Reliability is vital this time of year. We’ve reached Week 8, every game is pivotal and fantasy football owners simply cannot afford to start a player who completely fails to show up. And yes, that includes kickers (thank you, Matt Bryant). Sure, guys like Andy Dalton and Torrey Smith can go off at any time — but they can also just as easily disappear when you’re counting on them the most. What you need in late October are the players who contribute every week — the Matt Fortes of the world — who give you a consistent baseline of yards from scrimmage so you have something to work with even when they don’t get into the end zone.
Obviously, those guys aren’t easy to find. Is Ronnie Hillman reliable? Probably, now that he seems to have curbed his fumbling issue and is running free in the Broncos’ high octane offense. Michael Crabtree? Not so much. He’s good one week, then drags you, your team and your entire family down the next. Andre Ellington? Umm, yes. Even his “off” games are still productive. Cordarrelle Patterson? If you have to ask, you’ve obviously never read this blog before.
The thing is, every team in your league is built around a couple superstars. But if you fill out the rest of your roster with a bunch of guys who mail it in from week to week, all the work that your top weapons do will ultimately be meaningless. It’s like a movie with Al Pacino and Ben Affleck…but no script. And yes, that is a Gigli reference.
Of course, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strong players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 8…
QB: Russell Wilson, SEA (@ CAR) – There was a time when Wilson was a better real-life quarterback than fantasy quarterback. When starting him meant you’d get slightly above average production while the Seahawks cruised to victory. Those days are gone. Sure, Seattle could still rebound from this sluggish 3-3 start, but that’s not really your concern. What should matter to you is the fact that Wilson is averaging nearly 55 yards per game on the ground — more than Eddie Lacy, and only three yards per game less than Jamaal Charles. Wilson is getting it done through the air as well, and now he faces a Panthers defense that looks nothing like the unit that was one of the NFL’s best last season. This year’s version allows the sixth-most points to opposing QBs and now must deal with an angry Seahawks offense that relies on Wilson more than ever before.
Honorable Mention: Tony Romo, DAL (v WAS) – He’s at home against a Washington defense that has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks so far this season, his team is on an absolute tear and he’s got a variety of weapons at his disposal — including a new tight end who apparently only scores touchdowns. On top of all that, the game’s on Monday Night Football, which means a) the Cowboys should be less likely to randomly lose focus against a weaker opponent and b) your QB will have the last word in your fantasy matchup. Well, unless the owner you’re playing is starting Colt McCoy. In that case, it doesn’t really matter who you put in your lineup. Sure, there’s always the chance that someone convinces Romo he’s in a playoff game and he just starts throwing interceptions and bobbling snaps. But you have to play the percentages here, and all signs point to another big night for Dallas.
RB: Lamar Miller, MIA (@ JAX) – The Jaguars don’t play defense (unless they’re facing the Browns), and Miller is one of the few clear-cut No. 1 running backs in football right now. He’s scored four touchdowns in the last three weeks, has posted 11 or more fantasy points in all but one game this season and continues to see almost all of the goal line work in Miami. What more do you want?
Honorable Mention: Jerick McKinnon, MIN (@ TB) – See that part where it says “at Tampa Bay”? Honestly, that should be enough for you. But you’re clearly the inquisitive type who demands more from a fantasy outlook, so here goes: McKinnon is the top option in the Vikings’ running attack, has shown explosiveness since seeing a heavier workload, is playing for his job and now goes up against a defense that has allowed an average of 41.25 points per game since Sept. 18. True, Minnesota probably isn’t capable of scoring 41.25 points. But McKinnon figures to be the catalyst for whatever points they do produce.
WR/TE : Randall Cobb, GB (@ NO) – Aaron Rodgers vs. Drew Brees… the Packers are rolling and the Saints desperately need a win… and it all takes place indoors. That adds up to a potential shootout between two of the more offensively gifted teams in football and, even if New Orleans stumbles here, that doesn’t mean Green Bay will. No wide receiver has more touchdowns (8) than Cobb this season, and now he faces one of the weakest secondaries around.
D/ST: Buffalo Bills (@ NYJ) – It’s tough to put your faith in a team led by Kyle Orton and his magnificent facial hair. I get that. But we’re just asking you to believe in the defense here. The Bills lead the NFL with 24 sacks and have forced 12 takeaways. Meanwhile, the Jets have already turned the ball over 10 times, have allowed 18 sacks and generally look confused by the concept of offensive production. Percy Harvin could help — or he could end up punching a teammate in the eye. We just don’t know. And in case you think there’s some sort of home field advantage in play here, let me remind you that Geno Smith doesn’t have the most cordial relationship with New York fans at the moment.
Honorable Mention: Houston Texans (@ TEN) – J.J. Watt chasing down Charlie Whitehurst. With Jadeveon Clowney possibly joining in. Somebody needs to make a painting of this.
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