The waiver wire becomes more intriguing this week as scheduled bye weeks begin. The four teams that won't play in Week 5 are Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans and Washington. That means there will be no Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Drew Brees, Michael Thomas or Kirk Cousins, among others.
How you should approach the waiver wire could be directly related to your record. If you're 3-1 or 4-0, then there really is no reason to panic. You would attack the wire as you normally would. There is little reason to do anything rash and start dropping players that can help you from Weeks 6-16 because that player has a bye this week.
However, if you're 1-3 or winless, then you may need to field the best team you can right now. You might need to release a lower end starter or valuable reserve in order to pick up a player who is playing this week. That player may not be as valuable over the long haul but you need to win now.
The waiver wire is a game unto itself during the bye weeks. Not only are you trying to win now, but you need to keep an eye on the future, too. There is also nothing wrong with a little defense. In general, it doesn't really matter who your opponent is starting but you should peek at his or her roster before waivers run during bye weeks. The reason is simple - you might discover that they need a player at a certain position and there is really only one viable option out there. Now, you shouldn't give up the farm to grab that player if you don't need him long term, but if you can do it without hurting your team, well then your chances to win just improved dramatically. All is fair in fantasy football and there is no rule that states you have to start a player who you claim.
Here are some top waiver wire candidates for this week:
DeSHAUN WATSON, QB, Houston Texans (50 percent owned)
As stated above, there will be no Ryan, Brees, and Cousins this week so quite a few owners may be scanning waivers for a starting QB. Watson may be a rookie but he isn't playing like one. Over his last two games he has completed 47 of 67 passes (70.2 percent) for 584 yards and six touchdowns. He has also rushed for 65 yards and added a score. It's not all roses as he has thrown three interceptions and fumbled twice, but it's hard to argue with these numbers. The biggest negative, however, may be that he will be up against the Chiefs but they will be coming off a short week. Don't spend big money on a QB that will only start one week, so look to spend only around 5 percent of your free agent budget.
JARED GOFF, QB, Los Angeles Rams (34 percent)
Goff is our second choice because although he is home, it's the Seahawks and their secondary that is coming to town. He has shown tremendous improvement since his rookie season and is starting to look like the franchise QB that we expected him to be. It's amazing what an actual coaching staff that knows how to handle a young QB can do. In a perfect situation, you can hope that Brian Hoyer, Andy Dalton, Goff, Watson, and another signal caller are available to just set up a series of claims, all for $1 each and save as much of your free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) as possible. If there are enough QBs available you could even wait until after waivers run and just claim the best one left afterward.
LATAVIUS MURRAY, RB, Minnesota Vikings (22 percent)
Dalvin Cook will be lost for the season due to a torn ACL. This is a huge blow for fantasy owners as Cook had looked as impressive as any rookie. Murray will likely now be the starter and everyone is likely to bid on him. He's not Cook, but he's isn't a nobody either. With Oakland over the past two seasons, he had 1,854 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. It may very well be that you have to spend your entire FAAB to acquire him, or at least 75 percent.
TAYLOR GABRIEL, WR, Atlanta Falcons (37 percent)
The Falcons lost Julio Jones (hip) and Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) during the game Sunday. We don't know the severity of either injury or how long they will be out of the lineup and with Atlanta off this week they may not update the status of either player. You still may want to be proactive and grab Gabriel. The fact they don't play this week could work into your favor as you may be able to acquire Gabriel at a discount.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com