Fantasy Football Week 8: Early Advice for Your Roster
What a week.
I can't recall a time when I've seen so many serious injuries in the span of a day.
So you have that to worry about as well as the first of two back-to-back bye weeks which sideline six teams filled with fantasy players.
It's a tough couple of weeks for many fantasy owners—I have one league with seven players out—but with good planning and some adjustments, you can keep rolling without missing a beat.
As we began to do two weeks ago (we skipped last week with an injury-report assignment), we'll take a look at some matchups at each position which can help you skate by in Week 8.
***All statistics and team rankings provided by NFL.com
There are so many guys down for the count, we're just going to run through them quickly. By now you should have adjusted to their absence, but just in case, we'll have some options for you to use.
There won't be many free-agent quarterbacks on waiver wires, so you'd best hope you had a good backup plan.
Worthwhile players to consider are the New York Jets' Geno Smith (inconsistent but can put together some nice points), Case Keenum of the Houston Texans (on bye this week but looked OK in his first start), the Chicago Bears' Josh McCown (the Bears are stacked with offensive weapons) and Kellen Clemens of the St. Louis Rams (the immediate replacement for Bradford but a bit shaky as a starter or even bye week replacement).
Oh, and Jason Campbell was announced as the starter for the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday. Mind you, they play the Kansas City Chiefs, so you might want to avoid that mess this weekend.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Martin is out for the foreseeable future with a torn labrum, and some reports have said he may be done for the year. Martin has insisted that this is not the case, and he will play again this year.
If Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy is still around 1) how small is your league? and 2) please correct that now by acquiring them. Ditto with the New York Jets' Chris Ivory, although with less authority because he gets hurt and is in a committee.
Roy Helu scored three touchdowns for Washington this weekend. He won't replicate that often, but it's clear the Redskins like him as a goal-line back. Jonathan Stewart will be returning to the Carolina Panthers, but keep in mind that DeAngelo Williams will remain starter, so production for Stewart is hard to predict.
Mike James is taking over for Doug Martin in Tampa Bay, and James is solid enough to carry the full load—you just have to wonder how much the other offensive issues will hamper him. Also, he's not as good as Martin by any stretch, and Martin struggled badly this year.
Marvin Jones has started to emerge as the No. 2 receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals across from A.J. Green. He's scored touchdowns two weeks in a row and is seeing consistent targets, if not a high volume.
Finally, I keep pointing at New York Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley as a solid acquisition, and while his output has been a tad inconsistent, he's absolutely a key target for rookie Geno Smith. Smith targeted Kerley 10 times last week, and he caught eight of them—that consistency and reliability will keep balls coming his way. He's more valuable in a PPR, but even in a standard scoring league, he's at least a flex play each week.
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: Of course, fantasy football is the least important thing here and was furthest from most people's minds when we saw him carted off the field on Sunday.
Finley suffered a bruised spine which kept him in an ICU for the better part of two days, though he is now not only out but walking around. It's hard to say when—if ever—Finley will be healthy enough or choose to be on the field.
New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith is targeting Jeff Cumberland quite a bit the last two games—he just can't hang onto the ball. The opportunity gives him some value though, and if he can start to catch the balls he'll score touchdowns.
With Finley gone, Green Bay will have to look for another answer. While I expect wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to see a lot of the sort of passes Finley normally gets, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor (currently hurt but coming back) and Brandon Bostick could get in on the action.
Quarless is more of a blocker but can catch, while Taylor has been a special-teams guy but is athletic, and Bostick is a former basketball player who is very raw. Any of those guys could get targets—the trick will be which one does.
Not a short-term or immediate solution sure, but if you have bench room, grabbing one could pay dividends. Finally, if Jimmy Graham is out, Ben Watson is a nice matchup against the Buffalo Bills this weekend.
This Week's Bye-Week Bench
We're about to hit a very difficult two-week stretch for fantasy owners, as we lose six teams worth of players in both Week 8 and Week 9.
Here is a list of the players you could be losing this week. Each position has at least one stud in it, and all of them also have multiple fantasy relevant players who could have been anything from a No. 2 receiver to a flex-spot tight end.
