Week 9: Start 'em
Smith has a fantastic matchup against the Jets in Week 9. They make every QB look like Dan Marino. The 22.5 fantasy points the Jets are allowing per game to opposing QBs is the most in the NFL. This is in large part due to the fact that they have allowed 22 TD passes and have only one interception this season. In each of their past four games, the Jets have given up at least three passing touchdowns, including four in Week 8 to Kyle Orton. Smith hasn't exactly been setting the league on fire this season, however, since throwing three interceptions in Week 1, he has put together an 8:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Until further notice, every QB that goes up against the Jets' defense is at the very least a useful start. With six teams on a bye this week, four of whom are viable QB1s, Smith is a nice option to plug in to your starting lineup.
With Doug Martin potentially out for Sunday's matchup with the Browns, Rainey should acquire lead-back responsibilities. Even if Martin is somehow active with an injured ankle, he has been so ineffective when healthy that you shouldn't expect much from him. Rainey, on the other hand, has been effective with his limited touches. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry and has caught 22 passes. This week, the Bucs face the Browns' 30th-ranked run defense, which is allowing 143.4 rush yards per game. Cleveland has also allowed seven TDs on the ground. If Martin is out, Rainey should play a major role in the offense and has a little extra value in PPR leagues. There is little reason to worry about Mike James taking away a significant amount of carries, and if rookie Charles Sims is active, he will probably be eased in to the offense after missing the entire season up to this point following ankle surgery in August. As is the case with every fringe player this week, the six byes make them very necessary. If Rainey is on your wire, you can scoop him up and play him with confidence against an underwhelming defensive front.
With Bernard Pierce a healthy scratch in Week 8, it appears Taliaferro has seized the No. 2 RB role in Baltimore. He's also getting the bulk of the goal-line and short-yardage carries. Last week against the Bengals, he punched in a couple of scores on nine total touches. And his workload will increase if Justin Forsett, who didn't practice Wednesday due what's being called a minor ankle injury, is limited in any way. The Ravens will take on a Steelers defense this weekend that isn't bad against the run from a yards perspective but has allowed nine touchdowns to RBs. This leaves a great opportunity for the rookie to covert a couple more of those red-zone carries. Regardless of Pierce's status for Week 9, Taliaferro could be a nice flex option. If Pierce is inactive and Forsett needs to miss more snaps than usual, Taliaferro's fantasy value increases immensely. He's not an RB1, but he could surprise as a low-end RB2 this week.
It's not often that Bowe is a quality start anymore, but once again, the Jets create the exception. The Jets have already given up 10 TDs to opposing WRs, which is third-most in the league. Bowe has also been playing well during this current four-game stretch. The numbers aren't spectacular, but he's caught 19 of 25 targets and is averaging 4.75 receptions and 67.75 yards per game. The end zone has eluded him, but just refer back to those TDs numbers. If he earns just a few more targets due his increased production, Bowe could see a spike in fantasy value for not only this week but also moving forward.
Bryant has emerged as a major deep threat for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and has become a nice complement to Antonio Brown. In two games since being activated, Bryant has seven receptions, 123 yards and three touchdowns. While we don't expect Big Ben to come out and throw six TDs again, he will continue to target Bryant deep down field and in the end zone. The rookie wideout is quickly heading towards WR3 status. We don't want to jump the gun because we have seen only a very small sample size. But what we have seen has been tremendous. The Steelers look like they have a whole new offense with Bryant opposite Brown. The 6-foot-4 pass-catcher brings a speed and size package that the Steelers lacked, and they should continue to use him frequently if they intend on continuing their recent success. This week, Bryant faces the Ravens, who are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing WRs. They are much better against the run than the pass. Also, Ravens starting corner Jimmy Smith will be sidelined for a few weeks with a foot sprain. All signs point to Bryant continuing his productive ways.