Week 8 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Are All the Dallas Cowboys in Play This Week?

Dak Prescott had an efficient but low-volume return last week. How are the Cowboys shaping up for Week 8?

Another season of fantasy football, another trove of start-or-sit scenarios to answer.

It's not just enough to draft the right team and make the right moves off the waiver wire, no. We all know that. We also have to make sure that we are starting the right players each week.

Of course, we have our studs, anchors, and the players we're starting virtually no matter what. We don't need anyone to tell us to start Cooper Kupp. But, the further down the lineup we go, the more those questions trickle in.

Then again, no player is a "must-sit" in every scenario, and perhaps the WR3 you've been plugging in each week may have a better alternative.

To answer the question, "Should I sit Player X," depends on the answer to the question, "Who can you start instead?" That's why I like to switch up the typical start-or-sit column format. I'm going to be listing out all relevant fantasy football players each week and bucketing them into tiers.

Take some of the guesswork out of setting our lineups weekly, I'll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based on numberFire's player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives (i.e. players listed above them on the list).

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances), and higher on the list means more startable.

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver wire, should I start this player this week?

Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.

Note: Injuries impact projections and will be forecast as best as possible, but be sure to check out numberFire's updated fantasy football projections closer to kickoff and track NFL player news updates.


Start With Confidence
- Josh Allen vs. GB (75%)
- Jalen Hurts vs. PIT (71%)
- Joe Burrow at CLE (62%)
- Lamar Jackson at TB (62%)
- Tua Tagovailoa at DET (59%)
- Kirk Cousins vs. ARI (54%)
- Kyler Murray at MIN (51%)
Consider If Needed
- Geno Smith vs. NYG (46%)
- Dak Prescott vs. CHI (46%)
- Tom Brady vs. BAL (46%)
- Marcus Mariota vs. CAR (43%)
- Derek Carr at NO (42%)
- Daniel Jones at SEA (39%)
- Matthew Stafford vs. SF (38%)
- Russell Wilson at JAC (37%)
- Jameis Winston vs. LV (36%)
- Jared Goff vs. MIA (35%)
- Aaron Rodgers at BUF (35%)
Bench If Possible
- Trevor Lawrence vs. DEN (34%)
- Mac Jones at NYJ (33%)
- Jimmy Garoppolo at LA (32%)
- Justin Fields at DAL (28%)
- Sam Ehlinger vs. WSH (27%)
- P.J. Walker at ATL (27%)
- Jacoby Brissett vs. CIN (27%)
- Davis Mills vs. TEN (27%)
- Kenny Pickett at PHI (27%)
- Zach Wilson vs. NE (27%)
- Taylor Heinicke at IND (24%)
- Ryan Tannehill at HOU (6%)
- Malik Willis at HOU (3%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Ryan Tannehill is projected at half of his normal workload. Even if he is a full-go, he's a Tier 3 play.

Only two quarterbacks are on bye this week, but they're a relevant duo: Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. With just two teams on bye, though, most teams won't be seeking streamers, so the Mahomes and Herbert managers may not need to dig deep for replacements. That said, the Tier 2 list is long, meaning there are a lot of uncertain options.

Slotting in as a high-end Tier 2 play is Dak Prescott. Prescott, in his return, threw for only 207 yards on 25 attempts. Despite the 24-6 final score, the game was close until the final few minutes. Either way, the Dallas Cowboys did not ask him to throw much against a beatable Detroit Lions' rush defense. Importantly, Prescott averaged 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, more than three times the NFL average of 0.07. He may be set up for a similar game script this week as big favorites against the Chicago Bears, though the Bears do rank 10th in adjusted pass defense, according to numberFire's metrics. The ceiling might be a bit capped unless this turns into a shootout.

