This is one of those weeks that will separate the men and women from the boys and girls in Fantasy Football. This is when hard work and diligence pays off. There are six teams on bye this week, and it is going to take some shrewd maneuvering to find able replacements for players like Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson and Eddie Lacy to name a few. The Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers and Titans are all taking the week off, and fantasy owners are scrambling to find one-week replacements. For those owners who do not have adequate backups for the stars on leave, here is a look at some of the top players who have a good chance of being available to help in week 9.
WR Brandon LaFell, Patriots LaFell has quickly risen to prominence as one of the receivers QB Tom Brady trusts for New England. There are a couple of caveats. First is that thing called “Patriot roulette.” Coach Bill Belichick seems to pick a new name out of the hat to feature each week. If LaFell is the lucky guy this week, it will be a high reward. His numbers for the past six weeks look like this: 4, 17, 2, 21, 5, 18. If this sequence holds true, this will be a single-digit fantasy week. The only other thing to beware of is that, at last check, the weather forecast was calling for 30-40 mph winds in Foxboro on Sunday. Check the weather forecast before you start LaFell, who has been the most added player this week, but is still available in around 35 per cent of leagues.
WR Andrew Hawkins, Browns QB Brian Hoyer has taken a liking to Hawkins in the past two weeks. He has scored 14.5 and 18.3 points in his last two outings against Jacksonville and Oakland. This week the Browns face Tampa Bay, which ranks last in the league against receivers. Hawkins is the top-scoring WR for the Browns this season, and should remain there for the next few weeks until Josh Gordon returns from his suspension in week 11. Hawkins is still available in 45 per cent of leagues.
RB Denard Robinson, Jaguars Robinson is the most added RB this week, but is still available in almost 25 per cent of leagues. He has scored in double-digits in his last two games, and now goes up against the 24th ranked team against running backs—the Cincinnati Bengals. The only warning here is that he plays for a Jacksonville team that has averaged only 21 points in the last four weeks.
RB Charles Sims, Buccaneers Check the Tampa Bay injury report before starting Sims this week. He is a rookie on whom the Buccaneers were very high before the season, but has been on the IR because of an ankle injury suffered in the pre-season. Because of the fact that Tampa Bay has been disappointed in the performance of expected workhorses Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey, Sims is an interesting proposition if he is active. The consensus among fantasy experts is that owners who pick him up should wait another week and see how he produces before putting him in the lineup. Desperate owners should know he is a high risk/high reward play this week.
RB Jonas Gray, Patriots Again, anyone picking up Gray will be at the mercy of the whims of Belichick. After Stephan Ridley went down for New England, it was thought that Brandon Bolden would pick up the slack along with Shane Vereen. There was even talk that James White would get the call. As it turns out, Gray got 17 carries for 86 yards last week against the Bears. If it is windy on Sunday and the Patriots emphasize the ground game, Gray could be the guy. Then again, so could Vereen, White or Bolden. Where the Patriots are concerned, expect the unexpected.
QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins It was a surprise that RGIII is back this week and, if he really is going to start, he makes an interesting pickup for owners in need of a bye-week band-aid at quarterback. It must be kept in mind, however, that the Vikings allow the 2nd fewest points to opposing QBs, and Griffin will probably be a bit rusty. He may be worth a try, however, in a week where few quarterbacks are available.
QB Brian Hoyer, Browns Where availability is concerned, bye-week quarterback replacement do not get much better than Hoyer. Available in over 70 per cent of leagues, Hoyer is at home against Tampa Bay—the 29th ranked team against QBs. He is averaging over 18 points per game, and if you throw out the 6.7-point clunker at Jacksonville two weeks ago, he is over 20.
Tight Ends There is not much available at the tight end position and there has not been much all season. The interesting names available out there include Heath Miller of the Steelers, who is 53 per cent available. Miller had 7 receptions for 112 yards last week, but performances like that are more the exception than the rule. He is also facing the Ravens this week, who are 3rd in the NFL against tight ends. Another possibility is Luke Wilson of the Seahawks, against the Raiders who are 15th against tight ends. Seattle, however, has not been scoring a lot of points, and is expected to keep the ball on the ground this week against an Oakland defense that ranks 28th against the run. If the weather is windy in Massachusetts, and the Patriots are forced to stick to the ground and the short passing game, Tim Wright might be a profitable play against Denver. The Broncos are 24th against tight ends, and will be paying a lot of attention to fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski.