The NFL season is officially at the midway point, and things just keep changing the fantasy landscape every week. One more undefeated team, the Minnesota Vikings, went down to the Pittsburgh Steelers' opportunistic defense. While another undefeated team, the New Orleans Saints, similarly used their defense to wrestle victory from the jaws of what seemed an imminent defeat against the Miami Dolphins. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts remained undefeated which of course left the St. Louis Rams winless.
Injuries and poor performances had their impact this week as well. The San Francisco 49ers wasted no time in pulling the switch at QB now that they have their rookie WR, Michael Crabtree on the field. Alex Smith jumped in and threw three TDs to TE Vernon Davis, almost stealing victory from the Houston Texans. On the otherside of the bay, the New York Jets routed the Oakland Raiders with their running game. Unfortunately for Leon Washington, who broke his leg, it was rookie Shonn Greene who made fantasy tongues wag. You can read my full Week 7 Fantasy Wrap Up at SB Nation.
Here’s a look back at last week’s ranks and predictions. I went 10-3 last week, in a lot of close games. The Panthers/Bills game could have gone either way. I was surprised the Giants did so poorly two weeks in a row, and the 49ers almost came back to win. Oh well. On the season I’m at 73 – 32, just about 70%.
--Week 7 Soundbites--
In the Monday Night game, much as I called in my week 7 QB rankings, Donovan McNabb played poorly for fantasy purposes; 156 yards and 1 TD.
Meanwhile, the guy I pushed as a bye week fill in, Jason Campbell, managed 284 yards and two TDs in the Redskins loss to the Eagles. There were injuries on both sides, with Philly RB, Brian Westbrook knocked out early with a concussion, and the Redskins TE, Chris Cooley breaking his ankle. TE Fred Davis did nicely in his stead, with 8 receptions for 78 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, most of the offense for the Eagles came from WR DeSean Jackson, who rushed one time for 67 yards and a score, and caught McNabb's only TD of the game. On a final note, as I predicted in my Week 7 IDP Starts, new Philly LB, Will Witherspoon made the season's one deadline trade pay off right away with 6 solo tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception run back for a TD. Welcome to the city of brotherly love.
In San Diego, Kansas City Chiefs' RB, Larry Johnson had another forgettable game, followed by an attack of Twitter stupidity which may have ended his career with the Chiefs, which will be no big loss for fantasy owners. That means Jamaal Charles should be a solid waiver grab this week. For now the Chiefs have told Johnson to stay away from the team and the facilities while they investigate his big mouth, er fingers.
Finally, the Windy City woes continue for Da Bears, who blew it against the Cincinnati Bengals, who didn't have to wait until the last play of the game to seal a victory this week. Chicago was lost all afternoon. Jay Cutler threw three picks, and the Bears defense had no success stopping Bengal's QB, Carson Palmer, who tossed 5 TD passes, before leaving the game in the 4th quarter for back up J.T. O'Sullivan. I think the J.T. stands for Junk Time. I could be wrong.
–Team Defense Start and Sit – Week 8–
Plug and Play
|Solid defensive option
|If they are on your bench, leave 'em there
|Reasonable risk/reward option
Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens
This looks to be one of the more intriguing contests of the week. The Ravens Ray Rice proved a top rush defense could be violated. Can he make it two such games in a row? The Ravens have been up and down this season. Winning their first 3 convincingly then losing their last three by 11 points total. The Broncos, have managed to find ways each week to get the win, whether luck (week 1), or with special teams (week 6) or playing weak teams (weeks 2/3), or highlight reel heroics from their WR beast, Brandon Marshall (week 4/5). Can they find a way this week against a team averaging 28 points a week to their 22 a week? The Ravens have eclipsed 30 points in 4 of their 6 games so far. This should be one to watch.
Houston Texans at Buffalo Bills
The outcome of this game may hinge on whether the Texans have WR Andre Johnson available to play. The team is calling his injury day to day, but until practices start this week we won't know much more. The Bills managed an upset against the Panthers, but the Texans are a much more explosive offense. Houston actually has a NFL caliber QB. The Bills are hard to peg each week. their fantasy defense has been solid, but that hasn't helped them win many games. I'll make my call on this one with the idea Johnson plays.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Two top rated divisional foes, both struggling of late. Eli Manning has had two bad games as has Donovan McNabb. However, for the Eagles those struggles have been against poor teams. Manning and the Giants went down to the passing attacks of the Saints and Cardinals. This game could be a shoot out, or a defensive nothing. I'd hate to think the Giant's would lose three in a row. I think the Giants will take this one convincingly.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Four great running backs in one game. When they met a couple of weeks ago in their Monday night game, the Dolphins got the upper-hand in a surprising high-scoring affair. Like the last game, I expect the running game to be at the center of this one too. This will be an excellent test of rookie Shonn Greene's ability against a solid run D. Bad news for WR Ted Ginn, Jr. owners this week, as the team has announced he'll see less targets the rest of the season. Such unfulfilled promise. I think this will be another close game with Greene making the difference for the home team.
