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Five up, five down for Week 8

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.

Three of the four worst run defenses will be taking the week off in Week 8, so we will have to do some tricky navigating to get your team a big win. With that in mind, here are five players who have favorable matchups and five players who could struggle for your teams.

Get 'em active ...

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Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers (vs. WAS)
Current own/start %: 99/63
I'd start him over: Matthew Stafford (vs. SEA), Jay Cutler (vs. CAR), Michael Vick (vs. ATL)
No team in the NFL has allowed more passing touchdowns than the Redskins, who have already surrendered 16 passing scores in 2012. The Redskins are also giving up a league-high 340 yards passing per game, so it should be no surprise that they are allowing 22.71 points per game to quarterbacks, sixth most in the league. No quarterback has thrown for less than 299 yards against the 'Skins and no quarterback has been held without a passing touchdown against them. Six out of seven quarterbacks who have faced the 'Skins have thrown for at least 310 yards, five have thrown for more than 325 yards and more importantly, five of the seven quarterbacks who have faced Washington have finished in the Top 12 for the week. Washington has really struggled with teams that have two good receivers and a top tight end, giving up 10 touchdowns and an average of 25.25 quarterback points per game to the four teams fitting that criteria. With Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and the resurgent Heath Miller, the Steelers definitely fit that bill and I am expecting a solid multiple touchdown day from Big Ben, who is a great starting option this week.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts (at TEN)
Current own/start %: 98/50
I'd start him over: Cam Newton (at CHI), Tony Romo (vs. NYG), Philip Rivers (at CLE)
The Tennessee Titans have given up at least 19 Fantasy points to every quarterback who has faced them this season. Six of those seven quarterbacks topped 20 Fantasy points and finished in the Top 12 points against the Titans who even busted the slump of Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 7. Luck has been a Top 12 quarterback himself in four of his last five games. Now, it is fair to point out that all of those good games have come at home, but I do think Luck will finally get lucky on the road in Week 8. In their three home games, the Titans have given up an average of 350 yards passing and two touchdowns per game, which has led to an average of 26.3 Fantasy points per game for the opposing quarterback. Luck is getting it done with his arm as well as his legs and his three goal line rushing scores are tied with Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III for the most at the quarterback spot. Look for the rookie to shake the road woes against the second most generous defense to quarterbacks this year (24.29 points per game), making him a great start.

Other QBs with favorable matchups: Bye Week Broski: Peyton Manning (vs. NO), Carson Palmer (at KC), Michael Vick (vs. ATL), Jay Cutler (vs. CAR), Philip Rivers (at CLE), Bye Week Broski: Christian Ponder (vs. TB), Brandon Weeden (vs. SD), Sam Bradford (vs. NE)

Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos (vs. NO)
Current own/start %: 100/58
I'd start him over: Mikel Leshoure (vs. SEA), Darren Sproles (at DEN), Doug Martin (at MIN)
No team has allowed more running back points this year than the Saints, who have given up a league-high 26.0 per game. The Saints have allowed at least one runner to score 10 Fantasy points in every single game this year and already seven runners have produced double digits against this defense in just six games. Four runners have produced at least 17 points in a game against the Saints, who have produced at least one Top 15 running back in five of the six games against them this year. The Saints are giving up 131.67 yards (third most) and 1.17 rushing touchdowns (second) per game to the running back position in 2012 on 4.9 yards per carry (third). Not only are the Saints getting crushed by runners on the ground, but they are being victimized by them as receivers out of the backfield as well. The Saints are allowing six catches (seventh most) and 54 yards (also seventh) per game to running backs. That meshes very well for the new Willis McGahee, who has caught 15 passes in his last three games and is averaging 46.5 yards per game in his last two. Doug Martin ran wild on the Saints last week with 122 total yards and a score. In fact, the opposing starter has produced at least 122 total yards with a touchdown in back to back games against New Orleans. This is the week to let Willis "Roll Willie Roll" in your lineups in a high scoring Sunday night game.

