It’s Week 8 of the fantasy football season and with six teams on bye at least you know which quarterbacks and defense/special teams you won’t be starting. Then again with Ben Roethlisberger injured, the list of healthy QBs from teams on bye isn’t as appealing. No offense Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum and Colin Kaepernick.
As to which QBs and DSTs you should be starting or sitting, I will get to that. But first, as always, let’s see how my Week 7 advice panned out.
Start Andy Dalton (20.32 fantasy points) – Dalton had a big game against the Browns and with A.J. Green catching everything in sight he’s a low-end QB1 moving forward.
Sit Carson Palmer (14.48 FP) – The Cardinals’ vertical passing game is non-existent and with David Johnson dominating, they don’t need it.
Sit Carson Wentz (6.12 FP) – Wentz really looked like a rookie last week in a win against the Vikings.
Start Blake Bortles (13.14 FP) – If Bortles can’t get anything going against a poor Raiders defense at home, he’s only a bye-week starter moving forward.
I warned you against starting Drew Brees (24.68 FP) outside, on the road in Kansas City. Even though he does have crazy home vs. road splits, I won’t be doing that again.
Teams on bye: Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
START THESE QBS...
Jameis Winston, TB (vs. OAK)
Winston has been up and down all season long, but I like him as a streamable fantasy option against the Raiders. Their defense has surrendered 13 touchdown passes and an average of more than 19 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. That includes four contests where the Silver & Black has allowed more than 20 points.
Russell Wilson, SEA (at NO)
He’s not the pocket passer we were hoping he’d be, especially after lighting the world on fire in the second half of the 2015 season, but a game against the soft New Orleans defense with a vengeful Jimmy Graham could be what the doctor ordered. If he doesn’t do it this week, especially while averaging more than 36 pass attempts a game, it may be time to bench him until you can see him move out of the pocket to create magic with his legs.
Andy Dalton, CIN (vs. WAS, London)
Somehow, Dalton has been able to maintain his top-12 QB status despite throwing only eight touchdown passes to this point. He’s still putting up decent week-to-week numbers by averaging nearly 300 yards per game, mostly because he’s not turning the ball over (five games this season without a turnover). Now he’s facing a Washington defense that ranks in the bottom of the league against the pass and could be without shutdown cornerback Josh Norman (concussion protocol).
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at CLE)
I understand if you don't feel all that confident starting a guy who has a nearly twice as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes (six), and was benched for Geno Smith, but stay with me here. Fitzpatrick, who is again the starter after Smith suffered a torn ACL, played well last week in relief (9-of-14, 120 yards, TD, no turnovers) against a good Ravens defense, and it was just in time to set him up for a matchup against the hapless Browns. Every quarterback facing Cleveland this season has thrown for at least two touchdowns, and Kirk Cousins was the only one not to hit the 275-yard mark. It's been a forgettable season for Fitzpatrick, but there is no better spot for him to have a bounce-back week.
SIT THESE QBs...
Philip Rivers, SD (at DEN)
This section has pretty much turned into "Who's Playing the Denver Broncos?" but Denver's pass defense has been that good. Despite playing a handful of top quarterbacks thus far (Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers), the Broncos have yet to allow multiple passing touchdowns in a single week. Ryan is the only player to surpass 210 passing yards, and Newton is the only one to turn in a top-10 week (QB9 in Week 1, ESPN standard scoring), thanks in large part to his rushing ability. Rivers threw for 178 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 against this defense, finishing as the QB23, and it won't get any easier on the road.
Dak Prescott, DAL (vs. PHI)
Prescott is leading the most polite coup d’etat ever in Dallas. If he plays well here against the Eagles, who are allowing the least amount of fantasy QB points this season, then it’s hard to deny him the job. But the other shoe is going to drop. It has to. This is the NFL, after all, and a rookie QB can only last so long without being eaten up by a nasty divisional opponent. I think this is that week.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (vs. NE)
Taylor put up a fat stat line in last week's loss to the Dolphins with more than 24 fantasy points. But can he do it against the Patriots? I don't like his chances, as New England has surrendered fewer than 17 fantasy points to four of their last five opposing QBs. I'd keep Tyrod on the sidelines in this AFC East battle.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Carson Palmer, ARI (at CAR)
He’s barely been a QB2 this year, and is a good example of why you shouldn’t bet on a 36-year-old coming off the best season in his career. Carolina could be a get-right game before the Cardinals have a bye, but why risk it? This bye week is not flush with top-tier fantasy options (Eli Manning and then take your pick for No. 2), so are you even considering this? Proceed with caution, but don’t move forward thinking 2016 Palmer is anything near 2015 Palmer, who faded as the year went on.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
New York Jets (at CLE)
The Jets’ defense scored a season-best 11 fantasy points in last week's win over the Ravens, and an upcoming matchup in Cleveland makes this unit an attractive choice for owners again. The Browns are a mess at the quarterback position, as either Josh McCown (returning from a shoulder injury) or rookie Kevin Hogan could get the nod with fellow rookie Cody Kessler in the concussion protocol.
Arizona Cardinals (at CAR)
You might think that a road matchup against Cam Newton and the Panthers might be bad on paper, but the opposite has been true. In fact, opposing DSTs have averaged the fourth-most fantasy points (9.8) per game when facing Carolina this season. So, even with the presence of Superman, I'd still roll with Arizona this week.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Green Bay Packers (at ATL)
The Packers put up a solid 12 fantasy points against the Bears a week ago, but an upcoming matchup in Atlanta is far less attractive. In fact, opposing DSTs have scored an average of just 3.4 fantasy points when facing Matt Ryan and crew. In the world of defensive streamers, this is a week to put the Pack on the pine.
Buffalo Bills (vs. NE)
The Bills DST has put up two straight stinkers despite two favorable matchups against the 49ers and Dolphins, and things don't figure to improve with Tom Brady and the Patriots coming to town. Over the last two weeks, opposing DSTs have scored a combined six fantasy points versus New England. Avoid this poor matchup.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.