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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 6
Paul Sandy
October 11, 2011
 
SYMBOL LEGEND
Rockstar Rock Star Free Agent
Injury Injury Replacement
Worth a Look Worth a Look
1 Week Plug & Play 1 Week Plug & Play
Sleeper Sleeper
Free Agent Auction
Bid (FAAB) Scale
$ $0 - $5
$$ $6 - $15
$$$ $16 - $25
$$$$ $26 - $40
$$$$$ $41+
Based on $100 cap,
12-team league.

QUARTERBACKS

Commonly owned QBs worth adding: Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning

Tim Tebow, Broncos
Rock StarIt’s Tebow time. The unorthodox QB relieved Kyle Orton in the second half of Sunday’s game and nearly led his team to a win over the favored Chargers. Tebow passed for 79 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 38 yards and a touchdown. If you missed out on Cam Newton after Week 1, this is your chance for redemption. Tebow may have a slow release, poor mechanics, and little pocket awareness, but the guy puts up fantasy stats. Consider this: In every game in which he’s started or seen significant action, Tebow has thrown for at least one touchdown AND rushed for at least one touchdown. You won’t be able to deploy him until Week 7 because the Broncos have a bye; however, his next four matchups look favorable.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$-$$$$
Forecast: Based on his abilities to run and pass, Tebow could post top 12 fantasy QB numbers the rest of the way.

Sam Bradford, Rams
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayNearly 30% of the owners who drafted Bradford have cut him. The second-year QB has fallen victim to the dreaded sophomore slump so far but the Forecast thinks he’s hit the bottom and is poised for a bounceback. Bradford has a few things working in his favor. Coming off the bye, the Rams have had a chance to regroup and get healthy. Top rusher Steven Jackson should be 100%, which will take some of the pressure off Bradford and give him an excellent check-down option. More importantly, after running a gauntlet of tough defenses to start the season, Bradford will find the sledding easier against the Packers, Cowboys, Saints and Cardinals—none of which has an elite pass defense at this point. 

Availability: Owned in ~72% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Grab Bradford and give him a second chance as a spot starter or a backup who you can trade if he gets hot.

Alex Smith, 49ers
1 Week Plug & PlaySmith’s fantasy numbers continue to trend upward. The former No.1 draft pick tossed three touchdowns in Sunday’s blowout win over the Bucs and probably would’ve had more but he was pulled once the game got out of hand. The Forecast likes his chances of putting up some more useful numbers this week against the Lions in what could be a high-scoring game. If you’re a Phillip Rivers owner seeking a one-week Band-Aid, Smith should suffice. Look for at least 240 yards and a pair of scores.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Ride Smith’s hot hand as a bye week replacement or spot starter.

Colt McCoy, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayMcCoy has averaged 43 pass attempts per game in 2011. He’s also thrown at least one touchdown in every game this year. You know you’ll get something out of him, and sometimes that’s enough for a bye-week replacement. But McCoy has the potential to be more than just okay in Week 6. He could be a true difference-maker. The Browns will face a Raiders defense that has yielded multiple passing scores in four straight games. In that same four-game span, opposing passers have averaged 318.8 yards per game against the Silver and Black.

Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: McCoy is a safe, smart play in Week 6 if you need bye week help.

Matt Cassel, Chiefs
Rock StarAfter stumbling out of the blocks, Kansas City’s offense is showing new signs of life. QB Matt Cassel led his team to a come-from-behind win against Indy, throwing for four touchdowns and 257 yards. Not every opponent will be quite as soft as the Colts but Cassel is a capable backup QB for fantasy. Keep in mind this is a guy who ended the 2010 season with 27 passing scores, eighth most in the entire NFL. Think about adding him to your roster as a QB you can lean on for a few spot starts. The Chiefs are on bye in Week 6 and will face Oakland next.

Availability: Owned in ~47% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Cassel is worth adding as a backup QB in standard leagues or a starter in leagues that start two QBs.

Andy Dalton, Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayDalton has posted serviceable fantasy numbers in three of his last four games. While he’s certainly not performing at a level that will blow you away, the rookie QB is a solid contributor. He just passed for 179 yards and two scores on the road in Jacksonville. Look for him to build on that performance this week at home against a Colts defense that was shredded by Matt Cassel for four scores. Dalton will provide sufficient numbers as a bye-week replacement—and the Forecast prefers him over Curtis Painter, who will start opposite Dalton but face the Bengals third-ranked pass defense.

Availability: Owned in ~24% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Dalton is a safe bet to notch multiple touchdown passes in Week 6.

