Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: The sprint to the playoffs is on
Of all the weeks for all of these big injuries to hit, this might be the worst for fantasy owners. Players like Doug Martin, Jermichael Finley and Sam Bradford are now out for at least Week 8, along with an NFL-record six teams that are on byes. Get ready to start some previously forgotten players!
This week is the start of the second half of your fantasy regular season, which is important for several reasons. If you have just one or two losses, you'll need to weather the bye-week storm to set yourself up with a possible bye in the fantasy playoffs. If you have three or four losses, you're hoping to come out of these next bye weeks still within reach of the playoffs. And if you're 2-5, this is your fantasy team's last chance -- let's hope your league's leaders got hit hard by injuries, letting you pull off a 3-0 stretch.
Of course, if you have just one -- or fewer -- wins... well, fantasy basketball season is beginning!
Week 8 byes: Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans
These Week 8 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
• Browns: Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron
Gordon was way too quiet in Week 7 for his fantasy owners, catching just a pair of passes for 21 yards at Green Bay. Even so, Gordon is a special talent and deserves to start in fantasy play no matter what defense he faces -- or who is starting at quarterback. Things aren't going to get better for him and Cameron, as the Chiefs have one of the toughest defenses in the game, and Kansas City recently broke Seattle's record for being the loudest home crowd at an NFL stadium. Cameron is recommended only because of how thin the pickings are this week. The Chiefs haven't allowed a touchdown to a tight end yet this season, and they've given up fewer than 30 receiving yards per game to the position.
• Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Ryan Succop, Chiefs DST
While the Browns defense is averaging fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, this unit has given up nine rushing touchdowns -- which ranks up there with the most in the NFL through seven weeks. Charles started the season with more than 100 yards from scrimmage in seven consecutive games, which has only been done before by O.J. Simpson. While Succop has just two field goals in his past two games, you have to like the Chiefs getting into scoring position frequently against the Browns. The Chiefs defense has 14 sacks in the past two games and leads the NFL with 35 sacks. The Browns offense has given up 27 sacks, which ranks just behind Jacksonville for the most in the NFL.
• Browns: Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Greg Little, Davone Bess, Billy Cundiff, Browns DST
The Browns will change it up and go with Campbell under center over Weeden. Either way, it's an ugly week to be the fantasy owner of several Browns players. The Chiefs defense is strong at every level. Meanwhile, stay away from a Browns defense that has given up 31 points in back-to-back games, registering just two sacks.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano
As good as the Chiefs offense has been, Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the past three weeks! And when he does complete passes, he's throwing them to eight different receivers, which hurts the fantasy value of starters Bowe and Avery.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Phil Dawson, 49ers DST
The Niners are in London, but the NFL rewarded them by scheduling the Jaguars against them in Week 8. While the 49ers passing game should excel this week, expect most of the fantasy players in red to do well. Kaepernick is coming off a very good week, and he has a great matchup against a defense that has given up an NFL-high 15 touchdown passes this season. That also bodes well for Boldin and Davis, obviously. Gore owners won't be left out of the party either, as Jacksonville has already given up over 1,000 rushing yards on the season -- more than any other team.
• Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts
Here's an unkind stat for you: The Jaguars are the first NFL team since 1984 (Oilers) to lose their first seven games by double digits. MJD was shut down against the Chargers, rushing for just 37 yards, and now he faces the NFC champions, on one of those completely unfair home games, on the road in London. Blackmon caught six passes in Week 7, but he remains the most talented player on this team. Shorts rebounded from a shoulder injury in Week 7 to lead the Jaguars with 13 targets and eight catches. Unfortunately for both Jaguars receivers, the Niners defense is tough on wide receivers, allowing just four touchdowns to them all season.
• 49ers: Kendall Hunter
Hunter could actually end up being a sneaky play in weekly leagues, since the 49ers should be in cruise control by the start of the fourth quarter at Wembley Stadium.
• Jaguars: Chad Henne, Blaine Gabbert, Mike Brown, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
Mike Brown had a career game against the Chargers in Week 7, but it's difficult to recommend the third receiver on a horrible team. The Jaguars defense has allowed an NFL-leading 1,073 rushing yards and an NFL-high 15 passing touchdowns. They're good at being bad.
