1. Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan has showed up on the Forecast’s radar on a few occasions this season. Despite the praise, his two-touchdown performance against the Eagles, who have on of the league’s better pass defenses, came as a surprise. That effort has cemented Ryan as more than a spot starter and has him firmly ranked among the top 10 or 12 fantasy quarterbacks going forward. He can be used on most weeks unless the matchup or weather is brutal or one of his key offensive weapons is injured.
Availability: Owned in ~67% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: The rookie deserves a roster spot in all leagues.
2. Gus Frerotte, Vikings
Since taking over the starting role from Tarvaris Jackson, Frerotte has been relatively consistent. He’s posted at least one touchdown in four out of five games. Leading up to the bye week, the journeyman QB recorded his two best performances—a 296-yard, 1-TD effort against the Lions followed by a 298-yard, 2-TD game against the Bears. With an extra week of preparation, Frerotte has to be considered a quality start against the Texans even though Houston has shown improvement of late. Frerotte is a recommended pickup for any owner who will be missing Drew Brees or Phillip Rivers this week.
Availability: Owned in ~34% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Frerotte is ownable in all leagues and startable this week.
3. Marc Bulger, Rams
Well, what do you know. Bulger still has some skills. The Rams veteran QB passed for 301 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots in Week 8. Although he’s still lacking a multiple touchdown performance in 2008, Bulger has plenty of upside this week against the Cardinals. Arizona has allowed 10 passing scores in their last three road games. With rookie WR Donnie Avery hitting his stride and RB Steven Jackson still recovering from a thigh injury, Bulger should be in line for another quality fantasy start. If both Bulger and Frerotte are unavailable, take a look at Miami’s Chad Pennington.
Availability: Owned in ~49% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: If you’re desperate for a one-week QB option, give Fitzpatrick a look.
1. Ryan Torain, Broncos
This might be your last, best chance to find a seat aboard the Torain train. The rookie missed the first seven games of the season with an elbow injury. Coming off the bye week, he’s fully recovered. It’s just a matter of getting back into game shape. It’s unclear whether Torain will be active this week against the Dolphins. But given Andre Hall’s fumbles and overall ineffectiveness of the Denver running game, it wouldn’t be surprising to see 5-6 touches for Torain. In his personal blog, Torain writes, “I don’t know if my number is going to be called against Miami . . . All I know is I’ve just got to stay focused, stay on top of my game, and if Coach does call my number, I know I’m going to be ready 100 percent.” Don’t bet your season on a huge second half for Torain, but don’t be surprised if he’s a major factor before it’s all said and done.
Availability: Owned in ~25% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Torian is worth a speculative roster spot in all leagues.
2. Ricky Williams, Dolphins
After a sluggish start, Williams is available in roughly half of all fantasy leagues. Ronnie Brown is clearly the featured RB in Miami’s offense, which limits Williams’ upside. Brown would have to suffer an injury for Williams to see his value spike. Still, Williams has scored a touchdown in two of the last three games, and when the right matchup presents itself, Williams is a startable fantasy RB. With the Broncos on tap next, don’t be afraid to give him a spot start. Denver ranks 30th in the NFL versus the run. Ninety all-purpose yards and a touchdown are not out of the question for Williams.
Availability: Owned in ~56% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Williams is a solid stopgap this week if you have bye-week issues.
3. Kevin Faulk, Patriots
With Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Rams, third-down specialist Kevin Faulk split carries with rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Although Green-Ellis scored the touchdown, Faulk was the more consistent rusher. He carried the ball 13 times for 60 yards. Not surprisingly, he added plenty of production through the air with four receptions for 47 yards. The statuses of Morris and Jordan will likely be determined later in the week. In the meantime, it’s not a bad idea to add Faulk, who should produce well against a vulnerable Colts run defense if he’s called into duty again.
Availability: Owned in ~45% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Faulk is worth a look in all leagues and is playable as long as Morris and Jordan are out.
