Forgive me for the punny title. I didn’t get a lot of sleep this weekend, and I think I’m still operating on Oakland time.
But that said…don’t you want four time slots of NFL football EVERY Sunday? Personally, I loved being able to go straight into another one after Sunday Night Football wrapped up, even if I did lose a little sleep. Honestly, I’d probably enjoy it if Roger Goodell taped my eyelids open and sat me in front of the TV for 48 full hours of NFL action.
For the receiver needy, your prayers may have been answered this week as a few young options emerged and could be ascending to the top of the ranks. Continue reading →
Let’s get this straight — there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski. Contrary to popular offseason belief, he has been on pace to reproduce his miraculous 2011 season, if not exceed it. He’s the head of the pack when it comes to tight ends, and you’re not going to find those kinds of points on the waiver wire floor.
But alas, you must because not even Gronkowski can “Gronk” his broken forearm back into game shape. So brace yourself. This isn’t going to be pretty.
Rather than guess who’s available in your league, I thought I’d take a look at who is available in several of mine. In one league, I see Joel Dreessen, Dwayne Allen, Marcedes Lewis, and Anthony Fasano at the bottom of the pile. In a 10-man PPR league, the pickings are a little better: Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler, Brent Celek, and Jared Cook.
Before we begin, obviously, the best of the bunch is Brandon Myers is you’re in one of those leagues that is sleeping on him, but everyone in my leagues has gotten smart to him by now. Greg Olsen is another name that gets tossed to the wire occasionally throughout the season, but he’s broken out as of late and probably got picked up. Martellus Bennett might have been dropped during Eli Manning‘s slump, and I’d be willing to take a shot with him coming out the Giants’ bye if you can get him.
Also not available in my league but worth consideration are Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley. They would be just below Kyle Rudolph on my list if they were on the wire.
Barring a chance at any of those guys, you’re stuck with what I listed above. So let’s break them down.
Kyle Rudolph stands out as the biggest name of the bunch. He was a touchdown maker earlier in the season who went through a little bit of a slump before putting up points again just before his bye. I like him as a decent Gronk replacement, and perhaps the Vikings can fix their offensive troubles coming out of the bye. Unfortunately, he has game remaining against Chicago (twice) and the Texans in Week 16, which makes him a less promising option than he really should be.
Logan Paulsen‘s been a decent piece of the Redskins’ offense these last few weeks, and he scored his first touchdown last week coming out of Washington’s bye. He makes a decent play down the stretch in an offense that should continue to hum with Robert Griffin III under center and one that is playing for the future. The schedule doesn’t jump out at you, but playing the Eagles in Week 16 could be a fantasy points bonanza, assuming the Eagles pack it in for the year.
Jared Cook was a sleeper to start the year. Many expected a breakout with Jake Locker under center, but the Titans just can be trusted to use Cook’s skills as a receiver. But I have to take the bait with him. Locker looked great in his return and hit Cook for a score. There’s promise here. And Cook faces the Colts and Jets in the fantasy playoff weeks.
Brent Celek doesn’t excite me, but the Eagles have a solid passing schedule with the Panthers, Bucs, Bengals, and Redskins on their slate. Unfortunately, I’d avoid Celek unless you can afford to stash him until we see one of the Eagles’ passers come to life. Nick Foles hasn’t been a spark for the Eagles offense, and Micheal Vick just hasn’t provided many opportunities for his playmakers to make plays. Go with Celek only if you can’t get any of the previous guys off the wire.
Dwayne Allen is a starting option only as long as Coby Fleener is out. When Fleener returns, the two will be frustrating owners as they dilute the tight end points you’ll get out of Andrew Luck throwing the ball. Allen gets to play the Bills this week without him, but Fleener will probably return before Week 16. If not, Allen will have the Chiefs all to himself.
Allen’s on my list because he’s a good starter for the next few games, but know that you’ll probably need someone else to support him in the playoffs.
While the above tight ends could be good weekly options, the remaining tight ends on this list are mostly spot starts. Dennis Pitta is currently concussed and hasn’t been very reliable since Week 3. He scored in Week 10 against the Raiders…but it was the Raiders. Joel Dreessen has way too many e’s in his name, and he splits his points with Jacob Tamme. While there was a three-game stretch earlier this season where you could count on Dreessen to find the end zone it seems that time has passed.
Dallas Clark hasn’t been as hot as the rest of the Bucs’ offense, but he’s benefited from their production. Still, it’s hard to trust him as a starting option in the fantasy playoffs, even if he faces the Saints in Week 15. Scott Chandler‘s schedule isn’t as scary as some, but he could get you 2 as easily as he could get you 9+ points. And Anthony Fasano has been a non-participant in the Dolphins’ offense lately.
That leaves us with Marcedes Lewis, who should be in this group as a matchups play if you look past his Week 11 performance with Chad Henne taking over at quarterback for the Jags. The schedule isn’t intimidating, which makes Lewis a promising option if you get this far down the list. Of all the guys after Allen, I’d probably consider Lewis the top of the group. I might even consider grabbing him over Celek if given the choice.
You’ll know after a few weeks whether Lewis can be counted on to produce. Just make sure you shore up your tight end position with another option in case Lewis returns to fantasy purgatory.
In Week 12, we find ourselves with a good supply of new faces. Injuries to LeSean McCoy, Willis McGahee, and Rob Gronkowski have not only opened doors but will also be sending several fantasy owners in every league scrounging to the wire. So be prepared for some competition.
I won’t break down the FAAB bids for each player this week, but considering how late in the game we are, you should be spending any amount you need to guarantee you get the players you need. Blowing 80% or 90% of your budget on players at this point isn’t a concern as long as you get the depth or starter that you need to win in the playoffs.
