Week 8 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em



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Start 'Em or Sit 'Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Notable QBs on bye: Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert

Start of the Week: Tua Tagovailoa at Lions – Fantasy's overall QB10 in points per game, Tagovailoa returned from dual concussions to play Week 7 against the Steelers. With stud LT Terron Armstead (toe) also back, he wasn't sacked in the win and is making a conscious effort to avoid big hits. Tagovailoa completed 60% of his throws for 261 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh, looking like the same Tua. He now catches a legitimate breakout spot against a Lions defense that is 31st in pass-defense DVOA, 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 23rd in adjusted sack rate, 32nd in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, 24th in opponent completion rate, and 31st in yards per attempt against. The Lions field 1-of-5 defenses that are bottom-10 in both pass- and run-defense DVOA. Detroit is also 32nd in opponent yards per play and 25th in opponent plays per game. All of the Miami skill guys are surefire fantasy starts. The only issue Tagovailoa might run into is he could need the Lions to keep up on offense, but Miami's leaky pass defense paves an easy path for Jared Goff's group. Sixth in yards per play, the Dolphins' implied team total of 27.25 points is Week 8's second-best.

Starts

Kirk Cousins vs. Cardinals – A top-13 fantasy quarterback in points per game through seven weeks, Cousins is coming off the bye and catching a Cardinals team that had a mini-bye after beating the Saints last Thursday night. This game's 49-point total and 3.5-point spread suggest potential fantasy fireworks under the roof at U.S. Bank Stadium. Cousins' numbers certainly don't jump off the page in his first season under coach Kevin O'Connell. Cousins' touchdown rate of 3.9% is two percentage points lower than his 2021 rate and well below his career average of 5.2%, while his 6.6 YPA average is significantly lower than his 7.7 career mark. Bad quarterback play around the league is the only thing that has Cousins a to-date borderline QB1. Cousins now gets a date with a pass-funnel Cardinals defense that is 27th in pass-defense DVOA versus sixth against the run. Arizona is also 30th in adjusted sack rate, 30th in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, 26th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 24th in opponent completion rate, 24th in yards per attempt against, and 24th in opponent yards per play. Currently sixth in pass rate over expectation, the Vikings are set up well to throw the ball Sunday. Cousins isn't an exciting fantasy play, but he shows up for these 1 PM Sunday dates.

Daniel Jones at Seahawks – Largely in part to Jones being third among quarterbacks in rushing with a 58/343/3 line, Jones enters Week 8 as fantasy's overall QB9 in points per game. He's coming off an 11/107/1 rushing day last week against the Jaguars, adding 202 yards and a touchdown with his arm. Further removed from his ankle injury, Jones is looking closer to 100 percent in an offense that is starting to pick up the pace more under offensive gurus, coach Brian Daboll and OC Mike Kafka. The Giants head to Seattle now to face a Seahawks defense that is 19th in pass-defense DVOA, 27th in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, 23rd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 25th in rushing yards allowed to quarterbacks, 28th in yards per attempt against, 27th in opponent yards per play, and 29th in plays per game allowed. Despite this game's 44.5-point total, we have a matchup between two teams that have played vastly better than many expected this season. Jones warrants QB1 consideration but is more of the boom-or-bust variety with a sky-high rushing ceiling but a basement-level floor as a passer.

Geno Smith vs. Giants – Fantasy's overall QB7, Smith is having a career year, grading out as Pro Football Focus' fifth-best quarterback through seven weeks while leading the league with a 73.5% completion rate. He's also 1-of-6 quarterbacks averaging at least eight yards per attempt. Even with DK Metcalf (knee) leaving early in the first half and Tyler Lockett (hamstring) less than 100% last week against the Chargers, Smith completed 20-of-27 throws for 210 yards (7.8 YPA) and two touchdowns to veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin. Smith has multiple touchdown passes in 5-of-7 games and has pitched in with a 30/132/1 rushing output. The Seahawks are a mere 28th in offensive plays per game, but their efficiency is off the charts, checking in at No. 3 in yards per play behind only the Bills and Chiefs. Seattle is just outside the top-10 in pass rate over expectation, coming in at No. 11, so coach Pete Carroll and OC Shane Waldron are throwing the ball more and playing faster with Smith under center. The Giants are 26th in pass-defense DVOA, 28th in adjusted sack rate, 29th in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, and 25th in opponent yards per play. The likely absence of Metcalf (knee) is reason for concern, but Smith should be teed up as a top-12 quarterback and surefire starter in two-QB formats.

