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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.

Quarterbacks

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.

Guys he’s better than this week: Tony Romo, Eli Manning

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.

Guys he’s better than this week: Joe Flacco, Cam Newton

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

Running Backs

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.

Guys he’s better than this week: Frank Gore, James Starks

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

Wide Receivers

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.

Guys he’s better than this week: Torrey Smith, Victor Cruz  

Tight Ends

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

Defense/Special Teams

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

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshVitale.

39 Responses

  1. andrew says:
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    Wow somebody told you to draft Scott Chandler? Must’ve been some kind of fantasy guru or something

  2. CL says:
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    12 team, 1pt PPR, return yards…

    For my flex, Dan Thomas or Kendall Hunter? Too soon to tell? Thanks!

  3. timSTi says:
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    Lance Moore, Jimmy Starks, or Antonio Brown for a flex in a non ppr?

  4. T-Bone says:
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    Jabar Gaffney has definitely scored already this season.

  5. Josh Vitale says:
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    @CL: 100 percent Daniel Thomas. He’s definitely sealed the feature-back role and has performed very well in it.

    @timSTi: If Drew Brees loves Lance Moore, I love Lance Moore. Even in a non-PPR, he get a lot of catches and chances for scores.

    @T-Bone: You are correct. That is my error.

  6. Geno's Cat says:
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    In a jam. Big Ben or Sexy Rexy?
    Thanks yo! Love the blog.

  7. DDT says:
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    Whos is the better ROY add for a standard league WR/RB FLEX back-up: Danarius Moore (WR) or Brandon Jacobs (RB)? I’d have to drop Jacobs to get Moore.

  8. Plainview says:
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    Need 2 RBs, 2 WRs and 1 Flex (RB/WR) – who would you start:

    Mendenhall
    Ryan Mathews
    Tolbert
    Dez Bryant
    Lance Moore
    David Nelson
    Mike Thomas

  9. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Geno’s Cat: I’ve seen that people are down on Big Ben this week, but I love his matchup. Drew Bress threw for like 1,000 yards against Houston last week, and this one will likely be another high-scorer. I like Ben more than no-sex Rex.

    @DDT: I like Moore better than Jacobs. Jacobs is the No. 2 RB and clearly has no more upside, while Moore is emerging as one of the top targets in Oakland. No issue with dropping Jacobs.

    @Plainview: I’d say Mathews and Mendenhall are must starts. For the WRs, I like Dez and Lance Moore a lot, and I’d say Nelson is slightly more valuable than Tolbert this week. So Mendy, Mathews, Dez, Moore and Nelson.

  10. Oilcan Giuseppe says:
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    10 team ppr keeper league,can I get some feedback on this trade offer?….here’s my roster,obviously I could use another RB….

    QB-Stafford
    WR-C. Johnson
    WR-Jennings
    RB-Best
    RB-D. Thomas
    TE-Graham
    W/R-Welker
    BN-Sproles
    BN-Helu
    BN-Burleson
    BN-Meachem
    BN-Manningham
    BN-Keller
    BN-Cutler
    BN-Charles

    I was offered Bradshaw and Marshall for Jennings and Charles.A RB coming off a serious knee injury scares me for next yr.We keep four and I’d be worried about keeping Charles anyway.

  11. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Oilcan Giuseppe: I don’t oppose that trade offer. Charles could struggle next year coming off a major knee injury, and if you take him out of it, BMarsh and Bradshaw is more than fair for Jennings, and that would definitely help your RB depth. I like the deal.

  12. Josh Vitale says:
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    @CL: Scratch that CL. It looks like D Thomas is out for this week. Hunter is the play.

  13. Megatron Lives says:
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    Jared Cook or Randy McMichael going forward? Start McMichael this week and see how Cook does?

  14. brapp says:
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    Which 2 guys should I start for week 4?
    WRs: Santonio Holmes, Denarious Moore & Percy Harvin

    Which 1 guy should I start?
    And for TE’s: Dallas Clark or Scott Chandler? Or should I pickup Pettigrew and start him?

  15. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Megatron Lives: Cook still has some sleeper potential, but McMichael is the safer play this week.

    @brapp: Holmes and Moore for your WRs. And I like Pettigrew a lot this week. Dallas has been horrid against opposing TEs.

  16. Calogero says:
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    I have no TE (Hernandez OUT) – pick up Chandler, Gresham, Cook, McMichael or Dickson to fill in til Hernandez comes back?

  17. BA says:
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    Nate Washington or Lance Moore for flex?

    Fred Davis or Owen Daniels?

  18. Mike says:
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    Aj green David Nelson,or Eric decker for flex?
    Thanks!

  19. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Calogero: Chandler. May not do much in the way of yards, but Fitzpatrick seems to look for him often in the red zone.

