As our astute Fantasy editor Chris Towers pointed out to our staff this week, there are at least 43 Fantasy-relevant injuries across the NFL in Week 8. That list doesn't include the players who are already out for the season, or injured offensive linemen or defensive players. You'll read about some injury replacements below, some who have played better than expected, and some from whom you might be expecting too much. Opportunity means more than talent in Fantasy Football, but remember that players thrust into large roles were previously bench players for a reason.
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All lines from William Hill Sportsbook.
The line wants us to believe: The undefeated Steelers are overrated. If anything, the Steelers are savvy on offense and opportunistic on defense. Baltimore's run game will need a spark (J.K. Dobbins?) if they're to compete. Ben Roethlisberger's short-pass game should keep the Steelers close on the scoreboard (and keep the pass rush off his back). I'm kind of thinking the oddsmakers want you to take the Steelers and the points, but I genuinely feel that's the better way to lean.
PIT Pittsburgh • #7
Age: 38 • Experience: 17 yrs.
While they've allowed just eight passing scores this year (fourth-best), the Ravens are in the middle of the pack in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (18th, 22.0) and passing yards allowed per game (17th, 259.8). They've also surrendered a touchdown on 76.9% of the 13 opposing red-zone visits they've yielded. There's a lot of good and bad in that last sentence, but the thought process is that if Roethlisberger sticks to his get-it-out-quick pass plan, there could be just enough red-zone success for Roethlisberger to hit 20 Fantasy points. That's good, but there's only been one week all season where 20 Fantasy points means a top-12 finish.
PIT Pittsburgh • #19
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Smith-Schuster only had north of eight targets last week, but he could get close to there again given how the Steelers' quick-pass offense works. He's more likely to see Marlon Humphrey when he lines up inside, which could keep his numbers down, and his red-zone targets (four on the season, three inside the 10) offer less appeal than Johnson. Also, Smith-Schuster has one career game in five with over 10 non-/15 PPR points in five against the Ravens.
PIT Pittsburgh • #18
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Johnson's had at least 10 targets in every game he's finished -- Fantasy managers shouldn't overlook anyone with that track record. He figures to see Marcus Peters in coverage some of the time, which isn't bad; Peters has allowed three scores this year.
Gus Edwards RB
BAL Baltimore • #35
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
We're going to get our first look at the future of the Ravens run game with Mark Ingram sidelined. Unfortunately it's coming against a Steelers defense that ranks second-best against the run (68.8 rush yards per game) and third-best in Fantasy points allowed to rushers. When Ingram left in the Ravens' last game, it was Edwards who played a few more snaps (25) than Dobbins (20), with Dobbins in on 11 passing downs to Edwards' five. It's expected to be a similar split between the two backs here, though asking either guy to catch a hot hand against the Steelers might be too much.
The line wants us to believe: The Rams' win on Monday was meaningless. The key word there? Monday, as in the Rams played then, then practiced for a few days before flying to Miami. Not exactly the best scenario for a good but tired team against a well-rested and rejuvenated Dolphins squad with a shiny new quarterback. There's no chance the Dolphins would have made this move if Tua Tagovailoa wasn't ready. You're trapping yourself if you pick the Rams.
Cooper Kupp WR
LAR L.A. Rams • #10
Age: 27 • Experience: 4 yrs.
It's hard to hate on Kupp, who's not only the Rams' target and reception leader on the season, but also over the past three weeks. He's just not scoring. The Dolphins could keep the pain coming -- they've given up just seven receiving touchdowns all season, with just five to receivers and only two to wideouts in their past four games. To be honest, the only team they played that had great receivers was Seattle, and that fearsome twosome combined for only 10 targets. It's tough to be enthusiastic about Kupp in non-PPR formats since he's quickly devolving into a touchdown-needy receiver, but he's still not going to hurt you in PPR formats because he's carried a steady target share with him all season.
The line wants us to believe: That there's only one way to make this game interesting. The Jets have lost by 20 points three times this year, and only sloppy offenses have let them hang around. Kansas City's defense has started playing better and too many injuries for the Jets make it hard to believe they'll hit their 14.75 implied point total. So what the heck? Take the Chiefs.
