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Tuesday 28th Mar 2017

Week 12 signals the final call for trades prior to the playoffs, and it has been my experience that often making the right free agent moves this week can often help tip the scales in your negotiations and get you the guy you are targeting. Take a look around your league at the teams who are squarely on the bubble for a postseason berth and see if they need any help to cover byes or injuries this week. If they do, don’t be afraid to grab a free agent that can get them through this week and try to flip them for an upgrade for your own squad in the playoffs. Likewise, if you are battling those teams for a spot, don’t be afraid to grab emerging talent just to keep it off their rosters. Most of all, explore your options, but don’t make trades just to make trades, especially if you are out of the running this year. There is nothing worse than throwing in the towel and pissing everyone else in your league off just because you were bored. If you are going to make a trade, do your league a favor, and make sure it makes sense. Now onto this week’s report.

Bye Weeks – Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Seahawks

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning, NYG – There is no way to sugarcoat the rocky season Peyton’s little brother has had this year. He has thrown 17 interceptions against a measly 12 touchdowns and has struggled all year with his decision-making. But if you are in a bind this week, you would do well to give the two-time Super Bowl champ a look thanks to a home game against the generous Cowboys pass defense. Manning had his best game of the season in Week 1 against Dallas, when he torched them for 450 yards and four touchdowns. The rest of the schedule also has enough nice matchups, including a Week 16 game against the Lions, to at least make him a viable backup in case your regular starter goes down.

Josh McCown, CHI – I have given McCown his props here as a plug-and-play option the last few weeks, and hopefully you weren’t forced to rely upon him last week, when he was forced to try and make plays in horrible weather conditions. With Jay Cutler sidelined, McCown will face the Rams on the road this week and possibly will get the Vikings in Week 13. Weather won’t be an issue the next two weeks, and McCown will get the passing offense back on track. Give him a pass for last week and feel confident using him this week.

Alex Smith, KC – Smith has had an up and down year for sure, with five separate weeks in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass. But for the most part, he has had more success at home, and the Chiefs will play host to a Chargers team that can be thrown on and then get the Broncos again in Week 13. Smith is not going to win your game for you, but with his team headed to the postseason, his floor is about as solid as any QB2 out there the rest of the way.

Digging Deeper

Scott Tolzien, GB – Aaron Rodgers will miss one more week, making Tolzien relevant for anyone with bye or injury issues. He actually played better than the numbers from last week’s game against the Giants might indicate, and does get the advantage of facing a Minnesota Vikings defense that is ranked 31st in the league.

Mike Glennon, TB – We haven’t checked in on the surprising rookie since Week 7, but overall he has continued to impress in the face of adversity surrounding him. He showed moxie in losses to the Panthers and Seahawks, and last week proved he could take advantage of a struggling defense like the Falcons. This week, he is indoors against a Lions team that gives up plenty of passing yards, so Glennon has some deep-league appeal, at least for this week.

Matt McGloin, OAK – I will give the undrafted rookie props for his mistake-free play in the win against the reeling Texans last week. He took advantage of generous field position early to toss two of his three touchdowns on the day, and likely earned himself at least one more start this week. I don’t love the matchup against the Titans, but if he’s starting, he’ll have some value in two-quarterback leagues.

Week 11 Updates

Case Keenum, HOU – A week after it looked like he had arrived as a rock-solid QB2, Gary Kubiak threw a wrench into the works by benching the rookie in the third quarter in favor of Matt Schaub. I personally was intending on starting Keenum this week in one league, thanks to the tasty matchup against the Jaguars, but in a must win game, with other options available I might rethink those plans. I still think he can get back to his gun-slinging ways this week, but Kubiak has introduced a layer of doubt and risk that shouldn’t have been there.

Jason Campbell, CLE – Just when Campbell was starting to make believers of people, he laid an egg against the Bengals, throwing three interceptions against one touchdown. He definitely took a step back, and a game against the Steelers never instills a ton of confidence in starting a Browns QB.

RUNNING BACKS

Bobby Rainey, TB – Rather than focus on what I got wrong in analyzing the Tampa Bay backfield last week, I’ll revisit what I got right. I was correct in pointing out that of the two players in question, Rainey was the more explosive option. I was wrong in expecting that Greg Schiano would continue to feed the ball on early downs to the bigger and more experienced Brian Leonard. While I did think that the diminutive Rainey (5’8", 210) would carve out a role as a third-down back, I in no way expected him to explode for 163 yards and three touchdowns on a crazy 32 touches. He is obviously the top target this week in all leagues, and should make a decent start again this week against the Lions. As long as he is getting the bulk of the work, he will be a viable flex behind Tampa’s excellent offensive line, but temper you expectations since this monster game came against a Falcons defense that is regressing weekly. Feel free to break the bank in any leagues where he is available.

Donald Brown, IND – Brown has been outplaying Trent Richardson for weeks, and the coaching staff finally relented and put the ball in his hands when things counted last week against the Titans. Brown responded with his best game of the year statistically (14/80/2) and once again easily outplayed Richardson. If the Colts hadn’t traded a number one pick to the Browns for their “franchise” back, then it wouldn’t have taken Brown this long to make an impact. Richardson still will be the starter and the Colts will continue to try and figure out how to get him the ball (he did catch five passes), but Brown is the better start until further notice.

Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE – We had the Browns leading rusher in this same spot a week ago, as the Browns were making noise about getting him more touches as a ball carrier. They followed through on that, and he responded with 99 yards on 14 touches. Campbell targeted him 12 times on Sunday, which hints at his PPR upside for the next few weeks. He did have a costly fumble, but the Browns have only scat-back Fozzy Whittaker and washed-up Willis McGahee as alternatives, meaning he will continue to get enough touches to merit owning, with potential spot-start duty in PPR leagues.

Digging Deeper

Toby Gerhart, MIN – Gerhart received his most playing time of the season late in last week’s blowout by the Seahawks. The game was out of reach, and Adrian Peterson was bothered by a groin injury, giving his backup enough work to remind everyone to pick him back up as a handcuff, just in case Peterson is hurt worse than he is letting on or aggravates it in future weeks. No AP owner wants to think the worst, but do yourself a favor and at least be prepared for it. In fact, heading into the playoffs, that goes for all indispensible RB1's on your various rosters.

Brandon Jacobs, NYG – Jacobs is back on the fantasy radar after reclaiming his role as the backup to Andre Brown from Peyton Hillis. The fact that he vultured a goal-line carry in his first game back takes a little steam out of Brown’s value, and makes Jacobs worth a bench spot in deeper leagues heading into the playoffs.

Week 11 Updates

Shane Vereen, NE – Vereen finally made it back on the field and looked great in his first action since Week 1. While he only carried the ball once on Sunday, his eight receptions led the team and showed he is ready to be a factor for PPR owners going forward. Stevan Ridley is one more fumble away from Vereen taking on an even bigger role in the offense. If you took a wait-and-see approach last week, start him with confidence against the Broncos this week.

Brian Leonard, TB – We covered the emergence of Rainey above, which basically shoves Leonard back into his old backup role. Deep leaguers might want to hold him, since Rainey could be a one-week wonder or get hurt if he gets too many touches.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson looks on track to finally get back on the field this week as the Lions' main slot receiver. The team is playing the Bucs, who made Rishard Matthews a hot property out of the slot in Week 10. He is likely the most reliable name out there in a so-so group this week, and it’s time to lock him up as he returns to action.

Miles Austin, DAL – The fact that I am listing the oft-injured Austin this high is a testament to the somewhat uninspiring options at WR this week. As it is, he is supposedly fully recovered from his latest hamstring injury, and while Terrence Williams has played well in his absence, Austin is the better receiver and a trusted weapon of Tony Romo. It doesn’t hurt that the Cowboys face the Giants in his first game back, which usually translates to plenty of passing on both sides. If you are looking for some lightning in a bottle, then take a flier on Austin in all leagues.