How much longer can we keep starting Tom Brady and getting away with it? Brady is the QB12 overall on the season but is averaging only 15.1 fantasy points, which would rank him as the QB22 on a per-game basis. Brady has just two games with more than 300 yards passing and just one game with multiple touchdowns. Helping matters, the Baltimore Ravens rank a middling 15th in adjusted pass defense. Brady has played five teams in the middle tier of the pass defense ranks (12th through 25th). In them, he's averaged 273.0 yards and 1.2 touchdowns for 15.7 points per game. You're not benching him for just anyone, but a few waiver-wire players have similar top-12 odds.

It's true that Aaron Rodgers, as a big underdog, should have to throw a lot against the Buffalo Bills, but that doesn't necessarily lead to fantasy points. We need efficiency -- and touchdowns -- from our quarterbacks, especially if they don't run. Buffalo boasts the third-ranked adjusted pass defense in the NFL. In three games against other top-eight adjusted pass defenses, Rodgers has averaged 250.7 yards and 1.7 touchdowns but has done so with poor efficiency (-0.05 Passing NEP per drop back versus expectation). Like with Brady, be open to alternatives.

Running Back

Start With Confidence
- Derrick Henry at HOU (84%)
- Jonathan Taylor vs. WSH (79%)
- Saquon Barkley at SEA (79%)
- Joe Mixon at CLE (75%)
- Christian McCaffrey at LA (73%)
- Alvin Kamara vs. LV (72%)
- Nick Chubb vs. CIN (71%)
- Josh Jacobs at NO (71%)
- Leonard Fournette vs. BAL (69%)
- Dameon Pierce vs. TEN (68%)
- Travis Etienne vs. DEN (68%)
- Rhamondre Stevenson at NYJ (68%)
- Dalvin Cook vs. ARI (65%)
- Aaron Jones at BUF (64%)
- Raheem Mostert at DET (64%)
- Kenneth Walker III vs. NYG (62%)
- D'Andre Swift vs. MIA (61%)
Consider If Needed
- David Montgomery at DAL (59%)
- Miles Sanders vs. PIT (58%)
- Eno Benjamin at MIN (57%)
- Ezekiel Elliott vs. CHI (51%)
- Tyler Allgeier vs. CAR (51%)
- Najee Harris at PHI (50%)
- Michael Carter vs. NE (45%)
- D'Onta Foreman at ATL (43%)
- Tony Pollard vs. CHI (70% if Elliot is out; 41% if Elliott plays)
- Devin Singletary vs. GB (41%)
- Brian Robinson at IND (40%)
Bench If Possible
- Darrell Henderson vs. SF (39%)
- A.J. Dillon at BUF (36%)
- Kareem Hunt vs. CIN (32%)
- Melvin Gordon at JAC (32%)
- Gus Edwards at TB (32%)
- Antonio Gibson at IND (31%)
- James Robinson vs. NE (27%)
- Latavius Murray at JAC (27%)
- Jamaal Williams vs. MIA (27%)
- Rex Burkhead vs. TEN (26%)
- Chase Edmonds at DET (21%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- James Conner is projected at a half workload, leaving Eno Benjamin in the second tier. With both healthy, consider them both low-end Tier 2 plays.
- Chuba Hubbard has a half projection. That puts D'Onta Foreman squarely in Tier 2. If Hubbard plays, both are Tier 3 plays.

Tyler Allgeier has earned a very respectable role in a run-heavy offense. Allgeier has played on 59.0%, 57.1%, and 60.0% of the Atlanta Falcons' snaps over the past three games while Cordarrelle Patterson has been sidelined. Allgeier and the Falcons face the Carolina Panthers this week; Carolina ranks a beatable 13th in rushing success rate allowed to opposing backs and are allowing 0.17 rushing yards over expected to the position, as well.

Without Breece Hall for the remainder of the season, Michael Carter seemed primed for a featured role with the New York Jets. The Jets weren't sold on that idea and traded for James Robinson. Even with Robinson presumed to be limited in his first week with the team, Carter isn't a must-start. Last week (when Hall played 20.8% of the team's snaps), Carter played on 75.5% of the Jets' offensive plays and turned 13 carries into just 29 rushing yards (24.6 yards under expectation, according to NextGenStats). For the season, Carter has averaged -0.64 rushing yards over expectation per carry; Hall was able to thrive in the offense by churning out 1.41 yards over expected per carry. Carter is a Tier 2 play and should be startable for most rosters -- just not all of them.

