Fantasy Football: Week 8 Preview

Posted Oct 26, 2012

As Rams fans are well aware, the St. Louis-New England game this week marks the NFL's sixth regular season game in London over the past six season. It's tough to know how the trek across the pond will affect the players -- and, subsequently, their fantasy stats -- but a look at the previous five London games might give us a clue.

Various factors, most notably field conditions and the relative strength of the two competing teams, resulted in some pretty disparate results in the first two games. Back in 2007, the Dolphins and Giants combined to produce just 583 total yards and 23 points. Soggy field conditions in that game caused many to worry the following season, but the Chargers and Saints combined for 860 yards and 69 points.

The past three years have been fairly consistent. The Patriots and Buccaneers combined for 654 yards and 42 points in '09. The next year, the 49ers and Broncos produced 737 yards and 40 points. Last year, the Bears and Bucs combined for 675 yards and 42 points. Here are the league-average numbers for those seasons: 670.3 yards, 42.9 points ('09), 672 yards, 44.1 points ('10) and 693.7 yards, 44.4 points ('11).

Basically, all three games were very close to league averages in terms of yards and points, which would seem to indicate that there's no reason to worry about the long trip or the field conditions having a big effect. Obviously, we don't know how each individual player will respond, but for all intents and purposes, this year's London matchup should be treated as any other game this week.

Here are some other key numbers to know about every contest, plus a sleeper, stumbler or injury concern to watch out for with a brief explanation why.

Byes: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Houston.

Patriots vs. Rams (in London)

Stat to know: Over the past two games, Brandon Gibson is only ranked 24th among WRs in targets (16), but he's a more respectable 13th in yards (151). Going against New England's 29th-ranked pass defense (290 yards allowed per game), both Gibson and Chris Givens are WR3 options.

Sleeper: Patriots D/ST (Tied for fourth in fantasy points over the past four weeks thanks to league-leading 13 takeaways).

Dolphins at Jets

Stat to know: When these teams met in Week 3, Santonio Holmes torched the Dolphins for nine catches and 147 yards. Look for Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill to pick up the slack this week, with both being legit boom-or-bust options in all formats.

Sleeper: TE Dustin Keller (caught all seven targets last week).

Seahawks at Lions

Stat to know: The return of S Louis Delmas has bolstered the Lions defense, helping them average 10 fantasy points over the past two games. Russell Wilson has been much worse away from Seattle, posting a 2:7 TD-INT ratio in three road games. The Lions' D/ST is back in play.

Sleeper: K Steven Hauschka (8-of-9 on FG attempts in past four games; Lions allowing sixth-most fantasy points per game to Ks).

Jaguars at Packers

Stat to know: Since Week 4, Randall Cobb and James Jones have had the same amount of targets (30), but Cobb has eight more catches and 151 more yards. Jones has three more TDs, though. It's tough to say who will step up on a game-to-game basis while Greg Jennings (groin) is out, but this week against Jacksonville's 24th-ranked pass defense, both can be started. It also helps that Jordy Nelson is nursing a sore hamstring.

Sleeper: RB Alex Green (20-plus carries each of the past two weeks; Jaguars allowing third-most FPPG to RBs).

Panthers at Bears

Stat to know: Only two teams are allowing a higher catch-percentage to TEs than the Bears (70.7). Greg Olsen has been on a decline the past couple weeks, but he should be able to rack up the catches against his former team. He should be a steady PPR performer and a decent bye-week fill-in in standard leagues.

Stumbler: Panthers RBs (Bears have allowed just 71.3 rushing yards per game and one total rushing TD).                                                                                                               

Falcons at Eagles

Stat to know: Andy Reid is 13-0 after the bye since becoming head coach of the Eagles. This might not mean much for fantasy owners, but it shows that Philadelphia usually gameplans well after a week off. That's good news for Philly's receivers, who have a tough matchup against an Atlanta defense allowing just 19.1 FPPG to WRs (tied for seventh fewest).

Stumbler: RB Michael Turner (Eagles have allowed just one rushing TD).

Colts at Titans

Stat to know: Donnie Avery has had 26 targets over the past three games, but he's only caught 11 of those passes. Still, going against Tennessee's suspect pass defense (281.4 yards allowed per game), Avery has legit value.

Sleeper: WR Nate Washington (Colts allowing fifth-most FPPG to WRs).

Chargers at Browns

Stat to know: The Browns have allowed 15 pass plays of 25-plus yards (tied for sixth most). The Chargers have traditionally been one of the best deep-ball teams and feature two big-play WRs (Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem). Philip Rivers, Floyd and Meachem are all decent options this week.

Stumbler: RB Trent Richardson (Ribs still not 100 percent; Chargers have top-ranked run defense).

Redskins at Steelers

Stat to know: Both quarterbacks should have big numbers in this one despite the fact that the Steelers have the second-ranked pass defense and the Redskins are ranked 32nd. Robert Griffin III has been one of the most consistent players in all of fantasy football this year and has excelled against other tough defenses, so there's no reason to worry about him.

Injuries: RBs Rashard Mendenhall, Achilles' and Isaac Redman, ankle (Jonathan Dwyer would start again if both are out).

Raiders at Chiefs

Stat to know: Dwayne Bowe had his worst game of the season (3-25) two weeks ago with Brady Quinn under center, but he was still targeted nine times. With Quinn starting again for the Chiefs, many owners will be leery of Bowe, but he should be fine against an Oakland defense that's allowed 254.7 passing yards per game and 11 total passing TDs. 

Stumbler:  TE Brandon Myers (Chiefs allowing just 6.7 FPPG to TEs).

Giants at Cowboys

Stat to know: Jason Witten was coming off a pretty serious spleen injury when these teams met in Week 1, but he still might not do much better than his two-catch, 10-yard performance on opening night. The Giants are allowing just 5.4 FPPG to TEs (fourth fewest).

Injury: RB DeMarco Murray, foot (Not expected to play; Felix Jones will once again start in his place.)

Saints at Broncos

Stat to know: Lance Moore and Marques Colston each received 10 targets last week with Jimmy Graham out, but no other Saint got more than four. Expect a similar split this week against Denver if Graham is out, which makes it tough to rely on Devery Henderson or David Thomas.

Sleeper: K Matt Prater (Saints allowing 10th-most FPPG to Ks).

49ers at Cardinals

Stat to know: In two games against the 49ers last year -- both of which were started by John Skelton -- Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 190 yards and two TDs. It's a tough matchup for Fitzgerald, who's coming off a poor game, but he's still a must-start.

Stumbler: WR Michael Crabtree (fewer than 4.1 fantasy points in four of his past five games).

Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage.