Peyton Manning owners have been dreading this week. The Denver Broncos quarterback is already favored to capture his second Super Bowl, a fifth MVP award, and already holds the fantasy distinction of “Steal of the Draft.”
Manning’s river of points created tributaries for owners in receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, and running back Knowshon Moreno. That’s a ton of production for an owner to make up, especially with the waiver wire thinning out as the season progresses.
An owner who lucked into Manning is likely headed for the playoffs, but as the fantasy season winds down every win counts just a little bit more. So the question remains: How do you substitute for a man averaging 364.8 yards and almost four touchdowns a game, or all the points he generates for every other offensive player?
The answer is you can’t. But owners can plug in several players either from the bench or by scanning the wire.
Other more than notable players sitting out in Week Nine include the Detroit Lions three-headed monster of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Reggie Bush. San Francisco 49er running back Frank Gore, who is second only to Moreno with seven rushing touchdowns this season, will also be a huge loss for fantasy owners.
Check out the players below and remember that the New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals, and Jacksonville Jaguars join Denver, San Francisco, and Detroit in the bye week.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
After missing more than a month of action, Starks made an immediate impact in Week Eight with seven carries for 57 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown run. Eddie Lacy will continue to get the most touches, but handcuff Starks to him.
Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans
Houston has serious worries in the backfield with Arian Foster hampered by a hamstring injury, and No. 2 option Ben Tate questionable with broken ribs. The Texans signed the rookie Johnson and Deji Karim earlier this week, and either is worth a look. Johnson led Arkansas in rushing last year, and Karim spent his first two seasons learning behind Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville. For now both Johnson and Karim are best to stash away until Tate’s status is known, or until owners get a better look at them in Week Nine.
Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
His yards are unimpressive (182 on 51 attempts) but Tolbert has three rushing touchdowns, tying him with quarterback Cam Newton and surpassing No. 1 back DeAngelo Williams. In Week Nine Tolbert will face an Atlanta team that’s 22nd in red zone defense, according to Team Rankings.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Locker earned toughness points for returning from his hip injury weeks ahead of schedule, and torched the 49ers eighth ranked pass defense for 326 yards and two scores. He also threw a pick, but it was his first of the season. In Week Nine Locker draws St. Louis, a tough matchup, but he’s worth the risk if you’re missing Manning or Stafford.
Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns
He completely exceeded expectations with 293 yards and two touchdowns, nearly toppling the mighty Kansas City defense. Next up is Baltimore and their 16th-ranked secondary.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The interceptions are a concern, until you realize that the bulk came from the awful Buffalo loss in Week Four. Still, Flacco is on pace for a career-high in passing yards, and this week he faces Cleveland. The Browns have the sixth ranked pass defense in the league, but Flacco is 11-0 for his career against the AFC North rival, completing 62 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
His breakout game of eight receptions for 122 yards and a whopping four touchdowns might be an anomaly, but Jones has quickly become the Bengals No. 2 receiver. Miami’s 20th ranked secondary will be busy covering A.J. Green in Week Nine, and Jones could snag at least one touchdown on the low.
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
Another overnight sensation, Stills filled the stat sheet with three catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His stats will come back to earth as quarterback Drew Brees spreads the ball around, but against the New York Jets Stills could have a solid impact.
Ted Ginn Jr., Carolina Panthers
Well on pace to surpass his career highs, Ginn’s second on the team in catches and yards, and tied for first with two touchdowns. Carolina’s won three in a row and like Tolbert Ginn’s facing a reeling Atlanta team that has given up 11 receiving touchdowns this season, the fourth worst mark in the league.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
From a fantasy perspective, Fleener’s had an up-and-down year, but he’s first on the team with three receiving touchdowns, and the Colts need to fill the void left by Reggie Wayne’s injury. Fleener’s a solid flex option.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Clay’s a multi-faceted player with one rushing score, and another three receiving touchdowns. Miami will have a tough time against Cincinnati this week, but Clay could get lots of looks underneath. Start him as a flex or tight end.