Six teams on a bye week and the multitude of NFL stars battling injuries has made the start ‘em, sit ‘em decisions in Week 8 among the toughest that fantasy football owners have faced all season.
The flex options are going to be difficult to figure out on Sunday because a lot of the players who will occupy those spots in your lineups are backups and third-string guys getting an opportunity because of an injury to the starter.
With so many tough choices to make on who to start and who to bench, let’s take a look at which second-tier players have the best matchups and must be started.
Colin Kaepernick, QB: Start vs. Jaguars
Fantasy owners who expected a breakout season from Kaepernick have been disappointed so far. San Francisco has opted to make starting running back Frank Gore the focal point of the offense over the last few weeks, and the decision has resulted in four straight wins. This week, Kaepernick faces a Jaguars defense that has the third-fewest interceptions and the fourth-fewest sacks. The Jaguars rank 14th against the pass, and they have allowed three quarterbacks to throw for over 280 yards in the last five weeks.
But the main reason to start Kaepernick this week is because he should be able to gain a ton of yards on the ground against a Jacksonville team that ranks dead-last in run defense with 153 rush yards allowed per game. Kaepernick ran for a season-high 87 yards last week, and could easily reach a similar total when the 49ers take on the Jaguars in London on Sunday.
Michael Vick, QB: Start vs. Giants
The New York Giants defense is not the dominant group it used to be. The G-Men have just five interceptions and the least amount of sacks (six) in the NFL. The Giants defense is also giving up 30.9 points per game, which is the second-most in the NFL.
All of these statistics should give fantasy owners the confidence to start Michael Vick in all types of leagues. He’s returning from an injury this week and played well in his first five starts of the year with five touchdown passes, over 200 yards passing per game and four performances of 40-plus rushing yards.
If you play in a Yahoo! Sports league, start Vick because the Giants defense are allowing over 21 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season.
Stevan Ridley, RB: Start vs. Dolphins
The Patriots are 13th in rush yards per game and Ridley has re-emerged as the No. 1 running back in the New England backfield. He has three touchdowns in the last three games with 31 total carries in that span. He hasn’t fumbled since Week 1, which is a great sign for fantasy owners. His matchup in Week 8 is against the Miami Dolphins, whose defense has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points (21.5) to running backs in Yahoo! Sports leagues.
With the Patriots passing offense struggling, don’t be surprised if offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels tries to establish Ridley and the running game early in this contest.
Pierre Garcon, WR: Start vs. Broncos
Sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III’s improvement over the last few weeks has risen the fantasy stock of Washington’s best offensive players, and one of those guys is Garcon. He has gotten seven or more targets in every game this season, including 10 or more targets in four of six Redskins games.
Garcon is one of the most reliable wide receivers this season with 65 or more yards in each game. He only has two touchdowns, but his matchup against a Broncos defense in Week 8 that ranks 32nd against the pass should allow him to put up tremendous stats. Given the fact that both of these teams have terrible defenses, this game should be a high-scoring and feature plenty of pass attempts. This matchup, in addition to Garcon’s recent production, makes him a WR1 on Sunday.
Jarrett Boykin, WR: Start vs. Vikings
Boykin replaced the injured Randall Cobb as the Green Bay Packers’ slot receiver last week and had the best performance of his career with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t just targeting Boykin when his first and second reads were covered, he made the rookie his main option in the passing game on many plays.
Green Bay plays a Vikings defense on Sunday that ranks 29th against the pass and lacks an elite cornerback. Minnesota’s pass rush is also weak and has recorded the fifth-fewest sacks, which should allow Rodgers to have plenty of time in the pocket to find the open receiver. Over the last five weeks, Minnesota has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in Yahoo! Sports leagues.
Heath Miller, TE: Start vs. Raiders
Miller has been solid since returning from offseason ACL surgery. He has two touchdowns with an average of about 50 yards receiving per game, and the Raiders’ 16th-ranked pass defense presents a good matchup for him in Week 8.
Pittsburgh has won two straight games, and without any elite receivers to target, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been looking for his reliable tight end often (over five targets for Miller per game). For fantasy owners with a lot of players on bye weeks or unable to play because of injuries, Miller is a good option to start as a tight end or in a flex spot.
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