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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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:35 pm ET) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) 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
(4/18/2014) 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
(4/18/2014) 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
(4/18/2014) 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. 

 
 
 
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