Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: Week 8 shows off depth at quarterback
Sunday morning updates
Shane Vereen caused a minor stir when he missed Friday's practice with an illness, but he is active for the Patriots in their matchup with the Bears on Sunday. He could be in for a big day with all the injuries to the Chicago linebackers.
DeAngelo Williams is inactive because of his ankle injury, but Jonathan Stewart should still be on your bench. Not only does he have a tough matchup with the Seahawks, but Carolina's starting guards, Amini Silatolu and Trai Turner, are inactive.
We can't be totally sure on Darren Sproles or Trent Richardson yet since their teams play late, but it looks like both will be inactive. Sproles shouldn't have been near your lineup this week, but Richardson would have been a nice play against the Steelers. If you're struggling at running back, consider deep plays like Travaris Cadet, Dan Herron and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
St. Louis cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are both inactive. Alex Smith is a low-end QB1 this week.
All the backfield attention this week has been focused on Tre Mason, Denard Robinson and the two backs left standing in Buffalo, and rightfully so. Sometimes the flavor of the week becomes the flavor of the month, and at this point of the season, those players who suddenly take over a job and see their fantasy values jump from 0-to-60 in the blink of an eye can swing leagues.
At the same time, sometimes the best move is getting a player back from injury. Such is the case for Mark Ingram owners, who welcomed him back into the fold last week. With the Saints’ struggling as they rarely have in the Drew Brees era, Ingram provides them with a much-needed weapon on the ground. He also gives his fantasy owners a rock-solid starter this week.
The results weren’t there in his first game since returning from a broken hand, as he picked up just 29 total yards on 12 touches. The good news for his owners, though, is that he got 10 carries and played 34 percent of the team’s snaps, while Khiry Robinson rushed just three times and had a snap percentage of 7 percent. The Lions have also been tough against the run, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Things should be a lot better for Ingram this week.
Green Bay has been better against the run recently, performing well against the Panthers and Vikings. Of course, that doesn’t say a whole lot given that Panthers running backs have scored the third-fewest fantasy points this season and the Vikings were still insisting on featuring Matt Asiata when they played the Packers. One running back in each of their five other games got to double-digit fantasy points. Those five backs – Marshawn Lynch, Chris Ivory, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte and Lamar Miller – averaged 16.26 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Even with their good games against the Panthers and Vikings, the Packers have allowed an average of 146.7 yards from scrimmage per game and six total touchdowns to running backs.
Remember, Ingram was a top-10 back through the first two weeks of the season. He ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns in games against the Falcons and Browns, putting up a total of 34.5 points in standard-scoring leagues. DeMarco Murray and Le’Veon Bell were the only running backs with more points than Ingram heading into Week 3.
Most importantly, the Saints showed a real commitment to the run when he was healthy. Robinson is out because of a forearm injury, giving him even less competition in the backfield than usual. Expect Ingram to put up a top-20 week for his fantasy owners.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the last-minute news you need to know for Week 8
Extreme depth at the quarterback position
We may be living in the Golden Age of the Forward Pass, but that didn’t change the fact that you could still wait on the quarterback position way back in draft season. Sure, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers may be providing the fantasy stability you can only get from an elite quarterback, but mid-round draftee Andrew Luck is the No. 1 quarterback thus far, and late-round signal callers such as Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are all in the top eight. The passing renaissance didn’t simply make the best quarterbacks more valuable. It made the good and simply average ones credible fantasy starters. Never has that been more evident in an individual week than it is in Week 8.
There are 16 different quarterbacks I would feel good about starting in a traditional 10- or 12-team, one-quarterback league this week. You’re always going to feel great about Rodgers, Manning, Luck and the like. Tom Brady is my No. 3 quarterback for the week with a great matchup against the Bears, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Washington has allowed the fifth-most points to the position, and has actually been respectable against the run. That doesn’t mean they’re going to shut down DeMarco Murray, but expect to see plenty of Tony Romo on Monday night.
Russell Wilson is coming off the best statistical game of his career and now draws the Panthers. Only five teams have allowed more points to quarterbacks than this once-vaunted unit. Of course, fantasy owners are usually comfortable going with Brady, Romo or Wilson.
