FANTASY PLAYS: QB, RB options; expectations for Wilson, Dez
The next two weeks are going to make fantasy football players earn their spots in the standings, with six teams on byes each of the next two weeks.
Fantasy owners will have to plan very well to fill in for many of their idle starters, and some injuries won't make things any easier.
Before you start stressing out, though, we are here to help you navigate through the daunting seas of Week 8. If you are well prepared, the bye storm won't take your team down and it will eventually pass.
Fantasy owners looking for QB help this week seem to be taking to Jets passer Ryan Fitzpatrick as a friendly ''streaming'' option - a choice for this week, not as someone you would regularly play. Cleveland's 29th-ranked pass defense has allowed an NFL-high 18 TD tosses. But the Browns also have the AFC's worst run defense, and the Jets may elect to ride Matt Forte heavily as well. Fitzpatrick's struggles have come this year when he has been asked to carry the offense. Look for the Jets to establish the ground game to open up things for Fitzpatrick. He doesn't have tremendous upside this week, but can provide solid numbers if you need a plug-in. Just don't start him over a more regularly reliable QB. Josh McCown returns for Cleveland, and is a viable one week play too - the Jets pass defense ranks 26th in the league.
Russell Wilson has certainly not looked like himself recently, as health concerns have prevented him from being his usual nimble self. A matchup with the Saints' 30th ranked pass defense would seem to be a must-start matchup for Wilson in most instances, but right now, he is no sure thing as an easier target with mediocre blocking. Still, you have to use him because his playmakers can ensure he at least has a decent outing. Doug Baldwin is a must start and Jimmy Graham is facing his former team. One guy you may want to avoid as a bye week fill-in, however, is Tyler Lockett. Regardless of matchup, he does not look like his usual self, as a knee issue has seemingly robbed him of some of his burst and explosion. A recent thigh problem won't help his matters, either.
Don't hesitate to turn to Minnesota running back Matt Asiata. He is the Vikings' clear TD runner of choice in short yardage situations, and Chicago has allowed 10 rushing scores. The situations in Detroit and Washington also bear heavy watching from those looking for running back fill-ins. Theo Riddick may return from an ankle injury for the Lions and should immediately be plugged back into point-per-reception lineups. Rookie Dwayne Washington may get some work between the tackles and TD opportunities. Robert Kelley may take over as the starter for the hurting and fumble-prone Matt Jones, and Chris Thompson could see a healthy amount of touches for PPR players as the team's clear receiver of choice out of the backfield.
Dez Bryant is expected to return from a knee injury this week against the Eagles. Philadelphia has the third-best pass defense in the NFC, but you have to get Bryant back into your lineup, even if your expectations may be somewhat tempered. Dak Prescott showed a real willingness to get him the ball in scoring and contested situations in the preseason and early in the regular season. His return, however, does not mean you should expect too much less from Cole Beasley, as Prescott has developed a real affinity for him as a safer target on key passing downs.
TAMPA BAY VS. OAKLAND
The Tampa Bay offense becomes a very interesting source fantasy production against the Raiders, who have the league's worst pass defense and the fifth-worst run defense. Of course, Jacquizz Rodgers is a definite start, but with his 5-6, 205 pound frame, the Buccaneers should not continue to use him as a workhorse and you may see the more bulky Peyton Barber get some work, too. Barber is worth consideration as a desperation play. Russell Shepard caught five passes for 77 yards and a TD last week and is a nifty fill-in at WR this week. TE Cameron Brate always has TD potential and Jameis Winston is an obvious QB streamer.
If you play in an ESPN league, you should note that Ty Montgomery is now eligible at running back, giving you some extra flexibility, especially when you need to cover byes. The Packers play the Falcons, who have the worst pass defense in the NFC. This is an opportunity for Jordy Nelson to at least get back into the end zone. Davante Adams enjoyed a career outing last week against Chicago, and while he is unreliable as a third WR in the Green Bay passing game, you have to lock him in this week. Keep a watch on running backs Don Jackson and Knile Davis to see if either player emerges.
HOPE FOR HOUSTON?
While Houston wideouts have been frustrating, you can start DeAndre Hopkins with some confidence and also get big-play threat Will Fuller back into your lineup. The Lions have the league's 23rd-ranked pass defense and are tied with the Browns with an NFL-high 18 TD passes allowed. The Texans are starting to make a real effort to get Hopkins more involved.
Some Fantasy analysts buy into the occasional ''revenge game'' angle when the player is good and other surrounding factors seem to contribute to the script. Seattle's Graham is a key example as the Saints traded him away, but you're not going to bench him anyway. Look for New England's Chris Hogan to enjoy his return to Buffalo as part of the powerful New England offense. Tom Brady will want to get the ex-Bill the ball in some key situations, especially for a TD opportunity or two.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com