We’ve reached the point of the NFL season I like to refer to as Bye Week Hell. It’s that tricky stretch of the year where you need to worry not only about which of your players have been injured, incarcerated, or otherwise incapacitated, but also who are enjoying their week-long, union-negotiated siesta.
Ideally, you’ve already accounted for the doldrums of Bye Week Hell by stocking your bench with talented backups or by using the waiver wire. But, in the event that your team has been wracked with injury (Buffalo running backs) or inconsistency (Chris Johnson, for whom the word inconsistent is too much of a compliment at this point), you may still be looking for some answers as we head into Week 4 and you look to replace any starters on the Indianapolis Colts or Pittsburgh Steelers.
With this in mind, here are some fantasy starters who will be on vacation this weekend, and who you can have punch the clock and, hopefully, the scoreboard in their place at the last minute. Just be wise in who you drop to acquire these players, as they usually amount to little more than a one week rental.
Starter: WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Replacement: WR Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders) Why not replace a Colt who is still kicking with a former Colt with some gas in the tank? After seeing his draft stock plummet due to a combination of increasing age and a rookie quarterback, Reggie Wayne is looking like one of the surprise bargains of this young season. He currently leads the league in targets, and has rewarded owners with almost 300 yards receiving and a touchdown over three weeks. His presence this week may be difficult to replace, but Stokley is up for the challenge. Reunited with his former Indy field general in Denver, the veteran slot receiver is one of Peyton Manning’s safety nets when pressure is high, and a generous matchup against Oakland this week bodes well for him as a plug-and-play option. He did leave last week’s game with an injury, but I have not seen any word on his status yet for this week, so keep your eyes open before adding him.
Starter: WR Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
Replacement: WR Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Detroit Lions) While he has not been officially activated after serving a three game suspension for enjoying the wacky tabacky, Simpson is a great play this week against a suspect Detroit defense. He brings a Wallace-like field-stretching skill set to a Minnesota offense that is on the rise, and his three catches for 43 yards in a brief preseason showing bode well for his future in the Twin Cities.
Starter: WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Replacement: WR Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Cincinnati Bengals) Besides boasting one of the more amusing names in the game, Shorts has found the end zone twice this season, both on big plays near the end of the game. As a result, he is more of a home run threat than a consistent performer, but against a weak Bengals defense that is ranked 22nd against the pass he is worth a flyer.
Starter: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Replacement: QB Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. San Diego Chargers)Ideally, Roethlisberger is not your only starting quarterback and you aren’t relying on him throwing four touchdowns every week. But, if anyone can come close to a decent performance in a replacement role this weekend, it is Cassel. Riding high with confidence after knocking off the Saints on the road last week, the former backup Patriot-turned high paid, overrated starter is buoyed by a strong running game and huge targets in Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin, who can overpower a San Diego team still reeling from a head-on collision with the Atlanta Falcons freight train last week. He’s likely available in deep leagues in a pinch, but if you have to go this route don’t expect him to carry your team.