The Week 7 byes throw the fantasy world into chaos. Players from the Colts, Texans, Jets, and Lions are unavailable. No four-team bye week in 2010 is as devastating to fantasy owners, as numerous pre-season top-five players at the various offensive skill positions are off, along with several of the fantasy stars who have emerged early in 2010. Think about it–QBs Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub are off limits, along with the surprising Shaun Hill, who has led many fantasy teams to victory while filling in for Matthew Stafford. Mark Sanchez has not been too shabby either. At RB Joseph Addai, Arian Foster, LaDanian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, and Jahvid Best are on byes; that list represents an every week fantasy RB1/RB2 entourage. The situation does not improve at WR or TE, with pre-season No. 1 players Andre Johnson and Dallas Clark off, along with elite stars such as Reggie Wayne and Calvin Johnson and solid performers such as Dustin Keller, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brandon Pettigrew, etc. Owners need help; fear not, Waiver Wire is here.
As we ponder Week 7, we of course continue our tactic of looking ahead also, anticipating needs for fantasy owners in Week 8 and acting now to address them where possible. In doing so, note that while Week 7 impacts fantasy quality, Week 8 will impact fantasy owners due to the quantity of teams on a bye: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, the N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, and Baltimore will be off. In deeper leagues, there will be a run on back-up defenses and perhaps even kickers as a result. Likewise with almost 20% of the NFL’s QBs unavailable due to byes, it will be important for fantasy owners to lock up viable options in advance.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit. Assuming owners have the roster space, now might be the time to grab Matthew Stafford. The Lions’ franchise QB appears almost healed from his Week 1 shoulder injury. Furthermore, back-up Shaun Hill, who filled in most ably for Stafford, broke his forearm Week 6 against the Giants. The Lions face a bye in Week 7 and Stafford appears all but certain to return as the starter in Week 8 with Hill now injured himself. Admittedly, stashing Stafford for a week will do nothing but occupy roster space. However, the Lions QBs have been putting up excellent fantasy numbers (even third stringer Drew Stanton added over 200 yards against the tough Giants’ defense). Stafford’s presence could be critical for owners come fantasy playoff season. Looking ahead, the Lions face Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Miami in Weeks 14-16, affording fantasy owners a couple of strong potential point-producing match-ups. More short-term contests against Washington (Week 8) and the N.Y. Jets (Week 9) offer more of a mixed bag of opportunity. Unfortunately, owners in all but the most shallow of leagues will likely need to grab Stafford now, assuming he remains available.
QB: Josh Freeman, Tampa. If Freeman remains available, congratulations on keeping the Waiver Wire a secret from fellow owners in your league. I have touted Freeman as an advance pick-up precisely because of his potential to add fantasy value over the next three weeks. Tampa faces St. Louis (Week 7), Arizona (Week 8), and Atlanta (Week 9). Fantasy owners in need of a QB fill-in over this stretch may still find Freeman available on waivers in shallower or medium-sized leagues that start only one QB per week. Freeman should be a priority pick-up as he has performed adequately to well and his fantasy match-ups are among the best any QB in the league will face over this stretch.
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo. Fitzpatrick has done quite well from a fantasy perspective, tossing multiple TDs in several games prior to Buffalo’s Week 6 bye. Further, when forced to run for his life against the talented Jets defense in Week 4, Ryan did so, adding a juicy 74 rushing yards for his fantasy owners. Unlike Freeman, however, Fitzpatrick faces a fantasy defense gauntlet from Weeks 7 through 9, facing Baltimore, Kansas City and Chicago over that stretch. In some leagues, better options may exist from week to week; however, Fitzpatrick has played well even against tough defenses, not only putting up fantasy points but also protecting the ball. He could prove to be a pleasant surprise for owners willing to take the risk.
QB: Max Hall, Arizona. Hall has taken control in Arizona and Larry Fitzgerald has awoken from his fantasy sleep as a result. With a Week 7 match-up against Seattle, Hall has opportunity to put up decent fantasy numbers and therefore help owners facing bye-week needs. Arizona then faces Tampa Bay (Week 8), affording Hall back-to-back games with upside.
QB: Kerry Collins, Tennessee. Vince Young left Monday Night’s game with a sprained knee, creating opportunity for Kerry Collins once again to run the Titans’ offense. Collins has had some decent performances in the past, peppered more often with uninspiring fantasy results. Nevertheless, the severity of Young’s injury may make Collins a longer-term starter, generating minimal value in shallow leagues and decent, match-up based value in larger formats.
