Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 8: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IOctober 21, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 19:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys passes against the New York Giants in the first half at AT&T Stadium on October 19, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Seven weeks into the fantasy football season, owners are either riding high or looking for answers. Regardless of the current record, there's still a chance to make a comeback—in some cases, that has to start now.

By studying up on matchups for their top fantasy players, owners can make smart choices on whom to start. Sure, Ben Tate didn't exactly explode against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7, but several others shined against weaker opponents.

Looking at the upcoming matchups, it's easier to determine which players will have great performances this week. Before the eighth game of the season for fantasy owners, here's a look at some of the smartest matchup plays, sleepers and even some players to avoid.

Top Matchup Plays

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. WAS)

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These days, fantasy owners really don't need a reason to start Tony Romo. But with the Dallas Cowboys signal-caller facing a horrid Washington Redskins pass defense, he might put up his best numbers of the season.

In his last five games, Romo has passed for at least two touchdowns and has over 250 yards passing in four of those contests. Against the New York Giants, the Cowboys signal-caller had a season-high three touchdowns and just six incomplete passes.

ESPN Stats & Info takes a look at how impressive Romo was in the second half:

Dez Bryant should also have a huge game against this awful pass defense, while DeMarco Murray should be tested. In a Monday Night Football matchup of hated rivals, fantasy owners of anyone in the Cowboys' passing game should be a winner.

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions (at ATL)

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 19: Golden Tate #15 of the Detroit Lions celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown against the New Orleans Saints  at Ford Field on October 19, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

With Calvin Johnson either out or limited in recent weeks, Golden Tate has been the receiver to own from the Detroit Lions.

Over the last four weeks, Tate has received a total of 35 targets and has three games of 100 yards or more. Having two touchdowns over that span as well, Tate looks like a huge offensive weapon and a potential WR2 for fantasy owners.

News of Megatron traveling with the team likely has owners of Tate skeptical, but that likely won't be a huge deal. The Lions' official Twitter account noted the latest on Johnson from coach Jim Caldwell:

Even if Johnson does suit up, Tate already has a great connection with Matthew Stafford. Facing an awful Atlanta Falcons defense that has surrendered 23.60 points to wide receivers on average, expect Tate to post huge numbers yet again.

Sleepers to Utilize

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings (at TB)

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 19:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings throws against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 19, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Rookie quarterbacks aren't exactly safe picks to bet on, but man, what a matchup for Teddy Bridgewater in Week 8.

Bridgewater has been the farthest thing from a fantasy breakout this season, but he can shine against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are giving up the most passing yards per game (294.5) and gave up a career-high five touchdowns to Joe Flacco prior to the bye.

ESPN Stats & Info noted how significant the Week 7 touchdown was for the Vikings offense:

Sure, Bridgewater might not put up the massive numbers of big-name quarterbacks, but this will be his week to break out. Going against a porous pass defense, the former Louisville quarterback can finally prove himself in Tampa Bay.

After throwing his first touchdown against the Buffalo Bills, look for several more in Week 8. He might not be perfect, but he can be a worthy replacement for someone like Colin Kaepernick in deep leagues.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (vs. GB)

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 14:  Mark Ingram #22 of the New Orleans Saints gets past the defense of Christian Kirksey #58 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Mil
Jason Miller/Getty Images

A player has just 29 total yards last week and he's worth a start the next week? Well, that's the way things work when looking at opposing defenses.

In Week 7, Mark Ingram made his return quietly with 10 touches in the running game and two receptions. A Khiry Robinson fumble helped, but it appears Ingram is once again the running back to own from the New Orleans Saints.

John Paulsen of 4for4.com offered his thoughts on Ingram:

Prior to his injury, Ingram tallied three touchdowns over two games and looked the part of the lead back. Going against a Green Bay Packers defense that has allowed 147.9 rushing yards per game and seven touchdowns on the ground, look for Ingram to step up on Sunday night.

Lower Your Expectations

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (at DEN)

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21:   Keenan Allen #13 of the San Diego Chargers warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Not all hope is lost with Keenan Allen, but any turnaround for the receiver likely won't start against the Denver Broncos.

The San Diego Chargers travel to Denver on a short week and face a Broncos team that has been decent against the pass. Denver has allowed 242.3 passing yards per game but has given up many of those yards late in contests.

In fact, the only passing touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers came from Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter. Alessandro Miglio of Bleacher Report also points out one of the reasons for Allen slumping this season:

Owners might still be holding onto Allen to see if he can finally be a worthy receiver, but this won't be the week where he turns the corner.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (at ARI)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 12: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 runs with the ball during a football game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on October 12, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Giants 27-0.  (Photo b
Evan Habeeb/Getty Images

After using a first-round pick on LeSean McCoy, owners have seen him begin to break out recently. However, a matchup with the Arizona Cardinals is enough to make any running back head to the bench.

McCoy will take on an Arizona team that is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and has allowed just four touchdowns on the ground. Unless he's implemented more in the passing game, McCoy should have a difficult time finding any holes.

Having just 16 receptions for 74 yards through the air, McCoy struggling as a rusher might ruin a week for owners. It's impossible to bench McCoy, but expectations should be lowered in a tough matchup. 

All ownership and statistics courtesy of ESPN leagues.