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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Free Agent Forecast: Week 9
Paul Sandy
November 1, 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: N/A

Andy Dalton, Bengals
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayDalton, last week’s top pickup recommendation, passed for two touchdowns on Sunday. Although his yardage was relatively low (168 yard), his numbers were still good enough to put him inside the top 12 fantasy QBs for the week (prior to MNF).  He’s thrown for at least one touchdown in every game this season except one. Fantasy owners can start thinking of Dalton as a serviceable starting QB. The Bengals face a Titans pass defense that ranks in the middle of the NFL. In the two games prior to facing the woeful Colts in Week 8, they surrendered seven passing touchdowns. Dalton has a good chance to put up another couple scores.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Dalton is an excellent backup QB or passable starting QB.

Sam Bradford, Rams
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayBradford is out of his walking boot and moving around well according to reports out of St. Louis. He figures to get the start this week against the Cardinals, who have the NFL’s 30th ranked pass defense. Even with the favorable matchup Bradford isn’t a lock to post useful numbers. However, fantasy owners in leagues with 12+ owners can certainly take a chance on him. The recently acquired Brandon Lloyd and the fully healthy Steven Jackson give Bradford two targets he was sorely lacking earlier in the season. Plus, a soft stretch of schedule (ARI, CLE, SEA, ARI) sets up nicely for a return to fantasy relevance for Bradford.

Availability: Owned in ~44% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Bet on a second half resurgence from Bradford.

Matt Cassel, Chiefs
1 Week Plug & PlayCassel might be the most difficult QB to project for fantasy. He threw for four touchdowns against the Colts in Week 5. In his next game, he threw zero against a generous Raiders defense. Then last night he put up one against the Chargers. Despite the unpredictability, he’s worth a gamble this week at home against the Dolphins. Miami has given up useful fantasy numbers to QBs in every game this season. This includes third and fourth tier QBs like Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Count on at least 250 yards with a pair of touchdowns from Cassel.

Availability: Owned in ~65% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Cassel’s up-and-down season should spike upward against the Dolphins.

Carson Palmer, Raiders
Worth a LookPalmer’s first performance as a Raider was a disaster. He went 8 for 21 with three interceptions. It wasn’t exactly a confidence booster for Palmer—or his fantasy owners. However, in his defense, he reportedly only knew about 12-15 plays and wasn’t supposed to see the field until after the bye. Given a couple weeks to get some seasoning, the results should start to improve. A matchup this week against the Broncos sets up nicely for getting on a roll. Still, the Forecast recommends holding him on your bench as a prospect.

Availability: Owned in ~58% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Palmer is a risky start this week but he’s worth a speculative pickup.

RUNNING BACKS

Commonly owned RBs worth adding: Michael Bush (84%), Reggie Bush (80%) and Ben Tate (81%)

Javon Ringer, Titans
Rock StarChris Johnson’s nightmare 2011 season continues. Johnson carried the ball 14 times for just 34 yards (2.4 ypc). Meanwhile, backup Javon Ringer took 14 carries 60 yards and added 42 yards receiving. Johnson continues to cite poor run blocking as the cause of his woes but Ringer doesn’t appear to have the same issues behind the same offensive line. The Titans made Johnson the NFL’s highest-paid RB before the season started so they won’t bench him. Although Ringer won’t take Johnson’s job, he will take 50% of his touches going forward. That’s enough to make him a worthy spot starter. The Titans face a tough Bengals run defense in Week 9 so consider keeping both Ringer and Johnson on your bench.

Availability: Owned in ~21% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: On a week with very few interesting waiver wire possibilities, Ringer is the top pickup.

Curtis Brinkley, Chargers
Injury ReplacementChargers starting RB Ryan Mathews suffered a groin injury late in Monday night’s game against the Chiefs. Check the severity of the injury this afternoon to confirm Mathews’ status for next week. San Diego’s No. 2 RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring) is also nicked up. If one or both of the Chargers RBs are unable to play, Brinkley could become an instant fantasy sensation. He looked versatile against KC, putting up 67 total yards and a touchdown (prior to overtime) in very limited action.
 
Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $$-$$$
Forecast: Brinkley will be useful this week if Mathews and Tolbert are out or limited.

Chris Ogbonnaya, Browns
Injury ReplacementBrowns RB Montario Hardesty left Sunday’s game against the 49ers with a calf injury. Early reports indicate he’ll miss at least a week or two. Regular starter Peyton Hillis also continues to battle a hamstring injury. If Hillis and Hardesty aren’t ready to take the field this week against the Texans, fantasy owners might be able to squeeze some value out of third-string RB Chris Ogbonnaya. Ogbonnaya racked up 61 total yards against a stiff 49ers defense. He’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield and has ten receptions in his last two outings. Ogbonnaya makes a nice midseason pickup, especially in PPR leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~1% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Ogbonnaya can be used this week in PPR leagues if you’re in a pinch.

Lance Ball, Broncos
Worth a LookBall made the most of his six carries in Sunday’s loss to the Lions, ending the game with 63 yards. With Willis McGahee (hand) sidelined for at least another week, Ball will likely continue to split carries with Knowshon Moreno. Consider him a desperation option in Week 9 against the Raiders. Although he provides minimal value this week, he’s a sneaky long-term value play. With the Broncos out of the playoff mix, they will use their last nine games to evaluate talent for 2012. Don’t be surprised if Ball gets a couple games as the featured RB in November or December. 

Availability: Owned in ~5% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Ball is worth stashing for later in the season when he will likely see more carries.

Roy Helu, Redskins
Worth a LookHelu’s time is coming. Redskins starter Ryan Torain turned in another disappointing effort in Week 8, posting just 14 yards on eight carries. Washington was shut out against the Bills. It was the first time a Mike Shanahan-led team failed to put points on the board. Shanahan won’t tolerate an inert running game for long. Look for him to make the switch from Torain to the rookie Helu sooner than later. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to find a team with a more difficult upcoming stretch of games than the Redskins. It starts with the 49ers this week. Still, Helu is worth a speculative pickup.

Availability: Owned in ~66% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Add Helu as a bench prospect with strong upside.

Marion Barber, Bears
1 Week Plug & PlayBarber has scored a touchdown in three of the last four games for Chicago. Although he’s not officially the Bears goal line RB, he’s getting plenty of work in that area. With a Monday night matchup against an Eagles defense that’s weak against the run, Barber is worth a look as a desperation bye-week replacement. He should get a handful of carries and will likely pay off if those touches come inside the five-yard line.

Availability: Owned in ~30% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Barber makes sense as a bye-week fill-in in standard and TD-heavy leagues.

Kevin Faulk, Patriots
Worth a LookSunday was Faulk’s first game of 2011 and he saw extensive action. He was on the field for 39 out of New England’s 58 offensive snaps—compared to just four for Danny Woodhead and 13 for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Much of that workload imbalance can be attributed to the fact that the Patriots essentially gave up on the running game against the Steelers. Even so, the usage is telling. The Patriots clearly view Faulk as their top option as a pass-catching RB. Considering how much the Patriots throw the ball, Faulk could have some value going forward.  Add him in 12+ team PPR leagues as a backup but understand his upside is limited.

Availability: Owned in ~0% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Give Faulk a look as a bench option in PPR leagues.

Kregg Lumpkin, Buccaneers
Injury ReplacementWith Earnest Graham out for the season, Tampa will apparently roll with Lumpkin as the team’s third-down, pass-catching RB. The coaching staff has shown on many occasions that they don’t trust LeGarrette Blount in passing situations so Lumpkin could see enough stats to put up relevant numbers, especially in deep PPR leagues. He’s worth considering as a backup.