Le'Veon Bell RB
KC Kansas City • #26
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
The narrative that Bell will exact revenge against his old team is pretty obvious. It's simply a matter of whether or not he gets the chance. A dirty secret from last week's win was that Bell had 17 snaps to Clyde Edwards-Helaire's 18 through three quarters, then the rookie tacked on six more snaps in the early fourth. If that's a sign of things to come, Bell should absolutely find the touches to score against a defense that's allowed 125.6 rush yards per game and nine scores through seven weeks. (It's also a horrible sign for Edwards-Helaire's Fantasy prospects). The Jets are an aggressive bunch on defense, but they'd be nuts to not play zone against the Chiefs like everyone else. That's just a bigger invitation for Bell to rack up yardage.
The line wants us to believe: The Vikings will keep it close. Couldn't they have gotten away with minus-8 or minus-9 here? Minnesota's pass rush is tame and its secondary is beat up. Expect Aaron Rodgers to attack the flats and sidelines all game long as the Packers roll to a convincing win.
MIN Minnesota • #18
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Jefferson has had over 100 yards in three of his past four with at least one touchdown in two. That's most excellent, but the matchups have been very much in his favor (Titans, Texans, Falcons). The Packers are a different story, especially with quality outside cornerback Jaire Alexander potentially shadowing Jefferson when he lines up wide. Both he and Adam Thielen are lining up outside a bunch, but Jefferson had played in the slot on 34% of his snaps, better than Thielen's 22%. Game script should also point to a nice target share for the Vikings' receiving corps.
Irv Smith TE
MIN Minnesota • #84
Age: 22 • Experience: 2 yrs.
In the Vikings' two games before the bye, Smith converted 10 total targets into an 8-119-0 stat line with three receptions going for over 20 yards. It's a start. Smith's playing time has also vastly improved in those games to over 65% of the snaps in each and 79% in Week 6. It's entirely possible that the Vikings saw Smith's good traits on film and ultimately decided to get the 6-2, 242-pounder more work. What else does this coaching staff have to lose? You might not be ready to start him just yet, but at the very least, consider stashing Smith on your roster and seeing if his usage improves.
The line wants us to believe: Detroit's last two wins were flukes. Making the Lions underdogs at home is a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for those people brave enough to take the Colts, whose defense should be healthy and whose offense should get back to basics with the run game. It's the side the oddsmakers don't want you on. Don't be surprised if Philip Rivers connects on a handful of deep throws.
Trey Burton TE
IND Indianapolis • #80
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Burton has had at least five targets in each of his past three games, but never played more than 56% of the snaps in any of them. And while I fully expect the Colts to find ways to keep Burton involved, this feels like a matchup Indianapolis should be able to run the ball effectively in. And sure, technically the Lions rank third in Fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but that's not as much of a reason to avoid Burton as the limited volume opportunity that could be there in Week 8.
DET Detroit • #88
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
With touchdowns in three straight games, Hockenson will start for Fantasy managers who don't have a better option even though he himself has produced under 10 Fantasy points in two of those past three. Indianapolis ranks first in fewest Fantasy points allowed to tight ends. That's partially because the Colts haven't faced many great ones, and partially because they've yielded the second-fewest red-zone possessions against them this season (15), and they're tied for 13th in red-zone scoring allowed (66.7%). At the very least, don't use Hockenson in DFS because he's priced as a top six tight end on FanDuel and DraftKings.
The line wants us to believe: ... in Baker Mayfield. If not for his late heroics last week, the Raiders might be favored here. There's less to trust with the Raiders, especially considering how well the Browns run defense has been playing. I would expect Kareem Hunt, not Mayfield, to be the reason why Cleveland pulls away, but they will pull away.
LV Las Vegas • #15
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
You might not believe this, or want to believe this, but Agholor looked great last week. He blew past Tampa Bay's cornerbacks regularly, including on a 44-yard double-move and a 20-yard go-route that scored his third touchdown in as many games. He's effectively working as the Raiders' No. 1 receiver, a role that should come in handy against a Browns defense that's been taken behind the woodshed to the tune of 11 touchdowns to wideouts this season. It would be baffling for the Raiders to give rookies Henry Ruggs or Bryan Edwards playing time ahead of Agholor, and with their run game in a bit of a funk, Agholor provides needed reliability in the passing game.