Santonio Holmes, NYJ – Holmes made it back as expected, and quickly emerged as Geno Smith’s top target. Hopefully, you don’t have to plug him in your lineup, since the Jets offense is very unpredictable and he’s no sure bet to score. That said, he’s going to get plenty of targets and has a very solid floor as a flex play in all leagues.

Digging Deeper

Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Cotchery has continued to sustain his value in the wake of his three-touchdown Week 9, finding the end zone the last two weeks as well. Joe Haden showed us again that he knows how to shut down No. 1 receivers, meaning Big Ben may have to turn to the veteran yet again this week. It doesn’t hurt that Emmanuel Sanders has been struggling and injured his foot last week.

Rod Streater, OAK – Matt McGloin looked Streater’s way a lot, and the connection translated to six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown on a team-high eight targets. He’s worth a grab in deep leagues to see if he can build on this performance in anticipation of a Week 13 tilt against the Cowboys.

Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree is another week closer to activation, and makes a viable stash for any team headed to the playoffs.

Week 11 Updates

Rishard Matthews, MIA – Matthews predictably fell back to earth last week, but he didn’t fall off it. As the slot receiver, he caught four balls for 54 yards, for a respectable PPR showing.

Marquise Goodwin, BUF – Goodwin (6/81/1) didn’t disappoint in his first career start, and should continue to be a factor in the Bills passing game after the team’s bye this week. He will likely be more prominently featured in this space next week, so if you are in a deep league, get the jump on your opponents and lock him up this week.

Jarrett Boykin, GB – Boykin had another solid day thanks to Scott Tolzien’s affinity for him. He looks like a safe start this week against the Vikings.

TIGHT ENDS

Delanie Walker, TEN – We have been slow to mention Walker this year, mainly because the Titans didn’t seem that interested in feeding him the ball. But Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly trusts him and the increased attention resulted in 10 catches, 91 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last Thursday. Walker gets another TE-friendly game versus the Raiders this week and is the TE to get to cover a bye or fill in for an injured starter.

Rob Housler, ARZ – Housler was a popular sleeper who took awhile to wake up this season. He’s no great shakes, but at least he is finally being targeted by Carson Palmer and gets to face the very same Colts team that put Walker at the top of this week’s list.

Digging Deeper

Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham will get plenty of attention after his own breakout game (7/136/1) and gets the benefit of facing the Jaguars this week. Still, he hadn’t done much up until last week and Owen Daniels could return soon to cut into his touches. He should be a good option this week, but be wary of thinking he’s a long-term fix.

Week 11 Updates

John Carlson, MIN – Carlson had another solid week, and you may need to rely on him again this week with so many tight ends hurting or on bye.

Ladarius Green, SD – Happy I picked the right week to finally list Green in the report as he showed what he can do if given the chance. Maybe the coaching staff will look at the tape and realize he has to be on the field more than he has been. Deep and Dynasty owners could do worse than clear a spot for Green at the end of their bench.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Saints – The Saints are an intriguing streaming option this week as they head to Atlanta to face the Falcons on Thursday night. The Saints haven’t been especially good on the road this year, but it is a dome game, which will help. The Falcons made the Bucs a great option a week ago, so Rob Ryan’s bunch could follow suit this week.

KICKERS

David Akers, DET – It’s that time of year to at least let weather come into the equation when selecting a kicker off the wire. Akers is at home against Tampa Bay, which should translate into solid production this week.

We have officially entered crunch time in the fantasy football season. Week 11 means there are only three or four weeks left before the fantasy playoffs. If your teams are like most of mine this year, you are sitting at 6-4 or 5-5, firmly on the bubble for the post-season. There isn't any more time left to wait for underachieving players to turn their seasons around and you might suddenly be feeling shaky about your starting quarterback as well. Hopefully, you have built enough depth and grabbed some emerging talents along the way that your roster is solid heading into this critical stretch. Now is the time to take a look at how your playoff schedule breaks down, and see if you like what you see. There are more than a couple players making waves this week that could become real difference makers come playoff time as well as others who are just an injury away from making a splash. Cut loose the dead weight and try to bolster your core with a few lottery tickets if you have the luxury. More injuries are coming, and if they come to an elite player, history has shown that their backups can often step in and power teams to fantasy titles. Look on your wire and if you see someone who fits the description, like a Christine Michael for example, scoop them up and wait. You just might strike fantasy gold when it matters most. Better than hanging onto a guy you'll never start.

Bye Weeks: Dallas and St. Louis

QUARTERBACKS

Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum rates another mention this week, and a bump to the top of the report after another exciting and gutsy performance against the Cardinals last week. He once again tossed three touchdown passes and continues to throw the ball deep. The schedule is very fantasy friendly going forward, with home games against the Raiders and Jaguars the next two weeks and a return engagement with the Jags in Week 14. He will be an intriguing guy to watch down the stretch, and with some of his matchups he makes for a tempting option for spot-start duty as long as he keeps making plays. If you have a solid backup you want to trade away, Keenum is a great replacement QB2 in any sized league.

Josh McCown, CHI – McCown performed pretty well in his start at Green Bay, as well as in both his relief appearances. Jay Cutler’s latest injury will likely keep him out multiple weeks. The system and the weapons are good enough to allow the veteran to put up solid numbers, even against a good defense like the Ravens. Much like Week 9, I would rather take a chance on McCown the next two weeks than many of the likely options out there at this point.

Digging Deeper

Scott Tolzien, GB – For a guy who was on the practice squad just days before last week’s game, Tolzien acquitted himself pretty well after relieving an injured Seneca Wallace on Sunday. He brought much more life to the offense than Wallace did the week before, and gives the team a better chance to hang in there until Aaron Rodgers is ready to return. He showed enough that he is worth owning in two-quarterback leagues and will have a chance to put up some numbers against the Giants and Vikings shaky defenses the next two weeks.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN - Jake Locker will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, so Fitzpatrick will now have the job the rest of the way for the TItans. Locker had been a regular on the list the last few weeks thanks in part to a very favorable schedule down the stretch. Fitzpatrick could be the top target in deep two-quarterback leagues, since unlike McCown and Tolzien, he will still be starting once the fantasy playoffs arise. The Colts just made Kellen Clemens look good, and Fitzpatrick can have similar success on a short week.

Jason Campbell, CLE – You have to give the veteran Campbell a lot of credit. He was signed by Cleveland in the off-season, and when Brandon Weeden got hurt, the team bypassed the veteran for the younger Brian Hoyer. Campbell never complained, and when his chance came he went out and played better than anyone in the organization could have hoped for. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron give him two elite weapons and the lack of a consistent running game will help him maintain decent backup value for deeper leagues.

Week 10 Updates

Nick Foles, PHI – Okay, so we knew he wasn’t going to throw for seven touchdowns again, but Foles had another stellar fantasy performance despite only completing 12 passes on the day.

E.J. Manuel, BUF – The Bills rookie was rusty in his first game back from injury, and this week’s game against the Jets doesn’t set him up for much success. With a bye in Week 12, you should look at other options if available.

RUNNING BACKS

Shane Vereen, NE - We have been reminding you about Vereen for weeks, and he is likely gone in all but the most shallow of leagues at this point. Vereen, if he is ready for action, will slip right back into his role as the pass-catching back for the Patriots and will get some carries as well when the team goes to their hurry-up offense. You may want to give him a week before you can comfortably start him, but he needs to be owned everywhere after this week so I can stop writing about the need to pick him up for your playoff push.

Brian Leonard, TB – Mike James fractured his ankle on Monday night, which thrust Leonard into the lead-back role. He received 20 carries, and although he didn’t do much with them (57 yards), he still projects to be the primary ball-carrier for a team that will run the ball a lot. Leonard is not a special talent, but he is a solid football player who can protect the quarterback and catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s worth a grab this week as a potential flex-play going forward.

Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE - We have mentioned Ogbonnaya previously in the report, but after a solid Week 7, he faded back into the fantasy shadows. Willis McGahee looks finished and the team has said they intend the two running backs to at least split the carries the rest of the way. Ogbonnaya has shown the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and if his workload increases, he is back on the map as a sneaky grab for PPR owners.