Carson Palmer is a top-10 play this week. He has stabilized the Arizona offense over the last two weeks, throwing for 503 yards and four touchdowns against one interception. His biggest fantasy impact this year thus far has been saving Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, and to a lesser extent, Andre Ellington from fantasy purgatory. Now he’s set to make a splash of his own. The Eagles have been one of the most pass-friendly defenses all year. Even after shutting Eli Manning down in their last game two weeks ago, they’ve surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Kirk Cousins carved them up for 427 yards and three touchdowns. Austin Davis had a career day against Philadelphia, throwing for 375 yards and three scores, and nearly leading the Rams to a huge comeback win on the road. The immortal Chad Henne even managed to put up 266 yards and two touchdowns against this defense. Palmer’s shoulder is sound and he has two dangerous weapons in Floyd and Fitzgerald. He’s a rock-solid starter this week, and should easily go north of 20 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
Alex Smith, too, is a strong play for Week 8. I have him as my No. 12 quarterback, just ahead of Cam Newton, Nick Foles and Ryan Tannehill. The Rams have been absolutely torched by quarterbacks in their last two games. Going up against division rivals San Francisco and Seattle, the Rams allowed a combined 656 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, 143 rushing yards and one score on the ground to Kaepernick and Wilson. Recall how I mentioned those two quarterbacks being among the top eight in fantasy points for the season? Neither was before he played the Rams. Smith isn’t going to jump into the top eight after this game (he currently ranks 23rd), but he should be able to post starter-worthy numbers on Sunday. The Rams have also been rather friendly to receivers, giving up the third-most points per game to the position. Expect Smith and Dwayne Bowe to enjoy their best game of the season.
Ingram isn’t the only under-the-radar back to activate this week, either
What do Le’Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Denard Robinson all have in common? All four of them have blitzed the Browns for at least 15 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues this season. If you include both of Bell’s games against Cleveland this year, those backs averaged 124.8 yards from scrimmage, and have hit paydirt four times in five games. The Browns have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs, just once preventing a team’s lead back from scoring in the double digits. Winning fantasy football is about making the right moves at the right time, and exploiting the Cleveland run defense, regardless of the back, has proven to be the right move this year. That makes Darren McFadden a great play this week.
McFadden has played about as well as could reasonably be expected over the last three weeks. In that span, he has 213 total yards and a touchdown, finishing two of those three games as a top-25 running back. Moreover, McFadden’s two best performances of the season came against the Cardinals and Chargers, who rank 10th and 15th, respectively, in run defense according to Pro Football Focus. If McFadden was able to find success against those teams, he should do enough to register as a worthy fantasy starter against the Browns.
Travaris Cadet – This is a special one for all you full PPR leaguers out there. Cadet takes on a featured role in the Saints’ offense with Pierre Thomas out for 2-to-3 weeks due to a shoulder injury. Cadet has played in more than 20 percent of the team’s snaps just twice this year. In those games, he has 12 receptions for 110 yards. The Saints have always had a strong presence from a pass-catching back under Sean Payton, and Cadet will be that guy for at least the next few weeks. He’s a slam-dunk play in PPR leagues, and a decent flex option in standard leagues.
Eric Decker – Percy Harvin has gotten plenty of attention since switching coasts, but the greatest effect of his trade, especially in the short term, will be on Decker. He has been desperate for a capable partner on the opposite side of the field, and Harvin can be that guy. With opposing secondaries paying attention to the speedster, expect Decker to find a bit more room out there than he has through the first seven weeks of the season. The Bills have been great against the run (more on that in a bit) but have struggled to stop teams through the air. They’ve allowed the seventh-most points per game to receivers, surrendering 95 receptions (fourth most in the league) for 1,211 yards (seventh most) and 10 touchdowns (third most). Decker will add to all three of those totals this week.
Chris Ivory – It’s hard to bench Ivory, and given your roster composition he may be one of your best options this week. I just think he’s going to come up short against a Buffalo defense that is not getting its just due as a run stopper. The Bills rank third in run defense according to Pro Football Focus, trailing only the Jets and Broncos. They’ve given up the fewest fantasy points per game, allowing only two running backs, Matt Forte and Jerick McKinnon, to surpass 10 points. They’re allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and have yet to surrender a touchdown of any kind to a back. Ivory has been great this year, but I don’t see him finding too many lanes on Sunday.
