Like we’re managing the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s important to #TrustTheProcess. Last week Matt Ryan and Marcus Mariota flopped in two of the best possible matchups in football, while Jameis Winston became the first quarterback to shred the Bills defense despite playing on the road with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. Sometimes you play the probabilities and the results don’t make sense in this crazy football universe.
Still, if you read, hopefully you benefitted from the performances of Tyrod Taylor (QB10), Dak Prescott (QB3), Jarvis Landry (WR6), Amari Cooper (WR1!!!!!), Mark Ingram (RB7), Jimmy Graham (TE7) or Jacksonville Defense (Defense3). I’ll likely be riding high off that Amari Cooper recommendation all season, until the next time I suggest to start him and he busts for nine yards. With six teams on bye, these lineup decisions are as crucial as ever. Let’s aim for more success with a microscope on key players for the Week 8 slate.
Starts Record: 66/102 (64.7%)
Sits Record: 66/89 (74.2%)
Sleeper Record: 18/36 (50%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
**Assume .5 PPR scoring for any reference to a player’s season-long ranking or in-week ranking
Start: Russell Wilson vs. Houston
Don’t be scared of Russ due to Houston’s brand name. The Texans rank in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to passers and are still dealing with the losses of difference-makers JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. It’s never a good idea to bet against Wilson at home, especially when you consider he’s been a top-five fantasy quarterback in three of his last four starts. We’ve seen Seattle’s offense perennially start slow only to explode right around October, and this year appears no different. Russ is averaging five carries per game to help boost his floor and ceiling, and he’s throwing it a ton given Seattle’s inability to run the ball well. As Evan Silva noted on Twitter, sharp bettors have already begun to bet up the implied point total of this game (has moved from 42-46), implying they think a potential shootout is coming.
Start: Philip Rivers @ New England
I’m doing my best not to fall into the Matt Ryan trap from last week, but New England is still allowing the most points to quarterbacks and it should be noted Ryan actually finished with his second-highest fantasy total last week. Let’s also not pretend that the fog didn’t impact the passing numbers in that game. Los Angeles lost its first four games by a combined 21 points and has now rattled off three straight impressive wins (@NYG, @OAK, DEN) with Rivers at the helm. I’m buying the Chargers as a sneaky solid team and with everyone healthy, it’s important to remember this is Rivers’ strongest supporting cast in a long time. It’s probably not a coincidence the team is 3-0 since committing to Hunter Henry as its starting tight end. The matchup is fantastic and Rivers will likely have to air it out in the game with the second-highest over/under of the week (48.5). He’s a sneaky DFS pivot off Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, both of whom figure to have higher ownership.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Andy Dalton vs. Indianapolis: Dalton is averaging 18 fantasy points per game since Bill Lazor took over as OC and gets to play Indy at home. The Colts have allowed the sixth-most points to quarterbacks and the most points in the league, and they’re somewhat of a pass-funnel defense having contained rushing offenses better than passing offenses. Per Evan Silva of Rotoworld, Indy has allowed easily the most completions of 20+ yards this season and just lost OLB John Simon and FS Malik Hooker to injury.
-Tyrod Taylor vs. Oakland: Tyrod looked great at home last week despite throwing to the league’s worst pass-catching corps, and he’s established a super nice rushing floor. Alex Smith torched Oakland last week and now they must fly across the country for a noon game in one of the toughest road atmospheres in the league. Per Evan Silva, Tyrod has a 17:4 touchdown to interception ratio at home as the Bills starter, compared to 7:4 on the road.
Sit: Jacoby Brissett @ Cincinnati
This isn’t a knock on Brissett as I’m a fan of the player, but he has a really tough draw on the road at Cincinnati. Cincy has allowed the 10th-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks and will likely devote resources to slowing down TY Hilton. Brissett has a weak arsenal if Hilton is shut down, and it also makes sense for the Bengals to spy Brissett and take away his running ability. Brissett is barely a 2QB-league option this week.
