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The next two weekends will test virtually every fantasy owner’s mettle.

Six teams will be enjoying their bye in both Weeks 8 and 9. The challenging fortnight begins with the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers and Carson Palmer-less Cardinals joining the Jaguars, Rams, Giants, Titans, you and me on the couch.

Following that, the Bears, Browns, Chargers, Vikings, Patriots and Steelers will be idle.

Few fantasy teams will have sufficient depth to field a full starting lineup without working the waiver wire. Savvy owners planned ahead and made a preemptive move or two to minimize the number of transactions required this week. If this weekend isn’t your concern, be sure to look at your Week 9 schedule to see if you should be making an early swap at kicker, defense, tight end or other bench player.

Admittedly, at this stage of the season, the pickings are thin. But some value can be had, especially when considering defensive units facing beleaguered offenses.

The Eagles (owned in less than half of all leagues) are a safe bet against the winless 49ers. The Bengals should have some success against the Colts. And the Saints should continue their defensive renaissance against the pass-challenged Bears.

This is also prime time for trading, as most owners will be scrambling just like you. Check out your opponents’ pain points over the next couple of weeks, and probe to see if they are more amenable to a trade than they might otherwise be.

Hey, all’s fair in love and fantasy football. Taking advantage of a desperate competitor is part and parcel of the game.

CATCH ’EM WHILE YOU CAN

Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins: Many Dolfans got what they’ve been asking for when Moore took over Sunday for the injured Jay Cutler. Moore isn’t going to erase the memory of Dan Marino, but he brings experience and a steadier hand to the passing game. For those with injury or bye-week issues at QB, Moore could come through on Thursday night. And if he soars, Cutler’s return could be “delayed.”

Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, RBs, Raiders: Marshawn Lynch had been disappointing enough before he got himself ejected and left those who trusted him in their starting lineups with a big fat zero. Richard and Washington will presumably share the load in Week 8 against the Bills, and with the passing game seemingly back in fine form, they both have a chance to excel.

Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, RBs, Cowboys: The Zeke Elliott saga continues to play out in the courts, and he will play in Week 8. But it seems increasingly likely that the superstar RB’s six-game suspension is imminent. The Cowboys haven’t yet tipped their hand on who will start in his place, but my expectation is for a committee approach, with the proverbial “hot hand” taking the lead. Both backs are, therefore, worth owning.

Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins: Stills has speed and talent, but he is frustratingly inconsistent. If Sunday’s game is any indication, he and Moore have built a strong chemistry in practice. If DeVante Parker remains out and Cutler takes time to heal, Stills could add to his Week 7 heroics.

DON’T BE FOOLED

Drew Stanton, QB, Cardinals: Not only should you never put your fantasy team in Stanton’s hands, but with Arizona’s bye week on tap, you can safely release any of your Cardinals receivers not named Larry Fitzgerald. This passing game without Carson Palmer at the helm is going to get even uglier than it’s been for most of this season.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers: The speedster dazzled on his punt-return TD and 42-yard TD reception. But keep in mind the latter was Benjamin’s only catch of the day. That gives him a total of 14 receptions on the season – an average of two per game. He’s the definition of boom or bust, and it’s mostly bust.

Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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