Start or Sit: Week 8

Can Larry Fitzgerald turn things around against the Falcons this week?

The Temple Guards scared the living bejeezus out of me.

You may not fit the age demographic to remember this, but there was a show on Nickelodeon back in the day called Legends of the Hidden Temple. It featured six color plus animal teams (e.g. Purple Parrots) of two, and they competed in contests to try to reach Olmec’s Temple.

Olmec was a giant talking rock. Seriously. Picture Mt. Rushmore, and picture those presidents speaking to you. That’s Olmec. Kirk Fogg hosted it, and he would’ve violated every middle school fingertip rule with the length of his shorts. And I swear, they found the most incompetent kids imaginable to participate. I know that sounds awful coming from a full-grown man, but when I was watching it – and mind you, I was the same age as the contestants back then – I couldn’t help but think these were the ones who were always picked last in kickball. Always.

I do give them credit though. Once a team reaches Olmec’s Temple, they have to scurry through it looking for artifacts, and only have a certain number of “lives” while doing it. When a Temple Guard comes out to capture them, they have to give away one of their lives. And that’s where I applaud these kids’ bravery – those Temple Guards are absolutely terrifying.

You could be in a room, perhaps assembling the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, and all of a sudden a six-foot tall man dressed in a nightmare-like costume could jump out and grab you. Do you realize how startling that would be?

Getting grabbed by a Temple Guard is like owning Jay Cutler. Things are great – you’re about to climb the wall in the Pit of Despair – and all of a sudden…boom. Torn groin. Temple Guard.

That, at least, is how I view fantasy football. It’s one giant game of Legends of the Hidden Temple. Your task? Avoid the Temple Guards at all costs.

Start 'Em

Olmec: Let's Rock (Solid Starts)

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

After an offensive performance that surely had Nick Foles dreaming of an alternate career, the Eagles get quarterback Michael Vick back this week against the G-Men. The Giants rank 24th in pass defense when adjusted for strength of schedule, and the last time the Eagles played them (Week 5), an injured Vick and a replacement Foles scored a combined 28.1 fantasy points. Expect a solid performance with top QB1 upside from Vick this week.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

Wilson has the fifth-most fantasy points at the quarterback position over the last three weeks, and in Week 8 will face a St. Louis team that ranks 30th in adjusted defensive passing net expected points (DPNEP). This metric looks at how well a team is performing above or below expectation – a replacement-level team – and it’s adjusted for strength of competition.

Much of the Rams fantasy success on defense (they rank 15th against fantasy quarterbacks) has to do with volume. They’ve had three games now where their opponent’s quarterback has thrown the rock fewer than 25 times in a game, including Cam Newton’s 17 attempts last week. Don’t let the ranking fool you – this defense is pedestrian.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers

I’ve tried to mention Eddie Lacy as much as possible over the past few weeks, as he’s the clear-cut number one back in an offense that has one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Lacy’s been phenomenal as a rookie, and has 68 carries over the last three weeks. You’re not going to find those kind of workhorse totals in many places, let alone on a team with Aaron Rodgers.

In Week 8, Lacy will face the Minnesota Freemans. The Vikes rank second-to-last in our trusty adjusted defensive rushing net expected points, only ahead of the San Diego Super Chargers. He’s a full-blown RB1 this week.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos

The best running back according to our rushing net expected points metric through seven weeks of football? Knowshon Moreno, of course.

Moreno’s play has been the product of better running, garbage time and a historically great passing game. That doesn’t matter to us – those are all part of the equation for the Broncos running back these days. Denver will be going up against a Washington defense that ranks 26th against the run when fixed for competition, giving Knowshon exactly what he needs to have a monster day.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints

The Bills secondary is hurting, giving up six passing touchdowns over the last two games, including four to wide receivers. Colston’s been cold this year, but with Jimmy Graham hurt and potentially limited, he should be Brees’ favorite target.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

After having 30 receptions in three games, Brown slowed down a bit in the Steelers win over the Ravens last Sunday. He still caught six balls for 50 yards though, which is becoming his fantasy football floor. Oakland’s secondary isn’t bad, coming in as our 15th-best, but Brown should continue to be Big Ben’s go-to in the offense. Brown’s one of the most reliable receivers in pretend pigskin this year, at least in PPR leagues.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta can’t defend the pass. At all. They rank last in efficiency, and have allowed at least one receiver touchdown in every game this season. Every game! Let’s target the Cardinals best receiver for that [at least] lone score, hopefully kick starting his season a bit.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons

Gonzo had a good matchup against the Bucs last week and disappointed, but there’s hope for a nice rebound in Week 8. He’ll go up against Carson Palmer’s Cardinals, a team that’s allowed the most fake points to opposing tight ends, including four multi-touchdown tight end games.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

As we’ve mentioned throughout this website, Jordan Reed’s Week 7 performance was not a fluke. And in Week 8, Reed will go up against the second-worst pass defense in the league in Denver. Not only that, the Broncos have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the tight end position this year. Start him.

