The RotoExperts staff looks ahead to Week 8, with lineup recommendations in every game capsule.
Chicago gave up a lot for Jay Cutler, and it's clear the offense now revolves around him. The Browns are second-worst against the run, allowing over 170 rushing yards per game. That bodes well for Matt Forte. Forte is still the certified top dog in the Bears' rushing game, so he's a good bet to break through with a second 100-yard game of the season. Cutler has a great matchup here even though he's been unpredictable. Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers torched the Browns the past two weeks. Look for Cutler to follow suit with at least 250 yards and two scores. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Greg Olsen and Earl Bennett are all solid plays since the Browns are 24th against the pass. Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is out which should free some space across the middle for Bennett and Olsen. Cleveland has allowed 26 pass plays of 20 yards or more, so Hester and/or Knox could get a long score. Think long and hard before playing anyone associated with the Browns' passing game. Mohamed Massaquoi is the best bet as he leads Cleveland wide receivers in catches. Cleveland needs to stay competitive in the game for a running back to have a chance to be useful. If you must pick one, go with Jamal Lewis since Jerome Harrison's predicted ascension to starter hasn't happened. Lewis has 26 carries to Harrison's eight the past two weeks. --Adam McFadden
Standout Starts: Matt Forte, Jay Cutler
Banish to the Bench: Jerome Harrison
What a turnaround! In this pairing who would've expected Denver to boast the top-three defense? Even though the Broncos are third against the run (79.7 yards per game), Ray Rice needs to be started since he's become a favorite option for Joe Flacco in the passing game. He has 17 catches in the past two games. Flacco has been up-and-down the past couple of weeks and the Broncos have allowed just three passing TDs all year. He's a middle-of-the-road option at best. As for receivers, go with Derrick Mason and stay away from Todd Heap since Denver is solid against tight ends. Don't forget about Correll Buckhalter in the Denver backfield. He's averaged 10 carries a game over the past three that he's played in and could see that total rise as he gets healthier. He could also easily poach any short TDs. On the same token, temper your expectations for Knowshon Moreno. He is still the lead back, but it's not a dominating lead. The Ravens' secondary isn't scaring anyone lately (23rd against the pass), with just one interception in the past three games. Expect at least 250 yards and a passing TD from Kyle Orton. Eddie Royal got a lot of attention for his returns last week but he still put up a donut for receptions. Stay away until he becomes a consistent part of the offense. Brandon Marshall is a solid play in normal leagues and a great one in PPR leagues. --A.F.
Standout Starts: Ray Rice, Kyle Orton
Banish to the Bench: Willis McGahee
Andre Johnson is the big wildcard in this matchup. He suffered a lung contusion last week and he's been limited in practice. If Johnson misses time, Jacoby Jones becomes a must-add. He has three TDs in seven games in his current role and would see more action with Johnson out. Kevin Walter has been a disappointment so Jones could immediately become the third option in the passing game behind Owen Daniels and Steve Slaton. Slaton has a great matchup here and should be able to top 150 total yards with a TD. The Bills are the NFL's worst defense against the run and Johnson's absence would send even more pass targets Slaton's way. Though the Bills have been solid against the pass lately (190.4 yards per game), Matt Schaub presents a much different challenge than the trio of Jake Delhomme, Mark Sanchez and Derek Anderson. Schaub and Daniels have become must plays even against a good pass defense. If Johnson plays he obviously needs to start. Ryan Fitzpatrick will fill in for Trent Edwards again and that's a good thing for Lee Evans. The two have shown a good connection so be sure to jump on Evans if he's sitting in the free agent pool. Houston is 21st against the run so Marshawn Lynch could find paydirt and get solid yardage. Fred Jackson has looked better than Lynch for much of the season but he's losing the battle for carries and will struggle to get much action in this game. --A.F.
