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Friends and Family Matters: More byes

No Chris Johnson. No Frank Gore(notes). No Maurice Jones-Drew(notes). No Steven Jackson.

This weekend's bye slate again leaves a mark in fantasy leagues. For the second time in three straight weeks, six teams are out of action.

Ideally, owners can plug-and-play with players they already own. Drag Gore down to the bench. Drag LeGarrette Blount(notes) up into the lineup.

Accept. Done. Easy enough.

For a handful of owners in the 14-team Yahoo! Friends and Family League, it's on to Plan B. The experts, hampered by a tight four-spot bench, have resorted to free agency.

Here is an overview of the largely available players whom the experts have entrusted in Week 9 while the Broncos, 49ers, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins and Titans enjoy a paid furlough.

Seyi Ajirotutu(notes)
Owner: Dalton Del Don, RotoWire.com
Leagues owned: 1 percent
Leagues started: 1 percent

With the Chargers playing without their four top wide receivers and Antonio Gates(notes) treading on shredded tires, Ajirotutu is a terrific one-week flyer. I wrote about the progress of his development and comparisons to Malcom Floyd(notes) in a different space, so I'll refer you there for some more background on him, including how to pronounce that glorious rotation of consonants and vowels he calls a name. The Chargers push the ball downfield, and he'll be their top weapon against the league's 32nd-ranked secondary that has allowed over three 20-plus yard passes and one 40-plus yard pass a game. Owners can do a lot worse than the undrafted rookie with their third wide receiver spot.

Jeremy Shockey(notes)
Owner: Jeff Erickson, RotoWire.com
Leagues owned: 56 percent
Leagues started: 37 percent

The Saints have progressively relied less and less on Shockey, providing him eight targets in Weeks 3 and 4, six in Weeks 5 and 6 and then four in 7 and 8. This week, it makes all the sense in the word for the Saints to design a game plan that bucks that trend. The Panthers have been pitiful defending tight ends, allowing a 46 percent appreciation in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. That's as bad as there is in the league, so about five catches, 50 yards and a touchdown are well within the realm of possibility.

Jordy Nelson(notes)
Owner: Michael Blunda, ProFootballWeekly.com
Leagues owned: 5 percent
Leagues started: 3 percent

Donald Driver(notes) (quad) is out, placing Nelson again among the Packers' top three options at wide receiver. He's facing a Cowboys team that, if it hasn't thrown in the towel yet this season, is probably thinking about it. The secondary was torched for 260 yards and four touchdowns last week in a hilarious exhibition by David Garrard(notes). Meanwhile, Nelson has been targeted seven times in each of the past three games with 4.3 average catches over that span. Yeah, you want to get in on Nelson.

Benjamin Watson(notes)
Owner: Me
Leagues owned: 38 percent
Leagues started: 23 percent

You can't fault the Browns. They threw the ball only 17 times in their last game when they opened an early lead on the Saints, probably because they didn't want to bleep it up with Colt McCoy(notes) at quarterback. Think that scenario happens again against the Patriots? Me neither. Here's to hoping this game plays out more like it did when the Browns faced the Steelers in Week 6. With Cleveland trailing, McCoy got to throwing, and Watson had six receptions for 88 yards – both team highs – and a score.

Tim Hightower(notes)
Owner: No one
Leagues owned: 41 percent
Leagues started: 14 percent

Outside of Arizona, it's been awfully amusing watching Hightower blow his chances so far this year, what with his three lost fumbles on only 62 touches. Plain awful. But Beanie Wells(notes) is hurt (says he will play, but still, questionable) with a knee injury and is a renowned softie. If Wells is inactive for Week 9, Hightower gets another crack at running back ahead of LaRod Stephens-Howling(notes), and that alone makes the situation worth at least tracking Sunday morning for owners in a pinch.

Sproles-for-Spiller swap

A trade was made, this one involving my team and that of Fantasy Football Live host Rick Schwartz. I dealt Darren Sproles(notes) for C.J. Spiller(notes).

