Week 8 Fantasy Football Focus

10/24/2014 08:59 am ET Updated Dec 24, 2014
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws against the St. Louis Rams during the first half of an NFL football game in
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck throws against the St. Louis Rams during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Predictalator has run every Week 8 2014 NFL game 50,000 times. Below we present the up-to-date top three at each fantasy position for the week, a sleeper likely to have a breakout game (generally chosen as the best $/FP value on daily fantasy sites), a player to avoid (the worst $/FP value) and some injury situations to monitor heading into the week. Also, check out free projections for every player in every future week in our Rest of Season Fantasy Football Rankings.

Quarterbacks

1. Andrew Luck 27.4 FPs (IND @ PIT) – Luck continues to lead all players in fantasy points to-date and in our projections for the end of the season. This week, he gets a Pittsburgh defense that may currently have the weakest starting cornerbacks in the NFL and will be playing on short rest after giving up 23 points to Houston and 22.1 fantasy points to Ryan Fitzpatrick on Monday night.

2. Aaron Rodgers 25.7 FPs (GB @ NO) – New Orleans has faced Matt Ryan, Brian Hoyer, Matt Cassel, Tony Romo, Mike Glennon and Matthew Stafford (without Calvin Johnson or any healthy tight ends) and has allowed 65% completions for 7.5 yards-per-attempt on the season. Rodgers has four straight games with three or more passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

3. Matthew Stafford 24.8 FPs (DET vs. ATL) – This game takes place at 9:30 am ET on Sunday in London, so plan accordingly. The simulations that produced this big day for Stafford did not include Calvin Johnson (or Joseph Fauria or Eric Ebron). While Megatron matters, the fact that Atlanta ranks worst in the NFL in pass defense efficiency still makes Stafford a top fantasy quarterback for the week.

Breakout Candidate: Carson Palmer 21.0 FPs (ARI vs. PHI) - With head coach Bruce Arians calling Palmer's shoulder injury a "thing of the past," the quarterback can safely be started against a porous Eagles defense. Palmer ranks sixth among remaining (i.e. no Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers) quarterbacks in fantasy for Week 8.

Must Avoid: Nick Foles 17.7 FPs (PHI @ ARI) – Even after a bye week, starting Nick Foles in Arizona is not advised. It is clear that, as many (the Predictalator included) expected, last season's incredibly efficient performance by Foles was at least as much myth as it was truth. Arizona will keep the tempo down and has a strong secondary.

Running Backs

1. DeMarco Murray 19.5 FPs (DAL vs. WAS) – Pencil Murray in for another 100+ yards rushing. We project 112 on the ground and another 25 through the air for the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

2. Jamaal Charles 18.5 FPs (KC vs. STL) – Charles has many things going for him this week. He is off the injury report for the first time since Week 1. St. Louis is worst in the league in yards-per-play allowed. And, it is supposed to be very windy (30+ MPH) in Kansas City this week, meaning the Chiefs will need to rely on the running game and short throws (obvious specialties of Charles) to succeed.

3. Marshawn Lynch 16.7 FPs (SEA @ CAR) – With no Percy Harvin and quarterback Russell Wilson unlikely to sustain 100+ yards rushing, Lynch should see the ball plenty in Carolina in Week 8. The Panthers allow a league-worst 5.3 yards-per-carry.

Breakout Candidate: Mark Ingram 12.8 FPs (NO vs. GB - Ingram was disappointing last week in his return from injury, but will be needed this week against a Packers defense that ranks 20+ spots worse against the run than it does against the pass in our metrics. Pierre Thomas' injury should give Ingram a chance to shine even more as well.

Must Avoid: Bryce Brown (BUF @ NYJ) – Bryce Brown is an explosive back stepping into a great opportunity as the best all-around, healthy running back on the Bills' roster. Unfortunately, with uncertainty surrounding his role right now, Anthony Dixon likely vulturing any goal line chances the Bills get and facing the league's best run defense, stay away for now. Both Dixon and Brown are worth owning, but not starting this week.

Wide Receiver

1. Jordy Nelson 15.9 FPs (GB @ NO) – It should not be a surprise that this week's top three quarterbacks each have a wide receiver in the top three in fantasy at his position as well. Even with Randall Cobb stealing away some touchdown opportunities, Nelson has had a TD in four straight games and is averaging 22.5 PPR fantasy points in that stretch.

