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Quick Fantasy Hits for Week 8

Senior Fantasy Writer
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As we wade into an eighth week of action, there are some nuggets that are too in-depth for the podcast, too smart for Twitter and a little too short for the full column. Enjoy these Week 8 Quick Hits:

Your byes for Week 8: Houston, Buffalo, Baltimore, Cincinnati.

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This will be a good week to start Mike Williams. Because he's playing the Vikings. And Minnesota's defense has proven, over the first seven weeks, that while it is adept at locking down a team's top receiver, it also allows someone else to step up and gain the most yards. This was pointed out in the update for Andre Roberts before Week 7's game against the Cardinals. Roberts ended up with seven receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. Williams, who plays No. 2 to Vincent Jackson for Tampa Bay, will likely follow in the footsteps of Cecil Shorts, Donnie Avery, Mario Manningham, Joique Bell and Brandon Pettigrew, Kendall Wright, Santana Moss, and Roberts -- a secondary receiver putting up a nice game against the Vikings' defense.

Can a case still be made for Matthew Stafford? Yes, and it starts here: through his first six games of 2011, Stafford was 147/237 for 1,729 yards. Through his first six games of 2012, he's 164/264 for 1,754 yards. He acutally has a slightly better completion percentage (62.1 percent vs. 62 percent) and has thrown for 25 more yards this year. The major difference is the touchdown production. After six games in 2011, Stafford had 15 passing touchdowns. After six games this year, he has five (although he has rushed for two, as well). Stafford didn't throw his sixth interception last season until November 13. He threw his sixth this year on Monday.

The philosophy of the Lions' offense hasn't changed; in 2011, they ranked first in the NFL in pass attempts. In 2012, they are again first in the NFL in pass attempts. But while they ranked third in passing touchdowns last year, the Lions are 23rd in passing touchdowns this season. While there's a minor uptick in rushing scores (they ranked ninth in rushing TDs in 2011, they rank fifth this year), and, according to Mike Sando, they are in the middle of the pack in terms of drops, the Lions' problems are more about red zone failures. In Monday night's loss to the Bears, Detroit fumbled twice in the red zone and Stafford threw an interception. On the season, Stafford leads all quarterbacks with three red zone interceptions. But he continues to throw. Only three quarterbacks have more red zone passing attempts than Stafford. And keep in mind that he had been battling a sore hip just a few weeks ago, so he still may be bothered by the injury.

In short, while Stafford has been frustrating, and is far from the Fantasy stud he was last year, it will likely be just be a matter of time until things average out and his owners start to see his touchdown production rise. The offense isn't sputtering; it just hasn't been able to finish. And when the team makes those necessary tweaks, Stafford will return to being a productive quarterback.

Doug Martin and Jason Witten lead the NFL in drops. Your top 10:
1. Doug Martin, 6
2. Jason Witten, 6
3. Dez Bryant, 5
4. Victor Cruz, 5
5. Eric Decker, 5
6. Jimmy Graham, 5
7. Greg Little, 5
8. Brandon Lloyd, 5
9. Darren McFadden, 5
10. Jordy Nelson, 5

The drops haunted Witten early and seem to be sticking around with Bryant. Between them, they have 11 drops on the season. Imagining a series of dominoes that could be knocked down if they caught just half of these drops -- more yards for Witten, Bryant, and Tony Romo, more passing attempts after getting the first downs, more scores -- one could argue that Romo is poised for a bigger second half, as Witten and Bryant will hold on to the ball with a little more gusto going forward.

Fun with defenses! DSTs tend to fluctuate on a weekly basis. So far this season, no team has been safe from single-digit performances. The Bears, as dominant as they have been, scored nine Fantasy points in Week 2. And no other team in the NFL has had fewer than two single-digit weeks. It's not that DSTs are useless, just that we may be pegging too much value on them, relative to other positions.

The top 10 defenses, by average Fantasy points per week:
1. Bears, 19.83 Fantasy points per week
2. Texans, 14.29
3. Falcons, 12
4. Cardinals, 11.71
5. Vikings, 11.71
6. Broncos, 11.67
7. Seahawks, 11
8. Ravens, 10.57
9. Patriots, 10.57
10. Chargers, 10.3

The average is not without its faults -- it overlooks elements like Minnesota's weeks of two, three, and four points and just factors them in with the higher-scoring weeks. In other words, you may add Minnesota expecting a 12-point game, but be stuck with either a five-point one, or enjoy a 22-point one...and then keep them in the following week for that five-point performance. So it makes sense to take into account weekly fluctuations, which may give a better idea of which DST is showing consistency.

As it turns out, the Jets have the greatest average fluctuation of any DST in the NFL, with output going up or down an average of 11.83 Fantasy points per week, in either direction (20 points in Week 1, three in Week 2; 14, two, eight, 18, and three in the ensuing weeks). In short, they are the most maddening DST in the league. But it doesn't necessarily mean they're a lesser DST than the Lions, who have the lowest fluctuation rate (1.5 points per week) but average just 4.8 points per week to the Jets' 10.3. You get far more stability from the Lions, but you're getting that stability on a much smaller level.

Which leads to the next set of numbers. We took the top 16 teams (the top half of the league) in average scoring, and ranked them by fluctuation, from the least fluctuation to the most. The top 10, in terms of steadiness on a week-to-week basis would be:

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1. Seahawks, 6.17 average point fluctuation per week
2. Cardinals, 6.67
3. Falcons, 6.8
4. Browns, 7.17
5. Bears, 7.2
6. Ravens, 7.67
7. Patriots, 8
8. Giants, 8.17
9. Buccaneers, 9
10. Bills, 9.67

...meaning the Seahawks are the most dependable of the league's top DSTs. While it's a neat stat, it discounts the dominance of the Bears. Nobody can argue that, for all the fluctuation in scoring the Bears may offer, they're still the defense you want in Fantasy football. So, we took one more step, in order for the list to accurately represent all of these factors: dividing average points per week by the fluctuation variable. The larger number will be on top, the smaller number will be on bottom, meaning the higher result, the better the DST, with both average scoring and fluctuation taken into account. The results:

1. Bears, 1.99 avg/fluctuation value
2. Cardinals, 1.49
3. Seahawks, 1.47
4. Falcons, 1.42
5. Ravens, 1.23
6. Browns, 1.21
7. Patriots, 1.17
8. Texans, 1.16
9. Giants, 1.13
10. Broncos, 1.05

In this top 10, the Falcons (84 percent), Ravens (83 percent), Browns (30 percent), and Broncos (59 percent) stand out as DSTs that can be had on most waiver wires. The Browns, in particular, buoyed by the recent return of Joe Haden, could be a DST that is going a little under-appreciated by the masses. This isn't to say that going for a home run with the Bears, Texans, or Falcons should be given up in pursuit of the decent-scoring, moderately-fluctuating Browns, but if you're looking for a bye week DST, or one that offers a combination of scoring and steadiness, Cleveland's not a bad spot to start, especially in Week 8, against a San Diego offense that has already thrown nine interceptions.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasyfootball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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