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Alight guys, we did it. We did it together, and we made it through a week with six byes.

Cool, wicked. Now we have six more, including Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford chillin’ with pancakes on a Sunday afternoon like the rest of us. Yep, that’s two of the top three fantasy scorers, with Manning on top and it’s not close (he has 215.5 points, while Drew Brees is well behind at 163). With the Cardinals, Jaguars, Giants, and 49ers also doing whatever it is football players do on bye week Sundays (play Mega Man, no doubt), the pain runs deep this week again.

So let me know when you’re able to rise from the floor, and we’ll start the weekly waiver wire panic.

Quarterbacks

1. Terrelle Pryor: I’m not sure how many times Pryor has been featured around these parts, but it’s close to weekly right now for a reason. In the heart of bye weeks, he’s often the best and surprisingly still most available option out there at quarterback. So here’s lookin’ at you, Peyton Manning owners, because a week after Pryor set the record for the longest run by a quarterback in league history — his 93-yard touchdown on the Raiders’ first play from scrimmage in a win over Pittsburgh — he’ll now do that running and creating against a Philadelphia defense that’s one of only two giving up more than 300 passing yards per game. If you’re concerned about an actually pretty good Eagles run defense slowing Pryor down, you should stop that, or at least not do it quite so much. Against a Kansas City defense giving up only four more rushing yards per game in Week 6, Pryor still posted 56 yards.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 25%, Yahoo – 37%

2. Alex Smith: Let’s play a fun and depressing game. First, let’s note that although he’s more widely owned than the rest of this QB waiver gaggle, Smith is still unowned in nearly 40 percent of both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. Then let’s observe that he has 36 fantasy points over the past two weeks. Then, let’s observe that over the same stretch, Tom Brady has 13 fantasy points. That’s it. That’s the game. (Quick tangent adding to Brady’s spiraling demise: he’s had a single-digit output in three of his last four games.)

Percentage owned: ESPN – 63%, Yahoo – 60%

3. Jake Locker: The inclination is to shudder here, because in Week 9 Locker draws the same Rams front seven that sacked the similarly mobile Russell Wilson seven times. But over his last four stars Locker has at least two touchdown passes in three of them, and they’ve come against pass rushes that also aren’t inviting (49ers, Jets, Texans). Last week was especially impressive, as against a 49ers secondary allowing only 220.5 yards per game, Locker passed for 326 yards at a pace of 8.0 yards per attempt.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 5%, Yahoo – 19%

4. Jason Campbell: And thus we arrive at the Manning or Matthew Stafford replacement options that have a sprinkle of desperation, but with Campbell it really is just a pinch. Like others, I assumed he’d get pile driven by Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and a Chiefs front seven that was only a week removed from sacking Pryor nine times. Yet there he was, looking comfortable on the road in the worst matchup possible while throwing for an average of 8.1 yards per attempt and 293 yards overall with two touchdowns.

Percentage Owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 4%

5. Nick Foles: Yes, I realize that an unverified worst fantasy quarterback outing in history in an attractive matchup two weeks ago against Dallas (only 2.8 yards per attempt) has forever soured you on Foles. But maybe, oh just maybe, that was the sort of aberration a young quarterback who still hasn’t started a whole lot yet will have from time to time. He’s likely (see: almost definitely) set to replace Vick this week in another inviting matchup on the road in Oakland, and somehow over 90 pass attempts this year Foles still hasn’t thrown an interception while chucking six touchdown passes. So before you cast him aside in your search for a Manning/Stafford replacement, please recall that while facing a secondary that employs Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson two weeks ago, Foles threw for 296 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 133.3.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 12%, Yahoo – 9%

Running Backs

1. Zac Stacy: Because the evil of the fantasy goods gave us at least one nice thing, Stacy has reportedly avoided a high-ankle sprain after hobbling off last night during what was otherwise a pristine performance. So there’s still some mild risk that comes with a Stacy claim, but you go ahead and give that risk a warm hug. For those trying to live life without Frank Gore, Knowshon Moreno, or Reggie Bush this week, Stacy is easily the best add after his 134 rushing yards last night at a pace of 5.2 per carry against a Seattle defense that was giving up 96.1 yards per game. His receiving ability makes Stacy even more appealing, as he’s a week removed from 36 yards through the air with a touchdown. So here’s the math on Stacy over the past two weeks, one of which was against the Panthers and their second-ranked run defense: 217 total yards on 48 touches (4.5 yards per touch).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 21%, Yahoo – 63%