Digging Deeper

Bernard Pierce, BAL – The nightmare season continues for Ray Rice, as he just can’t get anything going on the ground this year. He has still been active in the passing game, but even there he has lacked his usual explosiveness. Maybe the Bears defense will be the elixir for the team’s rushing woes, but Rice’s struggles may have finally opened the door for Pierce to get more carries going forward. He’s worth grabbing and stashing in hopes that he forces the Ravens hand for more playing time.

Bobby Rainey, TB – While Leonard will do most of the heavy lifting in the Bucs new backfield, Rainey is the more explosive player, and it is entirely possible that he will be able to carve out some consistent low-end PPR value as the change-of-pace back in Tampa Bay.

Dennis Johnson, HOU - Johnson didn’t do much as the backup to Ben Tate last week, but we will list him again here for deeper leagues since Arian Foster is now done for the year and Ben Tate is playing through four broken ribs. If Tate aggravates the injury, Johnson could be the last man standing.

Mark Ingram, NO – I have Ingram buried way down here at the end of the list despite his career-best 145 yard, 1 TD game on Sunday. Is he worth a spot on a fantasy bench again after his big day? Sure. Will he be worth starting again anytime soon? I doubt it very much. For that reason, I simply can’t advocate buying him at an inflated price this week. If you own him anywhere, you need to try and sell this week if you can.

Week 10 Updates

Andre Brown, NYG - The Giants wasted no time feeding Brown the ball, and thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble, he got 30 carries on Sunday, which he converted into 115 yards and a touchdown. I ranked Brown above Vereen as a stash mainly because he had the opportunity to become a workhorse for the G-Men. The fact that it occurred right out of the gate means you can start him with confidence or sell him if you are already deep at RB.

Rashad Jennings, OAK - Jennings didn’t let down anyone who invested in him again last week and will continue to carry the load as long as Darren McFadden is sidelined. The Texans are tough on defense, but Jennings will touch the ball enough to deliver RB2 numbers yet again.

Shonn Greene, TEN – If you flexed Greene last week against the Jaguars, it was with hopes that multiple short touchdown dives would materialize. They didn’t, but Chris Johnson took a step back, and Greene still got 12 touches on the day. He’s worth holding onto, but you might think twice about forcing him into your lineup over safer options.

Montee Ball, DEN – Ball didn’t see the ball a lot last week, but he was on the field plenty, as the team continues to monitor Knowshon Moreno’s workload as well as get their prized rookie into more key situations. It is the time of year to cut loose some of the flotsam at the end of your bench and replace it with players who are an injury away from dominating. Ball would be near the top of my list of such players.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Tavon Austin, STL - I feel obligated to list the electric Rams rookie in the wake of his monster game against the Colts last week. It is obviously the type of performance that we all dreamed about as we drafted him before the season started. It was a little bit of a fluky performance, since he only played 15 snaps and only got three targets in the passing game. Still, the talent is there and he is worth a grab to see if he can build on the breakout. That said, he will be hard to trust until the Rams show that they are committed to getting the ball into his hands more often.

Jarrett Boykin, GB - It is quite possible that Boykin was cut loose by an impatient owner after Week 9. The injury to Rodgers and a lousy one-catch game against the Bears may have convinced many to jump ship. With Tolzien taking over, Boykin had a great game, hauling in eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. The two looked like they had a great connection all night, so he again looks like a solid WR3 with upside.

Rishard Matthews, MIA – Matthews returns to the report two weeks after ascending into the lineup in the wake of Brandon Gibson’s injury. Last week, he exploded for 11 catches, 120 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 14 targets. While he may not come close to duplicating this game all year, he is locked in as the slot receiver, which at the very least gives him some PPR value right away. You could make the switch from a Lance Moore or Nate Washington and hope that this is really a sign of more good things to come.

Digging Deeper

Mario Manningham, SF - Manningham made it back on the field as expected last week, and while the results weren’t there in the first game back, the entire offense struggled against the Panthers. With Vernon Davis banged up, and a week of rust banged off his game, Manningham will be asked to make plays down the field as the team tries to keep pace with the Saints this week.

Santonio Holmes, NYJ – The enigmatic Holmes is slated to return to the field this week for a Jets team making a playoff push. He was playing pretty well before getting hurt and can be picked up for depth heading into the stretch drive.

Marquise Goodwin, BUF – Steve Johnson and Robert Woods are both banged up, so Goodwin will have a chance to really show what he can do this week. He is worth a flier in really deep leagues.

Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree finally made it back onto the practice field this week, and could be back on the field in time for the fantasy playoffs. He is a viable stash for playoff depth, and the Niners need him back in their offense, but be aware he is no sure bet to deliver even after he makes it back.

Jermaine Kearse, SEA - Kearse scored for the second straight week, and has emerged as another weapon at Russell Wilson’s disposal. He is a true boom-or-bust play who could fade a bit with Percy Harvin’s return looming.

Week 10 Updates

Riley Cooper, PHI – Cooper once again delivered a big game with 102 yards and two touchdowns against the  Packers. At this point, we have to accept that the Foles-to-Cooper connection is real. He has locked down the No. 2 job opposite DeSean Jackson, and there is no reason to think Foles will stop chucking it his way. If you have him as a WR3, then keep riding him, since he has shown that he can deliver WR1 numbers, giving you a nice edge when he delivers.

Aaron Dobson, NE - I wanted to list Dobson again, since he had a bye coming off of his breakout Week 9 performance. If he is unowned, make a strong bid to get this emerging piece of the Patriots passing attack.

Percy Harvin, SEA - Since it looks like he will finally make it back on the field this week, this is likely your last chance to either grab him or buy low. He’s poised to make some major noise in the fantasy playoffs.

TIGHT ENDS

Tyler Eifert, CIN – Eifert took advantage of the injury to Jermaine Gresham to rack up 10 targets, which due in large part to Andy Dalton’s struggles, only translated to three catches for 55 yards. Still, Gresham could miss this week as well with the bye on tap, so Eifert could get another game to strut his stuff. With Joe Haden blanketing A.J. Green, Eifert could get another bushel of balls thrown his way this week.

John Carlson, MIN – Carlson gets a solid bump up from the DD section after turning in a very solid game in his first start of the year. He caught seven balls for 98 yards and a touchdown, and looks like a solid TE2 the rest of the way.

Digging Deeper

Brandon Bostick, GB – Back in Week 8, we zeroed in on Bostick as being the guy who would eventually emerge to take Jermichael Finley’s place as the TE to own in Green Bay. It took a couple weeks, and a change at QB, but Bostick showed that he can make plays when asked while Andrew Quarless can’t. Expect Bostick's role to grow as the season progresses.

Vance McDonald, SF – McDonald is an athletic receiver who could be pressed into action if Vernon Davis can’t go this week. If he draws the start, he can be a reasonable plug-n-play in deeper formats.

Ladarius Green, SD - Green is a physical beast who would be starting on a ton of teams in the league. As it is, he is blocked for the time being by Antonio Gates. He is a great dynasty target, and keep the name on speed-dial, because if Gates goes down, Green will be a revelation.

Week 10 Updates

Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta’s status didn't really change since last week. He is still a playoff stash at this point.

Tim Wright, TB – Wright took another step back last week, and will be hard to trust in the playoffs if he can’t show more consistency this week.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Cardinals – The Cards were one of my picks last week, and for the most part they delivered against the Texans. They get the Jaguars this week, so you could do worse than just roll with them for another week.

Browns - Cleveland returns from the bye  to meet a banged up Bengals squad, with turnover prone Andy Dalton under center. The Browns are tough against the run, so Dalton will need to throw at some point. They are somewhat of a longshot, but Travis Benjamin gives them a home run hitter on returns.

KICKERS

Ryan Succop, KC - Succop is coming off two very productive games and this week heads with the Chiefs to Denver. There will be plenty of scoring and Succop is a good bet for another double-digit points day.

