By Chance Smith
First thing’s first; prayers go out to Arian Foster who suffered a torn Achilles after exploding for 23 fantasy points in roughly three quarters. Having gone through the same injury, I feel your pain. On a lighter note, Stefon Diggs is the real deal and the Vikings are a solid overall team. The rookie is averaging 17.1 yards per catch and is drawing comparisons to Antonio Brown. In typical Bucs’ fashion, the Redskins were able to eradicate a 24-0 halftime deficit thanks to three touchdown passes by Kirk Cousins. Devonta Freeman was held touchdown-less for the first time since week two. With four undefeated teams coming off a bye in week seven, fantasy owners will be happy to get some big names back. Who are the guys to sit and start in week eight?
Who to Start:
Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams RB vs. San Francisco 49ers. It’s always great to see a player come back from a devastating injury in a big way. The Rams gambled and drafted the rookie tenth overall this season knowing that he would miss the first few games of the season while recovering from an ACL injury last season at Georgia. Luckily for them, it paid off. Gurley has exploded on the scene with three 100+ yard games in a row─ scoring two touchdowns in the Rams’ 24-6 win over the Browns this weekend. His performance against Cleveland earned fantasy owners 27 points in ESPN standard scoring leagues─ the second most of any running back other than Lamar Miller of the Dolphins, who put up 35. The Rams face off against a 49ers defense that is ranked 25th in the league against opposing running backs. At this point, he is a must start in all fantasy leagues and should put up similar numbers to week seven pending a freak occurrence. He’s just that good.
Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs RB vs. Detroit Lions. I’d be lying if I said that Charcandrick West was not my favorite name in the NFL. It just reminds me of a Key & Peele skit. Other than the interesting name, West has turned into a viable option on fantasy rosters due to the injury of starter Jamaal Charles. After a terrible team rushing performance in week six where three Chiefs’ backs combined for nine total fantasy points, it was obvious that something needed to change. West established himself as the number one back against a solid Steelers rush defense that ranked second in the league against fantasy backs coming into the game this Sunday. He rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 22 attempts, proving that he will see more looks in games to come. They face off against a Lions defense that ranks 26th against fantasy running backs in London this weekend. West is only owned in 67% of ESPN fantasy leagues and could be that guy to lift your team out of the hole if you need help at the running back position.
Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins WR at New England Patriots. In two straight dominant performances against the Titans and the Texans, the Dolphins seem to be clicking on all cylinders. Rishard Matthews, the number two receiver on the depth chart, is a big part of the reason the team has been successful. Matthews recorded three catches for 75 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, accounting for 13 fantasy points. Jarvis Landry, the number one guy on the outside, recorded 18 fantasy points on two touchdowns in the same game. Despite being targeted less, Matthews leads the team in total yards with 438 and also has four total touchdowns opposed to Landry’s two. He’s averaging 16.9 yards per catch which proves that he has that deep threat ability that can rake in big fantasy points as well. The Dolphins will need some big plays this Thursday when they face off against their undefeated conference rival, the New England Patriots, in Gillette Stadium. I expect Landry to receive a lot of the attention from the strong Patriots secondary and for Matthews to see some looks down field. The Dolphins are going to have to air the ball out early in order to pull out an upset in Foxboro.
Who to Sit:
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants RB at the New Orleans Saints. Who the hell is Orleans Darkwa? I’m sure many Giants fans were wondering the same thing when the first-year man out of Tulane rumbled down the field on the first drive Sunday night against the Cowboys to score the team’s first touchdown of the game. The Giants are just going through a case of identity crisis in the backfield. Four running backs split time in the backfield with Darkwa leading the team in carries with eight. Rashad Jennings, who is supposedly the number one back on the depth chart, averaged just 3.8 yards per carry on five attempts. The Giants just don’t know what to do with their running game. I’m saying to sit Jennings because he’s their number one guy on paper, but I really don’t trust any of the Giants’ backs as dependable fantasy options. Shane Vereen could be useful in some PPR─points per reception─leagues, but other than that, leave them on the bench.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders RB vs. New York Jets. All you have to do is look at Latavius Murray to know he’s an athlete. The UCF product stands 6’3” tall and weighs an impressive 230 pounds. He’s a beast. However, he hasn’t really showed out against good defenses this year. His only fantasy paydays this season have come against the Chargers and Browns, who are the last and 29th ranked defenses against fantasy running backs respectively. In games against the currently undefeated Bengals and Broncos, Murray averaged just 41.5 yards with zero touchdowns. Oakland faces off against a thriving Jets defense that ranks first in the NFL in rushing defense and third in passing defense this Sunday at home. Although the Raiders are coming off a big win against the Chargers, I don’t expect them to be the team that breaks the Jets’ defense down.
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys WR vs. Seattle Seahawks at home. The Cowboys’ hopes for the 2015 season have been crushed with injury after injury this season. Since losing starting quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant, Dallas can’t seem to buy a win. They’ve lost four games in a row under the direction of quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel, and the future does not look good for the passing game in week eight. They face off against Seattle’s legion of boom at home this Sunday, who gave up a total of four receptions to the 49ers’ receivers this week─holding them to three fantasy points total. Williams is the number one receiver on the depth chart and has been targeted the second most times behind veteran tight end Jason Witten, but doesn’t have much fantasy upside with the inconsistency at quarterback. Expect Williams to be blanketed by Richard Sherman all afternoon in a rematch of last year’s game where the Cowboys prevailed 30-23.