Darrius Heyward-Bey will be targeted a whole lot more with Reggie Wayne out.

We face dire, awful times, because bye week and injury madness leads to sadness. You’re already hating fantasy football forever after yet another wide receiver (Reggie Wayne) was added to the scrap heap this week, and Doug Martin — the first overall pick for some — is out indefinitely. Then there’s the crumbling of Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler, two depth plays often stashed as QB2′s. Now they’re gone, and we’re facing the snarling teeth of bye weeks.

Yeah, about that. Good luck setting your lineups, because over the next two weeks 12 teams have their byes (this week it’s the Ravens, Bears, Texans, Colts, Chargers, and Titans). The worst.

For many it’s not a waiver wire this week then. It’s more of a waiver lifeline. Or, if you will, a waiver rope to tie however you wish.


1. Carson Palmer: I get it, guys. Just reading Carson Palmer’s name makes you revolt in horror. He plays behind a creaky offensive line and was sacked seven times last Thursday, and that’s led to inaccuracy, and a general lack of looking deep. But for this week — this one week — you should look his way, especially those who have been riding Andrew Luck or Philip Rivers and are now contending with byes. Palmer will be throwing against a Falcons defense that’s getting little pressure while recording only 14 sacks through six games, and the secondary has been prone to allowing chunk yardage after two straight games with a reception of 45 yards or more. Atlanta is also tied for the second most passing touchdowns allowed (14).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 6%, Yahoo – 32%

2. Thad Lewis: Between the takeaways generated by Kenny Vaccaro and the pressure from Cameron Jordan, Lewis’ matchup against the Saints isn’t as appealing this week. But it wasn’t in Week 7 against Cameron Wake and Brent Grimes either, and it definitely wasn’t two weeks ago against the Bengals, when he posted a passer rating of 100.5. In Lewis you have a quarterback who is, at worst, simply average, but with the ceiling for much more due to his mobility. Therefore, you also have an ideal bye-week plug in.

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

3. Andy Dalton: His ownership numbers are much higher though still scattered, but if Dalton is out there for your streaming pleasure, go ahead and do that now. Suddenly the super awesome Dalton has returned over the past two weeks, culminating with his career-high passer rating of 135.9 Sunday in a win over Detroit. In two games Dalton now has six touchdown passes and only one interception to go along with 709 passing yards.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 24%, Yahoo – 65%

4. Geno Smith: The bad Geno may resurface this week against the Bengals, and their pass rush which has 12 sacks spread among its front four. But then we’re given glorious hope by remembering that Smith recorded a season-high 24 fantasy points while dodging Buffalo’s Mario Williams back in Week 3 (10 sacks, tied for second), and his deep chucking cause is now helped further this week by the absence of Leon Hall.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 7% , Yahoo – 14%

5. Case Keenum: If you were to pick the worst possible way for an undrafted rookie quarterback to start his career, every time you’ll land on a game on the road against the Chiefs. But Keenum was, in a word, impressive. And in another word, ridiculous considering the circumstances. Against a defense that has two of the top five pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and is allowing only 194.7 passing yards per game, Keenum merrily clipped along at a 60.0 percent completion rate. Even more remarkable, he averaged 10.8 yards per attempt. With the Texans on their bye a Keenum add may be overlooked by your league mates. But the savvy Peyton Manning owners who are looking ahead to the doom of his Week 9 bye will make this play.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 3%

Running Backs

1. Mike James: This is a mandatory claim for Doug Martin owners who have been fed false hope by Greg Schiano, the leading purveyor of broken souls in the NFL. Gauging what exactly we have in James is difficult, because it always is with sixth-round picks who have all of 17 carries in a meaningful NFL game. So what we’re left with is the preseason when James impressed, most notably with 104 yards on 18 total touches in Week 2. Then there’s his collegiate career, a time when this blog space’s regular film guru said he has “innate instincts“. James’ matchup this week against a Panthers front seven led by Luke Kuechly is less than desirable, but long-term it’s sounding like he could be a decent lifeline for Martin owners who have been doing a lot of crying in the shower.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 12%

2. Jonathan Stewart: He’s practicing now, though Stewart is still a week away. But given how much ungood DeAngelo Williams has brought lately (four games with less than 4.0 yards per carry, and 2.7 Sunday), Stewart will have an immediate opportunity to seize a starting role upon his return, or at least a large share of the Panthers’ backfield workload.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 2% , Yahoo – 6%

3. Peyton Hillis: This man is a lumbering brute who has slightly more speed than a rock. Just thought I’d be clear up front on that, but if Brandon Jacobs remains out, there’s some flex appeal here. Hell, maybe even some RB2 thinking for those truly hating themselves while dealing with a bye for a running back this week who cost you a first-round pick or close to it (Arian Foster, Trent Richardson, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte). Hillis will get all the goal-line touches — as he did last night, scoring once — but his true value lies in his pass-catching ability. He caught five passes for 45 yards in the Gianta’ win over Minnesota, which brings us to the sad realization that he was only five yards behind Victor Cruz.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 13%

4. Jacquizz Rodgers: Yesterday Falcons head coach Mike Smith said he anticipates Steven Jackson will practice Wednesday, fueling hope that his absence will end at six games. That’s nice, because Rodgers and Jason Snelling have sucked thoroughly. But Rodgers has one redeeming quality that will continue with or without Jackson: catching footballs. He did that even more in Week 7, a direct result of Matt Ryan having few other options with Julio Jones and Roddy White also out. He led the Falcons in targets (nine), and consequently receptions while scoring twice. Those scores are a vicious outlier, but in this offense now his 46 receiving yards might not be. His receiving numbers are trending upwards too, as Sunday was Rodgers’ second game with 45 or more yards through the air over the past three weeks.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 73%, Yahoo – 56%

