It’s another important week here as you continue to jockey for position in the standings and look towards making the playoffs. But it’s not just about winning your game. Yes, winning is by far and away the most important thing, but you also have to maximize your total points. With tiebreakers and playoff seedings determined by total points scored, you have to make sure that you’re not leaving anything on the bench.
In addition to that, you need to make sure that you’re being both active and savvy on the waiver wire. If there is dead weight on your roster, clear it out. Get somebody that has a better chance at cracking your lineup than some of the filler you’ve got sitting there. And if there’s no one out there that you’re enamored with, play defensively. If you are loaded at the running back position and have the number one waiver priority, don’t waste it on another wide receiver you’ll never use. Use it on Rashad Jennings or LaRod Stephens-Howling and work the trade phones. Who knows, maybe you’ve got an owner desperate for some backfield help and flush with receivers which could possibly net you a better player for your combo package.
And if no one wants to make a deal, well then screw them. Hold that running back on your bench while your competition struggles with the likes of Joique Bell and Evan Royster. There’s nothing wrong with picking up guys to prevent others from grabbing them and using them against you.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at the game match-ups for Week 8 and see what kind of fantasy deliciousness we can find…
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Well, first off, let’s be clear about the fact that Josh Freeman and the Bucs’ offense are not going to have as strong a week here against the Vikings that they did last week against the Saints. The New Orleans defense is a joke, from top to bottom, and a Pop Warner team could probably put points up on them. The Vikings give up an average of just 219 passing yards per game and have given up just eight passing touchdowns all season. Their run defense is even better. So temper your expectations for Freeman, Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin.
For the Vikings, it should be an interesting game. The Bucs’ pass defense is terrible, but Christian Ponder has struggled in two of his last four games and has thrown two INTs in each of his last three. Not to mention, Percy Harvin is dealing with a knee tweak and while he should still play, his success is still tied to Ponder’s game level. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson will be a nice test for the Tampa run D. Are they as good as their number three ranking or is it because everyone just opts to pass on them all day long?
San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns
OK, Philip Rivers owners…it’s now or never here, right? The Browns pass defense ranks 28th in the league so this should be a cakewalk and the breakout you’ve been waiting for all season. Or so you think. Be careful here as the Browns are really only allowing an average of 277 passing yards per game and while they’ve allowed 15 passing touchdowns, they also have 10 interceptions and 18 sacks. So while Rivers has the potential for putting up decent numbers, don’t expect it to be a squeaky clean game for him. Ryan Mathews, on the other hand, should have some fun against a team that allows an average of 133.7 rushing yards per game.
On the other side, the Browns face another tough test as they are likely to be without Trent Richardson again. There’s a chance he suits up, but probably only in a limited fashion. That means more touches for Montario Hardesty but against the number one run defense that allows an average of just 71.2 yards per game. The passing game should fare a little better as the Chargers D has given up 14 passing touchdowns on the year. Brandon Weeden will be looking for Josh Gordon and Greg Little in the endzone again as they seem to be jelling on the field a little more lately.
Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions
It’s difficult to endorse anyone on the Lions’ offense with the way they have played this year and a match-up with a tough Seattle defense doesn’t help. While Matthew Stafford hasn’t been completely awful this year, he certainly isn’t living up to expectations with just five touchdowns to six interceptions. Even Calvin Johnson, who may have 592 receiving yards, has just one touchdown and has failed to produce double digit points in three of his six games in standard leagues. I will say that Ryan Broyles intrigues me and he might be a better pick-up than Titus Young. I mean, if Young was that good, don’t you think he would have surpassed Nate Burleson on the depth chart already?
As for the Seahawks, it’s probably going to be all about Marshawn Lynch, at least to start. The Lions run defense allows an average of 108.8 rushing yards per game while the pass defense ranks fourth in the league. Maybe Russell Wilson catches Sidney Rice or Doug Baldwin in the endzone, but none of them project to have big games here.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers
While the focus is always on the Packers passing game, it’s about time people started to pay attention to Alex Green. He’s yet to crack the century mark since earning the starting job, but this match-up could be exactly what he needs to get going as the Jags allow an average of 147.3 rushing yards per game and have given up eight rushing touchdowns this season. That doesn’t mean James Jones and Randall Cobb can’t have strong games, but I’m calling for Jordy Nelson to be a bust this week.