CLE Cleveland • #82
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
The temptation is to rush these guys into lineups in the wake of Odell Beckham's injury (especially Higgins after his 100-yard game last week). Try to help yourself. Landry looks less spry than usual, and it's probably because of the injuries he's dealing with. Higgins flashed good awareness and adjustment to Baker Mayfield's throws last week but only occasionally separated from coverage. Both receivers need a lot of targets to find acceptable Fantasy numbers. The Raiders allowed three scores to wideouts last week, but that was against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, and they only allowed four touchdowns in the five games prior.
The line wants us to believe: Joe Burrow gives the Bengals a chance, even against tough competition. This Titans team is something else, down two scores last week and still running the ball -- and still making defenses pay. The Bengals have lost three good players from their D-line just in time for Derrick Henry to rumble 20 times. Maybe it's a sucker line because they're not giving Cincinnati more points, but the Titans should win, even if it's a higher-scoring game than they'd like it to be.
Jonnu Smith TE
TEN Tennessee • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
One bad game shouldn't scare you off of Smith. Late last week, Smith nearly had a short-yardage touchdown and two plays later was the primary read for Ryan Tannehill and was held on the play. So nothing's changed, he's still a desirable end-zone option for the Titans. Wait, one thing has changed ... he's not facing a tough defense in the Steelers and now gets to take on the lousy Bengals. Cincy allows the third-most Fantasy points to tight ends (11.7 per week). Smith remains a must-start.
A.J. Green WR
CIN Cincinnati • #18
Age: 32 • Experience: 10 yrs.
The only thing missing from Burrow's game was touchdowns, and he finally began collecting those last week. His completion rate on the season is 66.6% (69.7% in his past two), he's getting 6.9 yards per attempt (8.36 in his past two) and he's even rushed for a score in each of his past two. The sudden re-emergence of Green has helped considerably; Green has become a reliable short- and mid-range target for Burrow, and another dangerous receiver defenses must account for. Suddenly ripe with a deep receiving corps and a run game that can't go anywhere behind a bad O-line, Burrow will take on a Titans defense that gave up 25.2 Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks before last week (now it is "down" to 24.0). I expect Burrow to eclipse 300 yards with multiple scores again, and for Green to continue seeing targets (24 in his past two games!).
The line wants us to believe: Buffalo's offense really is in trouble. Maybe it is, but the Patriots' offense is in even bigger trouble. Both teams have quarterback and run game issues to start fixing, but the Bills' receiving corps has more playmaking potential. That's the side I want to be on, even in a projected low-scoring matchup.
Cole Beasley WR
BUF Buffalo • #11
Age: 31 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Stefon Diggs is still the top target, and John Brown's return figures to steal some targets, but until the Bills' run game gets settled, Beasley should be a reliable short-area option for Josh Allen. He's had at least 11 PPR points in six straight games, in matchups against good defenses, bad defenses, and with and without Brown on the field. Beasley is especially solid when the Bills are in tight games -- Allen leans on him then more so than other situations. And how's this for interesting? Allen has a slightly higher QB rating on throws to Beasley than to Diggs and Brown (all over 110.0), but significantly more yards after catch per reception (4.4 for Beasley, 2.3 for Diggs and 2.9 for Brown). The Patriots figure to try and take away Diggs in the passing game and settle for whatever Beasley does. In 2019, that meant at least 14 PPR points in each meeting with the Pats.
The line wants us to believe: Denver's not as bad as the score suggested last week. Wow, they sure want you to take the Chargers, don't they? Truth is, Drew Lock played erratically last week. If he does it again behind that offensive line against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, there's no way the Broncos will be able to compete. I'm sure the oddsmakers are thinking Justin Herbert is due for a let-down, but he's been in tougher spots on the road and come through remarkably.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #27
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
You have to wonder how much longer the Chargers will give Kelley touches when he's averaged 2.03 yards per carry over his past three games. He's just not running with explosiveness lately. Jackson wasn't any good as a rusher in Week 7 either (2.4 yards per run) but was more explosive as a receiver (8.6 yards per catch) than Kelley (4.8). Perhaps Jackson wasn't given more work because he wasn't quite healthy enough. A matchup at Denver won't help -- even without defensive tackle Mike Purcell, the Broncos figure to make things hard on the Bolts' run game, especially if the O-line remains a massive problem. I won't back off from saying Jackson is the better Fantasy rusher, but I wouldn't trust either one.
