Hello, bye week, I can’t say I’ve missed you, but I’m certainly prepared for you.
We, as fantasy football owners, must find a way to muddle through this Week 4 without stars such as Adrian Peterson, Miles Austin, Tony Romo, Brett Favre, Jamaal Charles, Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow, et al.
Here are my bye week bailout picks.
Some are pretty obvious, others are not.
As always, read ‘em and win.
- Bruce Gradkowski vs. Houston—The Texans pass defense has been historically bad and is giving up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks of any team in the NFL. Gradkowski has been playing well since taking over for Jason Campbell and has developed a nice connection with tight end Zach Miller and second year wideout Louis Murphy. If you’re a Romo/Favre owner, you can do worse than starting Gradkowski this week.
- Chad Henne vs. New England—Henne is coming off one of his best individual performances against, arguably, the league’s best defensive unit. He’s getting all of his weapons involved, and his relationship with star WR Brandon Marshall appears strong. Factor in the weak Pats secondary and their lack of a pass rush, and Henne looks like a nice Week 4 play.
- Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Indianapolis—I know that “play Mojo Drew” isn’t normally the kind of advice you come to uncle Buddha for, but in this case I feel it’s necessary. Jones-Drew hasn’t been himself so far in 2010, and I just wanted to head any of you off at the pass before you decided it was time to bench your supposed stud RB1. With Indy coming to town, the Jaguars should be able to run the ball more effectively than they have all season, and Jones-Drew should get you at least one touchdown.
- LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Buffalo—I love this. Tomlinson has long since been my all-time favorite fantasy football player, and I honestly never thought I would get the chance to recommend him again after seeing his performance steadily decline since 2008. Much to his fantasy owners' delight, L.T. has found a fountain of youth in New York and appears to have supplanted Shonn Greene as the Jets' go-to back. Last week, Tomlinson received 42 snaps compared to Greene’s 17. This week, Tomlinson matches up against a Buffalo Bills defense that is vulnerable against the rush. Pencil the old man in for a touchdown and a solid start in place of Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles.
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Miami—With Fred Taylor looking like the “Fragile Freddie” of old, “Law Firm” is set to take over as the man in Bill Belichick’s backfield. Green-Ellis looked strong last week against the Bills and should give you low end RB2/flex numbers this week against the Dolphins. Don’t get your hopes up too high, but BJGE could become a fairly reliable fantasy option moving forward.
- John Kuhn vs. Detroit—The Packers are playing the Lions, and Brandon Jackson has not gotten the job done for Green Bay. Kuhn, in his limited touches, has shown more energy and more determination than B-Jax, and the Pack’s coaching staff has been taking notice. I fully expect at least one goal-line touchdown this week for Kuhn. Possibly even two.
- Louis Murphy vs. Houston—Murphy, unlike his NFC West counterpart—Brandon Lloyd, is for real. The second year wide receiver from Florida continues to improve and clearly seems to be the lead guy in Oakland, regardless of who is playing QB. Numbers wise, the similarities are there with Lloyd so far this season. However, historically Lloyd has been inconsistent and underachieves, while I see Murphy getting better and becoming a solidly roster-able WR as the season progresses. Take advantage of him this week against the Texans defensive backs.
- Lance Moore vs. Carolina—”Hot Pants Lance” is back! The injury to Reggie Bush has kicked down the door and allowed Moore to reintroduce himself to Saints fans and fantasy football players alike. His value is obviously much higher in leagues that score return yardage, but he also appears to have surpassed Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem as the Saints’ primary complement to Marques Colston. Moore has already surpassed his 2009 numbers and should threaten his ‘08 career year from here on out.
- Mark Clayton vs. Seattle—Clayton and Sam Bradford have become fast friends on the field. The two Oklahoma alums already had a passing knowledge (pun fully intended) of one another, as they had worked out together for the past couple of offseasons at their alma mater. The combo has made Clayton into a fairly reliable fantasy receiver and a good bye week fill-in. Boomer Sooner and see what circuitous route Clayton takes to fantasy success this week against Seattle.