And beyond these names I’ll list below, you should be carefully analyzing your roster this week and dropping any players you no longer need to carry as dead weight. Instead, pick up handcuffs who could be worthwhile starts later this year. If anyone stashed Ronnie Hillman in your league before Week 11, it’s already paid off for them.
Week 12 Pickups
Ronnie Hillman is the obvious get now that the Willis McGahee will miss the rest of the fantasy season. Lance Ball will also get some work, and Knowshon Moreno could even see the field occassionally. But it’s Hillman you want to own. He’s already had goal-line opportunities even before McGahee’s injury and has the talent to reach RB2 status in the right matchup. Anyone who plays the Broncos is going to be more concerned with stopping Peyton Manning than shutting down the Denver run game.
If you have FAAB left…it’s time to spend it. Most, if not all, of it. Even if you don’t need Hillman, he could be fantastic trade bait at your league’s trade deadline, which should be coming up soon.
Hopefully, you’ve been reading every week and took my advice on getting Danario Alexander. He’s still available in many leagues, so if you haven’t yet, make sure you claim him now. Philip Rivers finally has a favorite target, and he’s not at all afraid to throw his way.
LeSean McCoy owners and those who love to watch them cry should go after Bryce Brown. He’s talented enough to reach flex status or dance with RB2 level production if the Eagles ever get their offense together again. Brown should be owned in all leagues heading into this week considering McCoy’s concussion and the possibility they shutdown their feature back since there’s little left for the Eagles to play for this year.
Jalen Parmele replaced Rashad Jennings as Jacksonville’s primary runner in Maurice Jones-Drew‘s absence and did enough to convince the coaching staff he’s a better option moving forward. Just enough.
I doubt he’ll blow us away as a weekly starter, but Parmele will at least be a decent flex this week against the Titans woeful defense, especially if Chad Henne continues to spark the Jaguars’ offense into NFL relevance.
Speaking of Chad Henne’s effect on the Jaguars, Justin Blackmon finally sprang to life with Henne throwing the ball, and he did it in a big way, almost matching Andre Johnson‘s massive performance on Sunday. Blackmon has to be owned in all leagues until we see whether the Jags can duplicate their Week 11 performance.
Chad Henne also deserves consideration if you’re in need of a quarterback this week. Against the Titans, he’s a decent fill for those of you waiting on Ben Roethlisberger to return or for any other ailing quarterback.
Some of you may have wondered why I didn’t post a waiver wire this week. I tried…but there just wasn’t much for me to get excited about in Week 1.
I covered my favorite waiver wire pickups in my late sleepers column. If you paid attention to that, you already knew about Aaron Hernandez. (See? I told you he’d be good.)
As for the rest of my sleepers, I’m still waiting on Ingram to have his big “coming out” game, but I still expect it to happen. I’m starting to keep an eye on Delone Carter, despite the Colts suckitude so far, as well. The only one of my sleepers I’m truly concerned about is Austin Collie. Kerry Collins under center for the Colts just looked terrible.
Now, one place where the Week 1 did provide a few juicy pickups was at the quarterback position. Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even Cam Newton showed they could have some fantasy value this season.
Of all the likely undrafted quarterbacks who shined in Week 1, I’d have to say Fitzpatrick seems like the best bet for fantasy success. And it’s not just because he has his own theme song. Music, please…
He’s the most interesting Bill in the world. The Bills won’t win as big as they did in Week 1 every week…but when they do, Fitzy will have a big game. To me, he seems least likely to fall apart of all the quarterbacks that impressed in the opening weekend of NFL action. Plus, we know his track record from last season when he had a few games of fantasy relevance.
Grossman’s another good bet for now, but I have a feeling we’ll see John Beck start games for the Redskins this season, too. If you claimed Sexy Rexy, consider packaging him in a trade before we get too deep into the season. He’s got a nice matchup this week.
Henne seems like he’ll be another long-term, matchup-play QB2 if you miss out on Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins’ offense will have to produce some points this season if Tony Sparano wants to keep his job, and it looks like they’ve unleashed Henne to make that happen.
Reggie Bush, the lead running back in Miami (at least for the moment), is better when he catches the ball out of the backfield than when he tries to run it up the middle. So there’s a chance Henne gets credit for almost every yard the Dolphins get this season.
Cam Newton, while impressive, is not going to put up 400+ yards every week. He might not put up 300+ again this season. But he benefited in Week 1 from a Steve Smith reawakening in Carolina. Pick him up if you want a boom/bust guy at quarterback, but don’t expect him to become your weekly starter.
But, like I said, there weren’t many players to go crazy for on the wire this week. Sure, go get Cadillac Williams if you lost Steven Jackson in Week 1 or if you’re desperate for a running back, but I don’t love him against the Giants, especially with a banged up Sam Bradford under center. Caddy’s a starter, yes, but don’t go nuts to get him.
If you were unimpressed by your starting lineup, don’t get caught saying anything like what I mocked on Monday. For a greater tale of woe than I can offer to persuade you to give your current roster some time to emerge, I suggest this Fantasy Douche reading. It’s a horrifying tale, and it makes the point well.
Take a deep breath, and we’ll see what Week 2 holds.
On the defensive front, some of you may be looking for waiver wire defenses. I like the Cowboys this week, and John Paulsen at 4for4.com has more recs. I think it’s a little bold to roll with the 49ers or Broncos this week, but if that’s all you got, that’s all you got.
The pain continues. We lost a lot of good men out there.
