9:30AM ET Game (London)
Detroit vs. Kansas City
After spending the week swapping out OC Joe Lombardi for "Jim Bob Cooter" and shaking up their offensive line staff, the Lions visit Wembley as four-point dogs versus the Chiefs. Detroit's team total is 20.5 points. ... This is still a plus draw for the Lions' pass game against a Kansas City team that ranks 24th in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA with a 15:6 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. The single biggest obstacle for Matthew Stafford has been pass protection, an area the Lions agree must improve based on this week's changes. If the new-look staff can provide even the slightest bit of a spark, Stafford should have a big game against a leaky secondary. Stafford is a fringe QB1 with an underrated Week 8 ceiling. ... The Lions' likely inability to run the ball on the Chiefs is another reason to believe Stafford offers upside in London. Whereas Kansas City has struggled to stop the pass, DC Bob Sutton's unit has permitted just 641 yards on 167 carries (3.84 YPC) to running backs. There are no indications the Lions' revised approach will commit to one back over maintaining its three-way committee. Joique Bell started last week's loss to the Vikings, but logged just five touches on 22% of the snaps. Ameer Abdullah played 24% of the downs and parlayed eight carries into 43 yards, but had no receiving involvement. Even on a 55% snap rate, passing-game specialist Theo Riddick touched the ball six times. In a tough matchup, Detroit's backfield is best avoided in lineup decisions.
Stafford's target distribution in Eric Ebron's five games played this season: Calvin Johnson 52; Golden Tate 35; Ebron 28; Riddick 27; Abdullah and Lance Moore 15; Bell 7. ... Through seven games, Kansas City has allowed 11 different wideouts to top 80 receiving yards against them, including Antonio Brown's 6-124 line with Landry Jones at quarterback last week. Megatron should be viewed as a high-floor WR1 with mammoth upside in London. Cooter's pledge to place a greater emphasis on the deep passing game bodes especially well for Calvin. ... Tate's average of 13 targets per game with Ebron inactive dips to seven targets in Ebron's five games played. As Ebron has made a sizable sophomore leap, Tate has become a lower-volume complementary player in this year's Lions offense. Although his Week 8 matchup is favorable against Chiefs rookie slot CB Steven Nelson, Tate has settled in as a low-ceiling WR3. ... Ebron has hit pay dirt and/or topped 60 yards in 4-of-5 appearances, ranking 12th in per-game PPR scoring among tight ends. Even against a Chiefs defense permitting the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, Ebron has established low-end TE1 value in season-long leagues.
Favored by four in a game with a 45-point Vegas total, the Chiefs' team total is a solid 24.5 points. It's also a generous approximation for a team that hasn't topped 23 points in over a month. ... After struggling in his first post-Jamaal Charles start in Week 6, Charcandrick West took a big step forward in last Sunday's win over Pittsburgh. West's usage was Charles-esque, logging an 88% snap rate and 24 touches while churning out chain-moving gains against a normally stout Steelers defense. West was also featured in red-zone situations ahead of Knile Davis, who finished with one carry and played three downs. On voluminous workloads like last week's, West would have to completely face plant to not return consistent RB2 value. This year's Lions have played sub-par run defense, ranking 18th in DVOA and allowing 4.22 yards per carry to running backs. ... Alex Smith's arch-conservative passing mentality always places a theoretical cap on his fantasy ceiling. His gorgeous matchup against the Lions should still be difficult for QB1 streamers to ignore. Ranked second to last in pass-defense DVOA, Detroit gave up Teddy Bridgewater's season-best performance in Week 7 and has yielded a combined quarterback rating of 111.6, which ranks dead last in the NFL. The return of Jeremy Maclin (concussion) pushes Smith into the top 12-15 quarterback conversation this week.
Smith's target distribution with Maclin in the lineup this year: Maclin 56; Travis Kelce 41; Chris Conley 18; Albert Wilson and De'Anthony Thomas 13; Jason Avant 12; West 8. ... The Lions were dusted by Stefon Diggs' (6-108-1) slick route running last Sunday and have coughed up the NFL's eighth most fantasy points to wide receivers. A route-running maven in his own right, Maclin is averaging 9.3 targets per game and warrants WR2 treatment at Wembley Stadium. ... Smith inexplicably targeted Kelce on just 1-of-9 red-zone passes in last week's win over the Steelers, per Rich Hribar of The Fake Football. The Chiefs still got the win and can't be expected to change the way they call plays, utilizing Kelce as a complementary pass catcher and core run blocker as opposed to a featured receiving weapon. Even with Maclin inactive, Kelce blocked on more snaps than he ran routes against Pittsburgh. Still the overall TE5 in fantasy, Kelce is a mid-range TE1 play against a Lions defense serving up the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends. ... With Maclin back, Conley, Wilson, and Avant will resume role-player receiver duties, fighting for playing time and target scraps. None of them is worth serious Week 8 fantasy consideration.
Score Prediction: Lions 24, Chiefs 23
1:00PM ET Games
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
Played in the comfy confines of Atlanta's Georgia Dome, Bucs-Falcons has the third highest Vegas total of Week 8 at 49 points. Favored by a touchdown, Atlanta has an attractive 28-point team total. ... Devonta Freeman continued to dominate the Falcons' backfield ahead of Tevin Coleman in last Sunday's win over Tennessee, logging an 84% snap rate and 27 touches to Coleman's three touches and 12% clip. Although this is a tougher matchup than it may seem -- Tampa Bay ranks No. 9 in run-defense DVOA and has limited opposing RBs to 3.80 YPC -- it's also true that Freeman has repeatedly destroyed teams that entered weeks playing stout run defense up to that point. Slated for another plentiful workload in a potent offense on a team that is a significant home favorite, Freeman is a top-three fantasy running back play. ... Ranked 24th among quarterbacks in per-game scoring through seven weeks, Matt Ryan continues to be a major fantasy disappointment. Ryan's Week 8 matchup is more favorable than Freeman's on paper, however, against a Buccaneers team that ranks 29th in pass-defense DVOA and gave up the No. 1 fantasy quarterback performance to Kirk Cousins last week. Tampa's TD-to-INT ratio allowed is 15:3. If Ryan can't get it done against the Bucs, it'll be time to give up the ghost.
Ryan's Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Julio Jones 89; Freeman 44; Leonard Hankerson 39; Jacob Tamme 31; Roddy White 25. ... Every Bucs cornerback who's played a 2015 snap has received a negative PFF pass-coverage grade. In last year's two meetings with Lovie Smith's defense, Julio posted receiving lines of 9-161-2 and 8-119. As healthy as he's been all season, Julio is a candidate to tear the cover off this week, particularly with Hankerson (hamstring) ruled out. ... With Hankerson sidelined, White will warrant opportunity-based WR3 discussion in a plum matchup. Roddy will run most of his routes at Bucs LCB Mike Jenkins and LCB/slot CB Alterraun Verner, who are both having miserable years. ... Flamed relentlessly by the Redskins' tight ends last week (13-87-2), Tampa Bay offers an unimposing matchup for Tamme, who may be a better bet for targets than White. Recall that it was Tamme (8-94) -- not White (2-23) -- who stepped up when Hankerson missed much of Week 5 with a rib injury. Tamme is one of the higher-floor streamer TE1 plays of Week 8.
Seven-point dogs in Atlanta, the Buccaneers have a team total of 21. ... Game flow is a Week 8 concern for Doug Martin, but matchup and his individual play are not. The Falcons allow the third most fantasy points to running backs, while Martin has piled up 386 yards and three TDs on his last 72 carries (5.36 YPC) with 100-plus rushing yards in three straight games. After a painfully slow start to the year, Martin has earned RB1 treatment. He's also been more involved in the passing game in recent weeks. ... Charles Sims hasn't gone away, logging 38% of the Bucs' snaps and 12 touches in last Sunday's loss to Washington. Hovering between 8-16 touches in each of Tampa Bay's last five games with multiple receptions in each, Sims should be rostered in PPR leagues. Sims is worth a look this week for owners in bye-week binds. ... In a potential shootout beneath the Georgia Dome, Jameis Winston is a worthwhile two-QB-league start and deserves low-end streamer discussion. Winston's pocket should stay mostly clean against a Falcons team that ranks dead last in sacks (8) and is mediocre on the backend, ranking 15th in pass-defense DVOA. Winston's outlook is hindered by the loss of Vincent Jackson (knee), and the likely absence of Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) for another week. Winston's prospects are boosted by the Falcons' loss of field general SS William Moore (groin).
