If you’ve been playing fantasy football for any length of time, you’ve definitely had that week where the very sight of your team’s starting lineup made you want to hide in shame and embarrassment. Whether it’s a rash of injuries or horrible bye week planning, it’s happened to all of us, even here at The Backup Plan. In one two-quarterback league this week, I’m starting Tarvaris Jackson in one spot and struggling to choose between Matt Moore and John Skelton for No. 2. That’s a fantasy lineup you can’t un-see.

But fear not, fantasy owners. While team Backup Plan’s quarterback duo may have a combined score lower than most running backs, we’re here to make sure that you’re team thrives. Even if you’re lineup looks a little thin in Week 9, we’ve got beer, pizza, week-old Halloween candy and waiver-wire fodder here to fatten it up.

So 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: Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder

Sam Bradford vs. Arizona

Yahoo: 30 percent owned, ESPN: 53 percent owned

This is the week he breaks out. Sure, all those other weeks were supposed to be the week he broke out, but this week is actually going to be week. And what better weak opponent to do it against than the Cardinals? The Arizona pass defense is still atrocious, so Bradford could finally post the week we’ve been expecting him to all season. And yes, I just say “week” six times in 60 words (with one “weak” thrown in for good measure).

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

Tarvaris Jackson vs. Dallas

Yahoo: 8 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned

If Cam Newton is a poor man’s Michael Vick and Tim Tebow is a poor man’s Newton, that must make Tarvaris Jackson a poor man’s Tebow. As horrifically unexciting as that sounds, Tarvaris actually has the potential to be serviceable this week. Dallas has only been mediocre against opposing quarterbacks, and Jackson actually topped 300 yards last week without even starting the game. With his rushing ability, he’s definitely not the worst replacement play.

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

Matt Cassel vs. Miami

Yahoo: 42 percent owned, ESPN: 66 percent owned

Don’t feel like taking the risk with Tarvaris? Then get your hands on one of the game’s most boring game-managers! If you’re a fan of quarterbacks who top-out at 250 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, then Cassel is your guy this week. The Dolphins are pretty much a mess in the secondary, allowing even Mrs. Eli Manning to pass all over them. Cassel won’t get to those numbers, but he’ll definitely be solid this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer (Ginger Army!)

Running Backs

Notable RBs on bye: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jahvid Best, Mo Mo Express, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart

Brandon Jacobs vs. New England

Yahoo: 56 percent owned, ESPN: 73 percent owned

He’s still owned in a majority of leagues, but if he’s available in yours, you need to pounce on him faster than a frat guy pounces on a group of drunken freshmen girls (#collegelife). Sure, Jacobs has been almost entirely worthless this season, but Ahmad Bradshaw is dealing with a broken bone in his foot, so Jacobs and his fast-ass car should see an increased workload.

Guys he’s better than this week: Ahmad Bradshaw, Rashard Mendenhall

Chris Ogbonnaya vs. Houston

Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 2 percent owned

Ogbannaya gets cut by the Texans, signs with the Browns, and now he might get his first start of the season… against the Texans. Man, I bet the beat writers in Cleveland are having a field day with this one (like they’ve got anything else better to write about). OGB doesn’t offer much fantasy excitement, but with Peyton Hillis being cursed and Monterio Hardesty hurting, he’ll likely have a feature role this week. It’s hard to argue against that.

Guys he’s better than this week: Peyton Hillis, James Starks

Javon Ringer vs. Cincinnati

Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent owned

Chris Johnson, meet Adam Dunn. You are the two most worthless fantasy sports athletes of the year. CJ(definitely not getting)2K has been the bane of his owner’s existences this season, averaging a paltry 2.8 yards per carry. Because he sucks so hard, Ringer has gotten an increased role in Tennessee and has actually done some good things. Cincinnati has a solid defense, but with CJ playing as bad he is, Ringer might not be that bad a start this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Knowshon Moreno, Delone Carter

Wide Receivers

Notable WRs on bye: Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith, Percy Harvin, Those guys who play for the Jaguars

Antonio Brown vs. Baltimore

Yahoo: 64 percent owned, ESPN: 29 percent owned

Hey ESPN: Step your game up. Yahoo has taken notice of Brown’s clear No. 2 status in Pittsburgh, yet you’re all still waiting for that Hines Ward career-renaissance. Brown is the clear Veronica Corningstone to Mike Wallace’s Ron Burgandy, and while Ms. Corningstone isn’t nearly as pretty as Will Farrell, Brown is still an attractive fantasy option (what?). The the Steelers are a much better team compared to their first matchup with Baltimore, so Brown is a strong play.

Guys he’s better than this week: Brandon Lloyd, Santonio Holmes

Jonathan Baldwin vs. Miami

Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent owned

Which Chiefs receiver big and tall, talented and athletic, maddeningly inconsistent and somewhat of a malcontent? Yes, Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe is a generally accepted answer to that question, but we’re talking about his young padawan, Jon Baldwin, today. After missing the first couple of weeks with a fsce-punching injury, Baldy is back, and he looked good against San Diego. Miami’s pass defense is a mess, so he should continue to get looks in the slot this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Pierre Garcon

Greg Salas vs. Arizona

Yahoo: 1 percent owned, ESPN: 0 percent owned

Anyone else miss the hell out of Danny Amedola? That dude was the Prince of the PPR last year. But alas, he is gone for the season, so we’ll have to make do with Salas. A former stud at Hawaii, Salas is beginning to make a name for himself with Bradford. And given his affinity for Amendola, Bradsies could start showing Salas could see similar love, especially against an awful Arizona pass defense.

