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Working the Wire: Keep an Eye on the Bills -- And Their Opponents

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

My profiles this week have a strong Buffalo Bills theme to them. Before you call me a homer, check out the stats. The Bills defense is the NFL's worst, as they've allowed five straight opponents to score 30 or more points. They're equally inept stopping the run (an NFL-worst 175 yards rushing per game) and the pass (an NFL-high 14 passing TDs). Just as I've suggested with the Texans, I'd make sure you exploit matchups for teams facing the Bills, even at positions you may not normally give much though to, like tight end and kicker.

Meanwhile, faced with the prospect of having to score 30(+) to have a chance to win, the Bills offense has emerged from the dead. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson, and Lee Evans suddenly look fantasy-worthy in most formats.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills: If you lost Tony Romo to injury, or have bye issues in Week 8, look no further than Fitzpatrick as a replacement. Yes, I realize the Bills are winless and I put the entire Bills team in my "Dead to Me" colum a few weeks ago. But Fitzpatrick suddenly has 11 TDs in his past four games, including four last week at Baltimore. Two other nuggets about Fitzpatrick - he leads the NFL in YPC among QBs, ahead of Michael Vick, and the Bills defense is so bad, he'll have to keep chucking. This week, at Kansas City, looks like another prime matchup for Fitzpatrick. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to see that game played in the 30s - perhaps 40-30 Chiefs - so consider Fitzpatrick as a Week 8 starter in most formats.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: After missing two games with a hamstring injury (and, presumably, getting cut in some leagues), McFadden exploded for four touchdowns last week. You shouldn't need me to tell you to make him your top waiver priority if he's available in your league.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: Let's not mince words - Mathews has been a huge disappointment so far this year. That said, on a high-octane Chargers offense, his upside remains. Philip Rivers will have to slow down at some point, and if the Chargers want to win some games, they'll find a way to get more balance in their offense. Mathews' schedule looks appealing, too.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: I'm not terribly excited about Moreno's two TD receptions last week, as they both came off checkdowns in a huge blowout loss. That said, he's healthy and the obvious starter in Denver, so I can't envision a format where Moreno should be on waivers.

Kenny Britt, WR, Titans: I profiled Britt last week, but to prevent the comments I'd get if I don't post him again, let's get right to the point. Britt has scored in five straight games, against good defenses and bad, on the road and at home, with Vince Young and Kerry Collins at QB. If that doesn't convince you he's an every-week starter, regardless of matchup, I'm not sure what would.

Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, WR, Bills: Evans exploded last week, with 105 yards and three TDs, and seems, at worst, like a solid WR2 given Fitzpatrick's emergence. That said, Evans has a way of disappearing for games at a time, which I attribute to his size, or lack thereof, and inability to go over the middle. Meanwhile, Johnson has scored in four straight games and has 37 fantasy points the past two weeks. Johnson is the bigger, more reliable target, and while he lacks Evans' explosiveness, he may be the steadier fantasy contributer. As crazy as it sounds, if you're hurting at receiver in Week 8, I wouldn't be adverse to starting Johnson and Evans, as both should get a high number of targets playing from behind in Arrowhead.

Hines Ward, WR, Steelers: Last week, I admitted being a week late to profile Heath Miller. This week, I'll concede a slow trigger finger on Ward. Unquestionably, I'd prefer to own Mike Wallace, but Ward has scored in both games since Ben Roethlisberger and seems like a matchup play at worst.

Mike Williams, WR, Seahawks: Williams seems like a possession receiver, but unless you're in a roto league that counts yards per reception as a stat, that's about the only negative thing I can say about Williams nowadays. He's clearly emerged as Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target, with an astounding 21 catches on 31 targets in the past two weeks. At 6' 5", expect more goal line looks for Williams, too. At this point, I'd consider Williams a weekly starter in most fantasy formats.

Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: With Dallas Clark out for the season and Austin Collie recovering from surgery, there are suddenly targets to be had in Indianapolis. If Gonzalez can ever get healthy, he could emerge as the Colts third option in the passing game. The floor is low, but as I said with Pierre Garcon a few weeks ago, there's upside with with Peyton Manning as your QB. If you need a flyer this week, bear in mind it might be a carnival in Indianapolis with the Texans in town. After all, the Texans offense is prolific but the defense allows an NFL-worst 306 yards passing per game and are tied with the Bills with 14 passing TDs allowed.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs: I suggested Todd Heap last week because he was playing the Bills, who have allowed the most points to opposing TEs of all NFL teams. To illustrate, so far this year, the Bills have allowed three different tight ends to have a two-TD game against them. I'm not going to predict a two-TD game for any tight end off of waivers, but if anybody is going to do it in Week 8, it's Moeaki.

Ryan Succop, K, Chiefs: Last week's kicker suggestion, Billy Cundiff, had 13 points against the Bills. Why not go back to the well? I have some concern that Succop won't get to kick any FGs (just like last week, when he was 6 for 6 on PATs), but given the choice, I'm always going to pick a kicker on a team that I think will score 30(+) points. It's better to ensure yourself something good than to hope for FGs from a kicker in a bad matchup and watch his team lose 20-7.

Rams D/ST: With six teams on a bye, and several of the league's heavyweights squaring off, there aren't a ton of appealing matchups for fantasy defenses this week. The Panthers looked better on offense last week, but they've been pretty anemic all season, and the Rams get them at home.

Dead to Me:

Brett Favre, QB, Vikings: If Favre doesn't play again (a possibility given his ankle injury), which will have been a worse way to end the year - last year, when he threw an INT that cost his team a Super Bowl appearance, or this year, when he got booed off the field at his former home, Lambeau, broke his ankle, and ducked allegations that he sent photographs of his genitalia to a woman who wasn't interested in viewing them in person? I'm still unsure, but this much I know - the pick-six that Favre threw last week was the worst play I've seen by a QB this season. (Quick aside, which is worse - actually having affairs, like Tiger, or trying to have affairs but being unable to convince the women to participate, like Favre?)

Titans WRs besides Britt: On a run-first team, there's only room for one WR to maintain fantasy relevance.

Ravens D/ST as a weekly starter: Chris Liss recently showed the Ravens D/ST was among the worst in fantasy football, and that was before they allowed the Bills offense to awake from the dead. Ed Reed is back, and that will help, but the days of the Ravens defense being an every-week fantasy defense are over.