This will be one of the more interesting weeks in many leagues. Six more teams are on bye this week including Peyton Manning and the Broncos passing game as well as top wide receivers Calvin Johnson, Victor Cruz and Larry Fitzgerald. Throw in another week of injuries, some season-ending, and this should be a busy week on the waiver wire and potentially the trading front. With the second half of the fantasy season officially here, playoff races are starting to take shape. If your team is leading the pack, it’s time to take stock of your playoff matchups and see if you like what you see. If you have concerns, don’t be afraid to make some moves that might not pay off until crunch time arrives. Making trades in fantasy is often all about timing, and there are more than a few very enticing sell-high options this week. Take a look around and see who needs help this week to cover a bye or injury and see if you have any depth that they can use. I like to open the lines of communication with as many owners as I can this time of year, just to make sure they at least think of me if they are looking to trade or receive offers from other owners and want to gauge the rest of the market. Often the best deals I end up making are initiated by an e-mail or text from someone asking what I think of an offer someone else sent them. So do yourself a favor this week and fire off a few e-mails to your league-mates. You never know what the response will be.

Bye Weeks: Broncos, Lions, Giants, 49ers, Cardinals, Jaguars

QUARTERBACKS

Jake Locker, TEN – We recommended deep-leaguers take a look at Locker last week since he was on bye and would be a cheap pickup to stash at the end of your bench. This week, he’s my top pickup, assuming Terrelle Pryor isn’t available in your league, to get you through the bye week and bolster your backup spot the rest of the way.  Locker has played very well this year and gets one of the best schedules of any quarterback in the league going forward.

Jason Campbell, CLE – We gave the veteran Campbell an obligatory mention last week, but kind of dismissed him due to what looked like a lousy matchup against the Chiefs. He was quicker in his decision making and much more mobile than Brandon Weeden, and should have the job as long as he stays healthy. He should be a solid option for two-quarterback leagues with Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon to throw to.

Digging Deeper

Case Keenum, HOU – Gary Kubiak is going to stick with the rookie Keenum for at least another week. While the aggressive Colts defense will provide a test, the Texans are at home, and Keenum has the weapons to make some plays. He remains a reasonable play this week in two-quarterback leagues.

Josh McCown, CHI – McCown’s presence on the list speaks more to the talent around him than it does to the player himself.  Hopefully, the bye week will allow Marc Trestman to open things up a bit this week against the Packers at Lambeau. I’d rather take a chance on the Bears QB than some other veteran names out there this week.

Week 8 Updates

Andy Dalton, CIN – I offered my mea culpa on Dalton last week after back-to-back strong games and then he went out and flat out dominated the Jets, tossing a career-high five touchdowns for another monster performance. He will try to keep it going this week against the Dolphins on the road.

Terrelle Pryor, OAK – If the multi-dimensional Pryor is available, he would be my top target as he has been many times this season. A meeting with the Eagles defense sets him up for another nice fantasy weekend.

Nick Foles, PHI – Michael Vick didn’t make it through his first game back and has already been ruled out for Week 9. If Foles gets cleared from his concussion, he’ll get the start and will look to put his nightmare game against the Cowboys behind him. I don’t blame anyone for not biting this apple twice, but it should be a lot cheaper to take a chance this time around.

RUNNING BACKS

Andre Brown, NYG /Shane Vereen, NE – We talked about both of these injured running backs last week, and that will likely continue until they finally make their way back onto the field and into fantasy lineups. Brown should return first, after the Giants bye in Week 10, with Vereen slated for Week 11. Brown has a little more immediate value, as he will return to a backfield with only Peyton Hillis and Brandon Jacobs standing in the way. He will immediately be given the chance to be the workhorse back the offense has been starved for. Vereen will slide back into his third down/hurry-up role in the Patriots offense and showed in his one start this year what that can translate to. Both backs need to be owned heading into the second half and while they were likely stashed in deeper leagues, the window for locking them up in shallow leagues is just about closed.

Digging Deeper

Daryl Richardson, STL – We are still waiting for definitive news on Zac Stacy’s ankle injury, which came near the end of a breakout performance against a normally stout Seahawks defense. Former starter Richardson would benefit for as long as Stacy is out and can be picked back up this week in any leagues where he was cut as a potential one-week fill-in and/or Stacy insurance going forward.

Montee Ball, DEN – It took eight games, but the heralded rookie finally found the end-zone for the first time last week. With Ronnie Hillman in the doghouse for now and the Broncos easing back on Knowshon Moreno’s workload a bit, Ball could have some flex value in deeper leagues as long as he is getting consistent goal-line and late-game work.

James Starks, GB – Starks returned from injury and immediately reclaimed his role as the change-of-pace option behind Eddie Lacy. He should be owned as a handcuff by Lacy owners.

Ray Graham, HOU – We mentioned Graham last week, and the very real chance that he gets the start this week for the Texans makes him worthy of a flier in really deep leagues, especially as insurance for any Foster or Tate owners out there.

C.J. Anderson, DEN – I have been waiting for the right time to write about Anderson this year, and after he made his first appearance of the year last week, now is that chance. The Broncos obviously liked something about this kid, since they elected to keep him on the roster despite a knee injury suffered in pre-season. Anyone who gets touches in the Broncos offense is on the fantasy radar, so monitor the situation. Dynasty leaguers might want to take a stab.

Week 8 Updates

Andre Ellington, ARI – Bruce Arians finally put the ball in Ellington’s hands more than a handful of times, and thanks in part to an 80-yard touchdown run, he finally had a day to remember with 162 total yards. He is an obvious sell-high candidate after his performance as you want to try and cash in, but he should reward anyone who stuck with him. If he somehow got cut after his lousy Week 8, he’s the top option regardless of position this week.

Mike James, TAM – We weren’t that high on James last week mainly due to the price it was going to cost to roster him in most leagues. He was workmanlike a week ago and faces another tough test this week against the Seahawks.

Fozzy Whittaker, CLE – The “Waka-Waka” references were flying last week after Whittaker scored on a nifty little pass from Campbell. He only saw two targets in the passing game, so don’t go grabbing him just yet.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Marvin Jones, CIN – It goes without saying that Jones’ 4 touchdown, 122-yard day will make him one of the hottest pickups in all leagues this week. He was already on the radar after scoring the previous two weeks, but now everyone will be looking to get a share of him, and he may not be worth the inflated price tag this week. While he has emerged as a rock solid red-zone target, he only plays in three-wide sets at the moment, limiting his upside in PPR leagues. He’s definitely worth owning everywhere, but if I had speculated prior to this week, I would be looking to sell off of the ridiculous Week 8.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, IND – Heyward-Bey was the number two name on the list last week, and he’s there again this week coming off the bye. He’s going to see an increase in targets going forward and that alone will make him a volume play for desperate owners thin at the position. He’s more suited to PPR leagues, but worth owning in hopes that Andrew Luck looks his way more often.

Kendall Wright and Nate Washington, TEN – It’s time to get on board with the Titans offense because some nice results are coming in the second half. Wright has more value in PPR leagues and Washington could get hot again now that Jake Locker is back under center. I grabbed Washington last week in a league where he was dropped with an eye to this week’s plus matchup against the Rams secondary.

Lance Moore, NO – Moore made it back onto the field last week and promptly found his way back into the end zone. His usage should continue to increase and with Marques Colston struggling and Jimmy Graham hobbled, Drew Brees will likely start looking his way “moore” often. He is potential starting material in deeper formats and worth grabbing to see if he can rekindle some of last year’s magic with Brees.

Digging Deeper

Drew Davis, ATL – I didn’t list Davis last week even though he was clearly playing nearly every down for the injury-ravaged Falcons. Last week he saw seven targets and delivered 77 yards and a touchdown. He should fade back into the background whenever Roddy White returns to action, but until that happens, Davis has some value in deep leagues.

Mike Brown, JCK – I have resisted listing the Jaguars number three man, but he is taking advantage of the nagging injuries to Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon to carve out his own role in the offense. He is making the most of the opportunity and the Jags are running more three-wide sets than just about anyone, since they are in comeback mode by the second quarter almost every week.

