As the majority of leagues disregard the final week of the NFL regular season, only a month remains on the fantasy football calendar. And at this juncture, the available options for owners rectifying their roster by obtaining a backup running back or receiver for flex play, well, it's slim pickings. The general consensus towards players attainable at the present interval mirrors Thanksgiving leftovers: if an entity was that worthy to begin with, someone would have already snatched it up, right?
Well, not necessarily. For managers still searching for that elusive "missing piece" heading into the rotisserie postseason, there is hope. History has shown us that late-season acquisitions can be the difference between fantasy fruition or failure (cough cough Joe Webb cough). So which performers have a chance to shine? Keeping in mind the holiday spirit, here are the "leftovers" that can assist in your playoff aspirations:
Wait, THIS is around? Grab it while you can...
Eli Manning, Giants
It wasn't easy for his proprietors to keep the faith after a disastrous five-game stretch (1,062 yards, two touchdowns, seven turnovers), but Manning rewarded this fidelity with 249 yards and three scores on Sunday night against the Packers. Better yet, the G-Men's December slate is littered with susceptible pass resistances (Washington, New Orleans, Baltimore), vaulting the two-time Super Bowl MVP up the QB rankings. Started in just 40 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy leagues in Week 12, Manning is a must-play next weekend versus a Redskins unit surrendering the third-most points to fantasy field generals in 2012.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Despite a dexterous display the past five weeks (24 catches, 437 yards, three touchdowns), the jury was still out on Shorts, as four of his conquests came on less-than-arduous opponents. Plus, trusting Blaine Gabbert with your fantasy fate? No thanks.
However, with Chad Henne at the helm? The Jacksonville passing attack becomes a more unwavering enterprise, giving Shorts' stock rising value. (And the fact that Chad freaking Henne is the one bringing stability to an offense speaks volumes on the Blaine Gabbert Era.) Available in over 62 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Shorts has high-end No. 2 WR potential as the Jags take on the AFC East's vulnerable secondaries in the upcoming month.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Ronnie Hillman, and to a lesser extent, Lance Ball, were targeted as the Broncos' backs to fill the void of the injured Willis McGahee. Yet it was the former first-round pick Moreno who got the nod in the Denver backfield, and did not disappoint, racking up 111 total yards (20 rushes, 85 yards; four receptions, 26 yards) in Sunday's W over Kansas City. Mile High remains a pass-first arena, though with Hillman receiving just three touches while Ball was left in the cold, Moreno appears to have a stranglehold on the position. (While we're here, special shout out to Broncos head coach John Fox for pulling a Mike Shanahan this week, tricking fantasy owners into picking up Hillman by alluding to an elevated workload for the rookie rusher. Thank the gridiron gods, John, that this wasn't a playoff contest, or else legions of distraught owners would be rioting outside your office.)
Beanie Wells, Cardinals
It was tough sleddin' for Wells (17 carries, 48 yards) behind a battered and bruised Cardinals line, though owners were satisfied with his output thanks to two end-zone excursions on the afternoon. More importantly, LaRod Stephens-Howling and William Powell amassed just four total carries, alleviating any apprehension of a committee situation in the desert. With so few primary rushers available, Wells jumps to the front of the line for wavier-wire pickups for Week 13.
Good, but no one is getting too excited over it...
T.Y. Hilton, Colts
It wasn't the box-score bonanza owners were hoping for, as the Bills have facilitated a fair share of fireworks to opposing receivers this season, yet Hilton's three grabs for 33 yards and a touchdown were not a total lost cause, and the rookie's punt return for pay dirt was a bonus for formats that account for accolades in special teams. Hilton now has four touchdowns in the past four games with 235 receiving yards. He's not dependable enough to start in most standard leagues, but if his assimilation process continues to accelerate, Hilton could be worth the flex spot in deeper formats down the home stretch. Speaking of neophyte wideouts...
Ryan Broyles, Lions
Need to see a tad more out of Broyles than his triumph versus a suddenly-susceptible Texans secondary that was sans Johnathan Joseph, but the early returns are promising. Given his route-running precision and Detroit's amplified air assault, Broyles has the makings of a PPR god. If Titus Young remains away from the team, Broyles could prove to be the Lions' sought-after complement to Calvin Johnson.
