Start 'Em or Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football Week 8
Heading into the eighth week of the fantasy season, playoff races are starting to take shape. Some owners are sitting pretty at 6-1 or 5-2 and thinking about locking up a first-round bye. Some unfortunate souls are 1-6 or 2-5 and trying to figure out where it all went so horribly wrong.
But an even larger group are sitting at 3-4 or 4-3. There's still plenty of time to make a postseason push, but there also isn't much margin for error. Every week's game is crucial. Every weekly matchup within that game even more so.
Being faced with all those lineup decisions—any one of which can be the difference between a win or a loss—is enough to give fantasy owners a headache. And heartburn. And maybe even headburn.
Well, I'm here to help—with the fantasy football equivalent of some Advil and Alka-Seltzer.
As has been the case every week this season, I've taken a look at start/sit questions on the Bleacher Report app and selected some that will help offer insight into players who could be in for big games or even bigger disappointments.
Let's get great in Week 8!
OK. That gave me headburn too.
Still can't figure out your fantasy football lineup for the week? Check out Your Fantasy Fire Drill with Matt Camp, and he'll solve your problems live. Submit your questions and tune in every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET, only on the B/R app.
The Edmonds Conundrum
There's no better place to start the Week 8 edition of this column than with the man who single-handedly carried you to victory in Week 7, beat you all by himself or drove you to the liquor cabinet by 3 p.m. on Sunday because he was languishing on your bench.
Where Arizona Cardinals tailback Chase Edmonds was concerned, it was that third one in an alarming percentage of leagues. That's understandable—once David Johnson was declared active for Week 7, most fantasy owners assumed Edmonds would be relegated to a reserve role.
Instead, Johnson barely played, and Edmonds went ballistic—27 carries, 126 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the New York Giants.
That's a beefy stat line.
Of course, now Edmonds owners are right back in the same boat, wondering what to do if Johnson is active in Week 8 against the New Orleans Saints.
The answer is simple: Don't make the same mistake twice.
Johnson is battling a knee injury. And a back injury. And an ankle injury. He's so banged up that the Redbirds added veteran tailback Alfred Morris earlier this week.
The worst-case scenario appears to be that Edmonds shares carries with Johnson. The more plausible one is the Cardinals rest Johnson for at least a couple of weeks and use Edmonds as a featured back.
Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
The Call: Heck yes, start Edmonds.
The Other New Back on the Block
Chase Edmonds isn't the only young running back being thrust into a larger role in Week 8 by an injury. With Kerryon Johnson of the Detroit Lions on injured reserve with a knee injury, rookie Ty Johnson will presumably take over early-down duties in Motown.
Johnson is a talented young runner who averaged 7.7 yards per carry at Maryland last year. The Lions thought enough of him to cut loose veteran C.J. Anderson earlier this season, but in this particular situation, in Week 8 at least, Johnson belongs on the bench.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin admittedly draws a tough matchup in Week 8 when the Redskins travel to face the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are tied for sixth in the NFL in total defense, and McLaurin will likely draw Pro Bowl corner Xavier Rhodes in coverage.
McLaurin is also coming off season lows in catches (one) and yardage (11) in last week's loss to the San Francisco 49ers. But that game happened in a driving rainstorm, and from a fantasy perspective, the Vikings have been pretty kind to wide receivers. The team ranks inside the top 10 in points-per-reception fantasy points given up to the position.
Detroit's opponent in Week 8 (the New York Giants) has been similarly generous to running backs this year, but the Lions rank in the bottom half of the NFL in rushing, and Johnson will lose passing-down work to J.D. McKissic.
The wide receiver wins out here.
The Call: McLaurin
Which Hot Hand Under Center?
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume this question involves Kirk Cousins, but the person who asked it shouldn't feel bad. Whether it was Redskins general manager Bruce Allen or Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, Cousins has been called "Kurt" more than once.
What Cousins is being called now is red-hot.
Over his past three games with the Minnesota Vikings, Cousins has averaged over 325 passing yards and three touchdowns per contest. He's got just a single interception in that span. He also leads all NFC quarterbacks in fantasy points over that period.
And yet, this is far from a slam-dunk call. Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions is averaging over 300 passing yards per game in his own right over the past three weeks with seven touchdowns and one interception. He's coming off a 364-yard, four-score outing in last week's loss to the Vikings.
The matchups for the two quarterbacks are comparable as well, at least from a fantasy perspective. The Vikings host the Washington Redskins on Thursday night, while the Lions host the New York Giants on Sunday. Both teams rank outside the top 10 but inside the top 15 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
The deciding factor is twofold. First, while the Giants are bad, they're a better team than Washington. Detroit will also be without the services of tailback Kerryon Johnson, who injured his knee a week ago.
Add those together and you get a Lions team more likely to be throwing in the fourth quarter—and the slightest of edges for Stafford.
The Call: Stafford
Before we get into the weeds with this one, there's one player who can be ruled out right off the bat. Despite the fact that he found the end zone last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals tailback Joe Mixon needs to be glued to fantasy benches until the Cincy ground game shows some signs of life.