Sits

Justin Fields at Cowboys – Fields posted the overall QB5 week last Monday night in the Bears' stunning 19-point road win over the Patriots. Fields isn't throwing with any sort of volume, as he's been limited to 22 attempts or fewer and less than 200 yards passing in 6-of-7 games, but his rushing numbers have been on the rise with back-to-back 12/88/0 and 14/82/1 lines. Week 7's win over New England was arguably Fields' best game as a pro. But he's now on a short week headed to Dallas to face a Cowboys defense that is No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 1 in adjusted sack rate, fourth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, third in yards per attempt against, second in opponent yards per play, and second in points per game allowed. The Bears' implied team total of 16.5 points is the second-lowest on the slate. Straight up, I like the Cowboys' D/ST better than Fields as a Week 8 fantasy play.

Trevor Lawrence vs. Broncos – Lawrence posted his first 300-yard passing game of the season last week in the loss to the Giants, but he completed a pitiful 51.2% of his throws and didn't throw a touchdown on 43 drop-backs. He only was able to save his fantasy day by falling into the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak. Lawrence has a fluky three rushing scores over the last two contests, propelling him up fantasy boards as the season's overall QB11. But Lawrence has just one passing score over his last three games, and his receivers can't separate or win deep. Trekking to London, Lawrence now gets a date with a Broncos defense that is the backbone of the team. Denver is third in pass-defense DVOA, fourth in adjusted sack rate, first in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, first in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, first in yards per attempt against, and first in opponent yards per play. This game's 39.5-point total is the lowest on the Week 8 slate. Both defenses are in play for season-long players.

Marcus Mariota vs. Panthers – Fantasy's overall QB11 in raw points, Mariota is all the way down at QB19 in points per game among quarterbacks that have started at least three games. The least voluminous passer in football right now, Mariota has attempted 20 throws or fewer in four of the last five games, as coach Arthur Smith has leaned even more on the run game. Even with the Falcons getting decked on the scoreboard last week, Mariota still threw the ball just 13 times. He's averaging a strong 7.9 YPA when he does throw, and Mariota is among the league leaders at quarterback with his 49/237/3 rushing line, but Smith clearly doesn't want Mariota dropping back to pass very often. Atlanta is 31st in pass rate over expectation and 32nd in PROE in the red zone. Especially in a game where the Falcons have been installed as four-point home favorites over the lowly Panthers, Smith might run the ball 40-50 times.

RUNNING BACK

Notable RBs on bye: Austin Ekeler, Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Start of the Week: Tony Pollard vs. BearsEzekiel Elliott took a big hit to his knee/lower thigh area last week against the Lions and briefly left the game before returning, finishing with two touchdowns. With the adrenaline now worn off, Elliott is reportedly dealing with a sprained MCL and deep thigh bruise. He hasn't practiced at all this week and looks extremely unlikely to play Sunday, even if coach Mike McCarthy is trying to play games via the media. The expectation is Pollard will be the unquestioned RB1 and workhorse against Chicago. With Rico Dowdle on injured reserve, look for the Cowboys to promote one or both of Malik Davis and Qadree Ollison to the active roster for Week 8. Pollard played a season-high 65% of the snaps last week and has handled double-digit touches in 5-of-7 games. He's now a candidate for 20-plus carries in a game the Cowboys should control the scoreboard and line of scrimmage. Dallas' offensive line is seventh in adjusted line yards created, and the Bears are 24th in run-defense DVOA, 29th in Pro Football Focus' run-defense grades, 27th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and 23rd in yards per carry against. Pollard is an exciting plug-and-play RB1 with top-three upside in a spot the Cowboys are 9.5-point home favorites.

