Last Minute Fantasy Football Advice for Every Position on Your Roster

Alex DunlapContributor IOctober 27, 2012

Last Minute Fantasy Football Advice for Every Position on Your Roster

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    You have six games left in your fantasy season, and if you are looking for last minute advice, you are doing things wrong.

    The first bit of advice you will receive here is don't wait until Saturday next week to start thinking about your Sunday lineups. Your lineup should be set in stone at this time barring unexpected events and injury reports.

    There is always that one player in your flex, though, and that one player on your bench. You wonder to yourself: "Should I switch them out?"

    We'll see. This is your Week 8 last-minute fantasy advice.

Running Back

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    "Playing the matchup" is a term in fantasy football that gets tossed around so much that I feel the strategy has, in many ways, transformed into something it was never created to be: an absolute. 

    The 49ers are the NFL's worst matchup for opposing runners, but Ahmad Bradshaw still goes off on them for 20 points. LaRod Stephens-Howling is barely 5'7" and runs behind a horrible offensive line, yet he was among the first to expose the Minnesota Vikings defense as possible posers in Week 7 before Doug Martin put the nail in that coffin Thursday Night. 

    Matchups are about probability rather than certainty. This is the National Football League and every player on the field is a world-class athlete. There are no gimmes and certainly no absolutes.

    When analyzing players with great or even horrible matchups, we are analyzing which players will be in positions most and least probable to their benefiting to the full extent of their respective athletic abilities.

    With that said, these are the fantasy running backs with my five best and five worst matchups coming into Week 8:

     

    Best Week 8 RB Matchups:

    1) Denver Broncos RBs vs. New Orleans Saints: Huge night for Willis McGahee.

    2) Tennessee Titans RBs vs. Indianapolis Colts: Ride Chris Johnson for one more big week then sell, sell, sell.

    3) Indianapolis Colts RBs at Tennessee Titans: Donald Brown practiced in full to end the week which is a great sign for Brown owners, but the waters remain muddied about his fantasy exploits this week given the presence of rookie Vick Ballard. Brown should immediately return as the better play of the two.

    4) Green Bay Packers RBs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Alex Green was a great pickup following the Cedric Benson injury, and you should certainly roll with him this week in your flex.  

    5) Oakland Raiders RBs at Kansas City Chiefs: The great news for Darren McFadden owners is that the Raiders have a schedule to end their 2012 season that is filled with games like this. His arrow is pointing up after a rough early adaptation to Greg Knapp's zone-blocking scheme.

     

    Worst Week 8 RB Matchups:

    1) Arizona Cardinals RBs vs. San Francisco 49ers: Good luck with that, Larod Stephens-Howling and William Powell owners.

    2) Carolina Panthers RBs at Chicago Bears: HC Ron Rivera has seemingly handed the reigns over to Jonathan Stewart in an exhibition of going with the "hot hand" that has rendered DeAngelo Williams currently useless.

    Stewart has been no jewel either, but I think he will be an excellent buy low after a pathetic Week 8 showing when given ample opportunity. Williams is in he doghouse, and Stewart will continue to get runs moving forward.

    3) Detroit Lions RBs at Seattle Seahawks: I don't hate this matchup as much for Mikel Leshoure as some may. I hate this game for Matt Stafford and the passing game, but I think that will lead to a tougher, inside game.

    We've seen what Frank Gore did to Seattle, and while Leshoure is no Frank Gore, he is the member of the Lions I am downgrading least as a result of this unenviable matchup.

    4) New York Jets RBs vs. Miami Dolphins: Please tell me you sold high on Shonn Greene. If not, get it done before tomorrow if at all possible.

    5) St. Louis Rams RBs vs. New England Patriots: Tough to love Steven Jackson much in this foreign affair, but when the Rams get behind, Daryl Richardson could provide some good garbage-time action in hurry up sets while St. Louis plays catch-up.

Quarterback

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    Bench Alex Smith

    San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith faces my toughest Week 8 opponent for fantasy QBs in the Arizona Cardinals.

    Smith's 31-point fantasy explosion against Buffalo in Week 5 and his two borderline-elite fantasy performances to start the 2012 NFL season have been long forgotten by many as we head into the midseason mark.

    And rightfully so. Smith has looked absolutely pathetic over the last two weeks, and the last time he traveled to Arizona, Smith put up a 7-point stinker against a team that was not as tough to throw on as this 2012 group. If you have been relying on Smith to start the 2012 season, congratulations if you're still in it. The rest of your team must be really, really good.

    For this week, get him out of your lineups and look for other options as bye week fill-ins should you happen to own Joe Flacoo, Andy Dalton or Matt Schaub, who are all on Week 8 byes.

    I would start any of the following widely-available free agents over Smith in Week 8 (in this order):

    1) Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs- Available in 53 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

    2) Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts- Available in 88 percent of Yahoo! leagues. 

    3) Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns at San Diego Chargers- Available in 79 percent of Yahoo! leagues. 

    4) Mark Sanchez, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins- Available in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues. 

    5) Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams vs. New England Patriots- Available in 79 percent of Yahoo! leagues. 


    Roll With Cam Newton

    This matchup is about as horrible as the sweater Newton wore to his press conference following Carolina's Week 7 loss at home vs. the Dallas Cowboys.

    Owning Newton has been the type of "bad dream" in 2012 that you're not sure you can classify as a nightmare, but still think of as very creepy and unsettling.