If you were already struggling to replace Jermichael Finley (like me) or fill the hole left by Dallas Clark (like me), I hope that you weren’t also relying on Tony Romo (again…like me) who is now out for the rest of the fantasy season. He may be back in time to play two games when most of us are in the fantasy playoffs, but that will only happen if — and that’s a big if — the Cowboys are in still in the running to make the playoffs. Plenty would have to break their way for that to happen.
Look at your quarterback’s schedule right now. If he fapicapces the Giants at any point this season, it’s time to strengthen your backup quarterback position. The New York Giants have already knocked five quarterbacks out of games this year after taking out Romo on Monday Night Football, and they’ll continue to attack.
Make sure you hang on to Kevin Kolb. Vick will face the Giants in Week 11.
If you a Favre owner, you might as well jump on the new quarterback bandwagon as well. Old Favre-ful hasn’t been putting up the numbers he did last season, and he looked terrible on Sunday night against his old team. His ankle can only get more fractured. Without a bye week in his future, I have to say it’s all downhill from here. Take a stab at adding one of these “Romo replacement” quarterbacks before the Romo owner does.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions Detroit quarterbacks have been the unsung heroes of fantasy through the first part of the year. Until the Giants knocked Shaun Hill out, he was keeping up with the elite of the quarterback class. Stafford, in case you forgot him, is the starter in Detroit, which implies that he’s even better than Shaun Hill, the backup. This week, he gets to play the 31st ranked pass defense in Washington. This could be the beginning of a beautiful quarterback savior-ship.
Jon Kitna, QB, Dallas Cowboys The most immediate gainer from Tony Romo’s injury, Kitna is now in control of the offensive weapons in Dallas. This group is the most talented that Kitna has ever had at his disposal, but he’s also probably past his prime as a quarterback. Time will tell what he’s able to do with Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones…and the less than stellar offensive line that the Cowboys have struggled to work behind this season. At least this week he gets the Jaguars, which shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. If you can’t get your hands on Stafford, go get Kitna as a safe alternative.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills Fitzpatrick seems to have emerged as a consistent fantasy starter. He’s had 20 fantasy points or more (standard scoring with 6-point passing touchdowns) in his last three games, and he somehow managed to throw four touchdowns against the Ravens formidable pass defense — and two against the Jets. As long as the Bills continue to play from behind, Fitzpatrick will have value, and as I said in the Scoring Leaders post this week, he could rise to fantasy fame just like Tyler Thigpen did under Chan Gailey’s system in Kansas City not too long ago. But if you take a chance on Fitzpatrick, know that he’s a candidate to fall off a fantasy cliff at any moment, as the Bills are apt to do. He has his doubters. So while he’s doing well now (and you should ride it while you can), he’s a riskier pickup this week than someone like Kitna or Henne. I’d still take that chance. If you’re a gambler, you could even go with Fitz over Kitna.
Troy Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers The 49ers have passed over David Carr just like the fantasy gods did and named Troy Smith the starter for Week 8. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. As long as Alex Smith is held out with his separated shoulder (2-3 weeks) and maybe even after, Smith will be worth owning. And Singletary must have seen something he liked in Smith since they acquired him in order to jump him over Carr, the backup quarterback, to be the starter and to be bold enough to go into Week 8 with just two healthy quarterbacks, Carr and Smith, on the active roster. In the next four weeks, San Francisco faces Denver, a bye week, and then St. Louis and Tampa Bay. If Smith performs well in Week 8, the 49ers could adjust their offense over the bye and go into Week 10 with Troy Smith as the official starter, keeping the job even after Alex Smith is back to 100 percent. Just saying, it could happen. The 49ers have talented receiving weapons in Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Frank Gore, who catches plenty of passes out of the backfield, and Alex Smith was putting up serviceable numbers before his injury.
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins Henne’s not going to come close to the elite most weeks, but he’s doing plenty of passing in Miami right now. He may not be on the waiver wire, but if he is available, I’d slot him behind Stafford, Fitzpatrick, and Kitna as a guy to target to replace Romo or Favre. And I think I’d rather start Henne than Matt Cassel, who just doesn’t inspire confidence in me yet.
Other Romo replacement considerations: Matt Cassel (QB-Chiefs), Josh Freeman (QB-Bucs), Sam Bradford (QB-Rams), and Matt Moore (QB-Panthers)
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Blount got his fair share of carries this week against the Rams with Earnest Graham injured and Kareem Huggins out for the season, and he made good use of them. Tampa Bay’s coaches now say he’ll be splitting time with Cadillac Williams in the backfield, and he’s started to pick up the blitz well enough to protect Josh Freeman. Make sure you get your hands on him now before he takes over the entire Bucs rushing attack. Cadillac isn’t going to put up much of a fight with his age and past injuries weighing him down.
Danny Woodhead, RB, New England Patriots I’ve mentioned him before, so why haven’t you gotten him yet? He’s now an integral part of the Patriots’ offense, and he’s worth owning, especially in PPR leagues. His slow day against the Chargers may have led owners to dump him, but I think he’ll get back on track.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers Donald Driver finally seems to be slowing down, and Jones is ready to take his role and run with it. Like the Colts, if you can get a piece of the Packers’ offense, you want it.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts Reports of his “tweak” this weekend seem to be false, and all signs point to Gonzalez returning to the Colts roster this weekend, just in time to replace an injured Austin Collie. He should start ahead of Blair White if things go as planned, but be sure to check his status later in the week to make sure he’s playing. Without Dallas Clark, the Colts’ wide receivers should receive some extra attention from Peyton Manning for the rest of the season.
