By a show of hands, how many of your fantasy teams are doing awesome right now? Ok, how many aren’t doing so great, but you’re keeping the faith? And how many of you are curled up in the fetal position under your desk because your fantasy team is 0-5? By now you’ve realized this is pointless exercise, because I clearly cannot see whether your hand is raised or not. But we had fun, didn’t we?

Anyway, Week 6 is upon us, and, like every week in our fake football lives, this week could be a make or break matchup in our fantasy championship aspirations. So get ridiculously pumped up for no reason, pound your chest and fist bump a few times, then head out to the waiver wire and add every single one of these players to your team. Every. Single. One.

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 they’ll be better than this week.

Quarterbacks

Notable QBs on bye: Philip Rivers, Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel, TIM TEBOW

Colt McCoy vs. Oakland

Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 22 percent owned

McCoy has more than 200 passing yards in each of his four starts this season and he’s thrown two touchdowns in two of those games. Need I say more? Oh, you actually want me to say more? Well, the Raiders boast a passing defense ranked 30th in the NFL, and if McCoy can pass for 350 yards against a top-15 Titans unit, he should be able to put up similar numbers on Oakland.

Guys he’s better than this week: Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez

Andy Dalton vs. Indianapolis

Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned

Everybody’s favorite red-headed quarterback (sorry, Carson Palmer) has played pretty well in his rookie season, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue this weekend against an Indianapolis pass defense ranked 20th in the league. He’s shown some inconsistency, but he’s topped 18 standard fantasy points three time this season, and he should be able to do it for a fourth time against the soon-to-be 0-6 Colts.

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

Sam Bradford vs. Green Bay

Yahoo: 50 percent owned, ESPN: 73 percent owned

If there’s ever going to be a week where Sam Bradford starts playing quarterback well again, it’s going to be this week. The Packers’ pass defense has been atrocious so far this season, and Bradford has had a full bye week to prepare for it. Sure, Josh McDaniels is doing everything in his power to ruin Bradford and his receivers are awful, but if you’re in desperate need of a quarterback and he’s available, Bradford might finally be almost not terrible at playing quarterback.

Guys he’s better than this week: Josh Freeman, Jason Campbell

Running Backs

Notable RBs on bye: Chris Johnson, Beanie Wells, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch, Battle/Jones/McCluster

Earnest Graham vs. New Orleans

Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 23 percent owned

Everybody’s favorite postgame sucker puncher Legarrette Blount is out this week, and possibly the next few. Sadly, that makes Earnest Graham a relevant fantasy player again and, to be honest, he’s a bit of a wildcard. Graham could easily give you six carries for 11 yards this week. But he could also give you 70 yards and a touchdown. And when you’re looking for painfully mediocre production during a bye week, isn’t the best part the thrill of having no idea what you’ll get?

Guys he’s better than this week: James Starks, Shonn Greene

Delone Carter vs. Cincinnati

Yahoo: 45 percent owned, ESPN: 17 percent owned

Carter isn’t fast. He isn’t a playmaker, either. Heck, he’s not even that great overall. But he’s got opportunity with Joseph Addai hurting. And, other than 140 yards and three touchdowns, what more can you ask for? He won’t get numbers anywhere near that lofty, especially since he’ll be splitting carries with Donald Brown. But he’ll definitely get the goal line carries, so 40 yards and a touchdown isn’t out of the question.

Guys he’s better than this week: Donald Brown, Mark Ingram

Stevan Ridley vs. Dallas

Yahoo: 37 percent owned, ESPN: 29 percent owned

Fool us once, shame on us. Fool us twice and we’ll riot outside of your house. You hurt the fantasy community with your paltry 13 yards rushing last week Stevan, and our hearts have barely healed. But BenJarvus Green-Ellis is on the injury report and there’s a chance he’ll be limited against Dallas this week. If he is, Ridley could be a good play, even against a tough Cowboys’ defense. One more chance, Ridley. One.

Guys he’s better than this week: Jonathan Stewart, Tim Hightower

Wide Receivers

Notable WRs on bye: Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd, Sidney Rice, Nate Washington, Mike Williams

Darrius Heyward-Bey vs. Cleveland

Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 20 percent owned

Well it only took him two seasons, but it looks like Heyward-Bey might be finally living up to his top-10 draft status. He’s not actually, but compared to the numbers he was putting up before, his 263 yards this season look absolutely world-changing. He’s been playing pretty well of late, and Browns’ top corner Joe Haden is likely out this week, meaning more opportunities for DHB. Look for 60+ yards and a score.

