Ryan Mathews is finally getting back to full health after a disappointing start to the season. He hasn’t been right since Week 2 when he sprained his ankle. Barring any setbacks, this will be the first week where he has put in a full week of practice and will get the majority of the reps out of the backfield for San Diego in Week 8. The first-round fantasy pick has been killing owners all season and hasn’t broken out like most people thought he would, but now that he’s healthy Mathews should start to get on track for the Chargers and provide his patient owners with some solid performances the rest of the way. The Tennessee Titans’ defense has been very soft this year so run the rookie out of Fresno State this week. He should get a good amount of carries and should find some space to run with quarterback Philip Rivers opening up the field in the passing game.
The Indianapolis Colts’ running back situation did not get any healthier after the bye week as both Joseph Addai and Donald Brown have not practiced yet this week. Addai has a shoulder issue while Brown is nursing a hamstring. As of today it looks as if Mike Hart will be getting the start in Week 8 against the Texans. Hart isn’t just some random third string running back and should be considered a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 this week. He is a tough runner and has solid hands out of the backfield and is used to the spotlight as a four year star at Michigan. The Syracuse native is definitely flying under the radar right now, but if he does indeed get the start he could have a very surprising day in fantasy. Houston doesn’t exactly have a good run defense so if he gets some carries expect Hart to produce.
It looks like Jonathan Stewart is going to be the starting running back for Carolina on Sunday with DeAngelo Williams doubtful with a foot injury. What better time for Stewart to get the bulk of the carries then against St. Louis? As long as Williams is sidelined, Stewart immediately becomes a must-start this weekend and a strong RB2 in all formats. He has been a productive back in his brief time in the NFL; Stewart’s problem is that he just doesn’t get enough reps. Well that won’t be a problem in Week 8 as he should top 20 carries and 100 yards against the pitiful Rams’ defense. Start with confidence.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Johnson has come out of nowhere in 2010 for the Bills. He leads the team with five receiving touchdowns, including four in the last four games. He also has 372 receiving yards and has become a favorite target of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick over the last few weeks. It’s tough to recommend any player from Buffalo for fantasy purposes, but Johnson should at the very least be owned in all formats, if not starting until he cools off. Buffalo goes up against Kansas City this weekend so feel free to use Johnson and hope that he makes it five straight games with a trip to pay dirt.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Gonzalez should be a solid play this week against Houston. His ankle is healthy and in all likelihood he will be starting alongside Reggie Wayne for the Colts on Sunday. Dallas Clark is done for the year, Austin Collie is out with an injury and Pierre Garcon is questionable this week so there aren’t many options in Indianapolis. When healthy, Gonzalez has seen a lot of targets from Peyton Manning so look for much of that in Week 8. This rematch should be just like the first one – lots of offense and no defense. Gonzalez should get plenty opportunities to have a good fantasy day, especially if Garcon doesn’t play. Houston will give all their attention to Reggie Wayne and that should free up Gonzalez to operate in the middle of the field. He could be a sneaky play so take a chance if you need a receiver this week.
David Gettis, WR, Carolina Panthers
Staying on the wide receiver trail for sleepers this week, Gettis had a breakout game in Week 7 against San Francisco. He had eight catches for 125 yards and two scores and saw double-digit targets. Carolina’s offense is certainly nothing to brag about nor is starting quarterback Matt Moore, but Gettis is definitely someone to keep an eye on the next few weeks. He is the clear No. 2 for the Panthers and could be an interesting play against St. Louis this week. I still want to see more of him before I fully recommend starting him, but there are worse receivers you can play this week so if you want to take a chance with Gettis and see if he can put together two solid weeks in a row then go for it.
Lock of the Week
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Perhaps one of the biggest fantasy busts so far this season, Fitzgerald has seen his elite production reduced considerably with the loss of quarterback Kurt Warner. Neither Derek Anderson nor Max Hall has been able to consistently get him the ball and it’s really starting to hurt fantasy owners who took Fitzgerald in the first or second round. He has just two touchdowns on the year and is averaging about 55 yards a game, well below his career numbers. Owners need to keep the faith in Week 8 and start Fitzgerald against Tampa Bay. The Cardinals have been looking for ways to get him more involved in the offense and it shows. He’s been targeted 64 times in six games, so it’s just a matter of time before more of those targets turn into catches. Plus, fellow wideout Steve Breaston is back from injury so this should open up the field a little more. Look for Fitzgerald to have his best game of the season on Sunday.