QB: Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Luke McCown, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum
WR: Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Torrey Smith, Marion Brown, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins
TE: Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Antonio Gates, Ed Dickson, Garrett Graham
|Week 4||Green Bay , Carolina|
|Week 5||Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington|
|Week 6||Atlanta, Miami|
|Week 7||Oakland, New Orleans|
|Week 8||Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore, Houston|
|Week 9||Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, Arizona, San Francisco, Jacksonville|
|Week 10||Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, New York Jets|
|Week 11||Dallas, St. Louis|
|Week 12||Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle|
Bye-Week Quarterback Matchups to Like
Colin Kaepernick—San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is one part "weekly reminder to start everyone against the Jaguars" and one part "Kaepernick is starting to get on track." Yes, Kaepernick looked a little off against Tennessee last week when throwing, but he ran the ball exceedingly well.
It could be that as the Niners offense gets rolling they are beginning to change the game plan every week—something they did all the time in 2012. One week Kaepernick will throw for 250-300 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but the next he throws for just 200 but runs for another 70-80 and a touchdown. This week should be a little of both, and even if the Niners take an early lead, expect them to keep their foot down on the accelerator and keep moving the ball.
Michael Vick—Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Yes, the Giants decimated the Minnesota Vikings on National TV, but they didn't exactly dominate anyone. The Eagles looked terrible last week and very much in need of the return of Michael Vick.
Putting aside the Vikings game, the Giants allow an average of 254 yards a game through the air, have allowed 14 touchdowns and generated only five interceptions. Vick took good care of the ball before he was hurt—oddly enough against these very same Giants. He's a solid start this week against a Giants team who didn't show us anything impressive in its win over the Vikings.
Ben Roethlisberger—Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
Roethlisberger hasn't been a complete disaster this season for fantasy GMs, but he went from a fringe No. 1 quarterback to a "matchups only" guy at best. This happens to be one of those matchups, though.
Against Baltimore, Big Ben struggled, but the three weeks prior he played well, throwing the ball for 406 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago, 383 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota and 264 yards and a touchdown against the Jets.
While he turned the ball over five times in the first four games, he hasn't thrown an interception in the last two weeks. The Raiders are a middling defense—only a little better than Minnesota and Chicago—who don't generate many sacks or turnovers. While the offensive line is still an issue for Roethlisberger, this week it should be less of a problem against a defensive line which doesn't generate much pressure.
Bye-Week Running Back Matchups to Like
Knowshon Moreno—Denver Broncos vs. Washington Redskins
Washington's No. 4 ranking against the rush is a bit misleading for a few reasons. First of all, it's only been run on 163 times, which is tied with the Miami Dolphins for the 10th-fewest carries against. The Redskins have also allowed nine touchdowns on the ground, which ties them for first with the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars for most touchdowns allowed.
Last week they allowed Matt Forte to gain 91 yards and three touchdowns, but the week prior they held the entire Dallas backfield to just 48 yards, though again allowed a pair of touchdowns.
Moreno doesn't tend to pierce the 100-yard mark on the ground, but he is very involved in the pass game, so he tops it in terms of total yards. He has scored touchdowns in four straight games and should easily be good in continuing both trends on Sunday as a low-end No. 1 running back or a rock-solid No. 2.
Eddie Lacy—Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Lacy has been outstanding since returning from his concussion, totaling 301 yards on 68 carries—an average of 4.42 yards per carry. While he has only scored one touchdown in that time, he has become more and more involved in receiving the ball, last week catching five passes for 26 yards.
The Packers appear to be absolutely willing to hand him the ball to keep the chains moving and drain the clock and are more than capable of opening holes for him. The Vikings have a middling run defense which has allowed seven touchdowns this season. And while they held the New York Giants to just 64 total yards on the ground, the Giants haven't had a run game all season.
Plus, Peyton Hillis looked like he hadn't missed a day despite skipping football for most of this season. Lacy is primed for a very good day, and you can start him as a No. 2 running back without hesitation.