Blair White, WR, Indianapolis Colts If Gonzalez doesn’t go, he’s your guy. Collie’s out, and White was able to jump straight into this offense as soon as he was signed from the practice squad. He should hold value until Austin Collie returns or Anthony Gonzalez unseats him. But this kid has staying power. As a walk-on in college, he eventually rose to team captain.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills If you believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick, believe in Steve Johnson. Other than Lee Evans, who had a huge week, Johnson has benefited the most from Buffalo’s rejuvenated passing attack. And he’s getting into the end zone consistently.
Mike Williams, WR, Seattle Seahawks The big guy in Seattle has shown enough to be trusted after two games of 10+ points, and he’s got a nice schedule the rest of the way with Matt Hasselbeck.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers What? The Packers are finally letting him run with it? So they are. If you’re still holding onto Jackson from earlier in the season, keep him. If someone in your league dumped him after his weak first half of the year, go get him. As the weather turns in Green Bay, he could turn into a reliable fantasy option to end the season. Just like I said about James Jones, if you can get a piece of this Packers offense, you want it.
David Gettis, WR, Carolina Panthers The rookie wideout landed on a lot of fantasy radars this week with his two-touchdown performance and with Matt Moore returning under center. Steve Smith will continue to receive most of the defensive attention, which could open up the other side of the field for Gettis, but I’d like to see him do it one more time before I rely on him. He’s a stash with great potential now that this offense is moving with Moore.
Dexter McCluster, WR, Kansas City Chiefs Chris Chambers is out, and it seems McCluster is in. He’s finally being used in this offense, so it’s time to join the bandwagon. I don’t put much faith in Matt Cassel, but with the way the Chiefs are running the football and playing defense, surely he can manage a few plays in the passing game, especially with that nice schedule.
Chester Taylor, RB, Chicago Bears I’m not too high on him, but he gets an upgrade this week with the Bears saying he’ll be handling goal-line duties moving forward. I agree with FF Toolbox that this probably doesn’t hurt Forte much. It just makes Taylor an interesting stash or wait-and-see guy when the Bears come out of their bye week.
Don’t forget about a few wait-and-see players I’ve named in past weeks: Danario Alexander (WR-Rams), James Starks (RB-Packers), and Arrelious Benn (WR-Bucs), just to name a few.
More waivering and wiring from around the fantasy football Web-u-verse…
There aren’t many names out there that I haven’t mentioned previously, but if you’re strengthening your roster for a playoff run, some favorable schedules make these players more lucrative grabs than others.
If you didn’t secure a quarterback with a favorable schedule during the fantasy playoffs, or if you are worried about your starter sitting down a few weeks early (Peyton Manning owners), becoming senile (Brett Favre owners), or being further concussed (Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger owners), there are still a few quarterbacks available that could fill that void.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers He won over the coaching staff and the team after replacing Shaun Hill midseason, but he’s won over fantasy owners in recent weeks after the 49ers installed a spread offense. In the spread, Smith has been deadly effective, and Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan, and Michael Crabtree should continue to benefit. Best of all? In Week 16, he faces the Detroit Lions in what could be your fantasy Super Bowl. You can’t ask for a sweeter matchup.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans As I showed with the stat analysis I did on VY last week, he’s got one of the best schedules in the NFL in Weeks 14-16, and he’s got a running back that will keep defenses from every shutting down the passing game. If you’re in desperate need of a reliable starter with the potential for greatness, VY is the guy.
Others you might consider in the order I would consider them (if I were you, hoping not to have to consider them): Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins; Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills; Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Oakland Raiders; Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns.
All have schedules that could give them a boost in these final weeks, but none of them are quarterbacks I would want to bet my season on unless I had lost all hope. Also note that Joe Flacco gets to play the Detroit Lions this week, if you’re in need of a miracle and able to acquire him.
This week’s bright spots are led by a few running backs you may have forgotten.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns He’s scoring his points through the air thanks to Brady Quinn’s renewed effectiveness. As long as that keeps up, and as long as Harrison keeps the majority of the workload at running back, he is in line for a few big days in the coming weeks.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos Now that he’s healthy, he’ll get to share a lot more carries with Knowshon Moreno. While Moreno got the scores against Kansas City, Buckhalter’s explosive runs and his ability to catch passes makes him a threat to take any given play to the house. Even without scoring, he’s putting up enough yardage to contribute if your current starter faces a tough stretch. Matt Forte, we’re still looking at you.
Chris Brown, RB, Houston Texans He’s a big brute, but a brute who scores touchdowns is never worth complaining about. Things are murky in Houston’s backfield, but I prefer Brown to Ryan Moats. His playoff schedule could give him plenty of chances to line up at the goal line for a score.
And if you’re receivers have become garbage (Devin Hester owners) or suspended (Dwayne Bowe owners), there are a few young guns to add to your roster.
Davone Bess, WR, Miami Dolphins Better than he seems in the stat line, Bess has been a PPR stud all year and finally got a chance to shine in the Miami passing frenzy that overwhelmed the Patriots. If it keeps up, Bess will, too.
Devin Thomas, WR, Washington Redskins Okay, so the Redskins do have an offense. Jason Campbell found Thomas for two touchdowns this past week, and he could be in line for more down the stretch as Campbell fights to remain relevant in Washington (and the NFL in general) and while Thomas proves he’s no bust.
Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers See Alex Smith. In the spread offense, Morgan has become a favorite target, and again, fantasy Super Bowl vs. Detroit. That’s worth a shot-in-the-dark start.
Garrett Hartley, K, New Orleans Saints Last week, I had to make last-minute swaps to get Hartley in for John Carney when the Saints finally decided to switch back to their younger leg. But it paid off big. As TMR points out, he plays all but Week 17 indoors, where it is nice and cozy.