Other RBs with favorable matchups: Chris Johnson (vs. IND), Jamaal Charles (vs. OAK), Darren McFadden (at KC), Reggie Bush (at NYJ), Darren Sproles (at DEN), Rashad Jennings (at GB), Ahmad Bradshaw (at DAL), Alfred Morris (at PIT), Stevan Ridley (at STL), Bye Week Broksis: Shonn Greene (vs. MIA), Vick Ballard (at TEN), Felix Jones (vs. NYG), Michael Bush (vs. CAR), Jamie Harper (vs. IND), Alex Green (vs. JAC)

Randall Cobb, WR, Packers (vs. JAC)
Current own/start %: 97/75
I'd start him over: Steve Smith (at CHI), Dwayne Bowe (vs. OAK), Malcom Floyd (at CLE)
Coming into the year there was no sleeper I liked more than Randall Cobb. As a rookie he was efficient in ways seldom seen, catching nearly 80 percent of his targets and averaging nearly 12.5 yards per target. To start the 2012 season, the great hands remained for Cobb, but he was being almost restricted to the short passing game. Through four weeks, Cobb was catching 86 percent of his targets but was averaging just 7.7 yards per target and 9.0 yards per catch. That was a waste of his natural big-play abilities and it certainly seems like the Packers figured that out as well. With Cedric Benson out with an injury, the team has turned Cobb loose and finally began to utilize him down the field. In the last three games, Cobb has seen 22 targets and has caught 19 of them (86.3 percent) for 273 yards (12.4 yards per target) and three touchdowns. In other words, his catch rate has not dropped off one bit and the kid is just making bigger and bigger plays. I think he is only getting started in Green Bay and is a weekly starter as far as I am concerned. The Jags have given up five wide receiver touchdowns in their last four games and are allowing nearly 27 points per game to the position during that span. Look for Cobb to say red-hot.

Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams (vs. NE)
Current own/start %: 50/27
I'd start him over: Hakeem Nicks (at DAL), Brian Hartline (at NYJ), James Jones (vs. JAC)
The Patriots have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL for the second straight year and I don't think a trip to jolly old England is going to cure their woes. In their last five games, the Patriots have allowed 1,690 yards passing and 14 passing touchdowns to a pretty pedestrian group of quarterbacks. The five signal callers in question are Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Peyton Manning (ok, he is legit), Russell Wilson and Mark Sanchez, so it is not like they are facing the best passing offenses in the game today. All five of those quarterbacks set their 2012 high in passing yards against the Patriots, which led to big games for their wide receivers as you might expect. In that five-game stretch, the Patriots have allowed 1,069 yards and nine touchdowns to wide receivers, who have scored an average of 31.7 Fantasy points per game, tops in the NFL. Seven receivers have produced at least 10 Fantasy points against the Pats in those five games and 10 have scored at least eight points. Since Danny Amendola went down with an injury, Brandon Gibson leads the Rams with 16 targets and 12 catches and is second with 151 receiving yards. I think Gibson is a great pickup and play receiver for your teams this week and his running mate Chris Givens is also worth a start as a No. 3 receiver.

Other WRs and TEs with favorable matchups: Demaryius Thomas/ Eric Decker (vs. NO), Marques Colston/Lance Moore (at DEN), Mike Wallace/Antonio Brown (vs. WAS), Kenny Britt (vs. IND), Percy Harvin (vs. TB), Josh Gordon (vs. SD), Denarius Moore (at KC), Heath Miller (vs. WAS), Joel Dreessen (vs. NO), Jason Witten (vs. NYG), Dustin Keller (vs. MIA), Bye Week Broskis: Sidney Rice (at DET), Donnie Avery (at TEN), Nate Washington (vs. IND), Chris Givens (vs. NE), Cecil Shorts (at GB), Darrius Heyward-Bey (at KC), Titus Young/Ryan Broyles (vs. SEA), Mike Williams (at MIN), Brandon Myers (at KC), Jacob Tamme (vs. NO), Coby Fleener (at TEN), Dwayne Allen (at TEN)