2. Andre Ellington: Bruce Arians is a maddening man, and I hate him so. Andre Ellington is clearly the best player to use when his offense desires to hand a ball to a running back, yet he’s still refusing to give him more carries when Rashard Mendenhall returns, which will likely happen after Arizona’s Week 9 bye. We get it, Bruce, Ellington isn’t the biggest guy, but have you ever looked at Ray Rice’s measurements? He’s an inch shorter than Ellington and a modest 13 pounds heavier, yet he’s still averaging 18.3 touches per game. But hey, whatever, because maybe we’re worrying about nothing here, as we so often do. Ellington needed only 15 carries to finish with 154 yards against the Falcons Sunday (making him the Week 8 rushing leader), a ridiculous pace of 10.3 yards per carry boost by an 80-yard touchdown run. And yes, this means the top two rushing leaders in Week 9 — Ellington and Stacy — and reasonably available for your flexing amusement.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 21%, Yahoo – 54%

3. Brandon Bolden: Participating in Bill Belichick’s running back roulette is a good way to make your hair turn multiple colors. But the time is right to search for the hand that has slightly more sizzle, which is why if we’re hunting for touchdowns (and we are), I’ll lean slightly more towards Bolden than LeGarette Blount (though both are fine adds). Bolden has a touchdown in two straight games, with both coming on goal-line carries. And although he’s often been third in the overall touch pecking order behind Stevan Ridley and Blount, the gap between Blount and Bolden is a narrow one, and an inconsistent one. In Week 7 during a loss to the Jets, Bolden was given nine touches while Blount finished with only one, and this past Sunday Blount as ahead by just one touch (he had 11, while Bolden was given 1o).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 3%, Yahoo – 14%

4. Mike Tolbert: About that goal-line work gambling and touchdown lusting during bye weeks. If you’re going to do it, this is also a great place to look. Tolbert remains the Panthers’ goal-line back, a role he’ll likely keep even when Jonathan Stewart returns, with the veteran eased in gradually. That prominent place in the red zone has led to four touchdowns over Carolina’s last three games. There’s likely more forthcoming too, because now a run-oriented Panthers offense opposes a Falcons defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry (27th).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 17%, Yahoo – 22%

5. James Starks: This is a common sense and low-cost add for the Eddie Lacy owner in your life, which is hopefully you. Starks returned from injury, and he was immediately re-inserted as Lacy’s backup. He then promptly ran for 57 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 25-yard run. That was his second +20 yard run on just 41 carries this year, and while Starks won’t take a significant bite out of Lacy’s carries, if he mixes in some passing down work too — which is likely, since Lacy has only 12 receptions this year — he retains some deep league flex value, especially now during the death gauntlet of bye weeks.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 14%, Yahoo – 10%

Wide Receivers

1. Marvin Jones: I’m slotting Jones here with extreme hesitancy. In a week when there’s a small country’s worth of WR production sitting out with byes — Larry Fitzgerald, all the Broncos wide receiver awesomeness, Victor Cruz and (big gulp) Calvin Johnson — not claiming a guy who just went off for four (four!) touchdowns and 122 yards is damn impossible. That’s especially true when prior to Week 8, Jones had only 247 yards over seven games. S0 go ahead, but know that if you spend what it costs to acquire Jones (which will be roughly equivalent to a standard mortgage), brace for bitter disappointment. Jones was on the field for only 19 snaps while catching his four TDs in a blowout win over the Jets, and over the last three weeks he’s been used in only 69 of 206 possible offensive plays. Beyond A.J. Green, the wide receiver depth chart is still muddied in Cincinnati. Of course, the counter argument is that Jones has been consistent as a red-zone threat, with touchdowns in three straight games now. So, there’s that.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 27%

2. Kenny Stills: Leading the Saints in receiving yardage during any game is a distinct honor given how much Drew Brees spreads the ball around (four Saints pass catcher currently have at least 25 receptions). That’s what Stills did during a Week 8 win over Buffalo, and it wasn’t close. Nope, not even a little bit, as Stills finished with 129 yards and Benjamin Waton behind him had 45 yards. But while Jimmy Graham’s lingering injury and the need to spread his targets around gives reason to be optimistic about a continued surge for Stills, I need to be Buzz Killington again here for a second. With Graham still present though severely limited (he played only 18 snaps Sunday), seven Saints receivers were targeted at least four times. Stills received four targets, and what separated him fantasy-wise was two touchdowns, and a 69-yard catch. He’s ripe for an abrupt regression.