V-Jax, Seferian-Jenkins, and third receiver Louis Murphy (ACL) have combined to average nearly 15 targets per game this year. Murphy is definitely out for Week 8, while ASJ and Jackson are listed as doubtful. Projecting Mike Evans for 20 targets in Atlanta may be too bold, but he has that kind of ceiling coming off his season-best game (8-164-1). Although Falcons shutdown LCB Desmond Trufant is something of a threat to Evans' stats, it's also true that Evans is running most of his 2015 routes at right cornerbacks (rookie Jalen Collins) and dropped a 7-125-1 number on Atlanta in Week 10 last year, with Trufant on the field. Just like Richard Sherman was under Falcons coach Dan Quinn in Seattle, Trufant is a stationary left-corner only. Evans' upside is as lofty as any wide receiver in fantasy football this week. ... The Bucs are expected to start rookie Donteea Dye opposite Evans. Undrafted out of "Heidelberg University" in Tiffin, Ohio, Dye stands 5-foot-9, 186 and ran 4.45 at his March Pro Day. Dye logged a 76% snap rate last week against the Redskins, catching his lone target for a seven-yard touchdown.
Score Prediction: Falcons 27, Bucs 21
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Arizona @ Cleveland
Playing on the road and on a short week following last Monday night's home win over the Ravens, this is a potential letdown spot for the Cardinals. At 26 points, Arizona's team total is still juicy as six-point favorites in Cleveland. ... Coach Bruce Arians has long been a pass-first mind, but no Cardinals player has a better Week 8 matchup than Chris Johnson facing a Browns run defense that ranks dead last in DVOA while ceding 5.29 yards per carry to running backs. In Todd Gurley (19-128-2), Ronnie Hillman (20-111), and Justin Forsett (21-121-1), Cleveland has allowed a 100-plus-yard rusher in three straight games. ... Whereas Johnson paced Arizona's backfield in snap rate (44%) and touches (18) against Baltimore, Andre Ellington sprinkled in for only eight touches on 29% of the downs and rookie David Johnson logged five touches while also playing 29% of the snaps. Arizona's rotating backups are unreliable flex options. ... Although run defense is their most obvious weakness, the Browns haven't exactly been impenetrable in the air. Short on pass rush, Mike Pettine's unit ranks 25th in the league in sacks (12) with an 11:4 TD-to-INT ratio against. A shortage of volume could cap Carson Palmer's fantasy ceiling this week, but he shouldn't struggle for efficiency whenever he drops back to throw. Palmer is as lethal as any quarterback in football with a clean pocket. He should have one this week.
Palmer's targets over his last five games: Larry Fitzgerald 42; John Brown 39; Michael Floyd 27; David Johnson 16; Jermaine Gresham 14; Ellington 7; Chris Johnson 6. ... Perhaps beginning to slow down a bit following his white-hot start, Fitzgerald's weekly yardage average has dipped to 72.3 over the last month, scoring just one touchdown during that span. Still an every-week WR2 play, Fitzgerald gets a quietly tough Week 8 draw with underrated Browns slot corner K'Waun Williams, whom PFF has charged with just six catches for 45 yards and no touchdowns allowed on 13 targets since Week 1. ... Playing on a short week in what they undoubtedly deem an easy-to-win game, the Cards seem poised to hold Brown (hamstrings) out of Week 8. If so, look for Floyd to be a nearly 100% player at Cleveland. Floyd has scored a touchdown in back-to-back games despite up-and-down playing time and target counts. His main adversary in coverage will be Browns LCB Joe Haden, who's been torched every time he's dressed for a game this year.
Josh McCown will apparently tough it out Sunday after absorbing 11 hits and four sacks in last week's loss to St. Louis, emerging with injuries to his ribs and throwing shoulder. He'll take on a Cardinals team that leads the NFL in interceptions (12) and ranks No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA. As the Browns have a Week 8 team total of just 20 points, the outlooks on Cleveland players aren't overly promising. ... Travis Benjamin is a virtual lock to occupy Patrick Peterson's shadow coverage, downgrading Benjamin from a WR2 into mid-range WR3 territory. ... Although the Cards have permitted the fewest fantasy points in the league to tight ends, Gary Barnidge shouldn't lack for opportunities with Peterson on the Browns' top wideout in a game where Cleveland is likely to trail. Barnidge has been matchup proof this year as fantasy's No. 2 overall tight end behind only Rob Gronkowski. ... The Cardinals' run defense is even better than their pass defense, holding opposing RBs to 3.75 YPC and ranking No. 2 in run-defense DVOA with a league-low two rushing touchdowns allowed. Arizona can be vulnerable to passing-game backs, however, as DC James Bettcher's unit has allowed the fifth most running back receptions. Particularly with Robert Turbin eating into Isaiah Crowell's early-down work, this sets up as a Duke Johnson week. Johnson has hovered in the 12-17 touch range in each of the Browns' last five games. Duke and Barnidge figure to be Cleveland's primary means of Week 8 offense.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 21, Browns 17
San Francisco @ St. Louis
Niners-Rams projects as a low-scoring slugfest with a 39.5-point Vegas total, the lowest of Week 8. As an eight-point home favorite, St. Louis' team total is a tick below 24. ... Whereas San Francisco has yet to yield more than 20 points in any of its four home games this season, Eric Mangini's defense has been throttled for point totals of 43 (Pittsburgh), 47 (Arizona), and 30 (NY Giants) in three road affairs. If the Rams are going to help maintain that trend, their best means of doing so is Todd Gurley. Not only will the 49ers be without critical box safety Antoine Bethea (shoulder, I.R.), they have been touched up for 314 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries (4.24 YPC) by enemy running backs on the road this year. On DFS sites, the Gurley-Rams D/ST correlation is still squarely in play after it hit huge last week against Cleveland. ... As St. Louis' run game and defense should control this one, it's another game that sets up for the Rams to make light use of their passing attack. Nick Foles has gone five straight weeks without clearing 200 passing yards, while throwing multiple touchdown passes in just 1-of-6 games.
Foles' target distribution on the year: Tavon Austin and Jared Cook 32; Kenny Britt 24; Benny Cunningham 21; Stedman Bailey 18; Lance Kendricks 14; Gurley 8. ... Austin set a season low in playing time (68%) and tied a season low in touches (5) following the Rams' Week 6 bye. Even in a year where Austin has progressed into a legitimate offensive weapon, he is little more than a dart-throw flex option in re-draft fantasy leagues. ... Cook is playing truly horrendous football. He hasn't cleared 50 yards since Week 1 and is scoreless in nine straight games. Cook also lost a red-zone fumble in last week's win over the Browns. ... Britt's playing time dove to 57% coming off the Week 6 open date, losing snaps to Brian Quick (50%). Britt has seen fewer than five targets in 5-of-6 games this year and is safe to drop in 14-team leagues. ... With Austin and Britt's snaps tailing off while Quick and Bailey's rise, the Rams' wideout rotation has devolved into a full-blown four-way committee that saps every member's fantasy value.
