Teddy Bridgewater (at CHI) - Bridgewater is coming off of his best game of the season, and he is facing a defense that has allowed 15 touchdown passes (second most in the NFL) despite facing the second fewest pass attempts so far this year. Every quarterback the Bears have faced this year has thrown at least one touchdown, and there has also been a three score game and four passing touchdown game against them. With rookie Stefon Diggs strengthening the passing game, Bridgewater should be in for another good afternoon.
Jay Cutler (vs MIN) - Cutler will have Eddie Royal, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett coming off of a week rest after they spent time on the injury report in the first half of the season, and of course he still has Matt Forte (and Marquess Wilson). The Vikings defense looks tough on paper, but Matthew Stafford had two good fantasy lines against them, and the other quarterbacks they’ve faced this year read like a who’s who of disappointments, except for Philip Rivers, who stalled out on a horrific afternoon for the Chargers. Cutler’s weapons seem to dictate that throwing the ball will be main mode of attack for this offense. Bears-Vikings could turn into a quarterback duel a la Bears-Lions Week 6.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (at OAK) - Chris Ivory’s status is unknown going into Week 8, and the Jets don’t have a stellar set of backups. It is easy to picture Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing more against a Raiders defense that has allowed multiple pass touchdowns to every quarterback they’ve faced except Peyton Manning (ouch). Manning also accounted for the lowest passing yards total against the Raiders, with “only” 266 yards. The quality of Fitzpatrick’s receivers is a big plus and could power Fitzpatrick to a nice day.
Matthew Stafford (vs KC - London) - Stafford is a great sleeper this week for a combination of number and narrative-based reasons. The Chiefs slowed down Landry Jones and Teddy Bridgewater the last two weeks, but before that, quarterbacks had at least 20 fantasy points (in standard scoring) in the first five games against them, including Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers’ best games of the year by far. Stafford’s quarterback coach Jim Bob Cooter just got promoted to offensive coordinator and playcaller, and this game should be the most conducive yet to production for him, in part because the offense can feel like they hit the “reset” button.
Antonio Andrews (at HOU) - The Texans defense and organization are in shambles right now. Andrews is the closest thing the Titans have to a lead back, and he would be the most likely to get any running back calls at the goal line. Houston allowed over 200 yards rushing last week, and they gave up three scores to Devonta Freeman and Frank Gore’s highest rushing yard total of the season in October. Tennessee might be able to control this game with Marcus Mariota back and give Andrews his biggest workload yet, in addition to goal line opportunities.
Ronnie Hillman (vs GB) - Bye week adjustments are responsible for some of the bigger changes in fantasy value during the middle section of the fantasy season. Hillman should emerge out of the Broncos bye as their #1 back, although he’ll still cede to C.J. Anderson on pass downs. The Packers have been gashed by Matt Forte and Todd Gurley, and Jamaal Charles had three scores against them, albeit in part in garbage time. Hillman’s speed makes him a big play threat, and if the Broncos defense can carry the day at home, he should get 15+ carries.
LeGarrette Blount (vs MIA - Thursday) - Will it be a Blount night or a Lewis night? Tom Brady is 8-0 on Thursday night, which is always an indicator of a good chance of a Blount second half. Dion Lewis is questionable again, which could also make it more of a Blount night. The Dolphins have mopped up two AFC South opponents and kept their running games in check, but before that they had given up three 100-yard games, and at least 28 rushing attempts to all four pre-bye opponents. Signs point to a Blount night as long as the Patriots hold serve.
Alfred Blue (vs TEN) - There aren’t going to be many weeks that a Texans back is recommended, even as a sleeper, but Blue could lift the spirits of his offense. The Texans are coming home for a gutcheck game for both their defense and head coach. Blue should be able to get to 15+ carries if the team creates and nurses a lead even though he is likely going to be in a three-way committee with Chris Polk and Jonathan Grimes. Tennessee has given up back-to-back 100 yard games to running backs, a two-score game to Frank Gore, and the only game that saw the Browns run the ball effectively this year.
Joique Bell (vs KC - London) - Don’t laugh. Bell looked better than he did earlier this year, and it makes sense that extra rest would help restore his abilities after two offseason surgeries and no real work with the team in camp or the preseason. The Lions should follow the Dolphins lead and simplify after Joe Lombardi’s scheme couldn’t establish the run or get Matthew Stafford in his comfort zone. Bell is the best inside runner on the roster, and he could be a stabilizing force for an offense searching for an identity. If you have to dig deep, Bell could strike gold.
Charles Sims (at ATL) - Sims has been playing great football this year and has only been overshadowed because the lead beack ahead of him, Doug Martin, has had a career renaissance. Sims has flashed surprising speed, and he is Jameis Winston’s chosen checkdown target on passing downs. With only one healthy core wide receiver and a starting tight end just returning from injury, Sims could be a big part of the Tampa passing game this week. The Falcons has also had a rough time with receiving backs, surrendering at least six RB receptions in each game, and as many as 14 in one. They’ve also allowed 11 scores to opposing backs.