Guys he’s better than this week: Pierre Garcon, Denarius Moore

David Nelson vs. New York Giants

Yahoo: 55 percent owned, ESPN: 45 percent owned

David Nelson two good games—Weeks 2 and 3—and since then he’s done nothing, catching just three passes for 24 yards. But whoever Donald Jones is won’t be playing for the Bills this week, solidifying Nelson as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver. And if Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst can pass all over the Giants, it’s fair to think Ryan Fitzpatrick can too. Nelson will get some looks his way, so he has good value this week, especially in PPR formats.

Guys he’s better than this week: Mario Manningham, Anquan Boldin

Michael Crabtree vs. Detroit

Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 53 percent owned

Is there anyone you hate more than Michael Crabtree? All the potential in the world, yet here he is listed below Darrius Heyward-Bey and David Nelson in a fantasy replacements column. Ouch. But he’s been almost mediocre the past three weeks, and as good as the Detroit offense has been, the 49ers will likely have to throw it around to keep up. Call it a hunch, but Crabsies could see 50+ yards this week and maybe—just maybe—a scoring opportunity.

Guys he’s better than this week: James Jones, Percy Harvin

Tight Ends

Notable TEs on bye: Antonio “Plantar Fasciitis” Gates, Zach Miller, Jared Cook

Fred Davis vs. Philadelphia

Yahoo: 40 percent owned, ESPN: 42 percent owned

Davis’s performances in his last two games were lackluster at best, but that’s all going to change now that the Dream Team is rolling into town to give all of its opponents big fantasy days. The Eagles have not been good against opposing tight ends, so Davis should see plenty of looks from the Gross Man over the middle. He’ll get the better of Chris Cooley again this week with a 70-yard, one touchdown day.

Guys he’s better than this week: Dustin Keller, Brandon Pettigrew

Benjamin Watson vs. Oakland

Yahoo: 21 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned

You probably forgot this guy was still in the NFL, didn’t you? Well, he is. Sure, you could argue that the Browns aren’t actually an NFL team, but for the purposes of this column, they are. Watson has actually played well at times this season, topping 40 yards three times in four games and scoring two touchdowns, and a 40-60 yard day definitely isn’t out of the question against a porous Oakland pass defense.

Guys he’s better than this week: Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow

Defense/Special Teams

Notable DSTs on bye: Tennessee, San Diego

Cincinnati vs. Indianapolis

Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 42 percent owned

As surprising as it still is, the Bengals have the best defense of any team that hasn’t had their bye week yet, and that success will surely continue this week against a Curtis Painter-led Colts offense. Painter has yet to throw an interception in two starts, but he has fumbled twice, and it’s only a matter of time before he starts chucking up picks. You’ll want to have the Cincinnati defense in your lineup if the interceptions come this week.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Detroit, New York Giants

Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago

Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned

Jared Allen is licking his chops right now. No, seriously; I made Jared lamb chops for dinner, and he’s licking them. And it’s weird. Anyway, the Minnesota defense is taking on Happy-Feet Cutler this week, which is a pretty awesome matchup. The Bears’ offensive line is giving Cutler no time to throw, so he’s dancing around in the pocket, taking sacks and throwing the ball to opposing defenses. Great; now you’re licking your chops too.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Chicago, Philadelphia

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshVitale.

  1. dreap town all star says:
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    ok 1-5 not giving up!!!! question is should i drop average guys (ppr) like mike thomas for DHB or a Danario Alexander for a lottery ticket chance? Also just rostering Matt Ryan, he is killing me, I can get Dalton, Alex Smith, Rex Grossman out of those who do you think has the most upside, im feeling alex smith out of all those!!!!

  2. dreap town all star says:
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    Also Could also get james jones, but already got jennings.

  3. BA says:
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    Lost Charles and now Blount. Left with Felix, Ridley, Helu, and Scott.

    Brady and Ryan are my QBs. Looking to trade Brady for Foster, DMC, or Forte and get Bradford as part of the package. 1-4 and need a win this week.

