Rent-a-Player: Week 8 Pickups

Fantasy owners looking for a bye week pick-me-up after a rash of running back injuries can look to Cleveland Browns RB Montario Hardesty.

After last week’s bye bonanza, Week 8’s slate of players taking a break seems like mere child’s play.

I’ll take it.

With Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Houston all keeping quiet this Sunday, no truly elite fantasy quarterbacks are needing replacement. In fact, only five legitimate starters need to be accounted for, which makes this a week that you can sit on your waiver priority and stash it for when you are really in need.

Owners who are suffering a rash of running back injuries, though, may need to take this opportunity to fill in the gaps left by the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, and (likely) Trent Richardson. With fewer bye week players needing to be subbed, that should mean your league mates will be working the wires a little more lightly than usual. Take advantage.

On Bye: RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans

Rent-a-Player: RB Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns (vs. San Diego Chargers) – 10% owned Trent Richardson is battling a rib injury that he claims is more serious than people realize. Regardless of how he characterizes it, he ran scared last week against Indy and was benched in favor of Hardesty. While Montario (who I like to think of as a mix between Montel Williams and Super Mario – you’re welcome for the visual) didn’t impress against the Colts, volume is the key in this add. With talk of shelving Richardson until after the team’s Week 10 bye currently circulating, Hardesty would vault to the top of the depth chart in an offense that is finding its rhythm more and more each week.

On Bye: RB Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Rent-a-Player: Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Green Bay Packers) – 30% owned Maurice Jones-Drew is out at least for Week 8 – and possibly the rest of the season – but few owners were patient enough to hold on to Jennings for this long. If you can, snatch him up. He is a three-down back who proved his worth while MJD held out earlier this season, and his next few games (at Green Bay, vs. Detroit, vs. Indianapolis) don’t pose much of a threat for him being shutout. Besides, with the quarterback play in Jacksonville ranging from mediocre to repulsive depending on if Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne suit up this week, the offense is going through Jennings.

On Bye: RB Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills

Rent-a-Player: RB Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers (@ Arizona Cardinals) – 26% owned Frank Gore’s understudy is ready for the spotlight. I have spilled some characters on Hunter here before, but after Gore absolutely brutalized Seattle last week, Hunter had to finish the game for the ailing veteran back. If San Francisco wants to make a deep playoff run again this season, they are going to need to keep Gore fresh, and that starts with increasing the dosage of Hunter against Arizona. In what is always a knock out-drag out NFC West battle, Hunter is going to be a valuable cog in the 49ers’s ground-and-pound machine.

On Bye: WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Rent-a-Player: Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets (vs. Miami Dolphins) – 45% owned As much as a I hate recommending anyone pick up a New York Jet, simply due to the inconsistency of the circus they call an offense, Kerley has 435 yards receiving and two touchdowns on the season. With the amount of looks he sees – his 40 targets lead the team – it makes him an intriguing prospect against a Miami defense that will bottle up the run, leading the Mark Sanchez (gulp) taking to the skies.

On Bye: WR Andre Johnson, Houston Texans

Rent-a-Player: Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (@ Pittsburgh Steelers) – 46% owned¬†Despite a costly fumble during Washington’s last-minute comeback attempt against the Giants last week, Moss is quickly becoming Robert Griffin III’s favorite receiver. With four touchdowns and just under 300 yards receiving – and, more importantly, Pierre Garcon seemingly to return at half past never and Fred Davis done for the season – Moss becomes the unequaled number one in a high-powered offense. A Steelers defense that is struggling to stay healthy poses a generous matchup.

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Monday Meltdown: A.J. Green can’t do it alone

While A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have connected plenty this season, the results could be even greater if Cincinnati had more weapons to deflect attention from its top receiver.

Watching last night’s AFC North battle royale between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, one important detail made itself glaringly true: The Bengals are squandering the talents of A.J. Green by having no reasonable support around him.

This may sound odd, given that Green leads all wide receivers in standard scoring formats and is less than 50 points shy of matching his entire output from last season. But in facing Pittsburgh last night, it was clear that there was no one else on the field the Steelers were afraid of, leaving Green to see double teams the entire game. And yes, he has provided these points while being doubled through most of the season, but my main concern here is that he can’t sustain this level of output with Andy Dalton at the helm. To wit: Green was targeted a season-low six times last night, which tells me that Dalton does not have the gunslinging mentality to force the ball into tight coverage against savvy defensive units. This is where Calvin Johnson – the receiver Green is most often compared to – is able to flourish despite blanketed coverage, because his quarterback doesn’t mind taking chances.