Stevan Ridley—New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
Yes, Stevan Ridley only had 50 yards (with one touchdown) on the ground against the New York Jets, but they field the No. 2 rush defense and No. 4 overall defense in the league, so it's not a tragedy. The Jets, by the way, have only allowed four other touchdowns on the ground—one to fellow Patriots running back Brandon Bolden in the same game.
So, against the No. 15 run defense that Miami fields, you can expect a better day from Ridley. It's hard to look at the teams Miami has played so far to gauge the true strength of its run defense—with the exception of Atlanta, no team it's faced has been a team running the ball well regularly. So don't be turned off by the ranking or its admittedly tough front seven. Ridley and the Patriots offensive line will be able to be successful against a really unproven run defense.
Bye-Week Wide Receiver Matchups to Like
Rueben Randle—New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles
As bad as the Giants have been—and they've been awful—the Eagles are worse. Ranked as the No. 31 pass defense in the league (thanks for keeping them out of the basement Denver!), they have allowed 14 touchdowns (tied with six other teams for third in the league) and have the ninth fewest sacks (15).
While they do have eight interceptions (tied for 10th), they don't bring a lot of the pressure, which has been the downfall of Eli Manning (though you can still expect him to turn the ball over).
While Randle isn't getting targeted a huge amount, he's been putting up good numbers and has scored a touchdown in each of the last three games (two in Week 5 against these same Eagles). With Hakeem Nicks looking like a guy just phoning it in right now, Manning will continue to find the third-year player for scores and targets.
Emmanuel Sanders—Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
While he was largely shut down last week against the Baltimore Ravens, Sanders had been productive the two weeks preceding that and is second only to Antonio Brown in terms of targets from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
As mentioned in the quarterback slide, the Raiders are nothing special against the pass and have allowed plenty of touchdowns through the air. This should be a good week to start Sanders as a flex or No. 3 or 4 wide receiver.
Jeremy Kerley—New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
I've been saying for weeks that Kerley is probably the best option (maybe the only one) in the Jets' passing offense. Over the course of the last three weeks he has seen his targets increase from six to 10 and has scored touchdowns in two of the last three games he's played in.
The Jets and rookie quarterback Geno Smith don't have a lot of options on offense, Stephen Hill is wildly inconsistent and Santonio Holmes has been hurt all season long. Kerley catches a high percentage of the targets he sees and can be dangerous once the ball is in his hands.
Consider him a poor man's Randall Cobb. The Bengals are middle of the road against the pass (ranked No. 13) and have allowed 11 touchdowns through the air with only five interceptions generated.
They do have 18 sacks, so Smith will be under pressure, but that might just mean more short outs and slants for Kerley to run with. In a non-point-per-reception league, Kerley is a No. 3 or 4 receiver. In a point-per-reception league, he's got the upside to be a No. 2 in a pinch.
Bye-Week Tight End Matchups to Like
Jordan Reed—Washington Redskins at Denver Broncos
Rookie tight end Jordan Reed had slowly been building some heat as a sneaky fantasy tight end before completely catching fire against the banged up Chicago Bears. In that game he totaled nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.
He and quarterback Robert Griffin III have developed good chemistry, and you can bet RG3 will continue to look for him often. Further, we know the Denver Broncos will put points on the board, so Washington will have to do the same. Don't expect another 134-yard day, but 60-70 yards and a touchdown seem very likely. And if you've just lost Jermichael Finley, Reed might be your guy.
Andrew Quarless—Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
While we did talk about the three potential options at tight end for the Packers, at least for this first week without Finley, Quarless gets the edge. He's the most well-rounded player at the position, and the Packers like to use their tight ends.
The Vikings only have so much to work with in the secondary and will focus on Jordy Nelson first and foremost, possibly with Jarrett Boykin as well given his success last weekend. That leaves the need for a third option. If you are in a tight spot and need a role of the dice, this week Quarless is your guy.
Kyle Rudolph—Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Remember Kyle Rudolph? The favorite target for Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder in 2012? You can be excused if you didn't since Ponder—and Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave—seems to have forgotten him as well.