Mixon had 10 carries for two yards last week. He had four yards total on 11 touches in the game and has just 43 total yards over the last two games combined.
That leaves Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown, Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde and New York Giants wideout Sterling Shepard.
As things stand right now, Shepard remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. That he still hasn't been cleared over two weeks after suffering it isn't an especially good sign.
Hyde shined in Houston's big win over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago, racking up 116 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also has a touchdown in two of his last three games. Unfortunately, in three of his last five contests, he's also had 12 or fewer carries and/or averaged fewer than three yards a pop.
It's close, but he's out too.
That leaves Brown, who caught five passes for 83 yards and a score last week against the Miami Dolphins. He has caught five passes for at least 69 yards in each of the last three games, and this Sunday the Bills host a Philadelphia Eagles team that has been gouged by opposing wide receivers in 2019.
No team has surrendered more PPR fantasy points to the position this season.
The Call: Brown
Living the Stream
This is a fairly common problem in Week 8. Only two teams are on byes (Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys), but both squads feature quarterbacks who have emerged as solid weekly fantasy starters.
Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns is an easy scratch. He leads the NFL in interceptions, while his opponent (the New England Patriots) leads the league both in takeaways and in fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
Jacoby Brissett of the Colts is coming off maybe the best game of his career—a 326-yard, four-touchdown effort in a huge Week 7 win over the Houston Texans. But while the Denver Broncos (who head to Indy on Sunday) aren't a good football team, they haven't been kind to fantasy quarterbacks. Only two teams have given up fewer fantasy points under center in 2019.
Teddy Bridgewater has been lights-out over his five-game winning streak as quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, passing for nine touchdowns against just two interceptions. Bridgewater and the Saints also draw a favorable fantasy matchup with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, but he has averaged under 250 yards and two scores per start for the Saints. The fantasy ceiling just isn't there.
Never mind that Drew Brees might return to action Sunday against the Cardinals.
He's out too.
That leaves Cousins, who has been on fire of late.
He's the fill-in play here.
The Call: Cousins
I Demand a Recount
So, um…about these options.
They aren't great.
Back in Week 1, New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder caught 14 passes for 99 yards. In a Week 6 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Crowder reeled in six passes for 98 yards. Both are good stat lines in leagues that award a point for receptions.
The problem is that in his other four games, Crowder had 12 catches for 101 yards combined, including a 4/26/0 stat line in Week 7. It didn't help that QB Sam Darnold missed games because of mono.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon III has played in three games since ending his contract holdout. But you wouldn't know it from looking at his production—he's averaging a miserable 2.3 yards per carry and has yet to score on the ground.
Then there's Mohamed Sanu, who changed teams earlier this week when the New England Patriots acquired the 30-year-old receiver in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons. The deal is a big boost for Sanu's fantasy value in the long term, but it's anyone's guess how much action he will see Sunday when the Pats host the Cleveland Browns.
As much as I loathe Gordon's Week 8 matchup in Chicago, he's one of the plays here almost by default—the fifth-year pro has averaged 15 touches per game over the last three weeks.
Hope for a short-yardage score.
Along with Gordon, start Crowder. His target share might be in question, but his snap count (unlike Sanu's) isn't in doubt.
The Call: Crowder and Gordon
Keep Hope Alive
Not that long ago, this wasn't a terrible trio of wide receivers to choose from. But with Tyrell Williams of the Oakland Raiders nursing a foot injury and Emmanuel Sanders trying to acclimate to a new team after a midweek trade from the Denver Broncos to the San Francisco 49ers, the waters here have gotten muddy.
Were Williams healthy, he'd be the play here—the 27-year-old found the end zone in each of the first four games of the season. But he also went down with plantar fasciitis in the fourth game and hasn't played since.
If Williams is active in Week 8, start him, but given the nature of his injury, I expect him to be on the sidelines again Sunday when the Raiders travel to Houston.
That leaves Sanders and Buffalo Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley. Sanders should give a substantial boost to the Niners passing game moving forward, but to date this season, San Francisco's wideouts have done little. Leading stats among the team's wide receivers are just 15 catches and 181 yards through six games.
Beasley's fantasy ceiling is limited, but the 30-year-old at least draws a Philadelphia Eagles defense Sunday that has surrendered the most PPR fantasy points to the position this season.
That matchup offers a glimmer of hope for Beasley in Week 8.
The Call: Beasley
A Good Problem to Have
At first glance, this team appears loaded at wide receiver—maybe the league's other owners were napping during the draft.
The problem is that three of the members of this quartet have taken a fantasy hit as a result of changing circumstances.
The one who hasn't—and the most obvious start—is Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin. There isn't a receiver in the NFL with more PPR fantasy points per game than Godwin. Week 7 was the only week he should've been on the bench—and that's because he was on a bye.
Things get cloudy from there.
Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons has seen his situation put in a blender over the past several days. First, quarterback Matt Ryan suffered an ankle injury that leaves his Week 8 status in doubt. Then veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu was dealt to the New England Patriots.
