Fantasy Football Matchups: Week 8

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 0-5 stars (with five stars suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any stars suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute. You should be able to compare the ratings for the players on your team and make an educated pick on who should start -- and sit -- in your lineup .

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Texas Stadium
The Bucs' tendency to throw more than run will do them good against a Cowboys secondary that's struggling. Look for Tampa Bay to used big receivers Antonio Bryant and Jerramy Stevens in mismatches against the smallish and thin Dallas defensive backs, as well as a lot of underneath stuff to help take advantage of a blitzing Cowboys defense. Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn won't post numbers like Steven Jackson did last week, but they'll see enough work, especially if the Bucs build a lead into the second half. We'll see how Dallas does stopping them. The Cowboys might try to make an effort to lean on Marion Barber, but the Bucs' defense will key in on him and try to force the Cowboys to make Brad Johnson beat them. The Bucs have yet to yield a rushing touchdown this year, and Barber has not played well in his last two home games. It'll be hard to bench him, but if you have excellent options behind him, give it some thought. Brad Johnson's game was bad against a blitzing Rams defense last week, and you can be sure that the Bucs will bring the house on passing downs in an effort to force more mistakes.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jeff Garcia *** QB Brad Johnson **
Earnest Graham **** RB Marion Barber ***
Warrick Dunn ** RB Tashard Choice
Antonio Bryant *** WR Terrell Owens ***
Michael Clayton   WR Roy E. Williams **
Jerramy Stevens ** TE Jason Witten ****
Matt Bryant ** K Nick Folk ***
Buccaneers *** DST Cowboys ***
San Diego Chargers vs. New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Wembley Stadium
Both teams should be acclimated to London by now and put up a better game than the Giants and Dolphins did last season, but the weather could put a damper on their plans. There's a 70 percent chance of rain. That will hurt both teams quite a bit as they're both passing clubs (New Orleans more than San Diego). LaDainian Tomlinson should see a lot of work, but does that mean a lot of yards and touchdowns? The Saints' run defense stepped up in two of their last three and could be motivated to step up and shut down LT. That would leave Philip Rivers to throw, which he's done plenty of this season. If Chris Chambers is healthy, the Chargers should overpower the Saints' still-struggling secondary and put some points on the board. Without Chambers, it's a little tougher as they are thin on the roster there, though the Saints have allowed a 100-yard receiver in three of their last four games. The Saints won't be able to help themselves and fire back against a porous Chargers secondary. Marques Colston has had two weeks to get his legs back under him and should be a bigger part of the offense, and the rest of the Saints' options should do okay. Only if there is a total downpour would the Saints not choose to pass. Deuce McAllister should see an increase in work, but Aaron Stecker will take a good amount of work from him so long as Reggie Bush is sidelined. Stecker was great in place of Bush (and McAllister) last season.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Philip Rivers **** QB Drew Brees ****
LaDainian Tomlinson *** RB Deuce McAllister **
Darren Sproles   RB Aaron Stecker **
Chris Chambers *** WR Marques Colston ***
Vincent Jackson *** WR Lance Moore **
Malcom Floyd   WR Devery Henderson *
Antonio Gates **** TE Jeremy Shockey ***
Nate Kaeding **** K Taylor Mehlhaff *
Chargers ** DST Saints *
Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Lincoln Financial Field
The Eagles usually play well following the bye, and that doesn't bode well for the Falcons. It also doesn't help that the Eagles haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver. Roddy White will see a lot of coverage, and that won't help Matt Ryan's stats. The Falcons should lean on Michael Turner once again, and the Eagles have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two straight games. Problem is, the Eagles have had an extra week to study Turner and could bottle him up. Expect a modest game from Turner, but not his best stuff. The Eagles offense will turn back to Brian Westbrook, healthy after a couple of weeks off, and he'll be the main focus against the Falcons. Kevin Curtis' return might help things too; he's been getting into football shape the last couple of weeks and might surprise with a decent game. The Falcons are far from good vs. the pass; Donovan McNabb should have a solid week as well.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Ryan ** QB Donovan McNabb *****
Michael Turner *** RB Brian Westbrook *****
Jerious Norwood * RB Correll Buckhalter *
Roddy White *** WR DeSean Jackson ***
Michael Jenkins * WR Kevin Curtis *
Ben Hartsock   TE L.J. Smith ***
Jason Elam *** K David Akers ***
Falcons ** DST Eagles ****
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Bank of America Stadium
