Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
Byes: Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, Seattle.
Start of the week
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger's four-touchdown performance in Denver was a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners, but it will shock no one if he records monster numbers when he heads to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their 28th-ranked pass defense. The Bengals have allowed 16 passing touchdowns (second most in the NFL), and the past two quarterbacks to face them in Cincinnati combined to throw for 503 yards and six touchdowns. That bodes well for Roethlisberger's chance to thrive in this AFC North contest.
Quarterbacks: Start 'em
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia: McNabb has not been consistent this season, but this week's matchup in Minnesota still makes him an attractive option across the board. The Vikes rank last in the NFL against the pass and have surrendered, on average, more than 250 passing yards per game, so Eagles coach Andy Reid will no doubt look to exploit that weakness and throw the football often. The past three quarterbacks to face Minnesota have averaged 43 pass attempts, and I'd expect the Eagles and McNabb to follow suit and be ultra-aggressive in the pass attack.
Sleeper alert: Brian Griese vs. Detroit.
Quarterbacks: Sit 'em
Daunte Culpepper, Oakland: Josh McCown has a chance to be active this week, but it appears coach Lane Kiffin will stick with Culpepper as his starter for one more week. Whatever the scenario, Culpepper should not be considered an attractive option against an underrated Tennessee defense. The Titans rank seventh in total defense and have allowed fewer than 215 passing yards per game at home. What's more, the Titans have surrendered just one touchdown pass on their home turf, so Culpepper should struggle to produce.
Matt Schaub, Houston: Schaub's status for this week's contest against San Diego is in some question after he was battered in a loss to Tennessee, but owners have to consider him close to unstartable even if he is active. The Texans' offensive line was atrocious last week, so LB Shawne Merriman and the entire Chargers defense will be even more aggressive in their pursuit of the quarterback. The opposition has averaged 219 passing yards with three touchdown passes and five interceptions in San Diego this season, so Schaub could be in for a hard afternoon.
More quarterbacks with unfavorable matchups: Jason Campbell at New England, Jeff Garcia vs. Jacksonville, Jon Kitna at Chicago, Vinny Testaverde vs. Indianapolis, Vince Young at Oakland.
Owners beware: Brett Favre at Denver.
Running backs: Start 'em
Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo: Lynch is on pace to rush for an impressive 1,218 yards and 11 touchdowns based on his current rookie totals. Those projections will increase this week in New York, where he'll face a Jets defense that ranks 28th against the run. The Men in Green have also allowed nine scores on the ground (tied for the second most in the NFL), and a combined 12 catches, 367 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to the featured backs of their past two opponents at the Meadowlands, so look for the Bills to lean on Lynch in this AFC East battle.
Brandon Jacobs, N.Y. Giants: Jacobs has been on a hot streak since his return from an injured knee with 293 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his past three starts. He should continue that success this week in London, where the Giants face Miami in an NFL contest with some international flavor. The Dolphins rank 31st in the NFL against the run, and no defense has surrendered more rushing touchdowns after seven weeks. Jacobs does have a sore ankle, but he has practiced without issues and should dominate the winless Dolphins.
Sleeper alert: LenDale White vs. Oakland.
Running backs: Sit 'em
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati: Whether it's Johnson or Kenny Watson, owners should avoid Cincinnati's runners if at all possible in Week 8. The Bengals are at home against Pittsburgh, which ranks third in the NFL against the run and is tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (1). The Steelers have also allowed fewer than 75 rushing yards per game (3.3 YPC) on the road, and no featured back has reached the 80-yard rushing mark against them on the road. That's bad news for Johnson or Watson, who likely will struggle to find success.
Laurence Maroney, New England: It will be hard for owners to reserve Maroney in most cases with six teams on a bye, but this week could be a rough one for the Pats runner. New England hosts Washington, which ranks fifth in the NFL against the run and has surrendered a mere three rushing touchdowns. While it's true that the Patriots offense rules the roost around the league, Tom Brady and the pass attack have benefited more than the runners. What's more, Maroney will lose time to Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans, so he has become a risk.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Jesse Chatman vs. N.Y. Giants, DeShaun Foster vs. Indianapolis, Ahman Green at San Diego, Travis Henry vs. Green Bay, Clinton Portis at New England.
