This is a nasty week. We have six teams on bye with a ton of good fantasy options, and there are few teams with low-rostered players in good matchups. But, I will, as I do every week, do my very best to find you some options to fill in the edges of your roster during this here Byepocalypse. To qualify for this article, a player must be unrostered in at least 50% of Yahoo! leagues. For you deep leaguers, as always, I have a player available in at least 90% of leagues. Let’s dive in!
Baker Mayfield versus Atlanta (31% rostered)
Baker Mayfield bottomed out last week against the Detroit Lions, finishing with just 206 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and a pick. It was by far his last game in a Buccaneers uniform, but this week, he gets a chance to bounce back against the Atlanta Falcons. Baker Mayfield ranks fifth in deep yard pass rate (14.2%) and aDOT (9.0 yards per attempt). The Falcons are a pretty decent matchup for deep passing teams, as they allow the eleventh-most yards per pass attempt on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield, and that’s where Baker and the Buccaneers are going to thrive.
Tyrod Taylor versus Washington (2% rostered)
This is where things start to get messy. It’s looking like Tyrod Taylor will get the nod with Daniel Jones (neck) likely on the shelf this weekend against the Commanders. Tyrod doesn’t bring a lot to the table in terms of overwhelming athleticism, but he’s still a more-than-capable quarterback who drew the second-worst possible matchup last week against Buffalo. While Tyrod managed only 10.4 fantasy points against the Bills, this same Bills’ defense allowed fewer than 31 combined points to Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence in the two previous games. So, if Darren Waller catches that game-winning touchdown? He’s in the same ballpark as those guys. This week, Lawrence gets a Commanders defense that has allowed at least 199 fantasy points to five straight quarterbacks and at least 22 fantasy points to four of their last five opponents.
Brian Hoyer at Chicago (2% rostered)
Please, just cover up the name before considering Brian Hoyer this weekend. And yes, I concede that much like the Democratic Party backbench, AOC waits in the wings. But, with no Jimmy Garoppolo this weekend, the other erstwhile Patriot and 49er and current Raider—Brian Hoyer—gets a shot at the Chicago Bears. Hoyer played 40% of snaps last weekend, throwing the ball 10 times. That translates to about 25 pass attempts throughout an entire game, as a floor. I’ll take 25 pass attempts against a Bears defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks on the season. Kirk Cousins bottoming out against them sans Justin Jefferson is their only blemish on an otherwise spotless record of opposing quarterbacks beating them into the ground.
Josh Downs versus Cleveland (29% rostered)
I will start with the dual elephants in the room: this is a bad matchup, and Gardner Minshew might not be a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s hype up Josh Downs a little bit. Downs has come on in the Gardner Minshew Era in Indianapolis, getting 14 targets for 11 catches and 118 yards (with a score) over the last couple of games, and in the previous Minshew start… from the last Anthony Richardson injury… Downs had 12 targets, 8 catches, and 57 yards. The increased focus on throwing the ball with Minshew under center might not work out well for the Colts in the win column, but it should pay dividends for your fantasy teams.
Wan’Dale Robinson versus Washington (24% rostered)
Like Downs, Wan’Dale doesn’t have the best quarterback under center this week (Tyrod Taylor), but he has a much better matchup and the same guaranteed volume as Downs. Robinson returned from an ACL tear that he suffered in week 6 of 2022 four games ago, and in those four games, he has 5, 6, 6, and 8 targets, with last week’s 8/8/62 line as his best game of the season. That game came against a stingy Buffalo Bills defense that’s allowed more than 12 PPR points to just six wide receivers on the season. This week, Robinson gets the woeful Commanders defense that allowed monstrous games from D.J. Moore, A.J. Brown, Drake London, Marvin Mims, and Brandon Johnson.
