It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the halfway point of the NFL season. The good news is that we finally have a decent feel for how each team likes to play and where targets may lie. The bad news is as the season drags on, injuries become a greater part of the decision-making process. Let’s take a look at the Week 8 games and try to figure out which players should be on or off your radars.
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Baltimore at Cincinnati – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 46 Points
Spread: CIN -1.5
The Ravens and Bengals meet for the 2nd time this season and both teams couldn’t possibly be trending in more opposite directions. The Ravens are red hot, winning their last two games by a combined 53 points and the Bengals have lost two and tied one in their last three. Their two losses in that span have come by that same 53 point margin. But looking back at Week 1, the Ravens lost their home opener to Cincinnati by 7 and can’t afford to drop another one to the Bengals in the race for the AFC North crown. They head to Bengal country as a 1.5 point underdog which is actually good news for targeting Baltimore passing weapons since Vegas at least projects this game to be air tight. Joe Flacco might be the definition of hit or miss this season with 3 300+ yard games and 3 games under 250 passing yards. Luckily for him he draws a Bengals defense that has been a train wreck since their bye week in Week 4. In those three weeks, Cincinnati is allowing the 2nd most FPPG to opposing QBs. These are the three opposing QB game logs and keep in mind it includes two games where they were so far behind late that opponents didn’t really need to throw:
- Week 5 vs. Tom Brady – 292 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT, 13 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 20.98 FP
- Week 6 vs. Cam Newton – 284 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 107 RuYd, 1 RuTD, 35.06 FP
- Week 7 vs. Andrew Luck – 344 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT, 5 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 22.26 FP
Those are some miserable stat lines for a defense to allow and in comes the a fore mentioned Flacco, who looks to be in a great position come Sunday. As far as the weapons for Flacco go, we should see a decent amount of Torrey Smith lined up against Adam Jones with Leon Hall down and while Pacman is the #25 rated corner on PFF he still has allowed 247 yards and a TD on 36 targets against. On the other side of the field, Steve Smith will get a heavy dose of Terence Newman, who has rated out as the #50 corner on PFF but in 10 Week 1 targets vs. BAL allowed 7 receptions for 62 yards. In that game, Steve Smith Sr. totaled 15 targets, 7 receptions, 118 yards and a TD including an 80 yard TD with Adam Pacman Jones in coverage. The Bengals shaded a lot of their coverage towards Torrey Smith in Week 1, but look for them to be a little more balanced given how solid Steve has been through the first 7 weeks of the regular season. The last receiver to mention here is Owen Daniels who is coming off a huge game against the Falcons defense. Daniels had 6 catches for 58 yards and a TD leading up to this weekend’s game with the worst defense against TE’s so far this season. The Bengals are banged up at linebacker (Burflict is expected to return this week but Lamur is out) and they’ve really struggled at defending the TE position. An opposing TE has a touchdown against their defense in each of the last three games, including both TE’s for New England finding pay dirt.
Update: Owen Daniels has been ruled out this week. Crockett Gilmore will start at TE for the Ravens but is unproven and is an extremely risky, min-priced option
Rushing the ball for the Ravens will continue to fall mostly to Justin Forsett. The only real concern with Forsett is that Bernard Pierce has just 1 fewer red zone opportunity this season despite playing only four games. The last two weeks, Pierce has out-touched Forsett in the red zone and it has led to 2 Pierce touchdowns compared to none for Forsett. Forsett will continue to be the work horse back but his upside is severely limited if he can’t find the end zone. The Bengals defense hasn’t been great against the run (#22 in FPPG allowed to opposing RBs) so there is certainly an opportunity to be exploited but temper your expectations here a bit as long as Pierce is heavily involved inside the 20 yard line.
For the Bengals offense, despite all of A.J. Green’s chatter it looks as though he won’t be suiting up for the Week 8 rematch against the Ravens. It’s really too bad because his last three games against Baltimore have added up to 18 receptions, 343 receiving yards and 3 TDs. That means Mohamed Sanu will have to step up and play much better than he did in Week 7 when he was absolutely swallowed up by the Colts secondary (and specifically Vontae Davis). This week he’ll probably see a lot of Jimmy Smith in coverage. Smith is the #4 rated corner on PFF and if the Ravens decide they want to shadow the only real pass catching option for Andy Dalton right now, Cincinnati’s offensive attack could be in some serious trouble. Last week, Sanu was targeted 9 times but had just 3 catches for 54 yards. No other WR had more than 2 targets and it led to a lot of Dalton checking down to Jermaine Gresham, who had 12 targets. He did haul in 10 catches but did so for a measly 48 receiving yards and no touchdowns. The check down may not be as straight forward this week against a Baltimore defense allowing the 4th fewest FPPG to opposing TEs. On the season, only one opposing TE has found the end zone against them as well. So who could potentially step up? Well that brings us to the RB analysis for Cincy.
Gio Bernard was hung out to dry in Week 7, literally and figuratively. Literally speaking, there were a few passes where Dalton led him directly into some of the biggest hits you’ll ever see. I’m pretty sure Vontae Davis pronounced Bernard legally dead for a few seconds in the 2nd quarter on a quick screen pass. Still, Bernard was essential in the passing game in the Week 1 victory over these Ravens. He had 6 catches for 62 yards on a season-high 10 targets. He had 48 more yards on the ground, but with Gio you’re really hoping his reception numbers get up there to increase his ceiling in the DK scoring system. With Green out, he’s going to be locked into around 5 targets per game minimum and while Baltimore has locked down RB’s in the passing game over their last 5 games, they really haven’t faced any strong pass catching backs. The only two in a similar category to Bernard are Gio himself and Le’Veon Bell in Week 2. Bell had 5 catches for 48 yards. Gio needs to have a huge games if the Bengals want to right the ship and beat their division rivals, so look for Dalton to try and get him more involved in the early going.
- Joe Flacco – $6500
- Justin Forsett – $5100
- Torrey Smith – $4400
- Giovani Bernard – $6100
Houston at Tennessee – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 43.5 Points
Spread: HOU -1.5
‘An AFC South battle for the ages’ is what no one is likely to call this game. The Texans and Titans clash in Tennessee in a game between two teams who shot themselves in the foot last week. Houston collapsed at the end of the first half to relinquish their lead against the Steelers, who never looked back. Tennessee blew a late lead to the Redskins with a slew of boneheaded plays. Now they meet in what should be a mistake-riddled game. The big news this week is that Zach Mettenberg will start for Tennessee and it has to be a slight upgrade at least from Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst hadn’t thrown for more than 233 yards in any of his four games this year. The bad news for Titans fans is that the rookie QB will have to deal with JJ Watt and likely JaDeveon Clowney up front for the Texans. For a Titans offensive line that ranks in the lower half of football in pass protection, that could get ugly fast. As far as who Mettenberg will be throwing to, he could find some juicy matchups for Justin Hunter on the outside. He’ll lineup against either Johnathan Joseph or Andre Hal on the outside, both of whom rate 120th or worse on PFF’s coverage ratings. Hal could be an extra juicy matchup considering he’s allowed 9 catches for 100 yards and 2 TDs on 15 targets so far this season (in limited time to this point). Joseph is traditionally better than he’s played but as a team the Texans have allowed some big plays of late to speedsters Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton and most recently Martavis Bryant. The biggest concern for Hunter is whether Mettenberg has enough time to let the play develop to hit Hunter on those deep throws. Still, Hunter has the 7th highest average depth of target in the NFL this season and those deep throws mean that eventually he’s going to post a huge stat line. Continue targeting him in tournaments with the potential upside that he brings to the table.