- Nate Washington vs. Denver—This one is strictly a gut call. Washington should avoid drawing Champ Bailey, and he should have at least a couple of big play opportunities before this game is over. If you’re a Miles Austin/Dwayne Bowe/Percy Harvin/Mike “Buc” Williams owner, Washington could be your boy this bye week. Other obscure wideouts I expect to see in the end zone this week: Miami’s Brian Hartline, Green Bay’s James Jones, and Mike “Hawk“ Williams.
- Daniel Fells vs. Seattle—Face it. You’ve got a solid tight end (Witten, Winslow, Shiancoe, Moeaki) on bye this week, and you’re just looking to swing for the fences. Here’s your guy. Fells has been a nice target for Sam Bradford since Michael Hoomanawanui went down for a couple of months. Fells' matchup versus the Seahawks does not look great on paper, but neither do any of the likely replacement tight ends out there. Solid one-week hail mary play.
- Saints D/ST vs. Carolina—The Saints defense is still a solid fantasy unit, if not the dominating group they showed themselves to be in 2009. The underwhelming Panthers are this week’s opponent, and with a timid rookie QB, this should be as nice a start as the New Orleans D will have all season. And you know that you could use that.
- Joe Flacco vs. Pittsburgh—Flacco is coming off a great performance last weekend in which Anquan Boldin solidly emerged as his security blanket and scored three touchdowns. Do not think for one second that the Ravens duo will repeat that output against a stifling Steelers D. Ordinarily, I’m a “Joe Cool” fan… just not this week. Find yourself a better option.
- Charlie Batch vs. Baltimore—Just in case you were thinking about trying to capitalize on Batch’s big game last week against Tampa Bay, please think again. I expect every offensive player involved in this ballgame to put up pretty pedestrian numbers at best, and Batch certainly isn’t your best play with the Ravens rolling into town.
- Ray Rice vs. Pittsburgh—It’s really fairly simple: Rice is banged up. The Ravens are at the “Steel Curtain,” and Ray Ray is not in line for goal-line duty. So, now, why would you start him?
- Jahvid Best vs. Green Bay—The wonderful little rookie has a toe injury and simply should not play at all today. However, if the Lions do decide to trot him out there, don’t bite. Give him the week off and roll with someone like BJGE or even Ryan Torain.
- Calvin Johnson vs. Green Bay—Megatron draws the defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Charles Woodson, this week. With Shaun Hill as his quarterback and Mr. Best hurting, it just doesn’t look good for anybody wearing Honolulu blue and silver. Don’t look for much from Johnson today, despite what you may have read about his history against the Packers.
- Demaryius Thomas vs. Denver—“Calvin Jr.”, as some Georgia Tech people have called him because of his obvious physical comparisons to Johnson, should get lockdown coverage from Titans star cornerback Cortland Finnegan, making other Broncos better wide- receiver options. “Bay Bay” will have more good days before the season ends, but he’ll be inconsistent because he is a rookie receiver and will need the matchup to be right. This one is not.
- Marcedes Lewis vs. Indianapolis—If you own any of the bye week tight ends, you may have picked up Lewis as a replacement after his huge Week 1 performance. If you did, it was a nice plan at the time, but the time has passed. The Colts, even without Bob Sanders, play opposing tight ends extremely tough. Avoid Marcedes.
- 49ers D/ST vs. Atlanta—Many of you drafted the 49ers D as your undisputed starting defensive unit and were happy to do so. The Niners had the look and the schedule of a team that could wind up being the best D/ST in the NFL. Now, three weeks into the season, San Francisco’s defense looks like they could best the worst in the league. The Falcons are too solid all-around to surrender a big game to the 49ers defense. Try looking toward a hot Seattle unit instead.