Roddy White (vs TB) - If there is a week that we’ll use Roddy White this year, Week 8 is it. Leonard Hankerson is unlikely to play this week, giving White a much better chance at a significant number of targets. Number two receivers have either scored over gone over 50 receiving yards (or both) against Tampa in every game this year. White has also scored in his last two games against the Bucs. If Julio Jones doesn’t do it all himself, White will be the likely hit in this passing attack.
Michael Floyd (at CLE) - The Browns have had trouble holding good wide receivers down this year. The Denver duo each got over 100 yards, the Jets duo each scored a touchdown, Keenan Allen had over 70 yards and a score, and Amari Cooper had 134 yards. The only question is whether the Cardinals have enough to go around for all three of their quality receivers to score well this week. Floyd has caught short touchdowns in each of the last two games, and there should be ample opportunity for him to make it three.
Michael Crabtree (vs NYJ) - Amari Cooper has a ticket for Revis Island, leaving Michael Crabtree as the likely most targeted and most productive wide receiver in the Raiders offense this week. Secondary wide receivers like Danny Amendola, Donte Moncrief, and Kenny Stills have found their way to at least 80 yards and a score against this stingy defense, and Crabtree is a decent bet to continue that trend facing up against more of a finesse corner in Antonio Cromartie.
Kendall Wright (at HOU) - Marcus Mariota being back would help, but Wright can probably ace this matchup with Zach Mettenberger. He scored last week with Mettenberger at the helm, and the Texans have given up multiple wide receiver scores in each of the last three weeks while their defense disintegrates. Wright has scored two of the last three times he has faced the Texans, and that’s when they were a good defense. He should be able to take advantage of the disarray in Houston.
Tavon Austin (vs SF) - If there’s a receiver who can capitalize on the stacked boxed set up to slow down Todd Gurley, it has to be Austin. Austin has the ability to stretch defenses laterally and vertically, and Nick Foles is still taking shots downfield with regularity. He has touched the ball at least five times in every game, with three touchdowns since Gurley got going in Week 4. The 49ers have given up the third-most 40+ yard passing plays and fourth-most 20+ yard passing plays, so Austin is facing a vulnerable opponent.
Mike Wallace (at CHI) - Wallace is in the shadow of rookie Stefon Diggs (who is too obvious to be a sleeper now - start him), but he has the kind of matchup that can put him back in the spotlight this week. The Bears have already allowed 15 passing touchdowns this year, twelve of which went to wide receivers. Wallace hasn’t reeled in a deep ball or had a multi-touchdown game yet, but Week 7 is his best chance to date. Wallace had ten scores last year and only has one to date. Positive touchdown regression is coming soon.
Ben Watson (vs NYG) - Watson had his second straight good week, coming up just short of a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt and otherwise being a helpful “move the chains” tight end for Drew Brees. This week brings the Giants, who gave up three scores to Dallas tight ends in Week 1 and good fantasy games to the likes of Jacob Tamme and Garrett Celek. Charles Clay had his best game of the season, and Jordan Reed should have had well over 120 yards and two scores against them but settled for 6-96 because of poor throws by Kirk Cousins when he was open in the end zone. Look for Watson’s warm streak to be extended by a week.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (at ATL) - It’s never fun to play middling talents in their first week back from an injury because of the risk of re-injury, limited effectiveness, or limited use, but Seferian-Jenkins should be the #2 target in the passing game with the Bucs down to only one of their top four receivers being healthy right now. He scored twice in Week 1 before getting hurt in Week 2, and the Falcons have allowed scores to opposing tight ends in four of the last six games.
Ladarius Green (at BAL) - Antonio Gates’ tune is changing about his knee injury. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and might seek an MRI if his injured knee doesn’t feel better this week. Green might not need Gates to miss time, as he scored in one game with Gates and had 5-50 in the other. The Chargers are skewing very pass heavy, and that shouldn’t change with the poor Ravens pass defense up next. Carson Palmer zeroed in on tight end Jermaine Gresham as a matchup he liked against Baltimore last week to the tune of 4-62, and the only decent tight end they have faced this year - Gary Barnidge - had 8/139/1 against them. Green is more physically talented than either of them.
Clive Walford (vs NYJ) - If you have to go really deep at tight end this week, consider Walford. The Raiders have been talking him up and making overtures about getting him more involved since their bye. He had two long plays on his two targets last week, including a score, and he’s facing a Jets defense that creates an incentive for throwing to tight ends. Walford is playing with great burst and moves in the open field right now and he could benefit from a Jets defense that should be focused on Latavius Murray and the Raiders wide receivers.