On the ground, the return of Shonn Greene this week accompanied by the foolish decision by Bishop Sankey to run out of bounds late last week could spell a nightmare situation. The Texans are allowing the 11th most FPPG to opposing backs this season and were torched by Le’Veon Bell in the passing game in Week 7. They’re now allowing 44 receiving yards per game to opposing backs and 108 rushing yards per game. Clearly, the strength of their pass rush hasn’t translated into good run stopping which makes this whole situation with the TEN backs really unfortunate. Sankey should be the workhorse back. He’s young and has much more upside for a team that is rebuilding. Unfortunately, when Greene was healthy through the first five weeks, he cut into Sankey’s workload. Sankey has received 18 and 16 carries over the last two games while playing about half the snaps, but look for Greene’s return to drop Sankey back in the 10-12 carry range which isn’t enough to justify targeting him in daily fantasy.
- Arian Foster – $8400
- Andre Johnson – $5300
- Bishop Sankey – $3300
- Justin Hunter – $3100
- Delanie Walker – $4300
St. Louis at Kansas City – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 44 Points
Spread: KC -6.5
The Rams are fresh off a huge win against the Seahawks where they literally pulled every trick in their book to beat their divisional foes. This is a road game for St. Louis but in the same state as they make the short journey to Kansas City. Offensively, they’re looking at a tough matchup against a Chiefs defense that ranks in the top-10 in defense vs. position ratings against every position other than the TE. With that said, Austin Davis continues to be more impressive than we expected. He only threw for 152 in Week 7 but had 2 touchdowns and the ever-important 0 interceptions against a strong Seattle secondary. The Rams didn’t throw much in that game but look for Davis to need to take on a much bigger role in a game where the Rams are 6.5 point dogs. Overall, the expected game flow looks like it could be a lot of Kansas City rushing and St. Louis throwing. St. Louis is throwing on over 60% of downs this season (largely because they’re typically playing from behind) and the Chiefs the 4th highest rush play percentage in the NFL at 47.94% of downs. For Davis’ weapons, Brian Quick has been good this year but will have a tough matchup on the majority of snaps with Sean Smith on the outside. Smith has graded out as the 12th best corner on ProFootballFocus this season while holding opponents to 1.59 fantasy points per target. On the other side, Kenny Britt has been fairly quiet this year but will get Jamell Fleming in coverage. Fleming has been solid as well but in limited time. The biggest hole in coverage could be Jared Cook against the linebackers and safeties of Kansas City. KC’s safeties are some of the weakest in football with Eric Berry out and that could lead to holes for Jared Cook who had just 3 targets last week but could be in for a nice bounce back since he had 10 and 11 targets in the two games prior. As mentioned before, the Chiefs have struggled with TE’s this season, allowing the 11th most FPPG. Last up is Tavon Austin who is the clear cut WR3 with Austin Pettis being cut last week. Austin plays primarily out of the slot and gets limited targets but given the weak safety play and the struggles of slot corner Chris Owens, Austin may be able to find space with the deep ball in Week 8. I’m far from recommending targeting him, but it’s worth watching for.
On the ground, last week Tre Mason took over the RB1 duties and had 18 carries for 85 yards and a TD. The Chiefs are pretty solid in FPPG allowed to tight ends but that hasn’t prevented them from allowing big yardage and it’s only a matter of time until that turns into more touchdowns. The Chiefs are 11th worst in rush yards per game allowed to opposing backs at just over 108 per contest and they’ve allowed two different 100+ yard rushers this season. Somehow, they’ve yet to allow a single rushing touchdown this season to an opposing RB. Mason is still extremely risky but he did play about half the snaps and got 18 carries on 27 snaps in Week 8. I don’t love the potential game flow here with STL projected to play from behind but if Mason sees 18 carries again we could see him reach value.
For the Chiefs offense, it all starts with the running game. As referenced above, the Chiefs run the ball on the 4th highest percentage of downs in football but they’ll have a tough matchup with this STL defense. The Rams are allowing the 5th fewest FPPG to opposing running backs but, much like KC, they might be lucking out in that department a bit. They’re allowing just under 100 rush yards per game and 2 backs have 100+ rushing yards against them in 2014. Jamaal Charles is fresh off a big game against the Chargers where he had 22 carries for 95 yards and a score. A healthy Charles looks like a safe bet for 20 carries and every back with at least 20 carries has a minimum of 75 rushing yards against the Rams this year. The biggest worry with Charles is that Davis is playing well enough behind him that he’s vulturing about 10-12 carries per game. The Chiefs run enough to compensate for that but it’s worth paying attention to.
In the passing game, there’s actually hope for a big game from Alex Smith if the Rams are able to keep this game close. The Rams are incredibly porous in their secondary and allowed 43 fantasy points to Russell Wilson last weekend (who had the rare 300+ PaYd and 100+ RuYd double bonus). Overall, they’re allowing the most FPPG to opposing QBs this season and they’ve been particularly bad over the last couple of games against division rivals San Francisco and Seattle:
- Week 6 vs. Colin Kaepernick – 343 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT, 37 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 32.42 FP
- Week 7 vs. Russell Wilson – 313 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT, 106 RuYd, 1 RuTD, 43.12 FP
Kaepernick and Wilson both have the rushing threat and while Smith isn’t known for being the most mobile QB, he’s still able to break a few runs each game. He has games of 29, 36 and 42 rushing yards this season which could certainly supplement his value in this specific matchup. On the outside, they’ll likely try and line Dwayne Bowe up across from Janoris Jenkins who has been a sieve in coverage. Jenkins is #147 on PFF in coverage and has allowed 304 receiving yards and 4 RecTDs on the season, for a whopping 2.33 fantasy points per target. Bowe is consistently sitting around 6-7 targets week in and week out so a simple projection would put him in the 15 point range which is pretty reasonable for his price tag. He’s really the only WR for the Chiefs who sees consistent targets as well with A.J. Jenkins and Frankie Hammond seeing a few targets with Junior Hemingway out. Beyond Bowe, Travis Kelce is the other pass-catcher heavily used in the offensive scheme. The issue with Kelce is that he’s a mess in rush blocking and pass blocking, so he’s really only used in clear cut passing downs. With the Chiefs as 6.5 point favorites, it’s hard to imagine Kelce being on the field too consistently.
