SCREAMING HEADLINE CAVEAT: Only if he plays (also, hot sports takes ahead).

You know what you guys should never do? Read the headline of last week’s waiver wire adventure post. I believe, though I can’t be sure, it says something like this “Buying the Broyles bust out“. In his ascent to a starting role with Nate Burleson out — or at least something close to it — Ryan Broyles caught exactly zero passes in Week 4. Now, that may have been dictated by the flow of the game, as the slot receiver still played more snaps than Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Joe Fauria, and Tony Scheffler. Alas, he still didn’t even touch a football.

So there you have it. I’d drop the same fantasy waiver hot take again because everything was aligned properly for at least decent flex numbers from Broyles for those of you who needed that, but my soul has now been cleansed after confessing to a rather large goose egg. There’s a lesson here…

And so our search begins anew, and this week the journey into bye befuddling goes deeper, with four teams sitting out (Vikings, Steelers, Bucs, and Redskins) and doing exactly what we do on Sundays: watch football and consume food.



1. Brian Hoyer: Yes, there were injuries scattered around the Bengals’ secondary (Leon Hall, Terrence Newman, and Reggie Nelson). But Hoyer still stood up against a front seven that recorded 51 sacks last year behind an offensive line that’s given up 17 of them this season, and he completed 65.8 percent of his passes at a clip of 7.1 yards per attempt, with the latter number a significant improvement over last week (5.9). If you’re a Robert Griffin III owner who’s feeling some bye week desperation, Hoyer’s matchup Thursday night against the 22nd ranked Bills defense that’s giving up 277.0 passing yards weekly looks might appetizing.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 7%

2. Terrelle Pryor: If we assume he’s back and healthy this week (which seems pretty safe, since Pryor nearly played in Week 4 before the rip cord was pulled at the last second), Pryor is even better for the bye-week replacement shopping crowd, though he’s slightly less available (hence his position behind Hoyer in a ranking that’s arbitrary and meaningless). His matchup oozes with fantasy fun times, as he’ll run and chuck against the Chargers and their secondary that’s ranked much lower than the Bills’ bumbling (29th) while giving up 8.4 yards per pass attempt, and Dwight Freeney is no longer around to apply pressure. The only problem with starting Pryor this week is the 18 Red Bulls you’ll have to consume while watching your fantasy QB play in a game that kicks off at 11:35 p.m. ET.

Percentage Owned: ESPN — 22%, Yahoo — 22%

3. Carson Palmer: This is a much less appealing option with Palmer set to face a Carolina defense that held Eli Manning to just 119 passing yards in Week 3 prior to their bye. But depending on your level of frenzied desperation, you could do a lot worse than a quarterback who has the pleasure of throwing to Larry Fitzgerald.

Percentage Owned: ESPN — 8%, Yahoo — 45%

4. Joe Flacco: You’ll look at Flacco’s five interceptions this past Sunday, and become very scared. And so you should be, because even including the playoffs last year he threw only 10 picks total. But then you’ll also note that he’s been able to compile yards (two +340 yard games) through high volume throwing (two games with 50 or more pass attempts).

Percentage Owned: ESPN — 55%, Yahoo — 64%

5. Matt Cassel: This is looking ahead a few weeks for you deep-ish leaguers who are already experiencing involuntary bodily functions due to Drew Brees’ bye in Week 7. And it’s also clearly a look ahead of the reaching, clawing variety, since Leslie Frazier is still saying Christian Ponder is his starting quarterback once he’s healthy. But here’s an enjoyable scenario: you claim Cassel for next to nothing this week (either an extremely low waiver priority or a bid of little value), and then he plays reasonably well again after the Vikings’ bye. Once those heavenly stars align, with Brees sitting out you’ll be able to insert a quarterback who has the support of Adrian Peterson, and in Week 7 he’s throwing against a Giants defense that’s giving up 36.5 points per game. That’s low cost, low risk, and potentially high upside for one week. In summary: you’d be winning the waiver wire.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo — 3%

