It was a tough week for quarterbacks in the NFL last week as Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith all got knocked out of their games, thrusting their backups into action. As a result, many owners will be sent scrambling for replacements this week and since we are dealing with our last bye week of the season, that means those of you in deep leagues may have no choice but to turn to some risky options this week.
Big Ben’s injury looked to be the most serious, as he badly sprained his throwing shoulder. The speculation is he could miss as much as four weeks and possibly longer. It’s a pretty big blow to the entire offense and I’d be worried if I was counting on Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown in the coming weeks.
Vick got his bell rung pretty well on Sunday, and apparently also sustained an eye injury which resulted in some vision loss. Andy Reid has been looking for an excuse to bench Vick, and now he doesn’t need one. If you own Vick you have to prepare for the worst case scenario that his time running this offense is up.
Cutler and Smith both sustained concussions, so their owners may want to make contingency plans in case they can’t make it back this week.
Bye Weeks – Seahawks, Giants, Vikings, Titans,
Nick Foles, PHI – Foles will be one of the most added players this week in leagues of all sizes. He will be behind center this week against the shaky Redskins pass defense, and that makes him an attractive spot-starter for at least Week 11. Having a weekend house in the Poconos means I catch a lot of Eagles games on the tube and after seeing Foles perform in relief on Sunday, I came away with mixed feelings. At times he showed decent presence in the pocket and an ability to make some plays. But he also was harassed constantly and that led to some errant throws and turnovers. Rumors are starting to swirl that Vick could be “rested” the rest of the year, which would give Foles even more value beyond this week. It’s undeniable that the weapons are there on offense and the schedule isn’t that bad either. I’m glad that I don’t have to take the shot on Foles, but it’s possible you won’t have that same luxury. My advice if you go with Foles is to consider pairing him with the next guy on this list.
Jake Locker, TEN – Normally I might put a guy I profiled last week in the update section, especially when he isn’t even playing this week. But the carnage at the QB position over the weekend convinced me to put him up top once again. The Titans got Locker back under center earlier than expected to face the Dolphins, but the rust was evident throughout. The bye week comes just in time to get him sharp for a Week 12 meeting with Jacksonville. If you need a QB this week, Locker obviously isn’t your guy, but if you are looking for a QB with upside to replace an injured starter, I like Locker’s upside the rest of the way more than just about anyone who will likely be available in your league.
Sam Bradford, STL– Bradford had his best day since Week 6 against Miami, and it wasn’t a coincidence that Danny Amendola was a big part of making that happen. While Bradford is worth consideration for the QB needy, the schedule (NYJ, @Ari, SF) the next three week’s makes him a shaky starting option over that span. Think of him as what he is, a capable backup with some intriguing matchup during the fantasy playoffs.
Russell Wilson, SEA – I wrote Wilson up last week, and my opinion hasn’t changed that much since then. He’s on bye this week then gets two tough road games, where he has had less success so far this season. You may remember I was very high on Wilson coming into the season, and I think he has shown more than enough to be owned as a high-upside backup in all leagues at this point.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – Personally, I wouldn’t want to count on Kaepernick this week for a couple of reasons. The first is that the Niners play on Monday night and Alex Smith still has an outside chance to start. Second, the Chicago Bears defense means even if he gets the start, he could be in for a long day. If your choices are limited to the names in this section, his running ability gives him a higher floor and means he won’t be a total bust. I guess there is a chance Smith could miss more time, which makes him a name worth considering in deep leagues.
Jason Campbell, CHI – Cutler also has an extra day to try and get clearance to play this week, but if he can’t go, Campbell will get the start. The matchup isn’t great, and I wouldn’t count on big numbers, but the Chicago defense can shorten the field and provide some scoring opportunities for the strong-armed backup. I don’t normally talk about two-QB leagues, but that’s the kind of league where I might take a shot on the former Redskin and Raider this week.
Byron Leftwich, PIT – Big Ben’s injury is a big blow to the Steelers offense, and Leftwich will make his first start since 2009 against the Ravens. You probably read about his elongated delivery countless times over the past couple of days, and it seems likely that the Steelers will focus more on running the ball more making Leftwich little more than a game manager. He’s only an option for the truly desperate.
Week 10 Updates:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF – The former Harvard grad got back on track against the Patriots, and actually has a pretty favorable schedule for the rest of the year. I noted last week that he is likely only floating around in shallower formats, but if you lost Vick or Roethlisberger over the weekend, Fitzpatrick could provide more than enough to carry you the rest of the way.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Tannehill had been showing improvement before imploding with 3 INT’s against the Titans on Sunday. Normally a matchup with the Bills would have me interested, but with only 5 TD’s on the year, I just can’t get too excited any more.