The visiting 49ers have a team total under 16 points, lowest of Week 8. This is another prime spot for St. Louis' fantasy defense. ... Playing through a debilitating foot injury and regularly torpedoed by game flow, Carlos Hyde has managed 302 yards and one touchdown on 89 runs (3.39 YPC) since San Francisco's Week 1 win over Minnesota. Strictly a two-down back now getting subbed out for Reggie Bush on passing downs, Hyde has drawn just 13 targets over his last six games. Hyde is barely an RB2 option in another game where San Francisco could easily fall behind early and/or get dominated in time of possession. ... St. Louis is stingiest against the pass, stymieing Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger/Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, and Josh McCown to a combined 158-of-211 passing for 1,574 yards (7.46 YPA) and a 5:5 TD-to-INT ratio in its first six games. Despite an early-season bye, the Rams are second in the NFL in sacks (23). On the other side, Colin Kaepernick ranks second among quarterbacks in sacks absorbed (25) while playing utterly devoid of confidence. Kaepernick took a whopping eight sacks and committed two turnovers against Jeff Fisher's defense in Week 9 of last year. Kaepernick should be avoided as a two-quarterback-league play wherever possible.
Friday Update: Dealing with a stress fracture in the middle portion of his left foot, Hyde was ruled out on Friday and is in danger of missing multiple games. The 49ers are expected to turn to Reggie Bush as their starting tailback, while mixing in ineffective rookie Mike Davis (1.3 YPC) and Aussie special teamer Jarryd Hayne. Bush's matchup is brutal, but I like his chances of catching enough passes in comeback mode to pay off as a flex option in PPR leagues at St. Louis.
Kaepernick's target distribution on the season: Anquan Boldin 54; Torrey Smith 26; Garrett Celek and Vernon Davis 22; Quinton Patton 19; Hyde 15; Bush 9. ... This is a scary week to invest into 49ers players, but Boldin might be lone exception. Boldin has receiving lines of 6-93-1, 7-94-1, 9-98-0, and 5-90-1 over his last four meetings with Fisher's Rams. If the 49ers do fall behind, Boldin would see an uptick in targets. He's a passable WR3. ... Eliminated by Richard Sherman two Thursday nights ago, Smith has now goose egged in two of the last five weeks. Predominately lining up against right corners, Smith will square off Sunday with Rams RCB Janoris Jenkins, who has allowed just one TD pass this year and is Pro Football Focus' No. 9-graded corner among 109 qualifiers. Boldin (6'1/216) will get more chances against pint-sized slot CB Lamarcus Joyner (5'8/184), who is 32nd in PFF's grades. ... Davis reemerged as the 49ers' lead tight end in Week 7 against Seattle, playing 94% of the snaps with a 4-61 stat line. Davis impressed with his open-field movement and still has something left in the tank athletically. Davis has seen at least six targets in each of his three healthy appearances, and warrants streamer consideration if you're in a bye-week bind. The Alec Ogletree-less Rams coughed up a combined 8-111 number to Browns tight ends Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray last week.
Score Prediction: Rams 23, 49ers 13
NY Giants @ New Orleans
Giants-Saints has a 49-point total -- tied for second biggest on the Sunday/Monday slate -- with host New Orleans favored by three. Even as road dogs, the G-Men have a solid team total of 23 points. I like their chances of exceeding that number in this possible shootout. Both clubs rank in the top half of the league in points per game and offensive plays. ... Recency bias is not only likely to lower Eli Manning's Week 8 ownership, it has also dropped his DFS price. Eli posted a combined 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio across Weeks 2-5 before managing a 1:2 clip over his last two games. The Saints have permitted the sixth most passing touchdowns (14) in football while ranking bottom six in QB rating allowed (102.2) and 30th in pass-defense DVOA. ... The Giants' backfield also has a plus draw against a New Orleans defense that was ethered by Colts, Eagles, and Falcons RBs for 371 yards and three TDs on 60 runs (6.18 YPC) in Weeks 5-7. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, New York's running back rotation has devolved into a four-way timeshare, with Orleans Darkwa emerging off special teams to notch an 8-48-1 rushing line on 26% of the snaps in last week's win over the Cowboys. Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, and Andre Williams were all held to five touches or fewer. None of the Giants backs are safe fantasy plays, but Darkwa suddenly looks like the best bet as a flex option at the Superdome. A 23-year-old second-year UDFA out of Tulane, Darkwa certainly has NFL-caliber athleticism with 4.46 speed and an explosive 10-foot-4 broad jump at 5-foot-11, 212. Darkwa capitalized on last week's opportunities enough that I'd expect him to log double-digit carries against the Saints.
Eli's target distribution over the last five weeks: Odell Beckham 46; Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell 30; Dwayne Harris 21; Vereen 18; Jennings 12. ... A Baton Rouge native, Beckham heads back home to do battle with a Saints secondary that got burned for 4-150-2 by T.Y. Hilton last week, albeit with each of Hilton's TDs occurring on plays where LCB Delvin Breaux tripped over his own feet. Breaux has otherwise been excellent this season, holding Julio Jones to a relatively innocuous 6-93 line the week before and earning a top-seven coverage grade among 109 cornerbacks via Pro Football Focus. Breaux deserves respect, but I like Beckham's odds of getting the best of him on more than one occasion this week. ... On the off chance Breaux does contain Beckham, Randle could become a WR3/flex sleeper. Randle showed that he is beyond his prior hamstring injury on a dynamic, one-handed 44-yard reception in last week's win over Dallas, while Randle projects to run most of his Week 8 routes at Saints RCB Brandon Browner. Browner is PFF's worst graded cornerback this season. ... In a high-scoring game facing a New Orleans defense permitting the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends, Donnell is a plug-and-play TE1 streamer. Only the Seahawks are allowing more yards than the Saints to tight ends.
The Saints are three-point home favorites with a team total of 26 against the G-Men. As New York's once-stout run defense has begun to crumble, Mark Ingram arguably offers the highest ceiling among New Orleans skill players this week. The Giants were gashed on the ground over their last three games, hemorrhaging 449 yards and three touchdowns on 92 carries (4.88 YPC) to 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys RBs, including Darren McFadden's 29-152-1 outburst last week. Even with Khiry Robinson mixing in for sporadic series and goal-line work, Ingram is a shoo-in top-ten running back play. ... Although C.J. Spiller logged a season-high ten touches in last Sunday's win over the Colts, his playing time stayed stagnant at 21%. Spiller has settled in as a mere desperation flex play in PPR. ... Drew Brees' performance has been solid-if-unspectacular since returning from a throwing-arm injury four games ago, completing 70.6% of his throws with a 6:2 TD-to-INT ratio and 7.55 YPA. Having topped 250 yards in all six of his appearances, Brees is a high-floor QB1 against the Giants with upside derived from this game's high-scoring potential. Still missing RCB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), the G-Men rank a middling 14th in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA and second to last in the NFL in sacks (9). Brees should have time to stand and deliver Sunday, while New York's slow-footed linebackers and shaky safeties will be vulnerable to a New Orleans passing game that is now built to attack the first and second levels of defenses with running backs and slot receiver types.
Brees' target distribution over the last month: Brandin Cooks 35; Willie Snead 29; Ben Watson 25; Spiller 20; Ingram 15; Marques Colston 13; Josh Hill and Robinson 9; Brandon Coleman 4. ... Averaging over eight targets per game, Cooks is entrenched as a viable if low-ceiling WR3 option every week. That won't change against the Amukamara-less Giants. Brees showed trust in Cooks on a critical third-and-long fade-ball connection in last week's win over Indianapolis, as Cooks whipped LCB Greg Toler for a 47-yard gain. ... Even with Colston back from his shoulder injury against the Colts, Snead logged an 80% snap rate and drew seven targets. Snead's playing time was second most among Saints wideouts -- behind only Cooks -- while dead-legged Colston deservedly mixed in on only 30% of the offensive downs. Snead and Cooks have similar weekly projections as volume-driven, low-scoring WR3s. ... Twice tackled at the one-yard line against Indianapolis, Watson's favorable matchup puts him in the TE1 streamer crosshairs against a Giants defense yielding the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, including an NFL-high 48 receptions. Dallas tight ends posted a combined 7-79 number on the G-Men last week. Watson's ceiling is capped by his low usage -- he's topped five targets just once through seven games -- but Watson's field time is at least bankable, playing 87% of the Saints' snaps.
