By Nick Shook
Beacon Journal copy editor
Read full column on Ohio.com
It’s the last week of the season for most traditional leagues that use multiple weeks to determine playoff matchups. That means either you’re on the brink of the playoffs and must win this week, or you’re dead and buried and have only a consolation bracket to look toward.
Or, you’ve coasted to a pristine record and are simply waiting for your machine of a team to keep churning out wins. Congratulations to you; only winners get wings.
In case you need one last boost, I’m here with your roster Hail Mary heaves.
Spencer Ware, running back, Kansas City Chiefs (owned in 63 percent of ESPN leagues)
Remember when Jamaal Charles was in your starting lineup? Recall that sinking feeling you had when he tore his ACL on a gruesome, non-contact play?
Well, even if you happened to handcuff him with Charcandrick West (what a name!), you’ve struggled since then. To make matters worse, West has been hurt in the past two weeks. But have no fear, because Spencer Ware is here!
I actually forgot where Ware, a product of Cincinnati Princeton High School, went to college. My good friend Google reminded me it was LSU. Nonetheless, Ware has quickly gone from irrelevant practice squad player to Sunday afternoon star.
A week after gaining 96 yards and scoring twice on 11 carries, Ware rushed 19 times for 114 yards and a touchdown in a 30-22 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday for the Chiefs’ fifth consecutive win. The Chiefs are on a roll, thanks to their defense, efficient quarterbacking on the part of Alex Smith, and timely performances on the part of Ware.
It’s likely that Ware will see the starting carries from here on out, and might provide that spark this week against the Oakland Raiders that you need to get into the playoffs.
Markus Wheaton, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers (owned in 7.7 percent of ESPN leagues)
Antonio Brown is such a menace to opposing defenses that they are focusing much of their gameplan on taking him out of the game, at almost any cost. This leaves plenty of opportunities for Martavis Bryant and Wheaton, with the latter benefitting most from this Sunday.
Why? Well, when you look at the Steelers’ receiving corps, there is Brown, high atop his throne of ease, then Bryant, and in a distant third sits Wheaton. Defenses approach this team as such. Wheaton and the Steelers took advantage of that against the Seattle Seahawks, despite the loss.
There is a downside to this addition, though. Ben Roethlisberger likely has a concussion now, which will probably keep him out in Week 13. And Wheaton is still a third receiver on a team that’s about to be quarterbacked by Landry Jones. But you’re desperate this week, because why else are you scouring the waiver wire, right?
Go ahead and take the flier on Wheaton.
Austin Davis, quarterback, Cleveland Browns (owned in 0 percent of ESPN leagues)
Doug Baldwin, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks (owned in 34 percent of ESPN leagues)
I told you to start him on Sunday. He caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. You’re welcome.
If you don’t see this and his percentage owned and not open your handy dandy mobile app or dive for your desktop and frantically pound out the web address to your team’s roster, you don’t deserve to win.
Darren Sproles, running back, Philadelphia Eagles
This pains me to write, because I once named my team after this guy (Sproles-Royce was dominant). But his role in the Eagles’ offense is minimal, and they are floundering with three tough matchups ahead (New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals). It isn’t looking pretty for Sproles, or the rest of the Eagles as the season winds down.
Tony Romo, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
We may be nearing the end of the Romo era in Dallas. Fresh off a healed broken collarbone, the quarterback suffered a hairline fracture in the same collarbone on Thanksgiving. What a terrible way to celebrate the holiday.
Look for another quarterback this week. Hopefully you weren’t relying on Romo to begin with.