Every week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com focuses on key recent trends and numbers, and tells you how they will affect your fantasy outlook for the upcoming week.
FEELING THE HEAT:
Players who have positive numbers following them into Week 8.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
Stat: In 27 career home games, Flacco has 32 TD passes and 15 interceptions.
Analysis: Those are certainly not overly impressive totals, but you can count on a good performance from Flacco this week. He faces the weak Arizona secondary, and with Anquan Boldin looking to burn his former team and Torrey Smith having too much speed for the Cardinals to handle, expect one of Flacco's best performances of 2011.
Michael Jenkins, WR, Minnesota
Stat: Jenkins registered the first 100-yard receiving game of his career in Week 7.
Analysis: Jenkins is in his eighth NFL season, so it's obvious that he has never been a notable fantasy performer. Do not overreact to last week's three-catch, 111-yard outing. Jenkins can easily disappear again this week, especially with rookie QB Christian Ponder playing in his first road game. He is a major risk, even as a bye week filler.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, St. Louis
Stat: Lloyd led the Rams with 74 receiving yards in his debut with the team last week.
Analysis: Leading the Rams in receiving is no mean feat, but Lloyd is quickly getting comfortable with his new team. He is very comfortable with the Josh McDaniels system and is set for a big second half of the fantasy football season. Lock him in as a WR2 and prepare for the numbers to roll in.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis
Stat: Garcon has averaged 102.3 yards per game in his past three matchups with the Titans.
Analysis: This could be another tough offensive week for the Colts, as the Titans will be highly motivated to bounce back from an embarrassing home loss to Houston. Garcon could be limited in his production, yet it is hard to reserve him in many situations this week, so you simply have to activate him and take what you can get.
Maurice Morris, RB, Detroit
Stat: Morris has three rushing TDs in his past three games vs. the AFC
Analysis: Morris is not much of a TD threat overall, though, and Keiland Williams would be the goal-line runner of choice if the Lions elected to go that route near the end zone. The Lions have three rushing TDs, so do not expect Morris to score. The Lions throw often in close scoring situations. Yet Detroit needs to establish more offensive balance this week, and Morris is a key to making defenses honor the run while Jahvid Best is out. Expect respectable rushing totals from Morris, and he is capable of padding his stats with some receiving yards.
Rob Gronkowksi, TE, New England
Stat: Gronkowski had a career-high three TD catches in his last game vs. the Steelers.
Analysis: Gronkowski has not caught a TD pass in his past three games, and the Steelers will be well aware of how he torched them last time. Still, you have to go with him, as he can bust out for a score in any given week as one of Tom Brady's red zone favorites.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco
Stat: Smith has two or more TD passes in his past five home games vs. AFC opponents.
Analysis: The Browns have surrendered eight TD passes. Smith makes a solid bye week plugger for Week 8. He is not going to post outstanding numbers, but he will be good enough to fill the void if you have a starter on bye.
SEARCHING FOR SPARKS:
These players will look to turn some negative outlooks around in Week 8.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans
Stat: Thomas has 71 touches in 7 games this year.
Analysis: Thomas has been mostly the third option at RB in terms of getting important work in the New Orleans backfield. But with Mark Ingram hurting, he could have his busiest day of the season so far in Week 8. Against the awful Rams run defense, he suddenly becomes worthy of strong starting consideration, especially at a flex spot.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans
Stat: Hasselbeck has two TD passes and three interceptions in his past two games.
Analysis: Hasselbeck is starting to battle inconsistency much as he did in recent years with Seattle, as the loss of Kenny Britt has saddled him with another mediocre receiving crew. But a matchup with the Colts' 27th-ranked pass defense should assure Hasselbeck of a quality outing. The veteran QB can still exploit lesser opponents.
Jerome Simpson, WR, Cincinnati
Stat: Simpson does not have a TD reception this season.
Analysis: The Seahawks secondary has been riddled with key cornerback injuries, and Seattle will be heavily focused on containing A.J. Green. Simpson has a fine matchup and will make some key plays for the Bengals this week. Expect his first TD catch of 2011.
Michael Crabtree, WR San Francisco
Stat: Crabtree does not have a 100-yard game or TD reception in 2011.
Analysis: Crabtree did show some promise with a nine-catch, 77-yard outing in the 49ers last game at Detroit. The key to keeping him on track this week is to have him avoid single matchups with Cleveland CB Joe Haden as much as possible. That may prove difficult, so expect Alex Smith to beat the Browns with other targets.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
Stat: Austin has 90 receiving yards and no TDs in his past two games.
Analysis: Austin looked on as DeMarco Murray was the hero last week for Dallas, a week after making an encouraging return from a hamstring injury. This is a good week to buy low on Austin as he heads into a key divisional matchup with the Eagles.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants
Stat: Manningham has not reached the 60-yard receiving mark in a game this year.
Analysis: He also has no TD receptions. This is a pivotal week for Manningham. If he cannot make some sort of real noise against the lowly Dolphins, who rank 21st against the pass, fantasy owners will have to write him off to mediocrity. Manningham had some close brushes with potential big plays in recent games, so you can be hopeful.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver
Stat: Moreno has 54 rushing yards and no TDs on the ground this year.
Analysis: Moreno does have a receiving TD, but has been mostly useless in fantasy so far this year. He steps back into the RB1 role for Denver with Willis McGahee injured, and can post some decent yardage numbers. Of course, the Tebow vulturing threat always reigns supreme near the goal line, so he should only be considered a bye week plugger.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Washington
Stat: Gaffney has a high receiving yardage game of 68 this year, and one TD catch.
Analysis: Those are not the kind of numbers you want from a pass-catcher who is supposedly in line to assume a larger role with Santana Moss out. Gaffney is not much of a true playmaker and will not perform much better as the assumed WR1 in Washington. Look elsewhere for WR help.