4. Derrick Ward, Giants
As far as second-string RBs are concerned, Ward is about as steady as they come for fantasy purposes. He’s produced a minimum of 60 total yards in six of seven games this season. In two of his last three outings, Ward has recorded games with 80+ yards. Ward has held off Ahmad Bradshaw for the backup spot. He generally spells Jacobs every third offensive series. So far that’s meant a minimum of 14 rushing attempts per game. He usually adds a catch or two, as well. That’s comparable to several RBs who are started on a regular basis for fantasy purposes, including guys like Earnest Graham and Steve Slaton.
Availability: Owned in ~55% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Ward has been a steady producer and deserves a look in all leagues.
5. Ray Rice, Ravens
After putting the ball on the ground in Week 1 against the Bengals, Rice saw his touches plummet. Seven weeks later, the rookie has finally earned his way back onto the field. On Sunday, he delivered his first truly relevant fantasy box score since the opener—101 all-purpose yards. Plus he had a touchdown called back because of a penalty. With Willis McGahee experiencing knee issues that require the joint to be drained, there appears to be a high probability of injury risk. At the very least, consider Rice to be a must-have handcuff if you’re a McGahee owner who’s counting on production from the Baltimore backfield.
Availability: Owned in ~22% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Rice is worth a look in deeper leagues.
6. Antonio Pittman, Rams
You know the Rams offense has turned the corner when the team’s second-string RB is getting recognition. Pittman filled in for the injured Steven Jackson, who was laboring with a thigh injury. Pittman fared well, carrying the ball 19 times for 83 yards and adding 22 yards through the air. Chances are we’ll see Jackson return to the field this week since he was a game time decision on Sunday. However, if you are counting on Jackson for a favorable matchup against the Cardinals, don’t risk it. Get Pittman now.
Availability: Owned in ~9% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Pittman is a worthy handcuff for Jackson owners.
7. Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker, Saints
Reports circulated around the NFL last week about a possible positive test for a banned substance for Duece McAllister. If the reports prove to be true, McAllister would likely be suspended for four games. It’s unclear if or when that suspension would begin. However, with Reggie Bush out for at least a few more games, Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker would likely split carries. Both players have proved to be capable RBs when called to duty. If you have a roster spot for a speculative RB, consider adding one or the other. Stecker is a safer bet in PPR leagues while Thomas should get the nod in TD-heavy leagues.
Availability: Owned in ~33% and 29% of leagues respectively.
Forecast guidance: Thomas and Stecker are worth a look in leagues with 12+ owners.
1. Donnie Avery, Rams
Avery has been a staple on the Forecast for the last three weeks. If you haven’t bought in yet, surely his third quality performance in a row will be enough to sway you. Avery caught six passes for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots. Essentially what the Rams have in Avery is a faster version of Holt . . . that’s Holt during his prime not the guy who’s on the downside of his career. Like most burner wideouts, Avery will do most of his production on bombs. He’s posted at least one reception of 40+ yards in three straight games. The good news is when he’s targeted 10 times like he was in Week 8, there’s a good chance he’ll deliver.
Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Avery should be owned in all leagues.
2. Kevin Walter, Texans
There’s nothing more aggravating than trying to figure out when to play Walter . . . except for maybe those incessant “Save. Buy. Zero” Toyota ads.r After a relatively quiet game in Week 7 against the Lions, he bounced back with a monster 2-TD performance against the Bengals. If you can tolerate the occasional low-output game, Walter is worth a look as a third or fourth WR. The Texans offense has finally hit its stride and with Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels drawing most of the attention, Walter should continue to have room to work. Consider playing him this week against a Vikings defense that was lit up by the Bears two weeks ago.
Availability: Owned in ~63% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Walter is worth a look in all leagues as a third or fourth WR.
3. Reggie Williams, Jaguars
The Forecast suggested owners roll dice with Williams last week for the Jaguars versus Browns tilt. Williams didn’t have a huge game but he managed to find the endzone and totaled 43 yards through the air. With top wideout Matt Jones on the brink of being suspended for four games, Williams would be the de facto #1 WR for Jacksonville. Williams had a great rapport with QB David Garrard last season. The duo hooked up for 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately, Williams battled a hamstring injury when the season opened and was a non-factor for much of the first seven weeks. Grab Williams this week in preparation for a late-season emergence.
