By Eric Mack
October 25, 2012

After a slate of less-than-inspiring prime time games over the past week, a perfect elixir comes in Week 8: Peyton Manning versus Drew Brees in a shootout for the ages.

It comes at a good time, too, because the 1-2 punch of Arian Foster and Ray Rice are riding the fantasy pine this week along with A.J. Green, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, the Texans D/ST, Justin Tucker and the Ravens D/ST.

To help you set your rosters, let's break down all the rest of the Week 8 slate in our weekly Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:


Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak, Chargers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the Chargers coming off a loss and a bye. Floyd might be blanketed against cornerback Joe Haden, but the Browns are third-worst in fantasy versus receivers and second-worst versus quarterbacks, so consider this a big week for Rivers, Floyd, Gates and the passing game.

Browns -- Josh Gordon, Phil Dawson: The Chargers aren't a defense to fear, especially against wide receivers (fifth-worst in fantasy). That makes Gordon and perhaps even Greg Little solid plays. Brandon Weeden is more stopgap than starter, though. The Browns, despite the question marks in their running game, should move the ball well enough -- particularly in garbage time -- to get Dawson some field-goal attempts.


Chargers -- Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal: Battle might be the only real question mark here, but the Browns have given up just two rushing touchdowns, so Battle shouldn't get much along the goal line.

Browns -- Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron, Browns D/ST: Richardson is a potential start if he plays, while Hardesty would be if Richardson doesn't. The uncertainty makes both a risk at this point, though. Reference's new Sunday morning Cheat Sheet for a final call on this.


Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks D/ST: The Lions' defense showed enough Monday night against the Bears to raise questions about trusting the Seahawks on the road. If they were bad at Carolina, it likely will be worse at Detroit. Lynch and this defense have earned their must-start status, though.

Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hansen, Lions D/ST: Frustration has been the game with Stafford and Johnson, but the only way to turn around the season for their owners is to stay bullish with them and hope for a huge breakthrough back at home, even against the third-best team in fantasy against quarterbacks and wide receivers. The Lions defense should post solid numbers against the rookie quarterback in a very conservative offense.


Seahawks -- Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka: Despite the Lions' slow start this season, the defense is still a top-10 unit to avoid in fantasy. Most of these guys are marginal anyway. They won't be missed in starting lineups.

Lions -- Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith (who?), Titus Young, Ryan Broyles, Tony Scheffler: Leshoure wasn't bad against the Bears' run defense, but he faces a top-five defense in fantasy versus running backs, so don't trust him again just yet. With regard to the rest of these guys, if fantasy owners are wary of Stafford and Megatron, they can't have any faith in the secondary guys on this struggling team against an elite defense.


Jaguars -- Rashad Jennings: The Jags' offense was a mess with Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) healthy. It figures to be even worse with Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) banged up and MJD out. Jennings is a viable pick-up and low-end starting option, but don't expect much against a Packers run defense that is better than the modest numbers suggest. The only potential opportunity here resides with the likes of Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts or perhaps Marcedes Lewis scoring some points in garbage time.

Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Mason Crosby, Packers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the Packers' passing attack. Even struggling Jermichael Finley (shoulder) is a sleeper. He is playing and should prove to be healthier. His poor numbers should have helped take some attention off him, too. "I think he understands that if he's one-on-one that's usually where I'm going to look first, but because of the respect of his talent, teams usually pay a little more attention to him," Rodgers told a Milwaukee radio station. Let your Packers fly like a Rodgers pass this week.


Jaguars -- Blaine Gabbert, Maurice Jones-Drew, Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: Save for MJD, you shouldn't own these guys.

Packers -- Alex Green, James Starks, Greg Jennings: Yes, the Jags are the third-worst team in fantasy against running backs, but the Packers' running game is a mess, and Green might be giving the primary job back to Starks this week, if you read between the lines. "I thought we left too many hard yards on the field," head coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "There were too many one-, two-yard runs that should have been hardball three-, four-, five-yard runs. We need to improve that aspect of our offense." Starks is a potential pick-up and stash, but the running game is difficult to trust. Jennings (groin), meanwhile, is not close to a return, which has made stars out of Nelson, Cobb and Jones in Jennings' place.


