Knowshon Moreno gets his starting job back for at least a week with the broken hand suffered by Willis McGahee. Even though it’s by default, Moreno will be in the backfield and get most of the carries for Denver on Sunday. He does go up against a fairly tough run defense in Detroit, but his pass catching abilities will help counter that. Remember he did score his first and only touchdown of the season on a nice 28-yard screen play. The big question for Moreno’s value in Week 8 has to do with new starting quarterback Tim Tebow. With his running skills, it’s almost a certainty that Tebow will take some carries away from Moreno so this might hamper his fantasy output. He will still see double-digit carries and a handful of receiving targets, which makes him a nice play. Nonetheless, Moreno should be seen as a decent RB2 or strong flex option for the weekend.
The Dallas Cowboys may have found a gem in rookie DeMarco Murray, who rushed his way into the Dallas record books in his first game as the feature back. Murray exploded for 253 yards on 25 carries, which included a 91-yard touchdown scamper on his first carry of the game. This performance broke the single-game rushing record set by some guy named Emmitt Smith, so clearly Murray has been the fantasy buzz all week. Chances are he’s not available in your league. If you own him, he is a must start in Week 8 against Philadelphia. Murray will get almost all the work out of the backfield against a defense that has given up the most fantasy points to running backs this season. That sounds like a dream matchup to me. The only thing the rookie out of Oklahoma doesn’t contribute much of is receptions, but if he runs for 250 yards again then that won’t matter. Expect a solid follow up game out of Murray with close to 100 yards and a score.
Injuries to starting running backs are happening all over the league lately and a potential midseason fantasy star could be born in Washington. With news that starting rusher Tim Hightower is done for the season with a torn ACL Ryan Torain now steps back into the spotlight for the Washington Redskins as the primary back. He has shown flashes of greatness this season when given the work. This was evident in Week 4 when he went off for 135 yards and a score on 19 carries. Now that he is the starter, Torain should see a more consistent workload and get into a comfort zone. Although owners should be weary because coach Mike Shanahan has a strange way of dealing with his backfield. The bottom line is as long as Torain remains the starter he will produce at a high level. With matchups coming up against Buffalo, Miami and Dallas, he potentially could go on a very nice fantasy run for owners. Get him in your lineup for Sunday.
Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants
Ballard has had three solid performances in a row for the Giants and could make it four this Sunday as he faces the pitiful Miami Dolphins. He seems to be building some nice chemistry with Eli Manning. He has 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns combined in the last three weeks and is getting targeted more and more. New York’s receiving corps is crowded right now with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz, but Manning has always loved throwing to the tight end and this has become more obvious over the last month or so. Miami has given up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this season, which bodes well for anyone needing a bye week filler at this spot. Take a chance on Ballard because he’s a week or two away from being an every week fantasy option the rest of the season.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
Brown is coming off a career day in Week 7 where he caught seven passes for 102 yards against the Arizona Cardinals. He also led the Steelers with nine targets so it looks like Pittsburgh feels very comfortable throwing the ball his way. The only thing holding Brown back from being a must start on Sunday is Hines Ward. Ward, who left last week’s game with an ankle injury, did not practice Thursday, but said he will definitely play this week so he will steal some targets. The Steelers go up against New England in Week 8, so even if Ward is in the starting lineup, Brown will still get plenty of reps. Chances are there’s going to be a lot of passing in this game so he will help fantasy teams. Throw in the fact that the Patriots have given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season and you have all the makings of a sneaky good stat line out of Brown this week.
Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City
I might as well make it a clean sweep as all of my sleepers for the week start with the letter B. Jackie Battle seems to be the running back to own out of the Kansas City backfield. He’s gotten 35 carries combined the last two games and has run for 195 yards. Although Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster are still taking some of the load away from him, Battle seems to have a strong hold on the top spot. He’s a great flex spot option this week against a sputtering San Diego defense that just allowed 112 yards to the New York Jets’ Shonn Greene. The only thing that’s really hurting Battle is his team’s anemic offense. More often than not, the Chiefs find themselves behind and have to abandon the run, but they are improving and it’s shown with three straight victories. This game might turn into a shootout, so take that into consideration, but I still think Battle has a solid game and finds pay dirt for the first time this season.
Lock of the Week
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans
With the emergence of rookie Mark Ingram and the all-around talents of Darren Sproles, it’s been a disappointing season for Thomas and his owners thus far. There just haven’t been a lot of running opportunities in the Saints’ pass happy offense. Thomas has received double-digit carries only once this season and that came last week in a 62-7 blowout of the Indianapolis Colts. The main reason he got so much work was because Ingram left with a heel injury.
As of today, Ingram still hasn’t practiced, which increases Thomas’ value tremendously for Week 8. He would become a must start against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday if New Orleans decides to hold Ingram out. I’m thinking that’s going to be the case. The Saints still throw the ball a ton either way, but this helps Thomas even more because he’s a great pass catcher out of the backfield. He has 20 receptions for 206 yards and a score on the season. Look for him to get at least 15 touches and find the end zone as well in what will be a solid day for Thomas and his fantasy owners.