Score Prediction: Giants 27, Saints 23
Minnesota @ Chicago
Vikings-Bears has an ugly 42.5-point Vegas total with visiting Minnesota favored by one. The Bears' team total is just below 21 points. ... Chicago returns from its bye healthy after Jay Cutler (hamstring), Alshon Jeffery (calf, hamstring), Eddie Royal (ankle, back, hip), LT Jermon Bushrod (shoulder, concussion), and Martellus Bennett (quad) all nursed early-season injuries. This is a talented offense that should close strong. ... The best area to attack the Vikings is on the ground, where Minnesota ranks 27th in run-defense DVOA and is allowing 4.51 yards per carry to running backs. The Bears have stayed committed to the run under first-year coach John Fox and OC Adam Gase, feeding Matt Forte 24.5 touches per game. Forte was leading the NFL in both carries (126) and rushing yards (507) before Chicago's open date. Forte is an elite RB1 play against Minnesota and cash-game viable in DFS. ... The Vikings are stingier in the air, holding enemy quarterbacks to the seventh fewest passing touchdowns in football (8). Cutler's studly weaponry and more disciplined mindset under Gase keep him in play as a high-floor QB1 option. Playing with a faster tempo on Gase's watch, the Bears are averaging nearly 67 plays per game compared to 62.8 last year under Marc Trestman. Cutler has topped 35 pass attempts in each of his four non-injury-shortened starts and has a 5:2 TD-to-INT ratio over his last three games, along with a weekly average of 295 passing yards. Cutler's matchup is upgraded by the Vikings' loss of DT Sharrif Floyd (foot surgery), a difference-making inside pass rusher.
Cutler's target distribution in Jeffery's two starts: Jeffery 22; Bennett 18; Forte 13; Royal 12; Marquess Wilson 6. ... Jeffery's target totals are 11 and 11 in his two 2015 appearances. As RCB Xavier Rhodes has continued to struggle -- he's PFF's No. 105 cornerback in coverage amongst 109 qualifiers -- the Vikings have failed to contain big-bodied No. 1 receivers Calvin Johnson (5-86-1, 10-83-1), Keenan Allen (12-133-2), and Demaryius Thomas (9-93) in four of their last five games. A legitimate WR1 play versus Minnesota, Jeffery's injury-plagued start to the season has dramatically lowered his DFS cost. ... Yielding the NFL's sixth most fantasy points to tight ends, the Vikings offer a plus draw for Bennett, whose receiving lines are a respectable 5-55-1 and 6-59 in Jeffery's two games played. Lions TEs Eric Ebron and Tim Wright combined for a 6-102-1 number against Minnesota last week. ... Royal is a fantasy WR4 as the No. 4 option in Chicago's passing game, behind Jeffery, Bennett, and Forte. Averaging just six targets per game when Jeffery plays, slot man Royal's stat lines are 1-8-0 and 5-49-0 in those two weeks.
As one-point road favorites at Soldier Field, the Vikings' Week 8 team total is just below 22 points. ... The Bears cut ties with LE Jeremiah Ratliff this week following a heated exchange with GM Ryan Pace. Ratliff's loss further weakens a Chicago run defense that ranks 29th in DVOA while giving up 4.33 yards per carry to running backs. Scoreless in back-to-back games, this is a prime opportunity for Adrian Peterson to bust his mini-slump in a matchup that lays out nicely for Minnesota to feed its offensive foundation player. ... With Stefon Diggs emerging as a bona-fide playmaker on the perimeter, Teddy Bridgewater's fantasy prospects are looking up. Teddy established year highs in yards per attempt (9.0), passing yards (316), and touchdowns (2) in last week's win over the Lions. Week 7's fantasy QB11, Bridgewater could have kept piling on points had the Vikings not taken their foot off the gas in the second half. Bridgewater gets another favorable draw Sunday against the Bears, who rank bottom three in passer rating allowed (108.6), 29th in sacks (11), and 26th in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA. Bridgewater's weekly ceiling will continue to be theoretically limited by Minnesota's run-first offense, but he can compensate with efficiency as a streamer in plum matchups like this.
Teddy's target distribution over his last three games: Diggs 28; Mike Wallace 24; Kyle Rudolph 11; Adam Thielen and AP 10; Jarius Wright 9. ... The Bears have permitted stat lines of 8-112-3 (Larry Fitzgerald), 6-166-1 (Calvin Johnson), 5-106-1 (Lance Moore), 8-85 (Jeremy Maclin), 6-40-1 (Golden Tate), 4-51-2 (James Jones), 4-49-1 (Amari Cooper), and 5-38-1 (Randall Cobb) to opposing wideouts. This is a gorgeous matchup for new Vikings No. 1 receiver Diggs, facing a Bears secondary where not a single cornerback has earned a positive PFF pass-coverage grade. The Vikings are proactively funneling Diggs the ball, feeding him touches on end-arounds and bubble screens. ... Wallace is the overall WR47 in per-game PPR scoring, behind the likes of Ted Ginn and just barely ahead of Rueben Randle. Wallace is merely a WR4 in a Vikings offense that doesn't cater to his vertical-oriented skill set, but a Week 8 draw with burnable Bears LCB Kyle Fuller does keep Wallace in consideration for owners in bye-week crunches. Fuller is PFF's No. 94 cornerback in pass coverage, among 109 qualifiers. ... Rudolph has blocked more than he's run pass routes in three of Minnesota's last five games. He has not seen more than five targets since Week 2. Rudolph has still caught three red-zone touchdowns, keeping him in play as a TD-dependent streamer. It should be noted that the Bears are permitting the sixth fewest fantasy points in the league to tight ends, most notably holding Travis Kelce to a 3-35 receiving number in Week 5. Bears ILB Christian Jones' rangy coverage has been crucial to this success.
Score Prediction: Bears 23, Vikings 21
San Diego @ Baltimore
Fresh off laying an egg in last week's home loss to the Raiders, the 2-5 Chargers travel across the country to take on the reeling 1-6 Ravens, who will play on especially short rest after their own cross-country flight following last Monday night's loss in Arizona. Three-point road dogs in a game with a lofty 50.5-point total, San Diego's Week 8 team total is a tick below 24. ... Expect another pass-heavy game from the pass-first Bolts, who lead the NFL in passing yards and are second in pass attempts per game (45.3). Baltimore's defense funnels enemy offense into the air by stifling rushing attacks but hemorrhaging passing-game production. Whereas the Ravens rank 10th in run-defense DVOA, they are 25th against the pass with an average of 8.4 yards per pass attempt allowed, the third worst clip in football. The quarterback facing Baltimore has finished as a top-12 fantasy QB1 in five of the last six weeks, with Michael Vick (Week 4) as the lone exception. This year's No. 2 overall fantasy passer, Philip Rivers is a top-three play in Week 8. ... Holding opposing backs to 3.89 yards per carry, the Ravens pose a difficult matchup for banged-up Melvin Gordon (ankle), who didn't play a snap until the third quarter of last Sunday's loss to Oakland. Due to Gordon's injury, ineffectiveness (3.86 YPC), and four fumbles (three lost) through seven games, San Diego's backfield may have devolved into a full-blown three-headed monster. With double-digit PPR points in 6-of-7 seven games, Danny Woodhead will easily be the backfield's top fantasy option in Baltimore. Branden Oliver started against Oakland, parlayed 15 touches into 74 yards, and warrants low-end flex consideration with a growing role.