Until Dalton develops that killer instinct, the Bengals would be wise to try and invest in another weapon this coming offseason. Clearly, Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins aren’t keeping opposing defensive coordinators up at night right now, which leaves Green in a feast or famine type situation.

And while this all may sound greedy, given Green’s gaudy numbers thus far, consider what he would be able to do with a Roddy White or Dwayne Bowe across the field from him, then get back to me. I’m pretty sure you’ll be too busy wiping the drool from your chin to think about calling me greedy anymore.

Other thoughts from the weekend that was…

What’s up with McFadden? DMC is currently averaging less than 10 fantasy points per game as the featured piece in an offense that boasts a veteran quarterback and speed receivers on the edges. So why the lack of production? Well, Carson Palmer isn’t the man he once was – he’s currently averaging 289 yards and 1.17 touchdowns per game – so there is no reason for defenses to concentrate all of their efforts on the dominant chess piece. Keep the faith, though: Three of his next four games are against teams that rank 22nd in the league or worse against the run. If he is still lagging after Week 11, you can officially cut bait.

Jennings, CJ0K become relevant again. With a damning injury of unknown severity to Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings – aka one of my preseason handcuffs to own – has vaulted back into the spotlight. Snag him this week if he is on the wire. Chris Johnson, meanwhile, has rattled off 62.7 fantasy points in his last four games. The man who was dead weight earlier this season has returned to the surface.

Weeden a bye week wonder? After starting off the season looking like the second coming of Blaine Gabbert, Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden has hit his stride. With 264 yards and two touchdowns yesterday (which should have been 319-3 if not for a Josh Gordon drop), Weeden is now the owner of 101.32 fantasy points, putting him higher than Matt Schaub and the aforementioned Palmer. Those looking for a deep sleeper in a coming bye week may be wise to give the old man a shot against middling San Diego and Baltimore secondaries.

Rent-a-Player: Week 5 Pickups

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill headlines this week’s Rent-a-Player list.

Last week’s measly two teams on a bye was child’s play to manage compared to the four who get to take a breather in Week 5. Of the quartet of teams recovering this weekend, two in particular – the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions –¬† are leaving pretty significant holes in fantasy lineups that will need a little spackle.

With big names like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray joining Darren McFadden and a couple of Buccaneers on the bench this Sunday, some owners may be ready to chalk the week up to a loss and move on. But with the unpredictable chaos that is the NFL, that isn’t the right outlook to take. Indeed, from week to week there is always a performance that comes from out of nowhere, always some unknown who becomes a household name.

After scouring the waivers and checking out the matchups, here are those possible future household names. If your team is in dire straits, grab one of these Rent-a-Players to help lead you to fantasy glory – or at least administer a brief patch job for the weekend.

Percentages shown denote ownership in Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues.

On Bye: QB Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

Rent-a-Player: QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (@ Cincinnati Bengals) – 5% owned After lighting up the Arizona secondary for 431 yards and 19-plus fantasy points, Tannehill is no longer flying under the radar in the scheme of rookie NFL signal callers. The No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft now heads into Cincinnati, guns blazing, to face a mediocre pass defense that is allowing opposing QBs to post a 102.4 rating. Sure, he may throw a couple picks, but anything is better than five interceptions and getting pulled for Kyle Orton, right?

On Bye: WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

Rent-a-Player: WR Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins (@ Cincinnati Bengals) – 25% owned Hartline likely won’t be available in deeper leagues, but I am mentioning him here in case he is. I planned to put Hartline on this list last week, but just didn’t believe in him or his quarterback enough to pull the trigger on the recommendation. Now that he is third in the league in targets and has hauled in more yards than Calvin Johnson, it’s time to jump on him if he is there. He can potentially serve as more than a Rent-a-Player, and has much stickier hands than Dez.