    The point remains that Newton is averaging 16.69 points per game in 2012 standard leagues. These points have not come in a consistent fashion by any measure, but they have come. I have calculated the Chicago Bears as my fourth-worst matchup for opposing QBs coming into Week 8 which makes my advice seem even more counter-intuitive, so let me qualify it: 

    1) If you own Cam Newton, your season has no doubt already been defined somewhat by his inconsistency. You can either choose to abandon that now (along with the huge upside that has come with it), or choose to roll with the punches and hope things shake out down the stretch. 

    2) This is a different Carolina team in Week 8 than we have seen all season.HC Ron Rivera is on the ropes and literally coaching for his career in a second-half stretch that is ironically beginning at the very site at which Ron Rivera crafted so many championship-level performances as a player in the 1980s. For better or for worse, this is a team that will be playing like they have nothing to lose, and I love that for Newton.

    3) Matchups only mean so much, and that is why I only use them in tie-breaker situations. Case in point: Newton's biggest game this season came Week 4 on the road in Atlanta  to the tune of 31.1 points in standard leagues. This game is very similar. I had Atlanta ranked as my seventh-worst matchup for opposing QBs coming into Week 4, and the contest seemed like it meant more than the usual game, being in-division after a 1-2 start against a team that the media had seemingly already crowned as one of the league's elite. While Newton fell just short of putting a "W" in the Panthers stat column, he did a number in those of his fantasy owners. 

    4) If you own Newton, you are unlikely to roster a backup QB who will fare better in Week 8. If you drafted a backup for Newton late such as Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers or Jay Cutler, then you should be starting all four of those guys over Newton. The fact is, you likely didn't and all of those players will be unavailable on your waiver wires, leaving only risky options that offer the same floor but nowhere near the upside of Cam Newton. 

Wide Receiver

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    My ESPN Radio Austin and ESPN Radio San Antonio co-host, Byron Lambert was accused by Chiefs GM Scott Pioli of being from Pittsburgh because of his "weird tie" and his line of questioning regarding Jonathan Baldwin.

    I understood why Pioli thought Byron might have been a Pittsburgh reporter since Baldwin played at Pitt. To this day, I don't understand the "weird tie" thing, though. 

    This is the same reporter who once asked Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome a question about the Ravens receiving corps that Newsome thought was so ridiculous that his response made PFT.

    *Let it be noted that the question asked, (whether Newsome thought the offense could open up with an additional downfield threat such as Mike Wallace or perhaps address it in the Draft) may have been thought foolish by Newsome at the time, but they did draft a developmental over-the-top burner in Tommy Streeter and brought in Jacoby Jones.

    Obviously, he takes his WRs seriously. In this Week 8 tracking of WR TD dependency ratios, I took away the following:

    1) A.J Green is dependent on TDs for 39.25 percent of his fantasy scoring production which represents a number 11% higher than the average among the top 40 WRs coming into Week 8. While touchdown dependency is a red flag in many cases, it is not as much so here. In a way similar to Arian Foster, Green just scores a lot of points, period- and a lot come on TDs. Green is almost sure to be the first WR off the board in 2013 fantasy drafts.

    2) Week 8 Top 40 WRs with the lowest dependencies on unpredictable touchdown scoring for their production:

    -Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: 9.23 percent (at Seattle Seahawks)

    -Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins: 10.53 percent (at New York Jets)

    -DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: 11.54 percent (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

    -Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: 11.76 percent (at Washington Redskins)

    -Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers: 12.50 percent (at Cleveland Browns)

    3) Week 8 Top 40 WRs with the highest dependencies on unpredictable touchdown scoring for their production:

    -James Jones, Green Bay Packers: 56.67 percent (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars) 

    -Santana Moss, Washington Redskins: 47.06 percent (at New York Giants)

    -Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals: 42.25 percent (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

    -Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: 42.11 percent (vs. San Diego Chargers)

    -Victor Cruz, New York Giants: 40.00 percent (vs. Washington Redskins)  

Tight End

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    These are the two TEs in Week 8 who I like either significantly more, of significantly less than the Expert Consensus at FantasyPros.com.

    Every week, my fantasy rankings are tracked along with those of 99 other expert entities for accuracy. The expert consensus rank or "ECR" is the rank of a player as an average of all 100 experts:

     

    Like Less:

    Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers:

    My Ranking: 6th

    Expert Consensus Ranking: 3rd

    Why:

    I was as impressed as everybody else was with Gates' 21-point fanasy monster against Denver in Week 6, and can understand the optimistic outlook regarding this trend continuing as the Chargers come off bye. I thought that ranking him as TE6 after one great game and four others that earned fantasy owners between 1.9 and 5.9 points was still overly generous.

    I was surprised to see that he was ranked so highly across so many platforms given his obvious propensity for wetting the bed in 2012 and facing my seventh-worst TE matchup on the season.

    Like More:

    Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

    My Ranking: 5th

    Expert Consensus Ranking: 7th

    Why:

    Because of Kevin Ogletree. Jason Witten was clearly not healthy in Week 1 just 23 days recovered from a lacerated spleen. Ogletree had a monster game against a set of nickel corners and safeties who were among the most burned in the entire NFL for 2011, and aren't getting off to a much better start in 2012. The Giants linebacking group also featured the NFL's most burned linebacker, Michael Boley (mainly in TE coverage), and not much has changed in that department, either.

    When the Giants pass rush comes and Tony Romo is forced to leave the pocket, he will key in on a healthy Witten the same way he did on Kevin Ogletree when Witten was limited in their first meeting. Witten has historically had good games against the Giants, although they did shut him down in 2011. With players like Aaron Hernandez out and Jimmy Graham's game time decision, there isn't much lower than fifth that I can justify ranking Witten.