St. Louis Targets
- Jared Cook – $3400
Kansas City Targets
- Alex Smith – $6000
- Jamaal Charles – $6700
- Dwayne Bowe – $3600
- Travis Kelce – $3800
Chicago at New England – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 50.5 Points
Spread: NE -6.5
This one should be well stocked with fantasy potential as the Bears visit the Patriots in Foxboro. The Patriots offense has looked much better over the last three weeks and the fantasy value to Tom Brady has skyrocketed. With 9 passing touchdowns and at least 260 passing yards in each of his last three contests, he’s quickly returned to daily fantasy relevancy. The Bears defense is allowing the 7th most FPPG to opposing QBs and they’ve been hit or miss all season. They go from looking great against Matt Ryan in Week 6 to getting torched at home by Ryan Tannehill in Week 7. A big factor in hurting the Bears secondary last week was the injury to stud rookie Kyle Fuller. Fuller shut down Julio Jones in Week 7 and is expected to suit up this week despite a broken hand AND a hip pointer injury. Fuller, PFF’s #43 rated corner, should see a heavy dose of Brandon Lafell in coverage which would usually force me to downgrade LaFell but between the injuries to Fuller and LaFell’s recent strong play I’m having a hard time totally throwing him out. Julian Edelman should see a good amount of Tim Jennings, which may be the best matchup for Patriots WRs to exploit this week. Edelman has at least 7 targets in every game this season and could have had a huge game last Thursday against the Jets if not for a couple of untimely drops. Jennings is #101 in coverage on PFF this season while allowing 1.77 fantasy points per target. I love Edelman in this matchup. And last, but far from least, is Rob Gronkowski who continues to play more snaps as he returns to full health. Take a look at his snap counts from the first four weeks to the last three:
- First Four Weeks – 143/280 Offensive Snaps (51.07%)
- Last Three Weeks – 183/222 Offensive Snaps (82.43%)
That’s terrific news for the most valuable fantasy option in the Patriots receiving game. Even better, Gronkowski has seen 30 targets in those past three games. The Bears defense has plummeted in defense vs. tight end rankings this year after holding opposing tight ends to zero receptions in Week 1. In Week 5 they allowed 6 receptions for 72 yards and 2 TDs against Greg Olsen and in Week 8 they allowed 5 catches for 41 yards and a TD to Charles Clay. Overall, they’re allowing the 11th most FPPG to opposing TE’s on the season.
The ground attack is also intriguing for the Patriots, especially with Shane Vereen finding his way onto the injury report on Friday. I’m still assuming Vereen plays, but the Patriots didn’t really draw up too many run plays in Week 7, the first week without Stevan Ridley. Vereen does get heavily involved in the passing game and has a terrific matchup with a Bears defense allowing 40 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs. Vereen also played all but 12 offensive snaps last week and looks to be the featured back for all situations now that Ridley is injured. Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden should each see a handful of carries as well but I’d wait to see how this situation plays out over the next couple of weeks before jumping on either of those bandwagons.
The Bears offense is in an interesting spot where they’ve underperformed as a whole but Matt Forte has been part of the DK Perfect Lineup three consecutive weeks. He’s been unbelievable not only as a rusher, but as a receiver in that time:
- Week 5 vs. CAR – 17 RuAtt, 61 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 12 Rec, 105 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 36.6 FP
- Week 6 vs. ATL – 17 RuAtt, 80 RuYd, 2 RuTD, 10 Rec, 77 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 37.7 FP
- Week 7 vs. MIA – 12 RuAtt, 49 RuYd, 1 RuTD, 6 Rec, 60 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 28.9 FP
Forte has been incredible for fantasy value on DK and now gets a Patriots rush D that has been torched in a number of games this season, including allowing 107 yards and a TD to Chris Ivory last week (and another 61 yards to Chris Johnson). In Week 1, they allowed 134 RuYd to Knowshon Moreno and 59 to Lamar Miller and in Week 4 they allowed 107 RuYd to Knile Davis and 92 RuYd to Jamaal Charles. When their front seven is struggling, they can be run on for big chunks and with Jerod Mayo out for the year it’s hard to imagine any immediate help coming. Further, opposing backs should be able to have success out of the back field against them since the majority of Patriot linebackers are slow-footed and porous in coverage. The stars are aligning for another huge game from Forte who is probably the #1 RB for Week 8 (again).
In the air, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots line up with stud CB Darrelle Revis. There’s a good chance that Revis shadows the bigger, more physical Brandon Marshall in this one but with Branden Browner back there’s also a chance that Belichick has the two cover a side of the field (similar to how Browner played in Seattle) and let’s them pick up either Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall depending on where they are aligned. I’m really torn on which approach the Patriots will use since they’ve only used Revis in true shadow coverage twice. He blanketed A.J. Green whose only major contribution was a TD when Revis left the field with an injury briefly. And he kept Sammy Watkins quiet in the Week 6 win over Buffalo. If New England shadows Marshall, it could be a good opportunity for Jeffery to have a big game, especially if the Bears are playing heavily from behind. Overall, the Pats appear to be a tough matchup in their secondary, allowing the 2nd fewest FPPG to opposing WRs this season. But over the last three weeks they’ve been middle of the pack and WR2′s have had a decent amount of success (outside of the Jets game last week, but they don’t really have many options beyond Decker):
- Week 5 vs. Mohamed Sanu – 5 Rec, 70 RecYd, 1 RecTD
- Week 6 vs. Robert Woods – 7 Rec, 78 RecYd, 1 RecTD
There are clearly some issues there and while Browner certainly helps, I’m not sold on his ability to play the ‘roaming corner’ role meaning he’d be chasing a specific receiver (Jeffery) around while Revis manned up on Marshall. The whole situation makes Jeffery a risky tournament play this weekend but he could pay off huge dividends if the Patriots do shadow Marshall.
- Matt Forte – $8800
- Alshon Jeffery – $6000
- Martellus Bennett – $5200
New England Targets
- Tom Brady – $7200
- Shane Vereen – $6200
- Julian Edelman – $4600
- Rob Gronkowski – $5900
Buffalo at NY Jets – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 41 Points
Spread: NYJ -3
The Bills head to New York to take on a crumbling Jets team that’s off to a 1-6 start and whose season is probably already over. If you’ve been desperate to start Kyle Orton, this might be your spot as the Jets are actually slight home favorites here and their secondary has been wide open all season. Orton is also coming off a 282 PaYd, 2 PaTD game but let’s start with the Jets defense. They haven’t held a single opposing QB to less than 2 passing touchdowns all season and in the last three weeks, every opposing QB has at least 3 PaTDs against them. They’re allowing the 2nd most FPPG to opposing QBs on the season and the highest touchdown rate. In fairness, they’ve faced a murderers row of quarterbacks (Rodgers, Cutler, Stafford, Rivers, P. Manning, and Brady) but the holes are still very visible. This all leads us to the premiere target for Buffalo on Sunday, stud rookie WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins was sensational in the Week 7 late comeback against the Vikings. He ended his day with 9 catches for 122 yards and 2 TDs. It was his third game this season with at least 80 receiving yards and 2nd 100+ yard day. He’ll see a lot of Kyle Wilson in coverage, which is great news (although none of the Jets corners have rated out particularly well). Wilson is allowing 2.18 fantasy points per target on the season and any game where Watkins has had at least 10 targets he’s converted for 80+ receiving yards this year. Here’s where I draw the line on Watkins though. He’s been tremendously inconsistent and while some of that is matchup-based, it’s still hard to explain away bad performances against the Bears and Texans. He’s a rookie who is loaded with talent, but he struggles at times to get into the game flow. He has played better with Orton at the helm, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready to toss him into the ring as a 50/50 or H2H play until I see a bit more consistency in his stat lines.