Sit: Matthew Stafford vs. Pittsburgh
Stafford has shown a safe floor considering he’s scored between 13 and 18 points in each of his last five games, but his floor and ceiling take a hit with his trusty sidekick Golden Tate likely to sit out. Pittsburgh has faced an easy slate of quarterbacks, but it’s still mind-blowing that they’re only allowing 9.9 fantasy points per game to passers. I worry Stafford will struggle on third downs without Tate considering Marvin Jones struggles to separate, and Eric Ebron is Eric Ebron. I much prefer streaming options like Tyrod or Dalton over Stafford this week.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Joe Flacco vs. Miami: Even in a good matchup at home in a bye-heavy week, Flacco is not a recommended streaming option considering he’s averaging fewer points per game than Brian Hoyer, Mike Glennon and Kevin Hogan. Nearly his entire receiving corps is dealing with an injury.
-Deshone Kizer vs. Minnesota (London game): Even in 2QB leagues Kizer is unplayable as the league leader in turnovers going against a Minnesota defense that’s top-five in fewest points allowed to quarterbacks.
-CJ Beathard @ Philadelphia: Beathard didn’t look great last week but still delivered 235 passing yards and 1 rushing touchdown and has now scored 14 points in both of his professional games. Philly has allowed the ninth-most points to quarterbacks. He’s in play as a mid-level QB2.
-Josh McCown vs. Atlanta: Don’t stop Josh McCown! The savvy vet has scored 22 points or more over the past two weeks and seems to have established a solid rapport with several of his pass catchers. Atlanta is not a stay away matchup at home and this game has a decent point total (46.5).
Start: Nelson Agholor vs. San Francisco
Truly one of the more impressive early-career turnarounds in recent memory, Agholor checks in as the WR20 by per-game scoring. This might feel a bit point-chasey considering he’s scored a touchdown in three straight weeks and hasn’t surpassed four catches in a game since Week 1, but he’s simply too hot to fade right now. Agholor looks legitimately explosive with the ball in his hands, runs crisp routes and seems to have gotten over the drops that plagued his first two years in the league. He’s a solid DFS stack with Carson Wentz for those trying to avoid Zach Ertz’s likely high ownership.
Start: Adam Thielen @ Cleveland (London game)
While London games have their quirks, Thielen is in a solid spot as a target hog playing against the Browns. While Thielen owners may be frustrated, he’s due for some serious positive scoring regression. As numberFire’s JJ Zachariason points out, Thielen boasts a top-ten market share in terms of targets and air yards, both of which are predictive for touchdown scoring. Thielen stands six-foot-three and scored five touchdowns despite only starting in ten games last season, so it’s not like he’s allergic to the end zone. Zachariason also notes Thielen should have about three touchdowns on the year based on his yardage numbers (he’s fourth in receiving yards!), and also that the return of Stefon Diggs would mean more slot routes for Thielen. Diggs traveled with the team to London and practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. Having caught at least five passes in every game this season and averaging 12.5 targets in games Diggs misses, Thielen has established a rock-solid floor. But a ceiling game is coming soon and I think it’s this week.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Demaryius Thomas @ Kansas City: DT’s down game last week would’ve looked better had an 81-yard touchdown not been called back on his own OPI penalty. Amari Cooper reminded us that KC is not a stay-away matchup for wide receivers and DT’s target outlook will be boosted if Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) is forced to sit. It’s fluky he’s yet to score this year given his yardage total. Like Keenan below, he may have low DFS ownership after last week’s dud.
-Keenan Allen @ New England: Allen owners may be frustrated given his recent string of floor games, but you have to stay the course with the kind of volume he’s getting. He gets the perfect get-right matchup against a Pats defense allowing the second-most points to slot receivers on the year, per Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus. He’ll likely go underowned in DFS after burning people over the last few weeks.
-Devin Funchess @ Tampa Bay: Funchess’ impressive target totals (8.8 per game sans Greg Olsen) looked the exact same over the last two weeks despite the poor box score numbers. No team is allowing more points to receivers than Tampa Bay.
