Early Position Ranks, Week 8

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Below you'll find a preliminary look at the Week 8 position ranks. As always, these rankings are the product of proprietary lab research, advanced stochastic modeling, thousands of simulations and controversial-yet-promising precognitive studies.

If actual on-field results do not correspond, blame the players, not the expert.

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Quarterbacks

You'll find all the usual suspects up at the top, plus Jay Cutler(notes). The Bears face a Cleveland defense that's allowed 661 net yards via the air and five passing TDs over the past two weeks. ... David Garrard(notes) makes a rare appearance in the top-10 because the Week 8 opponent, Tennessee, allows 310.7 passing yards per game. The Titans have somehow given up 19 passing TDs already. Garrard threw for 323 yards and three scores against Tennessee in Week 4. There's a chance that CB Cortland Finnegan(notes) (hamstring) will return to the Titans, but he didn't practice on Wednesday. ... Green Bay's defense will need an entirely new script against Brett Favre(notes) this week. The Packers refused to pressure No. 4 in the earlier meeting, so Favre picked them apart, mercilessly (24-for-31, 271, 3 TDs). ... Matthew Stafford(notes) (knee) is back at practice for Detroit, but Calvin Johnson(notes) (another knee) is not. There's no obvious reason to watch the Lions-Rams tilt, unless you enjoy penalties, unforced turnovers and veteran kickers. But that game is likely to produce a few useful fantasy lines. ... As of this writing, Tennessee had not officially announced the Week 8 quarterback, but team owner Bud Adams has reportedly endorsed Vince Young(notes). In cameo appearances during Weeks 5 and 6, Young went 0-for-5 with one interception. That's enough to nudge him ahead of Derek Anderson(notes) in the ranks, but we'll go no further.

Running Backs

Steve Slaton(notes) has fumbled six times in seven games and he hasn't yet reached 80 rushing yards in any week, but his competence as a receiver has kept him relevant in fantasy leagues. Slaton is on pace for over 60 catches and nearly 700 receiving yards. In Week 8, he'll face a Buffalo defense that allows a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry and 172.4 rushing yards per game. ... Matt Forte(notes)'s situation is similar to Slaton's in that he's been a fumbling disappointment in both fantasy and reality. But Forte has not matched Slaton's production as a receiver. Chicago is at home against Cleveland on Sunday, and the Browns' defense has allowed five-star highlights to opposing backs all year. They're giving up 4.9 yards per carry and 170.6 per game. ... Brian Westbrook(notes) was reportedly unconscious following the knee-to-the-head incident on Monday night, and he's experienced both headaches and memory loss – and still he's considered a game-time decision. Let's hope that's just a smokescreen; expect LeSean McCoy(notes) to be the feature back in a semi-difficult matchup. ... If he played for any other team, Beanie Wells(notes) would rank as a top-15 running back this week. The Panthers rank 26th in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 133.2 yards per game, and Wells is coming off an encouraging Week 7 performance versus the Giants (17 touches, 77 yards, TD). But we can't trust the Cardinals to run, even when it's the right thing to do. ... With Donald Brown(notes) (shoulder) likely sidelined for a week or two, Mike Hart(notes) should get clean-up duty. Colts president Bill Polian has said that Hart is "very likely to be up and dressed and playing a big role." ... As we've mentioned previously, Jets rookie Shonn Greene(notes) isn't all that similar to Leon Washington(notes) in terms of running style. But there are no style points in fantasy. Rex Ryan has indicated that Greene "will probably pick up most of Washington’s running duties."

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Wide Receivers

One-Lung Johnson intends to play at Buffalo on Sunday, despite the fact that he was spitting up blood during last week's game. "I feel like I’ll be out there unless they cut my leg off," Johnson told the Houston Chronicle. If they did cut his leg off, he'd be a game-time decision. ... Reggie Wayne(notes) did not practice on Wednesday, but it's clearly a good sign that he was able to return to the field in Week 7 after injuring his groin. ... Miles Austin(notes) has led all wide receivers in fantasy scoring in each of his last two games. Presumably the streak will end someday, but there's no sitting Austin now. Drops have been an issue, but the same can obviously be said for all Dallas receivers. ... Anquan Boldin(notes) (ankle) managed to catch three passes for 75 yards in Week 7, but he was clearly not at full speed. He receives an injury-related deduction in the ranks this week. ... Hakeem Nicks(notes) has found the end zone in four straight games for New York. It's no longer defensible to rank the drop-prone Mario Manningham(notes) ahead of him. ... Even Chris Chambers(notes) acknowledges that Malcom Floyd(notes) "deserves to play." It seems unlikely that anyone would say the same about Chambers. ... Jerricho Cotchery(notes) is expected to return this week against Miami; he'll get a bump in the ranks if the practice reports remain positive. ... Following his disastrous, multi-drop performance in Week 7, Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) reportedly didn't work with either the first or second-team at practice on Wednesday. The fantasy outlook improves for Davone Bess(notes), Brian Hartline(notes) and Greg Camarillo(notes).

Update, 1:00 pm CT: The Megatron news is better than expected. This via MLive.com:

Receiver Calvin Johnson, who missed the past two days of practice, went through some drills in the part of practice the media is allowed to watch. He ran routes and caught passes and didn't appear to be hobbled by his right knee injury.

That should be enough to force Johnson into the Friday re-ranks, though it's far from clear that he's near 100 percent.

As for Vernon Davis(notes): He's been outstanding all year, arguably making a bigger leap than any skill position player in the NFL. And yes, he and Alex Smith had a nice thing going in Week 7. Davis' absence from this week's top-12 is simply a nod of respect to the Indianapolis defense. The Colts have allowed only two passing touchdowns all year. That's it...two. They've also given up the fewest per-game fantasy points to opposing tight ends. It's a brutal matchup, and the position is loaded.

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