I'll put an update in this space if Antonio Gates' (MCL) availability looks likelier before Sunday, but midweek indications from Chargers beat writers were that Gates may need to miss one more game. This is Rivers' target distribution in Gates' five missed weeks this season: Keenan Allen 59; Woodhead and Stevie Johnson 33; Ladarius Green 27; Malcom Floyd 18; Oliver 9; Gordon 7. ... Allen has drawn at least 13 targets in three of Gates' five missed games and gets a plus Week 8 matchup with Ravens RCB Jimmy Smith, who's been a shell of his old self following a 2014 Lisfranc fracture and $48 million offseason extension. PFF has charged Smith with the fourth most receiving yards allowed among cornerbacks. ... Green logged a 93% snap rate with Gates inactive last week against Oakland, saw nine targets, caught a 31-yard TD pass, dropped another would-be score, and was the recipient on a pair of two-point conversions. If Gates is out again, Green is a shoo-in top-six TE1 play. ... Johnson has seen between 5-8 targets in all of Gates' missed games. He's a low-ceiling WR3 with Gates out, and a WR4 if Gates is in. ... Floyd's playing time concerningly dipped to 56% against Oakland, losing snaps to a healthy Johnson and more versatile Dontrelle Inman. Albeit in a favorable draw with inconsistent Ravens LCB Lardarius Webb, Floyd would be nothing more than a hail-mary fantasy play this week. 34-year-old Floyd has some big-play ability, but he's exceeded four targets in just 2-of-7 games.
It's fair to begin wondering whether and when the Ravens might call it a season. At least there were no signs of a packed-in mentality during last Monday night's eight-point loss at Arizona, as Baltimore fought hard to the end. ... Even at 1-6, the Ravens boast an attractive Week 8 team total of nearly 27 as three-home home favorites versus the Chargers. If Baltimore is going to make good on its high-scoring expectation, it'll likely take place largely on Justin Forsett's back. San Diego is permitting the second most fantasy points to running backs, including 5.41 yards per carry and ten all-purpose TDs through seven games. The Ravens' mauling offensive line is sure to bully San Diego's weak front seven in the trenches. ... While run defense has been the Bolts' main weakness, DC John Pagano's unit hasn't been sturdy versus the pass, either. Torched by Derek Carr at home last week, San Diego has yielded a combined 13:4 TD-to-INT ratio to opposing quarterbacks and ranks 24th in sacks (12). If Joe Flacco hit the waiver wire in your season-long league, consider picking him up and streaming him in this plum spot. Flacco is also a lock to go low owned on DFS sites, where he has QB-WR stack appeal with Steve Smith Sr.
Flacco's target distribution since Smith returned from injury two games ago: Smith 19; Crockett Gillmore 13; Forsett 12; Kamar Aiken 11; Marlon Brown 9; Kyle Juszczyk 7; Jeremy Ross 6; Chris Givens 4. ... Flamed by Amari Cooper (5-133-1) and Michael Crabtree (6-66-1) in last week's loss to Oakland, San Diego's secondary isn't one to fear for the box-score outlook of Smith Sr., who is averaging 11 targets per game. LCB Brandon Flowers has looked washed up, while RCB Jason Verrett allowed two touchdown passes against the Raiders. Smith is a confident WR2 play with top-ten upside in this projected high-scoring affair. The Chargers' pass defense collapsed without FS Eric Weddle (groin) last week. Weddle will be out again this Sunday. ... San Diego is allowing the tenth most fantasy points to tight ends, putting Gillmore on the TE1 streamer radar. Since returning from a calf strain two games ago, Gillmore has logged an 83% snap rate with target counts of 6 and 7. Gillmore's touchdown projection rises based on the Ravens' high team total. ... Aiken runs slightly more patterns against left corners than Smith Sr. and therefore has a superior on-paper matchup against Flowers, whereas Smith will spend more time doing battle with Verrett. Aiken, of course, flopped in another good-looking matchup against the Cardinals in Week 7, as Smith drew Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Aiken still got nothing going against Jerraud Powers and Justin Bethel, managing one catch for six yards on three targets in a game where Flacco dropped back to pass 43 times. Aiken is a low-floor WR4.
DFS Players: Chargers at Ravens is the RotoGrinders Matchup of the Week. Some of RotoGrinders' top NFL minds break down this game from every angle and help prepare you to set winning lineups this weekend in daily fantasy football.
Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Chargers 23
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
There was major line movement on Bengals-Steelers this week, with Cincinnati opening as a 1.5-point favorite before wagers from pro bettors moved the line to Pittsburgh's side. The Steelers are now favored by one. This game offers shootout potential with Ben Roethlisberger (MCL) back. ... Even in the worst season of his career, Andy Dalton respectably finished as the fantasy QB6 and QB14 in last year's two Steelers meetings, combining to complete 71.6% of his throws for 546 yards (8.15 YPA) with five all-purpose touchdowns. Elevated by superior talent around him this season, Dalton is playing career-best football and warrants high-end QB1 treatment against a Steelers pass defense that ranks 22nd in Football Outsiders' DVOA with an 11:5 TD-to-INT ratio allowed. ... The Bengals stayed true to Jeremy Hill as their lead runner before the bye despite his early-year struggles, playing him on a higher percentage of snaps (58%) than Giovani Bernard (42%) and giving Hill more touches (17) than Gio (9) in a tough matchup at Buffalo. Behind only Devonta Freeman (10), Hill ranks second among NFL running backs in all-purpose TDs (6). Cincinnati's commitment to Hill keeps him squarely in play as an RB2 in season-long leagues. This week's game sets up more favorably for Bernard, however, against a stout Pittsburgh defense that is permitting just 3.72 yards per carry with one rushing touchdown allowed to running backs. The way to attack the Steelers is in the air, and Bernard gets more passing-game usage than Hill. Gio is a borderline RB1 play in PPR leagues.
Dalton's target distribution this year: A.J. Green 50; Tyler Eifert 40; Marvin Jones 38; Mohamed Sanu 24; Bernard 23; Hill 4. ... Green is averaging over nine catches for 133 yards across his last three games against the Steelers, clearing 80 yards in all three. As 4 for 4 Football's Chris Raybon has noted, Green's career home-away split stats bode well for his Week 8 fantasy outlook. ... Playing more Cover 2 with Tony Dungy disciple Mike Tomlin taking on a bigger defensive role, Pittsburgh has shown major vulnerability to tight ends, coughing up the third most fantasy points to the position, including the second most catches and fourth most yards. Eifert is the overall TE3 in fantasy and warrants serious consideration on daily sites, where his price tag remains reasonable. ... The Steelers' weakest corner is LCB Antwon Blake, against whom Jones will run most of his Week 8 routes. A horrendous tackler in addition to a poor cover man, Blake flat-out whiffed on Albert Wilson's 40-yard bubble screen in last week's loss to Kansas City, and was later beaten by Wilson for a 17-yard gain on third-and-long. Jones is a hit-or-miss fantasy player as the Bengals' No. 4 option behind Green, Eifert, and the running backs, but I like his chances of hitting this week.
With all of the focus on Roethlisberger's return, there was seemingly little buzz on Le'Veon Bell inside the fantasy community this week, despite a mouth-watering matchup against a Bengals defense permitting a whopping 4.97 yards per carry to running backs, in addition to the fifth most RB receptions per game. Le'Veon eviscerated Bengals DC Paul Guenther's defense for 235 total yards and three TDs in Week 14 last season, and was on pace for another monster game against Cincy in Week 17 before getting hurt. Bell averaged over 55 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per quarter in last year's two Steelers-Bengals games. Very likely to be the focal point of Pittsburgh's offense in Big Ben's first game back, Le'Veon is worth paying up for on daily fantasy sites this week. ... Guenther's unit is stingier in the air, ranking 12th in pass-defense DVOA and ninth in sacks (17) with the seventh fewest touchdown passes allowed (8). In a potentially high-scoring game, however, Roethlisberger returns as an immediate fantasy QB1 after topping 350 passing yards in his first two appearances of the season. That, of course, took place without Martavis Bryant, who including playoffs has 12 touchdowns through 13 career NFL games.