Guys he’s better than this week: Greg Little, Deion Branch

Tight Ends

Notable TEs on bye: Greg Olsen, Brandon Pettigrew, Visanthe Shiancoe, Marcedes Lewis

Jake Ballard vs. New England

Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned

I have absolutely no idea who Jake Ballard is. But apparently Eleanor Manning has heard of him, so we should probably delve deeper into the situation. The Giants have been a haven for moderately talented white tight ends in years past—like Shockey and Boss—so there’s no reason to think Ballard can’t find mediocre stats in this offense. He’s getting looks from Eli on the field (and in the locker room), so Ballard isn’t a bad bye-week TE play.

Guys he’s better than this week: Dustin Keller, Dallas Clark

Brent Celek vs. Chicago

Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 11 percent owned

DREAM TEAM! DREAM TEAM! DREAM TEAM! Order has been restored, America: the Eagles are again the best team in the history of the NFL, and Celek is basking in some of that glow. Michael Vick hasn’t loved a tight end since Alge Crumpler, but B-Cels has been much more involved in the offense in the past two games, and he should keep that going against a Chicago defense that’s been very generous to opposing tight ends.

Guys he’s better than this week: Fred Davis, Kellen Winslow

Defense/Special Teams

Notable DSTs on bye: Detroit

St. Louis vs. Arizona

Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 4 percent owned

Since Week 2, Arizona has given up an average of 17 fantasy points per game to opposing defenses. That number is Ricky Williams-high. Ok, I know he quit, but the joke stands. The Rams actually looked strong defensively against a very good Saints offense last week, and this week they get a Cardinals offense that could be without Kevin Kolb at quarterback. Streaming a defense against John Skelton? Yes please.

Defenses they’re better than this week: New Orleans, Chicago

Oakland vs. Denver

Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 18 percent owned

I’ll be the first to admit how much I love Timmy Ballgame. If he wasn’t saving himself for marriage, I would love to take him out to a nice steak dinner, take a stroll down the streets of Denver, then get him home early so he can be well-rested for practice (get your mind out of the gutter). But he still looks ill-equipped to play quarterback, so Oakland should be able to beat him up in the Black Hole.

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

Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshVitale.

  1. Robert says:

    Hey Josh…you still taking the STL defense over Chicago in a return yards league (1pt/10yds, 6pts/TD)?

  2. Robert says:

    Or even OAK of CHI (same setup)?

  3. keithr says:

    ha, im starting ogabbyyabawqeq(ap , j.stewart on bye), celek(winslow alternate), a.brown and oakland

    The real question is do I start baldwin over s. johnson vs revis

  4. Johnathan says:

    Nice post, im definitely using some of these guys. What do u think about this trade?

    I give Stafford and Felix Jones for Hasselbeck and Ryan Mathews.

    I am 3-5 in a 14-team league.
    My QB’s are: Stafford, Tebow,
    My RB’s are: Mendenhall, M. Morris, Ogbonayya, and Jones

  5. Josh Vitale says:

    @Robert: In a return yards league, I might still roll with Chicago. They might give up a lot of points, but people are still kicking to Hester, so that makes them too dangerous to sit.

    @keithr: I think you still have to roll with Johnson, even with Revis marking him. Clearly the top option in Buffalo, and he’s becoming a guy you almost have to play no matter the circumstances. Plus, Baldwin may n ot be proven enough yet to be a safe play.

    @Johnathan: Thanks Jon. And as for the trade, I have to say I’m not that big of a fan. Stafford is a guy that can w2in you a week by7 himself, and trading him away for a mediocre QB and a very injury-prone RB won’t do that much to help your team.

  6. Rocky says:

    Would you start Antonio Brown over Mendenhall this week as flex? I have Forte, Murray, Mendenhall with Crabtree and Julio Jones for this week but not too sure about Mendenhall. I have D. thomas and Little as other options as well. Just wondering what you think the best lineup would be 2 rb 2 wr with flex.

  7. Robert says:

    @Josh Vitale: Thanks for the advice! One more question…I picked up Jacobs and Ogbonnaya in my league…would you play either of them over McGahee or Joe McKnight (again, return yards league) this week? Ringer is also still available. Thanks!

  8. friar says:

    Help! I’m in BIG trouble this week, with McFadden, Mathews, and Hillis all unlikely to play. I have Torain and Ringer on my bench and could pick up Grant, Barber, D. Brown, Scott, or Ball off the waiver wire. Which two guys should I go with this week while I wait for my starters to heal?

  9. Josh Vitale says:

    @Rocky: that’s a tough call, but I think I’d go with mendenhall. RBs just scare me a bit less than WRs.

    @Robert: Have to go with Jacobs, even in a return yardage league.

    @friar: I think the two you have are the best bets. Shanahan is a jerk, but Torain will likely get the bulk of the carries, and Ringer has been more productive than CJ recently

  10. Justin says:

    OGB or Tawain Jones this week?

  11. Josh Vitale says:

    @Justin: Has to be OGB. He’ll have the feature role.

  12. Sloan says:

    OGB or Mcgahee this week?

  13. friar says:

    With Hanson on bye this week, I need a kicker. The question, though, is whether Hanson’s good enough to justify holding onto in a 14-team league. My other option is to drop Jon Baldwin, my fourth WR behind DJax, Manningham, and Washington (starting two each week). Thoughts?

  14. Josh Vitale says:

    @Sloan: If McGahee is playing, than he’s the guy. He’s so much better than Knowshon Moreno it’s not even funny.

    @friar: I generally don’t care for kickers, but if you really want to keep Hanson, dropping Baldwin wouldn’t be that big of a loss. If you’re only starting two per week, you’d never start him over your top 3.

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