Well, Ponder is back from injury and set to headline the offense for the Vikings again this Sunday, and given how precarious his position is, expect him to look for his safety blanket a lot. There's a good chance the Packers get out in front early here, which means the Vikings will throw. When Ponder checks down—and he will often—Rudolph should see a lot of targets.
Bye-Week Team Defense Matchups to Like
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There is some trepidation with this matchup because Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon discovered he can throw to Vincent Jackson last week. Still, the front seven for the Panthers should have Glennon craning his neck like a giraffe trying to track lions. On more plays than not, it will work out just like it does for the giraffe—not well. This is a good start for the Panthers who have been a pleasant surprise as a fantasy defense this year.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
This is purely a "Hail Mary" start for defense and banks on the idea that Eli Manning's zero interceptions against the Minnesota Vikings was an aberration, not the start of a trend. Prior to that game, Manning had been the most generous guy short of Santa Claus with 15 interceptions in six games.
It's likely he will revert back to that this week, and while you can't expect the four interceptions he had against Denver in Week 2, a pair is likely. And while the Eagles front seven isn't generating a ton of sacks, the Giants offensive line is a shambles, so expect some sacks as well.
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
This is another matchup that is more about the turnovers and sacks than a low-score bonus. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been abominable this season, and over the last five weeks he has averaged a pair of turnovers each week and actually hasn't gone even one game without turning the ball over.
The Cardinals offensive line has been awful as well, and it is ranked No. 11 in sacks, with 20 so far as well as 47 quarterback hits. This is a great matchup for a Falcons defense which hasn't sparkled all the time this season.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Fellow Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is supposed to return to action against Atlanta in Week 9, and while DeAngelo Williams is expected to remain the starter, he hasn't played so well he's untouchable, and his carries will be reduced. Hope he has a big game and sell him immediately after or just try to get a fair price now before Stewart comes back.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Unless Jason Campbell completely surprises everyone (I suppose it could happen) or he is traded before the October 29th trade deadline, Josh Gordon's value is taking a hit. Even if he is traded, who knows if the situation he ends up in will be better for him or his fantasy owners.
Try to play off his Week 6 game and point to his 126 yards and seven catches. Maybe he reaches them, maybe he doesn't, but there is probably a guy on your roster you will be able to trust more, and Gordon might help you fill a hole elsewhere.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
You may not get much for him, but if you can trade on his name, do it. While he still has a chance to produce like his draft slot indicated he was worth, it won't likely be this year. The last few games really sealed the deal, as Richardson didn't even look as good as Donald Brown. As you let that sink in, find someone who wants him and sees potential upside and offload him.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
It would have been nice if the Jets had told us they were ditching Bilal Powell immediately for Chris Ivory, but they didn't. Instead we found out the same time the New England Patriots did after a 104-yard outing.
While you can't get too excited by the output—it took him 34 carries to crack 100 yards and left him with a three yards-per-carry average—as long as Ivory is healthy, it looks like he will get the bulk of the carries. This week won't be great for him (the Cincinnati Bengals are No. 8 against the run), but he'll get plenty of opportunity to produce as a weekly flex with the upside to be a No. 2 fantasy running back on your team.
Andre Brown, New York Giants
Do we really buy that Peyton Hillis is the answer even this year? Brandon Jacobs? Brown is a good bet to take over the job as lead back when he returns, which many are pointing to happening in Week 10.
Brown will have issues behind the destroyed offensive line just like everyone else, but unlike the retreads currently hauling the ball, he has more speed and skill than they have. If he is sitting on someone's roster, find a way to trade for him. Or if he is on the waiver wire and you have room on your bench, snatch him up so you don't lose him to a sniper.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
There are reports that Harvin could end up playing in Week 8, so the window on trading for him or grabbing him off the waiver wire might have snapped shut. It's worth reaching out to the Harvin owner in your league anyway because Harvin could be huge down the stretch for you.
While we know he might have to play a week or two to get into shape, he will get going and in time for the fantasy playoffs. Harvin is a guy who might be difficult to get but is still questionable enough to where some owners might be happy to trade him for help to cover injuries or bye week issues now.
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.