Fantasy Football Week 8: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
The pressure is ramping up in fantasy football leagues.
Sure, if things have gone well this season and you're 6-1 or 5-2 after seven weeks, then there's some margin for error. But if you're 4-3 or 3-4, then there's not much leeway if you want to keep your postseason aspirations on track.
And if you're 2-5, one loss may be all it takes to erase any real chance of making the playoffs.
The later we get into the year, the more every week's game becomes a season unto itself, the more every roster spot becomes its own mini-matchup and the more every lineup decision becomes critical.
This column aims to help with those choices.
Every week, I pick out some lineup questions from the Bleacher Report app and then try to provide answers that will help fantasy managers pile up points and field a winning team.
Let's get down to business.
A Good Problem to Have
I have more than one league in which I desperately wish I could pick two guys from this list as starters in Week 8. Or all three.
Must be nice.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the winless New York Jets in a game that has the makings of the blowout of the week. The rookie has been on a nice roll of late with 161 rushing yards two weeks ago and 63 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in Week 7. But with Le'Veon Bell now in Kansas City, he had just nine touches last week.
The youngster is out.
Ronald Jones II of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is in the midst of a career season. From Week 4 to Week 6, he peeled off three straight 100-yard rushing games. But with Leonard Fournette healthy again, his touch share dropped below 20 last week for the first time since Week 3.
This isn't to say Jones isn't a fine RB2 play in Week 8, but he's not the best back of this bunch. That would be rookie Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts.
Before the Colts had their bye in Week 7, Taylor had his best yardage day of the season with 115 total yards on 16 touches against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Throw in a matchup with a Detroit Lions team that is allowing the fifth-most point-per-reception (PPR) points to running backs in 2020 and Taylor gets the nod here.
The Call: Jonathan Taylor (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,600)
Working the Wire
It would appear that Ronald Jones II is a popular fellow this week.
In this instance, he's also the play over youngster D'Andre Swift of the Detroit Lions. The primary reason is the matchup since Swift draws a brutal one in Week 8 against a stout Indianapolis Colts defense that ranks third in run defense and has given up the fourth-fewest PPR points to running backs this year.
At wide receiver, it's off to the waiver wire we go.
Emmanuel Sanders of the New Orleans Saints has a bad matchup with a Chicago Bears team allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. As for Michael Gallup of the Dallas Cowboys, it's hard to put much fantasy faith in anyone on that reeling team right now.
Sterling Shepard of the New York Giants functioned as the team's No. 1 receiver last week, reeling in six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. With Odell Beckham Jr. out for the season, Rashard Higgins of the Cleveland Browns will step into a much larger role for the Cleveland Browns. Nelson Agholor of the Las Vegas Raiders has been on quite the roll of late, posting three straight games with a touchdown catch and a 5/107/1 line last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It's Agholor who wins out here because of his matchup. The Browns have been both susceptible to deep passes and kind to opposing wide receivers in 2020. No team in the AFC has surrendered more PPR points to the position this season.
4 Is a Crowd(er)
Seven weeks into the 2020 season, Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers is sixth in the NFL in targets (64), seventh in receptions (44) and 14th in PPR fantasy points per game among wide receivers (17.4). He's a go.
So is Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions. His matchup in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts isn't good, but the 26-year-old has topped 100 receiving yards in each of his last two games and scored in the two before that.
That leaves Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings and Jamison Crowder of the New York Jets.
Crowder has been a bright spot in a dark season for the Jets. He's caught at least seven passes during every game in which he has played and has gone over 100 yards three times. But he missed Week 7 with a groin injury and draws a Kansas City Chiefs team that has surrendered the third-fewest points per game to receivers in 2020.
When last we saw Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, he was torching the Atlanta Falcons for a 9/166/2 line. It marked the rookie's third 100-yard game of the season, and he gets the final spot.
The running back call is an easy one. With Phillip Lindsay of the Denver Broncos in the league's concussion protocol, Melvin Gordon III could see a heavy workload Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
That gives him a clear edge over Leonard Fournette of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Process of Elimination
The running back end of this question may well answer itself.
Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals missed last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns with a foot injury that got him labeled "week-to-week." There are legitimate concerns with Le'Veon Bell's workload in Kansas City and the crumbling offense in Dallas around Ezekiel Elliott, but the smart play for the Bengals with a Week 9 bye on the horizon is to give Mixon the week off.
If Bell and Elliott are the two backs who actually play, then they are the two backs you have to start.
At wide receiver, the considerable fantasy upside possessed by Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions and Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings has already been discussed. They get two spots.
That leaves the flex, which will also be a wideout.
It won't be Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills since he has cooled way off after a red-hot start and gets an unfavorable matchup with the New England Patriots in Week 8.
It also won't be DJ Moore of the Carolina Panthers, who had a huge game against the New Orleans Saints in Week 7 and has a favorable Week 8 tilt with the Atlanta Falcons on tap. But for most of the season, he has taken a back seat to Robby Anderson.
That leaves Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals against a Tennessee Titans team that ranks fourth in PPR points allowed to wide receivers. Higgins has been solid as a rookie, but Boyd has more targets, receptions and yards in 2020.
