Week 8 Start ‘em/Sit ‘em

It’s hard to believe, but after the conclusion of this weekend’s games, several fantasy owners will be 5-6 weeks away from the playoffs. Some of you are in excellent shape heading down the stretch, while others are in need of a late-season rush to reach the money round.

Remember, it’s never too late to right the ship. If you’re currently an owner on the outside looking in, look to pull off a blockbuster deal. Keep this piece of advice in mind: NO player on your team is untouchable. You should be willing to listen to any and all offers. And remember, be aggressive. No matter what your record is, you should ALWAYS be looking to improve your roster.

Just a quick reminder that we have another live chat scheduled today at 3:30 p.m. eastern. We’ll be discussing more starts and sits as well as potential trade bait. And as always, I’ll be hosting a Sunday morning Game Day live chat for one hour starting at 11:00 a.m. eastern.


Kevin Smith Running Back Detroit Lions: A 3.2 yards-per-carry average and just one 100-plus yard rushing performance in 2009 have soured owners on Smith. But if there was ever a time to get him in your lineup, it’s this Sunday when the Lions take on the league’s 27th-ranked rushing defense in the St. Louis Rams (135.9 yards, 30.1 points per game). Smith is averaging 21.5 touches per game, and with the possibility looming that wide receiver Calvin Johnson might not play, the Lions will be forced to rely heavily on the running game.

Trade Bait: When Smith breaks out this Sunday, look to deal him next week while his value is high. The Lions’ upcoming schedule features games against some of the league’s best rushing defenses: Minnesota, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Arizona and San Francisco.

Kyle Orton Quarterback Denver Broncos: There are better options on the board in Week 8, but owners in deeper leagues should consider getting Orton in the starting lineup. Coming off a bye week, Denver heads to Baltimore, where Orton will get a crack at a pass defense that’s been lit up this season (241.5 yards per game, 23rd). Orton is averaging 244.1 passing yards and has thrown two touchdown passes in each of his last three outings.

Also Start: Brandon Marshall. He’s caught 22 passes and scored four touchdowns in his past four games. Congratulations to owners who took a risk on Marshall in August when he was suspended by head coach Josh McDaniels. That gamble is paying off huge right now.

Donnie Avery Wide Receiver St. Louis Rams: A WR3 option for owners in deeper leagues, Avery and the Rams head to Detroit, where a pass defense that’s giving up 258.5 yards (30th) and 31.3 points per game is waiting. In six games, the Lions have watched four different opposing receivers (Devery Henderson, Santana Moss, Hines Ward, Donald Driver) combine to put up 473 yards and three touchdowns against their secondary.

A Fantasy Game Worth Watching: There are so many marquee matchups scheduled for Week 8 (N.Y. Giants at Philly, Minnesota at Green Bay to name a couple) that a showdown between two of the NFL’s worst teams is unlikely to draw much attention. However, there are several solid fantasy starts coming out of the St. Louis-Detroit matchup. This game features two horrendous defenses, so don’t be surprised if Rams quarterback Marc Bulger posts some credible numbers Sunday.

Matt Forte Running Back Chicago Bears: Forte has been a major disappointment this season, which is why you should look at Week 8 as an excellent opportunity to showcase next week’s trade bait. Sunday, the Bears play host to the Cleveland Browns, who bring to the Windy City a defense that has been abused by opposing running backs this season. Cleveland is giving up an eye-popping 170.6 yards per game on the ground (31st). In addition, five different running backs have combined to score eight touchdowns against the Browns’ defense in 2009.

It’s not just a bad rushing defense: Get Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the lineup as well. Four different quarterbacks have combined for an average of 317.0 passing yards per game against the Cleveland secondary.

David Garrard Quarterback Jacksonville Jaguars: First, the bad news: Garrard has not thrown a touchdown pass in either of his last two games and has yet to connect for six in any road game this season.

Now, the good news: The last time the Jacksonville quarterback played the Tennessee Titans (Week 4), he threw for 323 yards and three scores. The Titans rank dead last in the NFL against the pass (310.7 yards per game) and are giving up an astounding 33.0 points per game.