Basically, I was trying to avert a Week 10 crisis with Philip Rivers(notes), Mike Tolbert(notes), Sproles, Lance Moore(notes) and Reggie Bush(notes) all on byes. Five undroppable guys. Four bench spots. See a blitz. Call an audible.

For the record, I believe I'm missing out on a truly terrific Week 9 PPR performance from Sproles, but whatever. All those wide receivers are coming back to San Diego soon, so this isn't a terrible time to sell high on the little guy. And who knows, maybe the Bills decide to ride Spiller down the stretch, and I have a valuable flex starter for championship run.

Here is what Schwartz, King of Megan Fox references, had to say in full:

“Every year I've competed with Brandon [Funston] and Brad [Evans] in some sort of league, I've made the Super Bowl or won it,” Schwartz said in an email interview. “But this year, in this league, my team deserves 2-6.

“Drafting Brees at the 13 spot was a mistake. Drafting Miles Austin(notes) on the comeback in Round 2 looked good for a few weeks, but no longer.

"My biggest blunders were believing in Felix Jones(notes) and Justin Forsett(notes) as potential breakout players. They couldn't find open field if the defense was vacationing in Punta Mita. And even my late picks, like Vincent Jackson(notes), didn't work out.

“So Sproles for Spiller: If this were a keeper league, I wouldn't trade Spiller for a date with Megan Fox. But since I am 2-6 and have to win this week, and every week, getting Sproles against Houston should be an improvement over Spiller against Chicago. I don't care about his bye next week. I'll figure that out then.”

Working the Wire

This section tracks the expert league’s weekly free-agency activity.

The player pool defaults to waivers Sunday though Tuesday, after which owners bid on free agents using a $100 free-agent acquisition budget.

Players who clear waivers can be added free of charge.

The move: I dropped Adam Vinatieri(notes) and added Tashard Choice(notes).

Synopsis: What they're trying isn't working in Dallas, so coach Wade Philips has reportedly told Choice to “be ready” for an expanded role. Up to this point, Felix Jones and Marion Barber(notes) have been the Blame to Choice's Zenyatta, but if there is even a chance a larger role is coming, I want it on my team – even if I'm committing a cardinal sin in fantasy by not playing a full roster this week (no kicker). I figure I'm 6-2, and Choice could be a difference-maker come playoffs. Best-case scenario: one of my many 2-for-1 trade offers get accepted by Sunday, and my team improves. Worst case: I'm a man down and things sort out.

The move: Erickson dropped Derrick Ward(notes) and added Sidney Rice(notes).

Synopsis: It's about that time. Rice participated in his first practice since August hip surgery, and he is expected to make his season debut as early as next week. He fills a need for the Vikings today, so while they will avoid rushing him too soon by likely easing him into action, he's fully capable of being a top 10 wide receiver over the final weeks. In any league where owners can afford to stash him, Rice is a must-own.

Other adds: Dexter McCluster(notes) ($8), Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) ($7), Mark Sanchez(notes) ($1), Garrett Hartley(notes), Jordy Nelson, Greg Olsen(notes), John Carlson(notes), Neil Rackers(notes), Buffalo defense, Baltimore defense, Oakland defense, Kevin Smith(notes), Robbie Gould(notes), Brandon Tate(notes), Keiland Williams(notes), Chicago defense, Benjamin Watson, Jason Snelling(notes), Lawrence Tynes(notes), Atlanta defense, Seyi Ajirotutu, Javarris James(notes), Jeremy Shockey, Jerricho Cotchery(notes) and Ryan Succop(notes).

Other drops: Nick Folk(notes), Kevin Walter(notes), Donovan McNabb(notes), Josh Brown(notes), Jon Kitna(notes), St. Louis defense, Rob Gronkowski(notes), Mike Nugent(notes), Tampa Bay defense, Jacoby Ford(notes), Ladell Betts(notes), Connor Barth(notes), Chad Henne(notes), Detroit defense, San Diego defense, Javon Ringer(notes), Correll Buckhalter(notes), Matt Prater(notes), Dallas defense, Buster Davis, Tim Hightower, Anthony Gonzalez(notes), Jason Hanson(notes), Owen Daniels(notes) and Jeff Reed(notes).

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