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Only four teams are on bye in Week 8, compared to six last week. While owners will welcome some familiar faces back to their lineups, others will be faced with some difficult decisions. That’s especially the case at running back as Arian Foster, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are all unavailable this week. Here are two ball carriers that may be able to fill in along with two other names worth starting in Week 8.
Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee
Ballard was handed the Colts’ starting job after Donald Brown was sidelined because of knee surgery. Brown’s closer to returning, but if Ballard can build on his performance from last week, the Colts' backfield will be that much deeper. Ballard’s first career start against the Jets was entirely forgettable (8 att., 25 yds.), but he bounced back nicely last week against Cleveland. The rookie out of Mississippi State had 84 yards rushing on 20 carries (4.2 ypc), including a long of 26. He will have the opportunity to take the next step this week against Tennessee. The Titans are 28th in the league in rush defense (134.7 ypg) and are allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay vs. Jacksonville
When Greg Jennings initially went down with a groin injury, James Jones was the early beneficiary as he capitalized on his additional playing time and put together a streak of three straight two-touchdown games. However, he’s not the only Packer receiver to emerge while Jennings has been sidelined. Over the past three games, Cobb is averaging 91 yards receiving per contest and caught two scoring strikes last week against the Rams. Considering the Packers have thrown the ball 41 more times compared to rush attempts in their last four games combined, there’s little reason to think Cobb won’t continue to get his chances, even when Jennings finally returns. Not to mention that the Packers, who are on a nice little roll offensively, welcome the lowly Jaguars to Lambeau Field this Sunday.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville at Green Bay
Speaking of the Jaguars, Maurice Jones-Drew will likely miss several games with a sprained foot. His injury opens the door for backup Jennings, who himself missed two games earlier this season with a knee injury. The Jags also could be without starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who tore the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder last week, leaving Chad Henne under center against Green Bay. Either way, Jennings should get his chance to carry the load and the Packers have been somewhat susceptible to the run (109.9 ypg, 17th overall). This also is a guy who averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2009-10 combined. May as well find out what he can do, right?
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego at Cleveland
I am fully aware that Rivers turned the ball over six times (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) the last time he played. That final turnover cost me a victory in the league I own him, so believe me I felt your pain too. That said, I still believe in Rivers and think the bye came at the best time for him and the Chargers. Norv Turner said he was going to simplify the playbook to try and help his embattled field general, and I think we will see the fruits of this decision starting this Sunday. The Browns are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and only two starters have scored fewer than 24.6 points against them. In fact, Michael Vick put up 19.9 points against the Browns in Week 1 despite throwing four interceptions. The turnovers are certainly frustrating and something that will hopefully be corrected, but if the Browns’ track record is any indication, Rivers should be able to bounce back this week.
— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 25, 2012