On the ground, the Bills are in a tough spot after losing both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller last weekend to injuries. This means we get the dynamic duo of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon in the Bills backfield. There’s a ton of potential with Brown, but let’s not forget that this is the same team that touted Spiller in back-to-back off seasons before giving Fred Jackson the bulk of snaps. This is also the same Bryce Brown who has been a healthy scratch every single game this season. I love his upside based on some of the numbers he was able to post in Philadelphia, but between Doug Marrone’s offensive scheming and the strange variable of Anthony Dixon playing ahead of him all year, it’s hard for me to jump on the bandwagon quite yet. Pair that with a Jets front 7 that is one of the best in football and I don’t think this is the week to go after one of these two backs. With that said, if I’m taking one of the two I’m using Dixon this weekend. He had four targets after Spiller and Jackson went down last week. He’s the better option in the passing game (similar to FJax) and he’s been ahead of Brown on the depth chart all season. Brown has to prove himself and Dixon is likely the man to go with in a large field tournament.
For the Jets offense, Geno Smith had one of his ‘surprisingly competent’ games against New England last week because the Jets were able to establish the run. He didn’t turn the ball over while throwing for 226 and a TD. This week he gets a Bills defense that is middle of the pack against opposing QBs, ranking 14th in FPPG allowed. Where the Bills have ranked lowest though is against opposing WRs. They are 25th against WRs and Eric Decker could be in a good spot lined up across from Leodis McKelvin on the majority of snaps. McKelvin is #165 on PFF this season while allowing 30 Rec, 419 RecYd and 2 RecTDs on 40 targets against. The craziest part is that McKelvin has 4 interceptions on the 10 targets that didn’t go for a reception. Basically, the ball has found someone’s hands on all but 6 of McKelvin’s targets in 2014. Decker had a solid game last week against the Patriots despite being matched up a lot with Darrelle Revis. He also appeared relatively healthy and should continue looking and playing better. Lastly, he gets a nice boost of WR help with the arrival of Percy Harvin to the Jets offense. Harvin isn’t expected to play a ton of snaps this week but he should get his toes wet out of the slot for NYJ. He’ll probably be used a bit as well in some of the wildcat formations the Jets expect to run. If he does for some reason play a significant role, he’s in a great spot against slot corner Nickell Roby. Roby is ranked #171 on PFF this year and has allowed 275 yards when in slot coverage.
- Kyle Orton – $6300
- Sammy Watkins – $5700
- Anthony Dixon – $3300
NY Jets Targets
- Eric Decker – $4600
Minnesota at Tampa Bay – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 42 Points
Spread: TB -3
It’s hard to imagine a team that has two losses this season by a combined 73 points (and just one win) as a 3 point favorite but such is the case as the Minnesota Vikings visit the Buccs off their bye week. The Buccs went into the bye about as poorly as they could’ve hoped following a 48-17 whooping at home vs. the Ravens. It was a bit surprising since they had recently beaten Pittsburgh and brought the Saints to the brink, on the road, before losing in overtime. Going a bit underrated in this whole situation though is the fantasy stud that has been Mike Glennon. Take a look at his last three game logs (the only 3 games he’s played in full this year):
- Week 4 vs. PIT – 302 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 22.08 FP
- Week 5 vs. NO – 249 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 16.96 FP
- Week 6 vs. BAL – 314 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 22.56 FP
That’s multiple 20+ fantasy point efforts from Glennon in the DraftKings scoring system and a respectable 16.96 FP effort sandwiched in between. Now the Vikings are allowing the 5th fewest FPPG to opposing QBs this season but they’ve had some struggles in the secondary and the Buccs could be able to find breathing room against them this week. On the outside, Vincent Jackson will see a lot of Xavier Rhodes in coverage. Rhodes is the 57th highest ranked CB in coverage on PFF this season, which is respectable, but look for the Buccs to slide Jackson into the slot in the red zone and get him in a matchup with Captain Munnerlyn, who has now allowed 3 receiving TDs in 2014 out of the slot position. On the other side, Mike Evans will tangle up with Josh Robinson who has ranked 30th in coverage ratings this year. Still, he’s not a shut down corner and Evans had been playing better leading up to the bye week (8 Rec, 120 RecYd, 2 RecTD in two games prior to the bye). Both are risky with the matchup but I don’t think Minnesota’s secondary is as good as they look on paper and they could be in a lot worse shape if they were forced to play in more close games (as evidenced by Sammy Watkins’ massive game against them in Week 7).
The area where Minnesota’s defense has visibly struggled is in stopping opposing backs. They will get Chad Greenway back this week but they’re still lacking in talent up front. Doug Martin has been extremely quiet this year and it’s more than fair to raise questions about whether or not he can be trusted for more than 15 carries at the most, but I still think there may be some tournament potential. The Vikings are allowing the 6th most rushing yards per game to opposing backs on the season and the 4th most fantasy points per game. Every team except for the Rams in Week 1 has managed at least 100 rushing yards from their backs combined. Certainly this could mean 55 yards for Martin and 45 for Rainey but the Muscle Hamster is staring down a situation where he may lose his job as the intriguing Charles Sims is set to return in Week 9. Martin has all the potential in the world and a juicy matchup where the Buccs are actually favored. If he gets his 15 carries this week he could do big things with them.
For the Vikings, another big game for Jerick McKinnon has him sitting as one of the top tier value targets of the weekend. He took 19 carries for 103 yards last week as he’s passed Matt Asiata on the depth chart and is in line for solid workloads week to week. The Bucs defense has been brutally bad against running backs, ranking 30th in FPPG allowed this season and 5th in rush yards allowed. An area they’ve struggled in particular is against pass-catching backs, which plays to McKinnon’s strength as a speed back. He had 6 receptions for 42 yards in his coming out party against the Lions and while he wasn’t as involved last week, I think we could be looking at a solid game both on the ground and through the air for Jerick. Look at some of the receiving totals allowed by TB over two of their last three games:
- Week 4 vs. Le’Veon Bell – 6 Rec, 46 RecYd
- Week 5 vs. Pierre Thomas – 8 Rec, 77 RecYd, 1 RecTD
The numbers aren’t staggering but if McKinnon is able to tack on 4 catches for around 30 or 40 yards he’s in a great spot to exceed his value this weekend. He should see about 20-25 total touches (carries and receptions) which he can do serious damage with against this Tampa front 7.
