Drew Magyar
Rock and a Hard Place - Week 8

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Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego and Tennessee. They all have byes in Week 8. Chances are there’s not a team in your league that isn’t affected by a bye this week, and then you add the injuries. Last week, we saw a ridiculous number of injuries to NFL players that are valuable fantasy assets.

We’re now at a point in the season that will make or break your fantasy hopes. There are a small set of teams that are almost assured of making the playoffs, and there are another small set that have been all but eliminated. But 80 percent of the teams are still alive and this week will be crucial. The next few weeks will make or break a lot of fantasy seasons, and you’ll need to be prepared.

Below, is a list of players with some upside for Week 8, their matchup, and the percentage of leagues in which he is owned according to our friends at fleaflicker.com .

DISCLAIMER

The hope is that you don’t find yourself in a situation like this. The hope is that you dodge the bullet. But hope won’t help you come Sunday.

Let’s move on to this week’s targets, keeping in mind that these aren’t every week starters. Instead, these are guys that should only be used if you’re in some kind of roster emergency.

QB

Terrelle Pryor vs. Pittsburgh – 39 percent. I’m back pounding my Terrelle Pryor drum. Pryor has been a solid fantasy quarterback this season. He’s a true dual-threat, and his running ability is the difference between his being a viable fantasy player and a stay-away. He’s cut out of the Tim Tebow mold, where it isn’t always pretty, but he’s effective enough to add value. But he’s already better than Tebow ever was. He’s playing Pittsburgh this week, and the Steelers are tough against the pass, but I think Pryor’s ability to create with his legs could provide a real boost. FantasySharks.com has projected Pryor for 180 yards, a touchdown and 40 rushing yards. I think those numbers are low.

Geno Smith at Cincinnati – 37 percent. If you look at Smith’s production this season, he’s alternated good weeks and bad weeks. If that trend continues, this week’s matchup with the Bengals would actually turn out to be a stinker. But I think there’s reason to be optimistic. Smith is coming off a nice game against the rival New England Patriots and the Bengals have been pretty average against fantasy quarterbacks, and I like Smith’s mobility. We’ve projected 200 yards passing, a touchdown and 20 rushing yards. Solid, right?

RB

Peyton Hillis at Philadelphia – 24 percent. It looks like Brandon Jacobs won’t be suiting up again this week. That means we’ll once again be subjected to a combination of Hillis and rookie Michael Cox. While Hillis didn’t necessarily look all that great, he’s still likely to dominate the time share, and he’s more likely to get the goal line work. Our projection is 50 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards and a score. I think that may be a little lofty, but it provides a positive Week 8 outlook for Hillis.

Andre Ellington vs. Atlanta – 38 percent. Ellington has become a reliable weekly flex option. At least until last week. But who hasn’t struggled against Seattle this season? I expect Ellington to get back on track against Atlanta, and you can expect a return to the numbers from Weeks 5 and 6, when he ran for more than 50 yards each week, and added a score in Week 6 against San Francisco. We’ve projected 50 yards on the ground, and another 20 receiving yards, and I think he hits those easily.

WR

Jarrett Boykin at Minnesota – 43 percent. I featured Boykin in this space last week, and it worked out so well that I’m doing it again. His ownership is still way too low. He’s the No. 2 option for Aaron Rodgers! James Jones is expected to miss another game, and now Jermichael Finley is out with a neck injury. Boykin will continue to rack up targets, yards and touchdowns. Keep in mind that James Jones is a free agent at the end of the season, and this may be the kind of opportunity that can make Boykin a household name and give him a larger role going forward. He’s projected for eight catches, 105 yards and a touchdown, good for the No. 5 receiver in our rankings, and I think he can hit those numbers against a weak Minnesota secondary.

Kenny Stills vs. Buffalo – 10 percent. With bye weeks hitting us hard this week, we may have to dig a little deeper. Stills would typically have to wait his turn behind Jimmy Graham , Marques Colston , Lance Moore and Darren Sproles in the passing game. But this week, Graham may not play due to a foot injury, and Moore is expected to see his first action since Week 4. Assuming Graham is out, Stills may be the X-factor for Drew Brees . He’s projected for three catches and 75 yards, and I think he may also get in the end zone.

TE

Jordan Reed at Denver – 55 percent. Reed is probably owned in your league. But when I saw an ownership rate of just 55 percent, I had to include him. Coming out of a Week 5 bye, he caught four balls for 58 yards. Then he blew up in Week 7, making nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. With Robert Griffin III seemingly returning to form, Reed is becoming a dangerous player in the Washington offense. We’ve projected just five catches for 60 yards, and I think he outperforms our projection.

Andrew Quarless at Minnesota – 5 percent. With Jermichael Finley expected to be out for the foreseeable future, Quarless steps into the starting tight end role. He’ll clearly be no higher than third to get targets, but Aaron Rodgers will find the open man, whether it’s Jordy Nelson , the previously touted Jarrett Boykin , or Quarless. We’ve projected him for 60 yards and a score, and I think his value will really be tied to that touchdown.

Good luck in Week 8.

Drew Magyar is a FantasySharks.com staff writer and member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He can be reached at drewmagyar@gmail.com.