Sit: TY Hilton @ Cincinnati
No, I don’t hate Hilton or your fantasy team. I’m actually supportive of both. But I nailed Hilton as a sit last week and feel similarly anxious about him having a good game against Cincinnati’s stingy pass defense that’s consistently stymied elite options. Hilton’s home/road splits are well documented as he struggles to play away from the fast turf in Indy’s dome. It will make sense for Cincinnati to shade coverage Hilton’s way and force the rest of the offense to beat them. When written as a sit last week, a lot of people responded by saying most Hilton owners couldn’t possibly have the depth to bench him. Well if you can’t, then you can’t. But it’s alarming someone with his target share has failed to surpass 7 fantasy points in five separate games this season. Hilton’s floor is dangerously low.
Sit: Will Fuller @ Seattle
Just three games into his season, Fuller has been sensational having scored a touchdown in every game and multiple in two of them. There are, however, peripheral stats that should make us question Fuller’s sustainability. He’s only averaging 4.67 targets per game and has caught five touchdowns despite only recording eight receptions on the year. He’s played all three games at home. You shouldn’t need me to tell you those numbers are screaming regression, even for a speedy deep threat like Fuller. Seattle has allowed the third-fewest receiving yards to wide receivers and is effectively stopping deep passes with all-world safety Earl Thomas back in tow. Fuller will run more routes at Richard Sherman than any other Houston pass-catcher. Fuller should continue to be useful, but he has to stop scoring at some point and I’m betting it starts this week against a scary pass defense in his first road game of the season.
-Josh Doctson vs. Dallas: Played 24 more snaps than Terrelle Pryor last week and then his head coach came out and admitted they “drafted him to be the No. 1 guy.” He gets a great matchup at home against a Dallas defense allowing the sixth-most points to fantasy receivers. He’s an ideal cheap DFS tournament play at his low cost.
-JuJu Smith-Schuster @ Detroit: With Darius Slay likely to shadow Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster should have the best matchup against Detroit’s defense. His snaps have been rising every week and he found the end zone again last week. I wrote all of that before finding out Martavis Bryant will be inactive this week. Juju should be a highly owned DFS option.
Start: Joe Mixon vs. Indianapolis
Similar to fantasy defenses, it’s great to target running backs that are playing as home favorites. Mixon checks both boxes and is somewhat of a ‘squeaky wheel’ after questioning why the team stopped running the ball last week. Mixon had been averaging 19 touches per game with Bill Lazor as OC and did run for 6.86 YPC in last week’s loss. Indy has allowed a league-high ten rushing touchdowns this year and Mixon should have plenty of opportunities to salt away the clock as 10-point favorites. He’s an easy RB2.
Start: Chris Thompson vs. Dallas
Thompson continues to defy all odds and criticisms and will enter Week 8 as the per-game RB7 on the year (.5 PPR). Dallas grades out in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, but the team does rank 31st in rush defense DVOA. Regardless, the ‘Skins appear to have smartly made a bigger commitment to Thompson since the team’s bye, feeding him an average of 16 touches per game over the last two weeks. Thompson’s role appears game-script independent and this is a game to attack for fantasy purposes given the highest over/under of the week (50).
Other Recommended Starts:
-Alvin Kamara vs. Chicago: Averaging 13.5 touches per game since AP was shipped out of town, Kamara has entered legitimate RB2 territory. Chicago is about average at limiting fantasy points, but Kamara is becoming game-script independent as a player the team actively schemes the ball for. He’s sneakily the RB17 on the season thus far.
-Dion Lewis vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Per Andy Behrens of Yahoo, Lewis got the start last week and led the backfield in snaps (26), touches (14), yards from scrimmage (82) and yards per carry (5.8). The Pats are 7.5-point favorites, the projected point total is high and the Chargers rank 27th in run defense DVOA. Per Ray Summerlin of Rotoworld, Lewis has three touches inside the 10 over the last three games, one of which he plunged in for a score. I think Mike Gillislee will be a healthy scratch at some point soon if Lewis continues to run this well.