In the passing game, Teddy Bridgewater might be in a good position to finally post that solid all-around fantasy performance. He has just 1 passing touchdown since being named the starter, which is less than enticing, but the matchup could dictate much better numbers in Week 8. The Buccs are allowing the 4th most FPPG to opposing QBs this year and have allowed 10 passing touchdowns over their last three games. In that span, the QB numbers against them have been staggering:
- Week 4 vs. Ben Roethlisberger – 314 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT, 4 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 27.96 FP
- Week 5 vs. Drew Brees – 371 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 3 INT, -1 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 22.74 FP
- Week 6 vs. Joe Flacco – 306 PaYd, 5 PaTD, 0 INT, 0 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 35.24 FP
Obviously those three QBs are much better than what Bridgewater has demonstrated so far, but he’s still a high-upside pick with his ability to pick up a potential rushing touchdown. On the outside, his receivers could have some solid matchups as well. The premiere matchup is whoever gets to pick on either Johnthan Banks or Crezdon Butler on the outside. Banks has been a train wreck in coverage and will give up some snaps to Butler but Butler hasn’t been noticeably better. It looks like this week it will be Greg Jennings in that position against the RCB across from Alterraun Verner. In Bridgewater’s four games played, Jennings has 24 targets. On the other side, look for Cordarrelle Patterson so see a good amount of Verner, but he also moves around a lot so he could see some mixed coverage. It was nice to see Patterson find the end zone in Week 7 but he’s been terrible with Bridgewater at the helm. He also has just 2 receptions in each of his last four games and is safely off the fantasy radar right now.
- Teddy Bridgewater – $5100
- Jerick McKinnon – $4900
- Greg Jennings – $4000
Tampa Bay Targets
- Mike Glennon – $6400
- Doug Martin – $4400
- Vincent Jackson – $5100
- Mike Evans – $4500
Seattle at Carolina – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 44.5 Points
Spread: SEA -5
The Seahawks might be struggling in the win/loss department but Russell Wilson is crushing for fantasy owners recently. He dropped a dud in the Week 6 loss to Dallas but that was sandwiched in between a pair of really impressive games against the Redskins and Rams. Last week he posted the highest fantasy total of any QB this season with 43 fantasy points. All of that leads up to a matchup with a Panthers defense in shambles. They’re allowing the 6th most FPPG to opposing QBs on the season and have allowed at least 250 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in each of their last three games. It’s a prime matchup for Wilson who is likely to be a very popular pick this weekend given the matchup and last weekend’s performance. On the outside, the favorite weapon of Wilson’s with Percy Harvin traded to New York was Doug Baldwin who cashed in with his best game in a long time. Baldwin had 7 catches for 123 yards and a TD on 11 targets – which was twice as many as he’d seen in any other game this season. A few factors were in play for Baldwin in that target bump though. Harvin’s absence obviously helped, but Harvin’s targets hadn’t gone above 9 all year. The fact that the Seahawks were playing catch up was probably the biggest boost to Baldwin’s value, which may not be the case this weekend. Still, Baldwin will play a lot of left wide receiver (and in the slot on three WR sets) but when he’s at LWR he’ll see Melvin White in coverage. White is ranked #172 on PFF this season among all corners and has allowed a whopping 2.44 fantasy points per target. The other Carolina corners haven’t been much better though, with Charles Godfrey (primary slot corner) and Antoine Cason (arguably looks the worst of all on tape) ranked outside the top 170 in coverage ratings on PFF. Wherever Baldwin lines up he should have a strong matchup to exploit.
The Seahawks rushing game has been tough to rely on lately and the 46% rush play percentage over the last three weeks is down 6% from their 52% rush play rate of 2013. Accordingly, Marshawn Lynch’s numbers have fallen off. He did get 18 carries last week against the Rams but failed to truly convert, tallying just 53 yards on the ground. The week prior he was much more successful (6.1 YPC) but got only 10 carries for 61 yards. The Seahawks can’t keep relying on Wilson forever and this could be the week for them to get back to their bread and butter. The Panthers are allowing the 2nd most FPPG to opposing backs on the season, including 3 100+ yard rushing games against. Lynch, at $7100 on DK, is in an awkward position salary-wise. Most will overlook him for Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell or Shane Vereen at a slightly reduced rate. That could leave him at a low percentage owned in one of the best matchups of the weekend.
For the Panthers offense, they went from exciting to extremely disappointing between Weeks 6 and 7. Cam Newton totaled 391 yards in the Week 6 tie against the Bengals but was pulled last weekend in a huge blowout in Green Bay. So which Newton do we get this week? Well that remains to be seen but one thing is clear, the vaunted Seattle defense has fallen off significantly from year’s past. This year they’ve already allowed a pair of 100+ yard receivers against (Emmanuel Sanders and DeSean Jackson). The Seahawks could also again be without Byron Maxwell who, despite his early season struggles, is still an upgrade from Tharold Simon opposite Sherman. Now recently, Pete Carroll tested Sherman out in shadow coverage a bit but I don’t think that’s a solution that’s going to hold. Expect Sherman to patrol the left side of the field and for the Panthers to get stud rookie WR the bulk of his targets as the left wide receiver against Tharold Simon. Simon fits the bill as the type of physical corner the Seahawks usually employ, but he still gives up a solid 3 inches to Benjamin. Kelvin has also seen at least 1 red zone target in each of his last four games and has a touchdown in four of his last five. The Seahawks defense is still extremely solid but they’ve struggled at times this season and Benjamin could certainly be in play in tournaments for Week 8. Last week, Benjamin was quieter but had just 6 targets total. That was the fewest he’s seen all season and with his size and speed he’s a candidate for a huge game everytime he takes the field. If Carolina wants to stay in this game, it will require a big game from their rookie wideout.
One last note on the Seahawks defense, they’ve really struggled against TE’s this season. They are allowing the 3rd most FPPG to opposing tight ends this season, which puts touchdown machine Greg Olsen in a terrific position. Olsen has flown under the radar a bit all year and always seems to be low percentage owned. With this matchup at home in a game where the Panthers should be throwing a lot, don’t be surprised to see decent numbers put up by Olsen.