Availability: Owned in ~10% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: PPR leaguers can look to Lumpkin as a viable bench prospect.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Commonly owned WRs worth adding: Victor Cruz, (95%), Percy Harvin (83%), Nate Washington (90%) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (83%)

Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers
Rock StarThe arrow is definitely pointing up when it comes to Pittsburgh’s passing attack. The Patriots did everything they could to contain No. 1 WR Mike Wallace on Sunday so Ben Roethlisberger looked to Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders instead. Brown caught nine passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Roethlisberger threw his way 15 times, tied for most among all NFL receivers this week. Brown should be owned in all leagues. Sanders chipped in a respectable 70 yards on five receptions. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues.

Availability: Owned in ~74% and ~30% of leagues, respectively.
FAAB: Brown--$$-$$$, Sanders--$-$$
Forecast: Get a piece of the Steelers passing game if your WR depth is disappointing.

Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Rock StarProfiled last week, Crabtree pushed through with a quality stat line in Week 8. He ended the game with five receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. QB Alex Smith threw his way nine times. After a sluggish start to the season, Crabtree now has 14 receptions in his last two games. He’s developing into a legitimate WR3 for fantasy and is playable in Week 9 against the Redskins.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Think of Crabtree as a decent WR3 going forward.

Malcom Floyd, Chargers
Rock StarFloyd crossed the century mark on Monday night, racking up 107 yards. It was his second 100-yard effort in the last three games. QB Phillip Rivers threw his way early and often, hooking up on five receptions. With a matchup this week against the Packers, Floyd is a savvy pickup. The Packers rank second-to-last in the NFL in pass defense. They’ve been known to give up long pass plays, which is Floyd’s specialty.

Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: A favorable matchup this week versus the Packers makes Floyd worthy of roster consideration in all leagues.

Jonathan Baldwin, Chiefs
Rock StarBaldwin came out of nowhere to post an impressive stat line on Monday night. The big rookie displayed sticky hands and impressive athleticism. In the first quarter, he caught a 39-yard touchdown pass, leaping over a defender and snatching the ball out of the air. As good as Baldwin has looked, it’s a shame he started his rookie season with a broken thumb that kept him sidelined until last week. With a favorable matchup next week against the Dolphins, Baldwin is worth adding and starting as a high-risk, high-reward WR3. Miami has been vulnerable to explosive passing plays this season. Give Baldwin added consideration in keeper/dynasty formats.

Availability: Owned in ~3% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Baldwin looks like the real deal and could be in line for a monster second half of the season if the Chiefs stay hot.

Jerome Simpson, Bengals
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayIdentified last week both as a plug-and-play option and a WR with some long-term potential, Simpson caught a 14-yard touchdown pass against the Seahawks. Unfortunately, it was his only reception of the game. Although the lack of catches is a concern, Simpson still managed to post useful numbers for the second week in a row. The Forecast likes his chances of chipping in a more well-rounded effort in Week 9 against the Titans. Tennessee has allowed 11 passing touchdowns this season.

Availability: Owned in ~36% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Demand for Simpson is still low at this point but he merits roster consideration in all leagues.

Lance Moore, Saints
Worth a LookSaints QB Drew Brees rediscovered Moore in the team’s shocking loss to the Rams. Moore ended the game with seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. New Orleans has a favorable home matchup this week against the Buccaneers but Moore still should be considered at best a low-end WR3 in this matchup. He is still the fourth option in the passing game at this point. Stash him on your bench in case Brees continues to look his way in the coming weeks.

Availability: Owned in ~62% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Moore isn’t consistent enough yet but grab him in case Sunday’s performance spurs a hot streak.

Early Doucet, Cardinals
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayDoucet has quietly put together three straight helpful fantasy stat lines. He has three touchdowns this season (compared to just two for Larry Fitzgerald). With a matchup this week against the Rams, Doucet could make a nice stopgap for desperate fantasy owners. St. Louis brought their A-game Sunday versus the Saints but it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve allowed 14 passing touchdowns—tied for second most in the NFL. Give Doucet a look as a WR3 or flex option.