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Patriots DST
It's crazy to think that Brady has just one touchdown pass in his past three games. Total. If you can believe it -- 29 other quarterbacks have scored more fantasy points than Brady in that span. Even so, Gronk is healthy-ish, and Brady continues to build a rapport with his rookie receivers. Ridley's three touchdowns in his past two games are impressive, but his carries are intermittent and it's tough to know when Brandon Bolden will suddenly take more snaps away. Gronk caught eight passes for 114 yards in his first game back, and he's the key to Brady's fantasy second half. The Patriots defense has nine sacks in their past three games, and in a thin week, it looks like an opportunistic play against Ryan Tannehill, who has thrown five interceptions in his past three games.
• Dolphins: Mike Wallace, Charles Clay
The Dolphins draw the Patriots after New England lost to the Jets on a controversial penalty, but Miami had its own late-game penalty problems that cost it against Buffalo. Wallace is coming off a pretty good game (76 receiving yards), but the Patriots are tough on passing games, allowing just eight touchdown passes all season. Clay should get yardage against the Pats, but they have only given up two touchdowns to tight ends this season.
• Patriots: Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson
Bolden continues to take touches away from Ridley, but we just can't recommend starting both of them against a Dolphins defense that's allowing fewer than 80 rushing yards per game. The Patriots' rookie receivers are also suggested sits, considering the Dolphins have yet to allow a touchdown catch to a wide receiver through six games.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins DST
While Tannehill did throw a season-high three touchdown passes against Buffalo, he also threw two interceptions and he now faces a wounded Patriots defense that has been very tough on quarterbacks this season. Hartline hasn't scored since Week 3, and he has 10 catches in his past two games as one of Tannehill's favorite receivers. The rookie kicker has three games this season with one or zero field goals.
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints
• Bills: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson
It's obvious that Spiller still isn't right, and his ankle injury is hurting his fantasy owners as much as it is him. Bills head coach Doug Marrone plans to keep playing his playmaker, despite the slowed mobility. If your fantasy team has one or two losses, with some depth at running back, consider trading a low-end RB2, like Zac Stacy, to a middle-of-the-pack owner desperate for RB help. Once Spiller is healthy again, he'll provide big dividends late. Meanwhile, Jackson (knee) is also playing hurt, but he has four touchdowns in his past four games. Johnson came through with six catches for 61 yards in Week 7, and now owners have to rely on him in a week thin on talent.
• Saints: Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley, Saints DST
You don't need us to tell you to start Brees each week, but feel free to cut whichever quarterback you used during his bye week -- Brees has missed just one start in the past eight seasons. You won't need a backup quarterback. Sproles continues to be among Brees' favorite targets in the passing game. If Graham (foot) is unable to play, Colston should receive more attention from Brees. Even if Graham does play, Colston should still be among the 24 highest scoring fantasy receivers this week. The Bills couldn't tally 300 offensive yards in Week 7, so the Saints defense is a good play in Week 8.
• Bills: E.J. Manuel, Thaddeus Lewis, Tashard Choice, Robert Woods, T.J. Graham, Scott Chandler, Dan Carpenter, Bills DST
Lewis beat the Dolphins in his second start, but fantasy-wise, the Bills are doing everything they can to keep him from making big mistakes. The Saints have given up just two touchdowns and fewer than 40 receiving yards per game to tight ends.
• Saints: Pierre Thomas, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Ben Watson
Watch the status of Graham as the week draws on, since Watson could be a nice play in weekly fantasy leagues if he gets the start. Stills caught his first touchdown pass of his career in his last game out, but he has only been targeted five times in the past two games.
Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions
• Cowboys: Tony Romo, Joseph Randle, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey
In back-to-back weeks, when huge things were expected of Romo in fantasy play, he came up with just one passing touchdown. The Lions are actually pretty strong against the pass, but Romo has earned must-start status because of his arsenal and his early season play. He's still on pace to throw for over 34 touchdowns on the season. Jerry Jones thinks DeMarco Murray (knee) might be able to play at Detroit, which certainly puts a dent in Randle's fantasy value. Whoever starts is worth a look in fantasy. Williams might not relinquish his targets back to Miles Austin (hamstring) if Austin does indeed get shut down for a while.
• Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Kris Durham
With Calvin Johnson (knee) healthy again, Stafford is back to playing like his normal self. Stafford has seven touchdown passes in the past three games, and he's now going up against a Cowboys defense that ranks among the worst at slowing down quarterbacks. He threw the ball 51 times against Cincinnati, and if he does that against the Cowboys, he could tally 400 passing yards. That also makes the Lions WR2, Kris Durham, an intriguing play this week at flex.
• Cowboys: DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Cowboys DST
Austin has been targeted seven times in the past two weeks, but didn't come down with any catches. His hamstring is affecting him, and Williams' play might convince the Cowboys to sit Austin for an extended period.
• Lions: Joique Bell, Ryan Broyles, Joseph Fauria, Brandon Pettigrew, David Akers, Lions DST
Bell is dealing with a rib injury, and while he's still active in the passing game, it's tough to rely on him as a starter in fantasy. Tight ends do well against the Cowboys, but unfortunately, the Lions tight ends are going back and forth in fantasy usefulness. If you rely on one, the other one scores. Akers has just three field goals in his past three games.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
• Giants: Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Reuben Randle
Manning threw for over 300 yards against the Eagles in Week 5, but he also threw three interceptions. With Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler (groin) and even Joe Flacco out this week, Manning is worth a start. While Nicks caught just two passes in Week 7, he was targeted a team-high 10 times. He has 30 targets over the past three weeks. Randle, meanwhile, just gets it done in the red zone -- he has four touchdown catches in three weeks, despite limited targets.
• Eagles: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Alex Henery
Vick has a sore hamstring, but he'll get the start -- and likely be less than 100 percent -- since Nick Foles played poorly and is recovering from a concussion. McCoy is coming off his worst fantasy game of the season against the Cowboys, rushing for just 55 yards. He didn't have a great game against the Giants in Week 5 (46 yards and a touchdown run), but he's still a top-three player and the Giants are coming off a short week. The Eagles' quarterback problems inhibited Jackson's production, but he plays well against the Giants and he totaled 24 points against them in Week 5.
• Giants: Peyton Hillis, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
A hamstring injury kept Jacobs out of the Monday night game against the Vikings, and Hillis scored a touchdown in his place. Unfortunately, the Eagles are bad against the pass, not the run, and the Giants' running back situation is never the same from one week to the next it seems. As bad as the Eagles' pass defense has been (second-worst in the NFL), it still hasn't allowed a touchdown catch to tight ends.
• Eagles: Nick Foles, Matt Barkley, Bryce Brown, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
Foles found out that playing against teams that aren't Tampa Bay, which he is 2-0 against lifetime, is much harder than he thought. Even though Ertz is getting more targets than Celek these days, both are suggested "sits" until they get a reliable, healthy quarterback.
N.Y. Jets at Cincinnati Bengals
• Jets: Chris Ivory, Jeremy Kerley
Head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets chose to use Ivory over Powell against the Patriots -- and they made the right decision. Ivory ran for 104 yards and the more powerful Ivory should be leaned on once again when the Jets travel to the Queen City. The Bengals allowed just 77 rushing yards to the Lions in Week 7, but to be fair, the Lions went to the pass often (51 passes). Don't expect a big game (the Bengals have only given up three rushing touchdowns to running backs this season), but Ivory should do well enough to serve as an RB2 in fantasy. Kerley had his best game of the season against the Patriots, and he now has 15 catches for 184 yards and two touchdown catches in his past two games.
• Bengals: Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones , Bengals DST
While Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are sharing touches almost 50-50 out of the Bengals' backfield, the Jets are very strong against the run. Bernard gets our recommendation here because he has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. Green was due for a huge game -- and he came through last week with 155 yards and a touchdown. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie faces him this week, however, which should dampen his stats a small bit. In a week when just 26 teams are suiting up, Jones is a recommended starter because the Bengals are going to him more and more -- and he has touchdowns in back-to-back games. There's only one Cromartie, also.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Bilal Powell, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeff Cumberland, Jets DST
Smith may have had the best passing day of his young career in Week 7, and the Bengals have had some trouble against the pass, but there are better fantasy QBs to start in 12-team leagues. Only a handful of fantasy tight ends have been better over the past three weeks than Cumberland, so he's worth a gamble as a borderline starter.