Noah Fant TE
DEN Denver • #87
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Despite getting seven targets, Fant's return from a one-game absence didn't quite go as planned. Drew Lock was a problem, throwing three uncatchable passes Fant's way along with a wobbler that was returned for a pick-six. But toward the end of the game we saw them connect for a couple of nice grabs, plays that showed off Fant's size and physicality. The Broncos are clearly a work-in-progress, but Fant remains a primary part of the offense, particularly if Tim Patrick is hurt and Jerry Jeudy continues to struggle to stand out. Fant's involvement and upside keeps him within the top 12 among tight ends. It doesn't hurt that the Chargers have allowed four scores to tight ends in their past five.
The line wants us to believe: That previous games don't matter when these teams meet. Honestly, how in blazes is Seattle favored by less than a field goal?! I can't figure it out, which is the first sign of a trap line. But I can't see the 49ers staying within less than three points against Russell Wilson and their bitter rival. If it's a trap, I'm falling in.
SF San Francisco • #11
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
When does a matchup against the league's worst-ranked pass defense get even better? How about when one of said secondary's top cornerbacks is out? Shaquill Griffin's concussion might sideline him for the matchup, opening the door for even more gaudy totals for Aiyuk. The stars align further with Deebo Samuel (hamstring) out and the 49ers run game a rather large question mark. We should expect a couple of more backfield touches for Aiyuk on top of the in-breaking and deep-ball routes he runs. Aiyuk has posted nine PPR points in four of his past five and 12 PPR points in three of his last five, suggesting a pretty decent floor. The ceiling, however, is sky-high as the Niners' second-best offensive weapon behind George Kittle, who is sure to see a lot of attention from the Seahawks bottom.
SEA Seattle • #31
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Here's what we know: Chris Carson has a mid-foot sprain and didn't practice all week. He's questionable. Carlos Hyde pulled his hamstring and didn't practice all week. He's doubtful. Travis Homer made progress on a knee bruise and is expected to play despite being listed as questionable. DeeJay Dallas is perfectly healthy and practiced all week but has played 23 snaps through six games. His rushing style is a good fit for the Seahawks but he's a potential liability on third downs. Also, starting guard Mike Iupati won't play. Oh, one more thing: At 11.57 per game, no one's allowed fewer non-PPR Fantasy points to running backs this season than the 49ers. Aside from Carson pulling off the miracle recovery, any Seahawks running back is a desperation play UNLESS Dallas is the only active running back on the roster.
The line wants us to believe: The Bears loss on Monday was a blip on the radar. Why else would they only get four points against the Saints? The Saints defense nearly blew it last week against the Panthers and the offense is down to Alvin Kamara, Jared Cook, Tre'Quan Smith and scraps for Drew Brees to throw to. With or without Allen Robinson, this is a bounce-back game for the Bears.
Jimmy Graham TE
CHI Chicago • #80
Age: 34 • Experience: 11 year
Allen Robinson's availability does damper the outlook for Graham, pushing him into the touchdown-or-bust tight end he's basically been all year. The good news is that Graham is second on the Bears in targets (five or more in five straight games), third in the NFL in red-zone targets, and tied for first in targets (seven) and receptions (five) inside the 10-yard line. Last week was literally the first game this season the Saints didn't allow a tight end to score (one target went to a tight end). Plus it's a revenge game. Maybe that's enough to will Graham to 10 PPR Fantasy points.
The line wants us to believe: Dallas can find some points this week. The Cowboys just got their doors blown off by Washington and the Eagles have been very competitive for the past several weeks. Even with Dallas' reinforcements on the O-line, the Eagles' defense should be primed to keep them out of the end zone.
