Talkers


Bye bye bye
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Let me set the scene for you.

You're at your computer scouring your Week 5 fantasy matchup for anything unusual. Suddenly, it hits you like a ton of bricks ... "Where did all of my players go?"

This kind of reaction, a mixture of confusion and fear, is common for fantasy owners around this time of year.

That's because it's a bye week. The Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all on vacation, so leave a message after the beep.

When Kevin McCallister's family left him during the movie "Home Alone," things were tense for a while but in the end, everything worked out.

But that's Hollywood. In fantasy football, you have to write your own happy ending.

While Calvin Johnson and Tony Romo are taking the week off to get caught up on "Sons of Anarchy," it's business as usual for the rest of us.

Luckily for fantasy owners dealing with holes in their lineup, the waiver wire is chock full of serviceable replacements.

Here's a look at some of this week's top available fantasy options:

Jackie Battle, RB, San Diego Chargers: Battle was miraculously able to leapfrog Ryan Mathews on San Diego's running back depth chart earlier this week. Though Mathews is still the team's best long-term option at halfback, Battle is more useful than Mathews around the goal line because of his superior size (6- foot-2, 240 pounds). Mike Tolbert scored eight times playing a similar role as San Diego's resident vulture in 2011, so it's not crazy to think that Battle (who already has three rushing scores in 2012) could finish the season with a similar touchdown total.

Domenik Hixon, WR, New York Giants: Hixon is coming off of his best game of the season (six catches, 114 yards Sunday at Philadelphia) and could play an even bigger role this week in Cleveland with Hakeem Nicks (knee) and Ramses Barden (concussion) both unlikely to suit up because of injuries. The Browns have already allowed 1,144 yards through the air this season, including 356 yards last week versus Baltimore, so this looks like a pretty favorable matchup for the fifth-year wideout.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers has plenty of players he can throw to, but after playing five years together, he may have better chemistry with Jones than he does with any other receiver on the Green Bay roster. It's clear Rodgers continues to look for Jones in the red zone as evidenced by the two touchdowns they hooked up on in last week's victory over the New Orleans Saints. Jones probably isn't going to give you a hundred yards, but his nose for the end zone makes him a strong replacement candidate for Week 5 when the Packers take on the defensively challenged Indianapolis Colts.

Greg Little, WR, Cleveland Browns: When Brandon Weeden goes deep, he's usually looking for Little, who reeled in four catches for 77 yards last weekend versus the Ravens. Little let several passes that could have gone for big gains slip through his finger tips in Week 4, so he'll be eager for a bounce-back performance Sunday against the Giants. Cleveland will probably be playing from behind most of the day, so look for Little to get plenty of opportunities after the Browns are forced to abandon the running game.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers: No one on the Panthers has been targeted as often as Olsen this season and at 6-foot-5 and almost 260 pounds, he is incredibly difficult to cover. This year, only three tight ends in all of football have collected more receiving yards than Olsen, who is still a free agent in more than 76 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. He should have another strong game this week against an inconsistent Seattle team.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta was shut out last week versus Cleveland, but prior to that he had been one of the more consistent tight ends in football, catching at least five passes for 50 yards in each of his first three games. Including the postseason, Pitta has registered six touchdowns over his last 11 games and has only gone two games in a row without a touchdown once during that span. Baltimore's next opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, have allowed a league-worst 136 points through their first four games. I'm guessing the Chiefs won't be too successful in their efforts to curb Pitta's fantasy production in Week 5.

Andre Roberts, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Though Larry Fitzgerald leads the team in receiving yards with 245 through four games, Roberts tops him in the touchdown department with four scores compared to Fitz's two. Roberts torched Miami for 118 receiving yards Sunday in Arizona and this week he'll face a St. Louis Rams team that the Cardinals have lost to just once in their last 11 meetings. Roberts is still available in 75 percent of fantasy leagues, but you better hurry: the Rams and Cardinals are playing on Thursday night.

Even if you don't have any Cowboys, Lions, Raiders or Buccaneers on your roster, you might still want to grab one or two of these players while they're available because sooner or later, your team will be affected by the bye.

So you don't make the mistake of adding a player who is also on bye, Olsen will be on bye Week 6; Battle will be out Week 7; Pitta is on bye Week 8; Jones, Little and Roberts will all be on bye Week 10; and Hixon won't be available for Week 11.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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