Football's bye week horror show began on Sunday and will continue unabated into Week 5. It will demolish your fantasy football squad's depth and force you to rely on the mercy of those few waiver wire wonders with their tantalizing promises and heart-shattering potential.
There are a few gems to be had this week, so be brave, burn your waiver priority on one of these three little-owned players and make it through the fantasy football waking nightmare we know as bye weeks.
The best part about Brian Hartline's fantasy outlook is this: Even in his Week 3 clunker against the New York Jets—one reception for 41 yards—the Miami Dolphins wide receiver was heavily targeted.
Miami's rookie signal-caller Ryan Tannehill was locked in on Hartline in Week 4, showing time and again against a stout Arizona Cardinals secondary that he was willing to chuck the pigskin to Hartline, no matter the coverage. Even with shutdown cornerback Patrick Peterson draped all over Hartline, Tannehill delivered an impressive back shoulder throw that went for 30 yards.
And, if you hadn't heard, Hartline went for 253 yards and a score against Arizona, a franchise record.
Hartline racked up an unholy 19 targets on Sunday against the Cardinals. If he gets even half those targets going forward, Hartline will post consistent Top 20 receiving numbers.
I don't see the Dolphins' no. 1 receiver as the kind of waiver wire fodder that will sink your team with absolute stinkers. He'll get far too many opportunities to be that inconsistent.
Hartline, in 12-team leagues, will be more than a bye week fill-in. He could be your best pass catcher.
Rolling with any Houston Texans pass catcher has become a bit of a lottery ticket for fantasy owners. Either you win big, or you lose big.
The Texans are a run-heavy team, pounding away at opposing defenses with a zone-blocking scheme that has gashed feckless defensive fronts. It works beautifully in reality football. In fantasy football, Houston's commitment to the run stinks.
Even the team's stud no. 1 receiver Andre Johnson has lacked opportunity this season. He ran a grand total of 23 pass routes on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans—the most, amazingly, of any Texan.
Tight end Owen Daniels will be maddeningly inconsistent this year, but quarterback Matt Schaub has been looking his way just enough for you to consider him a bye week option. Daniels totaled 72 yards and a touchdown against the Titans a week after posting 26 yards and a score against the Denver Broncos.
Daniels' fantasy value took a major hit during his disappointing 2011 season, but right now, he's hot enough to plug and play against a Jets defense, allowing seven points a game to tight ends.
It's not a matchup from the fantasy deities, but it's not bad to get you through the bye week blues.
If you like anxiety attacks, the New England Patriots have a running back for you.
He's undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden, and after ripping the porous Buffalo Bills defense for 137 yards and a late score—including 91 yards on his first nine carries—he'll be the target of many a waiver wire aficionado.
As Stevan Ridley owners learned in Week 3, there's no guarantee your New England runner will be part of the week-to-week game plan. Danny Woodhead, after all, was the feature back against the Baltimore Ravens, after Ridley had starred in the first two weeks.
Bolden looked powerful and decisive, reading his blocks, remaining patient behind his blockers and bulldozing defenders near the goal line. He lacks Ridley's shiftiness and lateral agility, but his straight-line running clearly has a place in New England's offense. You can't bank on Bolden's becoming the Patriots' feature running back, but he's still worth your consideration.
Bolden played only eight fewer snaps than Ridley, who also poured on the fantasy goodness.
Bolden appears to have usurped Shane Vereen as Ridley's backfield complement, as Vereen played only eight snaps in his season debut against Buffalo. This, of course, could all change against the Broncos on Sunday. Guessing the Patriots' game plan is a fool's errand.
You could do a whole lot worse than Bolden if your fantasy team has a running back hole to plug in Week 5.