This is often the most difficult part of the season for fantasy owners. We’ve got super bye weeks where like 19 teams aren’t playing, and injuries are running rampant across the league, so rosters could be stretched a little thin. But don’t worry, help is on the way. There’s no need to start sifting through the dregs of your league’s waiver wire dumpster; here at The Backup Plan, we do all the fantasy dumpster diving 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 they’ll be better than this week.


Notable QBs on bye: Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton

Tim Tebow vs. Miami

Yahoo: 52 percent owned, ESPN: 53 percent owned

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The best thing since sliced bread”? That phrase always refers to Tim Tebow. If you combined Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Tom Brady into one quarterback, they would still be slightly worse than Tebow. Ok, maybe not, but Tim Tebow is still a poor man’s Mike Vick, provided that poor man could afford the FAAB bid. This might be a conservative projection, but expect Tebow to throw for 850 yards and rush for 200 more against Miami this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Every quarterback who has ever existed (More specifically: Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger)

Curtis Painter vs. New Orleans

Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned

He’s only been the starter for a few weeks now, but it’s pretty safe to say that Painter is already a better quarterback than Peyton Manning. You don’t believe me? Well let me drop a little knowledge: in three starts Painter has averaged nearly 250 yards and… wait, never mind. Painter is still barely talented enough to hold Peyton’s jock, but the Saints’ defense has been an atrocity this season, so he’s a decent fill-in play.

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

Carson Palmer vs. Kansas City

Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 14 percent owned

The Bengals are notorious for having run-ins with the law, so it should be surprise that they robbed the Raiders blind. Unloading Carson Palmer, a player the Bengals didn’t want, for eight first-round picks, partial ownership of the Raider franchise and tickets for the whole Bengals team to go see Moneyball is absolutely stealing. But it’s a move that could be great in fake football. Palmer might start slow with the Raiders, but he’s not the worst play against a soft Kansas City defense.

Guys he’s better than this week: Matt Hasselbeck, Sam Bradford

Running Backs

Notable RBs on bye: Fred Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs, Cedric Benson, The Law Firm

Jackie Battle vs. Oakland

Yahoo: 33 percent owned, ESPN: 41 percent owned

I attended one of the Raiders’ defensive team meetings this week (no I didn’t), and you wouldn’t some of the plays on words that were being thrown around the room; “We’re about to have a Battle on our hands, and his name is Jackie.” It was awful. Anyway, Oakland’s rush defense is ranked in the bottom-half of the league, so expect Jackie to Battle his way through some Raider defenders this week (zing!).

Guys he’s better than this week: Beanie Wells, Willis McGahee

DeMarco Murray vs. St. Louis

Yahoo: 45 percent owned, ESPN: 38 percent owned

To be honest, there isn’t that much good to say about this situation. Sure, Felix Jones is out, and yes, the Cowboys hate Tashard Choice with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns. But Murray has done nothing at all this season, totaling just 71 yards on 24 rushes. Please, try to contain your excitement. But St. Louis does have one of the worst rush defenses in the league, so hopefully Murray can find a way to get 60+ yards this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Shonn Greene, Marshawn Lynch

Maurice Morris vs. Atlanta

Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 25 percent owned

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your final boarding call; the Mo Mo Express will be leaving the station shortly. Jahvid Best has been advised to sit out the rest of the season because his propensity for concussions, and the Ronnie Brown-Jeorme Harrison trade fell through because, very sadly, doctors found that Harrison had a brain tumor (Get better soon, Jerome). So for the near future, it looks like Morris is your guy in the Detroit backfield.

Guys he’s better than this week: Mark Ingram, James Starks

Wide Receivers

Notable WRs on bye: Hakeem Nicks/Mario Manningham/Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Desean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin, Stevie Johnson, A.J. Green, Michael Crabtree

Greg Little vs. Seattle

Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent owned

After spending the first four weeks thinking Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs were actually better receivers than their 6-foot-2, 220 pound rookie, the Browns finally inserted Little into their starting lineup last week. Big Greg rewarded Cleveland’s faith with six catches for 72 yards on 12 targets on Sunday, and those numbers should continue to increase as his rapport with Colt McCoy develops, especially against a 21st ranked Seattle pass defense.

Guys he’s better than this week: Santonio Holmes, Santana Moss

Steve Breaston vs. Oakland

Yahoo: 25 percent owned, ESPN: 13 percent owned

Who has two thumbs and a somewhat inappropriate last name? Steve Breaston. Who has two thumbs and has also developed some nice chemistry with quarterback Matt Cassel over the past three weeks? Surprisingly, also Steve Breaston. Steve has 50 yards receiving in each of the past three games, including a 91-effort two weeks ago and two touchdowns last week. Oakland has one of the worst pass defenses in the league, so the good times could continue to roll this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Brandon Lloyd, Mike Williams (TB)

