Several top fantasy producers will be getting a rest in Week 6 with Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans all on bye. Not only does that mean no Drew Brees, Cam Newton or Jay Cutler, it also means owners won’t get anything out of Matt Forte, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, or Jimmy Graham, among others. And don’t forget about Chicago’s defense/special teams, which is far and away the No. 1 unit in all of fantasy football as the Monsters of the Midway have out-scored opposing offenses on their own over the past three weeks.
While there is not a suitable replacement for the Bears DST out there, that does not mean there aren’t any viable options available on the waiver wire. The same goes for other positions that are either impacted by the bye week, injury or a lack of production. Here are some names worth considering.
Bye week teams: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans
Week 5 Recap: This past week didn’t go that well for Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb or Ryan Tannehill, although Tannehill’s Dolphins were victorious over the Bengals. Hasselbeck had the best fantasy numbers thanks to a fourth quarter touchdown in the Titans’ loss to the Vikings, but overall his numbers (200-1-1, 10 rushing yards) were nothing to get that excited about. Hasselbeck will get another chance this Thursday at home against Pittsburgh as Jake Locker (shoulder) has already been ruled out by head coach Mike Munchak. Hasselbeck also could benefit from facing a Steelers defense that won a physical, hard-hitting affair against the Eagles on Sunday, but besides being battered and bruised, suffered even more injuries and faces a quick turnaround for this week's game. Kolb and Tannehill scored even fewer fantasy points than Hasselbeck, as the Rams knocked Kolb around (9 sacks) and he committed three turnovers (2 INT, 1 fumle), while Tannehill wasn’t called on to do that much (17-of-26, 223 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) in the passing game. Kolb appears to have the better match-up this week as the Cardinals will host Buffalo, while Tannehill and the Dolphins welcome the aforementioned Rams to Miami.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redksins
Purely speculative, but starter Robert Griffin III suffered an apparent concussion in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta, so he will need to pass all the mandatory tests and be cleared to not only practice, but play Sunday against Minnesota. If Griffin can’t go, Cousins will get the start, as he made his NFL debut in relief of Griffin and picked up his first career touchdown pass, a 77-yard strike to Santana Moss to give the Redskins the lead early in the fourth quarter. He also was picked off twice as the Falcons scored the final 10 points for the victory, but the rookie still finished with decent numbers (5-of-9, 111 yards, TD, 2 INT) in his first taste of NFL action. He could be in line for significantly more this Sunday.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Freeman hasn’t done an awful lot (790 yards passing, 5 TD, 4 INT, 22 yards rushing) in his first four games, but Tampa Bay is coming off of its bye week, allowing Freeman and the offense time to work out the kinks. Also, don’t overlook that this week the Buccaneers will host Kansas City. Even after holding Joe Flacco and the Ravens to just nine points (yet still losing), the Chiefs are still allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They have given up a total of 10 passing touchdowns compared to just three interceptions so far.
Brady Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt Cassel left Kansas City’s 9-6 loss to Baltimore with an apparent head injury, opening the door for Quinn. The reality is that while injury may end up being the official reason for a quarterback change in KC, the truth is that this was probably coming regardless. The Chiefs are 1-4 and in spite of the defense’s own issues, it’s quite easy to point the finger at Cassel. He is completing less than 59 percent of his passes for an average of 230 yards per game. More troubling is the turnovers, as he’s coughed it up 13 times (9 INTs, 4 fumbles) while accounting for only six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rush) in five games. Injury or not, there’s a good chance Quinn will get the nod this Sunday in Tampa Bay. Quinn started 12 games in 2008-09 for the Browns, and for his career has completed less than 53 percent of his attempts for 1,934 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. One other thing to keep in mind: Tampa Bay has given up an average of 345 yards passing in its first four games.
Tim Tebow, New York Jets
Like Quinn, Tebow may soon get the chance to show what he can do under center for the Jets, especially if Mark Sanchez and the offense continue to struggle. By now, it’s no secret what Tebow can and can not do when it comes to playing quarterback, but if he gets the opportunity to start, it instantly increases his fantasy value. His shortcomings as a passer aside, Tebow has already shown that he’s capable of producing as a rusher. Even with his limited playing time so far, Tebow is third on the team in rushing and is responsible for the Jets’ longest running play (22 yards) from scrimmage.