Availability: Owned in ~14% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider Williams a promising pickup for the second half of the season.
4. Tedd Ginn Jr., Dolphins
Ginn was a popular sleeper pick in fantasy drafts but was also a popular roster cut in Week 2. His ownership went from 79 percent in Week 1 to 45 percent in Week 3. Ginn finally seems to be finding a rhythm with QB Chad Pennington. They connected on a 46-yard catch and run on the opening play of this week’s game against the Bills. Ginn ended the game with seven receptions for an astounding 175 yards. It will very likely prove to be the biggest production of Ginn’s season. However, looking back at his recent stats, Ginn hasn’t been too shabby. He’s caught four or more passes in four of his last five games.
Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Consider adding Ginn Jr. in points-per-reception leagues or if you’re shorthanded at WR.
5. Rashied Davis, Bears
Depending on your scoring system, Davis has rolled off three straight quality fantasy performances. He put up 97 yards against Detroit back in Week 5. He followed it up with 41 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons in Week 6. And while he only had 24 yards receiving against the Vikings in Week 7, he recovered a fumble in the endzone for a touchdown. With the Lions on tap again this week, I like Davis’ chances of rewarding fantasy owners with another valuable fantasy performance. Detroit ranks 31st in the NFL in pass defenses. They’ve allowed TD passes of 50+ yards in two of their last three games.
Availability: Owned in ~17% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Davis is worth a look as a bye week fill-in this week against the Bears.
1. Zach Miller, Raiders
Miller has recorded four straight games with 40 or more yards receiving. It’s time to trust him as a regular fantasy starter in TE-mandatory leagues. None of the Oakland wideouts has established himself as a consistent threat, which is helping Miller reap the rewards. He should fare well this week against the Falcons. Atlanta has been hurt by TEs in recent weeks. Over their last three games, three opposing TEs have posted 40+ yards or a TD.
Availability: Owned in ~59% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Miller is worth a roster spot in leagues with 12 or more teams.
2. Donald Lee, Packers
Surprisingly, the Titans have allowed opposing TEs to post 40+ yards and/or a TD in five straight games. If you’re strapped for a TE this week due to San Diego’s bye, take a look at Donald Lee. With Green Bay’s WRs doing most of the damage, Lee doesn’t receive a ton of looks. However, he has managed to score a TD in two of his last three outings. Give him a shot if there isn’t a clear alternative on your waiver wire like Zach Miller or Greg Olsen (owned in 66% of leagues).
Availability: Owned in ~27% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Lee is a decent one-week stopgap if you’re desperate for TE help.
1. John Carney, Giants
The Forecast was on the Carney bandwagon early this season. The threat of the return of Lawrence Tynes made Carney a bit of a risk. Now it looks like the aged veteran will hold onto the job. Unless you hear otherwise, consider Carney the starter this week. Don’t hesitate to plug him in against Dallas. Kickers have scored nine or more points in six of their last seven games against the Cowboys.
Availability: Owned in ~51% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Carney is a viable kicker in all leagues.
2. Matt Bryant, Buccaneers
Bryant was touted here last week but I’ll list him again because he’s still available in 60% of leagues. He’s scored seven or more points in six straight games. With the Chiefs on tap next, Bryant is a quality fantasy kicker. Kansas City has allowed 28 or more points in four of their last five games. The one knock on Bryant is he isn’t very accurate from long distances. Still, if you need a kicker for one week or if you’ve just been unhappy with your kicker production as a whole, Bryant is a savvy pickup.
Availability: Owned in ~40% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Bryant is worth a roster spot in all leagues at this point.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Although they’ve been inconsistent this season, the Jaguars are a fine pickup and play this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati has scored 10 or fewer points in two straight games. In those two contests, they’ve allowed four turnovers, nine sacks and a special teams TD. The biggest knock on the Jacksonville defense is they don’t log many sacks. They only have nine this season, third fewest in the NFL. However, they have playmakers and have scored two TDs this season. Look for them to hold the Bengals to fewer than 14 points and record at least a couple turnovers.
Availability: Owned in ~73% of leagues.
Forecast guidance: Give the Jags defense a start this week against the Bengals.