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Matchups

Silva's Week 8 Matchups

by Evan Silva
Updated On: October 25, 2018, 6:36 pm ET

9:30 AM ET (London Game)

Philadelphia vs. Jacksonville
Team Totals: Eagles 22.5, Jaguars 19.5

A cross-pond flight seems unideal for a team one week removed from benching its turnover-machine quarterback and fighting in the locker room after its third straight loss, but such is the Jaguars’ plight. Not to let Blake Bortles off the hook, but part of the problem is Jacksonville’s inability to protect his backside after losing first-string LT Cam Robinson (ACL) and second-string LT Josh Wells (groin, I.R.), forcing “Josh Walker” to start. A fifth-year UDFA out of Middle Tennessee, Walker has been pulverized for four sacks and 10 hits on 250 career snaps, “good” for a 16-game pace of 16 sacks and 40 hits allowed. Both would have easily been league highs in PFF’s 2017 charts. The Jags have permitted the NFL’s fourth-highest pressure rate (34.5%) on the year. All of this makes Philly’s D/ST an appealing play. The Eagles lead the league in both QB hit rate (22.2%) and tackles-for-loss percentage (30.8%). As coach Doug Marrone has promised Bortles will be on a “short leash,” he is not playable beyond two-QB leagues. … Living in enemy backfields as their TFL rate suggests, Philadelphia has held running backs to a miniscule 100/387/2 (3.87 YPC) rushing line. The Eagles have surrendered the NFL’s fourth-most catches (47) and ninth-most receiving yards to Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon’s position, however. Based on script projection and matchup, this game sets up much better for Yeldon than Hyde. Neither is a desirable flex play, but Yeldon is preferred.

 

 

Bortles’ 2018 target distribution: Donte Moncrief 44; Keelan Cole 42; Yeldon 39; Dede Westbrook 38; James O’Shaughnessy 17; Niles Paul and D.J. Chark 13. … I could write a bunch of words and “list stats” about Jacksonville’s wideout corps, but the truth is there is little separation among the top three. Moncrief does appear to have emerged as the “No. 1,” and also happens to be Week 8’s No. 1 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model. Weeks 5-7’s No. 1-rated buy lows were Odell Beckham (8/131/1), Tyreek Hill (7/142/3), and Jarvis Landry (10/97/1). We do know for sure Moncrief, Cole, and Westbrook draw plus matchups against a Philly secondary that’s been dusted by Julio Jones (10/169/0), Corey Davis (9/161/1), DeSean Jackson (4/129/1), Adam Thielen (7/116/1), Stefon Diggs (10/91/0), Mike Evans (10/83/1), Taywan Taylor (7/77/0), Devin Funchess (6/62/1), Chris Godwin (5/56/1), and Ryan Grant (3/35/1). In order of probability, I think Moncrief is the best bet, Cole second, and Westbrook third. … Athletic at linebacker and heady at safety, the Eagles have been shutting down tight ends for years. This season, they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest catches (21) and yards (235) to the position.

A top-13 fantasy producer in four straight starts, Carson Wentz catches Jacksonville’s defense at its lowest point after DC Todd Wash’s unit coughed up 90 points during a three-game losing streak with a locker room that has flown off the handle emotionally. Jacksonville has far from tanked, however, holding 6-of-7 enemy passers below 250 yards. Wentz hasn’t run much yet this season, but that could change at Wembley; Jacksonville has permitted the NFL’s third-most QB rushing yards (179). Wentz’s matchup is improved by injuries to Jaguars No. 2 CB A.J. Bouye (calf) and Nos. 1 and 2 slot CBs D.J. Hayden (toe) and Tyler Patmon (neck). Bouye will be replaced outside by UDFA rookie Quenton Meeks, who has played two NFL snaps. … The Jags are stronger and healthier up front, where they have held enemy backs to 3.77 yards per carry and just four TDs in seven games. Wendell Smallwood remained Philly’s Week 7 lead runner, logging 11 touches on 52% of the snaps but managing 37 scoreless yards with multiple big plays nullified by penalties, including a massive screen-pass gain that came back on RG Brandon Brooks’ holding flag. Clement (10, 37%) was even less effective, and UDFA power back Josh Adams (4, 12%) was involved just enough to dent his teammates’ usage. Smallwood and Clement are weak flex options.

Wentz’s Weeks 3-7 target distribution: Zach Ertz 55; Alshon Jeffery 39; Nelson Agholor 33; Smallwood 18; Goedert 17; Clement 9; Jordan Matthews 9. … An elite route runner, Ertz has asserted himself as the league’s least-coverable tight end. He's on pace for 130 catches and 1,413 yards, which would both break Jason Witten (110) and Rob Gronkowski’s (1,327) single-season tight end records. Ertz has 9-plus targets in 7-of-7 games. Jacksonville did yield 5/100/0 receiving to Travis Kelce in Week 5. … Springy and rejuvenated since returning from shoulder surgery, Jeffery dominated Panthers top CB James Bradberry on 50:50 balls and double moves in Week 7. No. 9 in the NFL in Air Yards over the last month, Jeffery deserves matchup-agnostic WR2 treatment, even in Jalen Ramsey’s shadow. Ramsey ranks a disappointing No. 59 among 112 qualified corners in PFF’s coverage grades. … On paper, Agholor’s matchup is strongest in Philly’s pass-catcher corps versus a Jaguars Defense that got burned by fellow slot WR Cole Beasley (9/101/2) in Week 6 and resorted to using rookie SS Ronnie Harrison at slot corner last week with Hayden and Patmon on the shelf. Agholor has cleared 50 yards once in Wentz’s five starts, however, devolving into a leap-of-faith WR3/flex. … Goedert’s usage has been sporadic and unpredictable week to week. He got involved in Week 7, turning a first-quarter screen into a 21-yard gain and catching a goal-line TD. Still a low-floor streamer, Goedert’s target counts in Wentz’s starts are 7 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 5.

Score Prediction: Eagles 27, Jaguars 20

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1:00 PM ET Games

NY Jets @ Chicago
Team Totals: Bears 26.5, Jets 19

Even as he's maintained bad habits of missing high off his back foot and throwing into crowds, Mitchell Trubisky enters Week 8 with consecutive fantasy results of QB1 – QB5 – QB2 to face a Jets team that hemorrhaged 30-plus points in three of the last four weeks and top-14 fantasy results to Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, Andrew Luck, and Kirk Cousins in five of the last six. Trubisky partly compensates for his passing shortcomings as a dynamic dual threat, ranking second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (245). His reverse-field eight-yard TD in last week’s loss to New England covered 77 actual yards, and Trubisky’s 39-yard sprint – which nearly went for a second score – covered 65. Todd Bowles’ scheme is vulnerable to QB scrambles because Jets defenders turn their backs in man coverage, while Gang Green struggles to generate pressure with the NFL’s seventh-lowest sack rate (5.0%). In another plus draw, Trubisky has earned QB1 treatment. … The Jets have sprung major run-defense leaks, permitting a 56/301/2 (5.38 YPC) rushing line to Vikings, Broncos, and Colts backs in Weeks 5-7. Jordan Howard has devolved into a touchdown-or-bust RB2/flex with almost no passing-game role, but this is a good week for Howard as a home favorite in a plus draw. Howard nearly scored twice last week, only to lose the would-be second on an illegal-formation flag. … Tarik Cohen’s Weeks 4-7 touch counts were 20 – 12 – 14 with catch totals of 7 – 7 – 8, emerging as an every-week RB2 with RB1 upside in PPR leagues. Cohen’s 29 targets over the last three games lead the Bears. Cohen was the beneficiary of Howard’s Week 7 nullified score, brushing the pylon for a six-yard receiving TD plays later. Cohen’s 42 snaps against the Patriots were a career high.

Trubisky’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Allen Robinson 43; Taylor Gabriel 38; Cohen 37; Trey Burton 34; Anthony Miller 22; Howard 14; Josh Bellamy 7; Kevin White 2. … Erased (1/4/0) by Stephon Gilmore last week, Robinson was held to 50 yards or fewer for the third time in four games. A-Rob beat Gilmore on a first-quarter slant, only to drop Trubisky’s third-down pass to force a field goal. With target totals of 4 – 6 – 5 in his last three games, Robinson has regressed into a risky WR3. Ongoing groin problems and 15-plus MPH winds in Sunday's forecast lower Robinson's floor. … Gabriel also endured a slow Week 7 (3/26/0) after back-to-back 100-yard games. Gabriel remains a playable WR3/flex, even as Chicago’s suddenly deep pass-catcher corps is hurting individual consistency. This is a plus draw; Gang Green has permitted an AFC-high 1,403 yards to wide receivers and is without top CB Trumaine Johnson (quad) again. … Cohen (12) and Burton’s (11) target domination was mainly to blame for A-Rob and Gabriel’s Week 7 backseats. Burton entered the week averaging only five targets per game. With 50-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five straight, Burton is a matchup-agnostic TE1. … After setting season highs in targets (7) and Air Yards (124) versus the Pats, Miller is a WR4 sleeper against the Jets, who have been flamed by fellow slot men Dede Westbrook (9/130/0), Adam Thielen (9/110/1), Jarvis Landry (8/103/0), Golden Tate (7/79/1), Emmanuel Sanders (9/72/0), and Chester Rogers (4/55/1).

