Waiver Wire Week 13: Breaking Down Valuable Handcuffs Worth Adding

Have you ever needed a handcuff for a handcuff in fantasy football? It’s like Inception, but without all of the spinning tops and lengthy Internet plot-theories. 

And yet that is where we find ourselves this week. Be it due to injuries or performance issues, several players who started the season as handcuffs and became the starter on their respective teams now could be turning the reins over to their handcuffs.

It’s a testament to the sad state of the waiver wire this week that those players are the most attractive targets for owners to acquire. Let’s break down this week’s key group of fantasy handcuffs.

Notes: All point totals for standard-scoring leagues. Points against stats via ESPN.

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

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Chris Ivory sprained his ankle on the first play of the game last week and managed to rush just nine times for 35 yards. That gave Powell the opportunity to seize on an expanded role, and he performed modestly, totaling 65 yards on 14 touches.

But the Miami Dolphins present an excellent matchup, allowing 123.8 rushing yards per game, 26th in the NFL. They also give up 19.6 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week (also 26th in the NFL), so there is serious upside for whoever starts at tailback.

It’s worth adding Powell to the roster just for the chance that Ivory will be out of action. Powell isn’t a terribly exciting player, but he did have three consecutive games of double-digit points early in the season, so there’s no reason to think he can’t capitalize on a solid matchup.

Benny Cunningham, RB, St. Louis Rams

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Whereas Powell is an stash-and-start if Ivory can’t play, the situation with Cunningham is a bit trickier. While Cunningham did play really well in relief of Zac Stacy—13 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown—the Rams have a brutal matchup against the San Francisco 49ers this week.

While Stacy has entered must-start status every week no matter who the opponent, should the same be said for Cunningham if Stacy is out this week? Probably not, unless you are really desperate.

But hey, nabbing Cunningham on waivers and preventing the Stacy owner from grabbing him might be worth your time, especially if that owner is thin on running backs and is competing with you for a potential playoff spot. 

Other than that, Cunningham is nothing more than a flex option if he’s pressed into starting duties this week.

Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots

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If you thought the situation in St. Louis was a bit tricky, well, trying to sort through the convoluted mess at running back for New England has become downright maddening. 

Shane Vereen will continue to have value as the team’s best receiving option out of the backfield, but after that it’s a guessing game. Stevan Ridley is the team’s best pure runner but he can’t hold onto the ball. LeGarrette Blount has received a healthy portion of carries this year but, like Ridley, fumbled on Sunday night.

That leaves Bolden, a decent player but nothing worth getting to excited about. Nonetheless, he accumulated 69 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos, and looks the most likely to be the team’s early-downs back against the Houston Texans.

If you own Ridley, you absolutely, without question, should pick up Bolden this week and read every report out of New England you can get your hands on. It would be pretty surprising if he didn’t have an increased role in the offense this week.

Dennis Johnson, RB, Houston Texans

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Another confusing situation.

Which running back will you target this week?

Which running back will you target this week?

  • Bilal Powell

  • Benny Cunningham

  • Brandon Bolden

  • Dennis Johnson

While Ben Tate has battled with a rib injury for several weeks, he’s still performed fairly well and was used in this weekend’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he managed just one rushing yard on seven carries, while Dennis Johnson accumulated 87 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches.

All of that leaves one pressing question—who the heck will start in Week 13?

According to head coach Gary Kubiak (via Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle), Tate will go into the weekend as the starter. But after Sunday’s lackluster performance he’ll likely be on a short leash, making Johnson a very intriguing stash option for fantasy owners.

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