Nate Burleson vs. Atlanta

Yahoo: 43 percent owned, ESPN: 27 percent owned

If Calvin Johnson is Megatron, then Burleson is Shia LaBeouf; he tries to help and he wants you to like him, but when it’s all said and done, he’s still a horrible actor/receiver who clearly has no business being anywhere near Megan Fox/Calvin Johnson. But Atlanta’s pass defense is so bad that even LaBeouf could have a good fantasy day throwing against them, so Burleson, who racked up 10 targets last week, is a good risk/reward player this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Torrey Smith, Titus Young

Tight Ends

Notable TEs on bye: Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Jermaine Gresham

Lance Kendricks vs. Dallas

Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent owned

The Rams recently acquired Brandon Lloyd from the Broncos for $16 and half a candy bar, and while this helps quarterback Sam Bradford immensely, it also offers some assistance to Kendricks. With Lloyd in the fold, defenses will have to focus on him, leaving room underneath for Kendricks to work. The Cowboys are 29th-worst in the league against TEs this year, so Lance is a sneaky value play.

Guys he’s better than this week: Fred Davis, Greg Olsen

Ed Dickson vs. Jacksonville

Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 7 percent owned

Was anyone else surprised to learn that there was a person named Ed Dickson playing in the NFL? I’ll be honest; I didn’t know he existed until the Sunday night game vs. the Jets in Week 4. But he’s an intriguing fellow, as he’s had a couple nice games and he’s getting some play in the red zone. The Jaguars (surprisingly) are strong defensively against outside receivers, so Dickson could find some room over the middle this week.

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

Defense/Special Teams

Notable DSTs on bye: Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York Giants

Cleveland vs. Seattle

Yahoo: 7 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent owned

Pete Carroll wrote a book titled “Win Forever.” This week, his Seahawks will roll out an offense led by Charlie Whitehurst and Marshawn Lynch. Clearly, Pet Carroll has never read his own book. Whitehurst hasn’t played much in his career, but if his current role as a pro is backing up Tarvaris Jackson in Seattle, his start this week e may force Carroll to pen his new book, “Lose Constantly.” Seattle has a chance to make Cleveland’s defense look very good Sunday.

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

Denver vs. Miami

Yahoo: 20 percent owned, ESPN: 3 percent owned

The Jets defense scored 29 standard fantasy points in their Monday night game against Miami last week, which is seven more points than the Dolphins have scored as a real-life team in the past two games. Yes, the Broncos’ defense sucks more than a $500 Dyson vacuum, but even they could score well against a high school team. And there’s about a 70 percent chance Miami’s Matt Moore is worse than your high school’s quarterback.

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

Follow me on the Twitter at @JoshVitale.

  1. AL KOHOLIC says:

    is julio jones playing this week

  2. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:

    12-team, 0.

    Would you trade Tebow for Reggie Wayne if your other QBs were Ryan and Flacco and your other WRs were Lloyd, AJ Green, Mike Williams (TB) and Denarius Moore?

  3. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:

    Above should read 0.5ppr

  4. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:

    12-team, 0.5ppr

    I’m loaded at WR (VJax, Fitz, Little, Cruz, Manningham, Burleson)

    I’m weak at RB (D. Williams, Benson, Graham, D Murray)

    Which trade do you like more?

    (1) Trade Victor Cruz for M. Hardesty

    (2) Trade Larry Fitz for Daniel Thomas

  5. herschel says:

    @Josh: ppr league, desperate flex play help, who do you prefer of these guys?

    d. alexander @ dal
    g. salas @ dal
    l. kendricks @ dal
    d. thomas @ mia
    d. williams vs. hou
    k. williams vs atl
    b. tate @ ten
    e. dickson @ jac


  6. Plainview says:

    Who is the best Flex play this week:

    Maurice Morris
    Santonio Holmes

  7. Salty Balty says:

    Drop Chicago’s D for Dallas’ D this week? I probably would lose Chicago’s D for good, but they have a bye next week anyway.

  8. Rocky says:

    You think Burleson is better than Walter this week?

  9. Josh Vitale says:

    @AL KOHOLIC: He’s going to be a gametime decision. Be sure to check his practice status today, and have a backup ready if needed.

    @Commish Cauda (formerly Mike): that’s a fair deal, so if you feel comfortable with a Flacco/Ryan QB combo, I’d do it.

    @Commish Cauda (formerly Mike): I don’t necessarily like either one, but Cruz for Hardesty isn’t a bad trade, especially as bad as Hillis has been. But definitely no on No. 2. Fitz is worth way more than DT.

    @herschel: I like Salas out of that bunch. Saw a lot of targets last week and should see more with Lloyd now, as he should open up the underneath stuff.

    @Plainview: I like the Mo Mo express there. Best bet for consistent touches this week.

    @Salty Balty: I don’t mind that at all. The Dallas D is a great play this week, and the Chicago D is just OK anyway. You could always stream weekly based on matchups.

    @Rocky: I think Burleson has the better chance at having a big game, but Walter will be safer, more conisistent. Really depends on whether you want to go high risk/high reward ot low risk/moderate reward.