RUNNING BACKS

Commonly owned RBs worth adding: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ryan Torain, Marshawn Lynch, DeAngelo Williams, Willis McGahee and Mark Ingram

Jackie Battle, Chiefs
Rock StarA career backup, Battle finally got his shot in the second half of Kansas City’s win over the Colts. The 28-year old RB rushed for 119 yards and added 21 yards through the air, sparking the team to a 17-point comeback. Although the Chiefs are on bye next week, Battle merits consideration as this week’s top free agent pickup. With Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster struggling, Battle could become Kansas City’s workhorse the rest of the season. The Forecast predicted this could happen a couple weeks ago—unfortunately, LeRon McClain not Battle was the projected beneficiary. Oops. A regretful miss. Battle’s numbers may have been inflated by a weak Colts run defense but opportunities like this don’t come around often for fantasy owners. Take your chances with Battle.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$-$$$$
Forecast: Battle is this week’s “must-grab” RB.

Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
Injury ReplacementTampa starting RB LeGarrette Blount suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. The nature and severity of that injury aren’t known at this point. We probably won’t find out more about Blount’s status until Wednesday at the earliest. Add Earnest Graham in case Blount can’t go. Tampa faces an average Saints defense in Week 6. Graham offers tremendous versatility and should flirt with 100 total yards if he’s given the lion’s share of the snaps. Allen Bradford might also see some work and has upside as a deep sleeper.

Availability: Owned in ~31% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Graham will be a decent RB2 in Week 6 if Blount rests.
 
Montario Hardesty, Browns
Worth a LookHardesty has been profiled here a couple times as a player of interest due to favorable matchups or injuries to Peyton Hillis. The Forecast is profiling him this week for a different reason. There are grumblings and mumblings in Cleveland that Hillis is growing frustrated with his contract situation. Rumors surfaced last week that Hillis’ next move may be to ask for a trade. If the relationship between Hillis and the Cleveland brass continues to sour, don’t be surprised if Hardesty takes over the featured RB role. At this point, the second-year RB should be on rosters in the majority of leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Hardesty could be an important fantasy RB over the second half of the season; if you have roster space, stash him.

Pierre Thomas, Saints
1 Week Plug & PlayIf your regular RB is on bye, take a look at Pierre Thomas, available in nearly a quarter of all fantasy leagues. The three-headed Saints backfield is limiting the number of snaps Thomas gets each week, but he’s making lemonade with the lemons he’s being given. Thomas has scored or put up 70+ yards two straight games. On Sunday, he’ll face a Tampa defense against which he’s scored or put up 100 total yards in three straight meetings.

Availability: Owned in ~76% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Thomas is worth a look as a RB2 for owners facing a bye-week challenge.

Delone Carter and Donald Brown, Colts
Injury ReplacementColts No.1 RB Joseph Addai suffered a significant hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. He is expected to miss several weeks. The injury moves rookie Delone Carter into the top spot on the depth chart. Donald Brown will also get some work. Prior to Addai’s injury, the Colts had actually been running the ball surprisingly well. Although Carter and Brown have both failed to show much in limited action this season, contributing RBs are hard to find on the waiver wire, especially this time of year when there are so many byes. Both players are worth a look but they are risky options this week against the Bengals.

Availability: Owned in ~27% and 5% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: Carter - $-$$  Brown - $
Forecast: Add a piece of the Indianapolis run game if you need RB depth. 

Bernard Scott, Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayWorth a LookThe NFL still has not ruled on Cedric Benson’s appeal and it’s not clear when they will. In the mean time, Scott is worth stashing. The Bengals No. 2 RB carried the ball six times for 20 yards and had a goal-line plunge on Sunday. Cincinnati faces the Colts this week so if the long arm of the NFL law drops the gavel on Benson this week, Scott will become instant starter material. Even if Benson plays, Scott is worth a matchup-based start in deep leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~53% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Stash Scott in anticipation of the NFL ruling on Benson’s suspension this week.

Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers
Injury ReplacementWith Rashard Mendenhall on the sideline with a hamstring injury on Sunday, Isaac Redman got the start but it was Jonathan Dwyer who made all the noise. Dwyer ran for 107 yards on 11 carries, the bulk of the ground being covered on a 76-yard run in the second quarter. Chances are Mendenhall will return to action this week since he suited up and served as the emergency RB in Week 5. However, hamstrings can be funny things. If Mendenhall’s starts acting up, Dwyer could be a nice plug-in option versus the Jaguars the even then he would likely split snaps with Redman.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Keep your eye on the Pittsburgh backfield and add Dwyer if Mendenhall doesn’t practice this week.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Commonly owned WRs worth adding: Pierre Garcon, A.J. Green, Marques Colston and Deion Branch  

Victor Cruz, Giants
Rock StarThe Forecast has been advising owners to grab Cruz for a few weeks now. He posted his third straight quality fantasy performance notching an 8-161-1 stat line. Although Mario Manningham reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup on Sunday, Cruz continues to get plenty of looks from QB Eli Manning even as the No. 3 option. In fact, Manning threw his way 11 times—most of any Giants WR. Cruz is like a C4 plastic explosive, who seems to blow up and make big plays at will. He should probably be the top pickup in any league in which he’s available. The Giants face the Bills this week followed by a bye.

