Drew Magyar
Rock and a Hard Place - Week 9

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Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, the New York Giants and San Francisco are getting the week off. That means that three highly regarded quarterbacks and a bunch of top skill position players will be unavailable in what could be a pivotal matchup for your playoff chances. Add the injuries that have started to mount, and you may be looking for a spot-starter.

It’s also the time to look ahead to your fantasy playoffs, and begin to set your team up for what is to come. Make sure you have enough healthy guys for a stretch run, and stock the cupboards with some upside guys and potential difference makers if things fall the right way.

Below, I’ll list a player with some upside for this week, their Week 9 matchup, and the percentage of leagues in which he is owned according to our friends at fleaflicker.com .

DISCLAIMER - The hope is that you don’t find yourself in a situation like this. The hope is that you dodge the bullet. But hope won’t help you come Sunday.

Let’s move on to this week’s targets, keeping in mind that these aren’t every week starters. Instead, these are guys that should only be used if you’re in some kind of roster emergency.

QB

Christian Ponder at Dallas – 15 percent. This is more about Dallas being full of holes on defense than Ponder being a great play. The Cowboys defense has given up more than 400 passing yards in half of their games this season. Let me restate: In four of eight games, they’ve given up 400-plus yards passing. That’s astounding. Even Ponder can throw for 250, right? Right? Well, we’ve forecasted 285 yards and two scores, and I think those are solid enough to make a spot start.

Terrelle Pryor vs. Philadelphia – 51 percent. Pryor is finally owned in half of leagues, but I think that’s still too low. He struggled last week against the Pittsburgh defense, with the exception of a 93-yard rushing score, but he basically did nothing after that. His double-threat gives the Oakland Raiders some options on offense, and it’s something the Eagles will need to stop. The Eagles defense has been pretty terrible, and I expect Pryor to rebound nicely in Week 9. We’ve projected 215 yards passing and a score, plus his typical 60 yards rushing. Those seem very reachable.

RB

James Starks vs. Chicago – 29 percent. Starks returned to action last week, running for 57 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. He’s been really good when healthy this season, which hasn’t been often, but still. Eddie Lacy is the starter right now, but he’s had a tendency to get nicked up as well. We’ve projected just 45 rushing yards, making him a desperation play, but he holds more long-term appeal if and when Lacy misses time.

Robert Turbin vs. Tampa Bay – 6 percent. Turbin is still the change-of-pace back behind Marshawn Lynch , making him little more than a handcuff. But if you’re desperate, there’s some appeal here for two reasons. First, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming to town, and that probably means that Seattle will have a lead early, which will lead to a run-heavy offensive attack. Secondly, Lynch has missed some time this week with a knee injury, and while he’s not expected to miss Sunday’s game, he may be limited, especially if Seattle can get out to a lead. Turbin, and even Christine Michael, may get some extra run this week, and I think he can make an impact much greater than the 20 rushing yards we’ve projected.

Andre Brown on bye – 36 percent. This is a futures play. The New York Giants offense has been atrocious this season, and Brown, who’s missed the entire season, could be a spark. He’s been practicing with the team for a few weeks now, and he’s apparently looked good. With Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis as the alternatives, I expect Brown to play a big role when he returns, and he could be a major contributor down the stretch.

WR

Jarrett Boykin vs. Chicago – 50 percent. Boykin has been a pleasant surprise with injuries affecting the Green Bay receiving corps. Last week in Minnesota, Boykin had five catches for 89 yards. This week, he takes on a Chicago secondary that’s been burned in the past two weeks against the New York Giants and Washington. Aaron Rodgers will be licking his chops, and I think Boykin will pay dividends once again. We’ve projected six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, and I think those are very reasonable for the second-year wideout.

Kenny Stills at New York Jets – 36 percent. Stills is starting to make a difference for New Orleans. In his last two games, he’s totaled six catches for 193 yards and three scores. Even with Lance Moore returning last week, Drew Brees managed to take deep shots with Stills, and he’ll continue to be a boom-or-bust type flex play. This week, the Jets will key on Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston , meaning Stills may be able to get behind the defense once again. I like him to hit the three catches, 75 yards, one touchdown stat line we’ve projected.

Doug Baldwin vs. Tampa Bay – 10 percent. The Seattle Seahawks have handed Russell Wilson the keys over the past few weeks, resulting in a gameplan that’s turning to the pass more and more. Last week, that passing game struggled against St. Louis, but the Seahawks are a different team at home. Sidney Rice also suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, meaning Doug Baldwin will get more reps and more targets. We’ve projected just four catches for 35 yards, and I think that’s low given the circumstances.

TE

Tim Wright at Seattle – 9 percent. Wright has had a nice stretch since Tampa Bay’s Week 5 bye. He caught seven balls for 91 yards against Philadelphia in Week 6, and after a clunker against Atlanta, he rebounded with five catches, 48 yards and a touchdown last week. Rookie signal callers typically love their tight ends, and Mike Glennon clearly feels comfortable with Wright. Seattle is pretty stout against tight ends, but with Mike Williams now out for the season, the Seahawks may focus on Vincent Jackson , leaving Wright in single coverage. We project four catches for 40 yards, and I think he tops those stats easily.

Good luck in Week 9.

Drew Magyar is a fantasysharks.com staff writer and member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He can be reached at drewmagyar@gmail.com.