Let's stay away from the major players for this week's Start or sit feature and focus on second-tier players — the ones we struggle to fill in at our flex positions or final receiver slot.
Week Eight brings following teams on byes: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets, Raiders, Buccaneers. That means you lose RBs Michael Turner and Matt Forté, WRs Greg Jennings, Plaxico Burress and Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Jermichael Finley.
QB Eli Manning, Giants (vs. Dolphins)
Though shut out in the touchdown department against the Bills in Week Six, Manning still threw for nearly 300 yards, and in Weeks 2-5 he had 11 TDs, or 2.75 per game. Combined that knowledge with the fact that the Dolphins are allowing 223 passing yards and 1.67 offensive TDs per game over their last three, and it makes this a solid matchup for him. He's a No. 1 fantasy QB that owners need to start.
RB Pierre Thomas, Saints (at Rams)
Mark Ingram (heel) is unlikely to play, leaving most of the rushing duties to Thomas and Darren Sproles. Sproles is the speedy receiving back, so Thomas will get most of Ingram's rushing attempts with recently activated Chris Ivory seeing a few plays. The Rams are allowing 215.3 offensive yards and one TD per game over the last three to opposing backs. Start Thomas.
RB Delone Carter, Colts (at Titans)
Joseph Addai (hamstring) hasn't practiced this week but is not ruled out. Carter played well last week, with 10-89-1 rushing and will see more touches this week. He's facing a Titans team that's struggling since starting the season hot. Over the last three games, they're allowing 223 offensive yards and 1.3 TDs per game to opposing backs. Carter could have his best day as a pro this week. Start him.
WR Deion Branch, Patriots (at Steelers)
Branch has a two-game average of 6.5 targets for five receptions, 71.5 yards and 0.5 TDs but he has been inconsistent this season. He had 7-71-0 receiving against the Steelers last year and with the offense playing at such a high level, he has another opportunity for a solid game. This will be a tough game, as the Steelers are allowing only 103.3 yards and 0.57 TDs to opposing wide receivers this season, but the Patriots are too good offensively and Branch's history dictates a start.
WR Nate Washington, Titans (vs. Colts)
Washington has been regressing since Week Three, with a season-low three targets for 1-10-0 last week. However, the Colts are allowing opposing wide receivers 189.8 yards and two TDs per game over their last four. Washington's slowing down but should get on track this week. Start him.
WR Torrey Smith, Ravens (vs. Cardinals)
Smith will get another start with Lee Evans (ankle) still out. It has been a reality check for the rookie since exploding onto the scene in Week Three. Since then, he hasn't seen the endzone and only had 3-32-0 receiving last week. The Cardinals could be his best opportunity to rebound. They're allowing 227 yards and one TD per game over their last three to opposing receivers. This is the week Smith can get back on track. Start him.
TE Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (at Seahawks)
Gresham might have some ups and downs with yardage but he has two touchdowns over the past three games and is averaging 6.83 targets for 4.17 catches on the season, so he's seeing looks and converting them. The Seahawks are allowing 66.7 yards and 0.67 TDs per game to the position. Gresham makes for a solid start.
QB Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Chiefs)
Rivers isn't playing well and he's a matchup play whether we want to admit it or not. He has a two-game average of 214.5 yards, one TD with 1.5 interceptions and he was shut out of the endzone in Week Three against Kansas City. The Chiefs are allowing 218.7 yards and 1.3 TDs to opposing quarterbacks over their last three games. Start Rivers if you must, but sit him if you can.
RB Mike Tolbert, Chargers (at Chiefs)
The Chiefs are playing solid defense and are allowing only 118.7 offensive yards and 0.3 TDs per game over the last three to opposing backs. Tolbert's not a horrific play based on his versatility but Ryan Mathews has taken over the featured-back role and the Chiefs held Tolbert to 43 offensive yards in Week Three. If you can, sit him.
RB Peyton Hills, Browns (at 49ers)
If Hillis (hamstring) plays, he will share time with Montario Hardesty, and there's the possibility he doesn't play or Hardesty sees just as many, if not more, touches. The Browns have too many questions in the backfield this week. To compound it for fantasy owners, the 49ers are allowing only 58 rushing yards per game to opposing backs over the last three games. They are allowing 53.7 yards receiving, so there are some positives if forced to play Hardesty but if you can, sit him.
WR Michael Jenkins, Vikings (at Panthers)
Sitting Jenkins isn't a situation of facing a tough defense as much as a bad run defense. The Vikings probably will lean on RB Adrian Peterson to protect rookie QB Christian Ponder. The Panthers are allowing only 112.5 yards and zero TDs to WRs over their last four. Though it's a product of teams running against them, it's another reason to sit Jenkins.
WR Early Doucet, Cardinals (at Ravens)
Doucet is enjoying a two-game run of 10.5 targets for 6.5 catches, 61 yards and 0.5 TDs. This week, he's facing a Ravens team that's allowing only 113 yards and 0.3 TDs per game to WRs over the past three contests. Sit him.
WR Brandon Gibson, Rams (vs. Saints)
Danario Alexander (hamstring) hasn't practiced yet this week but believes he will play. Look for Gibson to start but with backup QB A.J. Feeley also starting and Gibson not capitalizing as a starter earlier in the season, I don't expect better results. If Alexander can play as he says he can, that also will limit Gibson's targets. The Saints are allowing 150.8 yards and 0.75 TDs per game over their last four to opposing receivers, so it's not a great matchup as it is. Sit him.
TE Jake Ballard, Giants
Ballard has had a nice three-game run, with 3.7 receptions for 62 yards and 0.67 TDs per game. He's facing a Dolphins team that's allowing only 35.7 yards and 0.3 TDs per game to tight ends. Ballard's improving and under the radar but this week he's best left on your bench.