FANTASY PLAYS: Outlook for Brown minus Big Ben, QB streams
Some notable injuries are forcing many fantasy football players into extra maneuvering to construct the right lineup this week.
We help you cope with the additional challenge beyond the bye week for Carolina and Dallas.
Cam Newton has a bye, but Ben Roethlisberger is also out and could miss anywhere from two to six weeks with some knee issues. In the short term, there are certainly viable replacements. Andy Dalton is coming off a pair of 20-point fantasy games and faces the Browns, who have allowed an AFC-high 16 TD passes. Marcus Mariota has thrown three TD passes in each of the last two games and is up against the Colts' 29h-ranked pass defense. If you have to search deeper, though, don't hesitate to use Colin Kaepernick, even for a longer stretch while Roethlisberger is out. His rushing ability, especially in the Chip Kelly offense, boosts his fantasy floor in any given week. He rushed for 66 yards on eight carries last week, and while he threw for just 187 yards and one TD, his rushing totals gave him a total of 19 fantasy points last week. It's inviting to envision the kind of numbers he can post if he has a decent passing outing on top of the rushing stats, and he is always a threat to run for a score, too.
San Francisco's Carlos Hyde will miss this week's game against Tampa Bay because of a shoulder injury. You may see a time share between Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn with Hyde out. Davis is the more physical type who is a better bet for a score and more suitable for standard league usage. Draughn is a good pass-catcher who had some good outings last year when pressed into service. He is worth consideration as a point-per-reception flex option if you're desperate for help in that format.
WAITING FOR MARTIN
Fantasy owners who were hoping that Doug Martin would be back this week will have to wait longer for his return, as he was ruled out after suffering a setback in his return from a hamstring injury. Super scatback Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 101 yards on 30 carries in his start before the bye and could be in line for a significant workload again. But at 5-6 and 205 pounds, the Buccaneers have to be careful not to wear him down too quickly, and fantasy owners should keep their expectations in check. Don't use Rodgers as anything more than a flex option.
EARLY LONDON GAME AGAIN
A reminder that the Giants and Rams play an early game in London at 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Sunday morning. New York is allowing 266.8 passing yards per game and Case Keenum has been playing respectably lately, with two or more TD passes in three of his past four outings. He has found a favorite target in a resurgent Kenny Britt, who has totaled 75 or more receiving yards in four of his past five games and is coming off a 136-yard, two-TD performance. Keenum can be used as a QB starter if you are in a real pinch, and Britt has earned true WR3 consideration and is a perfect substitute for Kelvin Benjamin or Cole Beasley, who are on byes.
ALEX SMITH INVITING, BUT MEDIOCRE
You may be tempted to start Alex Smith against the Saints, who have the worst pass defense in the NFC. But last week, Smith was up against the NFL's worst pass defense, the Raiders, the only team that has allowed more yards per game than New Orleans. The Kansas City QB did not throw a TD pass. He also had just one TD pass against the Jets' 28th-ranked pass defense two games prior. Smith is a mediocre fantasy quarterback who cannot be used just because the matchup is friendly. But you should lock in Spencer Ware as an RB1 and use Jamaal Charles as a flex. New Orleans surrenders 117.8 rushing yards per game with a league-high 11 ground TDs allowed.
Some fantasy analysts will cite a ''revenge game'' as an additional reason for speculating a player who will have a good week. This time, Sam Bradford travels to Philadelphia to take on the team that traded him away. Football is often an emotionally-driven game and it's natural for a player to want to perform very well in such a scenario to prove an organization wrong for sending him away. But the Eagles have the fourth-best pass defense in the league, Bradford is playing solidly and does not have an interception yet, but he does not have a 300-yard game or more than two TD passes in any week. He lacks upside as a fantasy passer, and you could do better with Kaepernick or Keenum. He may not be able to impose his passing will in a lower-scoring game.
Allen Robinson has been a fantasy disappointment and Blake Bortles has been a source of frustration. But it started to turn around for the Jaguars late in last week's win for Chicago, as the no-huddle offense propelled Bortles to a thrilling win over the Bears. Jacksonville wiped out a 13-point deficit with 17 fourth quarter points, and now is ''rewarded'' with a matchup with Oakland this week. This may be a good time to buy low on Robinson and do not hesitate to start Bortles this week.
STEELERS WITH BEN OUT
The loss of Roethlisberger puts an apparent hit on the fantasy appeal of superstar WR Antonio Brown. He has never caught a TD pass in his career in a game without Roethlisberger, and averaged six catches and 68 yards per game without him last season. If you have Brown, it may be hard to bench or deal him. You simply have to start him in many cases and lower your expectations with Landry Jones at QB. You can keep him in your lineup, but look for WR3 type production at minimum. The Steelers face New England this week, but the Patriots don't have one weapon to take away on defense this week. Focusing on Le'Veon Bell may actually be a higher priority, so don't expect Brown to get shut down completely even if much upside is not apparent. He may not give you standout numbers you usually get from him, but he won't hurt you this week, either.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com