RB: Danny Woodhead, New England. Fantasy players should consider grabbing the budding Patriots’ backfield star. Owned in less than 7% of ESPN leagues, Woodhead will find himself on more fantasy rosters following his Week 6 totals against Baltimore–63 rushing yards on 11 carries; 52 receiving yards on 5 receptions from among 7 targets. Woodhead’s fantasy relevance has increased each of the last three weeks, thus moving him from off the radar, to “Watch Them,” and now “Snatch Them” status. There remains the risk, identified in the previous edition of the Waiver Wire, that Fred Taylor’s return to health will relegate Danny to the bench. However, owners in medium and deeper leagues likely cannot wait to determine with certainty whether Woodhead has supplanted Taylor on the depth chart. Delay will permit competitors to grab Woodhead first. Moreover, players in dynasty and keeper leagues should act quickly if their roster space allows as Taylor is not getting any younger, and Woodhead’s grit and determination may bode well for his fantasy future, particularly in PPR leagues. With so much flux at RB this season, a flier on this young Patriot may be well worthwhile.
WR: Patrick Crayton, San Diego. Malcolm Floyd left the Chargers’ Week 6 contest with a hamstring injury, opening the door for Patrick Crayton. The former Cowboy padded his numbers, as the Chargers played from behind in yet another surprising loss for San Diego; Crayton totaled 117 receiving yards on six receptions. Significantly, Antonio Gates also was banged up during this game, so Crayton’s rise to prominence was twice-blessed by fortune. With Vincent Jackson coming back in a few weeks, Crayton’s long-term upside is limited. However, owners with a short term need at WR should review San Diego’s injury and practice reports this week; as Floyd and Gates appears limited or even out going into Week 7, Crayton seemingly makes a sneaky one-to-three-week play. San Diego faces New England (Week 7), Tennessee (Week 8), and Houston (Week 9) prior to their bye. Given the Chargers’ high-powered passing offense, fantasy owners needing receiver help should grab Crayton as someone will need to fill the targets and yardage voids Gates and Floyd will leave in their wake.
WR: Deion Branch, New England. The Patriots trotted out former star Deion Branch in Week 6 and like that worn pair of shoes found tucked away in the back of a closet, the reacquired WR felt quite comfortable in the Pats’ offense. Tom Brady targeted Branch an impressive 12 times. Deion hauled in nine of these passes for 98 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, youngster Brandon Tate received a mere four targets and caught none. While one week does not a trend make, Tom Brady seems intent on betting New England’s success at WR on veterans–Branch and Welker. While less experienced players also appear relevant to the Patriots’ passing attack, they occupy other skill positions, TE Aaron Hernandez and RB Danny Woodhead. Fantasy owners looking for WR help should pull the trigger on Branch; New England has completed its bye week and as the veteran reacquaints himself with Brady and the Pats’ attack, he should serve as a decent WR4 for the remainder of the season.
WR: Vincent Jackson, San Diego. Jackson allegedly plans to report to the Chargers by month end. Assuming this occurs, the erstwhile wideout will be eligible for play in Week 12. Fantasy owners looking for a spark heading into the fantasy playoffs should roll the dice and roster Jackson now, assuming he remains available in your league. San Diego has generated one of the top passing attacks in the NFL this season and Jackson’s return merely would supplement this already potent aerial offense.
WR: James Jones, Green Bay. With Jermichael Finley out for the year and Donald Lee also hurting at TE, additional targets likely will flow toward WR James Jones. Green Bay’s poor running game only increases the odds that Jones consistently adds fantasy value. As the WR3 in Green Bay’s offense, Jones already had fantasy relevance. He clearly is worth stashing away.
WR: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay. Fantasy owners should think “James Jones lite” when it comes to Nelson; review the comments above under “Snatch Them” regarding Jones and then consider who in Green Bay’s offense most benefits from injuries to Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee. Certainly, rookie TE Andrew Quarless comes to mind–he was featured in last week’s Waiver Wire. However, Nelson may benefit handsomely. Green Bay’s poor running game likely will motivate the Packers to continue advancing the ball through the air, even in Finley’s absence. Accordingly, Green Bay may run additional four-receiver sets. Such a scenario clearly benefits Nelson, who was in a tight competition with James Jones for the WR3 spot during the pre-season. Opposing defenses will choose their poison and often that will mean guarding Greg Jennings and Donald Driver more closely, challenging players such as Nelson to beat them. Assuming Aaron Rodgers is healthy, Nelson could make a sneaky play for the remainder of the season. Indeed, in Week 6, Nelson was Green Bay’s second-leading receiver, snatching four passes from the seven Rodgers tossed his way, while accumulating 64 receiving yards in the process. While currently not worth the risk in very shallow leagues, Nelson has immediate relevance in deeper contests. Nelson’s use and progression in the Packers’ offense bears watching in all redraft formats.
WR: Roy Williams, Dallas. Williams posted two TDs in Week 6, making that his second multi-TD game this season and third game in a row with at least one score. Going into Week 6, Williams had totaled at least 53 yards since Week 2 as well, suggesting some consistency that would make the former longhorn an acceptable WR3/4 play. Dallas has completed its bye, so adding Williams presents fantasy owners with enhanced roster flexibility throughout the remainder of the bye-week period. While no stranger to many fantasy rosters, Williams remains available in just under half of ESPN leagues.
WR: Michael Jenkins, Atlanta. After the Waiver Wire pimped him since Week 1, Jenkins did me proud Sunday, leading Atlanta in targets and receiving yardage, and placing second to the esteemed Roddy White in receptions. Significantly, Jenkins generated more-than-respectable totals, 99 yards on five receptions. However, 42 yards came on a single play early in the first quarter. This data accurately summarizes the hit-or-miss quality Jenkins brings to fantasy rosters. He almost assuredly remains available in your league as owners in less than 1% of ESPN competitions currently claim him on their rosters. Atlanta faces Cincinnati in Week 7 before a Week 8 bye and a Week 9 date with Tampa Bay. Jenkins could add decent value over this stretch for owners capable of tolerating his bye week.
WR: Jason Avant, Philadelphia. DeSean Jackson left Week 6’s game against Atlanta with a head injury following a devastating hit. Jackson almost assuredly will miss at least Week 7, creating opportunity for Jason Avant, who now moves up the depth chart. Filling in for Jackson against the Falcons, Avant posted 62 yards on five receptions from among the five targets he received. Avant will make a decent WR4/5 as long as he maintains the starting gig in Philly.
K: Garrett Hartley, New Orleans. The Saints signed Hartley and cut veteran John Carney prior to Week 6. Hartley has value in the Saints’ offense, although his continued challenges certainly will make fantasy owners nervous as the season progresses.
K: Ryan Succop, Kansas City. With the exception of Week 1 against San Diego (where bad weather impacted the game), Succop has received multiple field goal opportunities all year. Kansas City’s offense has been good but not explosive, exactly what owners of a team’s kicker desire. These trends are likely to continue in Week 7 as the Chiefs face Jacksonville in Kansas City. Succop, available in 90% of ESPN leagues, could make a great bye-week filler for Rackers, Vinateri, Folk, or Hanson owners. Moreover, upcoming games against Buffalo (Week 8) and Oakland (Week 9) should provide continuing opportunities for Succop to generate above-average fantasy kicker scoring, as neither defense has been locking down their opponents.
K: Josh Scobee, Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s offense has shown some life over the past few weeks, moving the ball enough to render Josh Scobee relevant. Scobee did not miss a field goal over the first five weeks of the season; unfortunately, in three of those games he only had one attempt, however. His break-out against Buffalo (5/5 FGs, 3/3 XPs) notwithstanding, Scobee makes an intriguing Week 7 play as the Jaguars face a Kansas City defense that bent but did not break against the Colts in Week 5, likewise allowing multiple field goals. Owners need to be careful here, however, as Kansas City has allowed minuscule point totals against far more explosive offenses than Jacksonville. Still, if few alternatives exist, Scobee may be a solid play. He likely is available as currently he is owned in a mere 10% of ESPN leagues.
Team Defense: Kansas City. 14, 14, 10, 19. These are the point totals teams facing the Chiefs produced prior to Houston’s 35-point breakout in Week 6 (Kansas City had a Week 4 bye). Note that San Diego and Indianapolis are included among the Chiefs’ thwarted offensive opponents. Kansas City’s ability to lock-down such high-powered offenses is noteworthy. Week 7 presents a home game against Jacksonville and while the Jaguars have performed admirably, they are not an offensive juggernaut. With subsequent games against Buffalo (Week 8) and Oakland (Week 9), the Chiefs make a great defensive pick-up over the near term. Despite Kansas City’s consistently strong performance in 2010, the Chiefs are owned in a mere 22% of ESPN leagues. Grab them while you can.
Team Defense: Seattle. The Seahawks face Arizona at home in Week 7. Although the Cardinals are coming off of a bye, rookie QB Max Hall remains under center. His inexperience coupled with a divisional road test suggest Seattle’s defense may serve as a decent one-week fill-in. Looking ahead, the Seahawks face Oakland in Week 8; while not a pushover, the Raiders certainly have not produced explosive offensive results on a consistent basis. Consequently, Seattle could make a decent two-week defensive play in deeper leagues. Owners facing either Week 7 or 8 defensive byes need to keep the Seahawks in mind. Indeed, the Seahawks’ Leon Washington already has returned two kicks for TDs already this season–an added potential scoring bonus in leagues that count special-teams scores as part of the “Team Defense” totals.