Marcel Reece, OAK – Reece finally gets top billing this week after he emerged as the clear winner of last week’s battle for touches with Taiwan Jones. I will keep following up on Greg Morgan’s pimping of Reece, and now that the situation is clearer, if you took our advice and grabbed Reece, you should feel very confident about rolling with him this week against the Saints. His pass catching ability and the fact that the Raiders will no doubt be in catch-up mode early means he’ll get plenty of touches on Sunday. He needs to be owned in all leagues now since we still don’t know how long Darren McFadden will be sidelined.
James Starks, GB – I mentioned Starks taking control of the committee in Green Bay last week, and the coaching staff has indicated that his role will increase this week after the team’s bye. That makes him the back to own in Green Bay for the time being. Cedric Benson is eligible to return in Week 14, and Alex Green is still there to steal touches as well. We’ll undoubtedly revisit this backfield as the fantasy playoffs approach.
Daniel Thomas, MIA – Thomas got the bulk of the carries for the Dolphins last week after starter Reggie Bush got benched after an early fumble. While Thomas is not a guy I think you can bank on, this week’s tilt against the Bills does offer an opportunity for him to put up some useful stats. Even if Bush gets out of the doghouse, Thomas is the clear goal-line back here and that makes him a viable option in your flex spot this week.
Chris Wells, ARZ – Wells should be ready to return to the field in Week 12, and will be given every opportunity to reclaim his starting job. He’s worth adding in most leagues, but the likelihood that he’ll have a lot to prove before you’ll want to put him in your lineup.
Jacquizz Rodgers, ATL – Had him here last week, and here he is again. Like everyone else, I saw Michael Turner get stuffed multiple times at the goal-line last week, and I understand why everyone is saying the Falcons will finally give Rodgers more work as a result. I myself have said the same thing at least twice in this column at different points this season already. At this point, I will only believe it when I see it. If you have the roster spot to play with and he’s available, by all means take the shot if you like, ideally in PPR formats.
Andre Brown and David Wilson, NYG – The Giants are on bye this week, and Ahmad Bradshaw got banged up last week and required X-rays for a neck injury. Brown’s ownership numbers have dropped, so take advantage and grab him now. He’s already getting the goal-line work, and proved earlier this year he can handle a full workload. Wilson is more of a long-shot for deep leaguers, so view him as a lottery ticket that could pay off before the season’s through.
Ben Tate, HOU – Tate is getting closer to returning, and it could be worth checking to see if the Arian Foster owner in your league dropped him while he’s been out, in a bye-week roster crunch. I just checked one of my leagues and lo and behold there he was.
Week 10 Updates:
Chris Ivory and Mark Ingram, NO – Both had success last week as Pierre Thomas faded into the background. Ingram got the most carries he’s had since Week 2 and Ivory showed his explosiveness on his 56-yard TD run.
Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, NE – Vereen gets a little boost in value this week with news that Brandon Bolden was suspended for 4 games. Vereen is now locked in as Stevan Ridley’s backup. Woodhead rewarded owners who plugged him in last week with a nice 2 TD effort.
Vick Ballard, IND – I was wrong about Donald Brown not being ready for last week’s game. As a result, Ballard slipped back into a complimentary role where he will likely remain unless injuries strike yet again.
Danario Alexander, SD – I think I mentioned Alexander in this column two weeks ago before most people took notice, and I told you again last week. Well he showed what he can do as long as he stays healthy turning a quick slant into an 80 yard touchdown gallop as part of a monster day. He’s got tough task this week in Denver, but he has a chance to keep filling the Vincent Jackson role in this offense the rest of the year. Hopefully you grabbed him on the cheap, because he’ll cost a boatload this week.
Cecil Shorts, JCK – Shorts is another guy that I find I need to keep mentioning due to his low ownership totals in shallower leagues. I don’t know what else he or I have to do to get you to pick him up. Like Alexander, this week’s game against the Texans might be a time to park him on the bench, but he needs to be on a roster at this point.
Donnie Avery, IND – Man, he just won’t go away. He’s not scoring touchdowns, but he’s back to being a viable flex play since he’s starting opposite Reggie Wayne and the Colts get the Patriots, Bills, Lions and Titans the next four weeks.
Donald Jones, BUF – Jones has been pretty hit or miss this year, but has looked pretty good the last two weeks, posting back-to-back six catch games. If he finds the end-zone like he did last week that will just improve his flex-worthy stats.
Laurent Robinson, JCK – Robinson has come back to life since returning for his concussion. He is still more of a possession threat, but 15 catches in two weeks puts him back on the radar as an option in PPR leagues.
Pierre Garcon, WAS – Garcon will apparently test out his injured foot this week to see if he can make it back on the field this year. It’s worth checking if he’s available in your league and if he is take a chance he can make it back. I think it’s more likely he’ll get shut down for the season, but I’d still grab him if I could to see what happens this week.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN – Feeling a little vindicated by my sticking with my thoughts on Sanu as he finally found the end-zone last week. He’s still really just a deep league stash at this point, but this week’s game at Kansas City could be another step forward.