D/STs for the Playoff Run
Sports Data Hub pointed out how good the New Orleans Saints D/ST is looking for the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully, you, like me, were able to stash them in Week 5 and ride them all the way to the end of the season. Looks like the good times haven’t come to an end yet.
But if you didn’t listen then or had already missed your chance at owning Brees’ boys, The FF Geek Blog has a short list of defenses to plug into your lineup this week. Out of that list, Green Bay is another favorite to set and forget for your run at the championship, especially coming off their Monday night performance against Baltimore.
I’ve been in California this week at a conference. I don’t know how these people handle football starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays. It’s just plain weird.
But the important thing here is that I haven’t had Internet all week. Sorry, hotel, but I am not going to pay a limb per day to get on the Interwebs. I’m actually writing this right now from my G1 phone.
So hang with me. I’ll come back on Wednesday to flesh this one out with more options, but for now, I’ll cover all that my thumbs can endure. (Note: Now updated with a real keyboard and some of the skin left on my thumbs from writing this the first time on a smartphone.)
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: If no one has jumped on him yet, Larry Johnson’s release leaves him as the most valuable back in Kansas City. That value is somewhere between Adrian Peterson and a shiny penny.
Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: Two touchdowns? But I thought he was dead. Don’t see him duplicating this performance, and he is a Chief after all. I guess if you are desperate for wide receiver help, he is, in fact, NOT dead. PPR leagues might put more value on him since we know Kansas City will be throwing.
Ladell Betts, RB, Washington Redskins: Clinton Portis finally went down. Betts has filled in extremely well in the past, but this offense is not up to par with the one Betts stepped into years ago. That said, Betts filling in for Portis might be good for the Redskins.
Jason Hill, WR, San Francisco 49ers: He’s been on the cusp of a fantasy breakout before, but Jason Hill may get another chance if Isaac Bruce misses this week’s game. Hill had two touchdowns this past week, and Alex Smith likely had plenty of practice time with him while he was on the second-team offense earlier this season.
If you have the room on your roster to speculate on any of these guys, you might as well.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Looks like he’s back and able to start this week against the Chiefs, but can we trust him? I’ll believe it when he can turn in two back-to-back fantasy-start-worthy performances. Haven’t seen one solid one yet this season.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions: There may be few touchdowns in his future this season, but the rookie tight end is finally becoming enough of a factor in this offense to trust if you are desperate.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three touchdowns…but look at those attempts. Don’t get more excited than you need to be about another rookie quarterback. He’s an emergency backup option for now.
Brady Quinn, QB, Cleveland Browns: ESPN reports that he will get the start this week for Cleveland, but I wouldn’t expect much more than what we saw the last time around. This move is more likely just to see if either of the Browns’ quarterbacks will be worth keeping this offseason.
I’d rather have Vince Young, Chad Henne or even Josh Freeman on my roster.
Larry Johnson, RB, Free Agent: There’s a chance he lands somewhere and matters. There’s also a chance he plays Xbox with Shaun Alexander every Sunday for the rest of the season.
Lance Long, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: He had eight catches this past week. Shows promise, but I’d like to see it again before I use a roster spot on him. He is familiar with Todd Haley’s system from his time on the Arizona practice squad last year.
Patrick Crayton is not to be trusted. Justin Fargas may sink down the depth chart now that McFadden is healthy enough to start. Willie Parker may never be healthy again. Glen Coffee is concussed. Jason Campbell’s not healthy either. Domenik Hixon and Muhsin Muhammed just aren’t going to win you any games.
Patrick Crayton just straight up offended me by complaining that he wasn’t told that he was being replaced in the starting lineup. Seriously? But seriously? But seriously? I guess he was the last to know. I knew two weeks ago.
Let’s just drop the act, Crayton. You saw Miles Austin have the best day of any Cowboys’ receiver two weeks ago. You saw it first hand unless — and I’m not ruling this out — you couldn’t see around the one corner that had you blanketed the whole game.
If you watch any game film of the rest of your career, I’m sure you’ll also see the key drop you had in the playoffs against the Giants. Yes, that was you. Would the coaches have had to explain to you why you were being replaced in the starting lineup that week?
And you’ll also notice plenty of other drops falling from your hands whenever you were open beside Terrell Owens, which made it impossible for Owens to duck any coverage in the passing game. Hey, we could practically blame the need to trade for Roy Williams midseason on you. You were not enough of a threat.
You’re upset that you lost your starting job so quickly, so unsuspectingly, but no one is really surprised here. You’re a better slot man than a second receiving option. Miles Austin has far more potential and the trust of Tony Romo. Just stop trying to be the T.O. that T.O. left behind.
Speaking of getting left behind, LenDale White had to be carted off the field this week. Luckily, they had a heavy-duty model to do the job.
I didn’t get to see the exact play where he injured himself, but I’m told it’s because he didn’t stick the landing on this one. Poor guy.
Contrary to what you may start to think when looking at Hakeem Nicks’ or Mario Manningham’s touchdowns the last few weeks, Steve Smith is the No. 1 target in the Giants’ offense.
The Cardinals are almost dead last in the league against the pass, and that’s in a league that still includes the Tennessee Titans. The Giants, much like the Steelers, have become more comfortable passing the ball than running it lately.
Even if the weather is a little rough, I expect Eli Manning to hit Steve Smith with the critical passes and maybe even a score. Forget about that one in Carolina. This guy is the Steve Smith.
Other mighty men of bravery and startability this week…
Thomas Jones, RB, Jets vs. Raiders
This destruction shall be mighty. This man ran for 210 yards against the Bills last week, and unless they have two pigeons on their side this week, I see Jones turning the Raiders back to their poor-run-defense selves.