2. Golden Tate 13.9 FPs (DET vs. ATL) – Tate has been the lone consistent on the Lions' offense this season. He has at least five catches and 50 receiving yards in each game and has been targeted 45 times in the last four games as Calvin Johnson deals with an injury. Tate is a must start regardless of Johnson's health, but it helps that Johnson does not appear likely to play (reminder: this game is at 9:30 AM ET).

3. T.Y. Hilton 13.1 FPs (IND @ PIT) – Reggie Wayne is questionable and Hakeem Nicks was just passed up on the depth chart by Donte Moncrief. Hilton is the go-to receiver on the Colts, which is great news considering his favorable matchup this week. Hilton may have had a quiet first game, but he is averaging 7.8 receptions for 131.3 yards in his last four games.

Breakout Candidate: Miles Austin 8.3 FPs (CLE vs. OAK) – There are TWO Cleveland Browns wide receivers worth starting at home against Oakland this week (and neither of them is the still suspended Josh Gordon). Austin ranks #30 at the position, while Andrew Hawkins is #18 this week. Austin has seven more targets in three of his last five games. Hoyer wants to get him the ball (he also has a touchdown in two of those games with 7+ targets).

Must Avoid: DeSean Jackson 7.4 FPs (WAS @ DAL) – Jackson is a remarkable deep threat, but brings little else for fantasy purposes. His quarterback this week is weak-armed Colt McCoy. Plus, Dallas is a classic bend-but-don't-break defense selling out to stop the big play.

Tight End

1. Rob Gronkowski 11.1 FPs (NE vs. CHI)

2. Delanie Walker 9.3 FPs (TEN vs. HOU)

3. Travis Kelce 9.1 FPs (KC vs. STL)

Breakout Candidate: Charles Clay 6.8 FPs (MIA @ JAX)

Must Avoid: Jermaine Gresham 5.5 FPs (CIN vs. BAL)

Kickers

1. Chandler Cantanzaro 10.3 FPs (ARI vs. PHI)

2. Stephen Gostkowski 10.1 FPs (NE vs. CHI)

3. Adam Vinatieri 9.9 FPs (IND @ PIT)

Breakout Candidate: Billy Cundiff 9.2 FPs (CLE vs. OAK)

Must Avoid: Robbie Gould 6.5 FPs (CHI @ NE)

Defense

1. Miami Dolphins 11.0 FPs (MIA @ JAC)

2. New York Jets 10.0 FPs (NYJ vs. BUF)

3. Cleveland Browns 8.4 FPs (CLE vs. OAK)

Breakout Candidate: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7.8 FPs (TB vs. MIN)

Must Avoid: Arizona Cardinals 3.8 FPs (ARI vs. PHI)

Injuries to Watch

1. Lions/Falcons - Compounding the issue with so many banged-up fantasy players - Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick, Harry Douglas, Eric Ebron, Joseph Fauria, Brandon Pettigrew and others - in the Detroit vs. Atlanta game is the fact that it starts at 9:30 AM ET. Inactive lists will be available by 8:30 AM ET. Be prepared to set an alarm (if necessary) to get up and make starting lineup moves. It's not expected to quite be the shootout one may expect between Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan, but most of the players mentioned should be starting in fantasy if they are starting on the field (in London).

2. Jimmy Graham - If Graham is a game-time call that is ultimately only active as a red-zone threat, I would recommend staying away. He saw zero targets last week and only has five targets in his last two games. Healthy, Graham is a game-changer on the field and in fantasy. At far less than 100%, he should be getting rest to get back to 100%, not messing with the Saints' and fantasy owners' objectives.

3. Toby Gerhart - We have discussed A.J. Green in most previous Fantasy Foci and we tackled the Buffalo running back situation above, so I'll use this last section to break down Toby Gerhart and the Jaguars' offense. The only member of the Jaguars' backfield worth even having on a roster is Denard Robinson. And the only reason even he stands out is that most leagues allow for him to be started at WR, meaning it's possible to get feature back (even on a bad offense) points out of a wide receiver spot (he is much more valuable in standard scoring than PPR leagues). Gerhart is back praciticing in a limited fashion, but coach Gus Bradley has already confirmed his demotion if healthy. Drop Gerhart (and Storm Johnson and Jordan Todman) if this has not already been done and look elsewhere.