Availability: Owned in ~35% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Doucet isn’t a sexy pickup but he continues to get the job done.

Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayIt’s been difficult to get a read on Tampa’s WR depth chart this year. Mike Williams is the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. After that, it’s a muddled picture with Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker and Dezmon Briscoe alternating quality performances. If you’re in a bye week pickle and need a replacement, you could roll with any of these three options in Week 9 against the Saints. The Forecast will point out that Benn went for 83 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago versus the Saints. He’s a feast-or-famine flier. New Orleans has allowed the sixth most passing touchdowns this season.

Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Benn is a risky option but could pay dividends in a favorable matchup with the Saints.

TIGHT ENDS

Commonly owned TEs worth adding: Greg Olsen (83%) and Kellen Winslow (67%)

Brent Celek, Eagles
Rock StarUnderutilized over the first seven weeks of the season, Celek was Michael Vick’s go-to target in Sunday’s blowout of the Cowboys. Celek caught seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. It was his second straight game with a score. Philadelphia’s offense appears to be locked in right now and their key offensive weapons are proving to be matchup proof. Can Celek be one of those key guys? It’s too early to tell but at the very least he’s worth stashing on your bench just in case. The Eagles have some favorable matchups on the horizon after they get by the Bears on Monday.

Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
FAAB: $$
Forecast: Celek has top 12 fantasy TE potential but he’s no lock to continue producing.

Jake Ballard, Giants
Worth a Look1 Week Plug & PlayBallard is a multi-week Forecast recommendation and continues to put up solid numbers week in and week out. He ended Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with a respectable 55 yards receiving on four receptions. Eli Manning threw his way seven times. With a matchup this week against the Patriots, Ballard deserves consideration as a fantasy starter. New England has allowed useful fantasy numbers to the last two TEs they’ve faced.

Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: Ballard offers consistency—something that’s not easy to find in a TE.

KICKERS

Commonly owned PKs worth adding: Sebastian Janikowski (83%) and Billy Cundiff (88%)

Matt Bryant, Falcons
Rock StarBryant posted double-digit points in his last outing but he’s coming off a Week 8 bye and is readily available in fantasy leagues. Although he hasn’t been nearly as consistent as he was in 2010, things are starting to look up. The Falcons offense has returned to a more balanced attack and their point totals have shown improvement. With a matchup this week against the Colts, Bryant figures to approach double-digits again. Opposing kickers have averaged 10.7 points per game against Indianapolis in the last three games.

Availability: Owned in ~57% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: With a dream matchup against the Colts, Bryant is worth grabbing and starting.

Connor Barth, Buccaneers
1 Week Plug & PlayIn Week 9, Barth faces the Saints, a team he touched up for 14 points two weeks ago. Barth’s season has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this year but the only times he’s had truly bad stat lines were against elite defenses (CHI and SF). New Orleans isn’t in that class so he should be a safe kicking option who has the upside to go for double digits if the game turns into a shootout. You can’t ask much more from a bye week replacement kicker.

Availability: Owned in ~16% of leagues.
FAAB: $
Forecast: Barth is a safe kicking option this week and also brings double-digit upside to the table.

DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS

Commonly owned DSTs worth adding: Cincinnati Bengals (87%)

Oakland Raiders
1 Week Plug & PlayThe Raiders draw Tim Tebow this week. Really there’s nothing much else that needs to be said. Although Oakland failed to record a sack in their last outing (vs. KC), they are definitely capable of putting pressure on QBs. In their previous six games, the Raiders had recorded 16 sacks. Assuming Tebow gets the start, the Raiders should have plenty of opportunity to reward fantasy owners with points. Tebow has been sacked 14 times in his two starts and had two turnovers returned for a touchdown last week. Also consider the Falcons versus the Colts.

Availability: Owned in ~33% of leagues.
FAAB: $-$$
Forecast: If you stream a different defense into your lineup each week, the Raiders are the smart play for Week 9.


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