Standout Starts: Steve Slaton, Lee Evans
Banish to the Bench: Ryan Fitzpatrick
These teams saw each other just a few weeks ago and it was quite run-centric. Expect similar results this time. Shonn Greene is a great pickup, though he won't get 19 carries every week. What he will get is Leon Washington's vacated touches minus a couple of receptions. So look for 12-14 carries this week. Thomas Jones is a good bet to score at least once since he is the clear red zone option with Mark Sanchez struggling. The Dolphins are fourth against the run (86.7 yards per game) so don't expect a ton of yards from the New York backs. The Jets haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver this season so stay away from Dolphins WRs. Chad Henne had the best game of his young career against the Jets in Week 5 when he passed for 241 yards and two TDs. However, I'd be cautious with Henne this time around as the Jets are sure to make adjustments and Darrelle Revis looms in the defensive backfield. With big Kris Jenkins out for the season, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will find space to run against the Jets' defensive line. Brown gets the most carries, so look for 100 yards and a score from him. Williams will get plenty of action and is a good play. Braylon Edwards hasn't been very active the past two weeks but gave the Dolphins' young corners some trouble in Week 5. He's a solid play with Jerricho Cotchery still limited by his injured hamstring. Don't start Sanchez since he's hit a wall with eight INTs against just two TDs in the past four games. --A.F.
Standout Starts: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Thomas Jones
Banish to the Bench: Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez
While Julius Jones has shouldered the blame for the Seahawks' weary ground game, the offensive line injuries to Walter Jones and Sean Locklear have been the real issue. Dallas has only given up three rushing touchdowns, so Jones will have another day of 60 yards but no scores. He's a flex play at best. Expect Matt Hasselbeck to throw early and often. He should deliver a solid QB2 day with 200-plus yards and a couple of scores with an interception. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a must-play, even when matched up against solid corner Terence Newman. Five receptions and 65 yards isn't out of the question. However, during the first three games when Nate Burleson and Hasselbeck were healthy, Burleson received more than 10 targets each game. With nine receiving touchdowns in his last 12 games, Burleson will steal away 100 yards and touchdown. Recent Dallas standout Miles Austin has beaten up some weak secondaries but former All-Pro Marcus Trufant returns from the PUP list, so expect Tony Romo to instead pick on the middle of the Seattle defense with Jason Witten and others. Witten starts no matter what, while Patrick Crayton's return to PR duties will lighten his targets and make Roy Williams a good flex play this week. He's got a good chance for five catches, 70 yards and touchdown. Would you have thought this late into the season that Tashard Choice would have more receptions that both Marion Barber and Felix Jones combined? It has killed Barber's value, and Leroy Hill's return won't add to it this week. Against the 28th-ranked rush defense, expect a big day from Dallas' Jones. --Jonathan Phillips
Standout Starts: Nate Burleson, Jason Witten, Felix Jones
Banish to the Bench: Julius Jones, Patrick Crayton
The description of Alex Smith's legacy hadn't included the words Ryan Leaf yet, but he certainly was flirting with it. Though he tore apart a ho-hum Texans' secondary, Indianapolis has a rapidly improving defense with the return of veteran safety Bob Sanders. Taper your expectations for Smith to fewer than 200 yards, with a touchdown and a pick. The Niners would much rather ride Frank Gore's legs in this one, keeping Peyton Manning and his arsenal sidelined. Expect as many carries for Gore as he can manage. Anything less than 100 yards and a score would be surprising. Also expect 4-5 catches. Glen Coffee may get a spell or two, but isn't worth starting at this point. Michael Crabtree's value rises with Smith at the helm, as he showed his magic receptacles can suck in all sorts of passes. He's a decent flex start, good for five more receptions and 65 yards. Vernon Davis' six receiving touchdowns lead the NFL, and you won't want to bench him during Smith's reinstatement. Manning is a no-brainer against the leagues 21st-ranked pass defense. He's levied 300-plus yards on every team but one (last week) and he's average two passing touchdowns a game. San Francisco has yet to give up 100 yards to an opposing runner this year, but start Joseph Addai in PPR leagues this week, as the Niners have yielded 50-plus receiving yards to opposing running backs in all but two games. Reggie Wayne is day-to-day, but as groin injuries tend to nag, consider him out at this point. That leaves Pierre Garcon to battle Nate Clements, who shut down Andre Johnson last week before he got hurt. The more reliable Austin Collie will continue to emerge in the slot, and Anthony Gonzalez might be on the field as your sneaky flex play. San Francisco couldn't contain Owen Daniels -- so I doubt they can handle the more nimble Dallas Clark, who becomes the veteran receiver on this unit with Wayne hurting. --J.P.