Pierre Garcon – Garcon has been quite possibly the most disappointing fantasy receiver this year. He has been healthy all season, yet ranks just 36th at the position in points. This week, he goes up against a Dallas defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest points to receivers on the season. Brian Quick and Odell Beckham are the only receivers to put up double-digit points against them, and they have not allowed a 100-yard game. Garcon’s production last week was wholly tied up in a screen pass he broke for a 71-yard touchdown. Don’t expect that same sort of big play this week, especially with Colt McCoy at the helm.
Detroit Lions at Atlanta Falcons
• Calvin Johnson made the trip to London, and is seen as a game-time decision because of his ankle injury. He has burned us as a decoy before, but it’s hard to imagine him making the trip across the pond, being activated, and then running routes at half speed, especially since the Lions have a bye next week. I’d be confident starting him if he gets the go-ahead. Reggie Bush, on the other hand, should be nowhere near your starting lineup. He’s doubtful with an ankle injury. Eric Ebron (hamstring) is out.
• Harry Douglas (foot) was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, and is listed as questionable.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans
• Zach Mettenberger may have to deal with Jadaveon Clowney is his first career start. The No. 1 overall pick is questionable with a knee injury, and is seen as a game-time decision.
Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers
• DeAngelo Williams is out again because of his ankle injury. Jonathan Stewart is a flex play in deeper (14-plus teams) leagues.
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
• Owen Daniels (knee) has already been ruled out, but Eugene Monroe (knee) and Kelechi Osemele (knee) are both probable.
• A.J. Green is once again doubtful with his toe injury, but the Bengals hope to have him back next week.
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars
• Charles Clay should play despite a knee injury that kept his practice participation limited all week. He’s not a strong start in fantasy leagues. Cortland Finnegan (neck) is also probable.
• Toby Gerhart (foot) is probable, but in your fantasy league, let's hope that doesn’t matter to you. Keep an eye on how the carries are divided between him, Denard Robinson and Storm Johnson.
St. Louis Rams at Kansas City Chiefs
• Kenny Britt (ankle) and Benny Cunningham (knee) are probable, but neither is a fantasy play. Cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are questionable with knee injuries, potentially making this matchup even better for Alex Smith.
• Travis Kelce (ribs) was a full participant in Friday’s practice and will play on Sunday. He’s just barely inside my top-12 tight ends this week.
Chicago Bears at New England Patriots
• Kyle Fuller (hand, hip) and Chris Conte (shoulder) are probable, but the Bears will likely be without Lance Briggs and Jon Bostic. Their backup linebackers have been terrible in coverage (frankly, so were their starters) which is good news for Tom Brady.
• Chandler Jones is out with a hip injury, but the big news is Shane Vereen’s questionable status due to an illness. He’d be a strong start if he can go, but if he’s out this offense takes a significant hit. Center Bryan Stork is questionable because of a concussion.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
• Eric Decker (hamstring) participated fully in Friday’s practice and will play on Sunday. He should have a nice day against the overmatched Bills’ secondary.
Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Vincent Jackson (ribs) was limited in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable. The good news is this is an early game. If he plays for the Buccaneers, he plays for you.
Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals
• Darren Sproles was a full participant in Friday’s practice, but is still listed as questionable. You should be able to do better this week, especially given the tough matchup.
• Calais Campbell (knee) is questionable, and not expected to return just yet. The Cardinals should have Frostee Rucker (calf) out there, though.
Oakland Raiders at Cleveland Browns
No significant injuries
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers
• Reggie Wayne is out because of an elbow injury, and Trent Richardson (hamstring) is questionable. We could see a whole lot of Ahmad Bradshaw, while Hakeem Nicks has some WR3 juice.
• The Steelers should finally get Ryan Shazier (knee) back this week. Their defense desperately needs the presence of its best linebacker.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
• Datone Jones (ankle) is out, Sam Shields (knee) is doubtful, and Morgan Burnett (calf) is questionable. If there were ever a game for the Saints’ offense to get back on track, this is it.
• Jimmy Graham is questionable with a shoulder injury. He played last week, so the bet here is that he gives it a go on Sunday. Of course, the fact that this is a night game puts you in a corner if he’s unable to go. If you plan on playing him, add Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Andrew Quarless, Niles Paul or Gavin Escobar as an insurance policy. Khiry Robinson (forearm) is out, which is great news for Mark Ingram owners.
Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys
• The official injury report is not yet available, but it appears there will be no fantasy-relevant players on the report. Dallas right tackle Doug Free (foot) is still out.