- Russell Wilson – $8400
- Marshawn Lynch – $7100
- Doug Baldwin – $4700
- Kelvin Benjamin – $5000
- Greg Olsen – $5500
Miami at Jacksonville – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 43 Points
Spread: MIA -5.5
Ryan Tannehill has been pretty impressive lately and he’ll lead the Dolphins offensive attack into Jacksonville against a red hot Jaguars team (they won one game, which is red hot for them). Tanny threw for 277 and 2 scores against the Bears on the road last week but his numbers overall still lack that high ceiling you’d like to see in a quarterback. He’s thrown for 2 TDs on four different occasions this season but has never topped that number. He’s also yet to record a 300+ yard passing game this year, something he achieved 5 times during his 2013 campaign. Now the Jaguars are bad (9th most FPPG allowed to opposing QBs) but this is still something to consider before locking him into your tournament lineups this weekend. For matchups on the outside, the key target is going to be Mike Wallace this weekend. Wallace seems to catch a touchdown every week and now has a TD reception in 9 of his last 12 games dating back to last season. He’ll see a lot of Demetrius McCray in coverage, who has probably been Jacksonville’s best corner but he’ll also move around and get his fair share of opportunities to pick on Alan Ball (#156 in coverage). I don’t love the upside on Tannehill but a 20 fantasy point effort from Wallace is not out of question. The other intriguing guy in this passing game is Jarvis Landry who has supplanted Brandon Gibson as the primary slot receiver and that has paid dividends of late. He had a 6-75-1 line in Week 6 followed by 4-46-0 in Week 7 against the Bears. In those two games he’s had 13 total targets and he sports a reasonable price point this weekend. I wouldn’t expect too much more than the 6-75-1 total he had against Green Bay, but he will be able to pick on Will Blackmon out of the slot. Blackmon is ranked #183 among all corners in coverage this season and has allowed 286 receiving yards and 22 receptions on 30 targets thus far. Fellow slot receivers Andrew Hawkins and Eddie Royal both have 100+ yard receiving games against this Jags defense this season as well.
The ground game should be where Miami closes this out in Week 8, assuming they’re able to take care of business and dominate an inferior Jags team. That means we could see a lot of Lamar Miller who is sure to gain traction as one of the most popular backs to target. It’s for good reason though, as the Jags are allowing the 9th most FPPG to opposing running backs and Miller’s involvement in the passing game increases his ceiling of potential. Jacksonville is also allowing the 7th most receiving yards per game to opposing running backs (a shade over 50 RecYd per game). Surprisingly, they’ve yet to allow a 100+ yard individual rusher this season but Miller’s touches have been much more consistent with Moreno out and you should be able to lock him into about 20-25 opportunities (carries + targets) in a matchup with a below average defense for Week 8.
The Jaguars offense could face a tough test against the Dolphins in Week 8. Miami has yet to allow a 300+ yard passer and 4 opposing QBs have been held to 202 or fewer passing yards. They’re allowing the 13th fewest FPPG to opposing QBs and with the rookie Blake Bortles at the helm, they could be adding to the four interceptions they’ve picked off over their last three games. Bortles now has 11 INTs through his first five games as the Jaguars QB. The numbers are ugly, and while there’s hope for him to improve, he’s going to struggle against a Dolphins secondary that ranks in the top 10 in team pass coverage rating on ProFootballFocus. The strangest part of Bortles’ struggles is that he’s actually fared decently against pressure. His 53.7% completion rate under pressure is 4th best in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks this season. He’ll need to be able to handle the pressure this week, as the Dolphins and their 3rd rated pass rush come to town. The Dolphins already have 19 sacks in the first 6 games of their 2014 campaign and a whopping 71 QB hurries.
For his weapons on the outside, we can expect Allen Robinson (who has been really solid of late) to see Cortland Finnegan in coverage a bunch. Finnegan is a shadow corner more often than not and is #32 this season on PFF’s CB coverage ratings while allowing just 1.64 fantasy points per target. Finnegan hasn’t been completely elite, but he’s coming off his best game of the season and Robinson is risky at best. Cecil Shorts will get a lot of Brent Grimes, who has been beatable at times but allowed just 3 catches for 24 yards on 4 targets in Week 7. Shorts continues to get a ton of targets (25 over his last two games) but Bortles hasn’t been able to connect much – completing just 13 of those 25 looks in Shorts’ direction. He still has that full-point PPR value, especially with Jacksonville expected to be playing from behind, but the matchup and accuracy issues of Bortles are worrisome. The most exploitable position against the Dolphins though has been the tight end slot, where Jelani Jenkins gets the majority of coverage duties. Overall, they’ve been middle of the pack against tight ends and Clay Harbor continues to be serviceable. After another 6 targets in Week 7, he’s now seen 22 looks from Bortles over the last four weeks.
- Lamar Miller – $6000
- Mike Wallace – $5800
- Jarvis Landry – $3500
- Charles Clay – $3500
- Cecil Shorts III – $4300
- Denard Robinson – $4600
Philadelphia at Arizona – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 48 Points
Spread: ARI -2.5
The Eagles come off their bye week and head out to Arizona to take on the Cardinals in a Sunday late afternoon tilt. The Eagles passing game should be in good shape this weekend against a Cardinals defense that has struggled against opposing QBs this year. They’re allowing the 12th most FPPG to opposing QBs on the year including a 479 PaYd, 2 PaTD game to Peyton Manning and 354 PaYd plus 2 PaTD to Kirk Cousins. The Cardinals defense could be best described as opportunistic, but that hasn’t necessarily killed the overall value of opposing QBs. Despite picking off 8 passes, they’re allowing an average of 18.26 FPPG to opposing quarterbacks, putting Foles in a nice spot as a road underdog. For his receivers on the outside, the targets start (and usually end) with a lot of Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will match up, almost exclusively, with Patrick Peterson on the outside. Peterson is a really talented corner who hasn’t played at that high level yet this season. Peterson is ranked #163 in coverage this season while allowing 259 yards and a whopping 4 TDs on 32 targets against. It’s not the easiest matchup for Maclin, but outside of the Eagles blowout over the Giants, Maclin has seen double digit targets in every game this season. I wouldn’t expect the Eagles to run away with this one on the road, and they might even be playing from behind at times which could lead to a nice 12 target game for Maclin. Beyond Maclin, the Eagles receivers could be looking at somewhat difficult matchups. Riley Cooper will see a lot of Antonio Cromartie. Cro has been susceptible to the big play this season but is still the 13th highest rated corner on PFF this year. Jordan Matthews, a terrific red zone threat, will line up out of the slot predominantly and should see a lot of Jerraud Powers in coverage – PFF’s #20 rated corner in 2014. The only other guy with a strong matchup is the tight end, Zach Ertz. Ertz hasn’t been as involved as many expected in the passing game, but did have 3 catches for 47 yards and a TD in Week 6. His targets are consistently around 5-6 per game and the Cardinals are allowing the 7th most FPPG to opposing TE’s this season. Their struggles aren’t nearly as noticeable as they were a season ago, but they have allowed 3 different 80+ yard TE’s in 2014 and their linebackers are extremely soft in coverage. Ertz is in a great spot here to recreate the success he had over the first two weeks of the season (7 Rec, 163 RecYd, 1 TD).
The ground game came around a bit in the Week 6 win over the Giants when LeSean McCoy tallied 22 catches for 149 yards. He didn’t find the end zone and his 1 TD all season has been extremely disappointing but the near 150 yard game his last time out was extremely promising. Unfortunately, the Arizona front seven has been outstanding this season – holding opposing RBs to just 58.17 RuYd per game and 15.9 FPPG which is 2nd fewest in football. They could also be getting Calais Campbell back on their defensive line, which would be a huge boost to their overall unit. I love how good McCoy looked in Week 6, and feel good about him being healthy coming off the bye week, but he’s a risky tournament play this weekend given the matchup with the Cardinals defense.