And the winner is…wide receiver Mike-Sims Walker. Garrard has to throw the ball to somebody this weekend and MSW has been his favorite target. Sims-Walker is averaging 7.0 receptions per start this season and went off against the Titans in their previous meeting, hauling in seven passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

A sleeper tight end to consider…

Jermichael Finley or Donald Lee Green Bay Packers: You’ll have to wait until Sunday to take advantage of this one because Finley missed practice Wednesday with a knee injury, meaning the Packers aren’t positive who will start at tight end against the Vikings.

Whoever gets the nod is a solid option in Week 8. Minnesota’s Cover 2 defense is an athletic tight end’s dream as they can get down the seam and settle in the soft spot. I’d go into more detail, but if you click this link, you’ll get an excellent explanation from Matt Bowen as to why it works.


Matt Hasselbeck Quarterback Seattle Seahawks: What gives? Hasselbeck and the Seahawks travel to Dallas to take on the league’s 22nd-ranked passing defense (238.5 yards per game) and I’m recommending that you sit him? It’s simple, really. NFL games are won and lost in the trenches. Remember what happened to Hass and the ‘Hawks in Week 6? The Cardinals went up to Seattle and brought the heat all afternoon, sacking Hasselbeck five times in a 27-3 rout that saw the Seahawks signal-caller complete just 10 of 29 passes (34.5 percent) for 112 yards while throwing zero touchdown passes with one interception.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys defense got nasty on the Falcons last Sunday, sacking quarterback Matt Ryan four times and holding him to a completion percentage of 54.3 (season low) while forcing two interceptions. Expect the ‘Boys to bring the heat in an effort to disrupt Hasselbeck’s rhythm after watching the Cardinals-Seahawks game tape.

Ryan Grant Running Back Green Bay Packers: I’m sure owners were thrilled with Grant’s 148-yard, one touchdown performance against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, but the good times stop here. The Minnesota Vikings are coming to town, and they aren’t the friendliest of NFL run defenses.

The Vikes are currently ranked 10th against the run (95.4 yards per game) but have allowed only two rushing touchdowns all year (tied for second). When these two teams met Monday night in Week 4, Grant was held to just 51 yards rushing. Expect a similar result Sunday.

Not so fast…Grant may be a poor start in Week 8, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Donald Driver are solid plays against a Minnesota pass defense that ranks 20th in the NFL (234.6 yards per game) and has given up 10 touchdowns (tied for 20th).

Michael Crabtree Wide Receiver San Francisco 49ers: The rookie from Texas Tech had an impressive debut last weekend, hauling in five passes for 56 yards in a 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans. While garbage time numbers may be in effect this Sunday, Crabtree faces the NFL’s sixth-ranked passing defense in the Indianapolis Colts (179.8 yards per game) on the road in a hostile environment.

The Colts have allowed just two passing touchdowns (first in NFL), so for those of you who were banking on Crabtree, start making other arrangements.

Justin Fargas Running Back Oakland Raiders: Fargas has done the best he could with what he’s had to work with, but the Raiders are a downright bad offense. A showdown with division rival San Diego doesn’t bode well for a ground game that could very well be abandoned early if the Bolts get out to a fast lead.

Fargas is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and has yet to reach the end zone. In addition, the Raiders have scored only three touchdowns via the ground. Throw in the fact that Oakland ranks dead last in the NFL in total offense (220.9 yards, 8.9 points per game) and you have a bad fantasy play all the way around.

Rolling the dice: Sit No. 5

Michael Turner Running Back Atlanta Falcons: You never sit your first-round pick. And while I fully expect most of you to ignore this and put Turner in the lineup anyway, at least you can say next week that you were warned.

Atlanta’s featured back has been half the rusher he was in 2008, averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per carry and topping 70 rushing yards just twice this season. While he’s found the end zone seven times, Monday night at New Orleans is going to be one of his toughest tests yet.

The Saints defense has been outstanding, allowing just 92.3 yards per game on the ground (eighth). In addition, New Orleans has yet to allow a 100-plus-yard rusher through its first six games.

Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints are going to have a field day against a depleted Falcons secondary that ranks 26th against the pass (250.7 yards per game). Look for New Orleans to get up early in this one, forcing Atlanta to cut down the running game and take to the skies in an effort to stay close. Turner may see some quality touches in the first half, but his production is going to take a hit in the third and fourth quarters.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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