Tom Lorenzo, Senior Editor RotoExperts.com
Here we are at Week 5, where we separate the Fantasy Football men from the boys. You had yourself a bang-up draft, good for you. But now you’re stuck without your two best running backs in Ray Rice and Peyton Hillis, thanks to the schedule. So now what? Now you hope your bench is strong enough to get you through the bye week with a victory. Then again, you probably didn’t expect your bench players like Shonn Greene and Mark Ingram to be non-factors early on. Some of you may be stuck without highly valuable or even marginally useable options.
That’s why the waiver wires are so important this week. Whether it be for lack of confidence in your bench or maybe you’ve been hit by injuries (Andre Johnson and Rashard Mendenhall, anyone?), you need to be able to recognize how to find some useable talent off the waiver wires. Here are 10 players you should consider as bye-week or injury replacements.
Bye Week Teams: Cleveland, Dallas, St. Louis, Miami, Washington, Baltimore
I’m not a huge Curtis Painter fan, but I might be able to buy into him this week if I am looking for bye-week help. Painter put up 21 fantasy points on Monday night, going 13-of-30 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, it wasn’t a pretty performance, but in the end, all you care about is the final tally. The good news for Painter is that this week the Colts take on a Chiefs team that has already allowed 10 passing touchdowns on the season. They’re not a walk-over opponent, but they’re also not a shut-down defense. Painter should have enough opportunities to find the end zone on Sunday.
This one certainly is for the most desperate of owners out there. Not because Hasselbeck isn’t a good quarterback, but mainly because of the opponent. Hasselbeck, who is having a fantastic season, tossing eight touchdowns in the first four weeks, has to face a Steelers defense, in Pittsburgh, that has allowed just four touchdowns and 5.7 yards per catch on the season. They may not be the same top tier defense we’ve been used to seeing in the past, but they are still a very tough matchup. Especially for opposing quarterbacks. Still, your options are limited at quarterback this week and when going into battle, you could certainly make the case that having a veteran QB like Hasselbeck is much safer than a young QB like Jason Campbell or Tavaris Jackson who are highly inconsistent and who face tough matchups of their own.
With both Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore banged up, we’re already hearing reports that Redman will get the start against the Titans on Sunday. I don’t necessarily like the matchup, with the Titans allowing just 3.2 yards per carry, which is good for second in the NFL, and only one rushing touchdown on the season, but with Mendenhall looking like he’ll miss Sunday’s game, I’m happy to scoop up Redman and his 20-plus touches this week. You’re not going to find another running back on the waiver wires who is going to pick up that many touches this week.
Here we go again with Ridley! I wrote about him last week in my “10 Running Backs You Should Get to Know” piece, and since his performance on Sunday it seems like everyone now knows who Ridley is. As his touches continue to increase, so too does his production. He carried the ball 10 times against the Raiders for 97 yards and a touchdown. Add in the one catch for three yards and in a PPR league he popped 16 points on just 11 touches. Given that the Jets can’t seem to stop the run, allowing 130.6 yards per game and six total rushing touchdowns, and the increase in touches that Ridley is seeing from week to week, and I’m already sold on picking and plugging him into my lineup this week.
I know what you’re thinking. True, Earnest Graham is not the starting running back on his own team, and, yes, the San Francisco 49ers are on of the top defensive teams when it comes to stopping the run. However, Graham isn’t necessarily used as a ball carrier. He’s run the ball just 13 times over the first four weeks, but he’s also caught 23 passes, which makes him a nice option in PPR leagues. I expect the 49ers to load up the line on LeGarrette Blount, forcing Josh Freeman to throw the ball. Unfortunately for Blount owners, he’s not an adequate pass catcher. That’s where Graham comes in. I’m not calling him an RB2, but as a flex option in deeper PPR leagues, you might want to at least give Graham a look.
As I mentioned in the Painter blurb, the Chiefs have been known to allow their fair share of touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, and since Painter and Garcon seem to be on the same page, this week might be as good as any to slot Garcon into your lineup. I wouldn’t look at Garcon as a must-start in a two-WR league, but he does make sense as a WR3.
Cruz has played so well over the past two weeks that the Giants are already slotting him into sets where they’d typically have Mario Manningham lined up. With Seattle on the schedule, Cruz and the Giants face a fairly mediocre matchup. Considering Cruz has nine catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns over the last week, it’s pretty clear that he’s becoming a favorite big-play target of Eli Manning’s.
With Andre Johnson out for the next 3-4 weeks due to a hamstring pull, Jones now steps in as the starting wide receiver alongside Kevin Walter. Jones has been inconsistent, at best, over his career and some even consider Walter a better play this week, but I’m riding out Jones. First, expect the Raiders to put most of their focus on Arian Foster and the Texans running game. Second, Walter is going to most likely be lined up against Stanford Routt, who is about as tough as they come in hounding opposing wide receivers. This should allow some space for Jones, especially as the Raiders are also going to have their hands full in shutting down Owen Daniels.
There’s a few things to like about Gresham this week. First, you have to like that he and Andy Dalton are finding a nice rythym. Already, Gresham has 16 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns, but maybe more importantly Gresham has been targeted 28 times over the first four weeks. That’s good for 8th among tight ends, and it actually ties him with Santonio Holmes on the season, believe it or not. The other thing worth noting is that Jacksonville has given up the most points (13.2) to fantasy tight ends this season.
TAMPA BAY DEFENSE
There are plenty of people looking for defensive help this week, and I would say that you should take a look at the Tampa Bay Bucs who take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. First, the 49ers are 28th in the league in team offense, and they’ve already allowed Alex Smith to be sacked 12 times already. Frank Gore remains an injury waiting to happen, and while he had a great game in Week 4, you have to recognize that the 49ers were playing against an underwhelming Philadelphia defense. For the Bucs, you might point to Curtis Painter’s two touchdowns and take pause, but if you watched the game you know that Tampa Bay played much better on defense than the score would indicate. Had they not missed a few tackles, we may not have seen those two Pierre Garcon breakaway touchdowns. I know many of you are looking for a defense for the week, so consider the Bucs as a useable option.
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