Fantasy owners trying to plug roster holes at quarterback should consider a couple of thinly owned backups who have been thrust into starting roles. Dallas' Jon Kitna and Tennessee's Kerry Collins have shown they're capable of having big days, but this week, they get the extra boost of a weak opposing defense.

Kitna has been a consistent producer in his last five games - coinciding with Jason Garrett's taking over as Cowboys head coach - with an average of 240 passing yards and throwing nine touchdowns against four interceptions. And this week, Kitna goes against Washington, with the NFL's 29th-ranked pass defense.

The other widely available veteran, Collins, can be erratic, but he had a huge game last week with 244 yards and three touchdowns. On Sunday, he draws Houston, with the worst pass defense in the league.

As the grueling NFL season takes it toll, QBs with uncertain status include Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Denver's Kyle Orton, Kansas City's Matt Cassel, and everyone in Minnesota.

Along with Kitna and Collins, the most likely available quarterback who has a chance of salvaging some fantasy points is Oakland's Jason Campbell.

Browns rookie QB Colt McCoy has been named the starter for the rest of the season, and for the most part, he's still available. An interesting gamble would be Denver rookie Tim Tebow, who has thrown just one pass this season. If Broncos starter Orton is too banged up to go against Oakland this week, Tebow - who has been taking first-team snaps in practice - would finally get a shot. As a pass-run threat, Tebow has the potential to put up strong fantasy numbers - just ask Michael Vick owners.

Torain under the radar. Surprisingly, a running back with a fair amount of availability is Washington's Ryan Torain. Apparently, he slipped off some rosters when he was injured and was out for more than a month. And even though he rushed for 172 yards against Tampa Bay in his first game back last week, he's still widely available for Sunday against the Cowboys, who have a middle-of-the-road run defense. Figuring Torain's projected production, he would be a steal if he's on the waiver list. Arizona's Tim Hightower is less available, but if he's on the bench, consider promoting him because he'll be playing against helpless Carolina.

Contact Bill Ordine

at wordine@aol.com.