He gets spot No. 3.
The Call: Ezekiel Elliott (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,400), Le'Veon Bell (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,600), Kenny Golladay (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,600), Justin Jefferson (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,500), Tyler Boyd (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,600)
Like a Phoenix from the Ashes
I swear some of these questions are posted just to make me feel bad about my teams. This is a solid set of fantasy options at wide receiver.
But first, is there going to be a question this week that doesn't include Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings?
The rookie has been excellent. He's been productive. With Green Bay Packers corner Jaire Alexander likely to cover Adam Thielen on Sunday, Jefferson could see a big target load in Week 8. Roll him out.
Do not, however, roll out CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys offense imploded last week in Washington, and there's a real possibility Ben DiNucci will be the team's starting quarterback against the Philadelphia Eagles this week.
Marquise Brown of the Baltimore Ravens is out, too. The Ravens rank toward the bottom of the NFL in passing yards, and Brown and Lamar Jackson just haven't been able to get in sync this year.
Robert Woods of the Los Angeles Rams is a somewhat surprising pass, too. The Miami Dolphins aren't a bad fantasy matchup for wide receivers, but they aren't a great one, either. Woods has also been in a bit of a funk. He hasn't hit 100 yards since Week 1 and has just one game with more than five targets over the last three contests.
A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans and Brandon Aiyuk of the San Francisco 49ers are the lucky winners of the Nos. 2 and 3 spots. Brown has four touchdowns over his last three games and gets a Cincinnati Bengals defense in Week 8 that just allowed five touchdown passes to the Cleveland Browns.
Aiyuk will be San Francisco's No. 1 receiver Sunday with Deebo Samuel out against a Seattle Seahawks team that leads the league in PPR points allowed to wideouts by a wide margin.
It's Good to Be Needed
This is an interesting question with variables galore.
The first (and arguably biggest) is the health of lead back Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers and Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals. As was already mentioned, Mixon is more likely than not to sit out Week 8. Per ESPN's Rob Demovsky, Jones is a decent bet to join him as a spectator.
We'll assume, for argument's sake, that both sit.
It isn't worth dropping either of them for most of those alternative backs, though.
Carlos Hyde of the Seattle Seahawks has a terrible Week 8 fantasy matchup against the San Francisco 49ers and is nicked up. Leonard Fournette has to share touches with Ronald Jones II for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tevin Coleman of the 49ers hasn't played since Week 2. La'Mical Perine plays for the New York Jets.
However, JaMycal Hasty of the Niners is interesting after tallying 57 yards on nine carries last week against the New England Patriots. Dropping Jamaal Williams or Giovani Bernard for him is a toss-up, but it's worth finding him a place on the roster.
This call should come down to which back faces the team that has been the most generous to running backs in 2020. But all of them have matchups that are all but identical, so we're left with a judgment call.
That call is Williams. The Minnesota Vikings are (barely) the best matchup of the lot, and the Packers have the best odds of a positive game script for the ground game Sunday.
The Call: Jamaal Williams (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,100)
Youth Is Served
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers are two of the best to ever play the game at the quarterback position. Both signal-callers have posted 5,000-yard seasons. Both have won the Super Bowl. Both will one day be enshrined in Canton. Of that, there is no doubt.
But from a fantasy perspective in 2020, both have been (by their standards, at least) rather blah.
Seven weeks in, Roethlisberger has topped 300 passing yards just one time. He's thrown three touchdown passes in a game just twice. And the 38-year-old ranks 21st in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks in NFL.com's default fantasy scoring.
Brees, on the other hand, has hit the 300-yard mark twice. But he also has just one game with three touchdowns. Seven weeks in, Brees is 14th in fantasy points per game under center.
That's slightly higher than Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, who checks in 16th in fantasy points per game. But Burrow has hit 300 yards five times and 400 yards once, and he's thrown three scoring passes on two occasions.
Add in that Burrow has the most favorable Week 8 matchup of the lot against a Tennessee Titans team that has given up the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year and the first overall pick of the 2020 draft is the best play here.
Drop Roethlisberger and pick him up.
The Call: Joe Burrow (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,200)
An Ugly Bunch
Between bye weeks and injuries, more than a few fantasy managers are feeling the pinch at running back and searching for someone who might serve as a backfield Band-Aid in Week 8.
We'll assume that by Perine, this commenter means La'Mical Perine of the New York Jets and not third-string running back Samaje Perine of the Cincinnati Bengals.
The rookie from Florida had his best game as a pro in Week 7 against the Buffalo Bills, tallying 55 total yards and a touchdown on 13 touches. But he is hard for fantasy managers to trust given head coach Adam Gase's baffling insistence on having Frank Gore fall forward 12-plus times per game.
Not that long ago, Damien Harris would have been an easy "yes." But since piling up 100 rushing yards on 17 carries against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, he has all but vanished from the scuffling New England Patriots offense, posting 77 yards on 16 carries over the past two games.
That leaves Wayne Gallman of the New York Giants, who became New York's de facto lead back last week when Devonta Freeman hurt his ankle.