Owners beware: LaMont Jordan at Tennessee.
Wide receivers: Start 'em
Braylon Edwards, Cleveland: Edwards ranks fourth among wide receivers in fantasy points on NFL.com with 92, and he's on pace to finish the season with an impressive 77 receptions for 1,472 yards and close to 20 touchdowns. What's more, Edwards has found the end zone in every 4.1 catches, which is an incredible statistic. This week he'll face a vulnerable St. Louis defense that surrenders an average of 26.0 points per game at the Edward Jones Dome, so look for Edwards to find continued success in what could be a high-scoring inter-conference contest.
Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets: Coles had a heroic performance last week with eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Cincinnati, and he'll be a popular fantasy option in Week 8 against Buffalo. Coles has found the end zone in each of his past two starts against the Bills, and he's averaged seven catches in his past three contests against the AFC East rival. The Bills rank 31st in the NFL against the pass and have surrendered 10 receiving touchdowns, so the chances for Coles to have another nice week appear to be favorable indeed.
Sleeper alert: Kevin Curtis at Minnesota.
Wide receivers: Sit 'em
Donald Driver, Green Bay: It will be hard to reserve Driver this week in most cases, but I'd rather discuss a viable starter with a bad matchup than a player with no fantasy relevance. Driver is on pace to record 96 receptions this season, but he's averaged a mere 49 yards with no touchdowns in his past three starts. Furthermore, the Packers will face Denver's second-rated pass defense on the road, and CB Champ Bailey is expected to return from a one-week absence. Again, Driver will be active in most formats, but his numbers could be less than stellar.
Santana Moss, Washington: Moss has done a Houdini act in Washington, as he has totaled a combined zero fantasy points over the past two weeks. At his current rate of production, Moss would finish the season with fewer than 600 yards and no touchdowns, and this week's matchup in New England is less than attractive. The Patriots rank fourth in the NFL against the pass, and their opposition's No. 1 wide receiver has averaged 36.6 receiving yards and no touchdowns against them at home. That's bad news for Moss, who should be reserved if at all possible this week.
More wide receivers with unfavorable matchups: Marques Colston at San Francisco, Ronald Curry at Tennessee, Joey Galloway vs. Jacksonville, Brandon Marshall vs. Green Bay, Donté Stallworth vs. Washington.
Owners beware: Marvin Harrison at Carolina.
Tight ends: Start 'em
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants: It's hard not to like all of the Giants' offensive skill position players this week against the winless Dolphins, so it's no shock to see their tight end listed in Start 'Em. Miami's defense has surrendered 15 receiving touchdowns -- the third most in the NFL -- so look for Shockey to see his share of opportunities across the pond. Shockey recorded 11 receptions for 110 yards in his lone career start against the Dolphins, which is just another reason to like him in Week 8.
Owen Daniels, Houston: One of the more underrated tight ends in fantasy football, Daniels is on pace to finish the season with 71 receptions and close to 900 yards based on his current totals. While this week's contest in San Diego seems unfavorable on paper, the Chargers have allowed an average of 4.5 receptions and 50.7 yards to tight ends this season. Whether it's Schaub or Sage Rosenfels, the quarterback should look to Daniels often as an outlet when the pass rush closes in around him, so look for the former backup QB at Wisconsin to produce nice totals.
More tight ends with favorable matchups: Donald Lee at Denver, Randy McMichael vs. Cleveland, Heath Miller at Cincinnati, Kellen Winslow at St. Louis.
Sleeper alert: Tony Scheffler vs. Green Bay.
Tight ends: Sit 'em
Vernon Davis, San Francisco: Davis has been one of the bigger disappointments in fantasy football, as an injured knee and poor production from the quarterback position have held him down on the stat sheets. He could find it hard to break out this week at home, where San Francisco hosts a New Orleans team that has allowed fewer than three receptions per game to tight ends. While he is a viable option with six teams on a bye, Davis could be hard pressed to record solid numbers in this NFC tilt.