Sit: CJ Anderson @ Kansas City
It might be time to hit the panic button for CJA. Anderson has played just 52.4% of the Broncos’ snaps since the return of Devontae Booker, which pales in comparison to his pre-Booker 70% snap rate. You simply won’t score as many fantasy points if you’re not on the field, and Anderson’s efficiency has dipped as the entire Denver offense is stuck in a rut. Anderson doesn’t really catch passes, lowering his floor. Kansas City has allowed the 10th-fewest points to running backs and enter the game as big favorites which doesn’t bode well for Anderson considering his lack of receiving work. He’s really just a flex option this week.
Sit: DeAndre Washington @ Buffalo
I understand chasing the potential volume here especially given all the weekly options on bye (Gurley, Jones, Fournette, etc.), but this feels like a trap game for Oakland coming off an emotional win and flying literally across the country for a noon game. It’s still muddy as to what the snap and touch splits will be for Washington and Jalen Richard (and don’t forget full back Jamize Olawale); after Lynch was ejected Washington led backs with a meager 35.3% snap rate. He did get the red zone work, which is significant, but Richard still saw 13 touches and more of the passing game work. This feels like pretty much a 50/50 split, which renders Washington and Richard mere flex options in a bad matchup on the road. Buffalo ranks top-7 in both points allowed and receptions allowed to running backs.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Alex Collins vs. Miami: Even as a home favorite Collins is just not the player to chase given his lack of receiving and red zone usage. Miami ranks third in rush defense DVOA and Thursday games are often wonky.
-Duke Johnson vs. Minnesota (London game): We’ve seen Johnson’s true floor without scoring touchdowns the last two weeks and Minnesota enters allowing the fifth-fewest receiving yards to running backs in addition to ranking fourth in run defense DVOA. The Browns offense is just so dysfunctional that you ideally aren’t starting anyone in it.
-Marlon Mack @ Cincinnati: Mack outsnapped Frank Gore last week as the Colts were playing from behind and he absorbed some of Robert Turbin’s snaps (elbow). Despite his limited touches, Mack has put together three RB2/flex performances already this year. He had six targets last week and Cincy has allowed the ninth-most receptions to running backs. Per Evan Silva, Gore’s touch totals have declined in three straight games.
-Matt Forte vs. Atlanta: While not a sexy play, Forte has posted double-digit points in his two weeks since returning from a toe injury and led the Jets running backs in snaps (28) and touches (12) last week. Now he gets an Atlanta defense that, per Adam Levitan, is allowing 6.5 running back receptions per game after allowing a league-high 6.8 last season. This is another sneaky shootout game with both defenses ranking bottom-ten in pass defense DVOA.
Start: Tyler Kroft vs. Indianapolis
Kroft is the streamer of the week going against an Indianapolis defense that’s allowed the 12th-most points to tight ends and is allowing more points than any team in the NFL. Tight ends are fickle by nature, but we usually want to target the ones who are at home and see red zone usage. Not only does Kroft check both boxes having seen a red zone target in three straight weeks, but he actually checks in as the per-game TE11 on the season despite only starting four of the team’s six games. It’s not like Kroft is some random UDFA making a splash – he was a third-round pick out of Rutgers and seems to be growing into a solid tight end in this third professional season. He has seen at least four targets in every game he’s started this season. His outlook is also improved by the loss of rookie FS Malik Hooker.
Start: Kyle Rudolph @ Cleveland (London game)
We’re trying to target Cleveland’s tight end defense wherever we can in fantasy. Last week Tennessee tight ends hung 9/85 on Cleveland, and that’s not including Marcus Mariota underthrowing an open Delanie Walker in the end zone. Rudolph isn’t lighting it up this year but he’s averaging over eight targets per game since Dalvin Cook’s ACL injury, and Cleveland is as good as it gets for tight ends. Keep in mind Cleveland impressively boasts a top-five run defense this year and subsequently funnels production to passing games.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Hunter Henry: Has entered every-week TE1 territory and gets a plum matchup against a New England defense allowing the seventh-most points to tight ends. Per Rich Hribar, Henry is fifth in tight end receiving yards since becoming the starter and has a really solid 19% target share over that span. This game is dripping with fantasy potential.
-Jason Witten @ Washington: Washington is slated to get stud corner Josh Norman back, which hurts Dez Bryant’s outlook. While Washington has been excellent at limiting perimeter options, they’ve also allowed the fourth-most points to tight ends. This game has the highest implied point total of the week.