The Jets will want to go easy on Mark Sanchez after he was de-poised over the past two weeks. It may not be a career performance, but Jones is a strong choice at running back this week. He’ll do some damage. Leon Washington is a good play as well.
Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots vs. Bucs
Sammy Morris didn’t travel to London, and since I know he has a passport, that means he couldn’t play this week. So I guess Maroney is the man.
Tampa Bay has a terrible run defense, but they also have a terrible pass defense. It’s hard to say what to trust here, especially because Belichick is such a cranky mad scientist most of the time. Will he run or pass? He’ll probably just have Tom Brady QB sneak the whole game to screw us all.
Still, Maroney gets love for at least this week. He ran well against the Titans, but they looked like a fifth grade team that got lost on the way to the field. If Maroney doesn’t show up, at least we can all move on to liking BenJarvus Green-Ellis for his awesome nickname and starting role with the Patriots. “Law Firm,” simply awesome.
Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs vs. Chargers
Oh, he’s a sleeper! I actually like Cassel a little more this week. Not only does he have Sean Ryan — and you ALWAYS start your tight ends against the Chargers — but he also might have Antonio Cromartie out with a knee injury.
The Chargers secondary is a pretty big mess right now, and their pass rush is absentee in this ballot. Let’s go with Cassel this week. Maybe he’ll look more like that Patriot version of himself this week, but we’re not talking 59-0 here.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals vs. Giants
Here’s my theory: Hightower will be Kurt Warner’s outlet pass whenever the Giants bring the pain, and when they get near the goal line, Hightower’s bound to be asked to at least attempt a few goal line runs to keep this thing honest.
He’s not the best play of the week, but if you need a solid RB2 or a flex, I like his chances for a score and some yardage in this one. Definitely a safe play in PPR leagues due to the passes he’ll get.
Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders vs. Jets
I hate myself. I just puked. I feel sick again. I want to sit down. (I know it’s weird that I’m typing this while standing up, but I feel like it improves the circulation.)
That’s better… Oh, man, Fargas is still listed here as a start. Well, there are six teams on bye. The Raiders ran the ball well last week. And, well, Fargas might just be able to slip down the middle of the Jets’ defense now that Kris Jenkins, the big man in the middle, is out.
So you’re saying there is a chance? Sadly, yes. Even if the man talks to pigeons, there’s a chance Fargas succeeds for you this week. There’s also a chance that I won’t acknowledge I ever said this…
Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins vs. Saints
Don’t get cute. You picked him up after the announcers went all “laser, rocket arm” on him against the Jets.
Tell you what, give him a week to do it again against a defense that has been truly legit against the run. Barring a new wrinkle in the Wildcat offense, which sure seems pretty wrinkly these days, I don’t see Henne succeeding in this game.
Brees and the Saints just put Eli Manning in his place, and he’s just slightly ahead of Henne’s learning curve.
Other worthless souls this week…
Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets vs. Raiders
Just say “no” to Nnamdi Asomugha. And Mark Sanchez is positively poiseless right now. And Edwards is just a little injured. Give him a week off if you can afford it. Otherwise, lower your expectations. You’re used to that with Braylon Edwards anyway.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers vs. Bills
This guy has disappeared from his own offense. Let him disappear from your lineup this week. The Bills may be sad and pathetic right now, but their pass defense is strong as a buffalo. Did you see what I did there? Did you?
Brett Favre, QB, Vikings vs. Steelers
The ol’ “Silver Fox” is no match for a Steelers defense with Troy Polamalu back in the mix. Besides, other injuries on the Pittsburgh defense make running against them the most prudent strategy, and that is something else the Vikings are good at doing. It’s true. They don’t just allow announcers to gush over aging stars playing roles.
I relish any opportunity to use a word like prudent, but it just doesn’t sound right when we’re talking about Brett Favre.
Miami Dolphins D/ST vs. Saints
You’ve met Drew Brees, haven’t you? Okay, good. I thought you were seriously going to start them. Funny guy.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants vs. Cardinals
I don’t see him catching a touchdown pass (that will, of course, be called back for a penalty), and this game is shaping up to be pass-happy as long as the weather allows.
It’s not because I think Ahmad Bradshaw is stealing his job. That’s not happening. I just don’t like Jacobs this week. This fat man won’t fit through the square hole that is this matchup against the Cardinals.
It’d be nice if he broke out with a big game, but it’s not coming anytime soon. I finally feel safe recommending benching him if you have a better option.
Sleeper of the Week
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys vs. Falcons
That’s right. Screw you, Patrick Crayton. I’m all in.
I’m giving Miles Austin every chance to prove himself here. Maybe that’s silly of me to bet on another nice performance right after his record-breaking day, but hey, I live on the edge — the edge of reality.
There is some upside behind this sleeper pick though. Atlanta just lost one of their starting cornerbacks, and assuming that they pay the most attention to the big guy, Roy Williams, the Falcons will have a not-so-good corner trying to contain Miles Austin. He already gets a lot of looks from Tony Romo. I say he gives him a few more after Austin saved all the Cowboys two weeks ago.
And if Miles Austin impresses, I’ll be the first one to tell Patrick Crayton. Pinky swear.
Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Your Lineups
Flight of the Conchords – I’m Not Crying
Flight of the Conchords is a great show. Maybe they can ease your pain during this six-team bye week sadness. I’m not crying… I just looked at my lineup while cutting an onion and thinking of my friend, who you don’t know, who is dying… of bye weeks.