For the Cardinals offense, Carson Palmer has looked healthy over his past two games – throwing for 250 and 2 TDs in each against the Redskins and Raiders. He’ll have plenty of chances to throw this weekend given how uptempo the Eagles play and how porous their secondary has been. Philadelphia is allowing the 5th most FPPG to opposing QBs this season and the 3rd most PaTDs to opposing quarterbacks (2.17 per game). They were great against Eli Manning in Week 6 but outside of that contest they hadn’t held a single opposing QB under 19 fantasy points all season:
- Week 1 vs. Chad Henne – 266 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 0 INT, 8 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 19.44 FP
- Week 2 vs. Andrew Luck – 172 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 1 INT, 20 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 19.88 FP
- Week 3 vs. Kirk Cousins – 427 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 1 INT, 5 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 31.58 FP
- Week 4 vs. Colin Kaepernick – 218 PaYd, 2 PaTD, 1 INT, 58 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 21.52 FP
- Week 5 vs. Austin Davis – 375 PaYd, 3 PaTD, 0 INT, 30 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 33 FP
Palmer should be one of the top $/point QB options for Week 8. In terms of who he can throw to, it might be one of the first weeks in recent memory where Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have the best WR/CB matchups coming out of the slot. That honor falls to Michael Floyd this week against Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams on the outside. The Eagles corners play sides and Floyd will slide wide left and right of Palmer, meaning he should see a healthy dose of both Fletcher and Williams. Williams has been one of the worst corners in football this year – allowing 375 yards and 3 TDs so far. Fletcher’s completion percentage against has been decent (29 receptions on 58 targets against) but he too has allowed 342 yards and 3 TDs in coverage. Fletcher has been vulnerable to the deep ball and Floyd has 14 targets at 20 or more yards down the field. I love Floyd this week to take advantage of Fletcher and Williams on the outside. For Fitzgerald, he’ll see a lot of Brandon Boykin out of the slot. Boykin is the 7th rated corner on PFF so far this season.
- Nick Foles – $6300
- Jeremy Maclin – $5500
- LeSean McCoy – $5800
- Zach Ertz – $3200
- Carson Palmer – $6500
- Michael Floyd – $4900
Oakland at Cleveland – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 43 Points
Spread: CLE -7
The Raiders might not have a win this season but you have to give them credit for looking better since Dennis Allen was fired and Tony Sparano took over. They’re at least playing hard and they head to face a Cleveland team that just gave the other winless team in Week 7 their first win of the season (the Jaguars). I don’t think Cleveland yields first wins to multiple teams in a row, but they could be pushed to the brink a bit this weekend by the Raiders. If they do want to push the Browns, Derek Carr will need to look more like he did in Week 6 against the Chargers and less like the Carr who showed up against the Cardinals. In Week 6, Carr had 282 PaYd and 4 PaTD against a strong San Diego secondary. The Browns defense has been middle-of-the-pack against opposing QBs (in terms of FPPG allowed) this season, but some of their corners have really struggled. Rookie Justin Gilbert, who looked promising coming out of the draft, had been dropped out of a starting role but should be back this week with Buster Skrine returning to the slot. Stud Joe Haden has fallen apart, ranking #178 on ProFootballFocus this season and allowing 356 yards and 2 TDs on 24 receptions this year. Haden’s had some issues with the deep ball, which isn’t great for his matchup against speedster Andre Holmes on the outside. Holmes has 10 targets, 4 receptions, 158 yards and 2 TDs on passes longer than 20 yards. Haden doesn’t necessarily stay on one side of the field, so he might end up on James Jones as well if he decides to shadow. That would put Gilbert on Holmes or Jones, depending on whether or not they shadow with Haden. If Holmes gets Gilbert, he could be in for a huge game. The Browns have allowed 5 receivers with at least 3 catches and 15 yards per catch this season:
- Week 1 vs. Antonio Brown – 5 Rec, 116 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 23.2 YPC, 25.6 FP
- Week 3 vs. Steve Smith – 5 Rec, 101 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 20.2 YPC, 18.1 FP
- Week 5 vs. Justin Hunter – 3 Rec, 99 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 33 YPC, 18.9 FP
- Week 6 vs. Antonio Brown – 7 Rec, 118 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 16.86 YPC, 21.8 FP
- Week 7 vs. Allen Robinson – 4 Rec, 60 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 15 YPC, 16 FP
Moving over to the Cleveland offense, they need to bounce back from a really disappointing performance against the Jaguars last week. They were heavily targeted in most leagues with Hoyer, Tate, Gabriel and Cameron really disappointing a large percentage of daily fantasy players. The one positive was Andrew Hawkins who hauled in 5 catches for 112 yards. All of the Browns should be low-owned this week, and that could mean it’s a good time to get them into your lineups. The biggest disappointment last week was probably Ben Tate who had just 36 yards on 16 carries. It was disappointing but if he wants to bounce back, he can do so as a 7 point home favorite against a defense allowing the 4th most FPPG to opposing backs this season. The Raiders have allowed a trio of 100+ yard rushers this season in six games and last week Andre Ellington combined for 150 yards between rushing and receiving yardage. I love Tate to bounce back in a big way here, and it should come with low ownership.
- Andre Holmes – $4100
- Ben Tate – $4600
- Andrew Hawkins – $4700
- Jordan Cameron – $3700
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 49 Points
Spread: IND -2.5
A strange late-afternoon game on the east coast pits the Steelers and Colts together in Week 8. Pittsburgh’s defense finally came around in the final 5 minutes of the 1st half last week on Monday Night Football and the Colts defense came together to dominate the Bengals in Week 7. Still, this game sits with a nice 49 over/under and a 2.5 point spread so we could certainly see some back and forth from the offenses. We’ll start with the Steelers offensive unit led by Ben Roethlisberger. He’ll have some challenges this week against a Colts secondary that is allowing the 2nd fewest FPPG to opposing QBs. They’ve been even better in recent weeks, holding opposing QBs to the fewest FPPG over the last 3 weeks:
- Week 5 vs. Joe Flacco – 235 PaYd, 0 PaTD, 1 INT, 0 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 8.4 FP
- Week 6 vs. Ryan Fitzpatrick – 212 PaYd, 1 PaTD, 0 INT, 5 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 12.98 FP
- Week 7 vs. Andy Dalton – 126 PaYd, 0 PaTD, 0 INT, 0 RuYd, 0 RuTD, 5.04 FP
An average of just over 8 FPPG is not what you want to see from an opponent when deciding who to target. That’s the dilemma Roethlisberger faces in Week 8, and his top receiver could be in for a battle as well against Vontae Davis on the outside. Davis has been elite all season, and is the top rated corner on ProFootballFocus so far this season. He’ll follow Brown around the field and could make it extremely difficult for Brown to rack up much beyond his typical 5 receptions. That does leave rookie WR Martavis Bryant in a solid matchup against Greg Toler who’s ranked #175 in coverage so far this year. Bryant is going to split snaps with Markus Wheaton but Wheaton has been uninspiring and Bryant is coming off a game where he played 24/67 snaps and had 2 catches for 40 yards and a TD on 5 targets. Look for him to continue stealing snaps from Wheaton and if the Steelers want to throw on this defense, they probably won’t be able to do so on Vontae Davis.