Starts

Raheem Mostert at Lions – Over the last four weeks, Mostert is averaging 19 carries plus targets per game, clearly distancing himself as the Dolphins' RB1 in the process. Mostert is averaging a strong 4.5 YPC and had his best receiving day of the year last week with a 4/30/1 night against the Steelers. Since Week 4, Mostert is fantasy's overall RB19 in half-PPR points per game. Mostert has been playing through some knee soreness but looks no worse for the wear, and the Dolphins haven't been dialing back his playing time. He now catches a Lions defense that is hemorrhaging production to running backs, checking in at 29th in run-defense DVOA, 22nd in Pro Football Focus' run-defense grades, 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 32nd in rushing touchdowns allowed to the position, 30th in yards per carry against, 25th in opponent plays per game, and dead last in yards per play allowed. Ezekiel Elliott hung the RB10 week on the Lions last Sunday with a two-touchdown effort. In a game with a Week 8-high 51-point total against a Charmin-soft opponent, Mostert is a rock-solid RB2.

Michael Carter vs. Patriots – Rookie sensation Breece Hall is done for the year after tearing his ACL last week against the Broncos. Hall was on his way to OROY honors. Just 24 hours after Hall's injury, the Jets swung a trade for ex-Jaguars RB James Robinson. Not well-versed in the offense yet, it's unclear what kind of role Robinson will have in the short term. Look for Carter to pace this backfield until Robinson is up to speed, and there's even a pretty good chance Carter is the 1A the rest of the way. Carter is a capable pass-catcher and has converted 2-of-3 goal-line chances for touchdowns. The loss of LG Alijah Vera-Tucker (biceps, I.R.) hurts the offense, but Carter is now the lead back in one of the league's most run-heavy schemes with Zach Wilson under center. New England is an extreme run-funnel defense, coming in at 28th in run-defense DVOA and fifth against the pass. The Patriots just got decked by the Bears for a combined 45/243/2 rushing effort last Monday night. New England is 27th in yards per carry allowed. Carter hasn't been all that efficient with the ball in his hands this season, averaging just 3.5 YPC, but the volume should be there, making him a plug-and-play RB2.

Tyler Allgeier vs. Panthers – With both Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) and Damien Williams (ribs) due back possibly as soon as next week, this could be Allgeier's final game atop the depth chart. And it's a good one. The rookie played a season-best 62% of the snaps last week against the Bengals and out-carried bowling ball-type Caleb Huntley 16-6 while also finding the end zone. Playing in the league's second-most run-heavy offense, trailing only the Bears, Allgeier could get his biggest workload of the season Sunday where the Falcons are rare home favorites against lowly Carolina. The Panthers have played middling run defense, coming in at 13th in run-defense DVOA and 23rd in fantasy points allowed to running backs. With both offenses starting quarterbacks whom the coaches don't trust to throw the ball, we could see a quick game dominated by rushing attempts. Allgeier is largely TD-dependent, but this is one of the best individual matchups he'll see all year. He's a passable RB2 in season-long formats.

Sits

Najee Harris at Eagles – One of fantasy's biggest busts relative to draft position, Harris enters Week 8 averaging just 3.3 YPC with one rushing score as fantasy's overall RB32 in half-PPR points per game. He's yet to rush for 75 yards in a game and has just two 20-touch outings in a Steelers offense that is dead last in yards per play. Pittsburgh's offensive line is 25th in adjusted line yards created on the ground. Harris is lacking explosiveness after battling a Lisfranc issue over the summer and is slamming into brick walls when he does get the ball. The Eagles are 22nd in run-defense DVOA and 15th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but game script could quickly get away from Harris with the Steelers installed as heavy 10.5-point road underdogs against a Philly team coming off its bye week. Harris is always in danger of losing playing time to Jaylen Warren when the Steelers are chasing points. Harris is a low-floor RB3.

James Conner at Vikings – Conner has missed the last two games with a ribs issue, but he did return to practice this week, suggesting the veteran will be ready to go for Sunday. However, Eno Benjamin played well in Conner's absence, and Conner wasn't producing prior to his injury. Conner hasn't scored since Week 1 and is averaging an ugly 3.7 YPC with zero runs of 20 yards. It's fair to wonder if Benjamin has earned a bigger slice of the pie going forward. With that in mind, it's tough to get excited about Conner's outlook. It would probably be best for the fantasy community if Conner just sits another one out, giving Benjamin locked-in RB2 status.

