There are two types of fantasy players after Week 3 of the NFL season: The people with teams better than .500 who are just on top of the world, and the people whose teams are sitting at the 1-2 mark or even the dreaded 0-3, with despair beginning to set in.
Well I’m here to tell you that, no matter how bad your team has been, you’re not out of it yet. Below these words here lies a glorious list of 13 names, names so mediocre and lackluster that it’ll actually make your head spin. But these are players that can actually help you. So we’re not going to dwell on the fact that you drafted Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles and Kenny Britt this season; we’re going to focus on you winning you’re Week 4 matchup.
So same deal as usual: these aren’t player you necessarily wanted to start this week, but due to injury, byes or general suckery, you have to. It’s your backup plan. Here’s a rundown of some of the top widely available fill-ins by position and which guys I think they’ll be better than this week.
Rex Grossman vs. St. Louis
Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 25 percent owned
Has anyone else watched the Rams play defense recently? Man, were they bad last week. Joe Flacco dropped a 389-yard, three touchdown deuce all over that secondary, and it didn’t look like the Rams had any answer for him. It’s not likely that they’ll see noticeable improvements just one game removed from that debacle, so Rex Grossman becomes a strong play this week, with 300+ yards and 2+ scores seemingly guaranteed. That’s Gross, Man.
Kyle Orton vs. Green Bay
Yahoo: 52 percent owned, ESPN: 33 percent owned
At first glance, it may seem like starting a patently mediocre quarterback in a lackluster offense against the Super Bowl champions is a horrible idea. But if you glance at it one, maybe two more times, it almost begins to make sense. Sure, Orton isn’t any good, but the Packers have the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL. And when they inevitably get a 21-point lead over the Broncos, Orton will have to throw the ball around, which could lead to a solid fantasy day.
Jason Campbell vs. New England
Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 33 percent owned
Don’t look now, but the Patriots defense is a disaster. They’ve allowed at least 448 yards in each game this season, and its Jason Campbell’s turn to benefit this week. J-Cam (that’s my new nickname for him) had a big week two weeks ago against the Bills, throwing for 323 yards and two scores. He wasn’t as good against the Jets, but as bad as the New England defense has been, J-Cam could be a solid play this week.
Guys he’s better than this week: Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez
Kendall Hunter vs. Philadelphia
Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned
I don’t have any evidence to back this up, but I’m pretty sure the last time Frank Gore finished an entire season without getting hurt was in his Madden 2006 franchise mode. He’s nursing an ankle injury this week and is questionable, making way for rookie-extraordinaire Kendall Hunter. Hunter managed 26 yards and a score last week in limited action, and if Gore is out or even slowed down by his latest injury, Hunter could provide better numbers against a struggling Eagles team.
Monterio Hardesty vs. Tennessee
Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 21 percent owned
THE MADDEN CURSE LIVES! Not really, actually, but cover-boy Peyton Hillis missed last week with strep throat, making way for his backup, Hardesty, to shine. Maybe some wouldn’t consider his 67-yard, no touchdown performance as “shining,” but it seems as if the Browns are moving toward giving him more carries. The Titans have a stellar pass defense, so Hardesty could see some opportunities when the Browns are forced to run.
Guys he’s better than this week: Joseph Addai, Shonn Greene
Michael Bush vs. New England
Yahoo: 47 percent owned, ESPN: 87 percent owned
Wow, two Raider endorsements in one column? What sort of madness is this? This madness, as you called it, has to do with Run-DMC potentially being Slightly-Hobbled-DMC this week against the Patriots. Yes, McFadden will still see the lion’s share of the carries this week, but Bush has two touchdowns on just 21 carries this season, showing his goal-line ability. Don’t expect many yards, but against a soft Patriots defense, he could sneak into the end zone.
Guys he’s better than this week: Mark Ingram, BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Antonio Brown vs. Houston
Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned
There’s a Steelers receiver not named Mike Wallace you want in your lineup this week, and it’s not reigning Dancing with the Stars champion Hines Ward. Antonio Brown trails Wallace by just 4 targets this season, showing Ben Roethlisberger’s tendency to look his way. The Texans pass defense, while better, can still be thrown on, which could lead the way for a solid day from Brown. Expect something like 60 yards and a score in a high-scoring affair.
Guys he’s better than this week: Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin
Jabar Gaffney vs. St. Louis
Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned
No joke, if you look up the work “decent” in the dictionary, one of the definitions reads, “adequate; fair; Jabar Gaffney.” That may be entirely untrue, but look at his numbers this season. The Jabar-wockey has between 50 and 70 yards receiving in each game this season, with no scores. That, my friends, is mediocre. If you need a spot-start, Gaffney will be solid, and he could even finally get a score against a sieve of a Rams defense.
Guys he’s better than this week: Nate Washington, Percy Harvin
Michael Jenkins vs. Kansas City
Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned
Betting on the Vikings offense right now is just about as dumb as betting the Red Sox will win the World Series this year (baseball joke!), but Michael Jenkins could actually be worth your consideration. He was targeted 11 times last week and Bounce-Pass McNabb actually managed to complete nine of those passes, giving Jenkins 88 yards. The Chiefs defense should by no means scare anybody, so Jenkins could see similar success this week, especially in PPR leagues.
Scott Chandler vs. Cincinnati
Yahoo: 63 percent owned, ESPN: 51 percent owned
A friend of mine told me about Scott Chandler this summer, but, like the rest of the fantasy community, I was less excited about a Bills tight end than I am about paying taxes (I don’t pay taxes). But, after three weeks and four touchdowns, my friend might be almost right. Chandler only has 26 receiving yards in the past two weeks, so he’s not getting many passes, but the red zone looks he’s getting are enough to give him value this week.
Guys he’s better than this week: Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez
Jared Cook vs. Cleveland
Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 4 percent owned
Call it a hunch, but this feels like the week Jared Cook lives up to his sleeper hype. A lot of people were high on him before the season, but a 2010-Randy-Moss-esque stat-line of five catches for 56 yards in three games has relegated him to waiver wire fodder. But Kenny Britt tore every muscle in his leg last week, meaning some of Hasselbeck’s production could be spread around to other parts of the field. Hopefully, Cook is one of those other parts.
Guys he’s better than this week: Marcedes Lewis, Chris Cooley
Tennessee vs. Cleveland
Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 19 percent owned
The Titans have the No. 1 defense in football right now. Not the Steelers, not the Packers, not the Jets; the Titans. Sure, two of their games were against the hapless Jaguars the slightly less hapless Broncos, but those numbers cannot be ignored. Plus, Cleveland ranks outside the top 20 in both passing and rushing offense, so the Titans aren’t exactly facing an explosive attack this week. Tennessee makes for a solid streamer.
Defenses they’re better than this week: Detroit, New England
Tampa Bay vs. Indianapolis
Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent owned
For the record, I think the Colts deciding to start Curtis Painter over Kerry Collins on Monday, concussion or no concussion, is the right move. If you flip the record over, I also love any defense facing a quarterback that’s been in the league two seasons and thrown less than 40 passes. Painter will likely struggle in his first start of the season, so streaming the Tampa Bay defense will essentially be like taking candy from a fat baby who, clearly, does not need any more candy.
Defenses they’re better than this week: Pittsburgh, Dallas
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