Week 8 Start 'Em, 'Sit Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More
After what was possibly one of the worst Sundays for injuries we've ever seen, many fantasy owners may be looking at their lineups and wondering just what they will do this coming week.
Add in the bye week, and it's a bit ugly for some teams.
So we have a few guys on the following list who are not necessarily your run-of-the-mill starters.
Of course, most of this is a matchup game. How good is the opposing defense? Can the player overcome it? What is the situation of the player's surrounding talent?
Some players will look like better plays than they really are, while others might not spring to mind when you think "upside" or "emergency start."
As always, add in your list of guys to avoid and those to start in the comments below.
Start 'Em: Colin Kaepernick vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Colin Kaepernick ran the ball well against the Tennessee Titans in Week 7, whereas in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals, he threw the ball better than he has since Week 1.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are definitely the right team to bounce back on this year. The Jags are ranked No. 32 in the league against the run and 14th against the pass. They've allowed a stunning 15 touchdowns as well.
This is a great start for Kaepernick owners. With both injuries and bye weeks, the timing is perfect.
Sit 'Em: Bengals Running Backs vs. New York Jets
The New York Jets field an exceptional defense—speaking for this post, they have the No. 2 run defense in the NFL.
Giovani Bernard hasn't been getting a ton of carries nor doing much with them. He's a bigger threat receiving at this point. If he gets you yards, it will likely be that way.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets a lot more carries on average but will fall on his face at times and never gets thrown to.
This is not a good matchup for either of them. In fact, even if Bernard catches the ball frequently, it's probably not going to amount to more than seven or eight points on the day.
Start 'Em: Cam Newton vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay isn't as awful as we think in many respects, especially defensively. However it can be thrown on (the team is ranked No. 18 against the pass) and has allowed 11 touchdowns to six interceptions.
The Buccaneers do have 14 sacks on the year, but while the Panthers have allowed 19 sacks (which is middle-of-the-road in the NFL), they've only allowed 26 quarterback hits, which is pretty good.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton has been much more consistent the last few weeks. Yes, he had a trio of interceptions in Week 5, but he passed for over 300 yards. The weeks before and after that, he had three touchdowns.
The Buccaneers have a decent defense, but Newton is going to have a solid day as he and the Panthers start to gain momentum at the midpoint of the season.
Sit 'Em: Mike Wallace vs. New England Patriots
Mike Wallace has been mildly productive over the course of the season, though he has been wildly inconsistent and only has one touchdown to his name.
There are several reasons to dislike Wallace this coming week against the New England Patriots, but some of them are out of his control.
These are things like an offensive line, which is a travesty (allowing 26 sacks, fourth-most in the NFL and 39 quarterback hits, 11th-most in the NFL), a run game fixated on a mediocre back (Daniel Thomas) with a good one watching (Lamar Miller) and a quarterback under siege.
Wallace himself has had his fair share of drops and bad routes, and while he has been targeted the most on the team, he has the third-most catches and is second in yards.
This will be even worse if Aqib Talib returns after missing the Jets game last week. Talib has been tough on the guys he's covering, and while he's far from a shutdown corner, he can get in Wallace's head with physical play.
Talib or not, this is a matchup to avoid.
Start 'Em: Jeremy Kerley vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Santonio Holmes has been banged up all season, and somebody has needed to fill in for him. That guy hasn't been second-year receiver (and second-round pick) Stephen Hill.
No, that guy has been a fifth-round receiver named Jeremy Kerley.
Aside from a bad outing against Pittsburgh in Week 6 (which described the whole Jets offense), Kerley has been a solid flex play with some upside.
Last week against New England, Kerley caught eight balls for 97 yards and a touchdown. While that's on the high side for his production, he should still get plenty of targets and, with his sure hands, haul in most of them.
The Bengals have a tough defense, and this might not be one of rookie quarterback Geno Smith's best games, but Kerley has been the one reliable factor in the passing offense.
Kerley can make plays after the catch, so expect a bunch of short routes and pass plays as the Jets try to get the ball out of Smith's hands before the pass rush gets to him.