Tiquan Underwood, TAM – Underwood is the new number two receiver for the Bucs with Mike Williams done for the year. With Vincent Jackson guaranteeing double coverage, Underwood has some upside in really deep leagues, but take a wait-and-see approach before considering inserting him into your lineup.

Rishard Matthews, MIA – The season-ending injury to Brandon Gibson moves Matthews up the ladder and into the number three spot in the lineup which at least gets him into the conversation in deeper leagues. Gibson was getting a lot of goal-line looks lately, so it will be interesting to see if the second-year receiver can take advantage of the opportunity.

Week 8 Updates

Kenny Stills, NO – We highlighted Stills as a stash candidate back in Week 7, and the boom/bust deep-threat for the Saints hit pay-dirt twice last weekend, hauling in two long passes for touchdowns against the Bills and demonstrating his upside. With so many teams on bye this week, it may be worth giving the rookie another run, but just realize the risk involved if no deep balls come his way.

Nate Burleson – Burleson is slated to return in Week 10 and will slide back into his role opposite Calvin Johnson. He was putting up decent PPR numbers prior to his injury.

TIGHT ENDS

Coby Fleener, IND – It is possible that Fleener, who was on bye last week, is floating around on more than a few waiver wires this week. We had him on the list last week as a speculative add in hopes that he could emerge as more of a focal point in the wake of Reggie Wayne’s injury. The upside here is big enough that he needs to be owned in hopes that a second half surge starts this week.

Timothy Wright, TAM – Wright has been locked on the list the last three weeks, since he emerged as the Bucs primary option at TE. He bounced back from a down week with a 5/48/1 line against the Panthers and is poised to see even more targets going forward now that Mike Williams is done for the year.  He’s a sneaky pickup this week for anyone looking to cover a bye or play for some upside.

Digging Deeper

Scott Chandler, BUF – Chandler had his most productive day of the season, from a PPR standpoint, catching seven passes on eleven targets for 72 yards. He actually could be busy enough against a tough Chiefs defense to merit a bye-week play.

Joel Dreessen, DEN – The veteran Dreessen is on the radar with the ankle injury sustained by Julius Thomas. It looks like Thomas avoided a high-ankle sprain and could be back after the bye, but Dreessen is more than capable of picking up the slack if he is pressed into action.

Week 8 Updates

Jordan Reed, WAS – Last week’s waiver poster boy followed up his breakout Week 7 with another solid game, catching eight passes for 90 yards. The targets are going to keep on coming, and the schedule going forward should keep him firmly locked in as a TE1 the rest of the way.

Ben Watson, NO – Watson did his best to fill in for Graham between the 20’s, catching three passes for 45 yards. He’s not going to get much red-zone love and Lance Moore caps his upside as a spot starter.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Colts – The Colts defense has shown the ability to get to the quarterback and create turnovers and gets to take their shots at a rookie quarterback making his second start, potentially with a crippled running game.

Raiders – The Raiders have been a solid plug-n-play defense all year, and they get a reeling Eagles team that will have either Nick Foles, coming back from a disastrous start and a concussion, or turnover-prone Matt Barkley under center. If Barkley gets the start, then this unit is a must-start.

Titans – The Titans have had some nice weeks against lousy teams, and the Rams will be without their best weapon in Zac Stacy. Kellen Clemens is not a good NFL quarterback. Expect a solid outing for the Titans this week.

KICKERS

Adam Vinatieri, IND – Vinatieri has been on a roll of late, and coming off a bye he’s the guy to target this week for a Colts offense that could have some red-zone hiccups without Reggie Wayne in the lineup.

 

We have seen a slew of major injuries over the last few weeks and this week was no different, as Aaron Rodgers suffered a small fracture in the collarbone of his non-throwing shoulder. While it does appear as though he has avoided serious injury, there is little doubt he will miss this week’s game and could be sidelined until the fantasy playoffs arrive. It is a tough blow to not only the Packers playoff hopes, but also to fantasy owners who were counting on all the players involved in the passing game. All you can do if you are invested here is muddle through and hope that Rodgers makes it back ahead of schedule. At least there are more than a few options at quarterback to keep you going the next few weeks.

QUARTERBACKS

Nick Foles, PHI – Foles was the headliner of the Week 7 report, then promptly went out and had a terrible performance against the Cowboys, before leaving with a concussion. He was in the Digging Deeper section last week, as he was poised to get another chance at the controls of Chip Kelly’s offense. Hopefully, if you spent big on him in Week 7, you stashed him on your bench, or at the very least speculated again on the cheap last week, because Foles will be highly sought after in any leagues he is available coming off a record-tying seven touchdown day. If you just lost Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, Foles has the upside to help you survive. With trading deadlines coming up in most leagues the next two weeks, Foles is a great investment, since you can try to spin him off to fill holes elsewhere. He’s worth an aggressive bid this week in hopes that he really keeps the job this time.

Jay Cutler, CHI – The word is that Cutler is planning on playing this week against the Lions, which puts his recovery from a groin injury ahead of schedule. The Bears have a dream schedule down the stretch and Cutler was putting up great numbers prior to his injury. If he doesn’t make it back this week, it will still provide a buying opportunity for a potential fantasy playoff stud.

Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum has been a blast to watch and has breathed life into the Texans aerial attack. Andre Johnson owners were singing his praises and were thrilled watching the rookie throw three scoring strikes to his top wideout. Keenum is still raw, but he looks fearless on the field. The Texans have a favorable schedule, which includes two meetings with the Jaguars. Keenum is going to be a difference-maker in all two-quarterback leagues.

Digging Deeper

EJ Manuel, BUF – Manuel is getting closer to returning from his knee injury, possibly as soon as this week against the Steelers. I for one am interested to see how this offense will look with Manuel and Spiller healthy at the same time. He has some extra value in keeper or dynasty leagues, and should be a QB2 with upside down the stretch.

Seneca Wallace, GB – The journeyman quarterback was pressed into action for the Packers on Monday night, and promptly poured ice water on the entire passing game. I will admit, I am bitter, as I barley lost in two important leagues where I needed Jordy Nelson to deliver bigger numbers. That just wasn’t in the cards with Wallace in his first action since 2011. The offense obviously will be scaled back with Wallace in charge, but he should improve with a full week of practice reps, at least to the point of being usable in two-quarterback leagues.

Week 9 Updates

Jake Locker, TEN – Locker was my top QB last week, and he didn’t quite live up to the hype. The Titans had success on the ground, and the passing game never really got untracked all day. Locker did salvage the day with a rushing touchdown, and he still has a great schedule the rest of the way. If I grabbed him for depth, I would hang on at least for this week’s game against the Jaguars before deciding whether to cut bait.

Jason Campbell, CLE – Campbell made me look smarter than Locker did, having another solid performance in a victory against the hated Ravens. It was an emotional victory for the team, since it broke an 11-game losing streak against the former Cleveland franchise. Even more impressive was the veteran’s ability to get it done by relying on secondary targets Greg Little and Davone Bess.

RUNNING BACKS

Rashad Jennings, OAK – The last time we wrote about Jennings here, it was Week 5 and Darren McFadden was out with a hamstring injury. We were pretty lukewarm on that week’s hot RB target, and sure enough he went out and injured his own hammy in his one week as the starter. McFadden is down again, with an aggravation of the very same hamstring, a week after looking great in a two-touchdown game against the Steelers. Jennings played well in relief last week, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries along with seven receptions for an additional 74 yards. Much of his production came is garbage time, so his big day should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not often that players make two big FAAB splashes in the same year, but that’s what can happen when the guy in front of you can’t stay healthy. This late in the season, you have to take a shot on a RB who could keep the job the rest of the way.

Shonn Greene, TEN – We wrote about Greene’s eventual return in both Weeks 7 and 8, and then read the quote from Mike Munchak that he would get around 15 carries a game. Well, he got nine carries (38 yards) and even caught a pass that he took for an additional 28. Most importantly, he converted a goal-line carry early in the game. The Titans may very well ground-and-pound it going forward, and he should be a solid flex play with a soft schedule ahead.