Rondale Moore at Seattle (9% rostered)
The Arizona Cardinals desperately need to find a spark in their offense, posting 45 points over their last three games after finishing with 28, 28, and 16 points in the three games prior. They have attempted to get their offense going by giving Robinson 12 targets in the last two games, which hasn’t resulted in a whole lot against the Rams and Bengals defenses. This week, however, the Cardinals take on the best passing matchup in the league with the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle faced a cupcake matchup with the Giants in week four, but despite that, they still allow the most fantasy points to wide receivers on the season, with 9 different receivers scoring at least 13 PPR points against them in their five games this season.
Jaleel McLaughlin versus Green Bay (50% rostered)
It seems as though McLaughlin has rendered Samaje Perine obsolete. After playing between 31% and 60% of snaps in their first five games, Perine plummeted to 17% of snaps last week against the Chiefs. McLaughlin, in a corresponding move, saw a season-high 40% of snaps. McLaughlin now has double-digit opportunities in two of his last three games and is proving himself to be a viable little flex back in the right matchups. And this is the right matchup, as the Packers allow the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs on the season. Eight running backs have more than 10 touches against the Packers this season, and seven of them had at least 9 PPR points. The average among these backs is 15.65 PPR points.
Latavius Murray at New England (20% rostered)
Damien Harris’ scary injury and subsequent IR trip, make Latavius Murray the RB2 in Buffalo. The non-James Cook backs in Buffalo are averaging 10 touches for 47.8 yards per game. That’s not the most enthusiastic statline when split among multiple backs, but if you put that all into one player—Latavius Murray—and also give him the fifth-most carries inside the five in the NFL, and you get a player with 16-point upside sitting out there on the waiver wire this week.
Darrell Henderson versus Pittsburgh (5% rostered)
The Rams have a complete mess at running back, with Darrell Henderson, Zach Evans, Royce Freeman, and Myles Gaskin potentially leading the way in touches this week. None of us know which back will lead the way for the Rams, but I am going to bet on the guy who has been there before. Henderson averaged 15 touches and over 60 yards per game for the 2021 Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers are a decent matchup for opposing running backs, allowing the thirteenth-most fantasy points to the position on the season.
Logan Thomas at N.Y. Giants (44% rostered)
I am going to ignore what happened last week with Thomas, who ended the game with just one target. Unfortunately, that is the nature of The Blob, and Logan Thomas is the Blobbiest Tight End that has ever Blobbed. Before that game, Thomas had an average of 6.25 targets per game with an average of 7.3 yards per target. That comes out to, with a 66% catch rate, about 4 catches for 40 yards. And that is what we look for from a backend TE1 in any given week. The Giants are a decent team to find a bounce back against, as they are middle-of-the-pack in fantasy points allowed to tight ends despite playing just one premium tight end so far this season.
Michael Mayer at Chicago (26% rostered)
The Bears make for a great opponent this week for the rookie tight end, as they are top-ten in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. They have allowed at least 8 PPR points to a tight end in five of their six games this season, and that list includes guys like Cade Otton and Luke Musgrave, who are yet to establish themselves as viable fantasy football tight ends. Mayer’s made his way into the target rotation lately, getting six targets for 5 catches and 75 yards last week against the Patriots, who are a much stronger tight end defense than the Bears. With Brian Hoyer at the helm, he does likely the savvy vet move and take the easy throw. With the way this offense is currently constituted, that means targets to Michael Mayer.
Cade Otton versus Atlanta (2% rostered)
If Baker Mayfield is going to thrive against the Falcons, then he is going to need to lean into the Cade Otton of it all this week. The Falcons are eighth in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends, with four tight ends having double-digit games against them in the first five weeks of the season, including guys like Dalton Schultz. With Logan Thomas bottoming out last week, it’s easy to believe that the Falcons are a bad matchup, but the week before, they let Schultz go 7/65/1. Otton hasn’t gotten a lot of targets so far this season, but with the Falcons’ bad TE defense on display, he should once again get a handful of targets. I don’t have a ton of faith that this will work out, but sub-10% tight ends are a bit rare this week with the byes and bad matchups all around. It’s a Hail Mary (that’s a football term!) but it might just work.