Sam Darnold visits Soldier Field with zero top-12 fantasy finishes in seven starts coming off an abysmal Week 7 on 17-of-42 passing (40.5%) with an injury-ruined pass-catcher corps that lost Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (groin), and will be without Robby Anderson (ankle) on Sunday. Facing the NFL's leader in interceptions (10) with a depleted supporting cast, this is a get-right spot for the Bears’ D/ST. … Bilal Powell’s neck injury ups Isaiah Crowell’s workload projection with sixth-round rookie Trenton Cannon in the change-up role. This is still a rough road-dog matchup for Crowell after he looked sluggish playing on a balky foot the past two weeks. Chicago’s defense has limited enemy backs to a 123/461/0 (3.75 YPC) rushing line, and the Bears are the NFL’s only team yet to allow a single rushing score. ... Cannon stepped up to lead the team in Week 7 receiving (4/69/0), including a first-quarter gain of 35 on a perfectly-designed wheel route. A smallish speedster (5’10/185) out of Virginia State, Cannon was the No. 2-rated SPARQ running back in this year’s draft behind Saquon Barkley. The Jets' wideout injuries enhance Cannon's Week 8 sleeper appeal.

Darnold’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Anderson 36; Jermaine Kearse 29; Chris Herndon 16; Crowell 13; Eric Tomlinson 10; Roberts 8; Neal Sterling and Jordan Leggett 7; Cannon 6. … Anderson (ankle) was listed as doubtful, leaving Kearse, special teamer Roberts, drop burglar Charone Peake, UDFA rookie Deontay Burnett, and street free agent pickup Rishard Matthews as Gang Green's remaining healthy receivers. ... Kearse set season highs in snaps (90%) and routes run (40) against the Vikings, only to be conspicuously ignored by Darnold following a 10-target Week 6. As Kearse ran 73% of his routes inside, this matchup is far from unbeatable; Chicago has coughed up slot-receiver stat lines of 9/142/1 (Randall Cobb), 5/60/1 (Tyler Lockett), 8/59/0 (Danny Amendola), and 5/36/1 (Julian Edelman). Last week’s goose egg was a reminder Kearse is a limited talent with a rookie quarterback whose opportunity is his lone true selling point. Yet his Week 8 opportunity is rich once again. … Roberts operated as Gang Green’s Week 7 third receiver but only ran 20 routes in a timeshare with Peake and Burnett. The Jets signed Matthews this week, and he will likely start off in a rotational role. … Herndon caught a 12-yard play-action TD and nearly scored twice against the Vikings, but the would-be second was overturned on replay. Herndon ran just 13 routes, rotating with Leggett (15), Sterling (13), and Tomlinson (7). Although no tight end to face the Bears has reached 50 yards, Gang Green's wideout injuries enhance Herndon's streamer viability. Darnold is targeting him heavily on a per-route basis.

Score Prediction: Bears 30, Jets 17

 

 

Tampa Bay @ Cincinnati
Team Totals: Bengals 29.5, Buccaneers 25

As last week’s 26-23 win over Cleveland was the Bucs’ first 2018 game to not top the Vegas total – missing by barely a point below the opening line – shootouts should remain the expectation for all Tampa Bay games. Even after laying his latest primetime egg in last Sunday night’s blowout loss to Kansas City, Andy Dalton enters prime bounce-back position against a Bucs defense that has allowed top-ten fantasy scores to 5-of-6 quarterbacks faced. No NFL team has permitted more points per game (32.7), and no NFC team has yielded more yards per play (6.6). … Tampa Bay’s defensive front seven is coming apart at the seams; MLB Kwon Alexander tore his ACL in Week 7 to join DT Gerald McCoy (calf) and LE Vinny Curry (ankle) on the shelf. The personnel losses enhance Joe Mixon’s matchup after severe negative game script limited him to 16 touches in last week’s lopsided defeat at Arrowhead. Mixon still played 77% of Cincinnati’s snaps and ran a season-high 31 routes. He’s a shoo-in Week 8 RB1.

Dalton’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: A.J. Green 69; Tyler Boyd 56; Mixon 24; Giovani Bernard 21; C.J. Uzomah 19; John Ross 16. … Green has drawn season highs in targets in three straight games (10 – 12 – 14) since Tyler Eifert went on I.R., clearing 85 yards and/or scoring a touchdown in 6-of-7 games this year. In the midst of his most-consistent season, Green now draws a Bucs secondary yielding NFC highs in catches (16.7) and touchdowns (1.83) per game to wide receivers. Only the Eagles allow more yards per game (193.5) to Green’s position. … Running 71% of his routes inside, Boyd also draws a slump-busting matchup after last week’s disappearance at Arrowhead. Michael Thomas (16/180/1), JuJu Smith-Schuster (9/116/0), Jarvis Landry (10/97/1). Nelson Agholor (8/88/1), and Mohamed Sanu (2/46/1) have ripped up Tampa Bay’s slot coverage. … The recipient of Dalton’s lone Week 7 touchdown pass, Uzomah played a season-high 97% of Cincinnati’s offensive snaps. The Bucs’ clocks have been cleaned by fellow TEs Vance McDonald (4/112/1), Zach Ertz (11/94/0), Trey Burton (2/86/1), Austin Hooper (9/71/1), and David Njoku (4/52/1). … Ross returned from his two-week groin injury in Kansas City to play just 49% of Cincinnati’s snaps and go catch-less on one target. He aggravated the injury and will miss more time.

Jameis Winston overcame two telegraphed picks and a lost fumble for his second straight top-five QB1 finish in last week’s OT win over Cleveland by throwing for 365 yards and leading the Bucs in rushing (10/55/1). Although his run-game production isn’t sustainable, Winston is a willing scrambler facing a Bengals Defense that has surrendered the NFL’s tenth-most quarterback rushing yards (123) while supporting high weekly passing-game floors with top-12 fantasy results allowed to 6-of-7 signal callers faced. Winston’s pocket should be cleaner than usual; Cincinnati ranks 27th in sack rate (4.9%) and 22nd in QB hit rate (14.7%). The Bengals will play without slot CB Darqueze Dennard (shoulder), MLB Vontaze Burfict (hip), and WLB Nick Vigil (MCL). … Peyton Barber dropped a Week 7 pass and managed 11 touches on a season-low 39% playing-time clip, exiting with a second-half ankle injury just before Ronald Jones punched in a two-yard score. Jacquizz Rodgers dominated backfield snaps in overtime. Barber’s health can’t be taken for granted, but he is on track to play against a leaky Bengals Defense that’s been rocked for 5.08 yards per carry and nine running back TDs in seven games. Still a road underdog with a balky ankle, Barber is a risky RB2/flex.

Winston’s 2018 target distribution: Mike Evans 20; Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries 18; DeSean Jackson 17; O.J. Howard 13; Cameron Brate 8; Barber 7; Jones 4. … Although Tampa Bay’s pass-catcher depth threatens individual reliability each week, this matchup is entirely unimposing against a Bengals secondary that has permitted an NFL-high 195 completions. … Positive-TD regression should soon reach Evans, who leads the Bucs in receiving yards (165) in Winston’s two starts but hasn’t hit pay dirt since Week 3. … Only five teams have allowed more catches (100) to wide receivers than Cincinnati (100), and only four have allowed more yards (1,266). D-Jax saved a quiet Week 7 receiving day with a 14-yard end-around score. Jackson’s 258 Air Yards lead the team in Winston’s starts. … Held under 60 yards in 5-of-6 games, Godwin remains a touchdown-reliant commodity with a team-high eight targets inside the ten. … Albeit with overtime assistance, Howard set Week 7 career highs in snaps (63), routes (38), and targets (9) against the Browns. The Bengals got torched for 14 catches by Steelers TEs in Week 6, then 6/112/1 receiving on seven targets by Chiefs TEs last week. Despite an early bye, Howard ranks seventh among NFL tight ends in yards (351). … Slot man Humphries and No. 2 TE Brate are useful to the Bucs, but neither is a fantasy option. Humphries has one TD in his last 25 appearances. Brate hasn’t reached 35 yards in a 2018 game.