Antonio Brown still sees the biggest fantasy boost from Roethlisberger's return. With Big Ben in the Weeks 1-2 lineup, Brown led all fantasy wideouts in PPR scoring. From Weeks 3-7, Brown dipped to the WR24. Brown's stat lines in last year's two Bengals-Steelers games were 9-117 and 7-128-1. ... Bryant's weekly touchdown scoring can be viewed as bankable at this point, while quarterback stability boosts both his floor and ceiling. Having made Markus Wheaton obsolete, Martavis is an every-week WR2 with WR1 upside. ... Heath Miller has spent the last month focused on blocking and figures to stay in that role following LT Kelvin Beachum's ACL tear. Perhaps that will change if the Steelers begin to gain trust in fill-in LT Alejandro Villanueva.
Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Bengals 23
Tennessee @ Houston
As of Thursday, no game total was posted in Titans-Texans due to the uncertain availability of Marcus Mariota (MCL). The host Texans are penciled in as four-point favorites. ... Playing fast and frenetic as the right side of his offensive line caved in against LE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh last week, Brian Hoyer began to show his true colors in Houston's Week 7 loss to Miami, absorbing four sacks, fumbling twice, and completing under 47% of his throws. Hoyer gets another tough matchup Sunday against a Titans team that ranks top six in pass-defense DVOA with an 84.2 passer rating against, the ninth lowest clip in football. Despite an early-season bye, Tennessee is eighth in the league in interceptions (8). Hoyer is a two-quarterback-league option only. ... Texans RBs have an appealing Week 8 draw against a Titans team that ranks bottom three in run-defense DVOA and has coughed up 272 yards with one touchdown on 56 carries (4.86 YPC) over its last two games. Less clear is Houston's running back rotation after Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, and Jonathan Grimes all shuttled in and out of the lineup during Arian Foster's three-game absence to open the year. Blue did emerge from Weeks 1-3 with a team-high 47 touches, including a 31-139-1 effort against the Buccaneers. While Polk is more talented and Grimes more versatile, Blue is the back O'Brien seems most willing to feed voluminously. Blue is a boom-bust RB2/flex, Polk a lower-end RB3, and Grimes an RB4/5.
Hoyer's target distribution on the season: DeAndre Hopkins 58; Nate Washington 26; Cecil Shorts 21; Foster 19; Keith Mumphery 15; Polk 11; C.J. Fiedorowicz and Garrett Graham 8; Jaelen Strong 4. ... Hopkins has averaged more targets per game with Foster in the lineup than without him, but Arian's Achilles' tear ensures Nuk will remain the No. 1 option in the Texans' offense. This week, Hopkins is a top-five WR1 play against a Titans defense dealing with injuries to LCB Jason McCourty (hamstring), RCB Perrish Cox (hamstring), and FS Michael Griffin (knee). Cox is Tennessee's best corner and is not expected to play. Julio Jones put a 9-92-1 line on the Titans last week with near misses on two more touchdown chances. ... Washington has topped 60 yards in three of his four full games played this season, clearing 100 in two of them. With Shorts (hamstring) slated to miss another week, Washington is an underrated WR3 play in Week 8. The Texans lead the NFL in offensive plays and averaged over 50 pass attempts per game with Foster shelved in Weeks 1-3. Volume should work in Washington's favor.
The Titans dropped hints this week that they may finally commit to Antonio Andrews as a clear lead RB after utilizing a headache-inducing multi-back rotation in their first six games. Andrews has a scary-low floor as a strict two-down runner with 4.82 speed on a 1-5 team, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said after last week's 10-57 rushing effort that Andrews "deserves more carries," and this would indeed be a great opportunity to feed Tennessee's top between-the-tackles option. The tape shows once-immovable Texans NT Vince Wilfork getting rag-dolled in the trenches, and surgically-repaired, steroid-less ILB Brian Cushing clearly lacking lateral movement skills. LE J.J. Watt (back) is playing through injury, while ILBs Benardrick McKinney (concussion) and Akeem Dent (hamstring) have been ruled out. I'd project Andrews at 12-16 carries in Week 8. ... The Titans appear poised to leave Mariota's status up to a game-time decision. My guess is he'll play, but that's far from a given. Since his four-touchdown opener against the Bucs, Mariota's TD-to-INT ratio is 5:5 with under 17 rushing yards per game. Almost certain to be at less than full health if he does play, Mariota has settled in as a mid-range to low-end QB2.
Friday Update: The Titans ruled out Mariota and will turn back to Zach Mettenberger after his rusty Week 7 start. Mettenberger will take on a Texans pass defense that ranks 27th in Football Outsiders' DVOA and 22nd in sacks (13) while permitting a league-high 16 passing touchdowns. At his extremely low price, I think Mettenberger is an underrated DFS play this week, even after Sunday's relatively lackluster performance. This was Mettenberger's Week 7 target distribution: Delanie Walker 9; Kendall Wright and Dexter McCluster 8; Justin Hunter and Anthony Fasano 4; Dorial Green-Beckham and Bishop Sankey 1.
Mariota's target distribution this year: Kendall Wright 31; Delanie Walker 29; Harry Douglas 23; Justin Hunter 16; Bishop Sankey and Anthony Fasano 14; Dexter McCluster and Dorial Green-Beckham 11. ... Regardless of whether it's Mariota or Zach Mettenberger under center, slot man Wright has the best-looking Week 8 matchup in Tennessee's pass-catcher corps. He'll run most of his routes at Texans rookie slot CB Kevin Johnson, who got creamed by Jarvis Landry (5-83-2) last Sunday. Wright is a decent WR3 play in PPR leagues. ... Houston's multitude of injuries at inside linebacker put Walker in a solid spot. This year's overall TE11 in PPR points per game, Walker is always a respectable if low-end tight end play. Walker has at least seven catches in three of his last four games. ... Green-Beckham set another season high in snap rate (67%) in last Sunday's loss to Atlanta, but was targeted just once by Mettenberger, and clearly wasn't a big part of the Titans' game plan. Tennessee's coaches indicated this week that DGB is still trying to learn the playbook. He's nothing more than a WR5 stash in 14- and 16-team leagues.
Score Prediction: Titans 20, Texans 17
4:05PM ET Game
NY Jets @ Oakland
Jets-Raiders has a ho-hum 44-point Vegas total with visiting New York favored by three. The Jets' team total is 23.5 points. ... This one lays out well for the Jets to feed Chris Ivory in what projects as a close game with Oakland unlikely to put many points on New York's stingy defense. Although the Raiders have been stout this year -- they are 11th in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA -- keep in mind Oakland's front seven lost LE Justin Tuck (pectoral) to I.R. in mid-October, and promising rookie ILB Neiron Ball is out with a knee injury. Ivory is a matchup-proof RB1 whenever he is relatively healthy and getting the ball a lot. Practicing fully, Ivory appears relatively healthy and should get the ball a lot in this game. ... The Raiders' defense has been more vulnerable in the air, putting Ryan Fitzpatrick in QB1 streamer contention at The Black Hole. Oakland is talent deficient at cornerback, tied for 29th in sacks (11), and has surrendered multiple touchdown passes to the enemy quarterback in five of its initial six games. FitzMagic is quietly the No. 8 overall fantasy passer in points per game. Should C Nick Mangold's (neck) absence make it more difficult for the Jets to run, Fitzpatrick could become New York's primary means of generating offense at Oakland.
Fitzpatrick's target distribution in Eric Decker's five games played this year: Brandon Marshall 46; Decker 38; Chris Owusu 13; Bilal Powell 11; Ivory 10; Devin Smith 8; Jeremy Kerley 4. ... Both of the Jets' top-two wideouts have plum Week 8 matchups. Marshall is running nearly 80% of his routes on the perimeter, where he'll take on burnable David Amerson and Neiko Thorpe. Notable stat lines given up by Oakland to outside receivers over their last five games: 10-150 (Steve Smith), 9-89 (Keenan Allen), 9-111 (Emmanuel Sanders), 5-96 (Brian Hartline), 6-80 (Marquess Wilson), 4-45-1 (Travis Benjamin). ... The Raiders' worst cornerback is D.J. Hayden, who kicks from LCB into the slot in sub-packages. As the Jets play frequent four-wideout sets, Hayden can expect to spend this entire game inside. Running nearly 80% of his pass patterns at slot receiver, Decker has earned every-week WR2 treatment by scoring a touchdown and/or topping 90 yards in all five of his games. Decker remains underpriced on DFS sites, as well.
