Harsh Reality, Week 8: Some of the worst starters taking on some of the best defenses

Kevin C. Cox

Clemens against Seattle? Glennon against Carolina? Campbell at KC? There's so much to choose from as the worst! Please do the world a favor and avoid all these players at these positions, if you can.

More notable starting quarterbacks went down with injury this week and most of them seemed to do so at the most inopportune time. At least we will get the pleasure (?) of getting to see a couple nightmare matchups on Thursday and Monday night as players that weren't starting for their respective teams a few weeks ago face some of the best defenses in the NFL.

And I don't even get into the fact that you get to see Christian Ponder back in the saddle for Minnesota on Monday night against Green Bay. Josh Freeman had arguably the worst start of the year by any quarterback, and the only reason he is not playing again is because of a concussion.

But even without Ponder, there's plenty this week that's going to make you cringe. Here's a look at some of the worst options in fantasy football for Week 8.

Quarterbacks

32. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams vs. Seahawks

With Sam Bradford out for the year, could Clemens now be set to make nine starts in a whole season? That's kind of nuts because Clemens has started 12 games over an eight-season career and eight of those starts came with the New York Jets back in 2007. At that time, Clemens was only a year removed away from being a second-round pick, but by the end of the year everybody had a good idea that he didn't have a future as anything more than a backup.

Now making his fifth start in the last six years, Clemens faces the defense of the Seahawks, perhaps the best in the league. And we all get to watch it on Monday night! This should be ... "fun" isn't the word I'm thinking of.

31. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Panthers

If Seattle doesn't have the best defense in the NFL, maybe the Panthers do. According to Football Outsiders' DVOA statistics, Carolina is a top-five run defense and pass defense. That's going to be especially difficult for a Bucs team that just lost its starting running back for the season and is starting a rookie at quarterback. And doing so on Thursday night.

30. Jason Campbell, Cleveland Browns at Chiefs

Yes, he's still in the league. Campbell replaces Brandon Weeden, and while Campbell might have a little more pep in his step, he still is traveling to face the Kansas City Chiefs' No. 1 scoring defense. Last Sunday, Case Keenum handled himself pretty well, but does Campbell have it in him?

29. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. 49ers

The hits keep on coming. Just as the Niners are rebounding to show how good they are, Henne is bricking layups. Last week against the Chargers, 26th in the NFL against the pass, he had no touchdowns and one interception. At what point is it out of the question to start Ricky Stanzi?

28. Geno Smith, New York Jets at Bengals

The Jets are one of the surprises so far this season and Geno has played much better at times than I expected, but he also has 11 interceptions in seven games. Even Mark Sanchez is looking at that number and thinking, "wow!" The Bengals are 3-0 at home and one of the best teams in the AFC, so can New York pull off another surprise or does Geno have another hat trick three-pick game?

Surpriser of the Week: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Browns

Maybe it's not much of a surprise, but I think a lot of the good quarterbacks set up nicely this week and the bad quarterbacks set up terribly. Smith is an average quarterback going against a surprisingly great defense. Even at home, he might be lucky to get a score against Cleveland. With Campbell and Smith against these two defenses, first to 11 might win.

Running backs

32. BenJarvus Green-Ellis / Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Jets

Why are the Jets 4-3 if not for Geno? They are first in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at 3.1. These two backs basically have equal touches this season. If you had to go with one, you'd go with Gio because he's a threat to catch the ball as well, but you'll probably just want to avoid both until Bernard becomes the only option.

31. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers at Buccaneers

For as bad as everything has gone this year for the Bucs, they're still one of the top run defenses in the NFL. Williams has enjoyed a nice resurgence in the absence of Jonathan Stewart this year, but he still hasn't scored a touchdown through six games. He probably won't get his first this Thursday against the Bucs. You'd probably be better off starting Mike Tolbert and hoping for a few goal-line punches.

30. Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Panthers

Ditto on the other side of the field. Taking over for the injured Doug Martin, Mike James could become the steal of the 2013 fantasy season. On the other hand, Carolina has allowed just two rushing touchdowns all year. This might not be the best week to plug James into your starting lineup.

29. Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams vs. Seahawks

St. Louis might be forced to run it more than usual with Bradford out, but then again the Rams might not have any choice but to have Clemens throw it 50 times if they find themselves down three touchdowns early. At home against a division opponent, that might not happen, but did I mention that Clemens is really bad? Seattle is sixth in rushing yards allowed, ninth in yards per carry allowed and has given up four rushing touchdowns in seven games.

Stacy has put together a few nice games in a row but he might not have much room to run on Monday.

28. Bilal Powell, New York Jets at Bengals

The Bengals are allowing 3.8 yards per carry and have given up just three rushing touchdowns in seven games. He's played well this year but could be held to under 50 yards and no touchdowns on Sunday.

Surpriser of the Week: Alfred Morris, Redskins at Broncos

The Redskins are 30th in points allowed this season. How many will Denver be able to put up on them and at what point does Washington abandon the run? Morris has three catches this season, so if they stop running the football in the second half, he's kind of S.O.L. Denver has allowed seven rushing touchdowns in seven games, but only 3.3 yards per carry.

Wide receivers

32. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers at Buccaneers

With Darrelle Revis on the team, the Bucs have struggled more against a No. 2 receiver this year rather than a No. 1. Smith might be able to get some receptions on Thursday, but it could be a better week to start Brandon LaFell or even Ted Ginn.

31. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Panthers

Another look at this Thursday matchup, Carolina is eighth in the NFL against a No. 1 receiver this season per Football Outsiders. A better week to start Mike Williams? Not really. The Panthers are ranked third in the NFL against a No. 2 receiver.

30. Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins at Patriots

Wallace has been "okay" so far this year for Miami, but the big free-agent addition only has 53 more yards than tight end Charles Clay -- and two fewer touchdowns. He's scored just once all year, and the Patriots are ranked sixth in the league against No. 1 receivers.

If that's what Wallace still is.

29. Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns at Chiefs

Going back to Campbell and the Browns' challenge in KC, how often will either team be able to score on offense this Sunday? Probably not very. The same would go for Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs, but were you still considering Bowe as an option in your fantasy league?

28. Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. 49ers

The 49ers are second in the NFL against No. 1 receivers. Whether that means Shorts or Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars probably won't score much on Sunday either way.

Surpriser of the Week: James Jones, Packers at Vikings

Maybe not much of a surprise considering that Jones is doubtful to play, but even if he does, he may not be at 100 percent and the Vikings are ranked seventh in the league against No. 1 receivers. It would be a great week to start Jermichael Finley, if he weren't already listed as being OUT.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams vs. Seahawks

Seattle is ranked third in the NFL against tight ends by FO, and Cook is going to try to catch passes from Clemens, if possible.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns at Chiefs

Those same metrics have Kansas City ranked second against tight ends. Cameron has been a pretty consistent performer all season long but this is not the ideal week to start him. Even if you know you probably have to.

Surpriser of the Week: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints vs. Bills

Coming off of a goose egg against the Patriots isn't what scares me. Believe it or not, it's the Bills defense. They held Cameron to three catches and 36 yards without a touchdown earlier this year and Football Outsiders says that the Bills are the top-ranked defense in the league against tight ends.

You can't bench Graham ever if he's healthy, but cross your fingers and hope that he's just that good and it won't matter that he's facing a defense possibly designed to stop players just like him.

That's the "harsh reality" of football fantasy. (Insiders wink)

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