On Bye: RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys

Rent-a-Player: RB Jackie Battle, San Diego Chargers (@ New Orleans Saints) – 22% owned As San Diego’s top rusher, Ryan Mathews, continues to suffer from a severe case of fumbilitis, Battle has come out swinging in his place. Posting 42 yards receiving, 39 yards rushing and two touchdowns against Kansas City, he still ended up with less yardage than Mathews, but a generous matchup against New Orleans this week looms large.

On Bye: QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Rent-a-Player: QB Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans (@ Minnesota Vikings) – 2% owned So Hasselbeck may be shaking off the rust a bit against a nasty Minnesota pass rush, but most of the other available quarterbacks – your Kolbs, Sanchezes, Bradfords, and Gabberts – all have tougher secondaries to throw against this weekend. Plus, even if he is starting for just the first time this season, the Titans do have a few passing options for Hasselbeck to use, and the Vikes have only one interception to their name this season.

On Bye: WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is averaging more than 60 yards receiving per game.

Rent-a-Player: WR T.Y Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Green Bay Packers) – 5% owned Everyone knows Reggie Wayne is Andrew Luck’s go-to in the Indy offense, but Wayne is now a possession guy who is racking up catches and yards, but not stretching the field. Enter The Younger Hilton, as I like to refer to him. Although he has only been active for two games, in those two he has hauled in five of nine targets, including 113 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville before the bye. Sure, he has to compete with Donnie Avery for looks, but his yards per game and big play ability are both greater.

On Bye: RB Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

Rent-a-Player: RB Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Buffalo Bills) – 17% owned Hunter is always going to take a backseat to Frank Gore until the latter breaks down, but the young back is an intriguing play this week against a Buffalo team that travels cross-country after an absolute beatdown at the hands of New England last week. Recall that New England had two backs go for more than 100 yards apiece, while combining for three touchdowns, and Hunter’s game-breaking speed might have a role in this week’s game plan.

On Bye: WR Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rent-a-Player: WR Domenic Hixon, New York Giants (vs. Cleveland Browns) – 6% owned With Hakeem Nicks still hobbled, it looks like Hixon, and not Week 3 darling Ramses Barden, is set to carry the load opposite Victor Cruz for the Giants. Hauling in 181 yards and a touchdown over two games, Hixon’s gaudy matchup against the 38th-ranked Cleveland Browns passing defense is too good to pass up.

On Bye: RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rent-a-Player: RB Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens (@ Kansas City Chiefs) – 2% owned This is your dark horse, “I have DMC, DeMarco, and Doug all on byes this week! Help!” pick. Ray Rice’s backup has displayed excellent burst as a change-of-pace back, and his almost 5.2 yards per carry average is a testament to his ability. With KC giving up 118 yards on the ground per game, don’t be surprised to see Pierce break off a 40-yarder for a touchdown while Rice takes some oxygen mid-game.

Dez’s Drop Zone

Of course, in order to acquire some of the players mentioned above, you’ll have to drop one of your underachievers. Through four weeks of the season, here are some solid drops to make room on your roster, brought to you by Dez Bryant:

– RB LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

– WR Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers

– QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (I missed on this one)

– RB Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints

– QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

– QB Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans

– RB Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions

– RB Shonn Greene, New York Jets

Monday Meltdown: Curse of the Hoodie; Waiver Watch rescheduling

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hates fantasy football.

Through four weeks of play, the New England Patriots are leading the NFL in offensive yardage, compiling a whopping 1,752.8 yards thus far. They have gained 576 of those – or 33% of their output – on the ground, up from 25% last season.

This would seem like good news, not only for fans of the team, but for fantasy owners who want to capitalize on the league’s best offense being able to add a dominant rusher to the mix. Right?

Wrong.

In preseason projections, LSU product Stevan Ridley was widely tabbed as the main man in the New England backfield. Indeed, he had earned it, amassing a 5.1 yards per carry average last season as a backup to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. And when Ridley came flying out of the gates in Week 1 this season with a 21.2 fantasy point performance, those owners who put faith in the young back were handsomely rewarded.

Since that Week 1 breakout, though, Ridley has been competing for touches with Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden, and I only have one person to blame for this:

Bill Belichick.

The notoriously-shifty Patriots head coach must hate fantasy football. He is always tinkering with his backfield lineup, causing fake football headaches akin to those administered by Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan. Just when you think you can count on a runner, he goes and inserts a nobody like Bolden and allows him to acquire 137 yards or vulture goal line touchdowns from Ridley.