Three-point home dogs against the Jets, the Raiders' team total is 20.5 points. ... New York heads to The Black Hole ranked No. 2 in total defense and No. 4 in points allowed. As the Jets shut down the boundaries with press-cornerback play and eliminate rushing attacks, Oakland's offense matchups up poorly with Todd Bowles' group. Expect a slow day for Derek Carr against a Jets defense that has an 8:8 TD-to-INT ratio against and has limited enemy QBs to the second lowest passer rating (68.5) in football. ... After benching him in back-to-back games, the Raiders re-committed to Latavius Murray as their feature runner in last week's upset of San Diego. Murray logged 16 touches and dominated first-half snaps before Oakland was able to mix in other backs with a big lead. Murray's usage keeps him in play as an RB2 regardless of matchup, but the sledding will be much tougher Sunday against the Jets. New York is holding enemy RBs to 2.88 yards per carry with just one rushing TD allowed in six games. The Patriots didn't even try to run on the Jets last week, finishing with 54 passes compared to five running back runs.
Carr's target distribution on the season: Michael Crabtree 50; Amari Cooper 46; Murray and Marcel Reece 18; Mychal Rivera 15; Seth Roberts 13; Roy Helu and Andre Holmes 8; Clive Walford 7. ... Crabtree primarily lines up against left cornerbacks and will likely spend most of this game in Jets LCB Darrelle Revis' coverage. Pro Football Focus has charted Revis with just 14 completions allowed on 30 targeted passes this season. Crabtree is an unattractive WR3 play in a brutal matchup. ... Cooper's matchup is slightly better versus Jets RCB Antonio Cromartie, who is having a solid-if-unspectacular year. Cooper is the overall WR18 in PPR points per game. Flashing matchup-proof ability, Cooper exploded for a 5-133-1 number in a tougher draw with Chargers RCB Jason Verrett last week. ... Third-round rookie Walford posted 42 yards and a touchdown at San Diego, but was targeted just twice and played 40% of Oakland's offensive snaps. Fellow rotational TE Rivera has not hit 40 receiving yards in a single game this year.
Score Prediction: Jets 23, Raiders 17
4:25PM ET Game
Seattle @ Dallas
Returning from a ten-day layoff after their 20-3, Thursday night road rout of San Francisco, the Seahawks are six-point favorites at JerryWorld. Seattle's team total is 23.5. ... Although Dez Bryant's possible return could give Dallas' offense some semblance of life, this is a game Seattle should be able to control, and stay committed to its rushing attack. Since returning from calf and hamstring injuries two games ago, Marshawn Lynch has piled up 176 yards and two TDs on 44 carries (4.00 YPC) while dominating the workload ahead of UDFA Thomas Rawls, who only has nine touches over that span. Lynch is back to playing 68% of the Seahawks' snaps, right on par with his 2014 snap rate. Over their last four games, the Cowboys have ceded 488 yards and five touchdowns on 95 carries (5.14 YPC) to enemy RBs. ... Russell Wilson has a favorable on-paper matchup against a Dallas team that ranks 20th in pass-defense DVOA. Concerns on Wilson include his pass protection with LT Russell Okung (toe) listed as questionable against Cowboys RE Greg Hardy and a game where Lynch seems likely to hog usage. Wilson would have been a better fantasy bet were Tony Romo active on the other side, giving this game shootout possibilities. Instead, this could become a low-scoring, slow-paced affair with Matt Cassel quarterbacking Dallas. Wilson is a low-end QB1.
Wilson's target distribution this year: Jimmy Graham 45; Doug Baldwin 34; Jermaine Kearse 30; Tyler Lockett 24; Fred Jackson 18; Lynch 17; Luke Willson 12. ... Squaring off with Cowboys designated tight end stopper Byron Jones, Graham's Week 8 fantasy outlook isn't especially promising. Jones played a major role in keeping Rob Gronkowski (4-67-0) and Larry Donnell (4-18-0) quiet in Dallas' last two games. The Cowboys are allowing the third fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... The Seahawks maintained their five-way WRBC in last Thursday night's win over San Francisco, playing Baldwin on 68% of the snaps, Kearse and Lockett on 63%, Ricardo Lockette on 32%, and Chris Matthews on 21%. Baldwin has topped 40 yards in just 2-of-7 games this season. Lockett has the most big-play ability in Seattle's wideout corps and would be the highest-ceiling fantasy bet at Dallas. The rookie remains a boom-bust WR3/flex with two goose eggs through seven weeks and only two games above 35 receiving yards.
The Cowboys have an anemic 17.5-point team total versus a Seattle defense permitting the third fewest yards and fifth fewest points per game. ... If Dez (foot) sits one more week, the only two Dallas skill players worthy of fantasy consideration will be Darren McFadden and Jason Witten. Witten paced the Cowboys in targets (8), catches (6), and receiving yards (73) in Cassel's first start, and takes on a Seattle defense surrendering the second most fantasy points to tight ends. The Seahawks have given up receiving lines of 8-90-2 (Tyler Eifert), 7-131-1 (Greg Olsen), and 6-70 (49ers TEs) over their last three games. ... Promoted into the starting lineup over Joseph Randle (oblique, headcase) and Christine Michael (enigma), Darren McFadden exploded for 162 total yards and a touchdown on 31 touches in last week's loss to the Giants. McFadden logged an every-down-back-like 80% snap rate and should see similar usage this Sunday, albeit against a Seahawks team holding running backs to 3.63 YPC while ranking eighth in Football Outsiders' run-defense DVOA. McFadden's projected workload and Dallas' hole-clearing offensive line keep him squarely in the RB2 hunt. ... Bryant will be a borderline WR2 on talent alone if he gets the green light Sunday morning. He can also expect to be shadowed by Richard Sherman, who followed A.J. Green (6-78-0) in Week 5 and Torrey Smith (0-0) in Week 7.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cowboys 17
Sunday Night Football
Green Bay @ Denver
This week's Sunday nighter pits against each other two 6-0 teams coming off byes. In a game with a mediocre 45.5-point Vegas total, host Denver is a three-point dog with a team total just barely above 21. ... Peyton Manning has played poorly enough that concerns he might get benched for Brock Osweiler seem legitimate. Peyton's dead-duck passes have resulted in a league-high ten interceptions, while Manning's TD-to-INT ratio stands at 10:16 over his last ten regular season games. This year's Packers have held opposing quarterbacks to 128-of-226 passing (56.6%) for 1,525 yards (6.75 YPA) and a 7:8 TD-to-INT ratio. Green Bay ranks second in the league in sacks (23) and sixth in interceptions. Peyton is a tough sell as a top-15 fantasy quarterback play. ... The Packers have been a bit more vulnerable on the ground, ranking 17th in run-defense DVOA while permitting 4.23 yards per carry to running backs. Ronnie Hillman seemed to take control of Denver's lead back job before the bye, out-touching C.J. Anderson 23 to 17 in Week 6 against the Browns, out-gaining Anderson 115 to 66, and out-snapping him 54% to 46%. A two-way committee remains likely against the Packers, but Hillman has the leg up as an RB2/flex play. Averaging 2.69 yards per carry on the year, Anderson is at best an RB3.
