Well, I sure hope none of you started anybody in last night’s Jets-Broncos game. Sure, from a fan standpoint it turned out to be a spectacular game, seeing as 1) Tim Tebow is the god of everything and 2) every time Rex Ryan loses an angel gets its wings. But from a fantasy perspective, it was mostly an absolute debacle. Tebow ended up with a decent day, but other than him the leading scorer was Joe McKnight, who is probably only owned in 16-team leagues that feature very cautious Jets fans. Not the strongest fantasy Thursday.

But don’t worry. If your players sucked tonight—and let’s face, they probably did—we still have all day Sunday to pray for greatness. So sit back, relax, and let the Backup Plan wash over you like the cool autumn breeze that it is.

Same deal as usual here: 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 they’ll be better than this week.


Notable QBs on bye: Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger

Terrible QBs on bye: Matt Leinart, that guy who’s not Peyton Manning

Carson Palmer vs. Minnesota

Yahoo: 57 percent owned, ESPN: 47 percent owned

OK, Hue Jackson. Your bold trade for Carson Palmer looks a little less stupid now, to be sure. After a horror-show of a debut where he had almost more interceptions than total yards, Palmer has been a top-10 fantasy quarterback in each of the past two weeks. And if that isn’t enough, he gets a Minnesota defense that allowed Aaron Rodgers to pass up, down and all around them. I would start him on your team.

Guys he’s better than this week: Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers

Alex Smith vs. Arizona

Yahoo: 43 percent owned, ESPN: 26 percent owned

This guy just does enough. He’s definitely not great, but damn if he isn’t consistent as hell. He’s like a 200 yard, 1 touchdown machine for the 49ers, finishing with somewhere between 15-17 fantasy points in each of the past three weeks. Hey, it’s not the best you could do, but at least you know what you’re getting. San Francisco gets the Cardinals this week, who are nothing more than middling against opposing quarterbacks. Smith is a very solid, if unspectacular, play.

Guys he’s better than this week: Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco

Vince Young vs. New York Giants

Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned

DREAM TEAM! Man, does Vince Young regret saying that this preseason. The Eagles are a pretty foolish-looking excuse for a football team right now, and the fact that Michael “Glass” Vick broke two ribs last week in a loss to Arizona (the Cardinals? C’mon) isn’t helping. But Vince Young is essentially a taller, slower, not-as-good version as Vick, so if you’re a Vick owner, you could do worse than his backup. I mean, why not, right?

Guys he’s better than this week: Matt Hasselbeck, Josh Freeman

Running Backs

Notable RBs on bye: Arian Foster/Ben Tate, Rashard Mendenhall, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram

Kendall Hunter vs. Arizona

Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 25 percent owned

It’s that time of year again. No, not Thanksgiving; Frank Gore is hurt! That statement usually isn’t an exciting one for most, but for the Backup Plan, it’s a freakin’ goldmine. We’ve been waiting for the explosive former OK-Stater to get his shot, and we may finally see it this week. Gore says he’ll play, but he’s a little banged up so be sure to keep an eye on the injury report. But Hunter could definitely see an uptick in touches either way.

Guys he’s better than this week: James Starks, Jackie Battle

Maurice Morris vs. Carolina

Yahoo: 39 percent owned, ESPN: 37 percent owned

If there’s ever going to be a week where Maurice Morris stops being Maurice Morris and starts being a worthwhile fantasy asset, it’s going to be this week. The Panthers have played matador defense against running backs all season, allowing nearly 27 points per week. There’s actually only been one week this season where an opposing team has less than 100 yards rushing against them. Mo Mo, this is your last chance. Make us proud.

Guys he’s better than this week: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Smith

Chris Ogbannaya vs. Jacksonville

Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent owned

Cipher; noun; one having no influence or value; a nonentity; Chris Ogbonnaya. One of those definitions isn’t actually found in the dictionary, but it’s clearly not far from the truth. In the past three games, Ogbonnaya has had less than 60 yards, less than 20 carries, less than four yards per carry and zero touchdowns. But he’s still (sadly) the starter for the Browns, and he rushed for 90 yards last week. So, um, that’s something.

Guys he’s better than this week: Mike Tolbert, Roy Helu

Wide Receivers

Notable WRs on bye: Andre Johnson, Mike Wallace/Antonio Brown, Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, the receiver formerly known as Reggie Wayne

Earl Bennett vs. San Diego

Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 24 percent owned

Earl Bennett is not a player who can be held down by the man. He sees the NFL siphoning his pieces of his salary and just keeps on wearing his orange cleats, but he pays them no heed. And it’s working. In the two games he’s played following his return from injury, Bennett has 11 catches, 176 yards and a touchdown, cementing himself as the No. 1 option in Jay Cutler’s pouty, sad eyes. Keep on keepin’ on, Earl.

Guys he’s better than this week: Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe

Laurent Robinson vs. Washington

Yahoo: 66 percent owned, ESPN: 37 percent owned

Yes, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are the No. 1 and 2 receiving options in Dallas. Yes, the Redskins defense is pretty good against the pass. And yes, the Cowboys literally scored zero touchdowns the first time they faced Washington. But Laurent Robinson has 208 yards and four touchdowns in the past three games. That’s definitely enough of a track record to get him in your lineups this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Sidney Rice, Julio Jones

Vincent Brown vs. Chicago

Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned

Well, at least there’s one guy named Vincent doing something worthwhile in San Diego. And yes, V-Jax, that is clearly a shot at you. Whoever Vincent Brown is had 97 yards and a score last week, so he’s definitely been the new apple of Philip Rivers’ eye. Seeing as the only play in Norv Turner’s playbook is “loft the ball to a WR and hope he catches it,” Brown could easily pull in another touchdown this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Mike Williams, Deion Branch

Tight Ends

Notable TEs on bye: Jimmy Graham, Owen Daniels, Heath Miller

Brent Celek vs. New York Giants

Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 17 percent owned

The Giants have been absolutely gashed by tight ends in the past two weeks. Like Aaron-Rodgers-facing-any-team-in-the-NFL gashed. Opposing tight ends have put up 245 yards and three touchdowns against the Giants in the past two games, and while Brent Celek is no Aarob Gronkownandez or Vernon Davis, the numbers don’t lie. Vince Young may end up looking for a safety valve this week, and Celek is that guy.

Guys he’s better than this week: Brandon Pettigrew, Greg Olsen

Jake Ballard vs. Philadelphia

Yahoo: 52 percent owned, ESPN: 37 percent owned

Philadelphia still has a strong defense and has been stingy against opposing tight ends this week, but the Backup Plan feels as if it would behoove you to start Jake Ballard anyway. Doesn’t it feel like the Eagles are just kind of done as a team this season? They’re pretty far out of the playoff race, Vick is hurt and they just lost to the Cardinals last week. Three strikes, start Jake Ballard against them this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Kellen Winslow, Jermaine Gresham

Defense/Special Teams

Notable DSTs on bye: Pittsburgh, Houston

Jacksonville vs. Cleveland

Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 27 percent owned

Cleveland vs. Jacksonville

Yahoo: 13 percent owned, ESPN: 36 percent owned

OK, this definitely might end up being the worst football game of all time, so we’re going to go ahead and stream both sides of this horror show. Colt McCoy vs. Blaine Gabbert? Bet these guys wish they were still tearing up the Big 12 rather than toiling away in the AFC’s basement. Gabbert has looked atrocious thus far this season, exemplified by the fact that the Jaguars give up the 26th most points in the league to opposing defenses. And Colt McCoy hasn’t been much better, as both him and rookie head coach Pat Shurmur look utterly lost against opposing defenses. This game could legitimately end 6-3, so both defenses are pretty stellar starts this week.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Detroit, Cincinnati, Philadelphia

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshVitale

  1. CL says:

    Yo Josh:

    Starks, Hunter, or Tolbert for RB2 in a 12 team 1pt PPR, return yards?

    Denarious Moore or Pettigrew at flex same league?

    Thanks man!

  2. superfakeshake says:

    *Ogbonnaya c’mon man! I know he’s a cipher (sad but true) but he’s still a starting RB on my team. poor guy can’t even get his name spelled right haha. other than that, solid writing.

  3. herschel says:

    @Josh: have to go with one of these guys as my rb3 in a ppr league. which one do you dislike least?

    bjge vs kc
    ridley vs kc
    battle @ ne
    k smith vs car


  4. GOD says:



  5. adam says:

    do i start murray or turner this week?tough choice

  6. Josh Vitale says:

    @CL: If Gore is out, Hunter by a mile. If Gore plays, either Hunter or Starks. Kind of a toss up.

    @superfakeshake: That was a regrettable error on my part, superfakeshake. I apologize.

    @herschel: The Law Firm, only because he’ll probably get the most touches out of those four when the Patriots are trying to run out a 70-point victory over the Chiefs.

    @GOD: This is the greatest comment of all time. There is no question. All hail Tebow.

    @adam: I’d run with Murray. Washington has a good pass defense, but their rush D is awful. Plus, Murray has been a stud.

  7. Randy says:

    If Gore doesn’t go should I consider starting Hunter over Mathews?

  8. Josh Vitale says:

    @Randy: No, I think you roll with Mathews either way. He’s been too good when he’s healthy.

  9. Jason says:

    Need one (PPR): Vincent Brown, Mo Morris, Hunter?

  10. barker says:

    would you drop decker and santana moss for vin brown and kevin smith

    my rbs rice jacobs ingram felix stewart
    my wr fitz harvin manningham

  11. Josh Vitale says:

    @Jason: If Gore is out, Hunter. If Gore plays, Mo Mo.

    @barker: I’d hold onto Decker. But dropping Santana for Smith wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  12. Cowboy says:

    Brees on bye…Matt Moore, John Skelton, Freeman or Sam Bradford? Thanks

  13. Josh Vitale says:

    @Cowboy: Ouch. That’s rough. Sadly, I think Skelton is the play.

  14. Cowboy says:

    Hey i apologize i left out Alex Smith…so who u think John Skelton or Alex Smith? thanks again

  15. Josh Vitale says:

    @Cowboy: Of those two, big A. Smith. Might not give you much, but he’s a solid bet for 17-20 standard points this week.

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