Damien Harris at Jets – After missing basically the previous two games, Harris returned from his hamstring injury last week against the Bears. But he played just 17% of the snaps while Rhamondre Stevenson remained the clear lead back with a 77% snap share and 19 combined carries and targets to Harris' five. Stevenson led the team in targets and catches and is running away with the No. 1 job. Harris should remain a factor around the goal line, but he's become a touchdown-or-bust proposition headed into a tough spot against the Jets. Coach Robert Saleh's unit is 14th in run-defense DVOA, seventh in Pro Football Focus' run-defense grades, 11th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and third in yards per carry against. This game's 40.5-point total doesn't inspire much confidence from a fantasy perspective.

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WIDE RECEIVER

Notable WRs on bye: Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Josh Palmer

Start of the Week: D.J. Moore at Falcons – Leave it to P.J. Walker to finally unlock Moore. In the Panthers' Week 7 stunner over the Bucs, Moore set season-highs with seven catches on 10 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown, his second of the year. Walker is back under center for Carolina this week, and Baker Mayfield will be his backup. Moore catches a plus-plus Week 8 draw against a Falcons defense that will be without top CB A.J. Terrell (hamstring) and recently placed No. 2 CB Casey Hayward (shoulder) on injured reserve. Atlanta is dead last in pass-defense DVOA, 22nd in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, and dead last in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. The Falcons have surrendered the most catches and most touchdowns to the position. Moore commanded a robust 45.5% target share on 22 Walker throws last week and is legitimately the only capable pass-catcher on the Panthers' roster. Moore is safe to tee up as a volume-driven WR2 with upside in this glorious on-paper spot.

Starts

Adam Thielen vs. Cardinals – Thielen is definitely starting to show his age at 32 years old, averaging a mediocre 9.8 YPR and no games of 75-plus receiving yards. But he's got fresh legs coming off the bye and remains one of Kirk Cousins' top red-zone targets. Justin Jefferson has out-targeted Thielen just 10-9 inside the 20-yard line, and Thielen has a pair of inside-the-10 touchdowns to Jefferson's one. Thielen's ceiling is gone, but his floor remains safe as a fantasy WR3 headed into a game with a 49-point total, the second-highest of Week 8. The Cardinals are a pass-funnel defense, checking in at 27th in DVOA and sixth against the run. Thielen is more of a TD-reliant option now than in years past, but this game script supports him as a start.

Wan'Dale Robinson at Seahawks – After playing just 23% of the snaps in Week 6, Robinson's snap rate jumped to 69% last Sunday, and his targets doubled from four to eight. The rookie slot man runs his routes close to the line of scrimmage, but Robinson has already established himself as one of Daniel Jones' top targets, especially with Kadarius Toney now traded to the Chiefs and rookie TE Daniel Bellinger (eye) out 4-6 weeks. This offense is Saquon Barkley and Robinson with a sprinkling of Darius Slayton as the big-play threat. Robinson is a good bet to lead the Giants in catches the rest of the season. With his playing time trending up, Robinson now draws a Seattle unit that is 19th in pass-defense DVOA, 27th in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, 29th in opponent plays per game, and 27th in yards per play allowed. Robinson is more of a PPR-based option, but Jones has already found him for a short touchdown this season. He's worth firing up as a WR3/FLEX play in all formats.

Chase Claypool at Eagles – A staple in the Steelers' three-wide offense, Claypool's arrow is trending upward in recent weeks with target counts of nine, seven, and eight the last three games. As the Steelers' slot receiver, Claypool has the best individual matchup Sunday, as he should avoid outside CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry much of the afternoon. And with Pittsburgh as 10.5-point road underdogs after playing last Sunday night and facing an Eagles team coming off its bye, the Steelers might be forced to throw early and often. We haven't gotten a glimpse of Claypool's ceiling in a while, but he's WR3/FLEX playable in this spot.

Sits

Drake London vs. Panthers – As noted above, the Falcons simply aren't throwing the football anymore. They have the league's second-highest run rate, and Marcus Mariota has attempted just 14 and 13 passes the last two weeks. London and Kyle Pitts tend to see most of those looks, but the volume isn't good enough to elevate them to trustworthy fantasy starters. And now the Falcons are four-point home favorites, a spot where coach Arthur Smith can run the ball even more if the game script allows it. London is a low-floor WR3/4 in this low-volume tilt.