Alshon Jeffery, CHI – Jeffery is getting closer to returning for the Bears, but any excitement I might have had about that is quashed by Jason Campbell at QB.
Week 10 Updates:
T.Y. Hilton, IND – Well, if you are going to crow about the one’s you get right, you’ve got to admit when you miss the bus. All signs pointed to Donnie Avery being less than 100%, thus opening the door for Hilton to shine. Sadly, he only got one target, zero catches and needed two rushing attempts to salvage something from the day. I like the talent, but as the third wheel, you just can’t bank on production.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK – We were right about Carson Palmer’s second favorite WR getting back up to speed. Last week was the time to make a move on him. If you did, expect another good game against the Saints.
Emmanuel Sanders, PIT – Sanders will get another start in place of Antonio Brown. Sadly, Byron Leftwich will be throwing the ball, so don’t get too excited.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN – Rudolph had fallen out of favor with a couple of zero catch weeks recently. With Percy Harvin sidelined, Rudolph finally got some love from Christian Ponder again. Hopefully this will get him going again following this week’s bye.
Dwayne Allen, IND – Colby Fleener should be out at least another week or two, so Allen will have the opportunity to take advantage of good matchups against the Patriots and the Bills the next two weeks.
Rob Housler, ARZ – The pickings will be slim in deeper leagues, so Housler once again could be the best option available for those looking for a one-week fill-in.
Week 10 Update:
Brandon Myers, OAK – Myers didn’t find the end-zone this past week, but he delivered another solid performance.
Bengals – The Bengals are the winner of this week’s Kansas City sweepstakes. They are also coming off an emotional victory against the Giants and will be fired up for this one. If Brady Quinn is behind center, I like them even more.
Rams – The Jets are just terrible. They can’t score and they turn the ball over. I like the Rams at home to take advantage accordingly.
Redskins – I feel like a broken record kind of, but I liked the Cowboys against the Eagles last week and they paid off big-time. This week we’ve got a rookie QB and an even more demoralized team. The Redskins defense has been pretty lousy, so this is a slightly risky play.
Kai Forbath, Was – Forbath has been perfect since taking over the kicking duties and should get plenty of chances against the Eagles this week.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpcarey
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.
There were three significant injuries last week, the biggest of course being the foot injury suffered by Maurice Jones-Drew. As he was carted off the field, it sure looked like he was done for the season, but now it appears Jones-Drew may have avoided the dreaded Lisfranc injury. Regardless, he’s going to be out of action for several weeks thrusting his backup, Rashad Jennings into the spotlight. Jennings will clearly be the hottest property in any leagues where the Jones-Drew owner didn’t already have him locked up as a handcuff. The other two big injuries were WR Nate Burleson’s broken leg and TE Fred Davis’ torn Achilles tendon. The Burleson injury creates an opportunity for two exciting WR targets we recommend for this week. If you were relying on Davis as part of your TE rotation, don’t fret, there are options that should help you stem the tide from your loss.
Week 8 Byes: Ravens, Bills, Bengals Texans
Josh Freeman, TB – Freeman was in this same spot last week and he went out and delivered another dominant start against the shaky Saints pass defense. Back-to-back three touchdown days will get you noticed, and he’ll surely be scooped up in whatever leagues he’s still not owned in. He gets a tough road game against the Vikings on Thursday night, but the Bucs defense means he’ll have to air it out again this week. After this week, the schedule gets even better with games against the Raiders, Chargers and Panthers upcoming.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – The Browns rookie returns to the report this week as well after another solid effort in a loss to the Colts. He’s now tossed two touchdown strikes in three straight weeks. The Browns return home to face a Chargers team that has been torched through the air recently. In Week 9, the reeling Baltimore Ravens will bring their shell-shocked defense to Cleveland. Throw in the rumors that Trent Richardson might get shut down through the team’s Week 10 BYE, and you have a scenario that will see Weeden throwing the ball a lot the next two weeks. The playoff schedule isn’t too shabby either, meaning he’ll make a quality backup in those critical weeks as well.
Sam Bradford, STL – Russell Wilson and Mark Sanchez showed what a game against the Patriots pass defense can do for a quarterback’s stat-line. The matchup alone makes Bradford a viable one week fill-in if you have a need. With a BYE in Week 9, followed by an ugly slate of games after that, just be prepared to send him back to the wire next week.
Carson Palmer, OAK – It’s possible Palmer was cut loose recently in shallower leagues. If so, now is a good time to scoop him up. His wideouts are finally healthy and the Raiders have one of the easier schedules in the league for the remainder of the year. This week’s game against the Chiefs could be the beginning of a nice run for this offense.
