FANTASY PLAYS: Dealing with fill-in challenges for Week 9

It's another challenging week with six teams on a bye again, plus some other notable injuries to contend with. Your lineup may look far from ideal this week, but the same holds true for others in your league.

If you deftly worked the waiver wire and are well informed, you should be set up well during Week 9. But if you are still struggling to roll out an adequate fantasy crew, we'll get you in position to win as every victory now becomes magnified in terms of determining playoff positioning.

FILLING IN FOR PATS

The Patriots are on a bye, which means you have to fill in for Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and LeGarrette Blount. At quarterback, you can consider Colin Kaepernick, who faces the Saints' 28th-ranked pass defense and can at least give you adequate production because of his rushing potential. A good statistical result would be if he throws more than one TD pass or runs in a score. He is one of the best running quarterbacks in the league and anything he can additionally provide you with in the passing game in a friendly matchup will be a welcome bonus. Dak Prescott takes on a Browns team that has allowed an NFL-high 19 TD passes and Ryan Tannehill opposes the Jets, who have the league's lowest-ranked pass defense.

TIGHT END REPLACEMENTS

In addition to finding a sub for Gronkowski this week, fantasy owners may also have to replace Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert and others at tight end. St. Louis' Lance Kendricks is a quality one week play (or ''streamer'') against a Panthers defense that allows 12.2 fantasy points per game to the position according to FantasyPros.com, second-most among all teams. The Browns allow 11.7 FFPG to tight ends, third-most in the league, and while Jason Witten is not the fantasy producer he used to be, consider plugging him in as well.

RUNNING BACK UNCERTAINTY

Blount is possibly the most dependable TD producer in the game right now, and David Johnson is widely regarded as the best RB overall in fantasy. There is also uncertainty about whether LeSean McCoy and Spencer Ware has been declared out. Many fantasy owners are digging deep for help at the position. Consider Seattle's C.J. Prosise in point-per-reception formats, as he has big-play potential and can also be a safety target for Russell Wilson, who is hindered by injury. Tim Hightower saw more work last week and faces the 49ers, who have the league's worst run defense by far. If you picked up Hightower, don't hesitate to use him. Miami has been vulnerable to RBs this year, so you can use Bilal Powell in PPR formats.

WIDEOUTS

Some top wide receivers on a bye include A.J. Green and Larry Fitzgerald. Very deep options include Torrey Smith, who could get a downfield shot or two to make some significant statistical contributions against New Orleans, and Kenny Stills against a Jets secondary that is very prone to giving up big plays. Kenny Britt opposes the Panthers, who have the worst pass defense in the NFC, and Darrius Heyward-Bey moves into the starting lineup against a Ravens defense that has allowed 14 TD passes.

BIG BEN RETURNS

Ben Roethlisberger (knee) is expected to return this week, and should boost the outlook of those involved in the Steelers passing game. Fantasy owners will not need to worry about the production of Antonio Brown, and Sammie Coates can be returned to lineups as a third starting wide receiver. Tight end Ladarius Green is not quite ready to come back from an ankle injury, though, so expect Brown, Coates and Heyward-Bey to be the main receiving producers for Pittsburgh.

CHARGERS INJURIES

The San Diego WR corps continues to deal with injuries, as Travis Benjamin has a sprained PCL and Tyrell Williams has a knee issue, but is expected to play. Look for Dontrelle Inman, a unique combination of size and downfield potential, to possibly see a larger role in the offense beginning this week. He may still be a free agent in some leagues.

PHILLY RUNNERS

The running back situation in Philadelphia appears to be unclear. Darren Sproles is too small to carry a full load, but Ryan Mathews has been dealing with fumbling issues. Keep using Sproles as a flex player in a PPR league, because his pass-catching skills always make him relevant, but keep Mathews benched for now if you are not dealing with bye or injury issues. This situation could remain fluent.

CARR VS. DENVER

Derek Carr threw for a Raiders record 513 yards and four TDs in Week 8. His reward? A date with the league's best pass defense this week as he takes on the rival Broncos. Denver tends to be more vulnerable to the run, so the Raiders may lean some more on their ground game and this could be a lower-scoring affair between familiar divisional rivals. Carr totaled 425 passing yards and two TDs in the two games prior to his explosion last week, so don't assume he is surefire starter based on momentum. He may not be a top 10 fantasy QB this week and it would not be crazy to use Kaepernick over him.

---

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.