I know I featured Tony Pollard here last week, and he put forth a strong showing -- while finally out-snapping Ezekiel Elliott. However, Elliott did miss some snaps after an injury stint. That being said, this typical 60/40 split might draw closer to 50/50 as a result, and the Cowboys should be playing in a positive game script against the Bears based on the point spread. Pollard and Elliott, then, would be getting reps against a team that ranks 27th in adjusted fantasy points per carry allowed to opposing backs. They're also 23rd in rushing yards over expectation allowed on a per-carry basis to running backs. Both Elliott and Pollard are viable again this week for teams that need some running back depth. Elliott missed practice on Wednesday. If he were to sit this week, then Pollard is rating out as a 70% play to be a top-24 back.

Wide Receiver

Start With Confidence
- Cooper Kupp vs. SF (82%)
- Davante Adams at NO (77%)
- Justin Jefferson vs. ARI (74%)
- Tyler Lockett vs. NYG (70%)
- Stefon Diggs vs. GB (69%)
- Ja'Marr Chase at CLE (68%)
- Tyreek Hill at DET (68%)
- CeeDee Lamb vs. CHI (68%)
- D.J. Moore at ATL (66%)
- Deebo Samuel at LA (66%)
- A.J. Brown vs. PIT (61%)
- Chris Olave vs. LV (60%)
- DeAndre Hopkins at MIN (60%)
- Mike Evans vs. BAL (60%)
- Jaylen Waddle at DET (57%)
- Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. MIA (56%)
- Brandin Cooks vs. TEN (53%)
- Chris Godwin vs. BAL (51%)
Consider If Needed
- Amari Cooper vs. CIN (47%)
- DeVonta Smith vs. PIT (45%)
- Adam Thielen vs. ARI (45%)
- Michael Pittman Jr. vs. WSH (43%)
- Christian Kirk vs. DEN (43%)
- Robert Woods at HOU (42%)
- Courtland Sutton at JAC (39%)
- Drake London vs. CAR (37%)
- Diontae Johnson at PHI (37%)
- Tee Higgins at CLE (35%)
- Garrett Wilson vs. NE (34%)
- Jerry Jeudy at JAC (33%)
- Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. CIN (33%)
- Gabe Davis vs. GB (31%)
- Brandon Aiyuk at LA (30%)
- George Pickens at PHI (30%)
Bench If Possible
- Michael Gallup vs. CHI (29%)
- Chase Claypool at PHI (26%)
- Zay Jones vs. DEN (26%)
- Jakobi Meyers at NYJ (26%)
- Terry McLaurin at IND (26%)
- Tyler Boyd at CLE (26%)
- Marvin Jones vs. DEN (23%)
- Darnell Mooney at DAL (21%)
- Romeo Doubs at BUF (20%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- These players have a half projection due to uncertainty: Michael Thomas, Corey Davis, Allen Lazard, Nico Collins, and Russell Gage.

We have a lot of depth at receiver available to us, given the two teams on bye.

It's been an up-and-down fantasy campaign for Amari Cooper. He has four games with at least 74 yards and two games with fewer than 20 yards. This week, he has a tough matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, who rank fourth in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers and seventh in yards per route run to the position. Cooper, though, should be in line for game-script-driven volume as an underdog. Plus, David Njoku is out, and Cooper should see a few extra targets as a result.

