The viable fantasy defenses of the Steelers, Buccaneers and Browns are also unavailable, perhaps forcing you to find a defensive/special teams replacement for the week.
One team that could pick up steam during the second half of the season is the New York Jets. After they face the New England Patriots next Monday night, the Jets will meet the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and then Miami again, teams that are a combined 8-26. Jets wideouts Jamison Crowder (available in 48 percent of fantasy leagues) and Robby Anderson (41 percent) are solid pickups if they are still available, as is quarterback Sam Darnold (73 percent). For more on Darnold, see below.
Here are some intriguing options on this week’s waiver wire, ranked in order of scarcity.
Kansas City Chiefs defense/special teams (Available in 56 percent of fantasy leagues)
Yes, really. The Chiefs defense isn’t helping Andy Reid win games, but it might help you. Before Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, the Chiefs produced three or more sacks in three of their previous four games. Next week, they face a Denver Broncos team that is scoring a below-average 1.6 points per drive with a corresponding below-average passer rating (87.4). Denver also comes away with a red-zone touchdown on less than half its trips inside the 20-yard line (47 percent). This is a matchup play, but the matchup is favorable.
Ito Smith, RB, Atlanta Falcons (Available in 61 percent of fantasy leagues)
Sometimes it pays to have a touchdown vulture on your roster, and this season Smith fits the bill. The second-year pro leads the Falcons with four goal-line carries, although he’s only scored on one. He’s also caught 11 of 14 targets for 87 yards out of the backfield.
In the Los Angeles Rams, he will be facing a defense that has allowed touchdowns on six of 20 goal-to-go carries, tied for second-most in the NFL. Don’t worry that Smith had just three carries for six yards in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers (Available in 67 percent of fantasy leagues)
Samuel has the second-most targets on the team after tight end George Little, and now will get to test a Redskins defense that allows 39.8 fantasy points per game to wide receivers, seventh worst in the NFL. Washington’s defense has also surrendered 10 touchdown catches to wideouts, the second most in the NFL.
Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets (Available in 73 percent of fantasy leagues)
Darnold returned to the Jets’ lineup on Sunday and helped lead New York to a 24-22 upset victory over the Dallas Cowboys, completing 72 percent of his passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His upcoming game against New England is obviously a must-sit, but after that the Jets’ schedule is very favorable to passers. According to Sharp Football Stats, no team faces an easier strength of schedule from Weeks 8 through 14 than the Jets.
Jordan Wilkins, RB, Indianapolis Colts (Available in 87 percent of fantasy leagues)
Wilkins, whose team was off this week, is getting a larger share of the Colts’ rushing snaps (19 carries for 125 yards) and some passing plays (two targets) at the expense of Nyheim Hines. Neither will supplant Marlon Mack as the primary starter anytime soon, but Wilkins does lead the team in yards per carry after contact this season.
If not for now, then certainly consider him for the future. Indianapolis will play the Denver Broncos in Week 8, Miami Dolphins in Week 10 and Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, three teams that have struggled against the run.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears (Available in 88 percent of fantasy leagues)
Miller has run 82 of his 102 routes out of the slot, catching six of 11 targets for 55 yards. Five of those targets came in Week 5 against the Oakland Raiders. The New Orleans Saints are up next. Saints slot corner P.J. Williams has allowed slot receivers to catch 16 of 22 targets for 209 yards and a touchdown, per Pro Football Focus, resulting in 1.6 yards per route run and a 117.4 passer rating against, both metrics placing Williams among the worst slot corners this season.
Cincinnati Bengals defense/special teams (Available in 97 percent of fantasy leagues)
This is a Hail Mary play for desperate fantasy owners. The Bengals’ defense has struggled this season but Cincinnati’s next opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars, isn’t a formidable adversary. The Jaguars are below-average offensively (1.7 points per drive, ranking 22nd); struggle to sustain drives (they’ve gone three-and-out 35 percent of the time, ranking 24th); and fail to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns (they’ve done so 39 percent of the time, ranking 29th).