Jeff King, Carolina: King is on pace to finish the season with a career best 48 receptions, but his numbers have fallen off after a hot start. The veteran has recorded a total of five receptions for 59 yards with no touchdowns in his past three starts, and it will be difficult for him to reverse his fortunes this week against Indianapolis. The Colts rank first in the NFL against the pass and have surrendered just five receiving touchdowns, and the presence of 43-year old quarterback Vinny Testaverde means King could produce some pedestrian numbers.
Owners beware: Chris Cooley at New England.
Kickers: Start 'em
Nate Kaeding, San Diego: The consensus No. 1 fantasy kicker in the preseason, Kaeding has been inconsistent but remains a nice option this week against Houston. The Texans have surrendered more field goal conversions (21) than any other NFL team, and kickers are averaging over three field goal attempts against them per game. That's good news for Kaeding, who has recorded double-digit fantasy points in two of his past three contests. The Chargers should move the football on Houston all afternoon, so look for Kaeding to make some noise.
Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh: Reed was the top kicker in fantasy football after three weeks, but he's scored nine points in his past three contests and has fallen out of favor with owners. With six teams on a bye, however, Reed does have fantasy relevance this week in Cincinnati. The Bengals have surrendered 13 field goal -- tied for the seventh most in the NFL -- and the Steelers should move the ball with ease on a porous Bengals defense. That should equate to several opportunities from Reed, who is a nice one-week choice.
Sleeper alert: Lawrence Tynes at Miami (London).
Kickers: Sit 'em
Shayne Graham Cincinnati: Graham was ranked in the top five in most preseason lists at the kicker position, but he ranks 17th in points on NFL.com and is now on waivers in most formats. He'll be hard pressed to reverse his fortunes against Pittsburgh, which is tied with three other teams for the fewest field goals allowed (five) on the season. The Steelers have also surrendered the fewest fantasy points to kickers on the season, so opportunities for Graham to produce could be few and far between in this AFC North contest.
Jay Feely, Miami: There could be some motivation here for Feely, who faces his old team in London, but the numbers make him an unattractive option for fantasy owners this week. The Giants are tied with three other teams for the fewest field goals allowed (five) on the season, and kickers are averaging a mere 6.3 fantasy points against them. Feely hasn't been a bad option -- he ranks 10th in points among kickers in NFL.com's standard scoring system -- but the numbers just don't bode well for his chances to find success.
Owners beware: Jason Elam vs. Pittsburgh.
Defenses: Start 'em
N.Y. Giants: There has not been a hotter defense in fantasy football than that of the Giants, who have scored 91 points over the past four weeks in NFL.com's standard scoring system. Their success should continue against Cleo Lemon and the winless Dolphins, so keep the G-Men active.
Philadelphia: The Eagles will face a Minnesota offense that has few offensive options outside of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and it looks like Kelly Holcomb could start in the absence of starter Tarvaris Jackson. That makes the Eagles an attractive choice for owners.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Indianapolis defense at Carolina, New England defense vs. Washington, San Diego defense vs. Houston, Tennessee defense vs. Oakland.
Sleeper alert: Cleveland defense at St. Louis.
Defenses: Sit 'em
Carolina: The Panthers have been a serious disappointment on defense, so a matchup against Peyton Manning and the Colts does not bode well. The Colts have averaged close to 30.0 points per game on the road, so Carolina could be in a hard afternoon on the defensive side of the football.
Washington: No defense has scored more points on NFL.com over the past three weeks than the Redskins, but that will all change in New England. The Patriots have averaged over 31 points per game a home, so the Skins could be the next victim of Tom Brady and this AFC juggernaut.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Green Bay defense at Denver, Houston defense at San Diego, Miami defense vs. N.Y. Giants (London), St. Louis defense vs. Cleveland.
Owners beware: Denver defense vs. Green Bay.