Availability: Owned in ~73% of leagues.
FAAB: $$$-$$$$
Forecast: Cruz looks like the real deal and should be owned in all leagues.

Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
1 Week Plug & PlayWorth a LookThis week’s matchup between the Cowboys and Patriots could easily see 60+ points scored. You’re going to want to get in on that action. Laurent Robinson, the No. 3 receiver for Dallas, is the most logical pickup if you don’t currently own any New England and Dallas players but want a horse in this race. When Miles Austin missed time with a hamstring injury, Robinson filled in admirably, catching 10 passes for 165 yards in two games. Despite showing improvements against the Jets, New England’s secondary is sketchy. Bet on Robinson as a bye-week fill-in and look for at least 70 yards. Long-term, Robinson is certainly capable of serving as a WR3 for fantasy—and could develop into more if Austin or Bryant were to get hurt.

Availability: Owned in ~4% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Robinson is owned in far too few leagues; he’s a solid WR3 in Week 6.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
Rock StarLast week’s sleeper recommendation snagged eight receptions for 136 yards and a score in Sunday’s surprising win over the Giants. It was Baldwin’s second straight useful stat line and his third in five games. Regardless of whether it’s Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst under center, the rookie continues to produce. He’s worth adding in all leagues and could be particularly valuable in PPR leagues going forward. Add him and be ready to start him in Week 7 when the Seahawks return from their bye.

Availability: Owned in ~7% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Baldwin looks like a servicable WR3 or flex option.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
Rock StarAfter his second straight big game, Heyward-Bey’s ownership will no doubt be on the rise in Week 6. DHB put up 115 yards two weeks ago and followed it up with seven catches for 99 yards and a score. He was targeted 12 times. Oakland’s receiving corps is one of the most difficult to forecast in the entire NFL. Heyward-Bey’s sudden positive momentum might be a mirage but he’s worth adding in case he continues the productive streak. Just make sure you don’t overpay to get him.

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Take a chance on Heyward-Bey and hope he continues to produce as Oakland’s No. 1 WR.
 
James Jones, Packers
Rock StarMentioned as a plug-and-play option last week, Jones was Green Bay’s top receiver on Sunday night. He recorded an outstanding 5-140-1 stat line. It was his second straight game with a TD. Up next, Jones and the Packers face a mediocre Rams pass defense. Green Bay has a lot of mouths to feeds so Jones always carries the risk for a disappointing game but the upside is too good to pass up. If you’re desperate for WR help, you could also go with Donald Driver or Randall Cobb to take advantage of this favorable matchup.

Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Jones has a good chance to post his third straight game with a touchdown this week against the Rams.

Hines Ward, Steelers
1 Week Plug & PlayWorth a LookAn after-thought in the Steelers offense for the first four weeks of the season, Ward finally got things rolling in Week 5. He caught seven passes for 54 yards and two scores. With the offensive line unable to hold protection, Pittsburgh finally returned to its small-ball roots, running the ball and dumping short, quick passes off to Ward and Heath Miller. The Steelers o-line woes aren’t going to be solved anytime soon, so Ward’s reemergence might be more permanent than you think. At the very least, he has a good chance to find the endzone this week against the Jaguars.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Ward is worth adding as a long-term value play and a Week 6 plug-in.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Worth a LookFloyd battled nagging injuries over the first four weeks of the season and his numbers suffered. The Forecast can’t blame fantasy owners for cutting bait on the San Diego WR. However, he’s now fully healthy and needs to be reclaimed off the waiver wire. Floyd broke out with 100 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos on Sunday. The Chargers have a bye this week followed by the Jets.

Availability: Owned in ~69% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Grab Floyd as an explosive spot starter you can pull off your bench as needed.

Mark Clayton, Rams
SleeperClayton, who is currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, is eligible to return to the field in Week 8. Considering how badly St. Louis’ receivers have performed to date, Clayton could become the team’s top WR the moment he laces up his cleats. Don’t forget this is a WR who started out the 2010 seasons with 23 receptions for 306 yards in four games before getting hurt. He has great rapport with QB Sam Bradford and could easlily be a top 20 WR over the second half of the season.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Clayton is a sneaky pickup in anticipation of his return to the field in Week 8.

