There were several key injuries on Sunday. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is gone for the year and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be out for four weeks. Journeyman back-up Kellen Clemens will take the snaps for the Rams and Josh McCown will do so for the Bears.
Bradford and Cutler were not top-tier fantasy starts in single quarterback leagues, though it does weaken the depth at the position.
Two injuries did occur to fantasy stars, however—the loss of Reggie Wayne for the Colts to a season ending knee injury and a possible season-ending shoulder injury to running back Doug Martin of the Buccaneers.
Darrius Heyward-Bey steps in for Wayne, although that could be temporary. T Y Hilton will be the “go-to” receiver now and if Heyward-Bey does not start catching the ball, he will be replaced by Lavon Brazill. If you are able pick him up, do so. Even if he is not starting yet, he will get receptions sooner than later.
As for replacing Doug Martin, rookie Mike James will carry the load. He rushed for 45 yards on Sunday against the Falcons after Martin was injured. He will be the main running back here for perhaps the rest of the year as Martin’s injury appears to be serious.
Winning Picks for Week Eight
Eli Manning—Giants at Eagles
Manning is having a down year but just about any quarterback should be able to score fantasy points against the 31st ranked pass defense of the Eagles. They are allowing more than 300 yards a game through the air. Manning has averaged three scoring passes a game in his last five match-ups against the Eagles with a total of just five interceptions. The Eagles have allowed a multiple touchdown pass game in every contest but one this year and Manning should score in bunches on Sunday. We should see a rare sight as well— a Hakeem Nicks touchdown catch.
Kendall Hunter—49ers vs. Jaguars (in London)
This has as much to do with the amount of carries Frank Gore has received the past month as it does with the Jaguar run defense. Gore has received more than 20 carries in three of the last four games. Head coach Jim Harbaugh is not going to allow that trend to continue. They know that they need a healthy and fresh Gore to make another playoff run. Since Harbaugh started in San Francisco, the only time that Gore has received this many carries over a four game span was the 2012 playoffs. The 49ers will build a lead, limit Gore to 14 to 17 carries, and hand the lead running back duties to Hunter. Hunter has scored in three games this year and he faces the 32nd ranked run defense of the Jaguars. (They are tied for allowing the most rushing touchdowns with nine and are giving up 153.3 yards per game on the ground. No team has had more rushing attempts against them.) Hunter should gain at least 60 yards and score.
Leonard Hankerson—Redskins at Broncos
The key here is that Robert Griffin III has seemed to find his groove. They face the 32nd ranked pass defense of the Broncos that is allowing 320 yards a game in the air and has given up 14 scoring throws. Pierre Garcon is Griffin’s go-to receiver, followed by Jordan Reed and Hankerson. When you play the Broncos and Peyton Manning, you need all of your receivers to stay in the game. Hankerson will find the goal line in this game.
Austin Collie— Patriots vs Dolphins
Collie has only been with the Patriots for a few weeks, but if he stays healthy, he will contribute. Tom Brady is averaging 40 passing attempts per game this year and that trend should continue on Sunday. While Brady has thrown just one touchdown the past few games and Collie has just three receptions for 34 yards in his two games with the Patriots, this is still a favorable match-up. Collie is running from the slot and Brady threw five passes his way even though the Jets were doubling Collie in the slot Sunday. They left man coverage on Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson on the outside. Even with the double coverage, Brady was still trying to find him.
Brady is more comfortable throwing in the middle of the field. They signed Collie because of his days with the Colts where he was taught to run precise routes in the same manner as the Patriots run them. The Dolphins play the pass well and are ranked in the middle of the pack, but while the Jets allowed Rob Gronkowski some freedom last week, the Dolphins will not. Collie will run from the slot and get some man coverage this week. He scores Sunday and will gain more snaps in the coming weeks.
Andrew Quarless—Packers at Vikings
With Jermichael Finley missing at least four weeks with a neck injury, third-year player Andrew Quarless steps in as the starting tight end for Green Bay. The Vikings are ranked 23rd against the pass and have allowed 14 scoring throws. Of those 14, half have come from running backs and tight ends. During the 2012 regular season, Finley grabbed 14 passes for 130 yards against the Vikings. With the way quarterback Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around and the fact that the Vikings do not cover the center of the field well, Quarless should provide fantasy value on Sunday.