Week 8 is officially upon us, which means fantasy owners are in for a rough two weeks as they struggle to piece together a serviceable lineup with six teams on bye. This week, owners are without players from the Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. That’s a ton of fantasy studs that will be on the bench this week. Now, couple that with the injury epidemic plaguing the league this season and it’s not hard to notice that we’re going to see a lot of fresh faces racking up the fantasy points this weekend. Here’s a look at five unusual suspects to keep your eyes on for Week 8.
Brandon Bolden - Running Back, New England Patriots
Bolden had his biggest game of the season last week, finishing in the top 20 among fantasy running backs and just one point behind starter Stevan Ridley. He also was on the field for a season-high 49 snaps and is averaging 8.4 touches in the five games he’s played in this season. As long as Shane Vereen is sidelined by injury, Bolden is the Patriots’ pass-catching option out of the backfield, which is good news for fantasy owners this week. The Miami Dolphins’ 21st-ranked defense is struggling against opposing running backs this season and has given up 45 receptions to them in a six-game span. With the fantasy ‘back situation in shambles, Bolden is a solid FLEX option this week.
Carson Palmer - Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals
It was honestly a bit of a struggle justifying Palmer on this list, and rightly so. Over the last five games, his accuracy has been terrible, throwing 11 interceptions and managing just five touchdowns. But with so many quarterbacks out this week, Palmer becomes a pretty good option. The promising news here is that Larry Fitzgerald is the healthiest he’s been since the beginning of the season and the Cardinals take on the Atlanta Falcons this week, who rank dead last in terms of defensive net expected points, a metric we use at numberFire that adjusts for game situations and strength of schedule, on defense and are allowing the third-most passing touchdowns in the league. Palmer is a sneaky QB1 this week if he can avoid turning the ball over.
C.J. Anderson - Running Back, Denver Broncos
After a costly fumble last week against the Indianapolis Colts, running back Ronnie Hillman was benched by Broncos’ head coach, John Fox, and it was announced that Anderson would suit up in his place. Montee Ball appears to be in Fox’s doghouse and has underperformed all season, which means Anderson could see a decent amount of carries in relief of Knowshon Moreno - especially if Denver can build a big lead against the Washington Redskins’ 22nd-ranked defense and lean heavily on the run to eat up the clock.
Kendall Hunter - Running Back, San Francisco 49ers
Hunter hasn’t had a huge fantasy impact this season and he’s likely only being used as a Frank Gore handcuff or by severely desperate owners. This week though, Hunter could rack up some solid fantasy points. The 49ers have the privilege of taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars and their 28th-ranked defense and should have no problem building a big lead early. Jacksonville has surrendered eight rushing touchdowns and a league-high 882 rushing yards this season. With Gore hampered at least a little by an ankle injury, San Francisco could pull him early in favor of Hunter, which gives him the potential for a huge day, especially running out the clock in garbage time.
Rueben Randle - Wide Receiver, New York Giants
Randle has been the hottest receiver in New York recently, scoring at least one touchdown in each of the last three games. In those three games, Randle has not only finished with more fantasy points than teammates Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, but his total of 43.1 over that time is higher than Cruz and Nick’s combined 40.6. Despite this, Randle is only owned in 73.9 percent of fantasy leagues while Cruz and Nicks are both owned in 100 percent - so if you need a receiver and can find him, grab him and plug him in this week. It’s also worth noting that in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Randle went off for two touchdowns on 96 receiving yards, so he could have another huge day this weekend.