Fantasy Football: Finding solutions to the Aaron Rodgers injury

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Aaron Rodgers' injury in the Monday Night Football game between his Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears was certainly devastating to his fantasy owners, but a quick scan of the waiver wire in most leagues will likely show that it isn't near as damning as it would be if, say, Chicago running back Matt Forte would have been lost for several weeks in that same game.

There is depth at the QB position, and lots of it. Granted, those who can easily be picked up off the waiver wire have their warts, but other than the elite three, who doesn't?


Looking at remaining schedules is the key here. According to Fantasy Football Toolbox (

), the teams with the friendliest schedules for fantasy quarterbacks in weeks 11-15 are: Kansas City (Alex Smith, 40 percent availability in Yahoo leagues), Philadelphia (Nick Foles, 39 percent availability), Buffalo (E.J. Manuel, 93 percent), Green Bay and Tennessee (Jake Locker, 63 percent).


Obviously, if you're trying to replace Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay and Seneca Wallace are part of the problem. But among those other four teams, those are pretty good solutions that are widely available. Manuel, I think, could be especially useful. He's expected to start against Pittsburgh this week, which isn't an easy match-up, but as Tom Brady showed, isn't a tough one either; then the Jets, followed by Atlanta, Tampa and Jacksonville. That's juicy.

Just outside the top 5 are the Houston Texans and new QB Case Keenum. After a tricky road game in Arizona this week, he gets the Jaguars twice as well as the Raiders in three of the next four.

The New York Giants and Chicago Bears also crack the top 10, at eighth and ninth, respectively, for ease of schedule for fantasy quarterbacks. A platoon of Eli Manning (45 percent availability) and Jay Cutler (60 percent availability, and seeking to return from his groin injury this week) could be a nice combination as well.

Start 'em if you got 'em
QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers, coming off the most pathetic defensive performance in franchise history, are either going to play angry and give their best performance of the season, or roll over and die this week. One player you can count on not to do the latter is Big Ben. The Bills are strong against the run, so the Steelers will have to lean on Ben's arm. That's good, because the Bills aren't very good defending fantasy quarterbacks.
QB Russell Wilson. The second-year Seahawks signal caller has been in that fringe low-QB1, high-QB2 range all year. His opponent this week, the Atlanta Falcons, are watching their season take a nose dive and a big part of that is their inability to stop opposing QBs. Unless you have a truly elite passer (Peyton Manning, Drew Brees) ahead of him, you should strongly consider starting Wilson.
RB Chris Johnson. Looking at his remaining schedule, I've been bullish on Chris Johnson in the second-half of the season, but last week's report that Shonn Green might get more carries left my cautious. I should've known better. Green's never been that good. One caveat: Because of a match-up against a weak Jags team, you could see Johnson have a solid first half but see fewer carries in the second if it turns into a blow-out. He should reach paydirt at least once, though.
RB Danny Woodhead. Last week, I recommended Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. His per-carry average was good, but because the Bolts fell behind, he didn't get the volume necessary for a big day. I fully suspect the Chargers will struggle to hang with the Denver Broncos and that will be the case again, meaning a lot of Woodhead. He's consistently been a top 20 back, even in a non-PPR, and you should expect that to continue this week. Woodhead is the new Darren Sproles.
RB Mike James. He looked terrific last week against what was supposed to be a stout Seahawks front-seven and Miami is giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Keep him in your lineup until further notice.
WR Keenan Allen. He's a legit top 12 wide receiver every week. The Chargers will likely have to air things out to keep pace with the Broncos and that means lots and lots of targets for the rookie.
WR T.Y. Hilton. While his game-by-game stats resemble a roller coaster ride, it's become clear that Hilton is going to see a ton of targets without Reggie Wayne around. He's an explosive player who will now get more opportunities and a pretty good match-up this week. Likely an every-week starter from here on out.
WR Torrey Smith. He was down a bit last week against Joe Haden and the Browns, expect a bounce-back at home against dinged up Cincy defense that is without Leon Hall.
TE Julius Thomas. Coming off an ankle injury and against a San Diego squad that is pretty tough on tight ends, I'm still rolling him out for my team. Denver's offense is nearly unstoppable.
DST Tennessee. They are pretty good in their own right, and they get the Jaguars this week. Roll with 'em and don't think twice.

Scale 'em back
QB Matt Ryan. This is about what we expected from Ryan once Julio Jones went down. He just doesn't have the weapons right now and is facing one of the best secondaries in football. I like Ryan a lot as a player, and I'm sure the yardage will be there, I just can't see how he doesn't throw multiple interceptions again and potentially wreck your fantasy team. Look elsewhere.
RB Trent Richardson. If his sorry production wasn't bad enough, he's now missing practices because of an undisclosed ankle injury. It's a shame, because the Rams were the last truly bad rush defense the Colts were going to face. It was the last chance for T-Rich to shine and then let his owners (like me) sell high. Bah.
RB Ben Tate. He did OK last week with Arian Foster out, but Arizona has been tough on opposing running backs and he's still nursing broken ribs. Give him credit for gutting it out and playing, and you may not have a choice with the RB pool so shallow, but I'd feel better with someone else in my lineup.
WR Steve Smith. Failing to get 70 yards in any game this season, why would you suddenly expect him to break out against the 49ers? He's a low-end WR3 at this point in his career.
WR Marques Colston. He returned to practice earlier this week and will likely play against the Dallas Cowboys, who have given up a ton of passing yardage this year. They'll probably do that again, but I just can't rely on Colston anymore.
TE Jared Cook. Hey! He scored a touchdown last week. That's nice. Don't be lured in by his siren song. He still stinks and Indy is brutal on tight ends.

Taking a flier
QB Jake Locker. I recommended you start him last week against St. Louis, and that backfired in a big way. This week, he gets the Jags. Unless Jacksonville found some magic elixer during their bye that suddenly makes them competent, Locker is a pretty good bet this week.
QB Case Keenum. Earlier this week, I spent more than a third of my free agent acquisition budget in my dynasty league to pick up Houston's new signal-caller. I think he has long-term upside, but even if he doesn't, he's a nice spot start this week against a Arizona defense that, while above average against QBs, has still given up five multi-touchdown games.
RB Ray Rice. A combination of injuries, wear-and-tear, poor offensive line play and sharing carries with Bernard Pierce has put Rice on the all-disappointment team this year. But the Super Bowl champs are back at home, where they tend to play better and the Bengals defense is missing Geno Atkins. I understand the desire to send him to the bench, but I think he could be more than servicable this week as an RB2.
RB Donald Brown. See Richardson, Trent. If T-Rich can't go and Brown gets the start, he could run wild against the Rams defense.
RB Rashad Jennings. He looked great in relief of injured Darren McFadden (you knew that was coming) last week, but he's never lived up to expectations when given the opportunity to start. Still, he'll get opportunities, so if you're desperate at the position, he's worth plugging into the starting line-up.
WR Riley Cooper. Quickly becoming Nick Foles' favorite receiver, don't expect him to duplicate or come close to last week's line, but he'll get a lot of looks again and makes a nice bye-week fill-in.
WR Kendall Wright. Consistently good in standard and excellent in a PPR, he's one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He doesn't score often, which limits his upside, but he'll get a lot of catches. A poor man's Antonio Brown.
TE Garrett Graham. Not getting as many looks with Keenum as he did with safer Schaub, but Arizona is among the worst at defending tight ends, so he's an upside match-up play.