Regular readers of the column may have noticed last week that I omitted my usual opening paragraph setting the scene for the blurbs that follow. Well, I apologize for that, but trust me; I barely got the column written last week. I threw my lower back out last week and it was all I could do to sit at the computer and get the bare minimum done. Anyone who has experienced back pain knows what I am talking about. Thankfully I have a good friend who is studied in Chinese medicine and acupuncture, so he got me back on my feet by the weekend.
I own Doug Martin in both of my long-standing home leagues. The rookie’s amazing performance was the final ingredient that I needed to get me up on my feet, dancing around the living room as he led me to two important and unlikely victories in these leagues. If you lost to a Martin owner like me on Sunday, you have my sympathies. There is nothing you can do when your opponent gets the gift of a game like that against you.
Anyway, I am glad to have put my injury behind me so I can focus instead on the injuries in fantasy that will create the best places to look for help on the wire this week.
Bye Weeks – Cleveland, Arizona, Green Bay, Washington
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF – While the Bills quarterback is likely still unavailable in deeper leagues, a shaky stretch of games has seem his ownership numbers drop in shallower formats. The Patriots always seem to bring the best out of him, so don’t be afraid to plug him in this week if he was dropped or languishing on your bench.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA- If you are missing the services of Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin this weekend, then Tannehill might be the best option you will find sitting on your wire today. The rookie hasn’t gotten the attention due to the fantastic play of Griffin and Andrew Luck, but the Titans come to South Florida, meaning this could be Tannehill’s week to shine. The Bills follow next week, so it’s possible he could be more than a one week wonder.
Philip Rivers, SD – Rivers has been a borderline bust for anyone who was expecting consistent QB1 production from the Chargers signal-caller this year. But if Carson Palmer can toss 4 touchdowns against the Buccaneers, then Rivers should be able to continue to keep the arrow pointing upward on his season. It’s possible he’s been dropped in shallow leagues here and there, so don’t be afraid to give him a new home if that’s the case.
Jake Locker, TEN – With their Bye looming in Week 11, it’s probable the Titans will give Locker one more week to let his injured shoulder continue to heal. But the Titans will need to get Locker back under center to properly evaluate the entire offense down the stretch. That means he should be back under center for a tasty matchup against Jacksonville in Week 12.
Kevin Kolb, ARI – Kolb continues to get closer to returning from his rib injury, and he should reclaim his starting job probably as soon as Week 11, after the team’s bye this week.
Week 9 Update:
Blaine Gabbert, JCK – Gabbert had another solid day against the Lions, and I think solidified his case that he should be owned as a QB2 in most leagues. In two QB leagues, he could be a boon in the coming weeks with the Titans and Bills down the stretch.
Russell Wilson, SEA – Wilson’s stock is rising, but the schedule just doesn’t line up too well for him the next few weeks (NYJ, BYE, @MIA, @CHI). He makes a viable bench option, but don’t plan using him very much down the stretch.
Vick Ballard, IND – Donald Brown had a setback during last week’s game, and left after tallying a single catch for 7 yards. He also reportedly injured his hip as well as experiencing pain and swelling in his knee. This should keep Ballard in the feature role for a great matchup versus Jacksonville. Monitor Brown’s status, but don’t be surprised when he doesn’t play this week.
James Starks, GB – We have been saying for weeks that Alex Green’s struggles would eventually force the Packers to give Starks more work and it finally came to pass last week. Starks got the start and was the primary back on rushing downs, while Green rotated in on passing downs. I expect this to continue coming out of the Bye. Cedric Benson is eligible to return in Week 12, so things will get interesting here.
Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones, OAK – Don’t look now, but Darren McFadden finally got his yearly injury, this time a high ankle sprain, that could sideline him for multiple weeks and at the very least will have him at much less than full-speed. Complicating matters for the Raiders is the fact the primary backup Mike Goodson suffered his own high ankle sprain in the same game. High ankle sprains are bad injuries for RB’s and often sideline players for up to 4 weeks. Reece and Jones will be hot properties this week, and likely the best options available, particularly in deeper leagues. Greg Morgan hinted at Reece’s potential as a pass-catching back in this offense way back in Week 3 I believe, and we advised deep leaguers speculate on his talent ourselves in Week 5. The reasons for this was the undeniable fact that the players ahead of him on the depth chart were injury prone and the Raiders had one of the most fantasy friendly schedules for RB’s in the second half. Bear in mind that Reece doesn’t get a lot of carries (at least not yet), so he has more value in PPR formats. Jones should serve as the primary ball carrier, and does have the requisite speed to make some noise. But the coaching staff doesn’t trust him enough yet to get more than a share of the work. Still, he’s worth speculating on himself, because he could easily emerge as a RB2/Flex option the next few weeks.
Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall, PIT – The Steelers RB situation has been a weekly staple in this column all season long as the wheel continues to spin week-to-week. Last week it landed on Redman, as Dwyer’s quad injury gave him a chance to finally deliver on his own pre-season hype. Personally, I am glad to have avoided this situation in most of my leagues, and all three backs are owned in all leagues I play in, which is how it should be at this point. I wouldn’t want to count on anyone in this backfield, but I can’t deny that if any of this trio is available you may want to clear a roster spot.
Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, NO – The injury to Darren Sproles opened the door for Ingram to have his busiest day in weeks and for Ivory to see his first action of the year. Honestly, Ivory led the team in attempts and scored the only touchdown for Saints backfield last week. The workload split was not happy news to Pierre Thomas’ owners, who were hoping their guy would explode with more work. Sorry, but this is going to remain a committee going forward. If Sproles remains out, both Ivory and Ingram will have some bye week appeal. If I had to choose one for this week, I’d roll with Ivory against a Falcons D that dares you to beat them on the ground.
Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL – Rodgers hasn’t delivered for those who hoped Michael Turner’s age would translate into a bigger role in a more explosive Falcon’s offense. This week’s matchup against the Saints provides a good chance for him to provide flex-worthy stats however, so he could help out RB needy teams this week.
Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, NE – Last week’s Bye means one of the Patriots’ backup RB’s could have landed on shallower waiver wires, and both will provide value this week against the Bills in what should be a high scoring affair with lots of work for the entire backfield here.
Ronnie Brown, SD – We haven’t given Brown much love in this column, but the Chargers have been relying more and more on the wily veteran as the pass catching back, which gives him flex value in PPR formats for the time being.
Bilal Powell, NYJ – Earlier in the year, it looked like Powell was going to force a committee approach for the Jets. But a shoulder injury in Week 7 and better play by Shonn Greene quieted the buzz. Powell should be back this week and if Greene struggles against a stout Seattle defense, the buzz on Powell could heat up again. Get the jump on the competition and scoop him up this week if he’s out there in deeper leagues. The Jets get Jacksonville and Tennessee in the fantasy playoffs, so Powell makes a viable roster stash for those building a bench for the postseason.
Lance Dunbar, DAL – Dunbar has passed Phillip Tanner on the depth chart in Dallas, and with DeMarco Murray likely to miss at least another week of action, Dunbar is only a Felix Jones injury away from true fantasy relevance. At this point of the year there aren’t a lot of viable options at RB in deeper leagues, so Dunbar could be the only guy worth speculating on this week.
Week 9 Update:
Joique Bell, DET – We recommended Bell as a viable Flex option going forward, and he came through last week with his best statistical game of the year. Granted, the rushing touchdown and a good chunk of his rushing yards came in garbage time, but he has locked himself in as the 3rd down back in a passing offense, so continue to play the matchups with him going forward.
T.Y. Hilton, IND – Hilton very well could be the biggest potential difference maker on the wire in all leagues this week. The rookie took advantage of Donnie Avery’s injury to record his second 100 yard/1 TD game of the season. The short week means Hilton should get the start and he could easily explode against the Jaguars this week. The Colts have a great schedule for WR’s going forward and it wouldn’t be crazy to see Hilton take this opportunity and really emerge as a WR3 option the rest of the way. He’s my top waiver wire option for this week.
Danario Alexander, SD– After noting Alexander’s return to the NFL in last week’s column, those who decided to give him a look had to be pleased with what they saw last week. The coaching staff sang his praises, and he will continue to get more work as long as his knees allow. If you took a wait and see approach here, don’t wait any longer.
Golden Tate, SEA – Tate had his second 2 TD game of the year against the Vikings, but don’t get carried away here. His yardage totals were still pedestrian and this is a run first offense and that’s not changing anytime soon. With the Jets this week followed with a Bye in Week 11, I’d let someone else pay for Tate’s big week.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK – Bey continues to get healthy and with the mess that is the Raiders running game right now, the opportunity is there for Bey to make some noise for those who have stuck with him.
Emmanuel Sanders, PIT – Sanders has quietly gone along as the fourth option in the Steelers passing game all year. The ankle injury to Antonio Brown should allow Sanders to emerge from the shadows this week, making him a worthy bye week fill-in.
Davone Bess, MIA – Bess is a guy who likely sits on someone’s bench in deeper leagues but is widely available in shallower formats. He’s got the same schedule as Tannehill and he’s a great guy to stick in your flex spot the next two weeks.
Week 9 Updates:
Danny Amendola, STL – We told you to make a move on Amendola last week while the Rams were on Bye. He’ll be back this week and should slowly get back to being a PPR machine.
Donnie Avery, IND – Well, if you decided to bet that my finally cutting ties with Avery would mean good news, you were rewarded with his first 100 yard effort since Week 2. Bad news is he suffered a hip injury in the game. Great matchup lie ahead, but I’d rather take a shot at the aforementioned Hilton going forward.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN – I listed Sanu last week as a sleeper candidate in the Bengals offense. It didn’t really happen last week, as TE Jermaine Gresham and slot receiver Andrew Hawkins continued to be next in line after stud A.J. Green. The schedule sets up nicely for the Bengals and I still like Sanu as a sleeper in deep leagues.
Brandon Myers, OAK – Don’t look now, but Myers has quietly worked his way into the Top 10 in TE production on the year, thanks to his 8 catch/2 TD day last week. Like Reece and Bey, he should continue to benefit from the injuries on offense. If Carson Palmer keeps looking his way in the red zone, he could emerge as a real weapon down the stretch.
Rob Housler, ARZ – Housler is the best name on my deep league waiver wires, so if you play in 2 TE leagues, he could be worth a look this week.
Week 9 Updates:
Dustin Keller, NYJ – We reminded you about Keller again last week with the Jets on Bye. He shouldn’t be un-owned at this point as the most reliable option in the Jets passing attack.
Tony Moeaki, KC – We warned that you couldn’t rely on him to build on his Week 8 mini-breakout and sure enough he crashed back to earth with a zero catch day. Cut him loose.
Cowboys – I have been playing Rent-a-Defense in one of my home leagues for weeks now, and this week I am taking a shot on the Cowboys in a must win game on the road in Philadelphia. The Eagles offensive line is terrible and Michael Vick has been turning the ball over a ton.
Steelers – The once feared unit hasn’t lived up to expectations this year. They actually landed on the wire in one of my shallow formats. They get the gift that is the Chiefs offense this week making them a must start if you have them.