By Week 8, fantasy owners have an idea of what their team looks like. They know their players, they know their waiver wire, and they typically don’t have as many tough start/sit decisions. However, each week brings new challenges in the form of injuries and bye weeks. Fantasy owners need to assess their teams and put their best players out there.
It’s starting to get to crunch time for fantasy owners. The playoffs are looming around the corner, and every win is important. Fantasy owners should also look to prepare for upcoming weeks. Six teams are on a bye in Week 9. Now is the time to make sure that you have a full roster. Use free agency instead of the waiver wire.
Please note 5 Up/5 Down is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. This is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide. You also can see how my Week 7 calls turned out at the bottom.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
Over the past three games, Trubisky has thrown for more than 300 yards in each and 11 touchdowns. The Bears have been using Tarik Cohen as a pass catcher, and he’s been great. Even with Allen Robinson banged up (and potentially out this week), Trubisky has looked good. He attempted 50 passes in Week 8, the most of the season. The Bears have been finding themselves in close games (or trailing), which means plenty of passes for Trubisky. He’s ranked No. 12, but he should be a QB1 this week.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings
With Dalvin Cook out at least the next three weeks, Murray will be the lead back in Minnesota. He gets matchups with New Orleans and Detroit. While the Saints have been pretty solid against the run, Murray also has looked good over the past two weeks. He had 155 rushing yards and a touchdown in Week 6 and 69 yards and two scores in Week 7. He’s ranked No. 20 but is a solid RB2.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets
With Bilal Powell on injured reserve, more opportunities should open up for Crowell. He’s ranked No. 23, but is a solid RB2 against Chicago. The Bears have been susceptible to the run the past few games, and Crowell should be able to find some holes. He’s had two off weeks since his 219-yard game. He also hasn’t scored since that game. Crowell had missed practice time with an ankle injury, but he should be good to go for Week 8.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Boyd had a rough Week 7, mostly because Andy Dalton had a rough Week 7. However, the Bengals should all bounce back in Week 8 against the Bucs. John Ross is going to be out, and while C.J. Uzomah has stepped up, Boyd is still a big target for Dalton and is always a likely option to score a touchdown. Boyd has four touchdowns so far this season and he should add to that this week against a Bucs defense that allows the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. He’s ranked No. 17, but should be a solid WR2.
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
McDonald didn’t face the Cleveland Browns when the teams played each other in Week 1. However, the Browns have allowed big games to tight ends (Jared Cook, Week 4). Last week, O.J. Howard had five receptions for 67 yards on nine targets. McDonald has become a bigger part of the passing game for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger is at home, where he plays better. McDonald is ranked No. 13, but he may be a TE1.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady is Brady and fantasy owners are going to start him. However, he has a tough matchup on Monday night against the Bills. While Buffalo's offense has struggled, the defense has been very good. No quarterback has thrown for more than 300 yards against them. While Andrew Luck did throw four TD passes last week, that is the most the Bills have allowed. It’s unclear if Rob Gronkowski will be back for Week 8 or how much the Pats will rely on James White. Brady is still a solid fantasy option, but he should finish below his No. 6 ranking.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Fantasy owners are hopeful that this will be the week that Johnson finally has a good game. He’s ranked No. 7 and this rank reflects that hope. The Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and hopefully the team will use Johnson better than McCoy did. He hasn’t had a 100-yard rushing game yet. He does have five rushing touchdowns and one receiving, but he hasn’t had one of those weeks where he wins his fantasy owners the game. It may be coming, and the matchup against the 49ers is a good one, but not top seven.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Fantasy owners who drafted ODB have been disappointed this season. Eli Manning has struggled and the Giants appear to have just thrown in the towel on the season. Beckham only has two TD grabs thus far (Week 7’s was in complete garbage time), and it's clear he's not happy. But when his QB doesn't have time to get him the ball, it's tough for ODB to produce. He is ranked No. 8, but he may not be a WR1 against the Washington Redskins.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Diggs was drafted as a No. 1 wide receiver, but with Adam Thielen having a monster season, Diggs has kind of been on the back burner. He’s gotten a lot of the top coverage from opposing cornerbacks, which has hurt his fantasy value this year. He has two 100-yard games and three touchdowns to this point. He hasn’t scored since Week 2. The Saints do allow the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, but that doesn't make Diggs a top-15 option this week.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts face the Oakland Raiders in Week 8. While two tight ends have scored a touchdown against the Raiders, Ebron may not have that same success. He had good games when T.Y. Hilton was out, but last week with Hilton back, Ebron had three catches for 31 yards. He did have seven targets in that game, but if Jack Doyle returns, those will drop as well. Ebron is ranked No. 4, but he needs a touchdown to come close to reaching that level. Doyle may or may not play, and while he’s not necessarily fantasy relevant, he will cut into Ebron’s targets.
Full Disclosure for Week 7
5 Up (2/5 correct)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (Ranked: 13, Actual: 6)
Frank Gore, RB, Miami Dolphins (Ranked: 33, Actual: 44)
Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers (Ranked: 49, Actual: 25)
Taylor Gabriel, WR, Chicago Bears (Ranked: 29, Actual: outside the top 50)
Austin Hooper, TE, Atlanta Falcons (Ranked: 9, Actual: 17)
5 Down (4/5 correct)
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (Ranked: 4, Actual: 3)
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints (Ranked: 13, Actual: 38)
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (Ranked: 7, Actual: 21)
Keelan Cole, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (Ranked: 35, Actual: outside the top 50)
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts (Ranked: 4, Actual: 20)
— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.