San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts
This week represents QB Alex Smith's first opportunity to lead his team for a full game, but as luck would have it, he faces the undefeated Colts in Indy. Not an optimal match up. Smith re-energized the 49ers last week. Can he sustain the offense for 60 minutes? The 49ers top offensive weapon seems to be TE vernon Davis. The leagues best defense vs. TEs? Indianapolis. They are one of only three teams yet to surrender a TD to a tight end. The Raiders and Saints are the others. I think SF will put up a fight, but they are no match for the Colts offense.
Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears
We'll call this one the Midwest Desperation Bowl. The Bears have been all over the map so far this season. QB Jay Cutler has 5 interceptions to 3 TDs in his last two games. That's still one more TD than Browns' QB Derek Anderson has all season. In fact the Browns have only scored 72 points all season, and have 4 games with 6 points or less, including their one win, a 6-3 victory over the Bills. This game could go either way. The Bears have more proven playmakers so I give them the edge, but the Browns have every chance to do something this week and get their second W.
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
Which Seahawks team will we see in Week 8? Matt Hasselbeck tossed 3 TDs in week one before his injury. He threw 2 more vs. the Colts when returning from injury, then 4 TDs against the Jags. He had a goose-egg vs. the Cardinals. His two big games were at home. This week he's on the road. It's not much to go on, but it seems he's better at home. Advantage, Dallas. The Seahawks glaring weakness is a complete lack of a running game.. Hasselbeck and his receivers can't do it all every week. I think the Hawks will put up some points this week, but not enough to get out of Big D with a win.
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
The o - 17 Rams (including last season's last 10 games) and the once 0-19 Lions have something in common; the agony of prolonged defeat. This game is likely the Rams last chance to avoid the dismaying prospect of matching or exceeding the Lions record. After this week's game, the Rams have a bye before facing the currently undefeated Saints, followed by the Cardinals. Steven Jackson has the third most yards rushing in the league. It's time for him to find the endzone, and the Lions are perhaps his best chance all season. Oddly, the Lions have the upper hand, but this week is do or die for St. Louis, and I'm rooting for the underdog.
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
The Raiders have two wins on the season without breaking 13 points in either match-up, and they've yet to score more than 20 in any game in 2009. The Chargers are averaging 27 points a game, and have yet to score less than 23, even in a loss. The Chargers trend in recent seasons were slow starts, followed by monster finishes. I think last week's stomping of the Chiefs is the beginning of that run.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
Two of the leagues worst defenses (so far) face off. Both are coming off bye weeks. The Jags defense is dead last in fantasy production, and facing a desperate Titans offense. Meanwhile the once mighty Titans defense has been dismantled week in and week out through six games. The Jaguars offense has been up and down, feast or famine. The one area of strength for Tennessee has been their run stopping ability, and this week it will get tested by Maurice Jones-Drew. Which QB will we see this week? It seems like the Titans hierarchy are pushing for Vince Young. That seems the most likely move. This week I think the Jags may still prove too much for them.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Much like their Monday night game was in Week 4, this game should be the event of the week with Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field. That said, I think the outcome will be the same, unless Favre pushes too hard as he did vs. the Steelers. Green Bay has the number one fantasy rush defense so far, making this week tough for Adrian Peterson, but the Pack will be without their secret weapon, Jermichael Finley, who had such a productive game against the Vikes in their last meeting. This is Aaron Rodgers chance to show the hometown fans the present is more important than the past. Common sense dictates I choose the Vikes, but my gut says take the Pack, with Greg Jennings having a long overdue breakout game.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
The Panthers have had the upper hand in the regular season the last two years, but it was the Cardinals that hammered Carolina in their divisional playoff match-up last season, during Arizona's run to the Superbowl. To add to the intrigue, the Panthers have been stout against the pass, and weak against the run, while the Cards have a solid pass game, and a weak running game. The reverse is true as well; the Cards are strong vs. the run and weak vs. the pass, and the Panthers have no passing game, and a strong running game. I will give the edge to the home team with their rookie RB finally starting to make some noise.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints
The Falcons looked in disarray last week, and Michael Turner's inability to get their running game going is starting to hurt the team. I don't expect to see the Saints defense falling down early this week. Look for the Saints to put an offensive whooping on Atlanta Monday night. The Saints are second best vs. tight ends which doesn't bode well for Tony Gonzalez, and prior to last week they were top 5 vs. the run. That spells further trouble for the Falcons. Matt Ryan will have to count on a Saints breakdown to beat them.
Week 8 RB Start Sit