Dolphins -- Reggie Bush, Dolphins D/ST: Jets detractors and Rex Ryan haters won't believe this, but the Jets defense is still one of the top-10 units in football. The numbers say the Jets are 10th-worst in fantasy versus running backs, though, so Bush is a safe start. Save for the defense against the weaponless Jets, avoid all Dolphins otherwise.

Jets -- Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Jets D/ST: Greene has proved in recent weeks that he is still the best thing the Jets have going for them. He's sure to get opportunities, even if the Dolphins have an elite run defense. Only the Bucs (3.1) have allowed fewer yards per rush (3.3). Meanwhile, the passing game is a mess, but Keller was healthy and productive last week and should be the leading target in a close-to-the-vest defensive struggle. The Dolphins have allowed the most receiving yards to tight ends among teams that have already had their bye.


Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Fasano, Dan Carpenter: This will be a game that separates the pretender from the contender. The Jets defense ranks among the top-10 against quarterbacks and is No. 2 in fantasy against wide receivers. It should be a bad day for the surprising Tannehill and his targets.

Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Chaz Schilens, Nick Folk: There's no need to over-analyze why these options aren't good ones against a Dolphins defense that has been surprisingly unforgiving.


Panthers -- None: In case you missed Monday night, the Bears defense is not to be messed with, particularly at home and with the struggles of the Panthers' modest receiving corps and a disaster of a running game.

Bears -- Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: The only question among these names is that of Bush, who is facing a Panthers defense that is eighth-worst in fantasy versus running backs. Bush should get a goal-line score and some late-game, clock-killing yards. The rest of these guys are must-starts, regardless of the matchup.


Panthers -- Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen, Justin Medlock, Panthers D/ST: The Bears' defense is No. 4 in fantasy against quarterbacks, No. 1 against running backs and top-10 against wide receivers. Newton has been a bust to date and this is his toughest matchup yet. Stewart is worth picking up as the new feature back, but no one runs against that Bears' front and the Panthers rarely run against even the worst fronts.

Bears -- Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey, Kellen Davis: It might be lost in their bad record, but the Panthers have been in the top half of fantasy against quarterbacks and are top-10 against wide receivers. Cutler's lack of a secondary target makes him merely a fantasy backup, even if he has curtailed the sacks and turnovers.


Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: The Eagles' defense has been a tough opponent, but it's unclear what they will be now with a new defensive coordinator. There is no reason to sit any of your primary Falcons options.

Eagles -- Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Alex Henery: The Falcons are a relatively neutral opponent to face in fantasy and their offense makes it likely to lead to a more open game than the Eagles have had to play to date. Don't worry about the Eagles, especially since they are coming off a bye and should be as healthy as they have been in a while.


Falcons -- Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons D/ST: Rodgers just hasn't gotten the piece of the offense he was projected to get, and the Eagles are in the top-10 of fantasy versus running backs. Start Turner, but not Rodgers. As for the defense, yes, the Eagles are third-worst in fantasy versus D/STs but the Falcons are not a top unit and this game figures to be more of a shootout than any Eagles game previously. The bye week should have helped heal some of Vick's issues.

Eagles -- Eagles D/ST: You probably should have learned in the first half of this season, the Falcons' wide open offense is one best to avoid for opposing defenses.


Colts -- Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Adam Vinatieri: The Titans' defense is not great -- sixth-worst against quarterbacks, third-worst against running backs and bottom half against wide receivers -- but the Colts weren't that productive at home against an equally unimpressive Browns defense last week. Still, Luck, Wayne and Vinatieri are good enough to keep active. The fact the Titans are suspect against running backs requires close monitoring of Donald Brown (knee) in practice until Sunday. If Brown plays, start him. If he doesn't, consider Vick Ballard. If you need a deep sleeper at the tight end position, you might want to look to the Colts, too. The Titans are the worst team in fantasy vs. tight ends -- albeit mostly because they were abused by the top-10 tight end teams like the Pats, Chargers, Lions, Texans, Vikings and Steelers. Dwyane Allen and Coby Fleener split time, but if you need targets go with Fleener. If you want to take a shot at getting a short touchdown, try Allen.

Titans -- Chris Johnson, Kenny Britt: The Colts are in the bottom half of against quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Johnson should be in for another huge week against the fifth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs, while Britt is healthy and productive enough to start in all formats. If you need sleepers Matt Hasselbeck, Jamie Harper (for goal-line touchdowns), Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Rob Bironas are viable options, too.