Score Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Bengals 27

Seattle @ Detroit
Team Totals: Lions 26, Seahawks 23

Even as the rushing attack stole the show, Matthew Stafford turned in his season-best real-life game in last week’s 32-21 thumping of Miami, committing zero turnovers and hitting four completions of 20-plus yards on just 22 attempts. Although Stafford’s on-field play has reached an even keel after a rocky beginning, his fantasy results haven’t cooperated with one top-12 score in six starts. Five straight quarterbacks to face Seattle have finished QB18 or worse, while this game’s pace threatens to be slow and run heavy. Seattle ranks dead last in pass attempts per game (27.5), and Stafford averaged even fewer (26.0) in his last three starts. … OC Jim Bob Cooter can’t in good faith turn away from Kerryon Johnson after last week’s 21-touch, 179-yard explosion. On his 71-yard run – longest in seven years by a Lions back – Next Gen Stats clocked Johnson at 21.2 MPH, the NFL’s third-fastest run-play speed all year. LeGarrette Blount vultured his usual goal-line TD, but Johnson was not ignored in scoring position and quietly has more carries inside the ten (13) than Blount (11). Theo Riddick (knee) is out again. Johnson’s Week 8 matchup is largely unimposing; Seattle has given up an even 4.00 yards per carry and five TDs to enemy backs in six games. On a team prioritizing the run under defensive-minded Matt Patricia – GM Bob Quinn used this year’s first-round pick on mauling LG Frank Ragnow and traded up for a running back in the second – Johnson has more than earned feature-back usage. Johnson’s snaps (37% > 47% > 59%) and touches (10 > 14 > 21) are in definitive ascent over his last three games. And the Lions’ offensive line is kicking tail at No. 3 in the NFL in yards created before contact per carry (3.3).

 

 

Stafford’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Golden Tate 57; Kenny Golladay 43; Marvin Jones 37; Riddick 30; Johnson 18; Luke Willson 9; Michael Roberts 4. … This is a “revenge” game for Tate, who did not leave Seattle five years ago on good terms. Tate has faced the Seahawks just once since, managing 3/29/0 receiving on four targets. This year, fellow slot WRs Emmanuel Sanders (10/135/1) and Cooper Kupp (6/90/1) have given Seattle fits. Promisingly a positive-regression candidate, Tate popped as Week 8's No. 4 buy-low wideout in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model. … After two big plays by Golladay led to Blount TDs the game before, Golladay’s bad touchdown luck continued in last week’s victory when Ragnow’s hands-to-the-face penalty wiped out his would-be 13-yard score. With just ten combined targets over the last three games, however, Golladay is likely best viewed as a boom-bust WR2/3 barring an upward shift in the Lions’ passing-game volume. … The opportunities have been there for Jones; he leads the team in Air Yards (543), red-zone targets (9), and targets inside the ten (6), yet Jones hasn’t reached 70 yards all year and has caught four balls or fewer in 11 straight games. Jones does draw Detroit's top Week 8 pass-catcher matchup, running a team-high 47% of his routes at right cornerbacks, where Seahawks fifth-round rookie Tre Flowers plays 94% of his snaps. … Although the box score shows two Week 7 TDs for Roberts, he ran just 10 routes all game and was out-snapped 64% to 30% by Willson. Seattle has yielded the NFL’s second-fewest yards to tight ends (223).

The Seahawks and Lions are similar teams with talented quarterbacks and big-play receivers but run-oriented offensive philosophies. Seattle’s biggest concern is Detroit’s pass rush; Patricia’s defense leads the NFL in sack rate (10.3%) and ranks an above-par 13th in QB hit rate (16.2%) with just one top-12 fantasy result allowed to enemy passers. Seattle has given up the league’s second-highest pressure rate (37%), third-highest sack rate (10.3%), and seventh-highest QB hit rate (19.0%). The Lions have also permitted a league-low 18 quarterback rushing yards. In a likely low-scoring affair, Russell Wilson is a fringe fantasy starter without a finish above QB12 since Week 1. .,. This is one of the softest matchups Seattle’s run game will face all year; the Lions have been trampled for a 135/813/4 (6.02 YPC) rushing line and over five catches per game by enemy backs. Quinn demonstrated his awareness by trading for 350-pound space eater DT Damon Harrison, although “Snacks” probably won’t play a full game in his Lions debut. The Seahawks showed warning signs of a three-man RBBC before their Week 7 bye, as Rashaad Penny gained 24 yards on a first-quarter play-action screen against the Raiders and went on to tally 11 touches, even if most were in garbage time. Chris Carson maintained the touches lead (14) with Mike Davis (7) third. The Seahawks have obvious organizational incentive for their first-round pick to succeed, and Penny’s reemergence at very least removes Davis from flex consideration. Carson is a riskier RB2 with just one target since Week 3.

Wilson’s Weeks 4-6 target distribution: Doug Baldwin 16; Tyler Lockett 15; Davis and David Moore 9; Nick Vannett 6; Brandon Marshall 5; Carson and Jaron Brown 1. … Baldwin rebounded from his Week 5 one-target blip for a season-best 6/91/0 stat line in Seattle’s pre-bye win in London, leading the team in targets (8) and dusting Raiders CB Daryl Worley for a 42-yard gain. Coming off the bye, Baldwin should be near-full strength after his early-season knee woes. As Baldwin runs 65% of his routes in the slot, he will avoid Darius Slay for the vast majority of Week 8. Slay plays 89% of his snaps outside. … Lockett has run 60% of his routes inside, including 50% in Week 6. Although Baldwin’s healthy return lowers his floor, Lockett remains a playable WR3/flex with team highs in Air Yards (374), red-zone targets (4), targets inside the ten (3), receiving yards (360), and scores (5). … Even as Moore has emerged as a legitimate playmaker for Seattle, scoring at a 3:7 TD-to-reception rate is obviously unsustainable, and he is averaging three targets per game since bypassing Marshall. Moore also runs 93% of his routes outside, making him likeliest to encounter Slay. … Vannett was inactive in Week 6 due to a herniated disc in his back. He is tentatively expected to return against Detroit to share time with Ed Dickson (quad, groin), who was activated off reserve/PUP.

Score Prediction: Lions 21, Seahawks 20

Denver @ Kansas City
Team Totals: Chiefs 32, Broncos 22

This is yet another smash spot for NFL MVP front-runner Patrick Mahomes, who enters Week 8 with top-12 fantasy results in 6-of-7 starts and four top-five finishes. Kansas City has scored 30-plus points in all but one game with point totals of 45 (Bengals), 30 (Jaguars), and 38 (49ers) at home. As Denver’s pass rush has come alive recently – improving to second in the NFL in sacks (22) and third in QB hit rate (18%) – it is notable for Mahomes’ chances of hitting his ceiling that his league-best clean-pocket passer rating (131.5) dips to No. 10 among 28 qualified quarterbacks when pressured (77.9). Mahomes has thrown 18 of his 22 touchdown passes when kept clean. As we’ll get to shortly, Mahomes-to-Travis Kelce remains an enticing Week 8 DFS stack. … Kareem Hunt tormented Denver for 175 total yards and a score when these clubs met in Week 4. The Broncos hemorrhaged a 108/725/4 (6.71 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs in the last month, while Kansas City has more than fixed Hunt’s previously-disappointing passing-game usage with 50-plus receiving yards in three of the last four weeks on 4.5 targets per game.

Mahomes’ Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Tyreek Hill 61; Travis Kelce 60; Sammy Watkins 40; Hunt 21; Chris Conley 19; Spencer Ware 11; Demetrius Harris 10. … Hill shook off two ugly drops to snap his five-game touchdown-less streak at home in last week’s drubbing of Cincinnati. The Broncos have done a better job than most teams of containing TyFreak historically, holding him to receiving lines of 9/54/0, 2/38/0, 0/0, and 9/52/1 in four career meetings. Vance Joseph sold out to slow Hill in Week 4, pulling defenders out of the box to load up on deep-zone coverage. He still caught nine passes and remains an obviously-elite WR1 play. … Kelce has capitalized on Denver’s Hill-focused strategies with corresponding stat lines of 7/78/1, 7/133/1, 11/160/1, and 8/101/0. This year’s Broncos have allowed the NFL’s tenth-most yards to tight ends (434). … Watkins has topped 50 yards in 4-of-6 games, with three of them coming at home on target counts of 8 – 8 – 7. Watkins pulled his hamstring early in these teams’ Week 4 meeting, finishing catch-less. Back to full health, Watkins has topped 70 yards in 2-of-3 games since. He is Week 8's No. 3 buy-low wideout in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model, enhancing Watkins' DFS-tournament appeal.