Fluffernutters: Underrated (Sneaky Starts)

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer has yet to score more than a little over 17 fantasy points in a game this season, and has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions in zero contests since Week 1. He’s been a disaster en route to the 27th-best quarterback in fantasy.

But like I said with Palmer’s top receiver, he will face off against an Atlanta pass defense that ranks dead last in adjusted DPNEP. The Falcons have given up at least two passing touchdowns in every game this season, and they’ve faced the Bucs, Jets, Patriots, Dolphins and Rams – it’s not as though the competition has been fantastic.

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders

Pryor’s still a borderline plug-and-play starter, but consistently finds himself (because he’s reading this column, of course) on the “start” side of this article. The Steelers, Pryor’s Week 8 opponent, may rank third against fantasy quarterbacks this year, but much of that has to do with competition. According to our metrics, the defense actually ranks 18th against the pass, 23rd on a per attempt basis. Pryor’s rushing totals should keep him relevant, but don’t overlook what he may be able to do through the air, too.

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets

Cornerback Leon Hall is out for the year for the Bengals with a torn Achilles, so the Jets Week 8 opponent may be scrambling in the secondary. Advantage Geno Smith, who has an opportunity to get out of his ‘good game followed by a bad game’ funk. Cincinnati has been very ordinary against the pass this season, and have given up almost 50 quarterback fantasy points over the last two weeks. Smith is a sneaky play.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals

It’s time to free Ellington, no? According to our metrics, the Cardinals runner ranks seventh in expected points on the ground on his limited opportunities. This isn’t to say he’s better than someone like Matt Forte, but given more volume, Ellington has a chance to be a nice fantasy asset.

It doesn’t help that Rashard Mendenhall has been so bad, coming in as a bottom-10 runner in the league. What is Arians thinking?

The Cardinals, as I noted with Palmer, are facing the worst defense in the league this weekend in Atlanta. Perhaps Ellington sees a bigger role in the passing game, something that was non-existent against the Seahawks last week. He could be a nice flex play in a 12- or 14-team league given bye weeks.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins

Alfred Morris owners wanted to slam their televisions on the ground as they watched Helu score three touchdowns last weekend, but one numberFire writer – Drew Angel – was ecstatic. Just 12 days ago, Angel published an article noting that Helu was a worthy roster stash, and boy was he right.

The Redskins will face a Broncos team this week that are tricky to define on defense. They’ve given up the 25th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, but they actually rank first in our rush defense metric. A big reason they’ve given up so many fantasy points is because the team has allowed a rushing score in every game outside of last week. But the reason I love Helu? Denver’s given up the most receiving touchdowns to running backs in the league. That, clearly, is Helu’s strength in the Redskins offense.

Kendall Hunter, RB, San Francisco 49ers

If you need a deep play, don’t overlooked Kendall Hunter. Though he’s only seen double-digit carries once this season, the 49ers won’t be afraid to pull the plug on Gore if they jump to a big lead against Jacksonville. And given the way they’ve been playing, there’s a decent chance of that happening.

Hunter should have a five-carry floor this week, with double-digit carry upside.

Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Tate ranks 18th in the NFL in percentage of team targets, and now has 15 more than teammate Sidney Rice on the season. As noted with Russell Wilson, the Rams rank 30th in pass defense, having allowed 63 more points through the air than an average team in their position would have. Tate could be in store for a decent week.

Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders

Again, the Steelers don’t rank tremendously well against the pass when adjusted for strength of schedule, which is good news for quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his receivers. Why pinpoint Streater here and not top Raiders' receiver Denarius Moore? Well, the Steelers always try to shut down opposing team’s top wide receivers, while the number two guys have decent days. Look at Mohamed Sanu versus A.J. Green in Week 2 (5 for 40 vs. 6 for 41), Alshon Jeffery versus Brandon Marshall in Week 3 (7 for 51 to 5 for 52) and even last week we saw Torrey Smith with just three catches for 61 yards, one of them being a 41-yard reception. It’s a classic Dick LeBeau move. If you’re in a deep league, Streater should be at least looked at.

Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets

If Geno’s going to have a good day, someone’s going to have to reap the benefits, right? Kerley could be that man, as he’s averaging nearly three more targets per game without Santonio Holmes in the lineup than he was with him in. And remember, the Bengals secondary is beat up.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Eifert had a nice three-reception, 45-yard and one-score game last week against the Lions, and will see another nice matchup this week against the J-E-T-S. Though the Jets rank 19th against the tight end position in fantasy this year, much of that has to do with the one tight end reception they allowed to the Patriots and Bucs over the first two weeks of the season. Since then, the Jets have allowed three touchdowns to the position, and an average of 15.06 tight end fantasy points per week.

Defense to Start: New Orleans Saints (vs. Buffalo Bills)

Sit 'Em

Grocery Stores on Saturdays: Stay Away (Risky Starts)

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins

If Aqib Talib ends up playing for the Pats, there’s a good chance Tannehill struggles. Talib was out last week after outperforming every other cornerback in the league, and it resulted in a pretty good day from Geno Smith. But don’t be fooled: the Pats have the third best secondary in the NFL, and have given up the 7th-fewest points to opposing signal-callers in fantasy this year.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

After a good start to the fantasy season, Jason Campbell starting for the Browns, too.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers

I hate to make any strong predictions with Thursday night games, but this one just makes too much sense. DeAngelo hasn’t hit the end zone once this season, and the Buccaneers have allowed zero rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs. The Bucs rank second in rush defense, too. I’ve been a DeAngelo hater for most of this season, and it’s continuing in Week 8.

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets

Well that came out of nowhere, didn’t it? Ivory carried the ball 34 times (!!!) against the Patriots last week, running for 104 yards. You, me, the mail man and Rex Ryan don’t even know how many carries Ivory will see this week. What happened to our friend Bilal Powell?

Not only is the number of touches quite ambiguous, but Ivory will face the Bengals – a team ranking 10th in our adjusted rush defense metric. Unless it’s between him and someone like Mike James, I’d sit him.

Mike Williams, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Williams’ boom or bust play is making him borderline droppable in shallow leagues, and it’s not going to get any easier against the Panthers on Thursday night. Carolina’s given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, and have a top-five adjusted DPNEP score as well.

Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins

Like his quarterback, this will all depend on whether or not Aqib Talib is playing. If he does, stay away from Wallace. Very, very far away.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills

Stevie J returned from a back injury last week, catching six balls for 61 yards. He still hasn’t scored since Week 2, and has been more inconsistent this year than in year’s past. His opponent, New Orleans, surprisingly ranks fifth in adjusted pass defense, and has blanked receivers in the touchdown department twice this season.

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns

The Chiefs own the best pass defense in the league, and are best against defending the tight end as well. They’ve yet to surrender more than 43 yards (Tennessee) to the position, and haven’t given up a single score. If you’re in an 8- or 10-team league, you may have a better option than Cameron this week.

Josh Freeman's Monday Night: Forgettable (Only in 24-team leagues)

Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Glennon was fortunate to see the Falcons defense last week, and he put up multiple touchdowns and over 250 yards passing (just another reason Carson Palmer is worthwhile this week). Don’t expect Glennon to perform well on Thursday night; our analytics say that Carolina has the fourth-best secondary in the entire NFL, giving up the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Glennon’s been solid since becoming the starter in Tampa, but he probably won’t be this week.

Willis McGahee, RB, Cleveland Browns

McGahee has seen 70 rushing attempts since starting for the Browns, 54 more than teammate Chris Ogbonnaya. As a result, McGahee has posted four games under five fantasy points, with the lone 26-carry, 72-yard Thursday night as his best contest. He’s been dreadful. Awful. He’s not worth starting unless you’re in a league where you can only play players who have reached 30 years of age. Even then, given his matchup against the Chiefs, I’d probably bench him.

Rams Wide Receivers

When you’re calling Brett Favre to come in and try out to be the quarterback for your team – the same Brett Favre that’s been throwing the pigskin in his Wrangler jeans for three years – you know you’ve got issues. Trusting a receiver for the Rams without Sam Bradford is like trusting Ricky Williams to pass an on-the-spot drug test.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys

You can’t spell Miles Austin without “bummed hamstring”. Is there any reason to trust the guy as long as his hammy keeps him out? Hasn’t this been lingering for 14 years now? Don’t start Austin until he has a good game.

Sean McGrath, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

There was hope for McGrath and his beard at one point this season, but that hope was lost with the return of tight end Anthony Fasano. McGrath was at least rosterable in 16-team leagues, but that’s not the case anymore. Drop him while he’s [not] hot.

Defense to Sit: Arizona Cardinals (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

For any other start or sit questions, visit numberFire’s Questions section and take a look at our weekly rankings.