Another West Coast team heading East as the Cardinals are already 0-2 vs. East Coast teams and facing a Panthers defense that just shellacked Drew Brees a week prior. The Cardinals shouldn't plan on running much as the Panthers have done very well vs. better running backs than Edgerrin James and should overmatch him and the Cardinals' offensive line. That will force the Cards to pass, which isn't much better as the Panthers have been great vs. the pass. Carolina has yet to allow a 100-yard receiver, and Larry Fitzgerald has never had a 100-yard game after his bye week. A lot going against the Cardinals, but it's going to be very hard to sit Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston (assuming Anquan Boldin is out) and Kurt Warner. The Panthers should fight back with their typical balanced attack of ground-and-pound with some deep lobs to Steve Smith. Arizona may be coming off the bye but they cannot deny the fact that they've allowed an opponent to get at least 100 receiving yards in each of their last three games. Jonathan Stewart should get some clock-killing reps late in the game to help pad his fairly consistent totals.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kurt Warner **** QB Jake Delhomme ***
Edgerrin James ** RB Jonathan Stewart ***
Tim Hightower * RB DeAngelo Williams **
Larry Fitzgerald **** WR Steve Smith *****
Steve Breaston *** WR Muhsin Muhammad ***
Leonard Pope * TE Dante Rosario
Neil Rackers *** K John Kasay ***
Cardinals ** DST Panthers ***
Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, 1:00 pm, M& Bank Stadium
The Raiders are behind the eight ball as West Coast teams have struggled playing out East. Playing against the Ravens top-ranked run defense and fourth-best pass defense won't help, either. Bad week for Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden, both of whom will be bottled up; it's been 25 straight games since the Ravens have allowed a 100-yard rusher. If there's no run game, trusting JaMarcus Russell to carry the Raiders won't be very successful for Oakland or your Fantasy team. Javon Walker shouldn't be trusted as his good effort last week was his first in nearly a calendar year. The Ravens should be able to run wild against Oakland's defensive front, which was destroyed by Thomas Jones last week. Willis McGahee should continue his grand play from a week prior, and LeRon McClain's shot at a touchdown seems good. Joe Flacco's been throwing the ball a little bit better, and starting Derrick Mason as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver isn't a bad idea although the Ravens may only need to attempt 10-15 passes in the game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
JaMarcus Russell * QB Joe Flacco *
Justin Fargas ** RB Willis McGahee *****
Darren McFadden * RB LeRon McClain **
Javon Walker   WR Derrick Mason **
Ronald Curry   WR Mark Clayton *
Zach Miller * TE Todd Heap **
Sebastian Janikowski ** K Matt Stover *
Raiders * DST Ravens *****
St. Louis Rams at New England Patriots
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Gillette Stadium
The red-hot Rams face a tough task playing at the Patriots, but they shouldn't get run over. The Patriots will aim to take Steven Jackson out of the game, but that will prove difficult without Rodney Harrison able to help as the eighth man in the box. Jackson has been the key to the Rams' offense over the last couple of weeks as they use him to set up the pass. Donnie Avery is the more threatening receiver to the Pats than Torry Holt as no one on New England can match up with his speed. He should be good for another long gain -- assuming the Rams' inability to play well on grass doesn't extend to his legs. The Patriots are thin at running back and had a hard time with the Broncos' pass rush last week. That's a bad combination as the Rams' pass rush has picked up (seven sacks in last two games) and will come after Matt Cassel. That means Cassel must hit his short targets quicker, and that favors the Rams as Cassel is not great under pressure. The Rams may have allowed a 100-yard rusher in each of their last two games, but their pass defense has really improved, and that's not the best news as it pertains to a Patriots offense that had a good game against the Broncos last week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Marc Bulger ** QB Matt Cassel ***
Steven Jackson ***** RB Kevin Faulk **
Travis Minor   RB LaMont Jordan **
Donnie Avery ** WR Randy Moss ****
Torry Holt ** WR Wes Welker ***
Joe Klopfenstein   TE Benjamin Watson **
Josh Brown *** K Stephen Gostkowski ***
Rams ** DST Patriots ***
Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ford Field