For the Jags, it’s all going to come down to Rashad Jennings who draws the start with Maurice Jones-Drew on the shelf with a sprained foot. The Packers’ run defense allows almost 110 rushing yards per game and have coughed up five rushing touchdowns. As for the passing attack, the plan is for Blaine Gabbert (torn labrum in the non-throwing shoulder) to play, but how effective things will really be remain in question.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
The last time these two teams squared off, Mark Sanchez threw for over 300 yards and a touchdown but had two INTs. With his newfound relationship with Jeremy Kerley, a healthy Stephen Hill, and a returning Dustin Keller, he just might be able to repeat those totals. The last time these two teams squared off, Shonn Greene rushed for just 40 yards on 19 carries. He, too, just might be able to repeat those totals as well.
The Jets defense is far from what it was when these teams met in Week 3 which should help Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline put up some decent fantasy points. But given the fact that the Jets run defense allows an average of 147.7 rushing yards per game, this week might just be all about Reggie Bush.
Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
If you thought the Panthers ground game was a disaster before, just wait until the tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart tries their luck against the Bears defense. It’s not going to be pretty. But similarly to last week, a strong defensive pass rush should lead to Cam Newton picking up some decent rushing yardage. Whether Newton can pass on them will be a different story, but I still believe in Brandon LaFell for the second half.
While Brandon Marshall has been the focal point of the Bears offense, this week could belong to Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery. The Panthers run defense gives up an average of 120.3 rushing yards per game while they’ve also done a solid job of clamping down on opposing teams’ number one wide receiver. Number two…not so much. Really deep league owners may want to give Michael Bush a go here if you don’t have any full-time alternatives.
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
This should be an interesting match-up as the Philadelphia defense has been rock solid this season against both the rush and the pass and the Falcons are coming off a bye and have had two weeks to prepare. Matt Ryan does a fantastic job of giving equal targets to Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones and Michael Turner should see his usual 15 touches, so it’s a little tough to predict who will have the best day, but based on numbers against the Eagles pass D, it could skew towards White and Gonzalez.
This looks like a golden opportunity for LeSean McCoy this week as the Falcons D allows an average of 143.8 rushing yards per game while also giving up an additional 35 yards per game to the running back on passes out to the flat. While the Falcons passing defense keys in on Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, look for Jason Avant to potentially have a decent game. If you’re desperate due to bye week troubles, he may be worth a look.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Rumor has it that Donald Brown is already practicing and could make an appearance on Sunday against the Browns. It’s tough to believe that he is really ready, but even just the mention of him being on the field kills the value of Vick Ballard which is a shame as the match-up is so tasty. But seeing how bad the Titans’ defense is, you can imagine how much Andrew Luck will want to throw. Reggie Wayne could have a huge day; as could Donnie Avery.
The Colts may not give up a whole lot of yardage through the air each week, but they’ve given up 13 passing touchdowns and quarterbacks are averaging a 102.2 passer rating against them. I like both Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright in this match-up. I also like for Chris Johnson to maintain his momentum and gash through the Indy run defense which already allows an average of 143.7 yards per game with eight rushing touchdowns on the year.
New England Patriots at St. Louis Rams
Let me preface this blurb with a declaration that I hate these mid-season trips across the pond. If Europe was so keen on seeing American football, then the World League wouldn’t have been such a colossal disaster. But that’s not why I’m against it. I don’t like it because I think with the added travel and the dramatic difference in time zones, the players are adversely affected on both a physical and mental level. So while you’ve got the high-octane offense of the Pats who can always put up a ton of points as well as the potential to see Sam Bradford and Brandon Gibson carve up that feeble Patriots’ secondary, I would say that you should probably hedge your bets. Don’t keep them benched just because of the trip, but definitely lower your expectations.
Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers
We’re going to see a little more of what Robert Griffin III is made of here as he has now lost his top target, Fred Davis, in addition to losing his number one receiver, Pierre Garcon, who is not going to be back this week. He’ll may have a tough time leaning on Alfred Morris who faces a tough task against a stout Steeler run defense, so look for him to get comfortable with Leonard Hankerson and new tight end Logan Paulsen this week.
With the Redskins pass defense in such shambles, we may not have to worry about the Steelers backfield, which is loaded with both promise and injury. Jonathan Dwyer had a fierce game last week and will probably be looked to for major support yet again as both Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall missed practice on Wednesday and are likely to be listed as questionable for the week. Look for Heath Miller to have a strong game as the Skins allow an average of 81.1 yards per game to opposing tight ends.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
This could be a big week for both Darren McFadden and Denarius Moore as they are the primary weapons facing the Chiefs’ bigger weaknesses. Aside from allowing an average of 125 rushing yards per game, the Chiefs give up an average of 57.1 receiving yards on plays where the running back is targeted. As for Moore, the Chiefs seem to have trouble containing a team’s top wide receiver and are ranked 27th in the league against an opponent’s top guy in yardage and touchdowns allowed against the position.
The Raiders run defense has been clamping down on the opposition recently, but still give up an average of 102.2 yards per game so while they should do a decent job containing Jamaal Charles, he could still have himself a productive afternoon for you. But he certainly can’t do it alone so it’s going to be a nice test for Brady Quinn. The Raiders have a tough time containing the opposition’s top wide receiver, so Dwayne Bowe should be ready for a nice day. The question is, can Quinn get him the ball?
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
The Giants will be looking for a little payback in this rematch of Week 1 and with Dallas losing Sean Lee for the season, the run defense could struggle is Ahmad Bradshaw brings his A-game. But the Giants have really grown into a passing-first team with Eli Manning at the helm, so look for them to get a healthier Hakeem Nicks involved early and often and I’ve got Martellus Bennett on my radar for some nice red zone work.
Dallas may have a tough time running the ball as Felix Jones is likely starting but is also dealing with a banged up knee. That should mean more than just third-down work for Phillip Tanner who does a better job than Jones between the tackles. The Giants do a great job against the opposition’s tight ends so don’t expect a big day out of Jason Witten, but Dez Bryant should fare pretty well. And, of course, let’s not forget what Kevin Ogltree did to them in Week 1. The Giants are allowing an average of 72.5 receiving yards per game to teams’ number three wideouts.
New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
Do I even need to say anything about the Denver offense here and how you should have all your Broncos active for this one? The Saints’ defense is horrible all around and if the Bucs can put up 30-plus points against them, well then so can Peyton Manning and the boys.
The Broncos’ defense may give up an average of 115 rushing yards per game, but given the game the Saints play, Pierre Thomas is a borderline start, at best. It’s hard to imagine that Champ Bailey will shadow just Marques Colston all game, so he and Lance Moore should fare pretty well, as should Jimmy Graham if he plays without limitations. As always, Darren Sproles makes for a very nice play in PPR leagues and should also have some decent value in standard leagues as well.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Don’t expect to see the 49ers get too crazy with Colin Kaepernick and their version of the wildcat offense as it has been reported that quarterback Alex Smith has been adversely affected by its over use and that it is killing his rhythm. And given the strength of the Arizona pass D, the Niners will likely keep it simple. The run D is a little softer, allowing an average of 120.9 yards per game, so expect another day riding on Frank Gore’s shoulders.
Obviously the Niners have one of the best overall defenses in the game, but they have now allowed back-to-back 110 yard rushers. Of course those games were against full-time veteran backs while the Cardinals continue to test-drive LaRod Stephens-Howling. The problem with using him for fantasy is that if he struggles at all early, William Powell will likely see an increase in carries. The pass defense is just as tough as the run D, so don’t expect mammoth days from Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Roberts. Tight end Rob Housler could be a decent sleeper for some yardage.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For questions, thoughts or comments you can find him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or you can email him at email@example.com.