Team Defense: Tampa Bay. Tampa faces the St. Louis Rams in Week 7. Their match-up against talented but inexperienced rookie QB Sam Bradford could prove fruitful to fantasy owners, as Tampa is averaging well over two-forced turnovers per game thus far in 2010. Furthermore, Tampa has completed its bye week and after the Rams match-up faces Arizona (Week 8), Atlanta (Week 9), Carolina (Week 10), and San Francisco (Week 11). Including the Bradford match-up, therefore, the Buccaneers defense has the opportunity to feast upon three rookie QBs and an additional QB-in-disarray (i.e., San Francisco) over a five-week span. Given Tampa’s opportunistic defensive play, the upcoming schedule bodes well for fantasy owners. Surprisingly, this defense is owned in barely 10% of ESPN leagues. They make a nice play all the way through the start of most leagues’ fantasy playoffs and should be rostered in a far higher percentage of leagues.
QB: Kyle Boller, Oakland. With Brad Gradkowski nursing an injured shoulder and now Jason Campbell possibly suffering a torn meniscus, Kyle Boller may step into the starting QB role for Oakland Week 7. The Raiders play at Denver, not necessarily a hospitable forum for visitors. Further, Oakland is likely to go conservative, further limiting Boller’s upside. He is not worth picking up, even in deeper formats, unless owners truly are desperate. Watch first to determine whether he shows any spark in this offense.
QB: Matt Moore, Carolina. Moore will start over rookie Jimmy Clausen Week 7 against San Francisco. Moore showed little during the pre-season and early regular season, paving the way for Clausen to supplant him. Since then, Clausen has played horribly. Thus, Moore, Part II. There is no evidence that Moore’s time on the bench has rekindled the magic he showed late last season. Accordingly, fantasy owners are better off watching first to determine whether he has anything left in the tank.
QB: Trent Edwards, Jacksonville. David Garrard left Monday Night’s game against Tennessee after suffering a concussion. The extent of Garrard’s injury is unclear; however, the NFL is careful with head injuries and Garrard may miss time in the future. Edwards showed some spark in his relief role, but fantasy owners must consider that the former Stanford Cardinal could not stick in lowly Buffalo. It is enough to know Edwards is available as a starter for now; unless owners truly are desperate, they should seek superior options at the position.
RB: Keiland Williams, Washington. Second fiddle to Ryan Torain, Williams generated 31 total yards (12 rushing, 19 receiving) against the Colts in Week 6. However, he also found the end zone on one of his four receptions. The TD should raise eyebrows among some fantasy owners as Redskins head coach, Mike Shanahan, is famous for creating fantasy stalwarts out of otherwise ephemeral RBs. Unfortunately, at present, Torain–Shanahan’s pet brought over from the Broncos–is entrenched as Washington’s #1 RB. Absent injury or other problems, such as a series of Torain-caused turnovers, Williams appears unlikely to receive more the isolated touches. The absence of any consistency makes him a risky play; however, owners in deeper redraft leagues, as well as all dynasty players, may want to give Williams a look.
RB: Mike Hart, Indianapolis. Joseph Addai injured his shoulder again in Week 6, leaving the Colts’ contest against the Redskins part-way through the game. Hart, already subbing for the dinged Donald Brown, entered and performed yeoman’s work rushing for 43 yards. Were the Colts not on a bye in Week 7, Hart would elevate to “Snatch Them” status; however, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown now have two weeks to heal. Accordingly, fantasy owners hoping to vulture some points due to others’ injury misery must first patiently study the Colts’ injury and practice reports. Unless fantasy players are competing in deep leagues, it is poor strategy to grab Hart before determining there is a good chance he will play regularly in Week 8 (or beyond).
WR: Deon Butler, Seattle. The Seahawks traded Deion Branch to New England, thus creating opportunity for the speedy Butler. Seattle completed its bye in Week 5; Butler therefore is available for the remainder of the fantasy season, another plus. Unlikely to produce more than fantasy WR4/5 numbers week to week, Butler nonetheless may make a decent bye-week fill-in for owners in deeper leagues. Fantasy owners need to observe carefully, however, how Seattle utilizes other receives such as Golden Tate and even Brandon Stokley. While Butler will be the starter, Tate and Stokley may steal enough targets to diminish greatly Butler’s value. Hence, his position on the “Watch Them” list for now.