Colts -- Donnie Avery, T.Y. Hilton, LaVon Brazill: Avery is the best of this crop, but there are still far more consistent options to take a shot on if you're desperate.

Titans -- Jared Cook, Titans D/ST: Cook hasn't been bad or great, but the fact the Colts are the best team in fantasy versus tight ends to date makes him a sit. The Titans defense isn't a viable play either, especially since the Colts are in the top half of fantasy against D/STs


Patriots -- Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski: The Rams' defense is in the top half of fantasy against everything across the board, so the likelihood all of these players star is low. They are each promising enough to use in their own right, though. A hunch is Ridley returns to stardom on what usually is a sloppy pitch at Wembley Stadium in England. That latter point also makes the Patriots D/ST a sleeper against a Rams defense that is 10th-worst versus opposing D/STs.

Rams -- Steven Jackson, Brandon Gibson, Greg Zuerlein: The Pats are third-worst against quarterbacks and tight ends, so consider Sam Bradford and/or Lance Kendricks, if you need to roll the dice. They are also ninth-worst against wide receivers, so Gibson should be a go at least in PPR formats. Chris Givens is an intriguing sleeper, too. The toughest matchup lies with Jackson against an elite Pats run defense, but Jackson is steady enough to be among the top 24 fantasy backs this week with, say, 60 yards and a touchdown.


Patriots -- Aaron Hernandez, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Julian Edelman: Bolden is still banged up and Vereen and Woodhead share too much as Ridley's backups to be useful against a solid defense like the Rams'. Hernandez appears to have suffered a setback with his ankle and did not make the trip to London.

Rams -- Daryl Richardson, Rams D/ST: If there are things you don't want to mess with here, it is the Pats run defense and their offense in general.


Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris: How can you sit these guys against anyone, anywhere? Pittsburgh still is one of the places where fantasy points go to die, but RGIII and Morris remain active in all leagues, even if you have to suppress expectations.

Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham, Steelers D/ST: This sets up to be a huge day for the passing game, so load up on your Steelers. Big Ben has great targets and the yardage and points should be there to help Suisham score. The defense faces a potent offense, but playing at home, it still is one of the top-12 units in fantasy.


Redskins -- Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Chris Cooley, Logan Paulsen, Kai Forbath, Redskins D/ST: Despite age and injuries ravaging the Steelers, their defense still remains one of the 10 toughest in fantasy. The wide receivers are a mish-mash and the tight ends are probably in a timeshare with Fred Davis (Achilles) out for the season. It is a bad week to take a chance on a Redskins fantasy option as a stopgap.

Steelers -- Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman: These two banged-up backs are risky options, especially against a Redskins run defense that has been top 10 in the NFL. If Mendenhall and Redman are both out, consider starting Jonathan Dwyer again in all leagues. This is also something to check back on Sunday morning in new Cheat Sheet.


Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Sebastian Janikowski: We learned a lot about the Raiders last week. They couldn't take advantage of the vulnerable Jags at home, so trusting them on the road anywhere is a questionable strategy. Stick by Run-DMc against the sixth-worst team in fantasy against running backs, while Moore and SeaBass showed well last week and look strong going forward. Carson Palmer, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Brandon Myers are options, too, but more out of necessity than anything, because of their inconsistency and relatively modest ceiling.

Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe: Charles has had plenty of rest and gets the 11th-worst team in fantasy versus running backs to run against. He also has a game-manager quarterback running the show, so it's safe to expect the Chiefs to go to a ground-and-pound philosophy. That makes Peyton Hillis a potential stashee, if not a low-end flex fill-in. Hillis can still be a goal-line. The start of Bowe is a bit risky but he's too talented to not be involved in the Chiefs' newfangled offense. Where he lacks in receptions, he might have chances in big plays off play-action.


Raiders -- Mike Goodson, Rod Streater, Raiders D/ST: There might be some real deep leagues where these guys are owned, but there should be no league where they are active.

Chiefs -- Brady Quinn, Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki, Ryan Succop, Chiefs D/ST: Quinn finally gets his chance to start without looking over his shoulder, but you need to be wary of all of your Chiefs until he proves something. It could happen at home against a mediocre opponent, but there's nothing to count on here.