    @BA: The Browns have actually been solid against opposing WRs so far, so Moore is the better play this week. And I like Davis this week against an awful Rams D.

    @Mike: Green. Dalton loves him, and he’s the clear No. 1 WR there.

  20. El Gato says:
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    Need a flex play in a 1/2 point ppr league -

    McCluster or B. Jacobs?

    Thanks!

  21. jacques colston says:
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    how bout leonard pope? he or randy mcmichael? (i dumbed up and drafted gates ….AGAIN!!!

  22. Hebs says:
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    I’m starting Rex against the transparent Rams D over Ben who guarantees two sack fumbles against the Houston D. Its close though.

  23. brapp says:
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    Thanks for the tips! I got one more question though, I have Dallas Clark and Scott Chandler on my roster. However, you suggested picking up Pettigrew for this week? Which TE should I drop then? Thanks again.

  24. Robert says:
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    PPR League, 1 pt/10 yds rushing/receiving, 5 pts/TD

    Tolbert or SJax in flex?

  25. Cam says:
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    14 team. i have no RB1s. can start two out of tomlinson, hunter, tolbert. or any sleeper waiver option?

  26. Josh Vitale says:
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    @El Gato: I like McCluster in a PPR league. He’sdefinitely going to get a lot of touches this week, especially in a potentially winnable game against the Vikings.

    @jacques colston: I like McMichael over Pope. Obviously not nearly the player that Mr. Plantar Fasciitis is, but he’ll get some looks from Rivers.

    @Hebs: I do like Roethlisberger this week in a high scoring game, but I support that decision. The Rams could make just about any QB look like a Pro Bowler this year.

    @brapp: I have no issue dropping Chandler. He’s getting looks in the redzone, but in the past two weeks he only has 4 catches for 27 yards combined. I like Pettigrew more than him for the long haul.

    @Robert: SJax. Rams say there increasing his workload this weekend, so you have to run him out there.

    @Cam: I like Hunter a lot this week whether Gore plays or not, because Hunter will lead the team in touches. And Tomlinson isn’t a horrible play. Not a pure RB anymore, but gets a lot of catches in that offense. Don’t care for Tolbert.

  27. Mike says:
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    Worried about Michael turner in Seattle …would u bench him in standard league for aj green,David Nelson,or santonio Holmes ?

  28. brapp says:
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    So you say, keep Clark as backup TE and start Pettigrew?!

  29. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Mike: I still think you have to start Turner. Falcons will likely score a lot against a weak Seattle D, and he’ll be a big part of it. The only person of those 3 I could see you starting over him is Holmes, but the Jets-Ravens game will likely be a low-scoring one.

    @brapp: That’s what would do. Those two make for a pretty strong TE situation on your fake team.

  30. brapp says:
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    Alright, sounds good then.

    Final question before kickoff though, I forgot that I had David Nelson (WR for Bills) on my roster. Should I still stick with my prior lineup I said earlier? (Andre Johnson, Santonio Holmes & Moore). Or should I consider switching one of my WRs for Nelson? Thanks again!

  31. brapp says:
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    @brapp:

    I forgot to mention, I have Percy Harvin also LOL!

  32. brapp says:
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    @brapp: Woops, ignore that last post.

  33. Josh Vitale says:
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    @brapp: Definitely start AJ and Holmes. As for Moore and Nelson, you could really go either way. Both the Jags and Bengals have been surprisingly good against he pass, so they’re both pretty even this week. If I had to guess, I would say Moore has slightly more value this week though.

  34. teeth says:
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    who do i start in flex?!?! mccluster, gore, addai, or manningham

  35. clemson32 says:
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    Romo or Orton today?

  36. Mike says:
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    Would u drop Tate and add Ridley now that foster is back?
    Thanks!

  37. Scott says:
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    Looking to trade Michael turner ..seems like sell him now?
    Would u trade him for a WR like Julio jones if u have guys like Fred jax and ray rice starting with issac red man and Ridley on the bench?

  38. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Mike: Yes. Ridley is on his way up, and Tate is probably a solid No. 6 RB (if there even is such a thing) with Foster healthy.

    @Scott: If you have a flex spot where you can start 3 RBs, I would hold Turner, for sure. F-Jax, Rice and Turner is a ridiculous RB trio. If you have only 2 RB spots, however, he would be the guy to move. He’s worth more than Julio though. He’s probably worth a low-end No. 1 WR.

    @teeth: Sorry I didn’t get to this before the games Sunday, but I hope you started Gore.

    @clemson32: Also sorry I didn’t get to this one, but I hope you started Romo, even though both he and Kyle were a hot mess of awful.

  39. Mike says:
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    Missed Ridley…would u drop Tate and add issac red man?

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