Standout Starts: Frank Gore, Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark
Banish to the Bench: Glen, Coffee, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon
Eli Manning has cooled just slightly, and has been sacked four times in the last two games after being sacked just twice in the first four. He's not a strong play against Philly's defense, which is now tied for second with 21 sacks. That should allow Brandon Jacobs, who averaged over five yards per carry against a stingy Redskins defense, more carries. Last year Jacobs averaged over five yards in both Eagles' games. He should post solid RB2 numbers here with a chance to punch it in. Ahmad Bradshaw saw an ankle specialist this week, which means Danny Ware is a sneaky start in deep leagues. Asante Samuel could make it another long day for Steve Smith, so expect quick hits to Domenik Hixon to offset the blitzing Eagles. He's a good flex choice this week. Donovan McNabb hasn't posted a QB rating of 100 or better against the Giants since 2004, and this will likely be a low-scoring affair. Philadelphia remains among the worst rushing offenses, predicated on a lack of play-calling than anything else. However, LeSean McCoy should be in your lineups for this one, because like the now-concussed Brian Westbrook, he provides versatility. McCoy is a good RB2 play and should give you 40-50 yards rushing and at least 30 through the air. DeSean Jackson is a must-start even against the likes of Corey Webster; the second-year WR has five scoring plays over sixty yards. However, Jeremy Maclin is the difference here, garnering 7 catches, nearly 100 yards and a touchdown. Brent Celek didn't exactly light things up last week, but of the nine touchdowns the Giants have given up through the air, four have gone to opposing TEs. Celek is a solid start for 60 yards and a score. --J.P.
Standout Starts: Brandon Jacobs, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek
Banish to the Bench: Donovan McNabb, Ahmad Bradshaw
Both these teams are awful, but could provide an interesting fantasy explosion given the caliber of their defenses. With Marc Bulger still at the helm, the Rams' offense has a little more pop than with journeyman Kyle Boller, but this is no longer a quality offense. Steven Jackson could have his best statistical effort of 2009 this week, and break into the painted rectangle for the first time this season. Donnie Avery is the wild card. He's a good route runner and despite being just an NFL sophomore he could be a solid possession receiver as well as a deep threat. The Lions secondary will give him some openings, although it's still hard to trust Bulger. Like the Rams, this is probably Detroit's best opportunity to resemble an NFL offense. Expect decent numbers from Kevin Smith -- and maybe even former fantasy standout Daunte Culpepper, who's still filling in for injured franchise QB Matthew Stafford. While Stafford practiced this week, the organization probably won't take any chances on him. Still, keep an eye on the inactive list before you finalize your starters. Get Smith in your lineup and consider Culpepper in deeper leagues or formats that don't penalize for turnovers. Calvin Johnson and his nebulous injury were out of practice again on Thursday, so just make sure he's active before you plug him in. If he's okay to play, he's a must start. --J.P.
Standout Starts: Steven Jackson, Kevin Smith, Donnie Avery
Banish to the Bench: Marc Bulger
When these teams locked horns in Week 4, David Garrard posted the best numbers of his eight-year career with 323 passing yards, three TDs and 38 rushing yards. While you can't expect numbers like that this time around, he's a lock for 200 yards and two scores against the appalling Titans pass defense. Garrard, as well as receivers Mike Sims-Walker and Torry Holt, could enjoy big days and bolster lots of fantasy rosters, with the young Sims-Walker as a solid WR2 and veteran Holt doing work in WRs/flex mode. TE Marcedes Lewis also has a tasty matchup and could find the end zone for the third time this season. Giving Maurice Jones-Drew the weekly start is a no-brainer, but the Titans run defense isn't the mess that its pass defense has been, so don't expect a three-TD game or much more than 100 total yards. The Titans best two fantasy players remain automatic start Chris Johnson and ... nobody, really. It's somebody new every game, and that presents problems when deciding among rookie Kenny Britt (the team's receiving yardage leader), Justin Gage and popular red-zone target Nate Washington. If you have to choose a WR, go with Britt, but stay away from the QB situation for now even though Vince Young was named the starter (there couldn't be more polar QB opposites than Kerry Collins and Young), because it's just too tenuous -- and could easily result in late-Sunday heartbreak. --J.P.
