Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 8: Can anyone stop Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense?

With the NFL in full swing and fantasy football lineups being set, who makes the list of the top start 'em and sit 'em options for Week 8?

As we quickly close in on the middle point of the fantasy football season, making start ’em or sit ’em decisions begin to carry even more weight as teams begin to separate themselves from the pack. With not all matchups being equal, here are our top start ’em and sit ’em plays for Week 8 of fantasy football.

NFL Start’ Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 8: Quarterbacks

Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in Week 8?

Start ‘Em | Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

Well, I think the Bengals have officially put the NFL on notice. Remember when everyone, myself included, criticized the selection of Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell? So, maybe they knew what they were doing after all because this offense is firing on all cylinders. Chase is already punching his Hall of Fame ballot, and somehow Tee Higgins is going under the radar despite seeing 15 targets in Week 7. After a slower start to his season, Joe Burrow is playing great football.

Over the last four games, he has averaged 329 yards while throwing 10 touchdowns. Burrow has thrown multiple touchdowns in every game and has finished as a QB1 (top-12) in three of his last four. He and the Bengals are red hot and take on the New York Jets in Week 8. Burrow is a must-start for fantasy managers.

Sit ‘Em | Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

So, is Sam Darnold back to being bad at football? Did the Halloween season ghost decorations trigger some PTSD? Darnold was 16-for-25 for 111 yards and an interception in Week 7 before being benched for XFL superstar P.J. Walker. Head coach Matt Rhule did come out and say Darnold will be the starter, but the fact this is up for debate should speak volumes about his current level of play.

Over the last three weeks, Darnold has been the QB29, QB15, and QB24 with passing yards of 177, 207, and 111. He has a 2:5 TD-to-INT ratio and none of the rushing TDs which helped inflate his fantasy point totals to begin the year. He has a great matchup against the Atlanta Falcons (No. 30 vs. QBs), but I don’t know if you can trust him.

Running Backs

While these RBs found themselves with adjusted roles following injuries to surrounding players and poor play from others, they are on opposite sides of start/sit debates for Week 8.

Start ‘Em | James Conner, Arizona Cardinals

James Conner is playing like a flashback version of himself. Conner rushed 10 times for 64 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s blowout of Houston. That’s the sixth score for Conner over his last five games. Conner has seen less than 10 opportunities just once (Week 2) and, over the last five contests, has rushed 65 times for 257 yards while adding 34 yards on 5 receptions. 

The Cardinals are the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL (7-0) and look like they can do whatever they want on a field. Conner has 18 carries in the red zone (eighth-most), with six coming inside the 5-yard line. The hottest offense in the NFL takes on the Packers on a short week. Additionally, Green Bay is currently in advanced COVID-19 protocols because of potential spread related to DC Joe Barry’s positive test. I’m starting Conner in Week 8 and trusting him to get us off to a big week.

Sit ‘Em | Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

I believe Myles Gaskin is actually a solid player. But it doesn’t matter if you aren’t getting touches. You can have games as you did in Week 7, where Gaskin rushed 15 times for 67 yards and caught all 4 targets for 10 yards with a score. But you also can get the weeks where he sees 5 or fewer carries, which has happened four times this season alone.

In Week 8, Miami faces the Buffalo Bills, who are No. 2 in points allowed to RBs at 16.95 per game. And back in Week 2, when these teams last met, Gaskin finished as the RB34. I’m staying as far away as possible from Gaskin in Week 8. He should not come anywhere near a starting fantasy lineup, given just two teams are on a bye.

NFL Start’ Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 8: Wide Receivers

With the WR position deeper than ever for fantasy football, start ’em or sit ’em decisions for Week 8 are invariably matchup-dependent.

Start ‘Em | Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

With T.Y. Hilton out for Sunday night game played in a relative hurricane, Michael Pittman Jr. hauled in all 4 of his targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. Prior to Monday Night Football, Pittman is the WR8 on the week (20.5 PPR) and has finished as a WR2 or better in three games despite his QB playing with two sprained ankles for a majority of the season. 

Even when Hilton comes back, this is Pittman’s team. Even if he is not a double-digit target receiver, he’s got the size and upside to be a WR2 week in and week out. That’s especially true in plus matchups like the Colts have in Week 8 against the Titans. While they did just manhandle the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee is dead last in points allowed to WRs at 48.03 per game and also allows the most yards per game (226.1). 

Sit ‘Em | Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears

People are honestly considering dropping Allen Robinson right now, and to be honest, I get it. Robinson is the WR60 on the season and has fewer fantasy points than Bryan Edwards, Quez Watkins, and Zach Pascal. He’s averaging just 0.4 points per game more than Byron Pringle.

As a team, the Bears are averaging only 29.5 dropbacks per game. Their QBs are averaging 0.16 points per dropback (32nd). Additionally, as a team, Chicago’s WRs are averaging 1.2 points per target, 1.94 points per reception, and 31.01 points per game — a clean sweep for the fewest in the NFL. 

They’re averaging 124.4 passing yards per game and have just 3 passing TDs on the season. You can not put a Bears WR in your fantasy lineup. At least, not so long as Matt Nagy is a part of this organization.

Tight Ends

Although the TE position in fantasy is notoriously shallow, start ’em or sit ’em decisions could mean the difference between a win or a loss in Week 8.

Start ‘Em | Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

In Week 7, Hunter Henry hauled in 2 of 4 targets for 23 yards and a touchdown in his third-straight game with a score. He’s not getting the volume other TEs might see, but it’s clear he is a top target inside the red zone. That will especially be the case as Jonnu Smith deals with a shoulder injury and could miss Week 8. Not that Smith has been overly productive or utilized this season, despite his contract.

The Patriots are coming off a shellacking of the Jets and head to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers, who are 31st in points allowed to TEs (19.27) and have surrendered 78.1 yards per game and 4 TDs. Henry is a top-10 TE in Week 8 and is a must-start for fantasy.

Sit ‘Em | Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

Some might be viewing Robert Tonyan’s Week 7 performance as a return to the player we saw last season. Tonyan caught 4 of 5 targets for 63 yards and a TD, which was a stark contrast from his previous four games of 10 or fewer yards. But I don’t quite think this should be expected, at least in Week 8.

The Packers face the Cardinals on short notice, and no team has successfully utilized their TEs against Arizona. They’re No. 1 in points allowed — averaging 5.5 per game along with just 22.2 yards — and have yet to surrender a score. That’s crazy considering they allowed a whopping 14 TDs to tight ends as recently as 2019. Yet, when the Cardinals have guys like Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins who can either match or exceed the athleticism of anyone they come up against in a game, I’ll be fading Tonyan and sit him in Week 8 for fantasy.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.