WR: Steve Johnson, Buffalo. Just as fantasy owners cannot ignore Ryan Fitzpatrick’s multiple TD games, players likewise cannot entirely dismiss Bills WR Johnson, who enters Week 7 having caught at least one TD in three straight games. Johnson’s yardage totals are quite pedestrian–he has yet to exceed 66 yards in a game. On the other hand, he has been consistent–totaling at least 31 yards in each of his five games thus far. Buffalo’s next four opponents, Baltimore (Week 7), Kansas City (Week 8), Chicago (Week 9), and Detroit (Week 10) should afford Fitzpatrick plenty of opportunities to throw the ball. With Lee Evans occupying defenses, Johnson should continue to produce enough to serve as a fantasy WR4/5 with TD upside.
WR: Danario Alexander, St. Louis. Alexander led St. Louis in receiving yardage in the Rams’ first game following Mark Clayton’s season-ending injury. While Alexander grabbed a nice 38-yard TD score, fantasy owners should temper future expectations as he was one of four Rams’ players receiving five targets in St. Louis’ Week 6 victory against San Diego. Further, Alexander has been languishing on the Rams’ practice squad, promoted only recently in the wake of Clayton’s injury. Until a primary target emerges from this mix, it will be quite risky for fantasy leaguers to bet too heavily on a player such as Alexander.
TE: Donald Lee, Green Bay. Jermichael Finley is out essentially for the remainder of the fantasy season. Accordingly, more targets will flow elsewhere in the Green Bay offense. The impact of Finley’s injury is a popular topic in this week’s Waiver Wire. Fantasy owners, particularly those in TD-heavy leagues, should consider Donald Lee. Lee also was injured Week 5 against the Redskins; however, his shoulder ailment was far less serious than Finley’s torn meniscus and Lee is expected back in Week 7. Lee will not generate the yardage or reception totals Finley produced. However, Lee historically has been a magnet for the football in the red zone and should be expected to post more than occasional TDs in Green Bay’s offense, along with respectable yardage. Remember, Green Bay’s running game is somewhat in disarray. Accordingly, all Green Bay receivers and tight ends are likely to receive additional looks and yardage with Finley out, as the Packers may have difficulty leaning on their RBs to pick up the slack. Lee could make a nice play as a result.
QB: Jimmy Clausen, Carolina. The Panthers replaced Clausen as their starter with Matt Moore. Since Clausen himself had stepped in for the ineffective Moore after Week 2, this most recent move suggests that absent a Moore injury, Clausen will ride the bench for the remainder of 2010. Owners in redraft leagues should cut Clausen in favor of a more potentially productive option.
RB: Ladell Betts, New Orleans. The Saints signed Julius Jones prior to Week 6, when still unsure of Pierre Thomas’ health. Obviously, this move demonstrated New Orleans’ disappointment with Ladell Betts. Chris Ivory was the focal point of the Saints’ rushing attack in Week 6, although Betts salvaged his fantasy day with a late one-yard TD. At best, the Saints’ backfield will remain in flux, with Betts appearing to be the odd man out, at least as far as touches go. With Thomas returning to health and Reggie Bush due back from injury as well, Betts lacks fantasy upside and should be cut in favor of better options.
RB: Kareem Huggins, Tampa Bay. Huggins left Week 6’s game with a knee injury. Early reports suggest Kareem may have torn ligaments, ending his season. Fantasy owners in redraft leagues should cut him and find other options.
TE: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay. Finley’s knee injury was far more serious than originally anticipated; he had a torn meniscus and now will miss 8-10 weeks. Finley’s season is done after being placed on injured reserve, and his fantasy value in redraft leagues is zero. Fantasy owners should cut him and find an option at TE to help them this year.
K: John Carney, New Orleans. The Saints cut Carney prior to Week 6. Fantasy owners in all formats should do likewise.
K: Nate Kaeding, San Diego. Kaeding injured his groin and appears quite likely to miss the Chargers’ Week 7 game versus New England. Groin injuries can linger as fantasy baseball owners familiar with pitching maladies can attest. Since Kaeding is among the top players at his position, fantasy owners face a challenge. Keeping Kaeding means fantasy players must cut a position player to make room to sign another kicker. Cutting Kaeding might allow a fantasy opponent to pick him up for their playoff run. I am not a fan of kickers and personally would cut Kaeding in all but the deepest leagues. In shallow or medium-sized leagues many fine options should remain at the position. Owners in deeper leagues might need to bite the bullet, keep Kaeding, cut a lower-tiered position player, grab a short-term fill-in at kicker, and hope the former Hawkeye heals quickly.
Scott Rozmus is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Scott in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Goose.
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