Giants -- Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Martellus Bennett, Lawrence Tynes, Giants D/ST: This isn't a particularly good matchup for any of these guys, because the Cowboys are fifth-best in fantasy versus quarterbacks and running backs. Most owners likely don't have good enough alternatives to sit them during the bye season, though. Bennett is listed here because of his performance against his former team in Game 1 of the season. The Giants should be better this time around, and Manning has had big games in their building.

Cowboys -- Tony Romo, Felix Jones, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten: The Giants haven't been particularly good against teams with talented wide receivers. The Cowboys, despite their struggles, qualify, particularly since Romo's only real good game came against the Giants in their past meeting. The Giants are 10th-worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks and seventh-worst vs. wide receivers. They are fourth-best against tight ends, but Witten has come alive and is healthier this time around.


Giants -- Andre Brown, David Wilson, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Rueben Randle: In this game it's questionable how good the Giants' primary options are, let alone these backups.

Cowboys -- DeMarco Murray, Kevin Ogletree, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: Murray (ankle) isn't ready yet, while Ogletree is a non-factor with the starting wide receivers healthy. Bailey and the defense would be more interesting if they didn't lay an egg at Carolina, a place the Giants went into and dominated in a short week earlier this season. The Giants are good enough to be wary of Bailey or the D/ST.


Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Garrett Hartley: The name missing here is Jimmy Graham (ankle). But he is a start if he plays. Check back in Sunday's Cheat Sheet, if that's doable for this late-night contest. Otherwise, this is going to be about as shootout-like as a game gets. Start all your Saints passing-game weapons, considering even Devery Henderson and David Thomas (if Graham is out).

Broncos -- Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Matt Prater: This is a dream matchup, as is all teams against the Saints defense that is the worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks and wide receivers and second-worst against running backs. Joe Vitt might be able to help fix the Saints' porous defense, but they will be hard-pressed to stop the machine up in Denver. Even Brandon Stokley and tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme (in that order) can be considered as needed.


Saints -- Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Saints D/ST: The numbers don't suggest it right now, but the Broncos' run defense is solid. Oh, the Saints also happen to have the worst running game in fantasy, in addition to their dead-beat defense.

Broncos -- Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Broncos D/ST: These backup running backs might have value as handcuffs and might seem like sleepers in this matchup, but McGahee is well-rested coming off the bye. Also, no defense is a decent play against the win-starved and pass-happy Saints.


49ers -- Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, David Akers, 49ers D/ST: The Cardinals defense has been a stingy one for your fantasy guys to face, particularly against tight ends (second-best). You should stick with Davis, though. The 49ers know he's their linchpin in the passing game and they will find him in this important division matchup. The defenses will get to attack one of the most suspect quarterbacks in the game this week, so expect their best numbers yet.

Cardinals -- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals D/ST: The 49ers still have a defense you need to avoid and they are No. 1 in fantasy versus wide receivers -- not having allowed a 100-yard receiver all season. Fitzgerald is all the Cards have going for them, though, so it's safe to expect him to perform among the best 24 wide receivers in fantasy. This should be a low-scoring affair, like the 49ers game against the Seahawks, so the surprising Cards defensive can stay active, even if you don't expect much in the way of sacks and turnovers.


49ers -- Alex Smith, Kendall Hunter, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss: You don't need a reason to sit the struggling Smith, but the Cardinals are the best team in fantasy versus quarterbacks to date. That means it's wise to avoid all of the wide receivers, too, particularly amid their struggles of late.

Cardinals -- John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Todd Heap, Jay Feely: LSH had a big game last week and might be taking over feature-back duties, but don't start him against the 49ers run defense that ranks No. 2 versus running backs in fantasy. They will be back to No. 1 soon enough. Also, we have to be wary of everyone in the Cardinals offense until Skelton proves capable of moving the ball, much less doing so against a defense as good as the 49ers'.

If you play in those cash salary-cap games, here are this week's suggested plays as good value for their dollars:

QB -- Peyton ManningRB -- Chris JohnsonRB -- Willis McGaheeWR -- Demaryius ThomasWR -- Marques ColstonTE -- Jermichael FinleyFLEX -- Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown or Stevan RidleyK -- Robbie GouldD/ST -- New York Jets or San Francisco 49ers

If you think you can fill out a better lineup, hit @EricMackFantasy with it on Twitter.

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