Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 8: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Football Owners
Week 8 is just about the halfway point of the NFL regular season, and it is the halfway point of the bye-week gauntlet that depletes our fantasy rosters for more than half of the 13-week fantasy football regular season.
Injuries around the league are mounting, and lineup choices get tougher every week. With more clarity about the quality of defenses against the pass and run, we can understand better which chances are worth taking and which units to avoid if possible.
Let's take a look at the best sits and starts as another football Sunday is about to kick off.
START: Ben Roethlisberger, QB Pittsburgh
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No quarterback has thrown for fewer than 299 yards versus Washington's beleaguered pass offense, and five out of the seven passers to face the Redskins have thrown multiple touchdowns.
The Steelers have the weapons in the passing game to give Roethlisberger plenty of chances to put up big points, and he will likely have to do it to keep up with rookie sensation Robert Griffin III. Mike Wallace should be fired up to have a big game after his multiple drops versus Cincinnati.
Unless you have a no-brainer elite starter (like Griffin), Roethlisberger should be in your lineup.
SIT: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
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The Panthers pass defense has been surprisingly good this year. They have only given up more than one passing touchdown in one game this year. That includes holding quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Tony Romo to one score apiece.
Cutler is coming in banged up after Ndamukong Suh bodyslammed him and hurt his ribs last week, and the Bears should be inclined to lean on their running back duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Cutler might be highly efficient in this game, but he is unlikely to throw a ton of passes, which makes it hard to picture him as a fantasy force this week.
START: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia
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Vick might be close to walking the plank as the Eagles' starting quarterback, but his fantasy performance hasn't mirrored his shaky on-field performance. He has been in the top 10 quarterbacks so far this season in every scoring system and had only one unproductive day all season, against the red-hot Cardinals defense back in Week 3.
Atlanta allowed Cam Newton's best day of 2012 by far, so there is reason to believe that a mobile quarterback like Vick will have a big day against his old team.
With both Vick and head coach Andy Reid in the hot seat coming out of the bye, expect both to answer the bell and help your fantasy team in a big way.
SIT: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit
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Stafford has already been struggling this year, and things should only worse versus the Seahawks.
The stifling young secondary has given up three passing touchdowns total and no more than 251 yards to any quarterback not named Tom Brady, and Brady had to throw 58 times to have a good fantasy day against them. Calvin Johnson was shut down by Charles Tillman last week, so it is not a stretch to think he'll have trouble getting free against Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
With second-round pick Ryan Broyles assuming a bigger role in the wake of Nate Burleson's season-ending broken leg, expect this to be a down week for the Lions' passing game.
START: Willis McGahee, RB, Denver
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You'll want to start as many players as possible in the coming shootout between Drew Brees and Peyton Manning Sunday night, but you'll especially want to play McGahee.
He has been as involved in the passing game as he has been in his entire career, with 15 catches over the last three games. More importantly, McGahee gets the one of the best running back matchups for fantasy football by this week.
Each of the last three starting running backs to face New Orleans has gone over 100 total yards, and the team has given up at least one rushing touchdown in every game but one this season.
SIT: Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
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Jackson has a lot of things working against him this week in London. He is mired in a running back committee with Daryl Richardson that has kept him at 15 or fewer touches in each of the last two weeks. Jackson hasn't eclipsed 76 rushing yards in any game all season, and despite being an excellent receiver out of the backfield, he only has 10 receptions this year.
The Patriots are one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but they have held every running back they have faced this season to 54 or fewer rushing yards except for Ray Rice. Unless the Rams pass defense that Aaron Rodgers took apart last week recovers quickly, Jackson won't have the chance to be the second.
START: Reggie Bush, RB, Miami
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It's easy to forget that Bush looked like maybe the best running back in the NFL in Week 2 versus Oakland before hurting his knee in Week 3 against these Jets.
He had 61 yards on only 10 carries before the injury and didn't quite look the same in Weeks 4 through 6. With a much-needed week of rest over the bye, Bush should be 100 percent against the third-worst rushing defense in the NFL.
The Dolphins should focus their offensive game plan on Bush to help take the pressure off of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which should yield good results for them and your fantasy team.
SIT: Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
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Greene finally had his first decent game of 2012 when the Jets weren't blowing out their opponent last week, but that momentum should come to a halt against the Dolphins this week.