Montee Ball, DEN – We had Ball a little further down the list last week, but since he was on bye, we will mention him again. The Broncos finally turned him loose in Week 8, and it looks like they will continue to let him split time with Knowshon Moreno as they gear up for the playoffs. He got the bulk of the goal-line work in his last game, and might finally be worthy of a flex start for those that have been holding onto him. If he’s un-owned in your league, you should rectify that situation. It’s all about upside, and if Ball ever gets this job to himself, he could dominate.

Digging Deeper

Dennis Johnson, HOU – We tabbed Ray Graham as the player to speculate on in the Texans backfield last week, but instead the Texans signed the undrafted Johnson back off the Browns practice squad and inserted him into the lineup. He got eight carries for 36 yards in relief of Ben Tate, and should continue to fill the change-of-pace role for as long as Arian Foster is sidelined.

Rashard Mendenhall, ARZ – Mendenhall should return this week from his toe injury, and it will be interesting to see how much run Bruce Arians gives him. He was averaging about 12-18 touches prior to the injury, so it’s possible he eats into Andre Ellington’s upside going forward. He has very little upside himself, and I personally wouldn’t waste a roster spot on him if I could avoid it.

Denard Robinson, JCK – The Jaguars have promoted Robinson, a former quarterback from Michigan, to the number two spot behind Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars are going to continue to play out the string, and Jones-Drew is both injury-prone and a pending free agent.  It is quite likely that the team will want to get a look at what Robinson can do as they play out the string, and if Jones-Drew gets hurt, he could be a starting RB by the time the playoffs arrive. He’s worth speculating on in deeper leagues and dynasty owners should see if they have some room at the end of their bench.

Week 9 Updates

Shane Vereen, NE /Andre Brown, NYG – I’ve been reminding you about the scheduled returns of both injured running backs for awhile now, and both are owned in all of my really competitive leagues at this point. Brown will hit the field first this week, then the more explosive Vereen follows in Week 11. Brown will get more consistent touches but Vereen is more explosive, and potentially more valuable in PPR formats.

Mike James, TAM – James rewarded those that spent a bundle to get him in Week 8 by rumbling for 158 yards on 28 carries. He also padded his numbers with a touchdown pass on a little gimmick play at the goal-line. There are rumblings that Doug Martin may make it back on the field after all, but James proved that as long as he is starting and the team can stay close, he’s more than capable of carrying the load.

James Starks, GB – We had Starks in the Digging Deeper section last week, as he returned from injury and quickly established himself as the clear handcuff/change-of-pace option behind Eddie Lacy. For the second straight week, he took advantage of Lacy taking a breather to explode for a long touchdown run; this week’s being a 32-yard gallop into the end zone. In the wake of Aaron Rodgers' injury, the Packers are going to lean heavy on the running game, which should ensure Starks 5-10 touches at a minimum, which should be enough to give him some flex-appeal in deeper leagues. He’s a must-have handcuff for Lacy owners heading into the playoffs.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Aaron Dobson, NE – We last talked about Dobson in Week 7, when we highlighted the fact that he was playing more snaps than any other Patriots WR and had the chance to finally emerge as a key contributor to fantasy teams again. Fast-forward to last weekend, and the Pats second round choice finally lived up to expectations with a 130-yard, two touchdown day, while playing almost the entire game. Dobson has the skills and size to become a force in the red-zone, and Tom Brady has to like what he saw last week. He is on bye this week, so he could be floating around in shallow leagues. He makes a nice trade target if his owner has bye-week issues this week.

Mike Brown, JCK – We had Brown in the DD section last week, based solely on what he was producing as the WR3 for the Jaguars. Now that Justin Blackmon has been suspended for the remainder of the year, he becomes a starter and has a ton more upside than he did a week ago. He should now be acquired in all leagues and will benefit from the Jaguars' weekly garbage-time parade of passing stats.

Riley Cooper, PHI – I should have mentioned Cooper last week, since his best games of the season came when Foles was under center. The last time we wrote about him, we actually were calling him a sell-high product, and obviously that is the case again this week coming off his three-touchdown explosion. Still, if you don’t like the return, there is nothing wrong with sticking with Cooper as a flex option with great upside.

Digging Deeper

Doug Baldwin, SEA – Percy Harvin has had a hiccup in his recovery, which will give Baldwin at least one more week. He had a solid game last week filling in for the injured Sidney Rice, and if the Seahawks don’t rush Harvin back, Baldwin has a chance to continue to take advantage at the increased attention.

Mario Manningham, SF – Manningham has finally been activated from the PUP list, and will slowly work his way back into the starting lineup for the 49ers. The team has been lacking a deep threat all season, and Manningham can stretch the field when healthy. He is worth a deep-league stash, but his greatest contribution might be simply helping Anquan Boldin see more space to operate.

Cole Beasley, DAL – Beasley makes another appearance in this section after a six catch, 68-yard effort against the Vikings. Miles Austin is as good as done for the season, leaving the scrappy Beasley plenty of work out of the slot going forward. That should be enough to make him a reliable flex-option in PPR leagues, albeit one without a ton of scoring upside.

Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Cotchery had his best fantasy day since, well, since forever, as he never tallied three touchdowns in a game before. And of course he likely never will again. I guess he could be worth a bench spot in some deeper formats, but there is no way you can expect more days like this.

Greg Little, CLE – Uh-oh, Little is teasing us again with his seven catch, 122-yard day against the Ravens. I watched much of the film, and have to admit he looked good on many of the plays he made, but once again showed his immaturity, drawing two silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. If other teams are going to try and take away Gordon and Cameron, then Little will get his looks, and the team has zero rushing attack. I can’t in good faith give Little a strong endorsement, but deep leaguers can get him cheap on a bye week and see if this is more than a one-game fluke.

Griff Whalen, IND – Whalen is yet another of Andrew Luck’s old college teammates from Stanford. He got his first start last week, and was the second most targeted (9) receiver last week. He only caught three passes for 32 yards, but Luck obviously knows him well, and won’t be afraid to look his way. He is an intriguing stash in PPR leagues.

Week 9 Updates

Marvin Jones, CIN – If you just look at the final numbers, it looks like Jones had a huge letdown after his four touchdown game a week ago. But closer inspection reveals that he actually had a 50-yard TD called back due to penalty and also was targeted in the red-zone on Dalton’s pick-six, on a ball thrown behind him. He also saw a big increase in his snap count from previous weeks and watched Mohamed Sanu drop two key passes, one that led to an interception. Don’t sell Jones low based on this game.

Darrius Heyward-Bey – Heyward-Bey didn’t exactly seize his opportunity to lock down the WR2 role for the Colts, and will be hard to trust as long as he is dropping passes. The lackluster showing and the fact that he got his bell rung near the end of the game means you might want to toss him back and take a different long-shot this week.

Rueben Randle, NYG – Randle really let his owners down in Week 8, and comes out of the bye needing to re-establish himself as a reliable flex option. He still has the upside in this offense, but he has to gain more consistency to regain Eli Manning and the coaching staff’s confidence.

Lance Moore, NO – Moore caught six passes for 70 yards on Sunday, but I personally was expecting more from him in a game where Marques Colston didn’t play and Darren Sproles got knocked out with a concussion. He’s bench depth at this point and time.

Nate Washington, TEN – Are you kidding me? I know that Cortland Finnegan is good, but I still thought something was coming this week. Lesson learned. When choosing your bye week WR replacement, consider the cornerback they will be facing. I think he can follow Locker and get back on track, but it will be tough for owners to trust him again this week. I’m just not sure I would jump ship just yet. Hold him for one more week if you can.

TIGHT ENDS

Timothy Wright, TAM – Wright is continuing the trend at tight end for the report this year of moving up the ranks each week until finally claiming the top spot. Wright has been one of Mike Glennon’s favorite targets since taking over for the Bucs, and he isn’t a traditional TE. He is a converted wide receiver and now has scored in two straight weeks. Go get him.

Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham hasn’t really made anyone forget about Owen Daniels since the latter was lost to injury, but the play of Case Keenum at least makes it worth considering him as a stop-gap option once again. You have to think teams will be blanketing Andre Johnson in the red-zone after his monster game, which could force Keenum to look Graham’s way again.

Digging Deeper

John Carlson, MIN – Kyle Rudolph will be sidelined for multiple weeks with a broken foot. That elevates Carlson into the starting lineup, where he will have a chance to try and shed the bust label he has carried around since the Vikings signed him to a big free-agent deal a year ago. The best thing he has going for him is that the job is his for the time being, so while we don’t expect big numbers, he at least will be on the field with an opportunity to make plays. That will be enough to get him on someone’s roster in deeper leagues.

Andrew Quarless, GB – Quarless will benefit from the Rodgers injury, since Seneca Wallace will use him as an outlet and chain-mover much more frequently than Rodgers ever would have. Not much value, but some value in two-TE formats while Rodgers is out.

Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta could return to the Ravens by the end of the month, and it can’t come soon enough for the Ravens, who have sorely missed an option to work the middle of the field. If you have been reading the column all year, you know that we are big advocates of stashing injured players, particularly if you have the need and the roster space. Pitta has been the premier stash candidate at the TE position since the season began. All we have been waiting for is for his return date to come into view. It’s always cheaper to grab injured players a couple weeks ahead of time, so if you are just getting by at TE, grab and stash Pitta now and hope he’s ready to take over by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around.

Week 9 Updates

Coby Fleener, IND – I’ve been a big Fleener supporter all year, and like the rest of you I keep waiting for the real breakout performance. He had a solid game last week, but he still dropped a key pass and kind of disappeared late in the game. Still, he looks like the second best option in the passing game behind T.Y. Hilton, so my advice is to stay the course with Fleener, even if it means he stays on the bench for perhaps another week.

Joel Dreessen, DEN – We wanted to mention Dreessen again this week, since the Broncos were on bye, and it is still possible Julius Thomas isn’t ready to play this week. If that happens, the veteran Dreessen could be a sneaky plug-and-play option this week.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Titans – Zac Stacy played last week, and took a little steam out of my prediction for the Titans. But, this week they get the Jaguars, which makes them a must-start in all leagues. If you are playing the streaming game, here’s this week’s ticket.

Cardinals – The Cards are coming out of a bye, playing at home and facing a young, gun-slinging QB. They are an opportunistic and aggressive unit and should be well rested and ready to roll. Oh yeah, they get the Jags in Week 11, so they could provide a nice multi-week option.

Giants – The Giants are also at home coming out of their bye, and they will catch a banged-up Raiders squad that has been turning the ball over a ton lately.

KICKERS

Shaun Suisham, PIT – The Bills give up a ton of points every week and Suisham is a bargain basement bye week replacement option at home this week.

Last week was an absolutely brutal one for injuries, headlined by the potential season-ending injuries to significant players at all four skills positions. Doug Martin, Reggie Wayne, Sam Bradford and Jermichael Finley could all be done for the season, and those injuries coupled with six teams on bye this week will make for one of the more interesting and action-packed weeks of bidding we have seen all year. It will definitely not be a week to be shy with your bids if you want to land a difference-maker or try to fill a newly created void in your lineup.

Bye Weeks: Ravens, Bears, Colts, Chargers, Titans, Texans

QUARTERBACKS

Andy Dalton, CIN – I kind of buried Dalton in Week 5 coming off his dismal performance against the Browns. After two straight weeks putting up big numbers, he’s worked his way back up the QB2 ladder and can once again be trusted to put up numbers when the matchup is right. After this week’s game against the Jets, he has plenty of nice games on the schedule, including a juicy matchup against the Vikings in Week 16.

Jake Locker, TEN - Locker wasn’t expected to be back on the field prior to the team’s Week 8 bye, and it speaks to his toughness that he made it back from his hip injury in three weeks. It is a godsend for the fantasy prospects of the entire offense, as the Titans have a dream schedule the rest of the way, culminating in a Week 16 matchup against the Jaguars. He is a good target for those in deeper leagues who want to bolster their QB depth heading into the second half.

Digging Deeper

Josh McCown, CHIJay Cutler tore his groin and will miss at least four weeks, which means McCown has the gig for at least a month. The Bears have a bye, and then go to Lambeau to face the Packers before returning home to face the Lions and Ravens. McCown should put up some numbers thanks to his supporting cast, but those in shallow leagues don’t need to take the chance.

Case Keenum, HOU – I mentioned T.J. Yates last week and then the Texans surprise by handing the keys of the offense to the undrafted Keenum, who stepped in and gave the team a spark against a very tough Kansas City defense. He will get another start after the bye, and has a better than 50% chance to relegate Matt Schaub to the bench for the rest of the season. That’s enough to pick him up in all two-quarterback leagues.

Jason Campbell, CLEBrandon Weeden’s weekly play is dragging down the entire Browns team, and amplifying the magnitude of the Brian Hoyer injury on the season. The team may opt to turn to the veteran Campbell this week. It doesn’t really matter, since you aren’t starting either of these guys this week against Kansas City.

Kellen Clemens, STL – Sam Bradford’s knee injury makes Clemens the starter, so two-quarterback leaguers can stake a claim. It’s a big downgrade for the Rams' entire offense.

Week 7 Update

Nick Foles, PHI – I will admit, I gambled on Foles in three leagues last week, and luckily it only cost me more than some FAAB in one of them. There is no way to sugarcoat things, he stunk up the joint before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Opportunity can be fleeting, and Michael Vick won’t be losing this job just yet. We likely haven’t heard the last of Foles this year, so those in really deep leagues can carry him if they like, primarily as Vick insurance.

Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Tannehill came through for anyone who plugged him in last week as the Bills defense provided the impetus needed for him to post the first three TD game of his young career. The funny thing is, overall, it was one of his more shaky performances of the year. The schedule gets tougher, so if he was a one-week fling, don’t feel bad for not calling him back this week. That said, with six teams on bye, he has value this week for anyone looking to cover for Andrew Luck or Philip Rivers.

Mike Glennon, TB –Glennon fared pretty well against the Falcons but gets the Panthers and the Seahawks the next two weeks. We’ll check back in Week 10.

Josh Freeman, MIN – We weren’t expecting much out of Freeman in his first game back, but we didn’t expect him to be as bad as he looked on Monday night. It was so bad that Vikings fans actually would have been happy to see Christian Ponder take over at halftime. It will get better, but Freeman can’t be trusted until he gets up to speed again.

RUNNING BACKS

Mike James, TAM – Doug Martin’s shoulder injury is potentially season-ending, although the team is still holding out hope that isn’t the case. Mike James becomes the feature back for as long as Martin is sidelined, and that will make him a highly sought player on waivers this week. James was a sixth round choice out of Miami in this year’s draft, and has a nice combination of size (5’10”, 225) and speed, and can catch passes if asked to. He’s worth a pickup for sure, but it’s hard to see him faring any better than Martin was previously. Not sure he’s worth spending big on unless you really need the help.

Chris Ivory, NYJ – I had Ivory buried a little too low on last week’s list, and admit that I was as shocked as everyone else that Rex Ryan decided to hand him the ball 34 times last week against the Patriots. It was obvious he was going to get more work in the wake of Mike Goodson’s season-ending injury, and his style of running fit the game plan. While it is nice to know that he is back in the backfield mix, Bilal Powell should normally get more work. But Ivory is going to likely get the goal-line touches going forward and should have a weekly floor to make him a comfortable flex play.

Roy Helu, WAS – We have been talking about Helu often here as one of the few must-have handcuffs who was carving out some stand-alone PPR value. Last week he scored three touchdowns, so his ownership is due for an appropriate spike. Alfred Morris owners shouldn’t panic, but Helu has now entered flex territory as long as he remains a key part of the team’s no-huddle package.