Hunter Renfrow at Saints – All of the Raiders' pass-catchers are now healthy with Darren Waller due back from his hamstring injury this Sunday. The additions of Davante Adams and Mack Hollins in the offseason have pushed Renfrow way down the target totem pole, and he's playing just 55-60% of the snaps with Adams and Hollins as the every-down wideouts. The Saints have been getting cooked by wideouts lately, but the big concern for Renfrow is if he's going to be on the field enough to see the volume to make him more than a dart-throw WR4.

Parris Campbell vs. Commanders – For Campbell as a person, it's nice to see him finally producing on an NFL field with the two best games of his career in Weeks 6 and 7, totaling 17/127/2 on 23 targets in that span. But it's really tough to get behind him as a fantasy starter going forward with the Colts now inserting former sixth-rounder Sam Ehlinger under center and benching Matt Ryan for the rest of the year. Ehlinger was a four-year starter in college at Texas and has shown to be more of a scrambler when we've seen him in preseason action. We should expect the Colts to lean even more into Jonathan Taylor going forward, particularly in Ehlinger's first start. You're on your own trying to figure out the Colts' target pecking order with Ehlinger.

TIGHT END

Notable TEs on bye: Travis Kelce, Gerald Everett

Start of the Week: T.J. Hockenson vs. Dolphins – There's a clear dropoff from Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews at the top, but Hockenson is fantasy's overall TE4 in half-PPR points per game. He's ninth in targets and 14th in catches at the position but does have three touchdowns. An overwhelming amount of his production stems from a monster Week 4 game against the Seahawks when Hockenson went ballistic with an 8/179/2 day, including an 81-yard catch-and-run. But he does get another plus-plus draw against Miami this week, as the Dolphins just gave up an 8/75 night to Pat Freiermuth last Sunday and are 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Only two teams have allowed more catches to the position, and S Brandon Jones was just lost to a torn ACL last week. Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift returning lowers Hockenson's potential target volume, but it should allow him to see more one-on-one looks in the middle of the field. He's a shoo-in top-five fantasy play in a game with a 51-point total.

Starts

Pat Freiermuth at Eagles – After missing Week 6 with a concussion, Freiermuth returned last week against the Dolphins to post season-highs with eight catches for 75 yards on nine targets. With CBs Darius Slay and James Bradberry locking down the boundaries for Philly's defense, the middle of the field is where to attack the Eagles. Slot man Chase Claypool was mentioned above as a passable WR3/FLEX this week, and Freiermuth is in the same boat as a legitimate top-10 option at tight end. The Eagles are 14th in fantasy points allowed to the position, but Jake Ferguson (4/40/1), Zach Ertz (6/48), Irv Smith (5/36/1), and T.J. Hockenson (4/38) have all met expectations in previous dates with the Eagles this season. Freiermuth looks like he's developed a rapport as Kenny Pickett's safety valve in the middle, and the Steelers project to be chasing points all day as 10.5-point road underdogs.

Hayden Hurst at Browns – The Bengals crushingly lost Ja'Marr Chase (hip) for 4-6 weeks starting this Sunday, and that leaves behind 10.5 targets per game. Look for Tee Higgins to be the biggest beneficiary, and the Bengals could lean even more on Joe Mixon in Chase's absence, but Hurst is going to have to take on more of a pass-catching role. The Browns have handled tight ends pretty well to this point, allowing the third-fewest catches and sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position, but Cleveland is one of five defenses that is bottom-10 in both pass- and run-defense DVOA. Offenses have been able to move the ball on the Browns. And they haven't exactly faced a murders' row of tight ends. Mark Andrews (knee) was playing on one leg last week, but Hunter Henry (4/61/1) did find the end zone the week before.

Harrison Bryant vs. BengalsDavid Njoku (ankle) is in a walking boot and expected to miss multiple games. Bryant is more than capable of filling the pass-catching role and should be an every-down player in Njoku's absence. Bryant was ultra-productive in college and, as ex-Rotoworld kingpin Evan Silva would say, was an MF'in Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end. Bryant makes sense as a pickup for Njoku's fantasy players. The Bengals are a middling 18th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and Jacoby Brissett tends to lean on his tight end, dating all the way back to his previous stops in New England, Indy, and Miami. I personally added Bryant off waivers this week as my Travis Kelce bye-week fill-in.