5. DonaldĀ  Brown: Brown is still worthy of a lottery ticket pickup. Trent Richardson continues to do little more than bounce and weave in the backfield before going plunk, most recently averaging 2.1 yards per carry against the Broncos, and overall his YPC on the season is now down to 3.1. That’s all kinds of terrible for a running back who will eventually come with the career draft price tag of two first-round picks (the one the Browns spent on him, and the one Indy used to acquire him). Now, Brown is continually getting more carries, graduating from just three to 11 over the past two weeks. During the fourth quarter in the Broncos game — otherwise known as the most important time of the game — it was all Brown, and he also added 42 receiving yards. That brought his total yards to 55, which is flex territory.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 6%, Yahoo – 6%

Wide Receivers


Percentage owned: ESPN – 22%, Yahoo – 62%

2. Darrius Heyward-Bey: Heyward-Bey’s opportunity in Indianapolis has arrived after Reggie Wayne crumbled, butĀ  you still know the deal here. Heyward-Bey is really fast, but also really fumble-y, so owning him can and likely will result in two things: elation after deep catches (we’re still waiting on that, as only one of his 18 catches has gone for 20 yards or more), and balls that bounce off of grass. Remember, this is a guy who dropped 35.7 percent of the balls thrown in his direction as a rookie, a number that’s improved since but is still above average (12.8% last year).

Percentage owed: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 22%

3. Nate Washington: Jake Locker has returned to save Tennessee from death by Ryan Fitzpatrick, and for Washington that meant 10 targets in a loss to San Fransisco. Sure, he only caught three of them, but that was more a product of defensive suffocation. This week that target volume alongside Locker (Washington was targeted 12 times over Fitzgerald’s two starts) matters a lot more against a far inferior St. Louis secondary allowing the second most passing yards per attempt (8.5).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 45%, Yahoo – 40%

4. LaVon Brazil: Like Drew Davis below, this is a deep league sleeper play, but possibly the best kind. You know, the sort that gets you a nice little weekly flex play. Wayne is no more (not factually correct, as he still exists as a human, just not as a football human this year), and while Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton will see the most significant upwards fantasy climb, Brazil is intriguing. He’ll likely inherit Hilton’s old role as the Colts’ No. 3 wide receiver, and also his role as a deep option.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 0%

5. Drew Davis: You’ve likely been beaten to Harry Douglas by now, or you will be soon (FYI: after his 149-yard bust out game Douglas is still really, really available). But in a week with all the byes and with Roddy White’s playing status still uncertain, I’d like to introduce you to Drew Davis. With Julio Jones gone for the season and White possibly still out, Davis retains value, and likely some mighty fine value this week against a Cardinals secondary which isn’t the Bucs secondary. In Week 7 Davis may have caught only one pass for 24 yards, but what matters most for your desperate reaching is that in White’s absence he was on the field for 43 of the Falcons’ 48 offensive snaps. Consider both Davis and Brazil to be firmly in the “heh, you could do worse” category, a dark place we’ll all be visiting frequently this week.

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

Tight Ends

1. Jordan Reed: Alright, this is the last time (for at least a week) that I’ll do the Reed name drop. Reed is to you now what Charles Clay was at the beginning of the season: a tight end who’s owned minimally, targeted often, and can easily be plugged into every lineup. After his 134-yard detonation against the Bears this past Sunday with a touchdown (19 fantasy points), Reed is among the few tight ends worthy of a flex play in leagues that allow it. And while his eruption was certainty pushed along by a shootout game that featured 86 total points, Week 8 was also Reed’s third straight game with at least 50 receiving yards.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 4%, Yahoo – 28%

2. Zach Miller: Miller was targeted a season high seven times during Seattle’s Thursday night win over Arizona, a game that sucked about as much as every Thursday nighter. It was his return from a two-week absence after being stricken by a wonky hamstring, and Miller has now shown his red-zone ability — and Russell Wilson’s comfort with him there — by scoring three times despite only 13 receptions.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 8% , Yahoo – 11%

3. Coby Fleener: Hey look, more targets with Wayne out, maybe and probably. With the aforementioned shuffling happening between Heyward-Bey and Hilton, Fleener could be set for more work up the seam. Like every immediate Colts add this one is looking a little further ahead since they’re entering a Week 8 bye. And when you do that look ahead you’ll see the Texans and Rams on their post-bye schedule. That’s a defense which just lost Brian Cushing for the season, followed by one that’s allowing 53.4 receiving yards per game to tight ends.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 31% , Yahoo – 43%

4. Zach Ertz: Consider this a speculative and hopeful add, and also one that could be useful in deep leagues this week. Ertz has at least 30 receiving yards in three of his last four games, which includes three +20-yard catches. That seems pretty meh until you remember he’s splitting time with Brent Celek. Then with a longer view, he’s now listed as a “co-starter” with Celek, meaning the rookie is ascending and will keep doing that with renewed competence (or at least something close to it) at quarterback for the Eagles this week as Michael Vick returns.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1% , Yahoo – 3%

5. Andrew Quarless: Hello there, utter desperation. Quarless may feel like a mediocre play, mostly because he is and there’s little to be excited about. But in deep leagues (14 teams or more), this isn’t a horrible landing spot for anyone who’s been trotting out Antonio Gates every week and is now clawing for a bye-week replacement. Quarless will be Aaron Rodgers’ primary tight end target with Jermichael Finley out, and being Rodger’s primary anything could lead to fun numbers. When Finley missed Week 3, Quarless had three catches for 21 yards. If he can somehow double that yardage, you should buy every lottery ticket.

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