TE Notes: Coach Joe Vitt said Jimmy Graham (ankle) looked “very, very good” in a limited practice, but added a couple of qualifications to leave his status just enough in question. We still suspect Graham will get the green light against a Broncos defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends. … Heath Miller’s 13 red-zone targets are four more than the next closest tight end. As a legit All-Pro candidate, Miller is on pace to shatter his previous career-highs in targets, receptions, and touchdowns.Vernon Davis ran the most pass routes of any player on the team last week, but saw zero targets. Defenses are keying on him as the one 49ers weapon that can hurt them after the catch. Expect the 49ers to counter this week, though Davis remains a dice roll for fantasy owners. … Finally back to full health, Martellus Bennett was back to running seam and vertical routes in Week 7. … Rudolph was the Vikings’ second-most targeted player in Week 7 and had a 19-yard catch nullified by penalty. His numbers were down simply because Christian Ponder couldn’t top 60 yards. … Tamme gets a bump due to the shootout potential with the Saints.Dustin Keller is once again the Jets’ top red-zone weapon now that he’s back to full healthy. … After snap-counts up around 90 percent early on, Jared Cook is back down to the 40-60 percent range. … Jermichael Finley’s targets have been trending down every week since a season-high 11 in the opener. With Randall Cobb and James Jones breaking out, Finley’s production is in the tank. He expects to have his route tree limited by a shoulder injury again this week.In an odd twist, converted receiver Niles Paul actually stayed in to block last week while Logan Paulsen did the route running. Chris Cooley isn’t a Week 8 fantasy option just days after re-signing. Don’t get your hopes up on Cooley as a Fred Davis replacement. The veteran “clearly had lost a step” before the Redskins cut him in September. … Dallas Clark’s Week 7 numbers were artificially inflated by no-huddle/comeback mode late in the fourth quarter. That will likely go down as his most productive game of the season.
Sunday Update: Jimmy Graham down slightly, David Thomas on. It's a risky strategy, but if possible I'd wait for Graham news and try to plug in Thomas if he doesn't go. If Broncos TE Joel Dreessen is available in your league, that gives you another insurance plan for the Sunday night shootout in case Graham can't go.Week 8 Defense/Special Teams
Week 8 Kickers
Last updated 12:30 p.m. ET on 10/28/2012It’s impossible to overstate how sensational Aaron Rodgers was at St. Louis last week. With the exception of Bryan Bulaga stonewalling Chris Long, the Rams dominated the line of scrimmage and had Rodgers on the run throughout. It didn’t stop Rodgers from becoming just the fourth quarterback in the past half-decade to boast consecutive games with a Total QBR of 95.0 or better.Dismantling defenses regardless of protection, Rodgers has regained 2011 MVP form in no small part due to the emergence of Randall Cobb as a multi-dimensional threat and one of the most reliable and efficient receivers in the NFL. Cobb is first among NFL receivers in catch percentage (86), sixth in yards after contact (231), fourth in forced missed tackles (7), second in rushing yards (67), and 15th in fantasy points. Even better, Cobb is fifth in fantasy points over the past three weeks. He caught all passes thrown in his direction in Week 7, beating six different Rams defenders. A week after anointing Cobb a “personnel and coach’s dream,” Rodgers raved about his new favorite weapon as a “star in the making” and a “big-time player.” With Alex Green struggling to read holes and stay on his feet, Cobb could even see more time in the backfield where he’s a threat to run the ball or go in motion to set up as a receiver. He’s here to stay as a weekly fantasy asset.That’s not to overlook Jordy Nelson and James Jones, however. Jordy is flat balling; it wouldn’t surprise me if he finishes the season as the No. 1 fantasy receiver.
In the middle of a career season, Jones leads the Packers with 10 red-zone targets. If not for an inch or two on three separate plays, he would have posted a monster stat line last week. Jones was actually targeted three more times at St. Louis than his next-highest game. Keep the Green Bay receiver trio rolling against the woebegone Jaguars this week.