Brady Quinn, KC – Only Romeo Crennel knows why he thinks the Chiefs are better off with Quinn behind center than Matt Cassel. That said, he’s got the job and a decent matchup against the Raiders provides a chance at a modicum of success this week if you are truly desperate.
Jake Locker, TEN – Matt Hasselbeck will get at least another start this week, but Locker should get his job back once his shoulder is fully healed. The second-year quarterback’s big arm is the last piece of the puzzle for this offense to really get going.
Week 7 Update:
Mark Sanchez, NYJ – Sanchez came through with a solid day against the Pats last week, but the upcoming schedule means there are likely better options available going forward.
Rashad Jennings, JCK- Jennings will be the hottest name on waivers this week as the foot injury to Jones-Drew will thrust him into the starter’s role, potentially for the rest of the year. Jennings is a good receiver, so he can put up numbers even against teams that can stop the run, like the Packers this week. The news on MJD got a little better today, but foot injuries can be very tricky as Darren McFadden proved last year. He obviously needs to be owned in all leagues, because he has the talent to perform at a high level in this offense, and will have a role even if Jones-Drew makes it back sooner than expected.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Not mentioning Dwyer last week was a mistake, but it wasn’t so clear that both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman would be sidelined when we went to press. He showed the talent that landed him on my Week 1 report, rumbling for 122 yards on 17 carries. He is in line to get another start this week against the Redskins and at the very least should remain in the mix even once his injured teammates return. Just don’t get fooled into thinking he’s a long-term solution. The best option if you own him might be to sell him this week before the bottom drops out on his value.
Vick Ballard, IND – Donald Brown is unlikely to play again in Week 8, giving Ballard another start against the gift that is the Tennessee defense. Hopefully Andrew Luck won’t vulture all the goal-line carries this week, allowing Ballard to properly reward his fantasy owners this week.
Montario Hardesty, CLE – It’s sounding more and more like the Browns will shut down Trent Richardson, possibly through the team’s Week 10 BYE. I recommended Richardson owners grab him last week, but just realize the big drop-off in talent here is real. He’ll also give way to Chris Ogbonnaya on passing downs, making him more of a flex play this week.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, ARI – Stephens-Howling took advantage of William Powell’s benching to produce the best game for a Cardinals running back this year. He tallied 149 total yards and a touchdown, which was a boon to anyone who plugged him in as a desperation play last week. His big day will get him a lot of attention this week, but be careful with your bidding here. The Cards face the 49ers this week, which doesn’t bode well for a repeat performance from the 5’7” scat-back. Powell likely will get another chance to at least split carries and Beanie Wells will be eligible to return in Week 12.
Andre Brown, NYG – Brown returned from his concussion and immediately regained his role as the No. 2 back for the Giants. He scored from one yard out, and even got a little work in on key passing downs. Ahmad Bradshaw is still the main dog, but Brown is once again the handcuff of choice here.
Phillip Tanner, DAL – I mentioned Tanner last week as a deep-league grab since Felix Jones couldn’t be trusted to stay healthy. Sure enough Jones got banged up last week, and Tanner saw significant action as a result. Even if Jones starts, Tanner should get enough touches to make him a potential flex option for desperate owners.
Peyton Hillis, KC – Hillis should return to the field against the Raiders this week, and he’ll look to get his disappointing season back on track. I personally would let someone else take the risk he becomes relevant again, but his price will never be lower than it is right now.
Daniel Thomas, MIA – Thomas should be back in action this week as Reggie Bush’s backup. He has been getting goal-line carries when in the lineup, so he has a decent chance to punch one in this week against the Jets.
Week 7 Update:
Shane Vereen, NE – Vereen had his best game of the year, filling in for the injured Brandon Bolden as Stevan Ridley’s primary backup. He’s worth hanging onto in deep leagues to see how things shake out in this crowded backfield over the next few weeks.
Jeremy Kerley, NYJ – I have mentioned Kerley a couple times already this year, but after his gutsy, 120 yard game versus the Patriots, it’s time to give him another plug. The return of Dustin Keller helps this entire offense, but really seemed to free up Kerley, especially when they used him out of the slot.
Titus Young, DET – The second year player has been a borderline bust for anyone who drafted him expecting a breakout year. The season ending injury to Nate Burleson opens the door for Young to finally deliver on the pre-season hype. The uptick in playing time moves him back into WR3 territory.
Ryan Broyles, DET – Broyles was a sleeper pick of mine back in Week 1, and the injury to Burleson means he’ll move into the slot for the Lions. Broyles is likely the best option for deep leagues this week, and his game really suits PPR leagues in particular. He’ll likely also fly under the radar this week in shallower formats, making him a potentially cheaper option this week.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK- Heyward-Bey finally looked healthy last week, and as I mentioned above in my Carson Palmer blurb, things are looking up for the Raider offense meaning it’s time for people to pick up the former No. 1 pick again.
