Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Manning-Brees shootout leads Week 8 options
Peyton Manning could thrive against a Saints D that ranks last against QBs
Philip Rivers faces a Browns team that is second worst against quarterbacks
The Falcons' explosive offense could be in for a shootout against the Eagles
After a slate of less-than-inspiring prime time games over the past week, a perfect elixir comes in Week 8: Peyton Manning versus Drew Brees in a shootout for the ages.
It comes at a good time, too, because the 1-2 punch of Arian Foster and Ray Rice are riding the fantasy pine this week along with A.J. Green, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, the Texans D/ST, Justin Tucker and the Ravens D/ST.
To help you set your rosters, let's break down all the rest of the Week 8 slate in our weekly Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:
Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak, Chargers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the Chargers coming off a loss and a bye. Floyd might be blanketed against cornerback Joe Haden, but the Browns are third-worst in fantasy versus receivers and second-worst versus quarterbacks, so consider this a big week for Rivers, Floyd, Gates and the passing game.
Browns -- Josh Gordon, Phil Dawson: The Chargers aren't a defense to fear, especially against wide receivers (fifth-worst in fantasy). That makes Gordon and perhaps even Greg Little solid plays. Brandon Weeden is more stopgap than starter, though. The Browns, despite the question marks in their running game, should move the ball well enough -- particularly in garbage time -- to get Dawson some field-goal attempts.
Chargers -- Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal: Battle might be the only real question mark here, but the Browns have given up just two rushing touchdowns, so Battle shouldn't get much along the goal line.
Browns -- Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron, Browns D/ST: Richardson is a potential start if he plays, while Hardesty would be if Richardson doesn't. The uncertainty makes both a risk at this point, though. Reference SI.com's new Sunday morning Cheat Sheet for a final call on this.
Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks D/ST: The Lions' defense showed enough Monday night against the Bears to raise questions about trusting the Seahawks on the road. If they were bad at Carolina, it likely will be worse at Detroit. Lynch and this defense have earned their must-start status, though.
Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hansen, Lions D/ST: Frustration has been the game with Stafford and Johnson, but the only way to turn around the season for their owners is to stay bullish with them and hope for a huge breakthrough back at home, even against the third-best team in fantasy against quarterbacks and wide receivers. The Lions defense should post solid numbers against the rookie quarterback in a very conservative offense.
Seahawks -- Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka: Despite the Lions' slow start this season, the defense is still a top-10 unit to avoid in fantasy. Most of these guys are marginal anyway. They won't be missed in starting lineups.
Lions -- Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith (who?), Titus Young, Ryan Broyles, Tony Scheffler: Leshoure wasn't bad against the Bears' run defense, but he faces a top-five defense in fantasy versus running backs, so don't trust him again just yet. With regard to the rest of these guys, if fantasy owners are wary of Stafford and Megatron, they can't have any faith in the secondary guys on this struggling team against an elite defense.
Jaguars -- Rashad Jennings: The Jags' offense was a mess with Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) healthy. It figures to be even worse with Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) banged up and MJD out. Jennings is a viable pick-up and low-end starting option, but don't expect much against a Packers run defense that is better than the modest numbers suggest. The only potential opportunity here resides with the likes of Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts or perhaps Marcedes Lewis scoring some points in garbage time.
Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Mason Crosby, Packers D/ST: This is a start-all game for the Packers' passing attack. Even struggling Jermichael Finley (shoulder) is a sleeper. He is playing and should prove to be healthier. His poor numbers should have helped take some attention off him, too. "I think he understands that if he's one-on-one that's usually where I'm going to look first, but because of the respect of his talent, teams usually pay a little more attention to him," Rodgers told a Milwaukee radio station. Let your Packers fly like a Rodgers pass this week.
Jaguars -- Blaine Gabbert, Maurice Jones-Drew, Laurent Robinson, Mike Thomas, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: Save for MJD, you shouldn't own these guys.
Packers -- Alex Green, James Starks, Greg Jennings: Yes, the Jags are the third-worst team in fantasy against running backs, but the Packers' running game is a mess, and Green might be giving the primary job back to Starks this week, if you read between the lines. "I thought we left too many hard yards on the field," head coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "There were too many one-, two-yard runs that should have been hardball three-, four-, five-yard runs. We need to improve that aspect of our offense." Starks is a potential pick-up and stash, but the running game is difficult to trust. Jennings (groin), meanwhile, is not close to a return, which has made stars out of Nelson, Cobb and Jones in Jennings' place.
Dolphins -- Reggie Bush, Dolphins D/ST: Jets detractors and Rex Ryan haters won't believe this, but the Jets defense is still one of the top-10 units in football. The numbers say the Jets are 10th-worst in fantasy versus running backs, though, so Bush is a safe start. Save for the defense against the weaponless Jets, avoid all Dolphins otherwise.
Jets -- Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Jets D/ST: Greene has proved in recent weeks that he is still the best thing the Jets have going for them. He's sure to get opportunities, even if the Dolphins have an elite run defense. Only the Bucs (3.1) have allowed fewer yards per rush (3.3). Meanwhile, the passing game is a mess, but Keller was healthy and productive last week and should be the leading target in a close-to-the-vest defensive struggle. The Dolphins have allowed the most receiving yards to tight ends among teams that have already had their bye.
Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Fasano, Dan Carpenter: This will be a game that separates the pretender from the contender. The Jets defense ranks among the top-10 against quarterbacks and is No. 2 in fantasy against wide receivers. It should be a bad day for the surprising Tannehill and his targets.
Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Chaz Schilens, Nick Folk: There's no need to over-analyze why these options aren't good ones against a Dolphins defense that has been surprisingly unforgiving.
Panthers -- None: In case you missed Monday night, the Bears defense is not to be messed with, particularly at home and with the struggles of the Panthers' modest receiving corps and a disaster of a running game.
Bears -- Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: The only question among these names is that of Bush, who is facing a Panthers defense that is eighth-worst in fantasy versus running backs. Bush should get a goal-line score and some late-game, clock-killing yards. The rest of these guys are must-starts, regardless of the matchup.
Panthers -- Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Greg Olsen, Justin Medlock, Panthers D/ST: The Bears' defense is No. 4 in fantasy against quarterbacks, No. 1 against running backs and top-10 against wide receivers. Newton has been a bust to date and this is his toughest matchup yet. Stewart is worth picking up as the new feature back, but no one runs against that Bears' front and the Panthers rarely run against even the worst fronts.
Bears -- Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey, Kellen Davis: It might be lost in their bad record, but the Panthers have been in the top half of fantasy against quarterbacks and are top-10 against wide receivers. Cutler's lack of a secondary target makes him merely a fantasy backup, even if he has curtailed the sacks and turnovers.