Michael Bush, Bears
Promote Bush to the upper echelon depending on the severity of Matt Forte's ankle injury. At time of article push, looks like the venerable Forte will be sidelined for at least a week, correlating to Bush as the premier Bears back against a solid Seattle front seven. Nevertheless, Bush's worth derives not from yardage accrual but his goal-line prowess, illustrated yesterday with two one-yard plunges into the Promised Land. As a No. 3 RB or flex play, Bush holds strong merit heading into the winter wonderland of the Windy City.
Andy Dalton, Bengals
Dalton doesn't seem like a quarterback capable of delivering a fantasy team to a championship, but with 11 touchdowns and zero turnovers the past three weeks, the Red Rifle sits inside the top-eight scoring arms in standard formats for the 2012 campaign. The itinerary tightens up in December, though San Diego, Dallas and Philadelphia hardly qualify as the '85 Bears. I don't envision the Cincinnati signal caller finishing the year as a top-10 performer, but with the vulnerability of injuries, weather and teams resting players, Dalton is a valuable asset to own.
Mashed Potatoes Division
When it's warm? Ok. Now? Eh...
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
The 49ers got the victory in hostile territory, but the fervor surrounding Kaepernick, at least in the fantasy community, was somewhat doused on Sunday. The second-year man under center wasn't necessarily bad, finishing with 231 passing yards, 27 more on the ground and two touchdowns; alas, confronting one of the weaker defenses in the NFC, owners were expecting more. With a plethora of serviceable arms this year, Kaepernick looks to be no more than a decent option in two-QB formats. His work on the terrain makes him a threat to deliver dividends, but with the conservative nature of the San Francisco offense, don't imagine this to be the norm.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Wilson has been commendable in his rookie tour of duty, posting 17 touchdowns compared to 11 turnovers. Unfortunately, Wilson has fallen short in the yardage column, averaging a meager 186.5 yards per contest this season. Worse, Seattle has a gauntlet ahead, featuring dates with Chicago, Arizona and San Francisco. View Wilson in the same light as Alex Smith in 2011: a sound game manager whose importance doesn't transfer into the rotisserie world.
Poor Jalen Parmele. Dude was doing work (eight rushes, 45 yards) despite an early leg injury, only to re-aggravate the ailment in the fourth quarter. Parmele's condition meant, sigh, another round of Rashad Jennings, who wasted another prime-time opportunity, finishing with 43 yards on 16 touches on one of the worst rush defenses in football. Maurice Jones-Drew didn't sound optimistic on returning this week, and at this point, owners have to wonder if MJD will suit up again in 2012. If Parmele can go, he deserves roster implementation, as he's been effective in his abbreviated appearances the last two weeks, though his forecast is ominous at best. As for Jennings? Juice isn't worth the squeeze, factoring that the backup back is averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season.
Mike Wallace, Steelers
Wallace's output from his last three games: (drumroll please) eight receptions, 47 yards, a touchdown and a fumble. For you math scholars, in non-PPR formats, that equates to a grand total of eight points in three ball games. Not exactly what Aziz Ansari calls, "gettin' it done, son." Understand working with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch hasn't helped, but Wallace isn't the only receiver operating under undesirable circumstances (#FreeFitzgerald). Until Ben Roethlisberger returns, Wallace is best suited for your bench.
Sweet Potatoes W/ Marshmallows
Seriously, who goes for this garbage?
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
The Bearded Bomber has seen better times, with a meager three scores since Halloween. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick has failed to surpass 240 yards in three of the past four games, with four turnovers to boot. Fitzpatrick had been a popular waiver-wire grab during bye weeks this season, but at this time of the calendar, owners can't afford the inconsistency of the Harvard product, even in two-QB formats. While few would signify a schedule highlighted by Jacksonville, St. Louis, Seattle and Miami as strenuous, it's not enough ammunition to give the go-ahead to Fitzpatrick the rest of the way home.
Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
Damn you, Shanah....whoops, sorry, old habit...Damn you, Fox. Damn you!!!
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
The entire Pittsburgh rushing attack was a disaster, but as Mendenhall was the Steeler started in the most leagues, he gets the blunt of our derision. Again, having Batch at the reins does little to relieve the adversarial focus from the ground game, yet there's no way to positively spin a negative performance on the day (four rushes, six yards, fumble). Word on the street has the Steel City sticking to a committee situation, negating any worth that Mendenhall possessed.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
Sunday marked the seventh time in the last nine games that Gates finished with three or fewer receptions. Goodbye, sweet friend. Some stars shine so bright they burn out before their time.