Braylon Edwards, of stone hands fame, caught almost everything that came his way in his debut with the Jets on Monday night. It’s possible to argue that he was robbed of a second touchdown on the night when a circus catch down the sideline got reviewed on a challenge.
I just wanted sleeper numbers. I was good after the first touchdown snag in the end zone, but this Monday night breakout has me sold on Edwards as a Jet.
Maybe he just got out of sync in Cleveland. Maybe being on a good team, one with more weapons in the passing game, has opened his eyes — and his catching fingers.
Whatever the reason, Edwards looked good in green. I’ll have to ask the Jets what they traded for those hands he was using. Maybe the Browns just have the worst wide receiver gloves in the league.
Get them while they’re hot — and some of them are going to be very, very hot.
Hot Claims Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: It’s hard to ignore 250 yards and two touchdowns. That kind of yardage sets records and saves franchises that really, really shouldn’t play with my emotions like that by trying to lose to the Chiefs. Seriously. People are going to remember Miles Austin’s performance, and Wade Phillips says he will see just as many snaps after the bye week against Atlanta, even if he won’t officially be named a starter. You want a piece of that. Week 7 could be the Roddy White-Miles Austin showdown to determine who is the best 200-yard receiver.
Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts: The rookie had another fine day assisting Peyton Manning to his fifth game with 300 passing yards. As long as the Colts play at this level, it’s a good idea to start every single on of Peyton’s weapons. Manning could turn Alge Crumpler into a 100-yard receiver if he wanted to on any given day. That’s impressive because Alge Crumpler is fat. Note that Collie is not fat, hence easy to make awesome. I am sure you now understand.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: So the Eagles have two explosive receivers for Donovan McNabb to target? That’s just not fair. Any given week could be a big one for Maclin or DeSean Jackson as long as they are starting. Heaven forbid they could share the stats. While hard to trust every week, Maclin should be owned. The two-touchdown club membership is only a sign of what’s to come for this rookie in this explosive offense.
Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: As long as the Vikings are passing, Rice will be a part of it. He’s passed up Percy Harvin in this passing game, at last, and Rice has the best leaping ability of all the Minnesota receivers. That’s only an untrue statement when Favre lines up at wideout because we all know he can leap with the strength of five inner children. Those five make all his decisions as well.
Eddie Royal, WR, Denver Broncos: Royal emerged once again as a favorite target of Kyle Orton on Sunday. Maybe Orton just couldn’t see him through the neckbeard these first four weeks? It remains to be seen whether Royal will be a large part of the passing game, but with Brandon Marshall solidifying himself as the No. 1 target and red zone threat, it would make sense for Royal to finally lock down the No. 2 spot he held last season. Still, you’re taking a chance if you get Royal. We’ll have to see how he gets used over the next few weeks.
Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns: You can’t expect 100+ yards every week, but Sunday was a promising return for the old veteran running back. As long as Derek Anderson is under center, the Browns should be able to keep defenses honest, especially when it’s the Bills defense. If your desperate for a running back and Lewis is on your waiver wire, he’s worth snagging. Old running backs need loving, too.
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins: He’s no Peyton Manning, but Henne out-poised Mark Sanchez on Monday night. With a weapon like Ted Ginn, he could do some damage. Don’t go dropping a solid backup quarterback option for Henne, but keep an eye on his performances over the next two or three weeks. Late in the season, he could be an opportunistic start.
Ted Ginn, WR, Miami Dolphins: Speaking of Ginn, Henne made him a star on Monday night, and that trend might continue a la Devin Hester in Chicago. If no one else has punched the Ginn ticket, you should see what he’s worth in a few weeks after Henne has connected with him for a few more long bombs.
Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams: He’s still the No. 1 in St. Louis, and Marc Bulger returns to the starting role this week. He could make Avery a late-season star again, or Bulger could just look miserable and get broken again. Like those odds?
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns: Though he’s not doing as well as the departed Browns receiver, Massaquoi should play much better when it’s not windy enough to blow down Brady Quinn by his clipboard. It’d also be nice if Derek Anderson completed more than two of his passes in a game.
Andre Caldwell/Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: They’re both getting looks rather than Laveranues Coles when Carson Palmer needs plays late in games. It’s not a bad idea to stash one of them on your bench to see how long the Bengals can pretend Coles is a part of this offense. Caldwell has been the more reliable one, but Henry has the breakout potential.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have designed plays to take a shot at the end zone with Wallace, and they’ve used those plays at least once in every game this season. Against the Lions, he finally found pay dirt. Trend? Possibly. Worth picking up? Certainly. I like any receiver that gets at least one chance for a touchdown every week.
I wanted to make a switch this past weekend at defense to sub in the New Orleans Saints D/ST for the Green Bay Packers D/ST.
Considering they had the same bye week and with some doubt in the Saints’ newly discovered fantasy worthiness, I was slow to make that change. I thought the Packers D/ST might somehow know how to beat Brett Favre.
On Sunday, ESPN’s server login problems kept me from reconsidering. Today, looking at a 10-point loss and a big three points from Green Bay’s defense, I very much regret that decision.
But it’s a lesson. Just goes to show you that you should always be aggressive. This week, with bye weeks hitting your team now or in the near future, it’s important to clear that dead weight from your roster.