Donnie Avery, IND – Honestly, I have just about lost faith that Avery is going to finally take advantage of all the attention Reggie Wayne is getting these days. However, the Titans give me some hope for at least one more week.
Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss, WAS – Pierre Garcon isn’t coming back anytime soon and the Skins just lost Fred Davis as well. That thrusts both players back into the spotlight. Hankerson will continue to see the most action, but Moss will get more looks after his two TD day.
Travis Benjamin, CLE – This is really just a hunch, but I can see the speedy Benjamin being a bigger part of the action for the Browns this week.
Week 7 Update:
Josh Gordon, CLE – He is going to keep getting chances to be the Browns version of Mike Wallace. That’s 4 touchdowns in three weeks, and it should have been 5 if not for a costly drop. He’s here to stay folks.
Chris Givens, STL – Like Gordon, Givens was mentioned the two weeks prior to this. After another solid performance, he makes a great start this week against the Patriots.
Martellus Bennett, NYG – Bennett ownership numbers dropped significantly in shallow leagues after injuring his knee against the Browns in Week 5. He had a big game against the Redskins and once again deserves to be added in leagues where he was dropped.
Dustin Keller, NYJ – Keller finally got back on the field and provided Mark Sanchez with the security blanket he’s been missing all season.
Joel Dreessen, DEN – Dreesen is a matchup play and the Saints provide a great opportunity for Dreesen to find the endzone this week making him a worthy plug-and-play option for deep leaguers.
Anthony Fasano, MIA – Like Dreesen, Fasano has a good matchup against a Jets defense that is vulnerable to the TE.
Chris Cooley and Logan Paulsen, WAS – Fred Davis’ season ending injury is a big blow for the Redskins. They signed Cooley off the scrapheap and he’ll split time with Paulson going forward. Deep leaguers can take a shot on Cooley regaining some of his pre-injury success.
Detroit – The Lions are coming off their best defensive effort of the year, and get to face Russell Wilson and the Seahawks at home. Wilson struggles on the road, so I like the Lions chances of creating some turnovers and sacks this week.
Oakland – Two words. Brady Quinn.
Matt Prater, DEN – He’s at home, which always adds a few extra yards to his range and he’s facing the Saints, which ensures a combined score that will approach 60 points.
Shaun Suisham, PIT – Suisham has nailed three FG’s in each of his last three games. The Redskins offer another chance for a solid performance.
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Blaine Gabbert, JCK – Gabbert has had an up-and-down year, but is coming off his best game of the year against the Packers and has a pretty decent schedule the next two weeks (DET, IND) which makes him a viable spot starter in many leagues. I’d rather own Gabbert than Mark Sanchez or Matt Cassel
Alex Smith, SF – Smith rebounded with a three TD performance against the Cardinals on Sunday after two lackluster weeks likely landed him on some waiver wires. He’s on Bye this week, so he might get dropped in some others. He still rates as a high quality QB2 in all leagues
Russell Wilson, SEA – Wilson had a solid game against the Lions and continues to show improvement as a starter. I don’t love the match-ups the next two weeks, but he could have value as a fill-in the next two weeks.
Matt Moore, MIA – Ryan Tannehill is dealing with bruises to him knee and thigh, so his status for this week’s game is still somewhat in doubt. Matt Moore managed the team well in relief, and if he gets the start in Indianapolis, he will be of use in deep leagues or those that start two QB’s.
Nick Foles, PHI – As of today, Foles has not been told that he will be replacing Michael Vick as the starter in Philly. Vick owners may want to add Foles in case Reid makes the switch and they have the space.
Week 8 Updates:
Josh Freeman, TB – Freeman delivered for the third week in a row and has a great chance to keep rolling the next three weeks.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Weeden and the entire Browns passing game was a victim of the elements on Sunday. The bright spot is he didn’t turn the ball over and continues to make better decisions with the ball. He’s not really much more than a QB stash at this point.
Sam Bradford, STL – Bradford came up short against the Patriots in London and can be safely dropped heading into this week’s Bye. The schedule doesn’t offer any upside down the stretch.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Dwyer had his second 100 yard game in two weeks against the Skins, but unfortunately injured his quad in the game. Keep an eye on the injury reports, but with the injured backs all around him on the roster, he needs to be owned because it seems clear he will be a part of whatever rotation the Steelers will use going forward.
Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead, STL – There is big speculation that Steven Jackson will be traded at today’s deadline. If that happens Richardson would become the lead back in a likely committee with fellow rookie Pead. Richardson is most likely owned in many leagues already, but those in deep leagues may want to scoop up Pead in case Jackson gets traded, opening up playing time.
Joique Bell, DET – Mikel Leshoure left last week’s game with an apparent injury and Bell and Kevin Smith took over in the 4th quarter. Coach Jim Schwartz was quoted as saying he stuck with Bell down the stretch since he had the “hot hand”. Bell is the best option on the roster to fill the Jahvid Best role in this offense, and with the Lions passing game showing life, he should be able to provide flex worthy stats going forward.