Update: Nelson was held out of Thursday's practice after his hamstring tightened up on Wednesday. He won't practice on Friday and appears headed toward game-time decision status. Nelson won't test the hamstring until Saturday at the earliest. With Greg Jennings out indefinitely following sports hernia surgery, Cobb is locked into a major offensive role for the Packers. It's not unreasonable to expect top-10 production from Cobb through the fantasy playoffs.
Week 8 Quarterbacks
QB Notes: Drew Brees-Peyton Manning has shootout written all over it. Brees continues to trend upward, increasing his passer rating in each successive game this season. … The Matt Ryan-Michael Vick showdown has sneaky shootout potential of its own with both teams coming out of the bye week.Redskins OC Kyle Shanahan is increasing his head-coaching stock around the league with an innovative “full house” pistol formation similar to Air Force’s flexbone. When Robert Griffin III has struggled out of the base offense to open the game, Shanahan has immediately adapted by switching to backfield combinations not seen in the modern NFL. Griffin has been bathing in well-deserved hype for his fourth-quarter wizardry versus the Giants, but his first-quarter 35-yard touchdown strike to Josh Morgan (nullified by penalty) was his most impressive throw of the day. What’s even more amazing is how well RGIII has handled the blitz, leading the NFL in completion percentage (72.7), yards per attempt (11.7), and Total QBR (98.8) against five or more pass rushers.Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a touchdown pass against every NFL team except the Redskins. That will change this week as the ‘Skins allow the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. … Eli Manning has nine fourth-quarter touchdowns of 20+ yards over the past two years; no other QB has more than four. Eli is throwing deep more frequently than any passer in the league.Cam Newton picked the wrong week to turn his season around at Soldier Field. According to Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Bears boast the best defense through seven weeks since the 2002 Bucs. For all of the hand-wringing over Newton’s slow start, it’s worth nothing that he’s actually passing better than Week 8 opponent Jay Cutler this season. … Luck has surprisingly completed over 60 percent of his passes in just one game this year. He’s stayed relevant in fantasy circles with high volume. … Stafford’s mechanics are still a mess, and he’s facing what is arguably the league’s toughest pass defense. Once Danny Amendola (clavicle) is cleared for contact, Sam Bradford will welcome him back with open arms. Bradford’s arm talent has been evident this season, but his receivers aren’t getting open with any consistency. The matchup is right this week against a Pats defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. … Weeden is sixth in QB fantasy points over the past three weeks. He’s now a solid QB2 option.Josh Freeman has shown improvement, but his production spike has been propped up by porous defenses and a reliance on his big receivers to make plays at the point of the catch. Freeman is completing 56 percent of his deep throws this year compared to 35 percent a year ago. The Vikings are a much tougher matchup than the Chiefs and Saints. … Defenses are daring Christian Ponder to throw deep, but his average aimed pass is just six yards.Week 8 Running Backs
RB Notes: LeSean McCoy has a made-to-order matchup coming out of the bye week versus a Falcons defense allowing 5.2 YPC. Only the Bills, surrendering a whopping 6.0 YPC, have been more generous this year. … NFL Films’ Greg Cosell’s reaction to Adrian Peterson’s dominating performance against the Cardinals with eight in the box: “UN-believable. He has an unmatched combination of short-area agility, speed, and power. He’s pretty much right back to being the best back in the league … and the most powerful runner in the NFL.” Peterson has forced more missed tackles (29) than any back in the league this year. Even against a Bucs defense allowing the lowest YPC average in the NFL (3.1), Peterson is a good bet to score. He’s among the most frequently targeted red-zone backs in the league in addition to top-five carry volume inside the 5-yard line. His year-to-year consistency has been uncanny. Willis McGahee is a surprising third among running backs in targets per game, and he’s matched up this week against a Saints defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs. … Cosell believes Ryan Mathews is running “extremely well” the past two games. … Forte is averaging 24.5 touches over his last two games, but his matchup