Gallman had 15 touches for 54 yards and a score against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7, and that workload makes him a tempting option in Week 8 if Freeman sits. But he also draws a brutal fantasy matchup Monday night with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their league-leading run defense.
That matchup rules out Gallman, and Harris' ping-ponging workload is a dealbreaker.
Start Perine and hope Gase comes to his senses or the rookie back racks up some garbage-time stats against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Call: La'Mical Perine (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,300)
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
Ah, value. It's what wins championships in season-long fantasy leagues and cold hard cabbage in DFS.
The cheapest of these backs is Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the Kansas City Chiefs at $6,500. The problem is that he's less inexpensive and more a waste of salary resources. The New York Jets have admittedly been a plus matchup for running backs, allowing the sixth-most DraftKings points to running backs. But with Le'Veon Bell lurking, his workload is cloudy.
Cloudy is not good.
Next up is Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colts at $6,600. The rookie running back had 115 total yards in his last game and gets a top-three matchup with the Detroit Lions in Week 8. But before that Week 6 tilt with the Cincinnati Bengals, he hadn't topped 100 total yards in a game since Week 2.
That leaves the speediest option in Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns. There have been reports that Nick Chubb could be close to a return, which would derail the Hunt gravy train. But that's not going to happen Sunday against a Las Vegas Raiders team allowing the most DraftKings points to running backs of any team in the AFC.
Hunt has touchdowns in five of seven games this year, 15 or more total touches in an equal number of contests and a lights-out matchup.
High floor. Higher ceiling. You name it and Hunt has it.
He's worth the extra cheese in Week 8.
The Call: Kareem Hunt (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,900)
As is the case each and every week, I'll close out this start/sit column by strapping into my rocket of rightness and slamming out some more app questions rapid-fire style.
Have more Week 8 lineup questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend at least a couple of hours there each Friday and Saturday to help readers set their lineups.
cd00421 needs some wide receiver help: "Pick 2 WRs to fill out the roster. Diontae Johnson, JuJu [Smith-Schuster], [Rashard] Higgins or Scotty Miller?'
With Chris Godwin (finger) ruled out of Monday's game against the New York Giants, Scotty Miller (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,000) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is an easy yes. Higgins is out here since the Cleveland Browns' low-volume passing game caps his ceiling. That leaves JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,500) of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens. Smith Schuster was the No. 1 receiver for the team entering the season, but it's Johnson who has been producing. He gets the second spot.
Ravens25 is choosing between two elite quarterbacks:"[Russell] Wilson or [Aaron] Rodgers?"
Show-off. Russell Wilson has been off the chain this year, but the Seattle Seahawks face a San Francisco 49ers team that is giving up the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2020. Aaron Rodgers (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,600) of the Green Bay Packers gets a top-10 matchup with a Minnesota Vikings team he torched for 364 passing yards and four touchdowns back in Week 1. You can't go wrong here, but Rodgers is the guy.
More quarterback help is needed by Dinkleman17: "Do I start [Teddy] Bridgewater vs. Atlanta or [Justin] Herbert vs. Denver?"
Teddy Bridgewater has a much better matchup. Only the Seahawks have allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Atlanta Falcons. But Justin Herbert (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,900) of the Los Angeles Chargers has been fantastic as a rookie. His ceiling is worth a bit of added risk.
brburner has a touch of the yips…maybe: "[Travis] Fulgham or [Stefon] Diggs?"
Travis Fulgham has been solid for the Philadelphia Eagles Over the past three games, he ranks third in PPR fantasy points among receivers. Stefon Diggs (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,800) of the Buffalo Bills was fifth among wideouts over the first five weeks of the season, but his production has tailed off recently. Still, even in a primo matchup, I'm not ready to start Fulgham over Diggs. Call me stubborn.
rhuber0530 is looking for tight end advice: "[Darren] Waller or Jonnu [Smith]?"
Jonnu Smith of the Tennessee Titans has been solid for fantasy managers this season. He's sixth in PPR fantasy points at the position and averages over a dozen per game. But as good as he has been, Darren Waller (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,600) of the Las Vegas Raiders has been even better. He also gets a Cleveland Browns defense this week that has had all kinds of trouble defending the middle of the field.
Fulgham made it into another question from hunterrobison52: "Melvin Gordon, A.J. Green or Travis Fulgham?"
Usually, the smart play would be to defer to the running back with a more consistent workload. But even when Gordon has been the featured back in Denver, he hasn't been especially impressive. The Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green has been better of late, but he hasn't been as productive as Travis Fulgham (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,900) of the Eagles, who squares off with a Dallas Cowboys secondary Sunday night that couldn't cover a bed with a sheet.
Finally, wiscosports wants some RB help: "Who to start at RB…Myles Gaskin or Giovani Bernard?"
Myles Gaskin of the Miami Dolphins has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers in 2020, but the 23-year-old has a new quarterback in Week 8 (Tua Tagovailoa) and draws a bottom-10 fantasy matchup with the Los Angeles Rams. Assuming Joe Mixon sits, roll out Giovani Bernard (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,800) against the Tennessee Titans.
Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year.
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