We've reached the virtual midpoint of the regular season, but in many fantasy leagues, we are already into the second half of the campaign. Six weeks from now, fantasy owners will be filling out playoff lineups and hoping their clubs play to their strong regular-season form.
Here's to hoping you're one of those owners. And if you're looking to make some roster tweaks with a title in your long-term sights, PFW's "Fantasy Ticker" should be right up your alley.
The suggestions below are a function of matchups, expected opportunities and other factors. As a general rule, we will focus only upon players available in more than 50 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues.
Eagles QB Nick Foles (owned in one percent of leagues) — If Michael Vick loses the Eagles' starting job, Foles will be a very popular pickup. And I hold Foles is worth claiming even if Vick remains the starter entering the Week Nine game at New Orleans on Monday night. The Eagles' offense does not lack for skill-position talent, and Foles would have some fantasy value were he to enter the lineup at any point this season. The Eagles face some less-than-formidable defenses down the stretch, with a pair of meetings with Washington jumping off the page.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer (47 percent) — He's on pace for close to 4,500 passing yards, and he has a rather favorable schedule going forward.
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert (four percent) — Threw for a career-high 303 yards in Week Eight and draws a shaky Detroit pass defense at home on Sunday. Certainly not a consideration in smaller leagues, but perhaps owners in bigger leagues and two-QB formats will be a little intrigued.
Others worth considering: Vikings QB Christian Ponder (35 percent), Browns QB Brandon Weeden (22 percent), Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (15 percent), Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck (12 percent), Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (nine percent — but check his injury status), Jets QB Tim Tebow (seven percent), Cardinals QB John Skelton (seven percent), Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (five percent).
Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer (46 percent) — He's racked up more than 100 yards rushing in each of the last two games. The Steelers' backfield will be crowded once Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman return from injuries, but both have been banged-up for much of the season. Dwyer's a smart claim. I'm surprised he's available in this many leagues. He won't be next week.
Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas (12 percent) — In 51 carries, Thomas doesn't have a rush of longer than nine yards, and he's gaining just 3.0 yards per carry. However, he does have a rushing TD in three of the last four games he's played in, and he's received double-digit carries in each of his last two appearances. Not sure how much upside he has, but he's getting enough work to be interesting.
Packers RB James Starks (11 percent) — In three starts, Packers RB Alex Green has rushed for 154 yards on 64 carries, and he's yet to score a touchdown. In other words, it may be a good idea to pick up Starks, stash him on the bench and see what happens.
Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (six percent) — A popular sleeper pick before the season, Hillman, a rookie from San Diego State, looks ready to have a bigger role in the Broncos' offense. In Denver's first game after its bye, Hillman racked up season-highs in yards (86) and carries (14) in the Broncos' rout of the Saints. While Willis McGahee clearly remains the Broncos' featured back, Hillman's a nice addition in bigger leagues.
Others worth considering: Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers (31 percent), Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis (31 percent), 49ers RB Kendall Hunter (29 percent), Patriots RB Shane Vereen (six percent).
Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (nine percent) — Shorts leads the Jaguars in catches (20), and his 400 receiving yards are twice as many as any other player on the roster. What's more, seven of Shorts' catches have gone for more than 20 yards. Adding to his appeal: he's been targeted 22 times in the last two games. Shorts' playmaking ability gives him value in all formats, and he's especially intriguing in leagues that start three wideouts. He's a claim-and-start proposition in Week Nine against Detroit.
Lions WRs Titus Young (40 percent) and Ryan Broyles (seven percent) — Young was exceptional in Week Eight, hauling nine passes for 100 yards and a pair of TDs in a 28-24 win vs. Seattle. On the first score, he ran by Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and hauled in a bomb from Matthew Stafford. The second TD was just a one-yarder, but it was a tough snag of a low, hard pass from Stafford, and it was the game-winner for Detroit.
Bengals WR Andrew Hawkins (35 percent) — He hasn't scored or exceeded 50 receiving yards since Week Three, but he's the Bengals' second-biggest playmaking threat at receiver, and the club really needs to find ways to sustain drives if the opposition takes away A.J. Green. Perhaps the Bengals get Hawkins (27-346-2) a little more involved in their final nine games of the season.
Others worth considering: Titans WR Kendall Wright (43 percent), Jets WR Stephen Hill (23 percent), Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (23 percent), Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson (nine percent).
Broncos TE Jacob Tamme (46 percent) — Tamme ranks third on the Broncos in targets (41) and catches (26) and is tied for third in receiving yards (235). While he hasn't caught a TD pass since Week One, he's a key part of a potent offense, and if your tight end is underperforming, he might merit a look.
Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (34 percent) — He was all the rage after having 24 passes thrown his way in the first two games, but he hasn't scored a TD since Week Three, and his targets have decreased. Still, he's got a good rapport with QB Joe Flacco. I still think he can help some fantasy teams, especially in big leagues with big lineups. He's going to get some targets, and he's reliable.
Bills TE Scott Chandler (31 percent) — He's a hit-or-miss proposition. He's most attractive in TD-only leagues. I think — well, I hope — those are still around. I really like those leagues.
Raiders TE Brandon Myers (21 percent) — Myers just keeps racking up enough catches and yards to be on the radar of fantasy owners. Fun fact: he's on pace for 875 receiving yards. Not-so-fun fact: he's yet to score a TD, which is likely why he's available in so many leagues.
Buccaneers TE Dallas Clark (12 percent) — This longtime fantasy standout at his position has played well the last two weeks, catching a combined 8-91-1 (nine targets).
Buccaneers PK Connor Barth (11 percent) — In seven games in 2012, Barth has hit 13-of-15 field goal tries and all 19 extra points. His accuracy makes him a worthy consideration in bigger leagues.
Texans PK Shayne Graham (18 percent) — Graham has been sharp for the strong Texans, hitting 13-of-14 field goals and all of his 25 extra points. He's scoring about nine points per game, which is a solid rate for a fantasy football kicker.
Three widely owned defenses — San Francisco, New England and the N.Y. Jets — are on bye in Week Nine. Here are four one-week fill-ins to consider:
Detroit (44 percent) — The Lions, who face Jacksonville Sunday, figure to be in a good deal of lineups this week.
Denver (32 percent) — The Broncos are capable of being an every-week start, in my view, and they are definitely worth a look in Week Nine at Cincinnati.
San Diego (31 percent) — I'm not at all sold on the Chargers for the long term, but they are a reasonable play Thursday night vs. Kansas City.
Indianapolis (two percent) — The Colts are really only an option in huge leagues, but Week Nine opponent Miami doesn't have overwhelming playmaking talent.