    Which RB would you trade for? I’m leaning DMC..

    Help!

  4. CL says:
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    Josh:

    What do you think about B.Marshall saying he’s going to get in a fight on Monday during the game?

    pick 4 (my 3 WRs & 1 flex spot) from this group: Harvin, B. Marshall, Garcon, Heyward-Bey, Titus Young, and Daniel Thomas. 1pt PPR & return yards.

    Thanks man!

  5. HotCorner306 says:
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    I’m with CL…trying to put my hands around this. I’m gonna stick with him and hope he catches a touchdown or two and gets thrown out while celebrating.

  6. Josh Vitale says:
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    @dreap town all star: I would have no issue dropping Thomas for DHB. More upside with a better team/QB situation. And Ryan has been awful, but he’s still better than the other options, longterm. If you can afford to bench him this week I like Dalton more than the rest, but I wouldn’t drop him, for sure.And I don’t care for James Jones. With as much talent as the Packers have, he’s going to be maddeningly inconsistent.

    @BA: I like that trade idea for sure. And I agree that DMC is the best choice, with Foster a close second. Definitely a good trade plan though if it works out.

    @CL: I’d say D.Thomas is a bust start against a porous Jets run D. And I want to think that Marshall is all talk and no action, but you can’t be too sure. I think I would definitely start DHB and Harvin, and its a toss-up between Garcon (who I think struggle against a good Cincy D) and Marshall. Lean Marshal though.

    @HotCorner306: As bad as Matt Moore I could very easily see Brandon Marshall play the whole game without getting thrown out, but getting something like just 3 catches for 29 yards. Not a good fantasy situation in Miami.

  7. Howard says:
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    Am leaning towards starting Ridley’s believe-it-or-not over Daniel Thomas. Right choice?

  8. dreap town all stars says:
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    Thanks, wasn’t thinking of droping Ryan just wanted to add another qb, out of dalton or smith who would you want rest of year?

  9. Vikings says:
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    I have ended up with Ridley, Mendy, Torain, and S Greene need one to start for RB2 1 point PPR I am pretty high on Torain but don know if it is worth the gamble to start him

  10. ELaw says:
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    What do you guys think of this trade: J.Best, B.Marshall, J.Freeman for D.Brees, S.Holmes, D.McCluster?

  11. Chris says:
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    I need a replacement for Blount.

    Who’s the best option both for this week, as well as the next month (as Blount might be out for a while):

    E Graham, K Lumpkin, D Carter, D Brown, or S Ridley?

  12. Commish Cauda says:
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    12-team, 0.5 ppr

    My RBs are Benson, DeAngelo Williams, Earnest Graham, and D. Murray
    My WRs are Fitz, VJax, V. Cruz, Little & Burleson

    Trade Fitz for Felix Jones & Deion Branch?

  13. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Howard: You have to start Thomas this week. Even if the Law Firm doesn’t play for the Pats, Thomas is facing a Jets rush D ranked 27th in the NFL. Thomas is the better play.

    @dreap town all stars: I think Dalton has more longterm upside, but Smith will be the more consistent player. Plus he gets the NFC West defenses on his schedule. Smith.

    @Vikings: Tough call. Torain has the best matchup, but none of us have any idea what Shanahan is doing. I would say Greene is the safest play, but Torain has the most upside.

    @ELaw: The side getting Brees is the best of the deal. It takes a hit losing Best for McCluster, but if you can stomach the RB loss, Brees is better than Freeman and Holmes is better than Marshall.

    @Chris: I think Graham is the best option for this week and moving forward. He has the clearest shot at consistent out of that group.

    @Commish Cauda: I don’t think that’s enough for Fitz. Jones is a decent RB2 and Branch is nothing more than a low-end WR3. Fitz is worth more than that.

  14. DJ says:
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    “whoever Donald Jones is” = hilarious.

  15. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:
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    Thanks…

    Then James Jones or Danario Alexander with Felix instead of Branch probably isn’t enough for Fitz either, right?

  16. Josh Vitale says:
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    @DJ: Thank you, sir.

    @Commish Cauda (formerly Mike): Yea I’d say no way to that as well. If you’re sending away a surefire No. 1 WR, you have to get solid enough value in return. a No. 2 RB and a No. 3/4 WR definitely doesn’t cut it.

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