Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Dez Bryant, or to bench Blake Bortles and Chris Givens? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 8 of the 2014 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions at Falcons. With just one 300-yard outing (in Week 1) and only nine passing scores in his first seven games, Stafford has been a huge disappointment. It doesn’t help that Calvin Johnson has been gimpy or absent for much of that time. But Stafford will be facing a very generous Falcons pass defense when they square off in London. Whether or not Megatron suits up, Stafford should prosper.
Jerrick McKinnon, RB, Vikings at Buccaneers. The rookie is clearly the leader of Minnesota’s backfield and he will continue to be leaned upon by his fellow rookie under center. Tampa Bay’s soft run defense will give McKinnon plenty of room to showcase his playmaking abilities.
Ben Tate, RB, Browns vs. Raiders. Everyone in a Cleveland uniform fared poorly against the Jags last week, but Tate should have a nice rebound against Oakland’s sieve-like run defense. With a suddenly shaky Brian Hoyer at the controls, the hard-running Tate will be his QB’s best friend.
Terrance Williams, WR, Cowboys vs. Redskins. Williams doesn’t reel in a lot of passes, but he makes the most of the chances he gets, scoring six times on just 19 receptions. He has at least one TD in five of seven games to date, and he’ll go up against a Redskins defense that has allowed 15 passing TDs (second-worst in the league) on Monday night. Chalk him up for another end zone trip, and at least 60 yards.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots vs. Bears. Tom Brady has been en fuego recently, but LaFell only occasionally capitalizes on the bounty. Following an off week against the Jets, LaFell should return to prominence against a Bears pass defense that has been torched by much lesser QB-WR tandems.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco; RBs Justin Forsett, Andre Ellington, Joique Bell, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mark Ingram, Shane Vereen, Tre Mason; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Golden Tate, Jeremy Maclin, Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Kelvin Benjamin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Wallace.
Roll ‘em back
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Lions. Ryan has a well-earned reputation for playing poorly on the road, but he won’t feel much comfort in the designation of London as this week’s “home field.” Ryan’s offensive line keeps losing key starters, leaving the quarterback running for his life…when he’s not on his back. The Lions field one of the league’s most stifling defenses, and QB pressure is their forte. God may save the Queen, but He won’t spare Ryan.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jets vs. Bills. Ivory is coming off his best game of the season (125 combined yards, 1 TD), but he’ll run into Buffalo’s brick wall this week. The Bills have yet to allow a rushing score to date, and Ivory still must contend with a shared backfield with Chris Johnson.
Bills RBs at Jets. Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown will share the load against a Jets run defense that has come down several notches from their early-season success. Still, neither of these backs is worth risking in your lineup. Surely you have better options.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins at Cowboys. This is a tough week to believe in Washington’s wideouts. Colt McCoy almost certainly will get the starting nod, and the only thing harder to imagine than Dallas having a 7-1 record at the season’s mid-point is McCoy slicing up the Cowboys’ surging secondary on Monday night. I wouldn’t risk DeSean Jackson in my lineup, either.
Percy Harvin, WR, Jets vs. Bills. The Jets’ newest weapon is expected to get a limited number of reps in his New York debut, but it’s hard to believe he’s had enough time to get in sync with his new quarterback. Buffalo plays solid pass defense as well, so keep Harvin out of your lineup (again).
More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Austin Davis, Geno Smith; RBs Darren McFadden, Steven Jackson, Alfred Morris, Bishop Sankey, Storm Johnson, Zac Stacy; WRs Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Mike Evans, Brian Quick, Eric Decker, Kendall Wright, Mohamed Sanu.
TAKING A FLIER
Andrew Hawkins, WR, Browns vs. Raiders. Two weeks ago, Hawkins was blanked by the Steelers. He topped 100 receiving yards against the lowly Jaguars last week, but the shifty wideout is still hard to trust. That said, Oakland’s depleted secondary is very generous, especially in the scoring department. Hawkins has a good opportunity to turn his ample targets into points on Sunday.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…waits until late Sunday morning to set your starting lineup. The Lions and Falcons kick off in London at 9:30 a.m. Eastern and Calvin Johnson is likely to be a game-time decision. His playing status will be announced around 8 a.m. ET (that’s 5 a.m. for our west coast friends). Ouch!