FANTASY PLAYS: First bye week means replacement challenges
Fantasy football players must now deal with an added challenge: the bye weeks. That means replacing top players in your lineups, starting with those from Seattle and Green Bay, where the Packers looked better on offense last week.
There are always quality options if you worked waivers cleverly and were fortunate enough to avoid many significant injuries.
If you are looking to replace some Packers such as Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Baltimore is a good place to start. The Ravens host the Raiders, who are allowing an NFL-worst 340 passing yards per game. Joe Flacco should have a minimum of two TD passes and a resurgent Mike Wallace already has three TD receptions. The Redskins are another passing game to target for production, as they face Cleveland, which has allowed 294.3 passing yards per game and seven TD receptions. Kirk Cousins may be available as a free agent or trade bargain. Wideout Jamison Crowder caught six balls in each of his first two games and has scored in consecutive weeks.
RUNNING WITH ROOKIES
Eddie Lacy is on a bye and many managers have been dealing with running back injuries and bad performances. But there is a pair of alternatives to consider in this week's Lions-Bears matchup. Rookie Jordan Howard takes over as the starter for the Bears because of Jeremy Langford's ankle injury, but Langford was in danger of losing his grip on the starting job even before he was hurt. Howard had a 36-yard run last week and caught four passes for 47 yards, displaying his potential. Consider him a pretty good plug-in at your flex spot. Another first-year performer, Dwayne Washington, may be needed to play a larger role after Theo Riddick rushed for nine yards on 10 carries in Week 3. The Bears have allowed 142.7 rushing yards per game, so Washington could offer a nice return if you start him as your second running back or flex player.
KEEPING THE FAITH
Three notable wide receivers, Julio Jones, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin, all hurt their fantasy owners badly last week. Jones caught one pass, Cooks caught two balls for 13 yards, and Benjamin was shut out. When top WRs get shut down or are quiet in a given week, their teams often make a strong effort to get them the ball in the next game. Jones is a bit banged up, but scored in each of the first two weeks. Cooks faces the Chargers, who have surrendered 322 passing yards per game, and Benjamin draws the Falcons, who have allowed an NFL-high 10 TD passes.
PROVE IT AGAIN, PRYOR
Terrelle Pryor played the ''Slash'' role so well last week, Kordell Stewart might be envious. He caught eight passes for 144 yards, rushed for 21 yards and a TD, and even threw for 35 yards. Before we get too excited, though, let's remember that Pryor has bounced in and out of the league since 2011 and only fully remade himself into a WR this season. Now that opponents have seen what he is suddenly capable of, he is going to get increased defensive attention. You should remain skeptical, and don't start Pryor over a more proven player yet. If he draws some Josh Norman in coverage this week, he'll have to show he can truly earn his receiving numbers.
Carson Palmer threw four interceptions in what seemed like a very friendly matchup at Buffalo last week. This week he draws the Rams, who have one interception. Los Angeles has only allowed four TD passes, but Palmer does have a good amount of weapons and should be able to bounce back at home. Even though this is a divisional game, and those can be tough battles, Palmer should be good for at least a respectable fantasy performance.
After a pair of mediocre outings to open the season, Todd Gurley rushed for 85 yards and two TDs at Tampa Bay last week. Now he faces the Cardinals, who were torn up by LeSean McCoy for 110 yards and two TDs last week. Arizona is going to key heavily on Gurley and he may also get out of the game flow if the matchup becomes one-sided. There will be more disappointing performances ahead for Gurley, so trade him coming off the good game if you can before Sunday.
HIGH FLYING FALCONS
Fans saw the Atlanta RBs soar on Monday at New Orleans, as Devonta Freeman totaled over 200 yards from scrimmage and Tevin Coleman rushed for three TDs. The pairing may have arrived as the best 1-2 combo at RB in the league, but this week's opponent, Carolina, has allowed only 90.3 rushing yards per game and three TDs. Temper expectations on both players this week and realize that it could be a different guy every week outpointing the other statistically. Last week was fun, but could prove to be quite the anomaly. With the state of RB in fantasy right now, though, reliability is not easy to come by and you can continue to start both guys for their considerable upside.
SCORCH THE SAINTS
The corollary to the Falcons success is fantasy players should be checking to face the Saints every week, as their defense once again looks beyond terrible (448.3 yards per game allowed), and was depleted as well last week. This week it's San Diego, so while the run defense is the worst in the league and that bodes well for Melvin Gordon, you should start WRs Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams with confidence, and even consider TE Hunter Henry if you need help at the position.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com .