• Bengals: Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent
An argument can be made for using Dalton this week, considering he's coming off of back-to-back three-touchdown games, and two 300-yard games. The Jets are better than average against the pass, though, and quarterback is still a bountiful position.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders
• Steelers: Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham
Bell rushed for a season-high 93 yards in Week 7 against the Ravens, and Oakland poses a lesser threat against the run. Brown is coming off his quietest game of the season, with just 50 receiving yards, but he's still one of Big Ben's favorite targets. Miller caught a touchdown pass in Week 7, but he totaled just 17 yards. The Raiders have given up three touchdowns to tight ends this season, but Miller is still worth a look because he's Roethlisberger's second-favorite target.
• Raiders: Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore
McFadden was able to rest his sore hamstring through a bye week, so he should be fine to go in Week 8. Unfortunately, he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3. Don't let the bye week make you forget about Moore's previous four weeks of production: 20 receptions, 356 yards and three touchdowns.
• Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers DST
I moved Big Ben back and forth between start/sit a few times. But he's coming into this game with just one touchdown pass in each of his past three games. Actually, he has more than one touchdown in just one game this season, and the Raiders have had two weeks to prepare for this game. It's hard to believe, but the Steelers defense has forced just two turnovers this season.
• Raiders: Terrelle Pryor, Rod Streater, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders DST
The bye week came at a great time for Pryor, who was sacked nine times by the Chiefs in Week 6. He should bounce back against the Steelers, who have just eight sacks on the season. While the Steelers are strong in coverage, Pryor should be able to get some fantasy points with his legs. Unfortunately, there are better fantasy quarterbacks with better matchups this week. If you don't own one off those QBs, then Pryor is an OK start. After scoring a touchdown in Week 4, Rivera has just three catches for 15 yards in two games. The Raiders defense has just three interceptions this season -- only the Jets and Steelers have fewer picks.
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
• Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant, Falcons DST
If Steven Jackson (hamstring) is healthy, get him in this game, as the Rams have had tough times against running backs, averaging one rushing touchdown allowed per game. The Falcons didn't get the ball to Gonzalez like we had expected against Tampa Bay, but the Cardinals are one of the worst defenses at stopping the position. Since Carson Palmer has thrown 11 interceptions in his past five games, the Falcons DST is worth a look.
• Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Not a lot of fantasy options in Cardinals jerseys lately, and even No. 11 has been a borderline call at different points. But not this week, as he had 10 days to rest his hamstring. The Falcons allowed Vincent Jackson to tear them up, and Fitzgerald should come close to his second 100-yard game of the season.
• Falcons: Jason Snelling, Jacquizz Rodgers, Roddy White
If Jackson or White starts for the Falcons, you'll have to start them in your league also. But if not, Rodgers and Douglas are worth replacements. Douglas had a career day against the Buccaneers, looking like "Julio White" out there.
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler, Cardinals DST
Mendenhall will be a player many are forced to put in their lineups because of bye weeks, but the Falcons are stingy against running backs, allowing just two rushing TDs all year. The Falcons' offense proved it can still be effective even without Jackson, White or Julio Jones, so look elsewhere for a fantasy defense.
Washington Redskins at Denver Broncos
• Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed
The good news is that RGIII is starting to look like himself again, but the bad news is that he continues to take big hits unnecessarily. If he doesn't learn to get down quicker or run out of bounds with some purpose, he's going to be hurt again. Morris had three touchdowns vultured away from him by Roy Helu Jr., but the sophomore back averaged 5.0 yards per carry and should remain the focus in the running game. Check with the Morris owner in your league to see what they'd take in exchange for him. Garcon also saw his counterparts tally more fantasy points, but he's still the most talented pass catcher on the team. Reed has earned starter status, and the rookie tight end is averaging nearly 15 yards per catch.