Running Backs

1. LeGarrette Blount: The Patriots’ backfield is a place where any sense of fantasy calm goes to die. It’s also a special kind of hell where those who spent an early round pick on Stevan Ridley have forever buried their shattered dreams. But look, in the distance there’s hope. A straight up, very Belichickian three-headed monstrosity has surfaced in New England, with Blount getting nine carries Sunday night, while Ridley received 11, and Brandon Bolden finished with six. The difference lies in what’s being accomplished with those carries, as with his 64 yards (most of which came on a 47-yard touchdown run), Blount led his team in rushing for the second straight game. Attempting to Predict a Belichik backfield isn’t something I would recommend for anyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own the most productive piece of it at a minimal cost.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 3%, Yahoo – 6%

2. Roy Helu Jr: The Redskins are entering their bye, which helps the state of Alfred Morris’ ribs, and even if they weren’t off it sounds like he’d be fine anyway. Still, Morris owners have now been reminded that handcuffing the backup to a guy who you may have invested a first-round pick in is never a bad idea. The splendid thing about Helu is that he also provides you value beyond a standard handcuff status, which especially applies to those in PPR leagues. Morris still does little in the passing game, hence why he’s often pulled on passing downs. Enter Helu, who has 91 receiving yards this year on just seven catches. In a deep PPR league, there are crazier and zanier flex moves (see: below?).

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 45%, Yahoo – 13%

3. Danny Woodhead: And about you PPR leaguers, why don’t more of you own Woodhead? You know, the wee little man who may have once sold you merchandise at a Modell’s Sporting Goods. No one who’s sane expects him to duplicate his two-touchdown game against the Cowboys, because receiving touchdowns aren’t something he does, ever (excluding those two, he had scored four through the air over 59 game appearances). But after two straight +50 yard games, Woodhead is on pace for 648 receiving yards and 88 catches. Yep.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 17%, Yahoo – 43%

4. Chris Ogbonnaya: Similar to my hard-held stance that I don’t eat foods I can’t pronounce properly, I also have a rule about not owning players whose names I can’t say without sounding like a drunk sailor. However, there’s some value here (wait, hear me out). He may be yet another deep league option, and specifically a glass case Adrian Peterson owners can break this week. But as Willis McGahee continues to ease into the Browns’ offense, Ogbonnaya is doing a lot with his limited work (50 yards on just seven carries this year), and even more importantly, he’s being targeted frequently by Brian Hoyer in his dinking and dunking, with nine catches over the past two weeks. Over that stretch Ogbonnaya has also accumulated a stealthy little 18 fantasy points in PPR leagues.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 44%, Yahoo – 13%

5. Mike Goodson: This should be the cheapest of all the cheap and dirty stash claims you make this week. Goodson is back from his suspension, and although Bilal Powell is running well right now for the Jets, he’s still fighting a mighty foe: history. He has less than 70 rushing yards in three of his four games this year, and he was meh at best last year in a backup role, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Goodsoon, meanwhile, will be waiting if he stumbles, and even if that doesn’t happen he’ll still provide flex value with his receiving ability and breakaway speed in the open field (195 yards on only 16 catches last year).

Wide Receivers

1. Jerome Simpson: It’s downright frightening to look at the Week 4 receiving leaderboard. At the top are two familiar and expected names (Torrey Smith and Victor Cruz), and then the top 10 quickly devolves into an adventure in oddness. Darren Sproles is really awesome, but how often do we have a week when he has more receiving yards than all but seven other players? Then there’s Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman occupying the fifth and seventh spots, and between the them is Simpson with his seven catches for 124 yards, 51 of which came on one deep ball from Matt Cassel. That’s what a healthy Simpson does, and he’s been doing it a lot more this year. Simpson already has three catches for 40 yards or more, and prior to this year over 41 career games, he had only four such deep grabs. Say, do you see how widely he’s available?

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 11%

2. Keenan Allen: A downfield home run option who will continue to receive an uptick in targets with Malcom Floyd out (and Danario Alexander long gone), Allen was targeted six times in San Diego’s Week 4 win over Dallas, and he turned that into four catches for 80 yards, with much of that came on a leaping 31-yarder. Antonio Gates will continue to be Philip Rivers’ primary option with little elsewhere (he had 136 yards Sunday), and Danny Woodhead will get his share of underneath looks too. But when the goal is to blow secondaries up, Allen will get the call until Floyd returns. Here’s how much his role has changed suddenly: over the previous two games prior to Sunday, he had only 30 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 2%