Steve Breaston, Chiefs
Worth a LookWritten off for dead a few weeks ago, the Kansas City Chiefs have rattled off two wins in a row. Top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe has scored in two straight games and even No. 2 wideout Steve Breaston is getting in on the action. After posting four receptions for 91 yards two weeks ago against the Vikings, he chipped in 50 yards and two scores on Sunday against the Colts in Week 5. The Chiefs have a bye this week but Breaston is worth adding in advance of a favorable stretch of schedule that includes games against Oakland, Miami, Denver and New England, among others.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Breaston is emerging as a legitimate WR3 for fantasy; he’s worth adding even with the Chiefs on bye.

Damian Williams, Titans
Worth a LookA second-year WR, Williams has posted touchdowns in two straight games. When Kenny Britt went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Titans needed someone to step up. So far that someone is Williams, who recorded six receptions for 66 yards and a score against the Steelers. If you have a roster spot and some patience, Williams is worth adding as a prospect. Tennessee continues to throw the ball at a surprising rate. They have a bye this week followed by favorable division matchups against the Texans and Colts.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Williams is worth a look in leagues with 12 or more teams.

TIGHT ENDS

Commonly owned TEs worth adding: Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Jimmy Graham and Brandon Pettigrew

Ben Watson, Browns
1 Week Plug & PlayWatson was on bye in Week 5 but don’t sleep on him. He led the entire Browns offense in receiving last season and so far he has picked up right where he left off. The veteran TE has 11 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown in his last two games. This week, Cleveland faces an Oakland defense that was carved up by Houston’s TEs for 201 yards and a touchdown. If your regular TE is on bye, look to Watson for help.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Watson should grab at least 5-6 passes this week and give fantasy owners some decent production.

Heath Miller, Steelers
1 Week Plug & PlayIn Week 5, Miller found the endzone for the first time this season. He ended the game with a respectable 3-46-1 stat line. Up next, Miller and the Steelers face a Jacksonville defensive unit that has been vulnerable to TEs all season. They’ve allowed TE touchdowns in four straight games, including Dustin Keller (6-101-1), Greg Olsen (7-57-1), Jimmy Graham (10-131-1) and Jermaine Gresham (5-21-1). Based on this trend, fantasy owners facing a bye week TE issue can confidently roll the dice with Miller.

Availability: Owned in ~28% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Plug and play Miller to exploid a favorable matchup against the TE-friendly Jags.

Jake Ballard, Giants
Worth a LookAny time a tight end records back-to-back touchdowns, as Ballard has just done, it’s going to get the attention of the fantasy world. Ballard was drafted as a blocking TE but he’s proving to be a solid downfield target in the passing game for Eli Manning. Ballard has averaged 19.2 yards per reception on 10 catches this year. That’s best in the entire NFL. Considering most defenses will be preoccupied with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham, Ballard could continue see sufficient targets each week to contribute for fantasy owners.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Ballard is worth a look in deep leagues.

KICKERS

Commonly owned PKs worth adding: John Kasay, Sebastian Janikowski, Mason Crosby and Neil Rackers

Dan Bailey, Cowboys
Rock StarBailey has connected on 11 field goals and six extra points in his last three games. That’s an average of 13 points per game (not including bonuses). This is an elite fantasy kicker. He wasn’t widely added last week because the Cowboys were on bye. If you don’t currently consider your kicker to be one of the five best in fantasy, Bailey is a smart pickup. He’s already had his bye so he’s pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it player from here on out.

Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Bailey is a frontline fantasy starter you can add and ride all season long.

Billy Cundiff, Ravens
1 Week Plug & PlayCundiff has connected on multiple field goal kicks in every game he’s played this year. Like Bailey, he’s coming off a bye week and is widely available. The Ravens host the Texans in Week 6. Houston’s defense has had some good games but they just lost their best player, Mario Williams, for the season. Look for Cundiff to chip in his typical 8-10 points.

Availability: Owned in ~41% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Cundiff is an every-week fantasy kicker and should owned in most leagues.

DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

Commonly owned DSTs worth adding: Giants

Buffalo Bills
Rock StarIt’s time to start believing in the Bills defense. Buffalo’s up-and-coming team has recorded defensive touchdowns in three straight games. In that same three-game stretch, they’ve also tallied a whopping 11 turnovers and three sacks. Buffalo is currently only owned in about 25% of fantasy leagues. That should change this week in advance of a game against the mistake-prone Giants.

Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: The Bills should be owned and started in all leagues.

Cincinnati Bengals
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Bengals are coming off their best defensive fantasy performance of the season. The team recorded three sacks, a turnover and a touchdown against the Jaguars. On tap next, the Bengals will host the Colts and Curtis Painter. Although Painter has not thrown an interception yet and has limited his sacks, his performances thus far have come against suspect defenses (Tampa and Kansas City). The Bengals are a whole ‘nother animal. Cincinnati ranks third in pass defense and seventh in rush defense.

Availability: Owned in ~45% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: The Bengals should fill in nicely if your regular defense is on bye or facing a tough matchup.


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