With the bye weeks behind us and a number of teams in most leagues out of fantasy playoff contention, we run down the top pickups on a now thin waiver wire.
WR Michael Crabtree (vs Rams)
Last week: Injured
A solid WR2 last year, Crabtree is expected to make his 2013 debut against St. Louis this weekend. Coming off a tough Achilles injury, and likely to be worked into the 49ers game plan slowly at least to start, don't expect Crabtree to hit his 2012 numbers right away. He's still worth a pickup however as a possible WR3/flex play off the bat and possibly more moving forward this season.
WR Miles Austin (vs Raiders)
Last week: 1 catch, 17 yards
Austin made a less than impressive return from a three-game absence Sunday against the Giants, but it should only get better from here. If the 29-year-old's hamstring holds up down the stretch, the hope is he supplants Terrence Williams in terms of usage in the Cowboys' offence. While he may be more useful in real football, drawing attention away from Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, his play could warrant five-plus targets in a strong offence.
WR Rod Streater (at Cowboys)
Last week: 5 catches, 93 yards
Two things conspire to make Streater worth a look if you're in need of help at WR. One, Matt McGloin providing a better pass game than the less-accurate, more prone to run Terrelle Pryor in Oakland, and two, Denarius Moore's injury which elevated Streater to McGloin's top target. McGloin looks to have secured the Raiders' QB job at least for the time being and playing on a short week, Moore may not be ready to return until Week 14. Streater should see a similar workload on American Thanksgiving against a Cowboys defence that can certainly be scored on.
RB Rashard Mendenhall (at Eagles)
Last week: 13 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD
Mendenhall had become the forgotten man in Arizona with fantasy players leaning more towards Andre Ellington of late. And while it's clear the two are locked in a timeshare in the Cardinals backfield, it's one that sees Mendenhall receive all the red zone touches. The two had similar workloads and totals in Arizona's big win over the Colts on Sunday, the only difference – and it's a big one – was Mendenhall's touchdown. Take the veteran over the rookie in Arizona, he'll score you more touchdowns.
QB Matt Flynn (at Lions)
Last week: 21/36, 218 yards, 1 TD
The quarterback with nine lives appears to be in the best possible situation. Green Bay has something that Seattle, Oakland, and Buffalo doesn't and it makes Flynn look like a serviceable NFL QB. Flynn's play in relief of Scott Tolzien against Minnesota warrants another start, unless of course Aaron Rodgers returns from injury. And do you remember the last time Flynn played Detroit while wearing a Packers jersey? It earned him a lot of money. Green Bay – and desperate fantasy owners – can only hope for a similar outcome this Thursday.
TE Rob Housler (at Eagles)
Last week: 4 catches, 51 yards
Housler has flown under the radar all season and while that was certainly justified the first few weeks of the season, for desperate fantasy owners, he's been at least worth a look ever since. Housler scores very few touchdowns so he'll never be mistaken as a TE1, but he's steady in averaging 50+ receiving yards per game of late. Arizona has been hot as of late and while that's unlikely to last too much longer, Housler is a viable injury replacement during their run.