Diontae Johnson is the WR38 for the year, just barely beating teammates George Pickens (WR43) and Chase Claypool (WR44). In two full games with Kenny Pickett under center (Weeks 5 and 7), Johnson has a dominant 24.7% target share, followed by Claypool (18.3%) and Pickens (15.1%). Unfortunately for him, his catch rate over expectation is -17.6%. Claypool's is -11.6%. Pickens is the one making the most of his chances (+18.0%). Ultimately, no receiver has underperformed his expected fantasy point output (13.5 half-PPR points per game in my model) more than Johnson (-5.7 points per game). In a game where the Steelers should have to throw as big underdogs, we can trot out Johnson again. The same goes for Pickens and -- to a lesser extent -- Claypool.

The inclination to sit Gabe Davis after a bye week is probably pretty weak. There are some reasons for concern, though. Although the Bills' pass rate over expectation is the best mark in football, Davis has not had more than six targets in a game yet this season and has three scores in his past two games to boost his production. If you're set at receiver or flex and don't truly need Davis' volatility, then take a long look at your alternatives before chasing the production tied to questionable volume.

Michael Gallup was blanked in Dak Prescott's return in Week 7. Gallup saw only a pair of targets on his 21 routes. Of note, however, both of those were downfield targets, and his average target depth was 22.7 yards. We still want more than two targets, of course, but there's still upside in Gallup's role, and his target share moving forward should look more like the 19.0% it was entering Week 7 and not the 8.0% rate he earned last week. He's not a priority start, but things should be better soon.

Tight End

Start With Confidence
- Mark Andrews at TB (76%)
- Dallas Goedert vs. PIT (52%)
- George Kittle at LA (51%)
- Darren Waller at NO (51% at full; 21% at half)
- Kyle Pitts vs. CAR (50%)
Consider If Needed
- Tyler Higbee vs. SF (48%)
- T.J. Hockenson vs. MIA (46%)
- Pat Freiermuth at PHI (39%)
- Dalton Schultz vs. CHI (38%)
- Greg Dulcich at JAC (38%)
- Noah Fant vs. NYG (36%)
- Taysom Hill vs. LV (35%)
- Robert Tonyan at BUF (34%)
- Zach Ertz at MIN (34%)
- Will Dissly vs. NYG (33%)
- Evan Engram vs. DEN (32%)
- Irv Smith Jr. vs. ARI (31%)
- Hayden Hurst at CLE (31%)
Bench If Possible
- Harrison Bryant vs. CIN (29%)
- Mike Gesicki at DET (28%)
- Cameron Brate vs. BAL (27% at full; 8% at half)
- Cade Otton vs. BAL (27% if no Cameron Brate)
- Dawson Knox vs. GB (26%)
- Daniel Bellinger at SEA (26%)
- Tyler Conklin vs. NE (24%)
- Brevin Jordan vs. TEN (24%)
- Hunter Henry at NYJ (23%)
- Cole Kmet at DAL (23%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Darren Waller and Cameron Brate have a half projection.

Keeping with the Cowboys theme, Dalton Schultz had a noteworthy connection with Prescott in the quarterback's Week 7 return (5 targets for 49 yards). He "tweaked" his PCL but is expected to be fine for Week 8 and beyond. The Bears are a top-five adjusted defense against tight ends, yet even with opponent adjustments, they haven't faced much in the way of production or volume. Schultz, if healthy, can be rolled out again this week.

The model likes Greg Dulcich, the third-rounder from UCLA. Dulcich has averaged 6.0 targets (a 17.1% target share) and 47.5 yards in his two games since debuting -- even while splitting those games between Russell Wilson and Brett Rypien. Notably, Dulcich has averaged 2.5 downfield targets per game (10-plus yards downfield). Only Mark Andrews (3.9) and Travis Kelce (2.9) have averaged more downfield targets on a per-game basis.

Another tight end much higher in the simulations than versus consensus is Noah Fant. Fant is yet to finish a week better than the TE15, but he's stepping into a pretty fantasy-friendly game against the New York Giants, and D.K. Metcalf will not be 100% healthy even if he is able to play. The Giants have allowed a target on 23.0% of tight end routes so far this season, the second-highest rate in football. On those routes, they've given up 1.83 yards on average, the fourth-highest yards-per-route-run rate allowed to the position.