might not be quite as attractive as it looks at first blush. Luke Kuechly has been a massive upgrade on an injured Jon Beason at middle linebacker. … Over his last 16 games going back to last November, Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL with 1,593 rushing yards. The secret to Chris Johnson’s newfound success isn’t just creampuff defenses and improved blocking; it’s also volume. Over the past four games, he’s averaging 19.3 carries for 113 yards for 5.85 YPC. … Is Alfred Morris versus the Steelers a case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object? Pittsburgh is allowing 4.1 yards per carry, the same average as the much-maligned Panthers run defense. The Redskins have consistently run even against eight in the box, with RGIII leading with play-action/run-action.Pro Football Focus ranks the Raiders offensive line as the third-worst in the NFL. Darren McFadden hasn’t been getting to the second level because there are no holes against stacked boxes. What’s missing are the big plays, which explains McFadden’s 3.1 yards per carry average -- lowest of any back ranked in the top 40. With Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey healthy and Carson Palmer averaging more yards per game than Aaron Rodgers, I think it’s fair to expect McFadden to find more big plays against looser boxes and a soft schedule.Frank Gore’s 5.8 YPC average is second only to C.J. Spiller. He obviously has plenty left in the tank, the 49ers coaches scheme running plays better than anyone in the league, and the offensive line is the NFL’s best. The Cardinals run defense has been gashed by Adrian Peterson, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson the past two weeks. … Doug Martin is running with more confidence and violence the past two games, and he could be overtaking a sluggish LeGarrette Blount for goal-line duties … Don’t let anyone tell you that Rashad Jennings can’t play because the Raiders held him to 2.1 YPC last week. Pro Football Focus rates Oakland as the fourth-most effective run defense in the NFL.You may be once bitten twice shy, but you can’t blame yourself for going with Trent Richardson in a plum matchup last week. T-Rich took a hard shot on the Browns’ first play of the game and never looked the same afterwards. He’s a high risk/high reward play this week. … Felix Jones will draw a second straight start in what is shaping up as a decent matchup. The Giants defense has allowed 5.0 yards per carry this season, good for third-worst in the NFL. The Panthers have had no base run game this year, as 66 percent of their runs have come out of the shotgun. Coach Ron Rivera planned to go with Jonathan Stewart as the featured back in Week 7 and suggested more changes are in store going forward. If Rivera does commit to Stewart in the base offense, we could see a top-five talent at the position. Only LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, and Maurice Jones-Drew earned higher running grades from Pro Football Focus last season, and no back forced more missed tackles in the passing game. Stewart has also graded out as PFF’s most elusive back of the past three seasons.The Steelers should give Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) another week to rest up for the Giants. Thanks to a whopping 114 (of 122) yards after contact at Cincinnati last week, Jonathan Dwyer is second only to C.J. Spiller in Yards After Contact per attempt on the season. … We were told before the season that Michael Turner was losing leg drive, which should have been obvious when the coaches went away from him on a pair of crucial fourth downs versus the Giants in the playoff blowout. It’s no surprise, then, that Turner is a league-worst 1-of-6 in converting short-yardage touchdowns. Update: CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora confirms Mendenhall will not play Sunday versus the Redskins.We’re tentatively expecting Vick Ballard to start one more game in place of Donald Brown, but check the news scroll Friday afternoon for a better read on this backfield. … Cliff’s Notes version of Alex Green’s game versus the Rams: missed open hole, slip, trip, dropped pass. Green makes Chris Johnson look good at reading the proper hole. Chalk me up as a La’Rod Stephens-Howling skeptic. The Vikings essentially let LSH run underneath, daring him to beat them. The Cardinals went into the game planning a rotation with William Powell. There’s no guarantee that won’t be the plan this week against a shutdown 49ers defense. … Mark Ingram was finally used on a pair of effective play-action passes last week. Those crafty Saints have been setting up that play for two years.