Andre Brown, NYG – Brown is on track to rejoin the team as soon as he is eligible in Week 10. David Wilson is on the shelf indefinitely and Brandon Jacobs isn’t the answer. Brown should be the feature back and showed a real nose for the end-zone last year. He’s likely stashed in deeper leagues, but he should be scooped up anywhere he is still available.

Shane Vereen, NE – Vereen’s situation is very similar to Brown’s, as he should be back from his wrist injury when he is eligible in Week 11. With the bye weeks hitting us in force, Vereen and Brown may get dropped by an owner who needs the roster spot. I landed Vereen last week in a league for nothing.  I like Brown a little more in standard formats, as Vereen will definitely share duties with Stevan Ridley. I will give Vereen the edge in PPR, since his prowess as a receiver gives him tremendous upside there.

Digging Deeper

Peyton Hillis, NYG - Hillis didn’t look very good on Monday night, but he did grind out some tough yards and found the endzone, so if Brandon Jacobs doesn’t make it back from his hamstring injury, Hillis could get one more week of carries against the Eagles.

Donald Brown, IND – The fact that Donald Brown got as many touches as Trent Richardson last week really shows how badly the latter has been since the Colts traded for him. The team doesn’t want to use Brown this much, but they have no choice with T-Rich struggling so much.

Daniel Thomas, MIA – The continued struggles of Lamar Miller finally opened the door for Thomas to claim a split of the workload, and since Thomas actually technically drew the start, it looks like the team will continue to split carries for the time being. Thomas now has some flex appeal in standard formats, since he could hog any goal-line looks that materialize.

Ray Graham, HOU – Graham is a name for really deep leagues to monitor at this point in the wake of the Texans releasing rookie Cierre Wood for allegedly smoking marijuana in the team hotel. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are both banged up, so Graham could find himself active at some point in the near future.

Fozzy Whittaker, CLE – I had to include the newest addition to the Browns backfield on his entertaining handle alone, but the fact is he stole much of Chris Ogbonnaya’s workload in his first game, and could usurp the third-down duties for the Browns.

Week 7 Update

Joseph Randle, DAL – Randle’s day would have looked a lot better if Phillip Tanner hadn’t vultured a touchdown, and with DeMarco Murray likely sidelined for at least another week, last week’s waiver darling should continue to hold down the fort.

Andre Ellington, ARI – Only Bruce Arians knows why Ellington only got three touches last week. It of course came in a week where owners might have finally gotten the courage to start him and clouds the picture heading into this week. I was hoping to deal him in a league I own him in, and now those plans are predictably on hold.

Shonn Greene, TEN – Greene finally made it back to the field last week, but saw little action in his first week back. He should start to see some goal-line work again after a bye this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jarrett Boykin, GB – Boykin was third on the list last week behind Keenan Allen and Harry Douglas, but with the other two already owned in many leagues, he was the top option for many last week. Those who speculated on him had to be pleased with his 8/103/1 line, and he will continue to see significant targets with Jermichael Finley joining Cobb on the sidelines. He should be grabbed in even shallower formats now, as he’ll still see plenty of action even after James Jones returns to the lineup.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, IND – Heyward-Bey had his best game of the season by far, thanks to the loss of Reggie Wayne. The enigmatic Bey is not suddenly going to get new hands, but his snaps and targets are due for a major bump, unless the Colts swing another trade this week. The extra volume alone should be enough to make him start-worthy again.

Kendall Wright, TEN – I haven’t given Wright too much ink this year, but he has been a very steady PPR option and is coming off his best game of the year. His nine catches were a season-high and he was clearly Locker’s favorite target all day. He’ll benefit from the same easy schedule and could finally be on the verge of really breaking out with Locker back under center. His lack of touchdowns is all that is holding him back from every-week status.

Digging Deeper

DeAndre Hopkins, HOU – The move to Case Keenum was a blessing for Hopkins, who found the endzone for the first time since his breakout Week 2. He may have been jettisoned by an impatient owner, and if so he’s worth adding to the back of your bench.

LaVon Brazill, IND – Brazill gets his first mention of the year, since he will now be pressed into action with Reggie Wayne lost for the year. The Colts lack of a running game has put the onus on Andrew Luck and the passing game to lead the way, so the speedy Brazill should get a chance to earn a larger role. If the Colts don’t trade for a WR, then he will be next in line if Heyward-Bey struggles or more injuries strike.

Cole Beasley, DAL – Beasley is a fun player to root for, and has taken advantage of Miles Austin’s injuries to show what he can do out of the slot. He has some PPR value as long as he’s seeing consistent playing time.

Kenny Britt, TEN – I will throw Britt’s name out there, because although this has been a lost season so far, there is a very real chance he gets traded to a contender this week, and if that happens he’ll be worth owning again. If not, throw him back next week.

Week 7 Update

Harry Douglas, ATL – Douglas got the obligatory write-ups the last two weeks, since it was clear he was going to be an everyday player thanks to Julio Jones’ injury. While I did predict a ton of targets coming his way, I was conservative in my enthusiasm. Well, after catching all seven of the passes thrown his way last week to the tune of 149 yards and a touchdown, I will tip my cap to Douglas and since I own Matt Ryan in a few leagues, hope that he can continue to catch what’s thrown his way.

Marvin Jones, CIN – Another week, another touchdown for Jones as he continues to create some space with Mohamed Sanu as the WR2 for the Bengals.

Riley Cooper, PHI – Cooper had another decent week, but he was doing nothing when Michael Vick was the quarterback, and with the former back you might want to try to trade Cooper before he reverts back to a pumpkin by Halloween.

Brandon LaFell, CAR – We warned that LaFell wasn’t as good as his Week 6 performance indicated and he predictably fell back to earth last week. If you chased those stats last week, feel free to speculate somewhere else.

TIGHT ENDS

Jordan Reed, WAS – We have written Jordan Reed up every week since Week 4, culminating in last week’s edition where he was again our top ranked TE, and we stated that all that was missing was the breakout game to get him picked up everywhere. When you write a column like this, the goal is to offer interesting, sound and hopefully prescient advice, and it is gratifying when you nail one. It also illustrates the benefit you can get from not being afraid to churn your bench for players who could be on the verge of something, because when you hit on a player like Reed, and get the bonus of grabbing him a week or two early, it can really make your season. I hope you found room for him prior to his breakout, because after his nine catch, 134-yard, one touchdown day he will be one of the most highly sought players this week. Unfortunately, you will have to break the bank to get him now. If you have been struggling at the position, Reed should still be worth the significant investment as he looks like an ascendant TE1 going forward.

Coby Fleener, IND – In the leagues where I grabbed Reed last week, I cut Fleener to do it both times, trading one exciting youngster for another. His lack of production the previous two weeks likely had many owners cutting bait. Fleener will see even more targets now that Wayne is done, and once again looks poised to make a run at being an every-week option.

Digging Deeper

Ben Watson, NO – Watson caught three passes for 61 yards last week, and if Jimmy Graham can’t play this week, then the cagy veteran will have appeal as a one-week plug-in.

Rob Housler, ARZ – Housler has been getting more touches lately and at least is back on the TE2 radar. If he can maintain his current usage, then he is a reasonable option to get you through a bye week.

Brandon Bostick, GB – Most people will zero in on Andrew Quarless as the player to take over for Finley in Green Bay. But Bostick is the guy for deep-leaguers to consider, since he is more suited to emerge as the pass-catching TE.

Week 7 Update

Tim Wright, TB – Wright fizzled a bit last week with only two catches for 16 yards, but his role as the top TE for the Bucs hasn’t changed.

KICKERS

Kai Forbath, WAS – The Washington offense is coming back to life and their lack of a defense is creating high scoring affairs and as such, plenty of opportunities for their kicker. This week’s game against the Broncos at altitude gives Forbath some extra allure.

Phil Dawson, SF – Dawson’s season hasn’t been what many had hoped for, but he’s been busier of late and Jacksonville is a good time to plug him back in.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Carolina Panthers – The Panthers defense continues to produce and as such they will find their way into even more lineups this week. Tampa Bay just lost Doug Martin and will try to regroup by Thursday. Carolina could shut them down on a short week.

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