Week 5 Recap: Rashard Mendenhall certainly made his presence felt in his season debut, as he led the Steelers in carries (14), rushing yards (81) and scored the team’s only touchdown in the win over the Eagles. There’s no reason to think he’s not the team’s top back moving forward. Kendall Hunter also had 81 yards rushing as he made the most of his opportunities in San Francisco’s 45-3 blowout of Buffalo. Jackie Battle, Brandon Bolden and Ronnie Hillman combined for 83 rushing yards on 21 carries as they saw the starters in front of them, namely Ryan Mathews for San Diego and Stevan Ridley for New England, assert themselves. All three are still worth owning, but expectations, barring injury, for each moving forward should probably be tempered.
Alex Green, Green Bay Packers
Cedric Benson left Sunday’s game in Indianapolis with a foot injury and Green got the most carries (9) after that. The second-year pro from Hawaii, who was the team’s third-round pick in 2011, finished with 55 yards (6.1 ypc) and is now in line for even more opportunities, as Benson will be out for at least eight weeks (possibly lost for the season) after suffering an apparent Lisfranc injury to his foot. James Starks (and perhaps Brandon Saine) could still have something to say about this. Starks, who was the presumed starter before the Packers signed Benson during training camp, has missed the first five games with a toe injury, but is reportedly almost healthy enough to return to the field. Regardless, I wouldn’t expect a great deal out of any of the Packers' backs this week when they take on the undefeated Texans and their No. 6-ranked defense.
Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall made his triumphant return as the Steelers’ lead back on Sunday against the Eagles and looks to have cemented his status as such moving forward. That said, Redman finished with only one fewer carry (13 to 14) than Mendenhall and he is currently the team’s leading rusher. Also, the Steelers decided to make Jonathan Dwyer inactive, even though he was healthy, against the Eagles, so it appears that Redman, and not Dwyer, will maintain the role of the team’s No. 2 back. There could be worse positions to be in considering the Steelers’ propensity to run the ball and this Thursday’s match-up with Tennessee, who is giving up more than 144 yards rushing per game.
Darius Reynaud, Tennessee Titans
Chris Johnson isn’t losing his job as the Titans’ starting running back, especially now that backup Javon Ringer is out four to six weeks after spraining his left knee. However, that doesn’t mean that CJ might not lose some carries, as he’s been largely ineffective (210 yards, 2.9 ypc, 0 TD) running the ball and has yet to score. To that end, it appears that Reynaud (who also could be eligible at WR depending on the league) would get the chance, as he currently has more carries, targets and receptions than Jamie Harper, who is also on the roster. The Titans already know about Reynaud’s speed and playmaking ability, as he’s averaging 27.6 yards per kickoff return, including one he brought back 105 yards for a touchdown. At this point, it certainly can’t hurt to give someone other than Johnson a shot at running the ball.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals
Beanie Wells is already on injured reserve because of a toe injury, but there’s a chance he will return at some point this season. The same cannot be said for Ryan Williams, however, as the shoulder injury he suffered during Thursday’s loss to St. Louis ended up being worse than initially believed. Williams’ 2012 season is over as the second-year back will need to undergo shoulder surgery to repair the damage. Stephens-Howling is expected to move to the top of the Cardinals’ depth chart at running back, although he has missed the past two games with a hip-flexor injury. He was reportedly close to playing last Thursday, so if he’s healthy enough, he should get the first shot. The Cardinals also have William Powell, the only other running back other than Williams to get a carry against the Rams, and Alfonso Smith on the roster. This is a situation that bears watching, especially in deeper leagues, as Arizona welcomes Buffalo to the desert on Sunday. The Bills’ defense is among the worst in the league statistically and it gave up 311 yards rushing and 45 points to San Francisco last week.
David Wilson, New York Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw rumbled for 200 yards on 30 carries (6.7 ypc) against Cleveland, but it was Wilson who perhaps made the most of his chances against the Browns. Andre Brown went down early with a head injury, presenting Wilson with an opportunity as the Giants looked to eat up some time with a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. Wilson finally got another chance to run the ball and he promptly took it 40 yards to paydirt. Whether or not this results in Wilson getting more opportunities in the future remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t hurt the rookie that he capitalized on the chance he got on Sunday, especially in light of Brown’s injury and the Giants’ renewed emphasis on running the ball.
Week 5 Recap: James Jones (4-46-2) made the most noise in Week 5, while Brian Hartline, Domenik Hixon and Andre Roberts each caught at least four passes. Donald Jones only managed two receptions, but then again the Bills had a total of 204 yards of offense and scored three measly points against the 49ers. Hartline, James Jones and Roberts appear to the most appealing options of these moving forward based on their respective situations, although Hixon’s outlook is tied directly to the health of Hakeem Nicks.