Sit 'Em: Larry Fitzgerald vs. Atlanta Falcons
Carson Palmer is killing Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy value.
All Palmer really has to do is get the ball to Fitzgerald, but between the offensive line issues and Palmer being, well, Palmer, he can't do that.
Fitzgerald has just one 100-yard game and only four touchdowns this year. Last week against Seattle, he had just two catches for 17 yards.
Read that again and let that sink in.
Atlanta is nowhere near as good, but it can get after Palmer and have enough talent to make life difficult for Fitzgerald.
It's been a tough year for Fitz and his owners. It won't get better this weekend.
Start 'Em: Eddie Lacy vs. Minnesota Vikings
Peyton Hillis just ran all over the Minnesota Vikings.
Last seen stealing money in Kansas City by being awful, Hillis was unable to find work until the seventh week of the season when a team got desperate.
He ran over the Vikings for two touchdowns and powered through would-be tacklers for 45 yards receiving. His ground numbers weren't great (just 36 yards), but honestly, for a guy who just showed up in Week 7, he looked fine.
Eddie Lacy is looking better than ever. Since returning from a concussion in Week 5, he has been over 80 yards for three straight games and he's had over 100 yards combined in the last two.
The Vikings are going to have a hard time containing this tough runner, especially since they have to commit to stopping Aaron Rodgers and the hodgepodge of receivers who still seem to get the job done despite injuries.
Lacy will find the middle of the field unclogged on most plays and should have success turning the corner on the Vikings as well.
Lacy will be a great start this week as a No. 2 running back with upside.
Sit 'Em: Josh Gordon vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Just like Carson Palmer is hurting Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Weeden is holding back Josh Gordon's numbers.
This could all change if Gordon is traded, as has been rumored to be a possibility by Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, but let's assume for now that doesn't happen.
Gordon gets targets, but they aren't what you'd call "quality targets," and the ones he gets are hard to haul in.
The Chiefs defense features a solid secondary and safety Eric Berry, though they may not get tested as well as the front seven are playing. The Browns offensive line can be very good as well, but Weeden doesn't seem to be able to take the time it gives him and make good choices.
Gordon is a solid player and will become a fantasy force again. However, as long as Weeden is the starter, it's going to be very hit or miss.
Given the matchup, this should be more of a miss.
Start 'Em: Le'Veon Bell vs. Oakland Raiders
While the Oakland Raiders are tied for the No. 9 ranking against the run in the NFL, they're also run on less than all but eight other teams.
Their pass defense is pretty bad, so teams don't run on them as much.
This won't be the case this weekend. In the three weeks since Le'Veon Bell returned, the Pittsburgh Steelers have committed to running the ball.
Bell has seen workloads of 16, 16 and 19 carries so far this year and caught the ball eight times. While he struggled against the tough Jets ground defense, he did very well against both the Vikings and the Ravens.
The Raiders just aren't that good, and the Steelers will lean on Bell as they continue to try to overcome their issues on the offensive line.
There will be plenty of passing to Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, but expect a very good day from Bell. He's a strong No. 2 running back this week with some very high upside.
Sit 'Em: Mike James vs. Carolina Panthers
With Doug Martin down for the season, the Buccaneers will turn to rookie running back Mike James.
You shouldn't do likewise.
It's not so much that James isn't a decent back. He's built like a power back and has the size to carry a full load, though he doesn't have great speed and won't make tacklers miss.
No, it's more a matter of a passing offense that isn't scaring people—one that is bad enough to where the much more talented Martin was struggling terribly.
James will get the carries, and that could make him a flex play during some weeks, but he isn't likely to have any more success than Martin. In fact, he'll probably have less.
Oh, and this week? He faces the No. 4-ranked rushing defense in the Carolina Panthers.
While some of that ranking is due to a lower number of attempts against them than many other teams, the Panthers have also allowed just a pair of touchdowns on the ground.
And the last two weeks, they held Adrian Peterson to 62 yards and rookie Zac Stacy to 53.
They are getting better. Now is not the time to throw in a guy who has very little experience carrying the ball at the NFL level and none as a starter.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.