Sunday Update: Alex Green up for matchup reasons. Donald Brown down with Vick Ballard drawing the start.Week 8 Wide Receivers
WR Notes: You don’t need me to tell you to get Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in starting lineups against a Saints defense that hemorrhaged big plays all over the field to Vincent Jackson last week. Thomas’ season-low Week 6 output was due to bracket coverage on deep routes by the Chargers. Until the Saints improve their speed, tackling, angles and communication, it’s fair to expect a fantasy bonanza for all No. 1 receivers. When it comes to stopping Calvin Johnson, Bears veteran Charles Tillman is in a league of his own. Megatron has beat Tillman for a score just once in 10 games. If Johnson is kept in check by Seattle’s physical corners this week, he will be the most obvious “buy” in fantasy as the league’s dominant skill-position player. Johnson hasn’t caught a touchdown from Matthew Stafford this year. Through six games a year ago, the two connected on nine scores.Victor Cruz has a season an eye-popping 31 percent of Eli Manning’s targets this season. It’s sustainable, too. Slot receiver Steve Smith saw 30 percent of Eli’s targets in 2009. Manning-to-Cruz is already third all-time in touchdown passes of 70+ yards, backing up Phil Simms’ claim that Cruz is arguably the league’s premier receiver, making Eli “a bigger star.” Just over a third of Andrew Luck’s passes have been directed at Reggie Wayne. That percentage leads all receivers. … Colston leads the NFL in red-zone targets with 15. … Mike Wallace will put last week’s drops behind him against a Redskins defense on pace to allow the most points and passing yards in franchise history. … The Vikings sold out to stop Larry Fitzgerald in Week 7, keeping seven in coverage and forcing John Skelton and La’Rod Stephens-Howling to beat them underneath. Minnesota didn’t blitz a single down and still racked up seven sacks and 15 QB hurries.Vincent Jackson was sensational in racking up a franchise-record 216 yards on a miserable Saints defense. But those points are gone. The formula for V-Jax is unchanged from Philip Rivers to Josh Freeman: throw the ball up for grabs outside the numbers or deep down the field and let Jackson use his size, athleticism and physicality to make a big play. That formula has also led to dramatic week-to-week inconsistency. Jackson squares off against a legit top-10 pass defense this week, featuring an athletic, physical corner of their own in Chris Cook. Dez Bryant insists his groin is fine, but his Week 7 targets and snaps were down. … Hakeem Nicks is practicing fully again. … Lance Moore made Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week for a good reason: he was phenomenal at Tampa Bay, making catch after catch in traffic while picking up eight first downs. He’s essentially Drew Brees’ version of Wes Welker. … It’s hard to trust Bowe as more than a WR3 gamble with Brady Quinn under center.PFF’s Mike Clay believes Brandon Lloyd is a “slam dunk candidate” for more touchdowns in the second half of the season. Lloyd’s Week 7 faceplant came courtesy of Antonio Cromartie, who is having the best season of his career as perhaps the NFL’s premier cover corner in Darrelle Revis’ absence. Brian Hartline has the misfortune of drawing Cromartie this week. It’s little solace to fantasy owners, but Kenny Britt’s three receptions on the opening drive forced the Bills to cheat coverage in his direction, allowing Chris Johnson to take advantage. … Jeremy Kerley is top-10 in receiving yards (238) and top-15 in targets (26) and receptions (15) over the past three weeks. … The Rams need to get the ball in explosive rookie Chris Givens’ hands more often, but I can see how that is easier said than done with a limited route tree. Givens is the first rookie since Willie Gault (1983) with a reception of 50+ yards in four consecutive games. … Leonard Hankerson played 69 snaps to Santana Moss’ 17 last week. There’s no doubt as to the Redskins’ No. 1 receiver with Pierre Garcon out.
Sunday Update: Jordy Nelson off, Donald Driver on.Week 8 Tight Ends