Brandon Gibson, St. Louis Rams
The Rams will be without the services of leading receiver Danny Amendola for at least a month, meaning some other wideout will need to step up in his absence. Gibson appears to be the most likely candidate to assume Amendola’s role, as he’s second on the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards and he’s already caught two touchdowns. Rookie Chris Givens probably bears watching as well. He caught a 51-yard touchdown against the Cardinals, but has had problems holding on to the ball overall (4 receptions, 15 targets).
Mario Manningham, San Francisco Giants
Alex Smith, the NFL’s top-rated passer, threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns against Buffalo. Not to say the 49ers will continue to air it out, but Smith’s showing himself capable as a passer. To that end, Manningham is third on the team in both targets (23) and receptions (19) and has the same number of touchdown catches (one) as leading receiver Michael Crabtree. It also doesn’t hurt that this Sunday Manningham’s former team, the Giants, will be making the cross-country trip to take on the 49ers.
Robert Meachem, San Diego Chargers
Perhaps all it took was some familiar faces to get Meachem going. After catching just six passes for 92 yards in the Chargers’ first four games, the free agent acquisition erupted for three catches, 67 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints, his former team. Malcom Floyd is Philip Rivers’ top target and tight end Antonio Gates will probably continue to get more looks, but Meachem can still be a productive receiver for the Chargers and someone’s fantasy team. It starts by putting together two solid games in a row as the Chargers will host Denver this coming Monday night.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson gets more targets (and makes considerably more money), but Williams has been a reliable and productive secondary option for Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay’s passing attack. Williams is averaging slightly more yards (19.9 to 19.0) per reception than Jackson and each have caught two touchdown passes so far. The Bucs have had an extra week to get ready for Kansas City, who has had its share of problems on defense and is giving up an average of 29 points per game.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Tennessee’s offense is struggling, especially when it comes to running the ball, but you can’t pin it on the rookie. Not only is he leading the team in receptions, he’s tied for 19th in the league as his 27 is also the most of any first-year wide receiver. Wright’s not getting a lot of yards (214, 7.9 ypc), but he’s tied for the team lead in touchdown catches with two and has caught a total of 13 passes the past two games. Wright is worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses, especially in PPR leagues.
Week 5 Recap: Scott Chandler was the Bills’ leading receiver (4 rec., 40 yds.) against San Francisco, which isn’t saying much, but he also lost a fumble. Greg Olsen fared similarly (2, 37), minus the fumble, but that’s not surprising considering Cam Newton was 12-for-29 for only 141 yards (4.9 ypc) against Seattle. The Bills will try to get some offense going at Arizona, while Olsen and the Panthers have the week off.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Gresham is averaging five catches and 57 yards over his last three games and he’s also caught a touchdown during that span. He’s second on the Bengals in receptions and even though A..J. Green is the clear-cut primary option in the team’s passing attack, Andy Dalton has been averaging nearly 34 pass attempts per game and is seventh in both passing yards and touchdowns. With numbers like that, there should be more than enough to make Gresham fantasy relevant too.
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
Housler’s not catching a ton of passes, only eight on the year, but seven of those have come over the past three weeks. He’s also averaging nearly 15 yards per reception and Kevin Kolb targeted him six times last week. If anything, it appears that Housler has established himself as the Cardinals’ primary tight end moving forward. If he can increase his production and show some consistency, at worst he could become a viable bye week replacement option.
The Dolphins' defense has played well to start the season, especially against the run. The 'Fins are No. 1 in rush defense as they have allowed only 61.4 yards per game and have already faced off against running backs like Arian Foster and Darren McFadden. They have been a little more susceptible to the pass (281.8 ypg), but are only surrendering 20.6 points per game. Next up is a Rams team at home that's lost its top wide receiver and only completed seven passes last week. Following their bye in Week 7, the Dolphins have the Jets, Colts, Titans, Bills and Seahawks on their slate. Of these six teams, only Indianapolis ranks higher than 21st in the league in total offense.
The Vikings are tied for fourth among DSTs in fantasy scoring, largely due to their ability to pressure the quarterback (14 sacks) and having viable threats for both kickoff (Percy Harvin) and punt (Marcus Sherels) returns. Overall, the Vikings' defense has been a pleasant surprise thus far and their upcoming schedule — at WAS, ARI, TB, at SEA — doesn't appear to be all that daunting either. In fact, this week's game in Washington could look a lot different if Robert Griffin III is unable to play because of the concussion he suffered last week.
Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.
— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 9, 2012