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Start planning now, take chance on backups

It seems too early for a break in the NFL schedule, but bye weeks begin next week and run all the way through Week 10. It might be a good idea to get an early run on the top players available before the pickings get slim due to the frenzy of transactions that will occur.

If you’re looking for a running back, it’s likely most of the good ones are gone. So you might have to take a chance — a gamble in hopes the upside materializes. Here are some potential options:

Justin Forsett, Seahawks: He was featured quite often in third-down situations and ran the ball well when given the chance last week at San Francisco. Julius Jones, the starter, carried only eight times for 11 yards. Forsett made the most of his opportunity with five carries for 35 yards along with six catches for 57 yards. He is a good investment for down the road.

Correll Buckhalter, Broncos: Rookie Knowshon Moreno will be getting most of the carries, but the Broncos still will be getting Buckhalter involved. In two games, he has had 17 rushes for 122 yards and a touchdown, with a nice average of 8 yards per touch when including his receptions. He can be expected to continue getting 10 to 12 touches per game.

Heath Evans, Saints: It may seem like a stretch, but in desperate times and with a shortage of backs, he could score some points for your team. Don’t expect any yardage points from him, but he will score. The Saints like to throw near the goal line, and on two occasions in the first two games, Evans scored in the red zone.

Chris Brown, Texans: It’s hard to believe Steve Slayton could be given up on after having such a great 2008 season, but after his three fumbles and no production in two games, Brown is getting noticed more by the coaching staff.

The most plentiful position of available quality players is wide receiver. This week there was a massive run on free agent Mario Manningham after his big game Sunday at Dallas. If he isn’t available, there still are some other opportunities:

Johnny Knox, Bears: Jay Cutler has turned the Bears into a pass-first, run-never offense and is still searching for that go-to receiver. He may have found him in Knox, who had six catches for 70 yards with a touchdown last week against Pittsburgh. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Knox could replace Earl Bennett as the starter soon. He certainly has the confidence of Cutler and has made the most of his chances, leading the team in yardage.

Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars: With Troy Williamson out for the season, Sims-Walker becomes the starter. In his first chance to step in last week, he came through with six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown against Arizona.

Laurent Robinson, Rams: Featured wideout Donnie Avery has fallen out of favor because of losing fumbles in the first two games, and Robinson has been the beneficiary by leading the team with 11 receptions and catching Marc Bulger’s only touchdown pass.

Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, Colts: Anthony Gonzalez is expected to miss up to eight weeks, and it will be up to these two to be Reggie Wayne’s wing man and get some of Peyton Manning’s 300 yards each week. Of the two, Garcon looks to be the better choice.

Bobby Wade, Chiefs: If in a league where receptions get points, he’s a good fit. He led the Vikings in catches the past two years, and last week he caught six passes for 72 yards.

Most fantasy teams have two quarterbacks on the squad, but there are a few possible free-agent upgrades that are performing well:

Trent Edwards, Bills: With big-play receivers such as Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, it’s surprising Edwards is still available. Only three QBs have more touchdown passes than his four, and only five have more fantasy points.

Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers: He’s on a team that has been behind and forced to throw, and he’s putting fantasy points on the board. Only six QBs have more yards than him, and only three have more touchdowns. Chances are, Tampa Bay will be in similar positions each week, forcing Leftwich to pass often.

Kyle Orton, Broncos: He has only two touchdown passes, but doesn’t have any negative points with no interceptions. Despite piloting an offense that has looked sluggish in two games, there have been glimpses that show Orton could post some solid numbers in coach Josh McDaniels’ system.

Micah Roberts is a Las Vegas-based writer who will contribute weekly fantasy football outlooks for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.

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