Ballard, DHB good to go in Week 8
Another week, another injury. The foot epidemic claimed a third running back and the pattern seems to be a bigger name each week. Cedric Benson went down with a Lisfranc injury in Week 5 followed by DeMarco Murray and now the littlest big man in fantasy, Maurice Jones-Drew. In leagues all across America the likes of Alex Green, Felix Jones and Rashad Jennings will now be scrapping to secure the points their superior teammates could have gotten their owners.
Week 8's byes - Bengals, Bills, Ravens and Texans - will deprive the fantasy landscape of some top talent at the running back position, so grabbing an injury replacement back to rotate with a star out is extremely crucial this time of year. And with that said, it's also wise to continue targeting those backs that could become strong starting options should yet another starter go down - names like Kendall Hunter, Mike Goodson and Joique Bell come to mind.
1. Brandon Gibson vs. New England (at London) - The NFL is about to find out that the Patriots cannot cover in any country. Their porous secondary is going to give up many yards, at the least, and Gibson who remains Sam Bradford's feature target is a good bet to nab the most of them.
2. Vick Ballard at Tennessee - The unheralded rookie back flashed some solid skill in just his second career start last week, totaling 101 yards on 21 touches. With Donald Brown (knee) out another week and the softest D he's yet to face on the menu, expect another nice day yardage-wise for the former SEC back.
3. Alex Green vs. Jacksonville - For two weeks now Green has done very little with his many opportunities (just 100 yards on 42 carries), but those chances don't figure to go away anytime soon as there are no legitimate threats on the roster to steal them. In a game that has blow out written all over it, expect some solid garbage stats out of Green against a defense that averages nearly 150 yards allowed per game on the ground.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey at Kansas City - The combination of the Chiefs allowing a league worst 8.9 yards per pass attempt and Heyward-Bey's speed opposite perpetual deep threat Denarius Moore is going to equal some big plays for both receivers. Being a full four weeks removed from a scary concussion, DHB finally appeared to have his legs under him in Week 7 and it showed in his 85 yards receiving. Expect him to steadily improve as the season goes on, and that progress has a good shot to continue in Arrowhead.
5. Ryan Broyles vs. Seattle - It was only a matter of time before the NCAA FBS record holder for career catches got healthy after tearing his ACL last fall and asserted himself as the second best receiver in the Motor City. With Nate Burleson out for the year with a broken leg and Calvin Johnson drawing so much attention, someone has to catch the many, many throws Matthew Stafford will attempt (44 a game on average). Broyles will become that guy as he is an exceptional route runner with a natural feel for finding the soft spots in coverage and boasts excellent hands to make tough catches when he is in traffic - think poor man's Victor Cruz with Megatron opposite him and Titus Young playing the part of Mario Manningham.
6. LaRod Stephens-Howling vs. San Francisco - The tough Vikings defense had not allowed a single running back to hit 100 yards before Stephens-Howling burned it for 145 total yards and a score (104 on the ground). The diminutive scatback with blazing quickness poses a much different threat than the hard-charging tackle-breakers San Francisco has struggled with of late in Ahmad Bradshaw and Marshawn Lynch, but LSH could still hurt the 49ers through the air and provide good total yardage.
WEEK 8 FLEX-PLAY RANKINGS
* Check injury status.
1. LeSean McCoy PHI vs. Atl
2. Victor Cruz NYG at Dal
3. Reggie Wayne IND at Ten
4. Marques Colston NO at Den
5. Calvin Johnson DET vs. Sea
6. Jordy Nelson GB vs. Jac
7. *Percy Harvin MIN vs. TB - (Knee) Limited in Tuesday's practice.
8. *Adrian Peterson MIN vs. TB - (Ankle) Missed practice Tuesday, has the Thursday night game.
9. Matt Forte CHI vs. Car
10. Chris Johnson TEN vs. Ind
11. Jamaal Charles KC vs. Oak
12. Rob Gronkowski NE at StL
13. Roddy White ATL at Phi
14. Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. NO
15. Brandon Marshall CHI vs. Car
16. Dwayne Bowe KC vs. Oak
17. Alfred Morris WAS at Pit
18. Willis McGahee DEN vs. NO
19. Doug Martin TB at Min - Didn't get a goal line carry in the awful sequence after the Vincent Jackson catch, but later got a carry inside the 5 - had no chance, though, as the OL was blown up on the play.
20. Ryan Mathews SD at Cle
21. Reggie Bush MIA at NYJ
22. Marshawn Lynch SEA at Det
23. Tony Gonzalez ATL at Phi
24. Mike Wallace PIT vs. Was
25. DeSean Jackson PHI vs. Atl
26. Randall Cobb GB vs. Jac
27. Miles Austin DAL vs. NYG
28. *Vincent Jackson TB at Min - Sore calf - was that why he was able to get chased down on that 95-yard play? Sort of unfair that he gets blamed for the subsequent goal line failure.
29. Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. Atl
30. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ vs. SF - Every receiver will have a dog of a game at some point. Now that he's had two, is he outside the Circle of Trust? I don't think so - I'd trade for him right now.
31. Antonio Brown PIT vs. Was
32. Julio Jones ATL at Phi
33. Darren McFadden OAK at KC
34. *Frank Gore SF at Ari - Dealt with severe pain in his ribcage in the Thursday night game, but was a full practice participant Monday.
35. Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at Dal
36. Michael Turner ATL at Phi
37. Jason Witten DAL vs. NYG
38. Vernon Davis SF at Ari - Briefly complained about his routes after getting shut out Thursday, then backed off and took the company line.
39. Aaron Hernandez NE at StL - (Ankle) On the field for 57 snaps last week.
40. *Wes Welker NE at StL - Cortland Finnegan was playing the slot receiver most often last week. If Welker gets used in that matter, it might be a problem. Brian Hartline got shut out in a similar situation two weeks ago.
41. Eric Decker DEN vs. NO
42. Hakeem Nicks NYG at Dal
43. Denarius Moore OAK at KC - Has scored a touchdown in back-to-back weeks.
44. Malcom Floyd SD at Cle
45. Darren Sproles NO at Den
46. Stevan Ridley NE at StL - Only 32 snaps against the Jets, but 17 carries on those snaps.
47. Steven Jackson STL vs. NE - Jackson got his first rushing touchdown of the season last week against the Packers.
48. *Felix Jones DAL vs. NYG - Bruised his knee against the Panthers but returned to the game. Could get a second start with Murray still recovering from his foot injury.
49. Mikel Leshoure DET vs. Sea
50. *Rashad Jennings JAC at GB - Starting with MJD out.
51. Andre Roberts ARZ vs. SF
52. Nate Washington TEN vs. Ind
53. *Dez Bryant DAL vs. NYG - Briefly left to undergo a concussion test, but later returned. Also dealt with a groin injury. And of course, once again had an endzone drop.
54. Steve Smith CAR at Chi
55. James Jones GB vs. Jac - According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Jones doesn't have a drop all season.
56. Brandon Lloyd NE at StL
57. Mike Williams TB at Min
58. Lance Moore NO at Den
59. Santana Moss WAS at Pit
60. *Jimmy Graham NO at Den - Will test out his ankle Wednesday.
61. Antonio Gates SD at Cle
62. *Vick Ballard IND at Ten - Good news - involved in the passing game. Bad news - Mewelde Moore got red zone carries, and Andrew Luck had two rushing touchdowns.
63. *Shonn Greene NYJ vs. Mia - Left briefly with a head injury last week, though he later returned.
64. Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. Was - Had 122 yards as the primary back last week, but didn't get in the end zone.
65. Alex Green GB vs. Jac
66. Jeremy Kerley NYJ vs. Mia
67. Brandon Gibson STL vs. NE
68. Josh Gordon CLE vs. SD - Ten targets, but just two catches, and one brutal drop in the end zone that led to an even more brutal decision by coach Pat Shurmur to #PuntToWin on 4th-and-1 from the Colts' 40.
69. Michael Crabtree SF at Ari
70. Brian Hartline MIA at NYJ
71. Kenny Britt TEN vs. Ind
72. Devery Henderson NO at Den
73. Golden Tate SEA at Det
74. Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at KC
75. *Titus Young DET vs. Sea - Should have a bigger role with Burleson out for the season. Had six catches on eight targets Monday night.
76. Cecil Shorts JAC at GB - Big play early, quiet after Gabbert got hurt.
77. *Montario Hardesty CLE vs. SD - Could end up starting if Richards is ineffective again.
78. LaRod Stephens-Howling ARZ vs. SF - LSH had 20 carries to just four for Powell against the Vikes.
79. Jonathan Stewart CAR at Chi
80. Daryl Richardson STL vs. NE
81. Kendall Hunter SF at Ari
82. Brent Celek PHI vs. Atl
83. Jacob Tamme DEN vs. NO
84. Heath Miller PIT vs. Was - Caught six passes and a touchdown despite having to stay in and block frequently.
85. Dustin Keller NYJ vs. Mia
86. Stephen Hill NYJ vs. Mia - Huge drop against the Pats might have altered Survivor pools everywhere.
87. Sidney Rice SEA at Det
88. Donnie Avery IND at Ten
89. Leonard Hankerson WAS at Pit
90. Domenik Hixon NYG at Dal
91. T.Y. Hilton IND at Ten
92. Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. TB
93. Brandon Myers OAK at KC - Targeted 10 times by Carson Palmer last week.
94. Jared Cook TEN vs. Ind
95. Michael Bush CHI vs. Car
96. Andre Brown NYG at Dal
97. *Phillip Tanner DAL vs. NYG - Had 13 carries last week backing up Felix Jones.
98. Pierre Thomas NO at Den
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