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Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (at CHI)
Current own/start %: 100/65
I'd rather start: Carson Palmer (at KC), Sam Bradford (vs. NE), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. WAS)
Cam Newton is struggling with four games of less than 20 points out of six starts in 2012. He has only been a Top 12 quarterback three times this year and he is likely to fall below .500 after taking on the Bears in Week 8. The Bears are not struggling on defense and are currently allowing a league-low 9.8 points per game. They have generated 16 quarterback turnovers and have only allowed five quarterback touchdowns this year. That means that quarterbacks are actually scoring negative points on touchdowns (30) versus turnovers (-32) against this defense, which is insane. When you consider that Cam has 9 turnovers and only eight touchdowns himself, it sure looks like it could be a long day at the office. No quarterback has produced 20 points against this defense and they held Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo to a combined 57 points in their four toughest tests of the year. Cam is in a big slump and the Bears are nobody's slump buster. Look to buy Cam for pennies on the dollar after this game as his schedule gets much, much easier after Week 8.

Other QBs with tough matchups: Matthew Stafford (vs. SEA), Alex Smith (at ARI), Tony Romo (vs. NYG), Josh Freeman (at MIN)

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions (vs. SEA)
Current own/start %: 97/51
I'd rather start: Vick Ballard (at TEN), Chris Johnson (vs. IND), Doug Martin (at MIN)
I am a big fan of Leshoure's and I think he has a bunch of big games coming up as the Detroit schedule gets easier, but this is not going to be one of those weeks. I know that Frank Gore ran wild on the Seahawks in Week 7, but that was a short week and the 49ers defense dominated the Seattle offense. I do not see the Detroit defense completely shutting down the Hawks on offense and even if they do, Seattle will be very well rested, which could mean a long day at the office for Leshoure. Gore is the only runner all year to run for more than 55 yards against this Seattle defense and in seven games, only two runners have even topped 45 yards. The Hawks have not allowed a running back to score in four straight games and only two runners, Gore and Cedric Benson, have produced 10 points against this defense. Leshoure himself has not scored or produced 10 Fantasy points in three straight games and while he is a fine flex option -- especially in PPR leagues -- you can find a better No. 2 runner for your teams in Week 8.

Trent Richardson/Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns (vs. SD)
Current own/start %: 100/66; 44/11
I'd rather start: Rashad Jennings (at GB), Michael Turner (at PHI), Shonn Greene (vs. MIA)
The Browns are having internal discussions about whether or not they should shut down their prized rookie runner Trent Richardson for three weeks to deal with his rib injury. With that information at hand, I see two scenarios happening for the Browns running backs in Week 8 against the Chargers. First, Richardson could make another start like he did in Week 7 when he carried the ball eight times for eight yards before being benched against the soft run defense of the Colts. Montario Hardesty would be the next back in and neither back would have much Fantasy value unless they got lucky and scored a touchdown on their limited touches. The second scenario is that Richardson sits out the game and the very pedestrian and oft-injured Hardesty makes his first start of 2012. Over the last two weeks, Hardesty has 84 yards rushing and a touchdown on 22 carries (3.8 yards per carry) against the Bengals and Colts. The Bengals (124 yards per game) and the Colts (141.7 yards per game) are two of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Together they have allowed 17 rushing touchdowns this year and are allowing a healthy 4.6 yards per carry. So Hardesty was clearly below average against these defenses, which begs the question; what you can expect against the league's top-ranked run defense of the Chargers? The Chargers are allowing only 71.2 rushing yards per game on 3.6 yards per carry. They have not allowed a single 100-yard rusher this year and have given up only two rushing scores all year, fourth fewest in the league. The only area where the Chargers are weak against running backs is in the passing game and with Hardesty hardly playing in passing situations (he has just one catch for nine yards all year), it really limits his upside. If T-Rich starts, I am going for a healthier option and if he sits, I am staying away from Hardesty, so either way you want to sit the Browns runners against the Super Chargers in Week 8.