His job security locked back in following Chad Kelly’s release, Case Keenum draws a rematch with a Chiefs Defense that sacked Keenum four times and held him to 245 scoreless yards in Week 4 at Denver. With a home-field advantage as decided as any team’s in football, DC Bob Sutton’s defense has allowed just 17.0 points per game at Arrowhead this season, versus 32.8 points per game on the road. Over the previous three years, the Chiefs allowed seven points per game fewer at home than away. This is an underrated spot for Kansas City’s D/ST. … Denver’s optimal offensive approach would be to slow this game down with the run, keep Mahomes on the sideline, and attack Kansas City’s soft front, which has permitted 5.13 yards per carry and nine all-purpose TDs to enemy running backs in seven games. With a shot at his first career 20-plus-touch game, Phillip Lindsay is an upside RB2 play with Royce Freeman (ankle) on the shelf. 4.39 speedster Lindsay has been a rushing-efficiency machine averaging 4.50 YPC or better in 7-of-7 games, while NFL.com’s Graham Barfield noted that Lindsay has been targeted on a team-high 29% of his routes. The Chiefs have coughed up a league-high 511 receiving yards to enemy backs. ... Devontae Booker leads the Broncos' backfield in targets (21) and routes run (108), especially notable considering the likelihood of Denver falling into comeback game script. He's a PPR-specific desperation flex.

Keenum’s 2018 target distribution: Emmanuel Sanders 61; Demaryius Thomas 49; Courtland Sutton 33; Jeff Heuerman 24; Devontae Booker 21; Lindsay 20; Freeman 6. … Sanders is hot with 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 6-of-7 games, coming off consecutive 100-plus-yard weeks. Not only is Sanders dominating target share in Denver’s passing attack, he recently moved to No. 1 on the team in Air Yards (549) with an increase in downfield targets. In a game where the Broncos project to chase points, Sanders offers immense volume upside. … Thomas was bottled up (4/24/0) in these clubs’ Week 4 meeting and has topped 70 yards in just two of his last 18 games. Nevertheless, this game’s projected negative script and matchup raise Thomas’ ceiling as a WR2. … Amid Demaryius trade rumors, Sutton is a DFS-tournament sleeper with touchdowns in two of his last three games. The Broncos are willing to deal Thomas because they are so high on Sutton and want to feature him on the perimeter, which OC Bill Musgrave had a few extra days to install after last Thursday night’s trouncing of Arizona. … Heuerman quietly led the Broncos in Week 4 targets (7) and receiving (4/57/0) against the Chiefs and played over 80% of Denver’s offensive snaps in three of the last four games. Kansas City has allowed a league-high 563 yards to tight ends. Leading the team in red-zone targets (8) and targets inside the ten (5), Heuerman is a viable-if-unsexy streamer.

Score Prediction: Chiefs 35, Broncos 20

 

 

Washington @ NY Giants
Team Totals: Giants 21.5, Redskins 20.5

Keyed up front by consecutive first-round DLs Jonathan Allen (2017) and Da’Ron Payne (2018) with rangy ILB Zach Brown behind them, Washington has shut down three of the NFL’s best ground games all in a row, limiting Dallas, Carolina, and New Orleans running backs to a combined 45/130/2 (2.89 YPC) rushing line. Those backs did combine for 14 receptions, and the Skins are permitting six catches per game to Saquon Barkley’s position on the year. Barkley leads all NFL backs in targets (61), catches (49), and receiving yards (424). … Eli Manning’s Week 8 draw is theoretically unimposing; while Washington seems to have fixed its run defense, DC Greg Manusky’s unit has yielded four straight top-12 QB1 finishes. Although his on-field play has been rocky to be kind, Eli has recorded top-13 fantasy scores in three of his last five games, good enough to keep Manning two-quarterback-league relevant.

Eli’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Odell Beckham 80; Barkley 61; Sterling Shepard 51; Evan Engram 17; Rhett Ellison 16. … Beckham has overcome Manning’s washed-up play by ranking No. 4 in the NFL in targets and No. 5 in Air Yards (845). Redskins LCB Josh Norman never shadows, and RCB Quinton Dunbar has been diagnosed with a nerve damage in his leg. Dunbar has arguably been Washington’s top corner. … Long past earning every-week WR2 treatment, Shepard enters Week 8 with 75-plus yards in four of his last five games on pace for 1,162 yards, which would easily be a career high. Shepard is tied with OBJ for the team lead in red-zone targets (12) and has only one fewer target inside the ten (4). Washington gave up seven catches to fellow slot WR Cole Beasley last week. … Engram has been the clear fourth wheel in New York’s passing offense on target counts of 5 – 7 – 4 in his three healthy games and fewer than 20 yards in 3-of-4 appearances. His lone touchdown came on what amounted to a garbage-time play in Week 2 against Dallas. The Redskins have allowed the NFL’s seventh-fewest yards (267) to tight ends. Until we see tangible improvement in his usage Engram can only be viewed as a high-risk TE1.

Coach Jay Gruden spoke this week of wanting the Redskins to be a stop-the-run, run-the-ball team, and his Week 7 playcalling supported it. As Alex Smith was limited to a year-low 25 pass attempts, Adrian Peterson operated as Washington’s offensive centerpiece on 25 touches. Optimally used as a low-volume game manager, Smith has 30 attempts or fewer in half of his starts with fantasy results of QB16 or worse in five straight games. The Giants allowed nine running back TDs and 100-plus rushing yards in 5-of-7 contests before trading elite run-stopping NT Damon Harrison and losing ILB Alec Ogletree (hamstring). Peterson is an RB2 with RB1 upside. Smith is a low-ceiling two-QB-league play. … Chris Thompson (ribs, knee) is due back, but the Skins’ run-game commitment is a threat to his RB2/flex stock. New York allows only 38.7 receiving yards per game to backs. … Scoreless since Week 1, Jordan Reed feels tough to trust after three straight sub-50-yard games. He is Week 8’s No. 1 buy-low tight end in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards model, however, and enemy tight ends have caught 24-of-32 (75%) targets for 345 yards (10.8 YPA) and three touchdowns against the Giants in the last five games. … The rest of Washington’s pass-catcher corps is a mess on an already-low-volume team. Slot WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) will again be replaced by Maurice Harris, whose fill-in stat lines are 3/47/0 – 3/13/0 – 3/22/0. Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) and Josh Doctson (heel) have been oft-injured duds. Vernon Davis blocked on 78% of his Week 7 snaps.

Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Giants 17

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
Team Totals: Steelers 28.5, Browns 20.5

Whereas the Steelers are fresh off their bye, Cleveland visits Heinz Field having gone to overtime in 4-of-7 games and logged 524 defensive snaps, 34 more than any other NFL team. Browns defenders played an exhausting 95 downs in Week 7’s road loss, allowing Jameis Winston to emerge with QB4 results. Cleveland badly misses 2017 Pro Bowl MLB Joe Schobert (hamstring), and CBs Terrance Mitchell (wrist) and E.J. Gaines (concussion). This is a home-game smash spot for Ben Roethlisberger, who showed a high floor and ceiling with top-12 fantasy finishes in 4-of-5 pre-bye starts. Big Ben has the NFL’s fifth-highest QB rating when blitzed (114.7), notable since Browns DC Gregg Williams blitzes at the league’s second-highest rate. … As Le’Veon Bell again failed to report, James Conner will get at least one more game as Pittsburgh’s workhorse versus a Browns Defense that has surrendered a crisp 177/784/8 (4.43 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs. Despite facing eight-plus defenders in the box at the league’s third-highest rate (39%) and receiving the NFL’s fifth-fewest yards created before contact per rushing attempt (2.4) from Pittsburgh’s middling offensive line, Conner is averaging 4.40 yards per carry – superior to Bell’s 4.02 average in 2017 – with five 20-plus-yard runs on 103 attempts, already more than Le’Veon had all last season (3) on a league-high 321 carries. Pittsburgh is scoring 3.1 more points per game than last year, and their yards-per-play average has risen from 5.8 to 6.2 with Conner at tailback.

 

 

Big Ben’s Weeks 1-6 target distribution: Antonio Brown 72; JuJu Smith-Schuster 63; Conner 35; Vance McDonald 25; Jesse James 21; Ryan Switzer 15; James Washington 14. … Even in an abysmal game by Roethlisberger, Brown emerged from these clubs’ Week 1 meeting with 9/93/1 receiving and has scored in 5-of-6 games this year. Not that it’s a fantasy worry, but Brown will likely draw shadow coverage from impressive rookie CB Denzel Ward, who checked John Brown (5/58/0) in Week 5, Keenan Allen (4/62/0) in Week 6, and a combination of Chris Godwin (5/59/0) and DeSean Jackson (2/25/0) in Week 7. A.B. can teach Ward a thing or two. … JuJu overcame multiple drops in Pittsburgh’s pre-bye win over Cincinnati for 7/111/0 receiving despite losing a touchdown on replay review. In two career dates with the Browns, JuJu has landed haymaker lines of 9/143/1 and 5/119/0. … McDonald shook off a quiet Week 5 for seven catches and 68 yards on eight targets in Week 6, most notably dump-trucking NFL-dirtiest-player Vontaze Burfict on a 26-yard catch and run. Among NFL tight ends, only George Kittle (359) and Travis Kelce (264) have more yards after catch than McDonald (210), who has well over 20 fewer targets than both. The Browns have defended tight ends better this year, although they did give up 111 yards to Bucs tight ends last week and badly miss MLB Schobert as their defensive communicator.