The Redskins should continue their plan from last week vs. the Browns and give a heavy workload to Clinton Portis. The problem is that Portis is banged up and may not make it through another 27 carries. Thus, look for the Redskins to use Shaun Alexander a smidge more, and take advantage of mismatches in the passing game. The Lions yielded two touchdowns to tight end Owen Daniels last week, and tight ends have been playing well against them in general. Should be a nice week for Chris Cooley, as well as for Santana Moss (100-yard receivers allowed by Lions in back-to-back games). This should lead to a better-than-normal week for Jason Campbell, and if he can't do it here, he's probably not worth starting in Fantasy again. The Lions will have a hard time against a Redskins defense that hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher or 100-yard receiver in three straight games (Eagles, Rams, Browns). But if there's one thing that's clear, it's that Dan Orlovsky knows he can always throw a deep ball to Calvin Johnson. That potential for the big play keeps Johnson's Fantasy stature lofty, but no one else on the Lions is expected to make a big dent. If you're desperate, rusher Kevin Smith and wideout Mike Furrey might have a shot at around 75 total yards. It will help the Lions if Washington cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot are both sidelined.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jason Campbell *** QB Dan Orlovsky **
Clinton Portis ***** RB Kevin Smith *
Shaun Alexander   RB Rudi Johnson *
Santana Moss **** WR Calvin Johnson ***
Antwaan Randle El * WR Mike Furrey *
Chris Cooley ***** TE Casey FitzSimmons
Shaun Suisham *** K Jason Hanson
Redskins **** DST Lions *
Kansas City Chiefs at N.Y. Jets
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Giants Stadium
Tyler Thigpen is completing 42.2 percent of his passes at a clip of 4.3 yards per attempt. This is not a quarterback you want throwing to your Fantasy receivers. It also hurts that the Chiefs will bench Larry Johnson and trot out the duo of Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles at running back. Bad news all around. Tony Gonzalez might see a decent stat line, but expect all Chiefs' numbers to be down across the board with Thigpen under center. The Jets should pound the run with Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, but they have yet to have a game where they completely ignore the pass attack. This could be it as Brett Favre might not have Laveranues Coles at his disposal. It wouldn't be surprising if the Jets run the ball into the red zone and then have Favre throw touchdowns. The Jets defense should post a gem.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tyler Thigpen * QB Brett Favre ***
Kolby Smith   RB Thomas Jones *****
Jamaal Charles   RB Leon Washington **
Dwayne Bowe ** WR Laveranues Coles ***
Kevin McMahan   WR Jerricho Cotchery ***
Tony Gonzalez ** TE Dustin Keller *
Connor Barth   K Jay Feely ***
Chiefs ** DST Jets *****
Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Dolphin Stadium
With Dolphins run-stuffing defensive tackle Jason Ferguson a question mark for Sunday, the Bills will likely attack via the run. That's solid news for Marshawn Lynch, who is still looking for his first 100-yard game of the season, and Miami allowed its first 100-yard rusher last week. That might even help out Fred Jackson, who has seen at least 10 touches in four of six Bills' games. You can still expect Buffalo to throw as the Miami secondary is still far from superior, but Lynch should drive the offense here. The Dolphins should combat with a decent dose of Ronnie Brown, who I like this week. The "Wildcat" was a wreck last week against a fast 3-4 Ravens scheme. The Bills run a 4-3 and are thin at linebacker -- expect the formation to work well once again. Chad Pennington's high yardage totals are pushed by the surprising play of reserve rusher Patrick Cobbs, who might continue to see playing time since he's done well. One note: The Bills' defense has been bad news for Fantasy as they have allowed only one 100-yard rusher and no 100-yard receivers all season. The touchdowns have come, but not the yardage.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Trent Edwards *** QB Chad Pennington **
Marshawn Lynch ***** RB Ronnie Brown ***
Fred Jackson * RB Ricky Williams
Lee Evans **** WR Greg Camarillo *
Josh Reed   WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Robert Royal   TE Anthony Fasano *
Rian Lindell *** K Dan Carpenter *
Bills ***** DST Dolphins **
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
The Jaguars have been a disappointment vs. the pass this season with 11 touchdowns allowed, but the Browns have been just as much of a bust throwing the ball. Cleveland should continue to work downfield, taking advantage of a suspect Jacksonville secondary, but that doesn't guarantee big stats for Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth and Steve Heiden (Kellen Winslow is suspended). Subsequently, Jacksonville has been good, not great, against the run, and Jamal Lewis has been mediocre, not good, running the ball. The matchup is just right for Jacksonville on both sides of the ball as Cleveland hasn't been able to slow down anybody's run game. Look for Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to do much of the work and for David Garrard not to work much magic even though Matt Jones' suspension won't start this week amid an appeal.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Derek Anderson ** QB David Garrard **
Jamal Lewis ** RB Maurice Jones-Drew *****
Jerome Harrison   RB Fred Taylor ***
Braylon Edwards *** WR Matt Jones *
Donte' Stallworth   WR Jerry Porter *
Steve Heiden ** TE Marcedes Lewis *
Phil Dawson ** K Josh Scobee ****