The potential insertion of Matt Schaub under center is far from ideal. So is Jones' Week 8 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. But he's Julio Jones—you gotta start him.
That leaves the final spot as a battle between Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers and Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen's numbers have cratered of late along with the entire Chargers offense, while Hill will be catching passes from Matt Moore for the next few weeks.
The former is the larger worry. Over his last three games, Allen has just 10 catches for 112 yards. That's not especially likely to reverse Sunday against a stout Chicago Bears defense.
The Call: Godwin, Jones and Hill
The Right DJ Makes the Party
Nothing quite like a good old-fashioned DJ battle.
That's right—Chicago Bears tailback David Montgomery is out before this thing ever gets started. Montgomery is a good young runner who may well have a bright future ahead of him, but he's averaged 3.3 yards per carry in 2019 and touched the ball just four times in last week's loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The Chicago offense is a hot mess right now. Until it gets sorted out (if it gets sorted out), trusting any of the Bears' offensive players is asking for trouble.
That leaves DJ Moore of the Carolina Panthers and DJ Chark Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars. For the season, Chark has been quite a bit more productive—the rookie ranks as the No. 5 PPR wide receiver, a full 21 slots higher than Moore.
Chark also wins the matchup battle in Week 8—by a sizable margin. The New York Jets aren't a great matchup for wide receivers (15th in fantasy points per game allowed), but that beats the rotten matchup facing Moore and the Panthers.
No team in the NFC has allowed fewer FPPG to the wide receiver spot than the 49ers, although Moore should at least dodge Richard Sherman in coverage since both play on the same side of the field.
Chark has a pretty good edge among the two receivers, and that makes him the player to start here.
...At least until that Chicago offense shows a pulse.
The Call: Chark
Time to run some two-minute drill and bang out recommendations rapid-fire style.
smeest90 has the sort of RB problem that makes me jelly. "full PPR need three…[Saquon] Barkley, [Nick] Chubb, [Leonard] Fournette, [Chris] Carson."
Barkley is a must-start any time he's healthy. Fournette has a top-10 matchup with the New York Jets. Chubb's matchup is poor, but I can't sit a guy averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground. Carson is the odd man out.
SirTeeCee needs tight end help. "[Darren] Waller or [Travis] Kelce this week?"
I can't believe I'm saying this—but Waller. We're still not sure how badly Matt Moore will hurt Kelce's stats, and Waller should be peppered with targets against a bad Houston secondary with Tyrell Williams likely to sit again.
JuDaFool isn't sure which running back to start. "[Carlos] Hyde or David Johnson?"
This is an easy call after Johnson barely saw the field last week. Hyde is coming off a down game, but two weeks ago he peeled off 116 yards and a score on 26 carries. There aren't many viable RBs I wouldn't start ahead of a banged-up Johnson in Week 8.
gat_P has an interesting trade question. "Should I trade away Pat Mahomes and roll with Drew Brees the rest of the year? 12 man PPR."
The problem(s) with selling Mahomes now is that you're probably selling at a discount given his injury—although he shockingly practiced Wednesday. Never mind that until we see Brees back in action, we won't know just how healed his bum thumb is. Be patient and give it a week or two. If you decide to make the move then, you'll likely get a better return.
jetlife19 has worries about Odell Beckham Jr. "I have [Cooper] Kupp and [Tyler] Lockett, but I can't trust OBJ against the Patriots defense. Should I trust OBJ or play Kenny Stills or Adam Thielen?"
Thielen wants to give it a go Thursday night, but he's on the wrong side of questionable in a game where the Vikings probably won't need him. I don't blame you one bit for having reservations about Beckham, but I wouldn't sit him in favor of a boom/bust play with an uncertain target share like Stills.
NickelandDime510 needs flex help. "E. Sanders, [Brandin] Cooks, McLaurin, [Jordan] Howard, [Robby] Anderson, [Christian] Kirk."
Sanders just got to San Francisco. Kirk is banged up and has missed time. Howard's carry share has been up-and-down. Robby Anderson's fantasy fortunes depend on Sam Darnold rebounding from a terrible outing. Go with Cooks against a bad Cincinnati defense and McLaurin in a favorable matchup.
fantasy_football has some unappealing flex options. "[Matt] Breida, Corey Davis or DJ Moore at flex. PPR."
Breida missed part of last week's win but appears to be OK for Sunday's tilt with the Carolina Panthers. The matchup isn't great, but he's a surer bet for touches than Davis or Moore.
Finally, Rhettro is looking for some help Monday night. "Should JuJu Smith-Schuster be started this week vs. Miami?"
The Steelers will have Mason Rudolph back under center in Week 8, and the Dolphins have been a disaster defensively in 2019. JuJu isn't the fantasy option he would have been with Ben Roethlisberger healthy, but he's a solid WR2.
Have other fantasy football start/sit questions? Post them here, on the Bleacher Report app or on Twitter @IDPSharks, and I'll do my best to help.
Gary Davenport was the Fantasy Sports Writers Association 2017 Football Writer of the Year.