With a rash of injuries hitting the NFL this week and six teams on bye, perhaps there is no more important waiver-wire period than the one for Week 8.
Starters have been lost for the season. A slew of key players are going on bye. And all of this is happening right as the push for the playoffs in your league is likely heating up.
But fear not, all ye fantasy owners of the land, for I have provided a guide for the waiver wire this week. Your team may be battered and bruised, but reinforcements are only a savvy waiver addition away.
Notes: All point totals for standard-scoring leagues. Ownership percentages and points against stats via ESPN. The Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans are on bye.
Ownership: 10.2 percent of leagues
Analysis: In a week when Matt Forte, Doug Martin, Chris Johnson, Trent Richardson, Ryan Mathews, Arian Foster, Danny Woodhead, Ray Rice and David Wilson will all either be out due to injury or because of a bye, there's a good chance you'll need to add a running back this week.
Zac Stacy is as good an add as anyone.
Yes, he faces a stingy Seattle Seahawks defense this week, but Stacy is entrenched as the St. Louis Rams' starter, giving him value beyond one week. Since becoming the starter, he's rushed 49 times for 210 yards and also has a receiving touchdown in the past three weeks. He's scored at least seven fantasy points in each week.
You shouldn't expect a great week from him against Seattle, but having a starting running back is worth its weight in gold this season. It's pretty surprising that he isn't more widely owned.
Ownership: 0.1 percent of leagues
Analysis: While it is believed Doug Martin tore his labrum, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are holding out hope that he can return this season. Nonetheless, for Doug Martin owners—and perhaps any owner needing a running back—no player should be a more popular addition than Mike James.
James played well with 14 rushes for 45 carries in relief duty, though matchups against the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks aren't exactly welcoming in the next two weeks. And remember, the Bucs were 20th in run offense with Martin—James isn't going to make them better in that regard.
For many owners, he's a must-add this week. But maintain realistic expectations for what he'll bring you in return.
Ownership: 37.7 percent of leagues
Analysis: Harry Douglas has been on this list several times. After catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown with Julio Jones and Roddy White out to injury, I have a feeling he won't be on it again.
Douglas should be the top wide receiver added this week. Matt Ryan isn't going to let injuries slow down his production this year, so Douglas should be a high-end WR3 the rest of the season.
Ownership: 35.8 percent of leagues
Analysis: Keenan Allen is another player that shouldn't be on this list much longer. He now has six or more fantasy points in the past four weeks (reaching double-digit points twice) and is tied with Vincent Browns in targets (37).
Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead remain favorite targets of Philip Rivers, but the wide receiver you want to own in San Diego is Allen.
Ownership: 27.6 percent of leagues
Analysis: This is an important week to stock up on potential QB2s, with Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford going down to injury and 12 teams going on bye in the next two weeks combined. At the top of the QB2 list is Terrelle Pryor.
While you might not want to add him if you need a start this week—he faces the Pittsburgh Steelers, currently giving up just 11 points to opposing quarterbacks per week, third-best in the NFL—if you have a quarterback with an upcoming bye, Pryor is a great add.
He's scored double-digit fantasy points in all five of his starts and has reached 18 or more points in three of those games. He's obviously a threat with his legs, but he's shown the maturity to make plays with his arm while keeping his eyes downfield as well.
The Raiders may stink, but Pryor is a good QB2 to own.
Ownership: 2.4 percent of leagues
Analysis: When you post 21 fantasy points on the San Francisco 49ers, you get my attention. It's time to start taking Jake Locker very seriously as a QB2.
He's reached double-digit fantasy points in four of his five starts, has reached at least 18 points in three weeks and has exceeded 20 points twice. He has a bye this week, so he won't help you in the short-term, but when he returns he has tasty matchups against the St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars.
If you have a QB1 with a bye in Week 9 or 10, go get Locker now.
Ownership: 1.6 percent of leagues
Analysis: Jarrett Boykin was one of my deeper sleepers a week ago. Lo and behold, he caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets with both Randall Cobb and James Jones sidelined.
While the return of Jones normally would have meant a slight dip in Boykin's usage, the loss of Jermichael Finley to injury on Sunday means Aaron Rodgers will continue to regularly target Boykin out of the slot. There is real value here, at least until Cobb returns from injury.
Oh, and the Green Bay Packers face the Minnesota Vikings this week, allowing 22.7 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week, 23rd in the NFL. Boykin should be more widely owned than he currently is.
Ownership: 4.0 percent of leagues
Analysis: It would appear that Robert Griffin III has found a tight end in Jordan Reed.
In the past two weeks, Reed has 13 receptions for 192 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets. Those are TE1 numbers, folks, and with Griffin lacking elite weapons in the passing game (outside of perhaps Pierre Garcon, depending upon how highly you rate him), Reed's usage should remain at a high level.
With a matchup against a Denver Broncos team giving up 8.9 fantasy points to opposing tight ends per week, 22nd in the NFL, Reed is a legitimate TE1 this week.
