One monster bye week down, one to go, or at least that’s a way to describe the fantasy landscape as we enter Week 10 of the NFL season. The good news is that Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Tennessee all return to action this week. The downside is that fantasy owners instead will have to make do without Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego and Washington. That means no Andrew Luck, no Tom Brady, no Arian Foster (perhaps for more than one week since he injured his groin Sunday), no Rob Gronkowski, and the list goes on. At least there’s the waiver wire, right?
Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.
Teams on bye: Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego, Washington
Week 9 Recap: Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes, but he also had two picks, one deep inside the red zone, which took some of the steam out of his fantasy output (18.4 pts., Athlon scoring). Michael Vick was roughed up by the Chiefs, as he left the game for a brief period after hitting the back of his head on the turf, and he managed just 196 yards passing, 18 yards rushing and a touchdown (no turnovers) in a losing effort.
Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles broke his collarbone on Sunday, meaning Sanchez will get another chance. He did toss two touchdown passes after taking over for Foles, but also had two interceptions. The key with Sanchez is that he is at the helm of a much more potent offense than anything he ever had when he was with the Jets, so the opportunity for him to do some damage is clearly there. What he does with it remains to be seen, but Sanchez’ Monday night matchup at home against Carolina doesn’t seem all that scary, at least on paper. The Panthers are just 24th in the NFL in total defense and are giving up the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.
Other possible fill-in options*: Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Josh McCown
Week 9 Recap: Jeremy Hill got the start in place of an injured Giovani Bernard and went off to the tune of 154 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Cincinnati’s short turnaround for its Thursday game against Cleveland should mean another steady diet of touches for Hill, even if Bernard plays. Mark Ingram continued his strong play, putting up 100 yards and two scores against Carolina. Travaris Cadet meanwhile is nothing more than a role player right now (30 total yards on four touches vs. CAR) and he will likely see less work as soon as Pierre Thomas (shoulder) or Khiry Robinson (foot) return. Bobby Rainey was the Buccaneers’ workhorse against the Browns and he delivered (121 total yards on 20 touches), as Charles Sims was not activated for this game. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams each got eight carries against the Saints, with Stewart faring much better in the yardage department (46 to 20). Williams did have one catch for 30 yards, but this may be one timeshare to stay away from.
Chris Johnson, New York Jets
Johnson openly campaigned to be more involved in the Jets’ offense and he got his wish on Sunday. He not only led his team with 69 yards rushing, he also got more carries (11) than Chris Ivory (8). Ivory had been the Jets’ most effective rusher this season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry with five touchdowns, but apparently something’s changed. Whether it’s Johnson is a better fit in the backfield with Michael Vick or his abilities as a receiver (2 rec., 32 yds. vs KC), this is at least something that’s worth keeping an eye on. If Johnson gets back to seeing 15 or more touches per game, he may likewise work his way back towards fantasy relevance.
Chris Polk, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy is the No. 1 guy for the Eagles, but even though Darren Sproles returned on Sunday from a knee injury, it was Polk who backed up McCoy. Polk picked up 50 yards rushing against Houston, including an eight-yard touchdown run while Sproles got one carry. Sproles will remain involved in this offense, but his role may be shifting primarily to a pass-catching one. The point is that Polk got eight carries and the Eagles ran the ball 40 times (for 190 yards) against the Texans. Chip Kelly is going to continue to run the ball, especially now that Nick Foles is sidelined indefinitely with a broken collarbone, and any guy who gets 20 percent of his team’s carries in a game is worth paying attention to.
Terrance West, Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate remains atop the Browns’ backfield depth chart, but now it looks like West, and not fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell, is No. 2. West led the Browns in both carries (15) and yards (48) on Sunday with Tate getting 10 (for 3 yds.) attempts. Crowell was active, but did not get on the field at any point. West also caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer and after the game head coach Mike Pettine said that West had “earned” his touches. Pettine previously voiced concerns about Crowell’s ball-security issues, which has allowed West the opportunity to pass his teammate on the depth chart. This is a fluid situation in many ways, but for now, West appears to be the Brown backup to target, especially given Tate’s injury history.
Other possible fill-in options*: Denard Robinson, Steven Jackson, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bishop Sankey, Darren McFadden, Anthony Dixon, Andre Williams, Bryce Brown, Carlos Hyde
Week 9 Recap: Sunday night produced two more touchdowns for rookie Martavis Bryant, who has five in his first three career games. With Pittsburgh’s passing offense humming (NFL-record 12 TD passes for Ben Roethlisberger in consecutive games), Bryant and Markus Wheaton should both be on everyone’s radars. John Brown caught just two passes for 10 yards (and had one rush for -3 yards) in a forgettable showing in Dallas. Donte Moncrief was a no-show on Monday night, catching one pass for a measly two yards.
Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
The Packers are coming off of their bye and the offense has an appealing matchup against the Bears’ porous defense. Even though Aaron Rodgers already has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to throw to, Adams has worked his way into the mix as well. He has two touchdown catches over his last four games and is coming off of a season-best seven catches against New Orleans in Week 8. In that game, Adams played practically every snap, which pretty much cements the fact that he has replaced Jarrett Boykin as the Packers’ No. 3 wide receiver. Even with a couple of guys ahead of him in the pecking order, Adams is someone worth adding to your roster because of the offense he plays in.
Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams
This is not a hearty recommendation by any means, but someone has to catch passes for the Rams and it looks like the top two targets right now are Britt and tight end Jared Cook. Britt has just 18 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns on the season, but with Brian Quick out for the rest of the season (shoulder), Britt is the closest thing St. Louis has to a No. 1 WR. He’s very much a boom-or-bust option, but opportunity (playing time, targets, etc.) is knocking.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
No Gordon didn’t get his suspension reduced. He’s still got two more games to sit out, but if Gordon is still somehow sitting on your waiver wire, go get him now. Gordon probably represents the best chance of landing a late-season lottery pick, considering his All-Pro talent and potential. He has absolutely no competition in front of him for targets upon his return in Week 12 and this is a guy who averaged 19 yards per catch last season, went over 125 yards receiving seven times and over 200 twice (in back-to-back games no less). Even though Gordon still carries a fair amount of risk, the potential reward is well worth dropping someone else to add the troubled, yet equally talented wideout to your roster. Provided he behaves, Gordon is a legitimate difference-maker when it comes to this season’s fantasy playoffs.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Entering this season, few expected Wright to end up in this space, as the third-year pro was a borderline top-30 wide receiver by most accounts. However, the Titans’ offense has struggled, which has had an impact on Wright’s numbers. In eight games, Wright has 35 receptions for 350 yards and four touchdowns. The good news he’s already doubled his touchdown total from last season and now may be the perfect opportunity to grab someone who hauled in 94 catches last season. Tennessee is coming off of its bye, which means Wright has had some extra time to work on his chemistry with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Justin Hunter is the Titans’ wideout with the most big-play ability and fantasy upside, but Wright carries plenty of appeal of his own, especially in PPR leagues.
Other possible fill-in options*: Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Hurns, Andre Holmes, Cecil Shorts, Dwayne Bowe, Jarvis Landry, James Jones
Week 9 Recap: Heath Millerdidn’t join in the Steelers’ aerial assault (340 yds., 6 TD passes) Sunday night against the Ravens, catching one pass for 14 yards.
Mychal Rivera, Oakland Raiders
Rivera hauled in two touchdown catches on Sunday against Seattle, making it his second straight game with at least 12.8 fantasy points. Oakland’s offense is certainly not the most reliable, but the Raiders also are one of the most pass-heavy attacks in the NFL, which bodes well for Rivera’s potential moving forward. Two games is a small sample size, but Rivera and rookie quarterback Derek Carr have been clicking recently. With big guns like Rob Gronkowksi, Antonio Gates, Jordan Reed and Dwayne Allen on bye this week, perhaps Rivera is worth taking a chance on.
Other possible fill-in options*: Larry Donnell, Jared Cook, Owen Daniels, Charles Clay, Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Week 9 Recap: Cincinnati got a safety and blocked a kick, but the Bengals also gave up 23 points to the Jaguars, which capped the DST’s fantasy impact (9 pts). Kansas City picked up three more sacks and held the Jets to just 10 points, but couldn’t manage any takeaways or big plays.
The Ravens gave up six TD passes to Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night, but they also sacked him on three consecutive snaps at one point. Baltimore also forced a fumble and got a 108-yard kickoff return from Jacoby Jones, finishing the night with a respectable nine fantasy points. This is a DST that has recorded at least two sacks in each of its last four games and on Sunday will host a Tennessee Titans offense that’s starting a rookie quarterback. Don’t expect to see the Ravens give up another six TD passes (or 43 points) this week.
The Cowboys have dropped their past two games, but it’s not entirely because of the defense. Dallas’ DST has produced 18 fantasy points over the past two contests and unlike last season, this unit has been able to create turnovers. The Cowboys have at least one takeaway in every game but one, including an interception on Sunday against Arizona that was returned for a touchdown. Dallas is in London this week to face Jacksonville, the team that still leads the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. The Jaguars have yet to allow any DST score fewer than nine points against it and seven opponents have put up at least 12. With six teams on bye, including Houston, New England and Indianapolis, who wouldn’t take a fairly safe nine points from their fantasy DST?
Other possible fill-in options*: Detroit, Pittsburgh
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.
*Players owned in less than 70% of Yahoo! leagues.