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Matt Prater
Manning can put the pomp and circumstance behind his return to Indianapolis behind him -- and concentrate on shredding a Redskins pass defense that is allowing a QB rating against of 105.03, which is 29th in the NFL. Note: Julius Thomas and Welker lead the NFL with eight touchdown catches each.
• Redskins: Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Kai Forbath, Redskins DST
While Helu is certainly worth owning, he's still more of a change-of-pace guy behind Morris. He has better hands, of course, and fantasy owners should like him as a flex in Week 8. The Broncos have allowed an NFL-high 10 rushing touchdowns, so both running backs deserve consideration in larger leagues.
• Broncos: Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Broncos DST
The Broncos defense has a tough time slowing down offenses that are always playing catch-up behind Manning and Co. Denver's defense has allowed an average of 35 points over the past three games.
Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
• Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Mason Crosby, Packers DST
James Jones (knee) missed Week 7, and his absence this week could mean more targets for sophomore WR Jarrett Boykin, who caught a team-high eight passes for 107 receiving yards and a touchdown against Cleveland. Nelson, the only first-string receiver left at the end of the Browns game, caught just five passes in Week 7. We can blame that on the Browns' secondary, and expect a huge bounce-back against a Vikings team that ranks as one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Lacy scored his second touchdown of the season Sunday, and he remains a good fantasy starter -- and the top fantasy rookie through the first half of the season.
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson
The Vikings offense was in shambles on Monday night against the Giants, and Peterson was only able to rush for 28 yards, which is one of the worst totals of his career. With Josh Freeman dealing with a concussion, Christian Ponder will be back under center in Week 8, against a tougher defense. The Vikings will need to lean more on the run, and a move to Ponder helps Peterson.
• Packers: Johnathan Franklin, James Jones, Jermichael Finley
Since Franklin's Week 3 breakout, Franklin has rushed for just four yards on six carries. Finley suffered a serious neck injury should open up playing time for backup TE Andrew Quarless, but you should have better fantasy options elsewhere.
• Vikings: Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Kyle Rudolph, Blair Walsh
Freeman had just four days of practice and looked like it -- he missed on 33 passes. His concussion may have been self-induced after watching game film. Walsh has just one field goal and two extra points in his past two games.
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Steve Hauschka, Seahawks DST
Wilson is coming off one of his best games of the season, and is finally starting to put a tough stretch of pass defenses behind him. With the Rams, Bucs, Falcons and Vikings ahead before his Week 12 bye, Wilson should be a top-10 fantasy QB for the next month. Lynch steadily puts up fantasy points every week, but Robert Turbin is a must-own as his handcuff. Hauschka has 11 field goals and 10 extra points in his past four games. Looking ahead at the schedule, Week 13 against the Saints might be the only week you consider benching the Seahawks DST. Hopefully, you clinch a playoff spot before that week.
• Rams: Zac Stacy
Once again, Stacy was the main ball carrier for the Rams, and they'll continue to rely on him this week, too, as the passing game lost QB Sam Bradford (knee) for the season. The Seahawks defense is one of the best in the NFL, but with six teams on bye weeks, Stacy will be a decent RB2 in many formats this week.
• Seahawks: Robert Turbin, Sidney Rice,Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller
Since Week 4, Tate and Baldwin have just one touchdown catch between them, although Tate gets enough targets to make him a worthy starter at flex. Miller had one of his best games of the season against Arizona in Week 7, but he's a gamble against a Rams team that has given up just two touchdowns to tight ends this season.
• Rams: Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens, Daryl Richardson, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Jared Cook, Greg Zuerlein, Rams DST
Bradford is out for the season with a knee injury, which makes Clemens a bad starter rather than just a bad backup. Austin actually had his best game since Week 2, catching five passes for 39 yards, but he fumbled twice and lost one of them. He did get to do a touchdown dance after a 63-yard score -- but it was called back on a penalty by the offensive line. Quick stepped up for a 97-yard game, but none of the Rams receivers are reliable enough to be recommended fantasy starts, including Cook. Zuerlein has a powerful and accurate leg, making every kick so far this season. But he just doesn't get many opportunities.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 8 Start 'em, Sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.