While NFL teams gear up for the second halves of their season, fantasy owners grow anxious as the playoffs loom. First, though, we must traverse two more bye weeks. Soon, the annoyance will end. However, this week we once again find numerous teams with time off, including both of our European travelers, Denver and San Francisco. Joining them on the bye are Jacksonville, St. Louis, Tennessee, and Washington. At first blush, fantasy owners will note some fine RBs will ride the pine in Week 9, including four of the pre-season top seven at the position. Looking ahead to Week 10, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Diego, and Oakland complete this season’s bye weeks. While it’s a much smaller contingent than we have seen in past weeks, the Week 10 byes will put pressure on the QB position especially, as three of the top fantasy QBs in the game will be unavailable to owners, forcing fantasy players to dig deep into their rosters or league waiver wires. Never fear, Waiver Wire is here!
As we noted in past editions of the Waiver Wire, among the more lucrative sources for quick, one-week fillers is the list of NFL teams coming off their bye weeks. Generally, TEs, kickers, defenses, and often WR2s or WR3s from such teams are available on waivers. Week 8 included a huge contingent of bye week teams: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Hence, there may be some surprises on your own league’s waiver wire–do not assume even strong players will be unavailable. Always check for those diamonds in the rough!
QB: Michael Vick, Philadelphia. Among this season’s comeback fantasy player of the year candidates, Vick returns from injury and the bye week to assume starting duties in Philly. The Eagles face Indianapolis in Week 9, and Vick therefore should have ample opportunity both to throw and scramble for fantasy points. If he remains available on your waiver wire, snatch Vick immediately, as you can ride him through the fantasy playoffs.
RB: Mike Hart, Indianapolis. Hart clearly outplayed Donald Brown as the duo filled in for injured Joseph Addai Monday night. Specifically, Hart tallied 84 rushing and 19 receiving yards to Brown’s 16 rushing and 13 receiving yards. As Hart received only three more carries and one more passing target than Brown, these yardage disparities are significant. Addai owners should add Hart immediately, and fantasy owners generally should pick him up, as his potential to remain Indianapolis’ feature back (depending upon Addai’s health) may pay significant dividends as the fantasy playoffs approach.
RB: Toby Gerhart, Minnesota. In need of help at RB, especially in deep leagues? Consider Toby Gerhart. Gerhart clearly has gained hold of the RB2 position in Minnesota. Moreover, he has stepped into the third-down RB role, catching five passes for 67 yards Sunday. The Vikings also handed Gerhart the ball a couple of times; however, he could not gain a yard. Gerhart admittedly is a relatively boring pick-up–the typical RB4/5 that seems to haunt many a fantasy roster in medium or deeper leagues. So why feature him as opposed to numerous other candidates? Gerhart’s position on a fading team whose franchise player is Adrian Peterson suggests the Vikings might give Gerhart increased touches in coming weeks simply to save wear-and-tear on their superstar. Further, any injury to Peterson, however minor, will increase Gerhart’s playing time and increase his fantasy value immensely as Minnesota is unlikely to take significant chances with Peterson given the Vikings’ dwindling playoff hopes.
WR: Steve Breaston, Arizona. Playing across the field from Larry Fitzgerald has its advantages, at least if your QB has a clue. Ask Anquan Boldin and now, Steve Breaston, about this phenomenon. Breaston put up career numbers in Arizona’s Week 8 loss to Tampa Bay. Significantly, the former Wolverine did so receiving passes from the erratic Derek Anderson. Thus, fantasy owners should temper expectations that Breaston’s breakout bodes well for consistent, heightened play. Further limiting his short-term upside is the Cardinals’ Week 9 contest at Minnesota. Still, if Breaston remains available on your leagues waiver wire, he makes an excellent addition with strong upside heading into the fantasy playoffs.
WR: Sidney Rice, Minnesota. The Vikings are in disarray and will waive Randy Moss this week. Rice remains injured, though he should come off the PUP list. Now is the time for redraft owners to grab Rice, assuming he is available and their roster space will allow them to carry Rice for two or three more unproductive weeks. Rice will have to work himself back into game shape; however, he has the chance to perform at WR1/WR2 levels just as the fantasy playoffs begin. Such upside is worth the speculative pick-up.
WR: Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis. Gonzalez returned from injury and returned to form as the WR3 in the Colts’ elite offense. Fantasy owners cannot have enough Colts’ skill-position players; thus, Gonzalez makes a worthwhile roster addition for those in need of WR help. Against the Texans, Gonzalez hauled in four of six targets for a respectable 55 yards. With the bye behind him and his health improving, Gonzalez should make a decent fantasy WR4/5 with upside.