That loss is going to sting for a good while. But now, let’s get to making things better for all involved. This week’s waiver wire pickups are in priority order, but your preference may vary depending on your own team needs. If you have any trouble choosing between these pickups or debating whom to drop from your current roster, leave a question in the comments to open it up to discussion.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers As long as Willie Parker stays down and out and as long as the Steelers face defensive lines like the Chargers’ weak one, Mendenhall is showing a lot of promise. Maybe the Steelers have a running game after all? In Sunday night’s game, Mendenhall rushed at will for 165 yards with 26 receiving yards and two touchdowns against San Diego. His next two games are against Detroit and Cleveland. Go get him while you can.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns Now that the Browns have some kind of offense, it’s worth keeping tabs on their primary running back. James Davis is now on IR, which leaves Harrison as the best warm body behind the injured Jamal Lewis. Harrison rushed for 121 yards and caught 31 yards in the Browns loss to the Bengals. In PPR leagues, that makes for some decent bench depth. In non-PPR leagues, there’s a chance the Browns could show signs of life enough to make Harrison worthy of a play during bye weeks.
New Orleans Saints D/ST I’ve now learned from my mistake and fully endorse this defense. At last check, they were second in the NFL in blitzing behind only the New York Jets. Add that to the play of Darren Sharper and the potential of Reggie Bush on special teams, and this unit looks to be reliable throughout 2009. If someone in your league drops them while they are on bye, make sure you are the one who picks them up by Week 6. Besides the Giants (Week 6) and Patriots (Week 12), the Saints have a schedule full of very winnable games the rest of this season.
San Francisco 49ers D/ST The 49ers D/ST is also very legit this season and not on bye this week. Bonus!
David Garrard, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars More than likely, he’s owned in your league, but in case you haven’t noticed, he’s looking like more than just a reliable bye week fill. The Jaguars can throw the ball–one year after I had to draft Garrard as part of a quarterback by committee in 2008.
Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings Five catches for 70 yards and as touchdown. Sounds like he’s ready for that breakout year we’ve been expecting just as long as Brett Favre will accommodate. That late throw by Favre down the sidelines seems to suggest he won’t remain a game manager much longer.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland Browns Just like his running back counterpart, Massaquoi had a pulse in the Browns game this week. His eight catches for 148 yards to Braylon Edwards zero catches may suggest that Edwards has fallen out of favor. Add to that accusations that Edwards punched a friend of LeBron James, an offense punishable by death in Cleveland, and I’m seeing stars align for Massaquoi to be the big-play threat of the Browns’ passing game. Sure, that’s not a big threat, but it’s something.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans If the Titans keep digging a hole early in games, Washington should see even more targets. He’s a more elusive wide receiver than Justin Gage with the ball in his hands, and he could be a decent bye week fill against the Colts and Patriots these next two weeks.
Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers He came out against the Rams and should have had two scores. He’s the best receiver the 49ers have on their current roster, and the 49ers may look to throw more regularly as long as Gore remains out. All good reasons to have Morgan on your team if someone else gave up on him.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers Finley’s 128 yards and one touchdown performance was the breakout game we were all waiting for this season, and Donald Lee’s critical drop may have the Packers turning to Finley for an even larger role after their bye week. He’s certainly one of, if not the most promising tight end to own as a TE2 at this point in the season. Pick him up if you have the roster space or have a need at tight end. Otherwise, wait to see how he does after the bye.
Josh Johnson, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers I told you that I liked this kid. Coach Raheem Morris does, too. But don’t throw him in there against the Philadelphia Eagles, coming off of a bye, this week. Let him incubate.
Derek Anderson, QB, Cleveland Browns The Browns are alive in the hands of Anderson. As long as you can live with his mistakes, he has a nice matchup against the Bills this week.
Seneca Wallace, QB, Seattle Seahawks Wallace could make for reliable bye-week filler against the Jaguars this week, but he’s a dangerous choice since Hasselbeck could return this week. Watch the practice reports before you go get him.
And now the ones you should just keep an eye on…
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars As the passing game comes alive, so does Lewis, but don’t jump on him unless you are desperate for him after his 76-yard, one touchdown performance this week.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets He didn’t get a significant number of carries on Sunday, but he saw the field. This showing wasn’t enough to say he’s taking a role in the offense, but we could see him takeover if Thomas Jones continues to decline in comparison to Leon Washington. By season’s end, it could be Greene and Washington splitting time, and that would certainly make him worth owning. He’s a stash in deeper leagues.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Denver Broncos Hillis could be in line for more carries if Correll Buckhalter misses this week’s game with a sprained ankle. Against the Patriots, Hillis might be productive, but he’d likely split time with Knowshon Moreno and LaMont Jordan. If you’re looking to long shot, he’s not a terrible one this week.
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins The Dolphins didn’t put the game in his hands on Sunday, but he looked promising against the Bills. His schedule gets brutal for the next three to four weeks, but look for him to show what he can offer starting in Week 9. His playoff schedule could make him a sneaky play.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants He’s not a must-have just yet, but Nicks showed why he was drafted this week with that quick stop-and-go at the goal line for his first NFL touchdown. Mario Manningham took a back seat in this one, and that might be the trend going forward. But don’t get any ideas. Steve Smith is still the No. 1 receiver in New York, and he’s a solid fantasy option for the rest of the season.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans He isn’t getting enough playing time early in games to justify owning him in most leagues, but Britt could be in line for more catches as the third receiver in the Titans offense when they face the Colts this week. Britt had 105 receiving yards this week against the Jaguars.
Guys you should already own by now: Vernon Davis, 49ers; Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars; Tashard Choice, Cowboys; Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers.
Guys you can drop if you so choose: Chris Henry, Bengals; Darren McFadden, Raiders; Michael Bush, Raiders; Zach Miller, Raiders (especially now that he’s concussed); anyone else, Raiders; James Davis, Browns (He’s on IR, silly, and should only be kept in dynasty leagues at this point.); Earnest Graham, Buccaneers; Mike Bell, Saints, Jason Campbell, Redskins.