Week 7’s most-worrisome development was Hue Jackson stating after Cleveland’s OT loss to Tampa Bay that he needed more offensive say. First-year OC Todd Haley has done miserable play-calling and game-planning jobs, but no one is worse than Hue. Thankfully, Jackson backed down later in the week. … Baker Mayfield heads to Heinz Field with fantasy results of QB20 – QB15 – QB21 – QB8 in four starts, giving him two-quarterback-league but fringe streamer appeal. Showing incremental signs of defensive competence, the Steelers held Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton to below-par QB18 finishes in their final two pre-bye games. Pittsburgh is a selective blitzing team, but this is a good opportunity to dial it up. Mayfield has the NFL’s fourth-lowest QB rating (66.3) when blitzed, and Browns pass catchers have dropped a league-high 7.4% of their targets. As Mayfield has taken 15 sacks in the past three weeks, I'm eyeing Pittsburgh as my DFS cash-game D/ST. … Pittsburgh’s defensive strength is versus the run, where DC Keith Butler’s unit has held enemy backs to a 112/400/3 (3.57 YPC) rushing line and league-low 124 receiving yards. Nick Chubb was stymied for most of Week 7 at Tampa Bay, saving his box score with a fourth-quarter goal-line TD resulting from end-zone pass interference. As Chubb has been targeted just three times this year, negative game script would pose a major threat to his Week 8 outlook. … Duke Johnson touched the ball five times in Week 7, although he had multiple solid gains called back on penalties. Chubb is a volume-based RB2. Johnson is a PPR-only flex option.

Mayfield’s 2018 target distribution: Jarvis Landry 53; David Njoku 38; Antonio Callaway 31; Johnson 18; Rashard Higgins 12; Damion Ratley 11; Chubb 3. … Mayfield promised to feed Landry last week and kept his word for team highs in targets (15), Air Yards (185), and receiving (10/97/1). In a game where Cleveland is likely to chase points, Landry should stay hot against a Steelers Defense that has had trouble with slot WRs Landry himself (7/106/0), Mohamed Sanu (4/73/1), Tyler Boyd (7/62/2), and Willie Snead (6/56/0). … The Steelers allowed above-expectation stat lines to Travis Kelce in Week 2 (7/109/2), Bucs TEs in Week 3 (9/106/1), Ravens TEs (10/99/0) in Week 4, Austin Hooper (9/77/0) in Week 5, and C.J. Uzomah in Week 6 (6/54/0). With 50-plus yards and/or a touchdown in all four of Mayfield’s starts, Njoku is fast tracking toward elite-TE1 distinction. Only six NFL tight ends have more catches (31), and only five have more Air Yards (397). … Higgins’ (MCL) continued absence locks in Callaway as Cleveland’s No. 2 receiver after the drop-prone rookie ran 35 routes to Ratley’s 30 in last week’s loss. Callaway drew a season-low two targets, however, and Ratley three in a passing game dominated by Landry and Njoku. As Callaway runs more routes on Steelers RCB Artie Burns’ side of the field and Ratley will see more of LCB Joe Haden, Callaway is the preferred dart throw. Burns has been benched multiple times this season.

Score Prediction: Steelers 35, Browns 17

Baltimore @ Carolina
Team Totals: Ravens 23, Panthers 21

Cam Newton orchestrated a heroic Week 7 comeback win at Philadelphia, shaking off a brutal first half to complete 21-of-30 (70%) second-half throws for 245 yards (8.17 YPA) and two TDs en route to last week’s QB3 result. Newton is on pace to complete a career-high 65.6% of his passes, equal his career high in rushes (139), and take a career-low 27 sacks. Cam’s touchdown-pass pace (29) would be his second most, and Newton’s 11 INTs would be his second fewest. This matchup is inarguably tough; just 1-of-7 quarterbacks to face Baltimore has logged top-12 scores, while the Ravens have yielded a league-low eight touchdown passes and held 5-of-7 opponents to 12 points or fewer. Nevertheless, Cam’s return home, high floor, and career-best consistency render him a matchup-proof QB1. He has multiple TD passes in five straight games with QB16 results or better in 6-of-6 starts. For the forward thinkers: Cam’s Weeks 13-16 fantasy-playoffs schedule is a dream (TB, CLE, NO, ATL). … Holding enemy backs to 3.45 yards per carry with just two all-purpose TDs in seven games, the Ravens reproved their run-defense mettle by stymieing Saints backs for a 29/96/1 (3.31 YPC) rushing line in last week’s loss. Baltimore’s 22.6 receiving yards per game yielded to running backs are the NFL's second fewest. As Carolina’s offensive line ranks No. 2 in average yards created before contact (3.5) and No. 6 in Football Outsiders’ run-blocking metrics, it’s still not crazy to believe Christian McCaffrey could surprise on the ground. With five-plus catches in 5-of-6 games, CMC is a fade-matchup, bet-on-usage RB1 start.

Cam’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Devin Funchess 47, McCaffrey 46; Torrey Smith 27; Jarius Wright 26; D.J. Moore 18; Greg Olsen 14; Curtis Samuel 5. … Funchess had negative 2017 splits with Olsen on the field, but they haven’t rolled over. His 19 combined targets since Olsen (foot) returned in Week 6 are tied for the most during any two-game stretch of Funchess’ career. As Michael Thomas (7/69/1) showed last week, Ravens top corner Jimmy Smith has struggled since coming off suspension with 7-of-8 targets allowed for 124 yards and a TD in the last two weeks. Smith gave up a 32-yard gain to Thomas and a 24-yarder the week before to Corey Davis. Making his contract-year leap, Funchess ran a gorgeous slant-and-go route to whip Eagles top CB Ronald Darby on last week’s 18-yard TD. … In Weeks 4-7, tight ends caught 25-of-31 targets (80.6%) for 303 yards (9.8 YPA) against the Ravens, including Ben Watson’s season-best 6/43/1 receiving line last week. Olsen has been quiet since returning from his foot injury, but he ran the NFL’s third-most routes among tight ends (73) in Weeks 6-7 and caught last week’s game-winning goal-line score. He remains a confident TE1 play. … Wright, Moore, and Samuel get mild usage bumps with Smith (knee) sidelined against a Ravens secondary holding enemy WR corps to the NFL’s third-fewest yards per game (137.6). Moore has the best chance to start in Smith's place and is the highest-ceiling dart throw in the group.

Joe Flacco visits Carolina with top-12 fantasy scores in 4-of-7 starts but QB20 or worse results in his other three. As Baltimore’s rushing attack has disappointed and its passing game flashed explosiveness, Flacco has volume on his side with the NFL’s third-most pass attempts per game (43.3) behind Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. The Panthers have surrendered multiple touchdown passes in five straight games and struggled to rush the passer, ranking 19th in sacks (16) and 25th in QB hit rate (13.1%). … Alex Collins enters Week 8 with uneven touch counts of 14 – 19 – 13 – 12 – 21 over the last five weeks, while Javorius Allen has touched the ball just 6 and 4 times in two games since losing a Week 5 fumble. Despite Collins’ inconsistency, this game sets up better for him against a Panthers Defense that has yielded an efficient 109/502/2 (4.62 YPC) rushing line to enemy backs. Allen’s value is limited to the passing game, where Carolina’s 173 receiving yards allowed to the position are third fewest in the NFL. In RT James Hurst (back) and LG Alex Lewis (neck), the Ravens will play Week 8 without two starters up front.

Flacco’s Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Michael Crabtree 64; John Brown 54; Willie Snead 50; Allen 33; Nick Boyle 24; Mark Andrews 21; Collins 18; Maxx Williams 14; Chris Moore 12; Hayden Hurst 5. … Kept quiet by Marshon Lattimore (5/66/0) in Week 7, target leader Crabtree still has 60-plus yards in four of his last five games and five-plus receptions in five of his last six. Crabtree has settled in as a stable WR3 play after his drop-filled start. … As Lattimore chased Crabtree, Brown went bonkers (7/134/1) against the Saints and nearly scored twice, only to get tackled at the two-yard line at the end of his 56-yard gain. “Smokey” has reemerged as one of the NFL’s most-explosive wideouts with a league-high four 40-plus-yard catches and the third-most Air Yards (1,014) in football. Regardless of matchups, Brown’s spiked-week ability locks him in as an upside WR2. I'd expect Panthers plus-sized CB James Bradberry to chase Crabtree while Brown draws speedy rookie CB Donte Jackson. … Snead hasn’t cleared 60 yards all year and is scoreless since Week 1. With seven or more targets in six of his last seven games, Snead is a PPR-specific WR4 who became more interesting when he popped as Week 8's No. 2 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model. … The Ravens’ four-man tight end committee remains safe to ignore.

Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Ravens 23

 

 

4:05 PM ET Game

Indianapolis @ Oakland
Team Totals: Colts 26.5, Raiders 23.5

Actively shedding young talent with the NFL’s third-worst point differential (-66) in an obvious tank year, the Raiders draw a Colts Defense that yielded consecutive scores of 37 - 38 - 42 before holding Derek Anderson's Bills to five points last week. 5-of-7 passers to face Indy have logged fantasy results of QB15 or worse, while Derek Carr has finished above QB18 just once in six starts under Jon Gruden. Monday’s Amari Cooper trade is hardly a surefire downgrade; Cooper ranked just 53rd among 82 wideouts in PFF’s yards per route run (1.35) – same as Jordy Nelson -- with one TD in six games. In a potential shootout, Carr is a viable if low-end streamer with some DFS-tournament appeal. … With Marshawn Lynch (core muscle) on I.R., Doug Martin inherits Oakland’s lead-rusher role to face a Colts Defense that permitted a juicy 120/554/3 (4.62 YPC) rushing line to running backs in its last five games. Unfortunately, Martin has shown nothing since the 2015 season, pathetically averaging 3.00 yards on 309 carries across 2016-2018 with two missed tackles forced (PFF) on 31 touches this year. Perhaps the Raiders’ biggest 2018 disappointment has been offensive line play; Oakland’s once-studly front five ranks dead last in yards created before contact per carry (1.8). … Particularly versus an Indy team yielding the NFL’s second-most catches (49) to enemy backs, passing-down maven Jalen Richard is a more-enticing PPR play. Despite an early bye, Richard ranks top ten among NFL backs in targets (37), catches (31), and receiving yards (253). And it’s hardly out of the question Richard will see an uptick in post-Lynch carries.

Cooper and Lynch’s departures free up 8.7 targets per game. Pre-Week 7 bye target leader Jared Cook is among those set to benefit against the Colts’ zone coverage, which is missing FS Malik Hooker (hip) after surrendering the NFL’s third-most catches (42) and eighth-most yards (477) to tight ends in Weeks 1-7. Although Cook had back-to-back quiet weeks before the open date, he ranked No. 8 among NFL tight ends in routes run in Weeks 5-6 and now gets a volume bump. … Jordy Nelson also becomes a more-intriguing WR3/flex. Nelson is third on the Raiders in catches (22) behind Cook and Richard, and the Colts have given up the NFL’s ninth-most receptions to wideouts (95). Jordy is second on the team in red-zone targets (5) behind Cook (11). … Cooper led Oakland in Air Yards (338), and Martavis Bryant was right behind him (307) on ten fewer targets. Bryant has been wildly error prone, but his big-play potential has flashed. Bryant also logged season highs in snaps (72%) and routes (34) in Oakland’s pre-bye loss to Seattle. He’s squarely in the WR3/flex and DFS-tournament hunt. … Seth Roberts will also see more opportunity. The fifth-year slot man popped as Week 8's No. 5 buy-low receiver in Josh Hermsmeyer's Air Yards model, putting Roberts on the radar as a PPR-specific WR4/flex.

Andrew Luck visits Oakland having gone a career-high 125 straight pass attempts without taking a sack to face a Raiders Defense that is the league’s unlikeliest to threaten his streak with NFL lows in sacks (7) and QB hit rate (10.5%). Luck has 15 TD passes in the last month, bringing his 2018 total to 20 to quietly threaten Patrick Mahomes’ league lead (22). Oakland gave up top-12 fantasy weeks to Ryan Tannehill, Philip Rivers, and Russell Wilson in three of its last four games. In between, Baker Mayfield flamed them for 295 yards and multiple scores in The Black Hole for Mayfield’s first NFL start. Fresh off four straight top-eight fantasy results, Luck is a high-floor, high-ceiling play. … Marlon Mack’s emergence is similarly exciting with a game-breaking 31/215/1 (6.94 YPC) rushing line and 3/37/1 receiving in Weeks 6-7. Mack had a tendency to bounce runs outside on college tape and was tackled at or behind the line at the NFL’s second-highest clip (33%) last year. Mack has been far more decisive in October, combining flashes of interior power with his trademark burst. Most importantly, GM Chris Ballard finally fixed the Colts offensive line! First-round picks LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Quenton Nelson, and C Ryan Kelly are healthy, December 2017 waiver claim Mark Glowinski has solidified right guard, and second-round rookie Braden Smith locked down right tackle. Mack set Week 7 career highs in playing time (59%) and carries (19). The Raiders’ plodding defense has been gashed for 138/674/5 (4.88 YPC) rushing by enemy backs. … As Mack barely practiced with an ankle injury this week, Nyheim Hines remains stash worthy in PPR leagues. Hines served as the Colts’ Weeks 3-5 lead back with Mack hamstrung, logging 10 – 13 – 23 touch counts on 73% - 68% - 68% playing-time clips. A PPR machine, Hines’ target totals were 5 – 11 – 9 in the three games before Mack returned.

Luck’s Week 7 target distribution: Eric Ebron 7; T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers 4; Mack 3; Hines 2; Jordan Wilkins, Erik Swoope, and Mo Alie-Cox 1. … Jack Doyle is (hip) is off the injury report, while Swoope (knee) is out indefinitely. Doyle drew 10 and 5 targets in Weeks 1-2 and should be added in season-long leagues where he was dropped, but he is difficult to trust in a timeshare with Ebron after a month away. ... Despite last week’s scoreless 31-yard clunker, Ebron led the Colts in targets and Air Yards (59) in a 37-5 blowout of the Bills where Luck needed a season-low 23 attempts for the win. Until shown otherwise, Ebron remains an every-week focal point of Indianapolis’ passing game and every-week TE1. It's entirely possible Ebron begins trending downward soon, however, with Hilton and Doyle back and the Colts potentially throwing the ball less with a viable rushing attack. … Fantasy leaguers who rolled the Week 7 dice on Hilton lucked into two short TDs; T.Y. set season lows in targets, routes run (22), and Air Yards (24) in the smooth-sailing win. Even against a tanking team, Hilton will likely be needed more in this week's mouth-watering draw. Oakland has permitted the NFL’s fifth-most 20-plus-yard completions (28) and a league-high seven 40-plus-yard pass plays. Discombobulated in the secondary, the Raiders benched CBs Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin for retreads Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Daryl Worley in their pre-bye blowout loss to Seattle. … Rogers’ target counts in games left early or missed altogether by Hilton are 11 – 11 – 10. Rogers’ target counts in games Hilton has played fully or nearly fully are 3 – 3 – 4 – 4.

Score Prediction: Colts 28, Raiders 27

4:25 PM ET Games

Green Bay @ LA Rams
Team Totals: Rams 33, Packers 24

Packers-Rams sets up as a track meet with Week 8’s highest total (57) and Todd Gurley at the forefront, favored at home versus a Green Bay defense that generously coughed up 126/591/5 (4.69 YPC) rushing to enemy backs in the initial six weeks. Gurley has hit pay dirt in ten straight games, and Adam Levitan noted this week Gurley is on pace for 32 all-purpose running back TDs, which would break LaDainian Tomlinson’s single-season record (31). Red-zone maven Cooper Kupp's (MCL) continued absence further enhances Gurley's scoring outlook. Sean McVay’s unstoppable offense has generated 30-plus points in 6-of-7 weeks. On average, the 7-0 Rams are winning by an otherworldly 15.3-point margin. After the Packers edged out the 49ers 33-30 at Lambeau in Week 6, the Rams stomped the same Niners team 39-10 last week in San Francisco. … Due largely to Gurley’s rushing-TD dominance, Jared Goff has been more floor than ceiling play with top-16 fantasy results in 5-of-7 starts but only two top-12 scores. 5-of-6 quarterbacks to face Green Bay have finished QB16 or worse. Los Angeles’ massive team total and Goff’s minimal downside still lock him in as a rock-solid start.

 

 

Goff’s Week 7 target distribution: Robert Woods 7; Gurley and Brandin Cooks 5; Gerald Everett and Nick Williams 2; Josh Reynolds and Malcolm Brown 1. … Woods replaced Kupp in the slot in each of the last two weeks and led the team in targets in both. The Packers have rotated rookies Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander at slot corner, and PFF has charged them with a combined 20-of-30 (67%) targets allowed for 248 yards (8.3 YPA) and a touchdown on interior routes. Leading the NFC’s highest-scoring offense in Air Yards (653), Woods is a WR1 in this shootout game. … Cooks is right on Woods’ Air Yards tail (579) despite missing Week 5. Otherwise, Cooks has 80-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 5-of-6 games. Green Bay has surrendered the NFL’s fourth-most TDs to wide receivers (10). … Albeit in a run-first Week 7 game for the Rams, Reynolds disappointed with one target on 15 routes run, playing 84% of the snaps. Cooks ran 27 routes; Woods 26. Reynolds remains in play as a WR4 dart throw based purely on opportunity and offensive environment. … Everett has drawn four targets or fewer in 7-of-7 games.