James Starks, GB – Alex Green continues to underwhelm, which has the Packers in the middle of most of the trade rumors surrounding available running backs. If the Packers don’t bring someone new in, I think the Packers have to give Starks a bigger role in the offense in the coming weeks.
LeGarrette Blount and DJ Ware, TB – Blount could be one of the most likely players to actually get traded today, since his salary is low and the Bucs won’t ask for much in return. If he were to land in a spot like Green Bay, he obviously could have value in such a good offense. He’s worth speculating on in hopes he lands in a favorable spot. If Blount does in fact get traded, Ware would see an uptick in playing time as the change-of-pace option behind workhorse Doug Martin.
Ronnie Hillman, DEN – Hillman had his best game of the season, working once the Broncos jumped out to a big lead. You won’t be able to trust him in your lineup yet, but the performance showed some glimpses of what he could do if Willis McGahee were to get injured.
Chris Wells, ARI – Wells can’t play until Week 12 at the earliest, but it could be worth stashing him now if someone cut him in your league. He will surely get his starting job back as soon as he is healthy again.
Week 8 Updates:
Rashad Jennings, JCK – Jennings had a workmanlike game against the Packers, but things get easier the next two weeks against the Lions and Colts at home. He’s getting 18-20 touches per week and still rates as a RB2 option.
Daniel Thomas, MIA – Thomas punched one in last we as we suggested he might. He is going to continue to see value as the goal-line option behind Reggie Bush, and would become an every week start if Bush were to go down with injury.
Cecil Shorts, JCK – Shorts was profiled a couple times in this column and since then he has established himself as the clear No. 1 option for Gabbert in the passing game. He should be rostered in all leagues at this point, and should continue to able to produce WR3 numbers and being the primary deep threat for the Jaguars means he has the potential for some big games.
Danny Amendola, STL – Amendola has made a remarkable return from the nasty clavicle injury that knocked him out of action a few weeks back. His recovery is well ahead of schedule, and there is speculation he could suit up as soon as next week, after the Rams bye. If he is somehow sitting on your wire, scoop him up and reap the benefits down the stretch, as he’ll go right back to being a PPR machine as soon as he’s healthy again.
Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, DET – We profiled both Lions receivers last week, and both were scooped up in all of my deep leagues. However, in one of my shallow leagues, someone actually cut Young prior to last week’s games in a roster crunch. So, give a look and see if either of these guys is still on your wire. Young will get the most attention coming off his 2 TD, breakout performance, but Broyles quietly scored for the second week in a row. With defenses dedicating so much attention on stopping Calvin Johnson, both these young receivers will have chances to provide value.
Dexter McCluster, KC – The Chiefs coaching staff didn’t make any friends in fantasy circles last week with their curious decision to not give Jamaal Charles to ball. The biggest beneficiary last week was McCluster, who did most of his damage as a receiver. The fact that he also qualifies as a WR in some formats gives him some added flexibility.
Danario Alexander, SD – Look who’s back in the NFL. Alexander was signed off the scrap-heap by the Chargers, which signals to me Vincent Brown won’t be returning anytime soon. Alexander is a very talented WR, but he is made of glass. With the way Robert Meachem has been playing, it makes sense for the Chargers to try to work Alexander into the game-plan, so deep leaguers could do worse than take a shot at Alexander to see if he can carve out a bigger role.
Mohamed Sanu, CIN – I like Sanu a lot, and coming off the Bye I am curious to see what the Bengals will do with their WR options behind A.J. Green. I think Sanu could emerge from a crowded group to stake his claim as the Clear WR 2 for his team.
Week 8 Updates:
Donnie Avery, IND - Avery once again failed to deliver in a juicy matchup. There are more ahead, but I’m giving up on Avery. Of course that means he’ll likely breakout again this week. If you like to bet on angles such as this, be my guest.
Dustin Keller, NYJ – We mentioned Keller last week, but we list him again because his role will only grow in a Jets offense in need of veteran leadership.
Kellen Davis, CHI – Davis is a player we haven’t talked about all season, because frankly he hasn’t done much. The only reason he gets mentioned this week is the matchup against the Titans. If you need a one-week fill-in, Davis could be the best option available.
Tony Moeaki, KC – Moeaki emerged as another winner in last week’s Cheifs gameplan. He’s a tough guy to rely on, but if you are desperate you could roll the dice against the Chargers D this week.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins have been playing very well on defense and their penchant for running the ball leads to lower scoring affairs.
San Diego Chargers – The Chiefs offense is a mess and the Chargers are a desperate team in need of a win. In a short week, I like the Chargers D a lot this week.
Matt Prater, DEN – The Broncos offense is rolling and Prater will continue to benefit.
With six teams off this week, this will be one of the more interesting weeks in fantasy leagues as multiple owners may find themselves scrambling to fill multiple holes. In a couple of my trading leagues, things have gotten very busy, with a bunch of trades going down. If you are holding onto some value on your bench, this could be a great time to take a good look around and see who needs help. You could end up turning some of your spare parts into better options for the second half. One of the owners in this league made the comment, “If you aren’t trading, you aren’t trying!” And, I have to agree with him on a week with so many marquee names out of play.
Felix Jones is the name everyone will be chasing this week in the wake of the injury to DeMarco Murray, but there are some other names to consider if you miss out on this week’s big prize.
BYE: Falcons, Broncos, Chiefs, Dolphins, Eagles, Chargers
Josh Freeman, TB – Freeman took advantage of the matchup against Kansas City to easily have his best game of the year. In fact, I probably should have written him up last week. He has another good matchup against the Saints this week, so he should be a good start in what figures to be another high scoring affair.
Matt Hasselbeck, TEN – Hasselbeck is one of many familiar names on the list, but I’ve bumped him up a bit for at least one week thanks to this week’s upcoming tilt against the Buffalo Bills. The veteran is coming off a big win against the Steelers and with Kenny Britt getting healthier by the week he should be able to deliver quality numbers this week if you’re searching for a bye week fill-in.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Don’t look now, but the 29 year-old rookie is coming off two straight quality starts and draws a Colts defense that made the Jets look competent last week. The injury to Trent Richardson means the Browns will lean on the passing game this week making Weeden a viable plug-in option.
Russell Wilson, SEA – I was a believer in Wilson’s talent coming into the season, and it has really been the conservative offense that Pete Carroll has been running that has held him back. The Seahawks finally took the training wheels off last week, and Wilson responded with a three touchdown day. The San Francisco defense poses a difficult test this week, which means you don’t want to force Wilson into your lineups this week, but I think he’s back to being a quality backup, so feel free to add him as a depth grab.
John Skelton, ARI – The Cardinals offensive line finally got Kevin Kolb injured, and the nasty rib injury he suffered will keep him sidelined for at least 6 weeks. That puts the former Fordham Ram (my alma mater) back under center. The Vikings and Niners are on the dock, so I don’t see too much to get excited about in the near term.
Mark Sanchez, NYJ – I have piled on Sanchez and the Jets as much as anyone, but we’ve got to give him a tip of the cap for getting off the mat and delivering against the Colts last week. The Jets face the Patriots this week, and these two teams always come ready to play each other. If you are in a bind this week at the position, Sanchez should be a decent option to get you through this week.
Week 6 Update:
Ryan Tannehill, MIA– The improving rookie had his first two touchdown day of the year and for the second week in a row played mistake free football. He’s on BYE this week but after he returns he has a very favorable schedule (@NYJ, @IND, TEN, BUF) coming up.
Felix Jones, DAL – The injury to DeMarco Murray makes the forgotten Jones this week’s top waiver claim. He looked pretty good in relief against the Ravens last week, which bodes well for continued success this week against Carolina, and beyond if Murray’s injury should linger and keep him out multiple weeks.
Alex Green, GB – While we did highlight Green as the most exciting option on the roster in last week’s column, we also tempered enthusiasm by reminding people of the crowded backfield. Well, Green looked like a feature back for the Packers last week, getting 22 carries to James Starks’ 5. The schedule sets up pretty nicely for Green to take advantage of the next few weeks, and if he can take the full-time job and “run” with it, he’ll deliver nice stats for anyone who paid for him last week.
William Powell, ARZ – While I didn’t recommend investing heavily in the Cardinal running game if you could avoid it, I did tell you to take a shot on Powell if you did. The pre-season darling scampered for 70 yards on 13 carries easily out-producing LeRod Stephens-Howling. Powell should become the primary ball carrier going forward, but that might not mean that much the next two weeks against the Vikings and Niners. Still, as with any starting RB, he needs to be owned in all leagues.
Daryl Richardson, STL – We’ve talked about Richardson a couple times this year, but Sunday’s performance puts him back on the radar as one of the better stash candidates out there. He actually got almost as many touches as Steven Jackson on Sunday, so it bears watching to see if he can continue to turn things into a time share in St. Louis.
LeGarrette Blount, TB – Blount scored for the second straight week, although most of his production came once the game was in hand and the Bucs were protecting a big lead. Still, he is definitely back in the coaching staff’s good graces, and is now a must handcuff for any Doug Martin owner. I don’t know if you can really trust him yet, but he does have a good chance of finding the end-zone again this week against the Saints.
Montario Hardesty, CLE – The former second round pick filled in for an injured Trent Richardson last week and he was a pleasant surprise, toting the rock for 56 yards and a score against the Bengals. It looks as though Richardson has avoided serious injury here, but Hardesty makes a smart grab this week for any T-Rich owner, just in case the rookie isn’t up to speed. The Colts are a tasty matchup, so follow the injury reports. Even if Richardson plays, Hardesty could get enough carries to merit a flex start this week.