  10. FoReal says:

    greg little is 6’3″, 230

  11. Nick says:

    Would you pickup Burleson or Breaston to start over M Thomas this week in my 10-team league? I would have to drop DHB…or just start DHB over M Thomas?

  12. dreap town all stars says:

    Ppr – would you drop any of the following for Maurice morris
    Hightower (got torain also)

  13. Josh Vitale says:

    @Nick: Not according to he’s not.

    @Nick: I like Breaston the most of that group. And I would actually rather drop Thomas than DHB. Gabbert is not helping him.

    @dreap town all stars: In a PPR, Morris will likely have more value than Murray, and he’ll be a starter for a longer time.

  14. morgan freeman says:

    Tebow or Stafford?

  15. Josh Vitale says:

    And while I mistakedly endorsed the ginger fellow today, Carson Palmer will not be starting for the Raiders this weekend. Though a rusty Palmer is still better than anything Kyle Boller will do, Hue Jackson apparently doesn’t agree. Besides, what’s the point of starting someone you just mortgaged the future of the franchise on?

    So yea, don’t start Carson. But do hold him if you can.

  16. Josh Vitale says:

    @morgan freeman: I’m one of the biggest Tebow fans out there, but you have to start Stafford over him. Atlanta’s pass defense is ranked 27th in the league. Big day for Matty.

  17. morgan freeman says:

    Last one, Josh: Beanie over MJD? and Decker over Harvin?

  18. sit bits says:

    Non ppr…
    Start Decker or Little?
    Start Maurice Morris or Torain?

  19. djbooyah20 says:

    PPR League help me set me line-up please and thanks! QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR/RB Flex
    QBs – Hasselbeck, Cassel, or Painter?
    RBs – Forte, McFadden, Mendhenhall, JBest, DeAngelo
    WRs – Roddy, Miles, BMarsh

    I’m thinking Hasselbeck, Forte, McFadden, Mendenhall(Flex), Roddy White, and Miles. I hate to sit Marshall after finally producing last week but his qb situation and a tough match-up against Mr. Bailey scares me.

    Also, would you hesitate to play, Miles Austin, Dallas’ D, and Dan Bailey? I am by no means a cowboys fan, so I hate to put so many of my eggs in one basket. Especially after I watched them in person last sunday and loved every single minute of Brady marching the boys down the field for the TD!!! Had sick seats, 4 rows off the field, corner endzone!! GO PATS!

  20. Clueless says:

    Would you do this trade? (PPR)

    Nate Washington for BenJarvus Green-Ellis – is this an even trade?

    I will be the one getting Green-Ellis, my other RB’s are S Greene, R Rice and D Sproles.
    My WR’s are Jennings, Vjax and G Little and I’m getting DHB off waivers


  21. Ethan says:

    Start/Sit question:

    Earnest Graham or Jackie Battle?

  22. Ethan says:

    Start/Sit Question:

    Earneast Graham or Jackie Battle?

  23. Josh Vitale says:

    @morgan freeman: MJD is the better play. Steelers rush defense is just too good. And I like Harvin, even with a rookie QB.

    @sit bits: Little and Torain.

    @djbooyah20: I like Cassel slightly more than Hasselbeck, but everything else you said is the right choice. And I don’t like playing three players on the same team either, but I usually don’t factor D and K into that. Should be fine with those three.

    @Clueless: It’s a fairly even trade. I think your solid at both positions, but the Law Firm could help you a little more.

    @Ethan: I like Battle, even in a PPR.

  24. Guy Jantic says:

    Need 3 of the following 4:

    Santana Moss
    Santonio Holmes
    Eric Decker
    Percy Harvin

  25. Josh Vitale says:

    @Guy Jantic: I’d go Moss, Holmes and Harvin. Decker is hard to trust with Tebow at QB. And the Vikings will try to force the ball to Harvin with Ponder making his first start.

  26. Matt says:

    Need help. Need to Start one RB and I have Daniel Thomas, Jackie Battle and Maurice Morris. Ray Rice is my other back btw.

  27. footballin' says:

    i have a chance to get an every week quality D because of the byes this week. would you rather pick up the bengals or 49ers for the rest of the season or should i stick with the texans?

  28. Josh Vitale says:

    @Matt: I actually like all three this week, but I think Daniel Thomas will be the best play.

    @footballin’: Bengals. They’ve been better statistically so far, and they have a very easy closing schedule.

  29. MrGJG says:

    Tough week for me with Gore, FJax, Welker, Maclin, and Hernandez ridding the pine.
    My RB/WR/Flex consists of Turner,Tomlinson, Tolbert, Wayne, Baldwin, and Little.
    I got Fred Davis at TE.
    Yea, somehow with this team I’m only 4-2.
    My question: Drop LT, Tolbert or Baldwin for C.J. Spiller?
    Its a PPR league.
    LT seems like the obvious choice, yet I can’t help thinking Ryan’s gonna try to get him in the end zone vs. his former team.

    I also have Cam and Tebow at QB. Would I be insane to start Tebow?

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