Ownership: 3.8 percent of leagues
Analysis: With Reggie Wayne done for the season with a torn ACL, Darrius Heyward-Bey essentially becomes the No. 1 receiver in Indianapolis. And with Andrew Luck having an excellent season, the Colts aren't going to stop throwing the ball anytime soon.
Logically, that should suggest that Heyward-Bey would see a major uptick in production. Of concern for prospective owners will be that he's registered just one week with double-digit fantasy points this season, or that he's on a bye this week.
But hey, if Harry Douglas can turn his opportunity in the spotlight into fantasy gold, why can't Heyward-Bey? Wayne owners should make adding him either this week or next a priority.
Ownership: 24.6 percent of leagues
Analysis: Don't look now, but Andy Dalton has posted at least 24 fantasy points in the past two weeks. It's probably not a coincidence that A.J. Green has seemed to awaken for fantasy owners over that time. If Dalton and his favorite target are clicking again, it means nothing but good things for fantasy owners.
And it means that Dalton is worth rostering again as a QB2. He has a tough matchup this week against the New York Jets, but in the past two weeks Dalton has placed himself firmly on the QB2 tier and should be added accordingly for owners looking to add a one-week option if their QB1 has an upcoming bye.
Ownership: 1.7 percent of leagues
Analysis: Yes, adding a QB2 for your team is a theme this week. That's what happens when players like Cutler and Bradford go down to injury.
Glennon has posted 35 total fantasy points in the past two weeks and has really clicked with top wideout Vincent Jackson. You won't want to start him in the next two weeks—he faces the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, the two best defenses against opposing quarterbacks in fantasy football—but if you have a QB1 with a Week 10 bye or beyond, he's worth a look in two-quarterback or deeper leagues.
Ownership: 35.4 percent of leagues
Analysis: Kendall Wright is a stash add since the Tennessee Titans are on bye this week, but you may not be able to go out and get him much longer. The talented young receiver has now posted six straight weeks with at least 50 receiving yards, and while he only has one touchdown during that time, he leads the team with 58 targets.
In other words, his production should only increase.
He isn't a very sexy addition given that lone touchdown, I'll grant you that, but if you don't have a taste for boom-or-bust waiver additions, Wright is your man.
Ownership: 16.9 percent of leagues
Analysis: I always hesitate to target players who only have fantasy value when they score a touchdown, so I'm not very high on Mike Tolbert, but I do like the fact that he has 22 carries and two receptions in the past two weeks.
Of course, a large portion of those carries still come when the Carolina Panthers get close to the goal line, and he's basically a touchdown vulture, so his upside is limited. But if you are really thin at running back and can't get a better option off waivers, pick up Tolbert with games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons on tap.
Ownership: 1.9 percent of ESPN leagues
Analysis: Look out, future Madden covers—Peyton Hillis is back!
And all things considered, he looked pretty good on Monday night, rushing 18 times for 36 yards and a touchdown and adding five receptions for 45 yards on six targets. I have a feeling he's going to be a very popular add in fantasy leagues this week, especially with the Philadelphia Eagles up next.
But let's take a closer look at things. If Brandon Jacobs returns next week, he likely gets the start. Then, the New York Giants go on a bye. Then, Andre Brown could return from injury, and a week or two after that, David Wilson might be back.
If Jacobs can't go next week, Hillis is a logical addition. But keep in mind that he's essentially a one-week play, and nothing more.
Ownership: 0.1 percent of leagues
Analysis: Could LaVon Brazill be this week's Boykin?
It's certainly possible, with Wayne done for the year. Brazill will likely move into the No. 3 role at wide receiver and will see his usage increase, which shouldn't be too hard to accomplish since he has yet to post a catch this season.
Obviously, Brazill is only a speculative add for owners in really deep leagues at this point, but he's definitely a player you should be monitoring.
Ownership: 0.3 percent
Analysis: Boykin used Cobb's absence to blow up on Sunday. Could Andrew Quarless do the same with Finley sidelined?
It's hard to say, especially since Rodgers will have Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Eddie Lacy to lean on, making Quarless a speculative add. Nonetheless, this Green Bay Packers' offense will keep on ticking with Rodgers behind center, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Quarless post decent numbers as the new No. 1.
In really deep leagues, he can be added this week. For everyone else, keep an eye on him in case he goes all Boykin on the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Ownership: 2.3 percent of leagues
Analysis: Riley Cooper? Really?
Yes, really. Well, sort of. In the past two weeks, Cooper has 10 receptions for 208 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets. The problem with those numbers is that they came with Nick Foles starting at quarterback.
Before Week 6, Cooper didn't have more than two catches in any game. With Michael Vick likely to return in Week 8, will Cooper's targets drop once again?
If you believe the answer to that question is "yes" given the trends of this season, avoid Cooper. If you believe the answer is "no" and that Cooper will be a bigger part of this offense moving forward, he's worth an add in deeper leagues against a New York Giants defense that gives up 22.4 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week, 22nd in the NFL.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions and commiserate with you over underachieving players. It's all the fun of the NFL, but without the concussions.