Standout Starts: David Garrard, Jags WRs, Chris Johnson
Banish to the Bench: Tennessee's QB, Justin Gage
In Week 1 at home versus the Chargers, the Raiders played some of their best defense to date but failed to get a win. This week, they square off again with their AFC West rivals in San Diego and will find a win much harder to nail down. The quarterback situation (both starter JaMarcus Russell and backup Bruce Gradkowski are essentially worthless in fantasy) is almost as bad as in Tennessee, and provides little hope. The running game is better but features a host of mediocre options, including an injured Darren McFadden, veteran Justin Fargas and gargantuan Michael Bush. You can't start any of them unless you're in a truly deep league. The receivers are out too, making the only starter worth a fantasy look the team's talented tight end, Zach Miller, who should have a good day. For the Chargers, it's safe to play nearly all their positions players, including Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tolinson, Darren Sproles and Antonio Gates. While it's awfully tough to sit Vincent Jackson, he'll draw the shutdown coverage of Raiders CB Nnamdi Ashomugha this week, putting him in fantasy purgatory for 60 minutes and keeping him from posting his usual average of five catches for 90-100 yards and a score. --J.P.
Standout Starts: Zach Miller, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates
Banish to the Bench: All Raiders except Miller, Vincent Jackson
Jake Delhomme is still the starter for the Panthers, which is bad news for Steve Smith owners. Expecting more than 50 receiving yards would be a bold move. DeAngelo Williams has twice as many carries as Jonathan Stewart and has been held under 10 fantasy points just twice this year. He should never leave your starting lineup. Not even if he's facing the league's stingiest run defense, which the Cardinals are. Stewart, on the other hand, won't see enough touches to warrant even an RB3 starting nod. Coming off one of their best rushing games of the season, and facing Carolina's top ranked pass defense, Arizona will be tempted to establish a ground game against Carolina, especially with Anquan Boldin still hobbled. Tim Hightower is slowly being phased out as the primary running back, but his effectiveness around the goal line and in the passing game will keep him fantasy relevant. Look for him to find a way to post 10-plus points. Beanie Wells finally earned RB3 starter status, and is a great "breakout" candidate. Don't be surprised if he surpasses 100 rushing yards. Don't let Steve Breaston's one-catch effort last week scare you off; he's still a quality flex play regardless if Boldin plays or not. --J.P.
Standout Starts: DeAngelo Williams, Beanie Wells, Steve Breaston
Banish to the Bench: Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith
Brett Favre torched the Packers for three touchdowns and 271 yards four weeks ago, and while Adrian Peterson will undoubtedly steal one of those TDs away, Favre is still a must start in 12-team leagues. So is Sidney Rice, who has clearly become the number one target. Rice is sure to produce solid WR2 numbers (use 5 catches and 60 yards as a floor), especially if Bernard Berrian is unable to play. Percy Harvin has yet to top 70 yards receiving, and hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 2. He's definitely benchable, and borderline droppable. Aaron Rodgers was sacked an ungodly eight times in the Packers first meeting with the Vikings, but still managed to throw for a career-high 384 yards. As long as he doesn't get knocked out of the game by a rushing Jared Allen, Rodgers, along with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings (stay patient, he'll reward you soon), will have monster days at home in Lambeau. Consider 80 total yards the absolute ceiling for Ryan Grant, and don't forget, the Vikings have allowed just two rushing touchdowns all year. If you have a capable replacement, feel free to sit him.
Standout Starts: Brett Favre, Sidney Rice, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings
Banish to the Bench: Percy Harvin, Ryan Grant
New Orleans has a very aggressive secondary that leads the league in interceptions, something Matt Ryan's struggled with the last three games (he's thrown five picks over that span). Considering he's been held to under 230 passing yards in five of the Falcons six games, Ryan is not a great start in 12-team leagues. Other than the usual candidates (Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White), Atlanta doesn't offer much else in the way of fantasy production. Start those players as you normally would, and bypass the rest. As great offensively as they are in real life, the Saints have been a bit of a mess for fantasy owners. The three-headed backfield of Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush has become increasingly unpredictable, limiting the value of all three. Bush can only be considered in PPR leagues, but even that's a risky proposition these days (he's recorded just 10 catches for 47 yards in his last four games combined). The Saints lead the league in rushing touchdowns, so there's plenty of opportunity for a productive day out either Thomas or Bell, but without defined roles, neither warrants more than a flex spot. If you're forced to choose, give the more versatile Thomas one last chance. --J.P.
Standout Starts: Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White
Banish to the Bench: Reggie Bush, Matt Ryan