routinely found creases in the opposition, jetting through spaces with burst not seen since the days he terrorized Pac-10 members while at USC. During that stretch he's scored three touchdowns and averaged a magnificent 5.8 yards per carry and 104.3 total yards per game (16.4 fpts/g), an output Bush credits the offensive line for.
If he keeps the tap shoes in the closet and avoids significant injury, he's a RB2 to fear come playoff time. No joke. Five of his next six games are against clubs that rank top-13 in points-allowed to RBs. Daniel Thomas will still be heavily involved, but, it's clear, Bush is the more desirable back. Go fishing.
Recently traded for in one-for-one industry deals: DeSean Jackson, Laurent Robinson, Matt Ryan, LeGarrette Blount, Cedric Benson
Tim Tebow, Den, QB
Remaining Schedule: NYJ (30), at SD (15), at Chi (7), at Min (4), NE (2), at Buf (6)
Why Buy? Clearly, the read-option isn't for thrill-seekers. It's slow, methodical and generally boring to watch, a system for a bygone age. Watching pandas attempt to mate offers more excitement. But for the Mile High Messiah it's exactly what he needs to be an effective NFL quarterback.
In Sunday's clash in Kansas City, a throwback-styled game Teddy Roosevelt would've loved, John Fox, again played to Tebow's strengths, calling "run" 87.3-percent of the time (55 rushes to just eight passes). In total, the "passer" finished with 112 total yards (43 rushing) with a pair of touchdowns, one rush and one pass. His subsequent 17.1 fantasy points marked his fourth-straight top-10 fantasy performance among quarterbacks.
Bruce Jenner's face is prettier to look at than Tebow's throwing motion, but, despite his numerous shortcomings, the man finds ways to accumulate points. Denver's superb run-blocking combined with Tebow's ability to rack yards after contact should continue to keep him a staple among the position's elites. And it's important to keep in mind with defenses regularly overloading the box against the Broncos, his holiness will have plenty of opportunities to burn secondaries deep, much like he did with Eric Decker against the Chiefs. Because none of his remaining matchups, sans Chicago, are especially imposing from a yards per carry perspective, Tebow should deliver divine QB1 numbers for owners down the homestretch.
Recently traded for in one-for-one industry deals: Darren Sproles, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Miles Austin
Stevie Johnson, Buf, WR
Remaining Schedule: at Mia (7), at NYJ (29), Ten (25), at SD (18), Mia (7), Den (3)
Why Buy? Since Week 8, owners of 'Lil Stevie have taken a journey through fantasy's "Badlands." Including Sunday's 2-8-0 clunker in Dallas, he's failed to surpass eight fantasy points in a game during that three-game stretch, averaging a lowly 4.9 points per week. Even worse, he's not reached double-digits in a game since Week 3. Increased defensive attention combined with Ryan Fitzpatrick's dwindling production, a result of poor-velocity throws on sideline routes, are the primary reasons for the slide.
However, bargain shoppers should seriously seek out the receiver's services. The Bills' struggles defensively along with his favorable rest of season slate arrow to numerous quality performances. Excluding his presumed vacation on Revis Island Week 12, Stevie faces a string of foes that would make any owner's salivary glands work overtime. The Dolphins, Titans, Chargers and Broncos each rank in the top-13 in wide receiver points allowed since Week 5. The same logic applies for other Bills WRs, particularly David Nelson, but Johnson's steady workload (7.9 targets/game) makes him Buffalo's leader of the herd.
Recently traded for in one-for-one industry deals: Matt Schaub, Jackie Battle, Shonn Greene, Tony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd
Ben Tate, Hou, RB
Remaining Schedule: BYE, at Jac (25), Atl (28), at Cin (21), Car (2), at Ind (3)
Why Buy? Ben Tate, much like Oakland's Michael Bush, is a back-up rusher who deserves an every-week gig. He and Arian Foster, aptly nicknamed "The Fostate Exam," are on pace to become the seventh 1,000-yard duo in NFL history. Though he's only averaged 11.3 carries per game since Week 7, the second fiddle has barreled his way to 7.2 yards per carry and 81 rushing yards per game. He's also crossed the chalk twice over that stretch. His powerful interior running style and the Texans' dominating offensive line are a match made in fantasy heaven.
Obviously, Tate's value is very matchup-dependent. Only in games where blowout potential is greatest or the opponent is very exploitable against the run should he be trusted, especially with Andre Johnson expected to return Week 12. But the Texans have several opponents on the remaining docket that could fit the bill. Jacksonville in Week 12 is very enticing, but fantasy playoff matchups against Carolina and Indy are libido-driving. A one-toed sloth could rack 75 yards and a touch against the Panthers and Colts, two of the friendliest run defenses in the league. Grab the bull the horns.
Recently traded for in one-for-one industry deals: Ryan Fitzpatrick, James Jones, Torrey Smith, Ahmad Bradshaw, Roy Helu
Denarius Moore, Oak, WR
Remaining Schedule: at Min (6), Chi (19), at Mia (7), at GB (2), Det (27), at KC (16)
Why Buy? Carson Palmer's presence has turned Oakland from waste to wonderland in terms of receiver production. The Raiders, not the overly conservative offense fanatics grew accustomed to seeing over the first nine weeks, have become more balanced, incorporating several aggressive passes into the playbook. In three appearances, Palmer has averaged on off-the-charts 9.8 yards per attempt. That deep-minded attitude plays perfectly into Moore's strengths.
The rookie, similar to Tampa's Mike Williams last year, has proven to be a real diamond in the rough. Drafted in Round 5 after a relatively unimpressive college career at Tennessee, Moore's mediocre combine excited few scouts. But since his first day as a pro, the unheralded product has thrilled, hauling in numerous high-degree of difficulty catches. With Darius Heyward-Bey seemingly in the doghouse and Jacoby Ford on crutches, Moore will continue to be Palmer's weapon of choice. Keep in mind over the past two weeks, he's attracted a team-high 19 looks, snagging nine passes for 184 yards and two scores. Considering the coverage inefficiencies of the Vikes, 'Fins and Packers, he should churn out juicy totals during the most critical weeks of the season.
Palmer, after Thursday's crucial win at San Diego, noted Moore "is special" and "can be as good as he wants to be." Based on his terrific downfield speed, confidence of his quarterback and fantastic schedule, the unsung hero could be great.
Recently traded for in one-for-one industry deals: Joe Flacco, Jermaine Gresham, Brandon Jacobs, Marshawn Lynch, Plaxico Burress
Also worthy of a sales pitch …
Earl Bennett, Chi, WR (33-percent owned) — The real reason Jay Cutler kicked Kristin Cavallari to the curb: he's madly in love with Bennett. Since the receiver's return, the two have been inseparable, connecting 11 times for 176 yards and a touchdown. With a bevy of insanely good matchups remaining (SD, at Oak, KC, at Den, Sea, at GB), the former Vandy Dandy could bring a statistical windfall for those who invest in him.
Kendall Hunter, SF, RB (18-percent owned) — It was only a matter of time before the injury imp feasted on a Frank Gore appendage. Ailed by a pair of tender ankles and now a bum knee, the incumbent could soon cede carries to the rookie, especially given the Niners' nearly insurmountable lead atop the NFC West. With Arizona (twice) and St. Louis upcoming, the Gold Panner could produce occasional riches as a back-end RB2 in 12-teamers.
Image courtesy of US Presswire