Browns ** DST Jaguars ****
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Reliant Stadium
Believe it or not, this is a decent week for the Bengals offense. Houston has allowed a second-worst 11 rush touchdowns and is not that strong vs. the pass either. If you've got T.J. Houshmandzadeh or Chad Johnson, start them. If you need a sleeper running back, Cedric Benson is really worth a look. And if you're forced to dive for a quarterback this week, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't so bad as his play is gradually improving each week. The Texans should also find success, especially on the ground. Look for Steve Slaton to see a lot of work. Cincinnati's pass defense ranks sixth, but they're the only pass defense in the top 10 to allow 10 scores through the air. Kevin Walter is a decent sleeper this week. Should be a moderately high-scoring game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Ryan Fitzpatrick ** QB Matt Schaub ****
Cedric Benson ** RB Steve Slaton ****
Kenny Watson   RB Ahman Green *
T.J. Houshmandzadeh *** WR Andre Johnson *****
Chad Johnson *** WR Kevin Walter **
Ben Utecht   TE Owen Daniels ***
Shayne Graham ** K Kris Brown ****
Bengals   DST Texans **
N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Heinz Field
Should be a fantastic game where both teams are forced to pass thanks to two very good run defenses. Neither the Giants nor the Steelers have allowed a 100-yard rusher, and combined they've given up five rush touchdowns. Eli Manning has not looked strong in his last couple of games, both against 3-4 defenses like the Steelers. That's kind of surprising considering how well he did in two games last year vs. the Patriots' 3-4 defense. The Steelers' pass defense is No. 1 in the NFL with a league-high 25 sacks, so it's going to be hard for Manning to play well, and that will trickle down into his receivers' stats. New York is also good against the pass but might have given something away in their loss at Cleveland that the Steelers can pick up on, perhaps downfield throwing. If Ben Roethlisberger gets the time, look for him to use Nate Washington to beat the Giants deep. Mewelde Moore is actually a decent start because he'll also have a role in the passing game, assuming Willie Parker remains out as expected.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Eli Manning *** QB Ben Roethlisberger ***
Brandon Jacobs ** RB Mewelde Moore ***
Derrick Ward * RB Gary Russell
Plaxico Burress *** WR Hines Ward ***
Steve Smith * WR Nate Washington **
Kevin Boss   TE Heath Miller ***
John Carney ***** K Jeff Reed **
Giants *** DST Steelers ****
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Candlestick Park
Hard to like anyone from Seattle, including Julius Jones, who ran wild vs. San Francisco earlier this year but might be in Mike Holmgren's dog house following a sideline tirade last week. Also, the 49ers defense will be motivated to play big for intense interim coach Mike Singletary, so clamping down on the run will be key. That goes double since Seattle's passing game is a punchline. The 49ers DST is a sleeper this week. The Niners will play back with a heavy dose of Frank Gore and some downfield passing. The Seahawks' run defense and pass rush has been terrible this year, and the Niners should capitalize on it, especially with Mike Martz likely calling all of the shots without any interference.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Seneca Wallace * QB J.T. O'Sullivan **
Julius Jones ** RB Frank Gore *****
Maurice Morris ** RB DeShaun Foster
Bobby Engram   WR Isaac Bruce ***
Koren Robinson   WR Josh Morgan *
John Carlson ** TE Vernon Davis
Olindo Mare * K Joe Nedney **
Seahawks   DST 49ers **
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
Monday, 8:30 pm, LP Field
With a win, the Titans have a stranglehold on the division. That in itself is more than enough to motivate both teams. Expect a great game. Without Joseph Addai, the Colts will likely find themselves throwing more than rushing, which suits Peyton Manning just fine. Problem is, the Titans have been great vs. the pass all year, and Reggie Wayne isn't quite the same receiver on grass is he is on turf. Anthony Gonzalez, however, is a good outdoorsman as he's led the Colts' wideouts in receiving yards in their last three games on grass. Indy will have little choice but to put the ball in the air at least 35 times. The Titans will do the opposite, coming after the Colts 28th-ranked run defense (153 rush yards allowed per game). Chris Johnson should continue his hot streak, but goal-line vulture LenDale White will only post a big yardage total if it's a blowout, which is unlikely. Games between these teams have been close in each of their last four meetings.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Peyton Manning **** QB Kerry Collins **
Dominic Rhodes ** RB Chris Johnson *****
Clifton Dawson   RB LenDale White ***
Reggie Wayne *** WR Lavelle Hawkins *
Anthony Gonzalez *** WR Brandon Jones
Marvin Harrison ** WR Chris Davis
Dallas Clark *** TE Bo Scaife ***
Adam Vinatieri *** K Rob Bironas *****
Colts * DST Titans ***
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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