TE: Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis. Injuries and byes have put enormous pressure on the fantasy TE position this season. Jermichael Finley and Dallas Clark are out, Vernon Davis has a serious ankle injury that he hopefully can rest on his bye week, and Antonio Gates is playing, ably, on one foot. Enter Jacob Tamme, new fantasy darling, who performed well filling in for Dallas Clark Monday night in the Colts’ victory over Houston. Tamme grabbed six of nine targets and also added a TD. Outstanding results for owners who grabbed him after reading last week’s waiver wire, less exciting for owners hoping for Tamme to slip under the radar going into Week 9. Indy’s explosive offense should provide consistent opportunity for Tamme who therefore makes a priority “Snatch Them” target for redraft owners hoping to solidify their playoff rosters.
K: Kris Brown, San Diego. Brown appears likely to retain the Chargers’ kicking job until Nate Kaeding recovers from injury. For fantasy owners, this means Brown is a safe bet for the Chargers Week 9 match-up against the Houston Texans. Brown isn’t Kaeding, but he is kicking in the Chargers high-powered offense. Accordingly, Brown is a worthy one-week pick-up.
K: Dan Carpenter, Miami. The Dolphins move the ball through the air. The Dolphins move the ball on the ground. Then, as they approach the shadow of the opposing goal posts, the Dolphins shut down. Enter Dan Carpenter to sop up field goal after field goal. Miami’s K added five Sunday, including a 50+ yarder, in an overall outstanding fantasy performance. Obviously, owners cannot expect similar output on a consistent basis. However, Miami’s Week 9 match-up against Baltimore is likely another opportunity for the ‘Fins offense to be just good enough, moving the ball between the 20’s and setting up a couple of chip shots for Carpenter. With so many teams on a bye in Week 9, owners will be looking for kicking help. Carpenter provides a nice option for this week and beyond.
Team Defense, Atlanta. Tampa Bay is not interested in statistics, just winning. That’s awesome news for fantasy owners looking to grab a one-week filler on defense, as the Falcons may just fit the bill. Atlanta plays at home against Tampa Bay in Week 9. The Falcons have been dominant at home and have had two weeks to prepare for the Buccaneers and their second-year QB, Josh Freeman. The game is for first place in the division, so each team is likely to pull out all the stops. However, Atlanta should prevail as Matt Ryan has played spectacularly at home. Assuming the Falcons grab an early lead, they will control the clock and limit Tampa’s offensive production. The Falcons defense appears to be a solid play for owners looking for help this week.
QB: Troy Smith, San Francisco. Owners seeking to add QB depth should roster Smith, even though the 49ers face a Week 9 bye. Smith performed ably in San Francisco’s “home” win against Denver in London, England on Sunday. Accordingly, Smith looks likely to remain San Francisco’s starter in Week 10 and beyond this season, barring injury. The good news for coach Mike Singletary is that he gets to use the same lineup cards as Troy replaces Alex Smith in the starting role. The good news for fantasy owners is that Smith will face only moderate competition, as the 49ers will encounter St. Louis (Week 10) and Tampa Bay (Week 11) in his first two starts following the bye.
QB: Tavaris Jackson, Minnesota. Humpty Brett sat on the wall. Humpty Brett had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men were amazed Humpty Brett could play with an ankle broken in two places, though his owners may have wished he did not play at all. Admittedly, that is not the most melodious nursery rhyme; regardless, now Humpty Brett also has a head laceration that required stitches in his chin. He could not finish Sunday’s game, opening the door for Jackson. In Week 9, the Vikings face Arizona and their generous defense up in the Twin Cities. Favre may start the game, but may not finish. With Randy Moss likely no longer a Viking going into Week 9, the entire team is in flux. Fantasy owners may want to grab Jackson as an option for Week 9 and beyond; watch injury and practice reports closely, as well as news conferences. Only Favre’s consecutive games streak stands in the way of significant playing time for Jackson. Dynasty and keeper league players with sufficient space should add Tavaris now.
QB: Sam Bradford, St. Louis. Bradford has been solid in his rookie season, though he has yet to have that “spectacular” game. He has not thrown for 300 yards yet and has tossed no more than two TDs in any contest. On the other hand, he has thrown two TDs in each of his last two games and is showing poise and leadership on the field. Also significant is the benefit of increasing experience–after throwing at least one interception in his first five starts, Bradford has gone interception-free three starts in a row. Growing TD totals and declining INT numbers are quite a positive combination. Now, consider the Rams’ upcoming schedule, with games against San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver, and Arizona following the Rams’ Week 9 bye. Bradford has a nice road ahead of him and could add value to fantasy owners facing byes or injuries or competing in leagues that start two QBs. The rookie is a must-grab in dynasty and keeper formats.
RB: LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona. Tim Hightower clearly resides in the doghouse of Arizona head coach Ken Wisenhunt. That fact became clear Sunday when Stephens-Howling stepped into the Cardinals’ feature back role after Beanie Wells was banged up. Howling responded with 41 rushing yards and a TD. While he had no receiving yardage this week, Stephens-Howling has produced a couple of three-reception games earlier this season. Certainly not someone who will light up fantasy scoring charts, Stephens-Howling nonetheless should be on the “Watch Them” list, as Beanie Wells’ injury status will impact significantly Stephens-Howling’s playing time and potential upside. Two items of additional interest: Stephens-Howling suffered bruised ribs in Sunday’s game, and while he claims the injury is minor, fantasy owners need to pay attention to this week’s injury and practice reports as a result; second, Stephens-Howling is the Cardinals’ kick returner. Thus, his value is enhanced for owners in leagues where return yardage counts among individual player statistics.
RB: Chester Taylor, Chicago. Taylor has been seeing plenty of action as the Bears’ third-down RB. Fantasy owners may not have noticed though because the Bears’ anemic, 26th-ranked rushing attack has proven largely ineffective all year. The troubles are impacting passing plays out of the backfield also, as Taylor has caught no more than three passes in any game this season. Why “Watch Him” then? Prior to Chicago’s bye week, the Bears announced that Taylor would assume goal-line duties. Accordingly, his stock has taken a tick up, particularly in TD-heavy leagues. This week’s game against Buffalo will give fantasy owners a glimpse of whether that increased value is worth rostering.
RB: Keiland Williams, Washington. Ryan Torain injured his hamstring and had to leave Sunday’s game against the Lions, paving the way for backup Keiland Williams to shine. Williams responded with 53 total yards and a TD. Now, the Redskins move into their bye week, allowing Torain time potentially to heal. Fantasy owners need to review injury and practice reports to glean the extent of Torain’s injury. However, those with roster space and room to speculate should consider adding Williams now as he almost assuredly will be unavailable following Week 9’s bye.
WR: Brandon Tate, New England. Fantasy competitors will be wowed by the televised highlights of Tate’s long-distance TD reception, possibly placing an immediate waiver claim for the physically-talented New England WR. Of equal interest, however, is that Tate only grabbed two additional receptions all day against the Vikings, finishing with an impressive 101 yards, 65 of which came on that single, highlight-reel play. Tate’s success cannot be fully discounted–he did haul in that long TD. However, fantasy owners’ expectations must remain realistic. Since Randy Moss’ departure, Tate has not caught more than three passes in a single game. His performance has been too volatile thus far for owners to rely upon him as a primary source of fantasy points. Fantasy teams with deep rosters and ample room might consider speculating on Tate now; I would recommend watching for another week at least to see if his Week 8 game was aberrant or a break out.
WR: Randy Moss, TBD. The Vikings will waive Moss this week. Some team will take a chance on him because his talent is so immense. Early money in my book is on the Raiders. Al Davis seemingly cannot resist physical freaks; the Raiders could add Moss going into Week 9 and then have two weeks to integrate him into their offense since Oakland faces a Week 10 bye. Plus, there is some chance Davis could sign Moss to a contract extension beyond 2010, creating a happier Moss in the locker room and on the field.
For those fantasy owners who truly enjoy the humor that life provides, it is unfortunate that Tony Romo is injured in Dallas. Otherwise, Jerry “Al Davis, Jr.” Jones likewise would be a prime candidate to grab the flashy Moss and his freakish physical talents. Jones has seen what happens when an offense that sees success featuring the TE and power running changes direction and obsesses on speed. Despite this evidence, Jones remains hell-bent on his vision, which frankly is his right as the owner. Moss donning the Cowboy star would be classic; who knows, if Jones is willing to open the checkbook for future years. It could happen …
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville. Lewis continues to shine, scoring another TD Sunday. David Garrard is back under center for the Jaguars, suggesting Lewis has upside following Jacksonville’s Week 9 bye. Consistent TD production out of the TE position is critical, particularly among players outside the elite, yardage-producing tier. Accordingly, Lewis makes a nice roster addition for fantasy owners, particularly given the rash of injuries among top producers at the position. Owners should remember, of course, that Lewis will not help them in Week 9–he has his bye. For that reason, he lurks on our “Watch Them” list; assuming he is available or a competitor waives him later this week, fantasy owners in need of TE help should pounce.
QB: Max Hall, Arizona. Presented the starting gig and an opportunity to shine, the rookie demonstrated that, like Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen, he is not yet ready for NFL action. Unlike Clausen, however, Hall was not a first-round pick but rather an undrafted rookie. Accordingly, he already has exceeded expectations and likely still has some upside in Arizona. Redraft players must find another option at QB but keeper and dynasty league players should not give up hope yet.
WR: Kenny Britt, Tennessee. Redraft owners should cut Britt and find a better option as the uber-talented Tennessee wideout severely injured him hamstring Sunday. Britt claims he heard his hammy “pop.” This is bad, folks. Britt likely will miss at least a month’s worth of games and then, even assuming he can return, need to get back into playing shape. He is unlikely to help fantasy players anymore this season and should be cut. Dynasty and keeper league players should retain Britt, however, as his flashes of talent suggest some nice upside, assuming all the extra off-field time the young WR now will have does not encourage further trouble in his personal life.
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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