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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
Malcolm Jenkins: Eagles players not surprised by McCoy trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) While most folks were shocked when the news broke in early March the Eagles were trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills, apparently McCoy's Philadelphia teammates were not

Safety Malcolm Jenkins told NFL Network on Wednesday it was not surprising when it was announced McCoy was being traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

"In the locker room a lot of guys weren't surprised by the trade, what we were more surprised of was that it was just a player-for-player trade," Jenkins said. "I think everybody thought we would have gotten more -- Kiko, plus a couple draft picks, you know, somebody else...

"You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he's not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time. Chip thinks he's a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our (system) is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It's about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that's not necessarily Shady's running style."

The Eagles replaced McCoy's absence in the backfield by signing former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards in 2014, and former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.

"When you talk about what you can get for -- if you are looking to acquire more talent -- I just think Shady's cap number and what we were able to get in return for Shady, I think made sense," Jenkins said. "And some guys in the locker room who kind of know what's going on weren't surprised by it."


Joe Lombardi: Lions excited to see what Broyles does in offseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Lions are not yet giving up on wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who has been hampered in his career by knee and Achilles injuries. 

“I think he’s a guy you have a lot of respect for because he’s had three major injuries and fought his way back,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday, per The Oakland Press. “When he’s been in there he’s been productive. We’re excited to see where he is now after a full season of not coming back from an injury. He’s had a full year to be healthy we’re excited to see what he does in the offseasaon.’’


Michael Thomas signs tender with Dolphins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Michael Thomas, an exclusive rights free agent, formally signed his one-year tender with the Dolphins on Wednesday morning, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. The 24-year-old played in eight games last season, making 18 tackles, until landing on IR with a chest injury.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Rolando McClain agrees to one-year, $3M deal with Cowboys
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) The Cowboys have reached an agreement with linebacker Rolando McClain on a one-year deal, a source told The Dallas Morning News. McClain's deal will pay him $3 million in base salary and potentially another $1 million in incentives.

McClain made his return to the NFL in 2014 after twice retiring. The former first-round pick thrived in his first season with Dallas, totaling 81 tackles (65 solo), one sack and two interceptions in 13 games. 

Although, he did have some injury issues last season. Knee and groin injuries, as well as an illness forced McClain to miss three regular season games. He was then limited in the playoffs due to a concussion.

McClain remained a sought-after free agent this offseason despite reports he is facing a four-game fine for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Also, an arson investigation into a fire that destroyed his Alabama home in December remains open but inactive.


Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 

"Listen, there's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie. And the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said, per MLive.com. "As you look back, if you're self critical, maybe we asked a little too much from him from that perspective. I think there was just a volume that he struggled with early.

"But, listen, he was productive, and for anybody the second year is always where you see the biggest jump."


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


 
 
 
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