Mike Goodson, OAK – Goodson put up some numbers last week, and is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 back in Oakland. He’s likely floating around in a lot of leagues, and he’s worth a grab simply because he plays behind one of the most injury prone back in the league in Darren McFadden.
Cedric Peerman, CIN – Peerman was a factor in the passing game for the Bengals last week, and it’s a role he should continue to fill going forward with Bernard Scott out for the year and Brian Leonard banged up. There is some flex value here in PPR leagues.
Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, NE – Brandon Bolden injured his knee last week, giving both Vereen and Woodhead some value this week as flex plays against the Jets.
Philip Tanner, DAL – Tanner carried the ball 9 times for 31 yards once Murray went down last week. Felix Jones isn’t the best bet to stay healthy either, so Tanner is worth a grab in really deep leagues now that he is that much closer to seeing an increase in production.
Barron Batch, PIT – Batch will only have value if Rashard Mendenhall’s Achilles injury keeps him from playing. Take a wait and see approach here.
Week 6 Update:
Jahvid Best, DET – The Lions finally came clean regarding Best’s concussion tests, deciding to shut the diminutive back down for the rest of the season. You can hang onto him in dynasty leagues if you want, but he’s a cut everywhere else.
Kendall Wright, TEN – The Bills defense sets up Wright for a breakout game this week. If he’s on waivers in your league, don’t be afraid to grab him and plug him in your lineups. If you have been stashing him in deep leagues, this is the week you might want to think about turning him loose.
Josh Gordon, CLE – The supplemental pick has become Weeden’s favorite deep threat the last two weeks and the matchup versus the Colt’s gives him a great chance to extend his touchdown streak to three. He’s not catching a ton of passes, but he is making the most out of them. This of course makes him somewhat of a boom-or-bust play in any given week.
Chris Givens, STL – I did cast my vote for Givens last week as the best bet to emerge in the wake of the Danny Amendola injury and he delivered 85 yards on 3 catches. He will continue to serve as Sam Bradford’s deep threat, and his speed and elusiveness should give him a chance to thrive in the slot for the Rams. He’s worth a shot in deep leagues.
Donnie Avery, IND – While Avery hasn’t been able to match his Week 2 performance yet, Andrew Luck keeps throwing his way. Avery led all Colts WR’s with 12 targets last week, and it’s only a matter of time before he converts more of them. The Browns will focus much of their attention on Reggie Wayne this week, so Avery should have the opportunity to produce. If you have multiple WR’s on bye this week, don’t be afraid to turn to Avery to fill the void.
Cecil Shorts, JCK – The Jaguars come off the Bye to face the Raiders, and Shorts will likely start in place of the injured Laurent Robinson. He’s hit pay-dirt a couple times this year in limited action, so starters minutes at least gives him flex appeal this week.
Vincent Brown, SD – We mentioned him a couple weeks back, but his return is just around the corner. The Chargers are going to get him into the flow of things right away, and he could easily vault into WR3 territory quickly upon his return. Check your wires to see if he’s available and stash him for the second half.
Devery Henderson, NO – You know I don’t really like this guy, but if Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham are still nursing injuries, Henderson could once again deliver against Tampa Bay.
Doug Baldwin, SEA – Baldwin was a guy I liked heading into the year, and he finally showed life last week. If the Sehawks are finally going to throw it more he could continue to emerge, so put him on the radar and see if he can build on things this week.
Josh Cooper, CLE – Injuries opened the door for Weeden’s former OSU teammate to finally see the field. He’ll continue to work out of the slot and his relationship with Weeden could give him some value in PPR formats.
Week 6 Update:
Robert Meachem, SD – Meachem failed to build on his 2 TD game and as such just can’t be trusted to deliver. I’d take a chance on someone else this week.
Jared Cook, TEN – Since my advice is always to pick on the Bills defense when you can, Cook could be your best option off the wire at the TE position this week.
Dwayne Allen, IND – Those of you in deep leagues may want to give Allen a look this week against a Browns team that has good corners but is banged up at the linebacker position. This should be a high scoring game, and Allen has a good chance to exploit the soft underbelly of the Browns defense.
Minnesota – The Cardinals will have no answer for this pass rush and as such the Vikings are my top rated defense this week. John Skelton will be running for his life.
Cleveland – If you are digging deep for a one week play, then the Browns do have some upside this week as they have a ball-hawking defense that can create turnovers and Josh Cribbs has been looking great in the return game lately. It’s always a stretch to bank on TD’s from a defense, but this isn’t such a bad “Hail Mary”.
Lawrence Tynes, NYG – Tynes never gets any buzz, but he has quietly emerged as a steady option each and every week.