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

3. David Nelson: Hello there, Santonio Holmes. Nelson isn’t actually Santonio Holmes, because there can only be one Santonio Holmes. But for the past two weeks and likely also at least the next two until after the Jets’ bye, he’ll continue the impersonation with Holmes still out. Nelson’s targets may still vary with rookie Geno Smith’s wandering eye, but over the past two games he’s easily led his peers with 19 targets, including a team-high 12 Sunday. That’s translated into back-to-back weeks with 80 receiving yards, making Nelson a fine plug and play option.

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

4. Rishard Matthews: Reach deep with me now. Brandon Gibson is done for the year, which is sad, because Ryan Tannehill was using his slot receiver often (four games with eight or more targets). So now Matthews steps into that role, and although Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline will inherit most of the targets left by Gibson, Tannehill’s love for his slot man is apparent, regardless of the body playing that role.  During Sunday’s loss to New England, Matthews was targeted six times even while playing only a portion of the game after Gibson went down, which equaled Hartline’s looks.

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

5. Percy Harvin: Nothing to see here. Just your weekly reminder to claim Harvin NOW NOW NOW. Seriously, look at how widely he’s still available in ESPN leagues, and even being out there in almost 30% of yahoo leagues is criminal. If Harvin doesn’t return this week against Tampa, whatever. It’ll be next week then, and with Sidney Rice now out for the season with a torn ACL, he’ll get buckets of targets immediately.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 38%, Yahoo – 73%

Tight Ends

1. Tim Wright: A tight end in name only,  many more targets are coming Wright’s way with Mike Williams now on the injured reserve. Which is nice, because he was already getting plenty of them, and doin’ work (195 receiving yards and a touchdown over his last four games).

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 5%

2. Scott Chandler: The force is sporadic with this one, but it’s consistent enough that Chandler’s ownership should be a little higher. His 72 yards against New Orleans was his second +70 yard game this year after only one throughout all of last year, and it came during a week when he was targeted 11 times by Thad Lewis, who was scrambling and desperate to keep his limbs in their proper working order while unsuccessfully avoiding the Saints’ pass rush. Lewis will be in that state again this week against a Chiefs front seven looking to break him.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 7%, Yahoo – 18%

3. Jermaine Gresham: He’s still splitting touches with Tyler Eifert, but there could be plenty to go around this week with dual tight end sets in use against a Dolphins defense allowing 65.4 receiving yards per game to tight ends.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 10%, Yahoo – 42%

4. Delanie Walker: In a week when covering for the byes of Vernon Davis and/or Julius Thomas isn’t fun, please note that Walker has been targeted at least five times over his past three games, a stretch in which he’s averaging 41.3 yards per game. That’s mighty fine for a tight end who’s owned by pretty much no one (see below), and one who’s scored three times over seven games in his first full season as a starter. If you’re clawing for a Davis or Thomas replacement, this is your glass case.

Percentage owned: ESPN – 1%, Yahoo – 4%

5. Joel Dreessen: This is an insurance add for Thomas owners in deep leagues, though it seems you’ve likely been spared the absence of Orange Julius. The Broncos will no doubt be cautious with a player who has a history of ankle injuries, but he avoided a high-ankle sprain, and now has a bye week to rest.

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

Comments (3)

  1. What about Josh McCown coming off a BYE, plaing on Monday night? Thoughts?

  2. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of him to really get a feel how well he’ll really do.

    • I agree. McCown is a journeyman backup, and the Bears will surely run a ton and feed Matt Forte. However, if you’re in a deep league and have to start him during this bye-week awfulness, I get that sort of desperation. In a 20-team league last week I had to choose between Jason Campbell and Christian Ponder, which was pretty scary.

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