In short, it is a nightmare – a nightmare I refer to as The Curse of the Hoodie.

So what are fantasy owners to do? It’s not like running out and adding Bolden off of waivers is a sure bet, and neither is Ridley at this point.

Simply put, Ridley owners have to put their faith in their man and hope for New England to keep putting up 50 spots on opposing defenses.

Regardless, this is a situation to monitor, as it may end up diminishing Ridley’s value as the season wears on.

Damn you, Belichick.

Other thoughts from the weekend that was…

Top QBs bounce back. With Drew Brees (29.84 fantasy points), Aaron Rodgers (29.06), and Tom Brady (32) all posting massive days, owners were reassured that offense is alive and well in the NFL, at least for their high-end, top of the draft quarterbacks. Even Peyton Manning (25.42) got in on the fun. It was like 2009 all over again!

Miami continues to impress. Playing against an Arizona defense that managed to keep Tom Brady and Michael Vick in check, Ryan Tannehill put on a passing clinic (431 yards) against the Cards yesterday while falling in an overtime loss. Miami came into the season known for their defense, but with Reggie Bush and Brian Hartline playing out of their minds, the ‘Phins have become a team to keep an eye on.

Janikowski’s reign coming to an end? It’s not often I am going to spill a ton of ink on kickers, but this one bears noting: Sebastian Janikowski’s run as biggest leg in the league may be over, as St. Louis Rams rookie Greg Zuerlein is poised to take the crown. With field goals of 50 and 60 yards yesterday, “Greg the Leg” has now converted 100% of his tries this season, including three from 50 or more yards. Playing for an offense that is serviceable, but certainly not deadly, will leave him with plenty of opportunities to keep adding to his resume.

Forte set to return tonight, but Bush still a decent play. Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is slated to play this evening after sitting out last week with an ankle injury, which slightly devalues Michael Bush’s fantasy standing. However, Bush still has plenty of muscle and will handle goal line duties, so take a look at defensive matchups before you decide to bail on him each week. He’s still an excellent handcuff.

Waiver Watch

Now that we have teams on bye every week, I thought it would only make sense to combine the Waiver Watch with a matching bye week segment each week. As a result, the Waiver Watch and bye week pickups will be coming each week on Tuesday – still with enough time to make your claims, and hopefully with a more catchy moniker.

Welcome to Fantasyland

Ah, naptime. As all parents know, it’s that magical time of the day where productivity is your oyster, depending on your definition of productivity. Folding laundry, doing dishes, catching up on DVR’d episodes of Franklin & Bash – these are all fantastic uses of time when the little ones are taking their much-needed sabbaticals from the day.

While the first two items on the previous list should probably be my priority, this stay-at-home dad opts for a different path. Come July, my naptime becomes crunch time, as I endlessly participate in mock drafts, make and revise lists, and scour the Internet for any sliver of information that will put me over the top for the coming season.

That’s right. I’m talking about fantasy football.

According to a 2011 article in Adweek, more than 27 million people play fantasy football. Roughly, that’s equivalent to every man, woman, and child in Saudi Arabia sitting around on Sunday tracking stats for their rosters (How’s that for a visual?). If you are reading this right now, you surely have some shred of interest in it, or at least know someone who does. Entering my eighth season of managing a fake pigskin team, I have seen it grow in popularity among my family and friends, to the point where even my wife is in two leagues. (And yes, we play against each other, with leads to some palpable tension in the house when those match-ups are afoot.)

Needless to say, fantasy takes on a life of its own during football season, and I need an outlet for some of the knowledge and opinions I have gathered over the years.

So why does that make what I have to say about it matter?

Well, it doesn’t. But it certainly gives me something to do while my daughter is counting sheep mid-afternoon. And I figure, if even 0.00001% if the fantasy football-playing population reads my words, then that is 270 people. I’ll take that.

So sit back and enjoy. If you are so inclined, subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter. I’ll be posting on here regularly with weekly picks, waiver wire advice, and other general observations about fake sports. I’ll keep it light, and you might learn something. Or, you might take my advice, lose, and hate me for it.

Either way, it’ll be fun.

Go football!