Hamstring and knee injuries combined with poor supporting-cast health hurt Aaron Rodgers’ September production, but he entered last week’s bye with a bang on QB1 (Lions) and QB4 (49ers) scores in Weeks 5-6, also topping 30 rushing yards in two of his final three pre-bye starts. The off week to rest Rodgers’ legs was timely; his mobility will be critical to avoid Rams DTs Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on boots and rollouts, where Rodgers makes so many of his highlight-reel plays. Facing McVay’s juggernaut will elevate Green Bay’s urgency to score, while Rams DC Wade Phillips’ unit permitted an 11:3 TD-to-INT ratio over its last five games. Rodgers has the NFL’s third-highest QB rating when blitzed (130.1), convenient versus a Rams Defense that relies on selective blitzing for its league-high 37% pressure rate. Beyond Patrick Mahomes, no quarterback on the Week 8 slate can touch Rodgers’ ceiling. … One way to attempt to slow the Rams’ offense would be to run the ball at Phillips’ front, which has yielded an efficient 135/625/3 (4.63 YPC) rushing line and the NFL’s fifth-most receptions (46) to enemy backs. Yet stubborn Packers coach Mike McCarthy refuses to scrap his rhythm-killing three-way RBBC. In Green Bay’s pre-bye win over San Francisco, top-talent Aaron Jones managed eight touches on a backfield-low 27% snap rate with Jamaal Williams (7, 38%) and Ty Montgomery (6, 37%) rounding out the corps. Jones’ touch counts since coming off suspension are 7 – 11 – 9 – 8, and he has never reached 20 receiving yards in an NFL game. Until we see tangible change – and McCarthy has promised we won’t – all three will be low-floor flex options.

An 81% perimeter wideout, Davante Adams offers week-winning upside against overmatched Rams outside CBs Marcus Peters and Troy Hill. Fighting through a calf injury, PFF charged Peters with 16-of-19 targets (84%) allowed for 271 yards (14.3 YPA) and five touchdowns over his last five games. After recently replacing struggling Sam Shields, Hill conceded 11-of-16 targets (69%) for 208 yards (13.0 YPA) and a score in Weeks 6-7. The Rams’ backend has coughed up the NFL’s seventh-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (26), while Adams has scored ten touchdowns over his last ten games. Rodgers-to-Adams deserves to be one of this week’s most-popular DFS stacks. … Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb are due back from their multi-week hamstring injuries, but rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling's impressive fill-in play casts some doubt on their roles. Allison was a three-drop trainwreck before going down in Week 4. Cobb was also a pass-dropping, fumbling liability. Versatile 4.37 burner Valdes-Scantling hasn’t dropped a pass this year and adds a new dimension to the offense, averaging 17.7 yards per catch with 67% of his routes in the slot. I'd rank them Allison > Cobb > MVS as Week 8 plays. … Dusted by George Kittle in Week 7 (5/98/1), the Rams have allowed the league’s ninth-most catches (37) and fifth-most yards (499) to tight ends. Only four NFL tight ends had more Air Yards than Jimmy Graham (425) in Weeks 1-6.

Score Prediction: Rams 34, Packers 33

San Francisco @ Arizona
Team Totals: 49ers 22, Cardinals 21

After last Thursday night’s embarrassing 45-10 home loss, the Cardinals fired geriatric OC Mike McCoy to promote QBs coach Byron Leftwich, a Bruce Arians disciple who interned on Arizona’s 2016 staff for David Johnson’s 20-TD campaign and maintains close ties to Arians, who emphasized feeding Johnson in space rather than banging him inside the tackles. Leftwich still must overcome an offensive line that ranks dead last in yards created before contact per carry (1.8) and is missing top run-blocker LG Mike Iupati (shoulder). The 49ers have limited enemy backs to 4.01 yards per carry, although they’ve given up ten all-purpose TDs and the NFL’s tenth-most receptions (45) to the position. With 17-plus touches in all four Josh Rosen starts, Johnson is at worst a quality RB2. Johnson needs Leftwich to get him on the edges and re-involved heavily in the passing game to recapture RB1 value. … Rosen’s fantasy results are QB23 – QB27 – QB25 – QB27, rendering him a poor two-quarterback-league option. Rosen will play through turf toe on his left foot. … Larry Fitzgerald leads the Cards in targets from Rosen (26) and plays inside, where slot WRs Golden Tate (7/109/0), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3/103/0), Adam Thielen (6/102/0), Robert Woods (5/78/0), and Keenan Allen (7/63/0) have produced at or above expectation against the Niners. … Christian Kirk’s stat lines in Rosen’s starts are 4/28/0 – 3/85/1 – 6/77/0 – 3/57/0, putting Kirk on the WR3/4 fringe. … Ricky Seals-Jones’ stat lines in Rosen’s four starts are 2/52/0 – 0/0 – 5/69/0 – 2/12/0.

C.J. Beathard fell apart in last week’s loss to the Rams, going 2-of-9 for 21 yards with a pick and seven sacks taken on 16 pressured dropbacks. The Cardinals’ defensive strength is pass rush, ranking No. 8 in sacks (20) and No. 5 in QB hit rate (17%). Beathard maintains two-quarterback-league appeal but is also a target for Arizona D/ST streamers. Across nine NFL starts, Beathard has committed 17 turnovers and absorbed 31 sacks. … Somehow, someway, Matt Breida (ankle) returned to practice on Friday and is on track to face the Cardinals, who have allowed the NFL’s most fantasy points on 35.0 touches per game to enemy backs. Battling injuries to seemingly every body part, Breida lasted fewer than 15 snaps in two of the last three games, and is an obvious risk playing far short of full health. Despite the plus matchup, Breida is a low-floor flex option. … Raheem Mostert was San Francisco’s most-explosive back the past two games with 165 yards on 23 touches, while Alfred Morris managed 25 scoreless yards on nine carries with no receptions and Breida mustered 76 yards and a TD on 19 touches. Breida limped all over the field in last week’s blowout, also losing a first-quarter fumble. Even if Breida plays, the seas seem likely to part for healthy-and-effective Mostert behind a mauling 49ers line that ranks No. 4 in yards created before contact per carry (3.2). Regardless of Breida’s availability, Mostert is the highest-floor, highest-ceiling play in the group.

Beathard’s Weeks 4-7 targets: George Kittle 29; Pierre Garcon 26; Kyle Juszczyk 16; Kendrick Bourne 15; Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor 14; Morris 9; Mostert 5; Breida 4. … Kittle is up to third among NFL tight ends in yards (527), fourth in catches (32), and second in yards per reception (16.5). With commanding team leads in red-zone targets (8) and targets inside the ten (5), Kittle is a no-brainer TE1. He dropped 83 scoreless yards on seven targets when these clubs met in Week 5. … Goodwin is always a long-ball threat, although he figures to draw shadow treatment from Patrick Peterson, who shut down Stefon Diggs (3/33/0) in Week 6 and Demaryius Thomas (5/42/0) in Week 7. … With Garcon (knee) doubtful, the 49ers will turn to some combination of Bourne and rookie Dante Pettis opposite Goodwin with Taylor in the slot. Pettis is finally back from a Week 4 knee injury, and Bourne has played roughly half of San Francisco’s offensive snaps for the last month. Taylor has cleared 30 yards in 1-of-6 games.

Score Prediction: 49ers 21, Cardinals 20

Sunday Night Football

New Orleans @ Minnesota
Team Totals: Saints 26, Vikings 26

Saints-Vikings offers shootout potential beneath Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium dome in a rematch of last January’s Divisional Round game, played to a 29-24 thrilling finish on Stefon Diggs’ final-snap 61-yard score. As New Orleans has permitted the NFL’s second-highest passer rating (112.2) and third-most yards per attempt (8.7) while ranking bottom ten in sack rate (5.8%) and second to last in QB hit rate (10.6%), Kirk Cousins should experience one of his cleanest pockets all season with breakout potential for Minnesota’s deep passing attack. Cousins has been a high-floor fantasy producer with top-16 results in 5-of-7 starts. This environment and matchup raise his Week 8 ceiling. … Cousins’ arm will be especially leaned upon against a Saints Defense that continues to eliminate ground attacks. DC Dennis Allen’s unit has stymied enemy backs for a 104/286/3 (2.87 YPC) rushing line, including last week’s 16/41/0 (2.56 YPC) shutdown of Alex Collins and Javorius Allen in Baltimore. Ultimately, Latavius Murray is a fade-matchup, volume-based RB2 coming off 25- and 17-touch Weeks 6-7 games. Murray logged 67 yards and a touchdown on 21 touches against the Saints in last January’s playoff win.

