Fantasy Cheat Sheet: The 10 tips that will help you win in Week 8
Start Randall Cobb and James Jones, sit Trent Richardson and Jimmy Graham
Don't even think about starting any Panthers against Chicago's lethal defense
Five last-minute adds that can help bolster Week 8 lineups in an emergency
As football fans await the approach of Hurricane Sandy and the storm of points expected in the legendary Peyton Manning-Drew Brees Sunday night shootout, we present SI.com's latest and greatest offering for NFL Sundays.
It's the brand new Fantasy Cheat Sheet.
And it contains the top 10 things fantasy football players need to know before setting their lineups in Week 8. We have the news, the moves, the injuries, the starts, the sits and all the little bits. Check back all morning for updates.
1. Jordy Nelson is hurt. Start Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley.
A mid-week hamstring issue has led Green Bay's leading receiver, Jordy Nelson, to being declared inactive Sunday. With the lowly Jags on the schedule and fellow wideout Greg Jennings out three-to-six more weeks after sports hernia surgery, the Packers wanted to be cautious with Nelson.
That means fantasy players should double down on Randall Cobb and James Jones, Green Bay's starting receivers Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers showed against Houston he can still rip up any defense, but his ability to handle the Jags was never in doubt: They're in the bottom half of fantasy against quarterbacks and receivers. Rodgers will have a huge day, which means big fantasy numbers for Cobb, Jones and even struggling tight end Jermichael Finley, who has been slowed by a shoulder issue but he's active and starting.
If you're in a salary cap league, spend freely on Cobb, Jones and Finley. If you own them in standard leagues, start them without a second thought.
Nelson should be fine to start next week with the proper rest. The Packers have the luxury of this mismatch versus the Jags to develop some other weapons for contenders to account for..
2. Aaron Hernandez is out. Pick up one of these tight ends.
Aaron Hernandez and his patented Make It Rain celebration stayed in Boston as the Patriots flew across the pond to play Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium in London. Hernandez's owners shouldn't worry too much about his recovery, since the Pats are on a bye next week and some rumors indicate Hernandez stayed home because he is expecting to become a father this weekend.
Regardless of the reason, Hernandez isn't playing, which makes the resurgent Rob Gronkowski even more threatening at tight end. Wes Welker will also be very busy underneath for New England.
Those looking for a replacement tight end should consider the following options: New York's Dustin Keller, Denver's Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme and Indianapolis' Coby Fleener (in that order). Keller proved healthy a week ago and qualifies as the Jets' best weapon in the passing game; Dreessen trumped Tamme in the weeks before the Broncos' bye; and Fleener is facing Tennessee, the worst team in fantasy versus tight ends. The Titans have given up a league-high seven touchdowns to tight ends.
3. Even if Jimmy Graham plays, don't start him.
There are too many things working against Jimmy Graham to make him a smart start this week. While he says his ankle is coming along, he's playing in a Sunday night game, which makes him a very risky start. If he does play, he could be used more as a decoy than an actual target.
"If it was up to me, I'd play," Graham said. "I'm good." Whether he plays is not up to him. Whether you start him is up to you. He might be "good," but it's not worth the risk.
Those who are dead set on playing Graham at all costs need to pick up his backup, David Thomas. Stashing Thomas in a league that allows lineup changes up to five minutes before kickoff provides a security blanket for fantasy players looking to get a piece of the likely Brees-Manning shootout. Thomas caught a touchdown pass against the Bucs in Graham's spot last week.
4. Start Jonathan Dwyer. Sit your other Steelers running backs.
Last week, burly back Jonathan Dwyer rushed for a breakthrough 122 yards with Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles/knee) and Isaac Redman (ankle) out. Both are out again, so Dwyer remains a solid fantasy play, even against the Redskins, a team that ranks in the top 10 in fantasy against running backs.
Dwyer is a smart bye-week replacement for owners who have Arian Foster, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson or BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a bye.
As for Mendenhall, the Steelers fully expect him to play and start against the Giants in Week 9 -- for what that's worth.
5. It's too risky to start Trent Richardson.
Rib injuries hurt. The question for Cleveland rookie Trent Richardson is how much the pain will persist, and how much pain he can tolerate.
The pain kept him out after the half last week, which speaks to the risk owners will take by starting him at home against the Chargers. Richardson is officially in the starting lineup, so don't trust backup Montario Hardesty.
The best approach is to avoid both Richardson and Hardesty and give someone like the Bears' Michael Bush, the Cowboys' Felix Jones, the Colts' Vick Ballard or the Titans' Jamie Harper a spot start instead. Bush and Harper are not starting backs for their teams this week, but they are goal-line backs playing against run defenses in the bottom 10 of fantasy against running backs.
6. Your waiver wire additions aren't automatic starts.
Every week, there's a rush for waiver players who wind up doing little come Sunday. Here's a quick review of the top five most-added players this past week and an assessment of their worth this Sunday:
RB Rashad Jennings, Jaguars: Start him, but know the Packers will slow him.
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals: There's no way you should start him against the 49ers.
TE Dustin Keller, Jets: Go for it, he's the best receiving target the Jets have when he's healthy.
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers: Despite the tough opponent, he'll get yards and maybe a touchdown.
TE Joel Dreessen, Broncos: Meh, he's only worth playing in an emergency, as the Saints are in the top five against tight ends.
7. Someone dropped these guys. Pick them back up.
Fred Davis (Achilles) and Nate Burleson (broken leg) are out of the season, but a few of the other most-dropped players are worth stashing for the stretch run:
K Justin Tucker, Ravens: Great running teams tend to get a lot of field-goal chances.
K Shayne Graham, Texans: See Tucker's explanation. The same rule applies.
RB William Powell, Cardinals: He'll be valuable if the 49ers knock out LSH.
TE Scott Chandler, Bills: He failed versus the Titans, which may be a sign that Fleener isn't a great option this week.
WR Andrew Hawkins, Bengals: Owners won't miss this guy, but he can provide value in spot duty.
8. Don't even think about playing a Panther against the Bears.
The woeful Carolina Panthers look like buy-low candidates: Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, DeAngelo Williams, Brandon LaFell.
Those thinking of making a move should hold off until after this week, though, as the Panthers have to face a Bears team that has been blanking everyone. Even the Lions couldn't muster anything but a garbage-time touchdown last Monday night.
The Panthers' switch to a ground-and-pound offense comes at an inauspicious time: The Bears are fourth best in fantasy versus quarterbacks and No. 1 against running backs. Stewart has become more intriguing in recent weeks, but could immediately pass the torch back to Williams after a bad day against Chicago.
Keep an eye on the Panthers, who are bound to find a running game beyond their franchise quarterback at some point. Just don't pull the trigger this week.
9. Reading the game-time decision tea leaves.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: He'll play. Start him.
WR Wes Welker, Patriots: He'll play and is a must-start.
WR Brandon Lloyd, Patriots: More New England injury report hijinks. He'll play. Start him.
RB Felix Jones, Cowboys: Start him. Philip Tanner won't get much.
RB Donald Browns, Colts: Sit him. He is active, but Ballard is starting and is the better play.
WR Danny Amendola, Rams: Sit him. He is inactive. Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens are solid plays against that Pats secondary.
WR Titus Young, Lions: Sit him. Seattle's secondary is just too good, regardless of Young's health.
10. A bold prediction for Week 8.
After all this talk of a Manning-Brees shootout, we're going to be ... disappointed.
The Broncos have the opportunity to control the clock and pound the ball against a suspect Saints run defense. That can slow the game and keep the ball away from both quarterbacks.
Start your Saints and Broncos, right down to the kickers and secondary and tertiary targets like Devery Henderson. Take a chance on Denver's backup running back, Ronnie Hillman, as a real deep sleeper. Just don't expect five touchdowns apiece from Manning and Brees.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).
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