Other RBs with tough matchups: Steven Jackson (vs. NE), LaRod Stephens-Howling (vs. SF), DeAngelo Williams (vs. The Bench), Daryl Richardson (vs. NE), Jonathan Dwyer/Rashard Mendenhall (vs. WAS)

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (at DAL)
Current own/start %: /100/89
I'd rather start: Denarius Moore (at KC), Kenny Britt (vs. IND), Antonio Brown (vs. WAS)
Outside of his monster game against the Buccaneers, the clearly less than 100 percent Hakeem Nicks has not done much to help your Fantasy teams. In Week 1 against these very same Cowboys, Nicks had four catches for 38 yards. In Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers, Nicks had three catches for 44 yards and just last week he mustered only five catches for 53 yards against the Redskins, who have the league's worst pass defense. He has not found the end zone outside of the Tampa Bay game either and you have to wonder how effective he will be in Week 8 against the excellent secondary of the Cowboys. Only three receivers have eclipsed 60 yards receiving against Dallas this year and only Brandon Marshall and Brandon LaFell have reached double-digit Fantasy points against this defense. I am fine with Nicks in a three-receiver league, because at least two receivers have produced eight Fantasy points against the Cowboys in three straight games, but unless he is at 100 percent he does not have a ton of upside and his recent performances would indicate that he still carries plenty of downside.

Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins (at NYJ)
Current own/start %: 88/15
I'd rather start: Brandon Gibson (vs. NE), Chris Givens (vs. NE), Josh Gordon (vs. SD)
In his last two games, Brian Hartline has a total of five targets, four catches and 59 yards receiving. Teams took notice of his hot start and he is commanding much more defensive attention than he did prior to his breakout game against the Cardinals. Well, if he thought the last two weeks were tough, things will not be getting any easier in Week 8 against Antonio Cromartie and the Jets. Since Darrelle Revis went down for the year, AC has taken his game to a new level as a total lockdown cornerback. Over the last three weeks he has faced Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Lloyd and they have produced a combined seven Fantasy points. That's 2.3 points per game to three of the best receivers in the NFL, who caught just seven of their 24 targets against Cromartie for a combined 108 yards. That means that Cromartie has held three elite receivers to just a 29.1 percent catch rate and 4.5 yards per target while picking off one pass and forcing a fumble. Hartline still has value and I know that the 'Fins want to get him the ball, but I am not taking my chances against arguably the hottest cornerback in the NFL right now.

Some WRs and TEs with tough matchups: Steve Smith (at CHI), Malcom Floyd (at CLE), Dwayne Bowe (vs. Brady Quinn), Leonard Hankerson/Santana Moss (at PIT), Brandon Pettigrew (vs. SEA)

Good luck this week!

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:12 am ET) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:01 am ET) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:54 am ET) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:52 am ET) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

Report: Niners won't release Aldon Smith
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:50 am ET) The 49ers might expect a suspension for pass rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, but they are not planning to release him, NFL Network reported on Friday.

Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker. He was also arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


Russell Allen among Jaguars' latest releases
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:43 am ET) On Thursday the Jaguars released veteran linebacker Russell Allen along with Will Pericak , D'Aundre Reed and Jabin Sambrano, ESPN reported. Allen was released with a failed physical designation, a sign that he might not quite be over the effects of a concussion suffered late last season. 

Ravens reinstate Rolando McClain
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:41 am ET) Despite a poor workout earlier this month the Ravens have reinstated linebacker Rolando McClain from the reserve/retired list, NFL.com reports. It remains to be seen if McClain has a legitimate chance of staying on the roster this summer. 

J.J. Watt locked up through 2015
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:39 am ET) The Texans have exercised their option to keep defensive end J.J. Watt on the roster through the 2015 season. The Houston Chronicle believes that Watt won't even play under the terms of that fifth year (roughly $10.6 million guaranteed) because the Texans will agree to a long-term extension with him before then. 

Jimmy Smith gets contract extended by Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:37 am ET) The Ravens exercised their option to tack on a fifth year to cornerback Jimmy Smith's contract, sources tell the Baltimore Sun. He's due nearly $7 million guaranteed for that year. Smith is now signed through 2015.

Chargers keep Corey Liuget around
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9:35 am ET) The Chargers have extended the contract of defensive lineman Corey Liuget by exercising the fifth-year option in his contract, worth nearly $7 million, according to U-T San Diego. It will keep him with the Chargers through the 2015 season.

 
 
 
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