Last week’s matchup on Thursday night between the Broncos and Chiefs ended up being a snooze-fest as well as a near disaster for the Chiefs. Luckily Patrick Mahomes avoided anything too serious and is expected to return within a few weeks. Before I break down this week’s matchup and the rest of the news around the league, be sure to check out Ian Hartitz's WR/CB Matchups for Week 8.
Josh Gordon placed on injured reserve, set to be waived
Wednesday was quite the day for Gordon who was placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury and is now expected to be waived. Interestingly enough, Gordon came out and announced that he was “close to returning” and was surprised by the Patriots moves. If he's healthy enough to return, there’s a possibility the Patriots negotiate an injury settlement which would allow him to sign with another team and play this season. Gordon's name brand carries more weight than his play at this point with just 20 receptions, 287 yards and one score this season. The Patriots traded a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu earlier this week which was a tell that something was up with one of the Patriots wideouts. We now know it was Gordon. Given his past it isn’t out of the question that there’s an underlying issue with Gordon we don’t know about. Without him, the Patriots will roll with Julian Edelman, Jakobi Meyers, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, and rookie N’Keal Harry going forward. Behind Edelman it’s tough to definitively say any player in particular is a must-start each week in fantasy. Harry is the biggest unknown and has the most upside if he can reach his full potential when he returns in Week 11.
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Thursday Night Football
The Vikings host the Redskins on Thursday Night as 16.5-point favorites with a projected total of 42 points. Minnesota has seen a lot of love so far in the betting markets as the spread opened at 14-points with a 40-point total and has since moved in the Vikings' favor. Vegas currently projects the Vikings to score 29.25 and the Redskins to score just 12.75. The Vikings have scored 28-or-more points in 5-of-7 games this season while the Redskins have allowed 30-or-more points in 4-of-7 games.
The Vikings will continue to focus on establishing the run against the Redskins, rushing the ball 48 percent of the time in one-score games this season. When leading by any amount, the Vikings have run the ball 62 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the league. As nearly three-score favorites I expect a heavy dose of Dalvin Cook in this one. Washington ranks just 25th in rushing success rate allowed this season and has consistently allowed opposing teams to gain chunks of yardage on the ground. They haven’t been much better at defending the pass with the 24th ranked passing defense by success rate allowed. With WR Adam Thielen already ruled out for this one, Stefon Diggs will be the Vikings' No. 1 wideout with Olabisi Johnson and Laquon Treadwell stepping into a bigger role. Kirk Cousins is a viable fantasy starter but might not have the opportunity to reach his ceiling due to minimal volume.
Washington hasn’t scored more than 20 points since Week 2 and was most recently shut out by the 49ers at home in Week 7. In that shutout they rushed the ball 26 times and attempted just 12 passes. The run was established but unfortunately the points were not. They figure to throw the ball a little more this week while playing from behind. This is an awful spot for them on the road against a Vikings team which has allowed just 12 > 14 > 20 points in their three home games this season. The Vikings also rank seventh in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA and 14th in pass defense DVOA. Even though the Adrian Peterson “revenge game” narrative against his former team is enticing, he likely won’t have many holes to run through against Minnesota’s stout run defense. The only semi-interesting option on this side of the ball is WR Terry McLaurin who’s seen seven targets in all but last week’s abysmal game. Using TheQuantEdge.com’s WR/CB Matchup tool, McLaurin figures to see Xavier Rhodes on the majority of his routes. While Rhodes sounds like an imposing matchup, he has allowed a reception on 26-of-33 (78%) targets this season.
Prediction: 27-10 Vikings
(5-2 on TNF Predictions this season)
Christian Kirk (ankle) was limited in practice Wednesday. Kirk has missed the past three games with an ankle issue. Coach Kliff Kingsbury would “love to have him back” but isn’t sure it’ll happen. Right now there seems to be a 50-50 shot of Kirk suiting up against the Saints on Sunday.
Sammy Watkins (hamstring) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. He’s set to return after leaving their Week 5 game against the Packers early. The Chiefs will likely be without Patrick Mahomes for Week 8 against the Packers though, making Watkins a relatively unappealing fantasy start.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Davante Adams' (toe) Week 8 status could "go right up to game time." There doesn’t seem to be much confidence in Adams’ availability and since he’s playing in the Sunday night game I would look elsewhere in season-long fantasy leagues.
Alvin Kamara (ankle) remained sidelined for Wednesday's practice. He hasn’t practiced in over two weeks and may end up missing their Week 8 matchup against the Cardinals. The Saints cutting RB Zach Zenner could indicate Kamara’s return but his practice participation should be monitored closely over the next few days. If he’s unable to go, Latavius Murray will receive another heavy workload.
Saints coach Sean Payton said Drew Brees (thumb) "may be a game-time decision" for Week 8 against the Cardinals. Even though Teddy has stepped up his play the past few weeks, Payton added that Brees will be the starter “if he’s ready.” Brees plans on playing as well but will probably test out his grip during pregame warmups and make the final call then.
Raiders WR Tyrell Williams (foot) returned to practice Wednesday. This is a great sign for Williams who hasn’t practiced since Week 5. He’s been dealing with plantar fasciitis and is no guarantee to return this week but looks to be on track barring a setback. He’ll be their top wideout when he returns.
David Johnson (ankle, back) is not practicing Wednesday. Johnson hasn’t been ruled out for Sunday against the Saints but the Cardinals signed both Alfred Morris and Zach Zenner. If Johnson sits, Chase Edmonds would be the workhorse and a fringe RB2 play in fantasy leagues.
Broncos GM John Elway is “still in the process of evaluating” QB Drew Lock. He was their second-round pick in the 2019 draft but suffered a thumb injury and was placed on injured reserve. Even when fully healthy Lock is a bottom-five NFL starter. … 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he expects Emmanuel Sanders to play in Week 8 against the Panthers. He may not play a full complement of snaps in Week 8 but should see legitimate playing time. He’s a great addition to an otherwise barren receiving corps. … Jets G Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) said he'll undergo shoulder surgery on Friday. This won’t be the last we hear about this situation with some potential foul play involved here with the Jets. … Lions signed RB Paul Perkins off their practice squad. He’ll join the three-headed monster of Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, and Tra Carson who currently make up the Lions running back room. Ty will get the early crack at most of the work but it’s no guarantee he keeps it. … ESPN Bengals reporter Ben Baby reports A.J. Green (ankle) is unlikely to play Week 8 against the Rams. There’s a chance he is traded before he even plays a game as the trade deadline is next Tuesday, October 29th.