Jamaal Charles owners, this column is dedicated to you. When Charles fell to you with the fourth pick in the draft, you were absolutely giddy with excitement. He was going to be the centerpiece of what was surely to be your championship-winning fantasy team this year. But two weeks later, the excitement is gone. Now you’re curled up in the fetal position and openly weeping as visions of torn ACLs dance through your nightmares.
But cheer up, friends. The season is far from over. Sure, you might not ever be able to truly replace Charles’ production on your team, but you have to try. Now stop crying, get out of bed and put some pants on, because the Backup Plan is here for you.
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.
Matt Hasselbeck vs. Denver
Yahoo: 26 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent owned
You thought he was done, didn’t you? Not so fast, says Tim Hasselbeck’s brother. Matty Hass dropped a 358-yard, one touchdown performance on the Ravens defense last week, and as bad as the Baltimore defense looked, the Broncos defense is likely worse. Champ Bailey and top pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil have been limited all week and may not play, so Hasselbeck should get plenty of chances on Sunday.
Andy Dalton vs. San Francisco
Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned
Andy Dalton has the same amount of passing touchdowns as Cam Newton and has thrown fewer interceptions. No, that is not an endorsement of Dalton over Newton; it’s just a fact. But Dalton did have an impressive 332-yard two-score performance against a painfully mediocre Denver secondary last week, and this week he faces a 49er defense that let Tony Romo throw for 345 yards with a punctured lung last week. Start him if you need him.
Guys he’s better than this week: Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez
Chad Henne vs. Cleveland
Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 38 percent owned
Chad Henne had a really bad day against Houston last week, but here he is, groveling at your feet and begging for your forgiveness. Henne had just 170 yards passing last Sunday, but that was against a Texans team that clearly is playing at a level—or six levels—above where the Dolphins currently are. The Browns are more Miami’s speed, so Henne should be in for a better result this week.
Guys he’s better than this week: Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel
Dexter McCluster vs. San Diego
Yahoo: 50 percent owned, ESPN: 29 percent owned
Dexter McCluster is 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. No, this is not a joke. He may be no bigger than a high school freshman, but he does hold fantasy value, especially in a PPR league. Thomas Jones is already collecting Social Security benefits and Jamaal Charles is gone and your tears aren’t going to bring him back, so it could be worth taking a flier on a guy who could see a lot of touches once the Chiefs trail the Chargers 48-0 in the first quarter.
Guys he’s better than this week: Thomas Jones, Ryan Grant
DeMarco Murray / Tashard Choice vs. Washington, Chester Taylor vs. Seattle
Yahoo: 13 / 10 / 1 percent owned, ESPN: 6 / 2 / 3 percent owned
Ugh. There’s not much positive to say about any of these players, but Felix Jones and Beanie Wells are both banged up, so any of these guys could have some opportunity this week. Recommending any one over the other is difficult, however, as there’s a better chance of you starting at quarterback for the Patriots this week than there is of accurately predicting which running back will hold more value. Flip a (three-sided) coin, click add, and just hope you picked the right one.
Guys he’s better than this week: Ehh. Be sure to check the injury reports.
Ben Tate vs. New Orleans
Yahoo: 77 percent owned, ESPN: 88 percent owned
Yes, I know I’ve recommended him three weeks in a row, and yes, he’s more than likely owned in your league. But he was very good in Weeks 1 and 2, and he’s still un-owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues and 12 percent of ESPN leagues. This should not be. Arian Foster looks to be in worse shape this week than he was last week, so unless your league deducts points for 100+ yard, 1+ touchdown performances, make sure Tate is owned in your league.
Guys he’s better than this week: Shonn Greene, Mark Ingram
David Nelson vs. New England
Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 14 percent owned
Many of you likely never heard of David Nelson before last week, but he turned himself into one of Week 2’s waiver wire sensations with 83 yards and a score on Sunday. It’s been years since you’ve even considered starting a Bills player against the Patriots, but it may be time to start again with Nelson. He may not match is Week 2 numbers, but 60 yards and a score is clearly not out of the question.
Guys he’s better than this week: Reggie Wayne, Percy Harvin
Jabar Gaffney vs. Dallas
Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned
Don’t look now, but the Redskins passing offense is actually putting up fantasy points! It’s shocking, but it is true. And while placing Jabar Gaffney in your starting lineup could induce vomiting, he’s playing well enough to be with your attention this week. The Cowboys defense can be scored against, and the Jabar-wockey has totaled 50+ yards in each of his first two games. If he can find the endzone this week, he’s worth a spot on your team.
Guys he’s better than this week: Dwayne Bowe, Chad Ochocinco
Nate Washington vs. Denver
Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned
Remember when I said that thing before about the Broncos defense not being that good? If not, scroll back up and read it again. You back? Ok good. So, as I said, the Broncos defense is no good, meaning the Titans will likely be able to throw on them. Washington has had 67 and 99 yards in two games so far, and with Britt hampered slightly by his hamstring, the good times could continue against Denver.
Guys he’s better than this week: Jordy Nelson, Devery Henderson
Fred Davis vs. Dallas
Yahoo: 52 percent owned, ESPN: 38 percent owned
Here’s another guy recommended last week that will likely continue to be recommended until he is universally owned. He has 191 yards and a touchdown in two games. For comparison’s sake, that was Donovan McNabb’s average passing line last season. No, I don’t have any idea what that comparison means, but I’m running out of ways to tell you to start Fred Davis. Start Fred Davis.
Guys he’s better than this week: Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels
Jermaine Gresham vs. San Francisco
Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned
Yes, the tight end section this week is the exact same as it was last week. But really, both these guys should be playing on your fake team. Gresham had a solid game Week 1, and while he didn’t play that well last week, he gets a San Francisco defense that should be easy to score on in Week 3. The 49ers have given up more than 120 yards to tight ends so far this season, so Gresham could be in store for a solid Week 3.
Guys he’s better than this week: Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez
Carolina vs. Jacksonville
Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent owned
You shouldn’t need to be told that streaming a defense against a rookie quarterback is a great fantasy move. It doesn’t really matter whether the Panther defense is good or bad; what does matter is that Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert is making his first career start. Jacksonville will likely lean heavily on the running game, but when they do throw, you can expect the Carolina defense to capitalize on a few rookie mistakes.
Defenses they’re better than this week: New England, New York Giants
Arizona vs. Seattle
Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned
It’s definitely possible that the Cardinals have the NFL’s worst defense. But it’s equally plausible that the Seahawks boast the saddest offense in the league. Arizona may be hapless on defense, but even they can stop the incredibly low-powered attack that is the Tarvaris Jackson and Marshawn Lynch-led Seattle offense. If the Cardinals can’t hold Seattle to under 20 points and force a turnover or two, there really is no more hope for them as a franchise. Stream accordingly.
Defenses they’re better than this week: Dallas, Chicago