Sit: OJ Howard vs. Carolina
In the words of TLC, don’t go chasing fluky points. Howard has been left wide open on his two big touchdowns this season, and while that’s the result of good offensive scheming, it’s obviously unsustainable. Even after last week’s six target “outburst,” Howard is averaging just three targets per game on the season. Opportunity is king in fantasy football and he’s simply not getting enough of it to be anything more than a dart throw. Carolina has allowed the ninth-fewest points to the tight end position.
Sit: Zach Miller @ New Orleans
People seem to like streaming Miller, and yet there’s a reason he’s always available on your waiver wire. Miller has scored two touchdowns since rookie Mitchell Trubisky took over, but one was a tipped pass that fell into his hands and another was thrown by running back Tarik Cohen. Miller is averaging less than four targets per game in the Trubisky era and New Orleans has actually defended tight ends pretty well this season.
-Ben Watson vs. Miami: In a terrible week for streaming, Watson stands out at home against a Miami defense that’s struggled to defend tight ends this season and allowed Austin Sefarian-Jenkins to find the end zone last week. Mike Wallace is in the concussion protocol and Jeremy Maclin hasn’t played in two weeks so Watson should see 5-8 targets. Note: Watson hasn’t practiced yet this week and appears truly questionable, so he’s only a desperation option now.
Start: Cincinnati Defense vs. Indianapolis
Cincy checks both boxes playing at home as a massive ten-point favorite, while Indy has allowed the most points to opposing defenses. Cincinnati ranks 11th in sacks and sixth in points allowed so it’s clearly a defense with talent. If they’re able to take a big lead like the spread suggests, there should be extra opportunities for sacks and turnovers.
Start: Philadelphia Defense vs. San Francisco
Similar to Cincinnati above, Philly is at home as a huge favorite (12.5 points). Philadelphia enters the week as the 12th-best fantasy defense, also ranking in the top 12 in sacks, turnovers and fumbles recovered per game. San Francisco is starting a rookie quarterback who didn’t look great in a much better matchup at home last week. Philly will deservedly be a very chalky DFS play this weekend.
Other Recommended Starts:
-Minnesota Defense @ Cleveland (London Game): At this point Hue Jackson might want to bring Brock Osweiler in to start. What’s Brady Quinn up to these days anyway?
-Baltimore Ravens vs. Miami: I think Matt Moore is an upgrade to Jay Cutler, but that’s not saying much. He’ll have to prepare for his first start of the season on a short week, while Baltimore’s defense is averaging 13.3 fantasy points per game at home this season. Per Rich Hribar of Rotoworld, Miami is averaging the fewest yards from scrimmage in the NFL.
Sit: Houston Defense @ Seattle
It’s maybe not wise to suggest sitting a defense that’s scored at least 19 points in two of its last three games, but both of those were at home. Keep in mind they allowed 42 points at home in the other game of the three, and they’re still reeling from the losses of JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus on the defensive line. Seattle hasn’t been an offense to attack for fantasy defenses, especially at home where Russ is really starting to heat up. This is another situation where I’d like a ‘prove-it’ game from this defense without two of its studs in a tough matchup.
Other Recommended Sits:
-Denver Defense @ Kansas City: Before you get out your pitchforks, let me remind you that Denver ranks merely 14th in per-game scoring among fantasy defenses. This not only serves as a great reminder never to jump on a defense in your fantasy draft but also shows Denver is not the set-and-forget fantasy commodity it once was. Now they’re on the road against Kansas City, who’ve allowed the fewest points to fantasy defenses.
-Detroit Defense vs. Pittsburgh: Feels hard to call the second-best fantasy defense a sleeper, but they’re only owned in 41% of Yahoo leagues. Fresh off the bye, Detroit should be laser-focused now that the NFC North is up for grabs in the wake of Aaron Rodgers’ injury. I’m still betting against Big Ben on the road until proven otherwise.
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Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, Yahoo!, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, arizonasports.com, profootballfocus.com and pro-football-reference.com