DAL Dallas • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci has a quick, compact release, a live arm and a willingness to run, but his leanish frame, footwork, pocket poise and decision making make it easy to understand why he was a seventh-round pick. Putting him in a spot against NFL caliber defenses seems pretty sub-optimal, especially without quality pass protection. I would imagine the Cowboys will scheme up quick passes and rollouts (he can throw on the move) to help him get comfortable. If his tendencies from college (and last week) to throw to the sideline and downfield are any indication, Amari Cooper and, theoretically, Michael Gallup would benefit the most. You'd have to be very brave to start either of them against the Eagles, who figure to stick Darius Slay on Cooper and Avonte Maddox on Gallup while blitzing the snot out of DiNucci. Lamb was a favorite of mine to begin the week, but I found it odd he played just one snap with DiNucci and then wasn't on the field at all in the fourth quarter. Maybe it was penance for dropping two passes. You'd have to be brave to go with Lamb, too.
Boston Scott RB
PHI Philadelphia • #35
Age: 25 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Scott is in the right place at the right time. He had a pretty mediocre game last week until he caught a beautiful 18-yard pass from Carson Wentz for a touchdown late in the game. But it was encouraging to see him play 69% of the snaps and land 15 touches (and 79% of all running back touches). Here come the Cowboys and their toothless run defense that shed defensive end Everson Griffen and disappointing big man Dontari Poe earlier this week. It's unlikely replacing them will make the unit noticeably better against the run -- they already rank sixth-worst in Fantasy points allowed to running backs. Scott still must contend with his own team's offensive line issues, but his opportunities should be even better than last week.
The line wants us to believe: The Giants are pushovers. It's not true -- they've hung tough in each of their past four games and were a dropped pass away from winning last week. Tampa Bay's offense might be down Chris Godwin, but the defense should be in a spot to turn over Daniel Jones a couple of times. Four of Tampa Bay's five wins have been by 14-plus points, but something tells me the Giants find a way to lose by 9 or 10.
TB Tampa Bay • #28
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Bruce Arians cleverly referred to Fournette as his "nickel" running back this week, meaning he'll work in the passing downs role. That may likely mean he'll handle the two-minute offense. This development came during last week's game against the Raiders after Jones dropped a pass and was benched for much of the second quarter. Fournette finished with six receptions on seven targets, upping his catch rate to 87%. Arians also said Jones is still "our guy," which might merely mean he's the Buccaneers' running downs back until he messes up again. But he's averaged 4.8 yards per carry and is a perfect 15 for 15 in converting downs of 3 yards or fewer to go, including 3 for 3 when a touchdown is on the table. There's room for both to be helpful this week in what should be a reliable victory for Tom Brady's crew. Teams are running the ball 22.0 times per game at the Giants -- that could lead to 15 touches for Jones and perhaps 12 for Fournette.
So who should you start and sit this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 8 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big-time last season.
The line wants us to believe: The Falcons are going to keep finding ways to lose. There can't be a lot of confidence out there on the Falcons, and the oddsmakers know it by making the Panthers a home favorite. Carolina's a solid team but their defense is overrated. I expect Matt Ryan's arm to be plenty busy.
Hayden Hurst TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The Panthers have allowed a score to a tight end in three of their past four. That's a pretty good place to start with Hurst, who has either scored and/or accumulated 50 yards in five of his past six. He's also seen six-plus targets and four-plus receptions in three of his past four. Hurst is regularly involved as a short-area and red-zone threat, perfect for a matchup against a Carolina defense that plays zone coverage almost exclusively. Matt Ryan missed Hurst on a touchdown throw back in Week 5 -- here's hoping they make amends for that in Week 8.
CAR Carolina • #5
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
There's mostly good news, but a tad of bad. The Falcons have allowed a minimum of 313 passing yards in every game, and Week 7 was the first time they DIDN'T give up multiple scores to a quarterback. That includes Bridgewater's two-score, 313-yard day back in Week 5. The tad of bad news? Surprisingly, Bridgewater's numbers against man coverage (75% completion rate, 10.1 yards per attempt, four scores, one pick) are noticeably better than versus zone coverage (71% completion rate, 7.6 yards per attempt, two scores, four picks), and the Falcons stick to playing zone about two-thirds of the snaps every game. It suggests another game like Bridgewater's Week 5 might just be his ceiling, keeping him as a low-end starter ahead of guys with risky matchups like Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.