Cousins’ Weeks 1-7 target distribution: Adam Thielen 89; Stefon Diggs 73; Kyle Rudolph 36; Laquon Treadwell 32; Murray 15; Aldrick Robinson 8. … The Saints shadowed Thielen with Marshon Lattimore last January, holding him to 74 scoreless yards on nine targets. Thielen aligned at outside receiver then more than he does now, however, and he played with multiple transverse process fractures in his back. Now healthy, Thielen is running 61% of his routes inside, where Lattimore plays on just 3% of snaps. Entering with seven straight, Thielen can equal Calvin Johnson's all-time record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games in Week 8. … Diggs is likelier to encounter Lattimore, although Diggs runs 24% of his routes inside and has 31% of his catches in the slot. This game’s high-scoring projection combined with New Orleans’ struggles against vertical passes should keep Diggs locked in as an upside WR2. John Brown deftly exploited those deficiencies (7/134/1) last week. Diggs has double-digit targets in five of his last six games. … Rudolph managed 28 scoreless yards on eight targets in these teams’ playoff meeting and has shown minimal 2018 upside on 5.1 targets per game. Facing a Saints Defense that has allowed the NFL’s second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, Rudolph is a touchdown-or-bust option.

Drew Brees particularly starred in January’s Divisional Round amid popular claims he’d lost his fastball after the Saints’ run-heavy 2017 regular season. Facing a Vikings Defense that was in stronger condition than it is now, Brees overcame a bumpy start to drop 294 yards and three touchdowns on Mike Zimmer’s team, positioning the Saints for comeback victory before Diggs’ walk-off score. This year, Brees has a perfect 13:0 TD-to-INT ratio with top-15 fantasy finishes in 5-of-6 starts, including three top-three results. Brees also has the NFL’s highest passer rating when blitzed (132.9), which will come in handy against a Minnesota defense that blitzes at a top-ten clip (28%). Although RE Everson Griffen (personal) is due back, the Vikings are likely to be without CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle). Both SLB Anthony Barr (hamstring) and FS Andrew Sendejo (groin) were ruled out. … Whereas Mark Ingram was stymied for 28 scoreless yards on 11 touches in New Orleans’ playoff loss to Minnesota, Alvin Kamara caused Zimmer’s team fits with 105 yards and a score on 15 touches. The Saints returned from their Week 6 bye with Kamara out-snapping (55%, 49%) and out-touching Ingram (19, 14) in last week’s win at Baltimore. Based on last year’s stretch run, this is a likelier workshare than Ingram’s pre-bye backfield domination against Washington. As key injuries threaten Minnesota’s defensive stoutness, Kamara is a confident RB1 and Ingram a viable RB2/flex.

Brees’ Week 7 targets: Michael Thomas 9; Ben Watson and Tre’Quan Smith 6; Dan Arnold 3; Kamara and Ingram 2; Cameron Meredith 0. … Fresh off schooling (7/69/1) Ravens top CB Jimmy Smith in last week’s win, Thomas appears likely to catch the Vikings without their top corner after beating up on them for 7/85/2 last January with Rhodes on the field. Thomas has caught 91.4% of his targets this year. Among wide receivers with 20-plus targets, Taylor Gabriel and Danny Amendola’s catch rates (79%) are tied for a distant second. … Although Watson turned in a year-best 6/43/1 receiving line in Week 7, his usage didn’t shift as a part-time player on 51% of the snaps, running fewer than 20 routes for the third straight game. Zimmer’s defense has been throttled by fellow TEs Zach Ertz (10/110/1), Jimmy Graham (6/95/0), George Kittle (5/90/0), and Chris Herndon (4/42/1), giving Watson matchup-driven streamer playability in a possible shootout. … Through two games in Ted Ginn’s (knee, I.R.) old role, Smith has drawn 3 and 6 targets on 67% and 73% of the snaps. Smith’s route totals are 29 and 23 versus 20 and 11 for Meredith. Fighting for usage scraps with each other, Watson, and situational WR/TE Arnold behind the running backs and Thomas, Smith and Meredith are headed for rocky box-score roads. Smith is clearly the superior WR4/flex dart throw, and Rhodes’ absence would be ill timed for Minnesota after first-round CB Mike Hughes tore his ACL in Week 6.

Score Prediction: Vikings 30, Saints 27

 

 

Monday Night Football

New England @ Buffalo
Team Totals: Patriots 29, Bills 15

The Bills are a weekly attack target for D/STs; ex-Rotoworlder Mike Clay noted this week that defenses facing Buffalo have logged top-three fantasy finishes in 5-of-7 weeks. Now quarterbacked by 35-year-old statue Derek Anderson, Buffalo has scored 13 points or fewer in 5-of-7 games. Anderson committed four Week 7 turnovers and should have thrown four picks, yet Colts DL Margus Hunt dropped No. 4. Anderson struggled with back and calf injuries during the practice week. … The subject of trade rumors and concussed last week, LeSean McCoy looks unlikely to face New England. Chris Ivory logged 19 touches off the bench in Week 7 and 23 when McCoy missed Week 3 against the Vikings, giving Ivory volume-driven RB2 appeal versus a soft Pats defense that has yielded a 141/628/2 (4.45 YPC) rushing line and the league’s fourth-most receiving yards (427) to enemy backs. … Anderson’s Week 7 target distribution: Ivory and Marcus Murphy 6; Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, and Charles Clay 5; Andre Holmes and Jason Croom 2. … Between Carolina and Buffalo, Benjamin’s four career stat lines in Anderson starts are 6/92/1 – 8/104/0 – 5/70/0 – 4/71/0. Unfortunately, Benjamin is sure to draw Stephon Gilmore, who shut down Allen Robinson (1/4/0) last week and has allowed just 6-of-18 (33.3%) targets against him to be complete for 51 scoreless yards (2.83 YPA) in the last month -- true shutdown-cornerback territory. … Jones has fewer than 40 yards in 6-of-7 games. … Clay is scoreless in 18 straight.

Buffalo’s stingy defense is a theoretical obstacle for the white-hot Patriots, having allowed the NFL’s fourth-fewest yards per play (5.1) and 22 points or fewer in four of its last five games. Yet Sean McDermott’s defense played at an even higher 2017 level and got pasted twice by Bill Belichick’s team, 23-3 and 37-16. … Tom Brady’s 2017 yardage/touchdown/interception totals versus Buffalo underwhelmed at 258/0/1 and 224/2/1, although this year’s Patriots have flashed signs of becoming an unstoppable force with consecutive point totals of 38 – 38 – 43 – 38. Andrew Luck dropped last week’s QB5 result on these same Bills, who will be without No. 2 pass rusher Trent Murphy (knee). … Sony Michel’s latest knee injury thrusts James White into New England’s feature back role after White set a Week 7 career high in carries (11) on season highs in snaps (70%) and touches (19). Now a team captain and more trusted than ever, White’s draw is mouth watering versus a Bills Defense that has allowed nine all-purpose running back TDs in seven games. White leads all non-Saquon Barkley backs in targets (61), catches (45), and receiving yards (380). He also leads the Pats in red-zone targets (11) and targets inside the ten (5). White juked Bears OLB Leonard Floyd out of his jock on one of last week’s two receiving TDs and led New England in targets for the fifth time in seven games. His second TD came on a jet-action pass – really a handoff – from Brady … Kenjon Barner offers desperation dart-throw appeal after logging ten carries in Week 7’s one-score win over Chicago. Barner has 16 rushes on 32 snaps as a Patriot but has not drawn a single target.

Rob Gronkowski is slated to return from back spasms to face his hometown team. Beginning with most recent, the Buffalo native’s seven career stat lines at New Era Field are 9/147/0 - 5/109/1 - 7/113/1 - 7/94/0 - 5/104/1 - 7/109/2 - 4/54/2. … Julian Edelman’s target counts since coming off suspension are 9 – 7 -- 8. In only three games, Edelman already ranks second on the Patriots in red-zone targets (7) and targets inside the ten (4). Edelman is an opponent-agnostic WR2. … Josh Gordon set Week 7 season highs in playing time (95%) and production (4/100/0) in last week’s win over the Bears, while Brady demonstrated trust in Gordon on a contested fourth-down 21-yard gain. Later, Gordon’s big-play ability shined on a 55-yard catch and run. Gordon figures to draw Tre’Davious White’s Week 8 shadow coverage, although fellow No. 1 WRs Adam Thielen (14/105/0), Davante Adams (8/81/0), DeAndre Hopkins (5/63/1), John Brown (3/44/1), and T.Y. Hilton (4/25/2) have all delivered against Buffalo. … Last week was Hogan’s first above five targets (7), yet he’s been targeted in the red zone just twice. Hogan’s probability of more scoring-position usage lessens with Gronkowski back. … Phillip Dorsett ran 3 and 7 routes compared to 32 and 32 for Hogan in Weeks 6-7, while Cordarrelle Patterson’s route counts were 3 and 3. Among New England’s role-player complementary pass catchers, Hogan remains our best bet.

Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Bills 7

Evan Silva
Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .