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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.