3. Robert Woods: There’s reason to believe that Woods’ 80 yards on four catches can be repeated Thursday night against the Browns, or at least something thereabouts. Stevie Johnson has been limited by a hamstring injury, and although it won’t keep him out, a barking leg muscle downgrades his value and potential this week to below zero in a matchup against human blanket Joe Haden. So that leaves Woods on the other side, who was targeted six times during a win over the Ravens when Johnson was held to (wait for it) -1 yards despite six targets of his own.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 4.5%, Yahoo – 14%

4. Jeremy Kerley: Like Kellen Winslow below, Kerley is set to be relevant again and possibly even produce low-end WR3 numbers just based on sheer target volume. After the injuries to Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes, Kerley finished with four catches for 65 yards in a loss to the Titans, and over the previous three weeks he had just 70 yards.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 2%, Yahoo – 4%

5. Jerricho Cotchery: I refuse to believe that what we’re seeing from Cotchery is real, and it certainly won’t be consistent since he’s behind Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders in the Steelers’ target hierarchy. But since Pittsburgh sucks so thoroughly and may often be forced to abandon the run game, there will still be opportunities for Cotchery to keep hacking away with his 50 or so receiving yards per game. That’s a mark he’s reached three times this year, highlighted by 103 yards on five catches in London. Some perspective to show how much Cotchery is due to regress: his 248 receiving yards this year is already more than his total in each of the past two seasons.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 1%

Tight Ends

1. Charles Clay: I have a loosely followed and often entirely disregard goal to provide some variety with this post each week, and keep the duplication from one week to the next to a minimum. Our boy Clay here (and Hoyer above), are the exceptions. I understand that a lot of you rightfully placed little value on tight ends in your draft if you missed out on those who occupy the top tier (that’s just Jimmy Graham right now), and you’re still doing that. But through a quarter of the season only three tight ends have more receiving yards than Clay’s 245, and only six have more fantasy points than his 35.5. Yet look at those ownership numbers, and while you’re doing that, please note that Clay is pretty tight with Ryan Tannehill, and has been targeted at least six times in each game.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 17%, Yahoo – 48%

2. Coby Fleener: Fleener is the primary tight end in an offense which targets that position a whole lot, and though four games he already has 166 receiving yards after finishing with just 281 yards last year (yes, I’m aware he missed time with an injury, but 25.5 yards per week is still pretty paltry over 11 games). He also has two catches of 30 yards or more this season after having none last year, and he had a single-game high of 77 yards Sunday. That’s all wonderful news, but the horribly awful news is that Fleener is set to be suffocated by the Seahawks this week. Long term, though, expect many more crooked numbers.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 20%, Yahoo – 33%

3. Kellen Winslow Jr: Finding a healthy pass catcher is a difficult thing to do on the Jets’ offense right now with both Hill (concussion) and Holmes (hamstring, glass body) out for Monday’s game against Atlanta. That crumbling lead to 73 yards on six catches and nine targets Sunday for Winslow in a loss to Tennessee. Expect more of that target frequency  in Week 5, though the production may dwindle because of a) Geno Smith b) Geno Smith C) Geno Smith d) a Falcons defense giving up a modest average of 41 yards per game to tight ends.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 9%

4. Mychal Rivera: Maybe it was the Matt Flynn pasta arm effect, or maybe it was the Redskins’ secondary that’s filled with gushing holes. But Rivera was targeted six times Sunday after receiving only nine opportunities over the first three weeks. We’ll go with crappy secondary as the reason, because it’s much more convenient to convince yourself that after 44 yards on just two catches with a touchdown, Rivera is primed for a booming week against the equally inept Chargers secondary. Naya Rivera approves this message.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 0%, Yahoo – 0%

5. Sean McGrath: Another nod to you deep league kids, McGrath will likely remain a decent option to replace Kyle Rudolph during his bye if we assume/hope that both Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce remain sidelined. The latter hasn’t practiced yet after suffering a preseason ankle injury, and Fasano sat out all last week too with a knee problem. Meanwhile, McGrath has provided pretty OK flex numbers, with two catches for 20 yards or more over the past three weeks, and 64 yards on five catches against the Giants in Week 4 with a touchdown. In an offense that throws deep pretty much never, any tight end has value.

Oh also, we live in a world where Sean McGrath had more receiving yards than A.J. Green during a week of football. Let that settle for a minute.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 0.2%, Yahoo – 0%