Save for a lopsided loss to the Texans in Week 1, the Dolphins haven't allowed a rushing touchdown to a back this year, and no running back has gone over 79 rushing yards against them.
Greene got 19 carries for a robust 40 yards against the 'Fins in Week 3, which should be all you need to know to be convinced to keep Greene on your bench this week.
START: Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh
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Wallace's drop-laden performance in prime time against the Bengals is still fresh in our minds, but he is not a receiver known for having spotty hands, and he should have plenty of chances to show that against the Redskins' league-worst passing defense. They have given up a 100-yard game to a wide receiver in every contest they have played this year, and Wallace easily has the speed to be the next one.
The ease with which Victor Cruz got behind their secondary for a game-winning 77-yard touchdown last week should make you find a way to get Wallace in your lineup this week.
SIT: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City
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Matt Cassel might be bad for the Chiefs, but no Matt Cassel is even worse for Dwayne Bowe. Bowe has failed to go over 100 yards in eight games without Cassel in the last two seasons, with only one passing touchdown.
The Chiefs will likely try to get their running backs at least 35 to 40 carries in a very winnable home game against the Oakland Raiders, and Brady Quinn has shown no inclination to throw the ball downfield.
Bowe owners should bench him this week and into the future until Cassel takes the reins again or Quinn morphs into a quarterback that is willing to test defenses.
START: Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans
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Moore had a massive day last week with Jimmy Graham out of the lineup, but his owners shouldn't fear Graham's possible return to the lineup this week. Graham is still a game-time decision and will likely be limited even if he does play.
It's possible that the Saints will activate him simply to be a decoy in a big game. Unless Graham is magically back to 100 percent, Drew Brees will make Moore a mainstay in the passing offense running routes in the middle of the field.
Moore should have a big day against a defense that gave up 13 catches for 104 yards and a score against slot receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker in Week 5.
SIT: Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
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Smith hasn't scored yet in 2012, and he probably won't in Week 8 because he's facing Charles Tillman. Tillman completely shut down Calvin Johnson last week, to the tune of three catches for only 34 yards.
The Panthers are likely to feature Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to establish a new-found commitment to the run. Smith should be on "fantasy football probation," which means that he's on your bench until he proves that he should be in your lineup.
Don't expect that to happen during one of his toughest matchups all season.
START: Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets
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Kerley is the newly minted No. 1 receiver for the Jets, and he is set up to have a great game against the pass defense-impaired Dolphins. The 28th-ranked unit has given up at least six catches to five out of six No. 1 receivers they've faced this season, and three out of six have scored against them.
Kerley wasn't the No. 1 when these teams faced off in Week 3, but he was still able to score and also post a 66-yard reception. With a lot more snaps and targets this time around, he could easily get over 100 yards and find the end zone again.
SIT: Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England
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Few players have been more disappointing this season than Lloyd. He had two terrible drops last week, and he has only had 10 catches for 120 yards over the last three weeks. Lloyd's only touchdown came during garbage time against Buffalo, and this week, he'll see a lot of Cortland Finnegan, who held Brian Hartline off of the stat sheet in Week 5.
At this rate, soon the question of whether Lloyd is worth starting or not will change into whether he is worth rostering. Perhaps the Patriots can find a way to get him on track after their Week 9 bye, but don't expect his fortunes to change this week.
START: Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh
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Miller has been a surprise top-five fantasy tight end this year, but when he puts up big numbers versus the Redskins, it shouldn't surprise anyone. The Redskins have allowed a receiving touchdown to a tight end in five out of seven games this year, and they've also surrendered over 50 receiving yards to five tight ends this season.
Five is also the number of receiving touchdowns Miller has in six games. He is experiencing a statistical renaissance under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and his owners should ride him until he cools off.
SIT: Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans
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Graham is officially a game-time decision, but if you wait until game time on Sunday night with him still in your lineup, you'll probably have to pick from backup tight end David Thomas, one of the Denver tight ends (Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen) or perhaps Arizona tight end Rob Housler on the waiver wire.
You'll also have to sacrifice a roster spot to carry one of those scrub tight ends. Graham is possibly worth the risk if you don't have a solid tight end to start over him, but he still didn't have a full-participation practice this week, and he might be activated simply as a decoy against the Broncos to give the Saints a tactical advantage.