Peyton's target distribution in Weeks 1-6: Demaryius Thomas 75; Emmanuel Sanders 65; Owen Daniels 29; Jordan Norwood 18; Anderson 17; Hillman 10. ... Neither Thomas nor Sanders' Week 8 matchup stands out as especially attractive. They both run a ton of pass patterns on each side of the formation and will see Packers RCB Sam Shields and LCB Damarious Randall about evenly. Pro Football Focus has assigned both Shields and Randall with top-17 pass-coverage grades among 109 qualified cornerbacks, while Green Bay slot corner Casey Hayward carries the No. 18 mark. Thomas and Sanders are both low-end WR1 plays against the Packers. ... Daniels' snap rate stood at 89% through the first five weeks of the season. It dipped to 64% in Week 6 against the Browns. If the Broncos emerge from their open date wanting improved run blocking on the field, they'll give in-line TE Virgil Green more playing time at Daniels' expense. 33-year-old Daniels has been a fantasy dud, finishing under 30 yards in each of Denver's first six games.
Traveling to Denver as three-point favorites, the Packers' Week 8 team total is a shade above 24 points. ... Armed with an elite cornerback trio and elite pass rush, the Broncos rank first in the league in sacks (26), third in passer rating allowed (69.6), and first in pass-defense DVOA. Denver has held opposing quarterbacks to a 5:9 TD-to-INT ratio and under 200 passing yards per game. It's not an exaggeration to say Aaron Rodgers couldn't dream up a more difficult matchup coming off the Packers' bye week. Rodgers should still offer a high enough floor for QB1 treatment in season-long leagues, but he's a tough daily-fantasy sell this week, even in tournaments. ... Although Eddie Lacy is a virtual lock to eventually re-ascend to lead back duties in Green Bay, this week's brutal matchup combined with coach Mike McCarthy's pledge to stick with a "one-two punch" also involving James Starks likely renders Lacy a touchdown-dependent RB2 option at Denver. In the Packers' Week 6 win before the open date, Starks logged a 54% snap rate and 11 touches compared to Lacy's 38% playing-time clip and six touches against San Diego. Denver is permitting just 3.58 yards per carry to enemy running backs on the season. The good news for Lacy is Starks appears to be battling a hip injury, putting his Week 8 availability in question. If Starks indeed cannot play, Lacy would become a better bet for goal-line scores.
Rodgers' target distribution this year: Randall Cobb 47; Richard Rodgers 30; James Jones 29; Ty Montgomery 19; Starks and Davante Adams 15; Lacy 12. ... The Broncos pose a brutal matchup for all skill players, but most especially wideouts. Denver has allowed one touchdown pass to opposing wide receivers through six games, and can match up effectively with the Packers by putting Chris Harris on Cobb, Aqib Talib on Adams, and Bradley Roby on Jones. ... Should slot corner Harris' shutdown coverage result in another slow game, Cobb will become a terrific buy-low target in season-long leagues. Cobb is off the injury report after battling an early-season shoulder ailment and has a beautiful schedule the rest of the way. ... Jones has the best Week 8 matchup in Green Bay's receiver corps against second-year RCB Roby, a talented but still-developing cover man who can be vulnerable to precision route running. Crisp routes and chemistry with Rodgers are Jones' calling cards at this stage of his career. ... Fantasy owners of Adams should put him on a wait-and-see week to gauge his health coming back from a high ankle sprain, in addition to his usage. The matchup with Talib is concerning, and Adams has managed target counts of 8 and 5 in his two healthy games. ... Quietly No. 2 on the Packers in targets, TE Rodgers will take on a Denver defense that ranks 14th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Rodgers' snap rates were 92% and 86% in Weeks 5-6, prior to Green Bay's Week 7 bye. On a team with a high point total, red-zone weapon Rodgers is a worthwhile streamer.
Score Prediction: Packers 23, Broncos 20
Monday Night Football
Indianapolis @ Carolina
This week's Monday nighter has a 46-point Vegas total with host Carolina favored by seven. The Panthers' team total is aggressive at 26.5 points. ... Cam Newton is arguably this week's highest-ceiling QB1 play against a Colts defense that is inherently vulnerable to running quarterbacks because it plays strict man coverage, wherein linebackers and cornerbacks take their eyes off the passer in order to focus on downfield route assignments. Indianapolis has played sub-par defense overall, ranking 15th versus the run and 21st against the pass in Football Outsiders' DVOA metrics. Cam is this year's No. 6 overall fantasy quarterback in points per game. ... Gashed on the ground in back-to-back games, Indianapolis coughed up a combined 52-301-4 rushing line (5.79 YPC) to Patriots and Saints running backs in Weeks 6-7. Mark Ingram (14-143-1) shredded the Colts on runs to the perimeter last Sunday. While Newton and Mike Tolbert's frequent goal-line vulturing limit Jonathan Stewart's fantasy ceiling, he should be viewed as a high-floor RB2 option against the Colts. Since Carolina's Week 5 bye, Stewart has averaged a rock-solid 4.61 yards per carry with two touchdowns on 44 runs in difficult draws against the Seahawks and Eagles. J-Stew is averaging 18.2 touches per game on the season.
Cam's target distribution since the bye: Greg Olsen 16; Ted Ginn 12; Devin Funchess and Corey Brown 8; Jerricho Cotchery 5; Ed Dickson 4; Stewart 2; Tolbert 1. ... The Colts are allowing the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends, including the sixth most catches and seventh most yards. As Carolina's perimeter wideouts will occupy LCB Greg Toler and RCB Vontae Davis, Olsen will spend this game running routes against linebackers and safeties. Colts ILBs Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson both have bottom-15 pass-coverage grades among 55 qualified inside linebackers at PFF. The Cam-Olsen stack is in play in DFS tournaments. ... No Panthers wideout has established fantasy WR3 viability with Carolina staying true to its four-way committee. Brown plays the most snaps of the group. Ginn has produced the most, but still isn't a top-30 fantasy wideout on the season. As Brown most often lines up against left cornerbacks (Toler), he would be your best option if you're desperate to play a Panthers wide receiver this week.
The MNF outlook is gloomier for Indianapolis' offense. The road-dog Colts have a Week 8 team total of just 19.5 points. ... Carolina has played legitimately shutdown pass defense, ranking No. 2 behind only Denver in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA while holding enemy quarterbacks to a combined 5:9 TD-to-INT ratio. Despite limited edge-rush talent and an early-season bye, the Panthers are eighth in the NFL in sacks (18). This could be an ugly game for Andrew Luck on national television. Luck has committed ten turnovers through five starts and is an inviting target for Carolina's fantasy D/ST. ... The Panthers' defense is more forgiving on the ground, yielding 362 yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries (5.10 YPC) to Bucs, Seahawks, and Eagles running backs over its last three games. Underdogs by a touchdown on the road, this would be a sensible spot for the Colts to try to slow down the game and feed Frank Gore, who has averaged 4.5 yards per carry or better in four of the last five weeks. ... Ahmad Bradshaw touched the football only twice in last Sunday's loss to New Orleans, but he logged a 46% snap rate and has already earned a meaningful role in Indy's offense. Bradshaw is worth stashing in 12- and 14-team PPR leagues as a candidate to carve out flex value in forthcoming weeks.
Luck's target distribution this year: T.Y. Hilton 52; Donte Moncrief 43; Andre Johnson 28; Coby Fleener 18; Gore 17; Dwayne Allen 10; Bradshaw 3. ... Hilton won't line up against shutdown LCB Josh Norman on every snap, but those two will tangle more often than not. The good news is Norman rarely moves off left corner, so T.Y. will get chances against slot CB Bene Benwikere and RCB Charles Tillman, too. At worst, Hilton is an every-week WR2 in season-long leagues. ... Moncrief will run most of his routes at Tillman, who is having a solid season but is 34 1/2 years old. There should be opportunities for Moncrief to run by him. Moncrief has hit pay dirt in each of Luck's five 2015 starts. ... Johnson's receiving lines in Luck's starts are 4-24, 3-27, 0-0, 3-35, and 4-44. He's a stretch as a flex/WR3 play. ... Neither Fleener nor Allen has been able to carve out meaningful fantasy value this season, and neither is a good bet to break that funk Monday night against a Panthers defense permitting the 11th fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Colts 20