The other variable in this offense is Le’Veon Bell who is an animal in the passing and ground games. I outlined last week how the Colts linebackers had struggled against pass-catching backs this season and they went out and held Gio Bernard to 2 catches for -1 yards. While Bernard wasn’t able to capitalize, Bell is utilized even more in the passing gameplan for Pittsburgh and he has at least 4 catches in all but one game this season. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield ensures that his floor is always relatively high and the only real risk on him is that he has only found the end zone twice this season. With that said, the Colts are middle-of-the-road against Running Backs on the season and Bell is an elite fantasy option. Look for him to contribute at least his fair share this weekend, although I probably wouldn’t put him in my top three backs.
For the Colts offense, Andrew Luck has continued to be the best fantasy QB in the NFL. He has 300+ passing yards in all but one game this season, and in that game he had 3 passing touchdowns. The Steelers present a reasonably challenging opponent, as they sit 3rd in FPPG allowed to opposing QBs this season. That may be smoke in mirrors though, because they haven’t exactly faced a juggernaut of opposing offenses:
PIT Opposing QBs (2014) – Hoyer, Flacco, Newton, Glennon, Bortles, Hoyer, Fitzpatrick
That’s a cake walk of a schedule and nothing compared to the high octane offense of the Colts. On the outside, Hakeem Nicks should see a fair amount of William Gay in coverage with Reggie Wayne out. Gay is a top-30 corner so far this season and should be a challenge for Nicks but Wayne’s 62 targets this season are 2nd on the team and he leaves behind him around 8-10 targets to fall to other receivers. Nicks, as well as rookie Donte Moncrief will take on a new role. Moncrief is loaded with potential but he’s extremely raw. He probably has the higher ceiling between himself and Nicks, but a significantly lower floor. On the other side Hilton has been red hot over his last two games (16 Rec, 330 RecYd, 1 RecTD) and will see a lot of Cortez Allen in coverage. With Wayne out and this matchup, Hilton is locked in as a top-5 WR option for Week 8. The last variable to consider is the Colts TE’s with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener serving as red zone machines in 2014. Allen has 7 red zone targets on the year and Fleener has 8. Allen has converted for 5 touchdowns and Fleener has four of his own. Neither post a ton of receptions but when the Colts hit the red zone, they love to utilize their tight ends. If either find the end zone one or two times, they could present a serious value.
Also for the Colts, RB Trent Richardson is expected to miss this weekend’s games. He hasn’t practiced this week and I wouldn’t expect him to suit up on Sunday. That opens the door for Ahmad Bradshaw to be the primary back in this offense. Bradshaw has always had a higher ceiling considering his ability to get involved in both the rushing and passing games, so with the backfield to himself it’s pretty exciting. The Steelers are smack in the middle of the NFL in FPPG allowed to running backs and Arian Foster almost had 100 yards in the first half last week before his team shat the bed and gave up a sizeable lead to the Steelers. The Colts won’t make those same mistakes and are road favorites here, meaning the Colts likely won’t have to abandon the rushing game like Houston did. Look for Ahmad Bradshaw to capitalize.
- Andrew Luck – $8800
- Ahmad Bradshaw – $5900
- T.Y. Hilton – $6800
- Dwayne Allen – $3900
- Martavis Bryant – $3000
- Le’Veon Bell – $6300
Green Bay at New Orleans – SUN, OCT 26
Over/Under: 55 Points
Spread: NO -1.5
This is one of the highest over/unders we’ve seen in a long time as the Packers and Saints duke it out in New Orleans. The Saints are a disaster right now while Green Bay is riding high and Aaron Rodgers is playing phenomenal football. I know this game is in New Orleans, but it’s hard to believe the Saints are sitting as the favored team right now. The biggest reason for the Saints 2-4 start has been the struggles of their secondary. They’re currently allowing the 9th most FPPG to opposing QBs and the 2nd most FPPG to opposing WRs. That’s not a great combination with Aaron Rodgers coming to town, especially given just how hot Rodgers has been in recent weeks. In the last four games, Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdowns and 0 INTs. All year, the only interception he’s thrown was in Week One at Seattle. The good news for the Saints is they proved to be a bit more opportunistic last weekend in Detroit, picking off Matthew Stafford on two different occasions. The bad news is they’ve now allowed 7 passing touchdowns over the last three games. For Rodgers, the two key weapons continue to be Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson is a target machine but Cobb flat out gets it done in the red zone. Somehow, Nelson out-targets Cobb inside the 20 yard line this season (Cobb-13, Nelson-16) but Cobb has the touchdown edge 8 to 6. Nelson moves around a lot but primarily plays RWR, but should be shadowed by Keenan Lewis. Lewis is questionable right now (but has practiced in a limited capacity this week) and while his numbers aren’t great, if he sits there could be an all out fire sale on passing yards against this defense. Lewis is rated #125 in coverage on PFF and has clearly struggled, but before we jump off the rails and guarantee a monster game from Jordy, consider that Lewis hasn’t allowed more than 56 yards all season when directly in coverage. Lewis isn’t playing at his best right now, no doubt, but the Saints desperately need him on the field to shadow Jordy. Out of the slot, Randall Cobb should see a lot of Corey White in coverage which is terrific news for Cobb fans. White has allowed 18 receptions on 22 targets this season for 249 yards and a TD in slot coverage. Overall, he’s ranked #182 on PFF and is allowing 2.22 fantasy points per target. The last piece of the Green Bay passing piece puzzle is Davante Adams who continues to gain traction as a popular sleeper play. His snap counts are up and he’s getting a lot of run opposite Nelson in 3WR sets for the Packers. He had a season high 8 targets in Week 6 but followed it with just 1 look in Week 7. He did convert that into a 21 yard touchdown reception but I’d be somewhat cautious about rolling Adams out in anything other than tournament formats. His opportunities aren’t nearly consistent enough to be used in head to head or 50/50 games at this point in the year.
The rushing attack for the Packers hasn’t been nearly as competent as their passing game but Eddie Lacy has found the end zone in two of their last three games. The issue with Lacy is that he looks horrible out there right now. He looks slow and overweight and his rushing yards are taking a hit because of it. His carries are also down from last season and James Starks could see more run than usual in this game as a much faster back on the Saints turf. Lacy has only had more than 14 carries in one game this season and Starks is consistently seeing 8-10 of his own touches in the ground game. This backfield has turned into more of a timeshare and Lacy has fallen off my radar until he starts taking on a bigger workload, regardless of matchup.
Moving to the Saints offense, they could have some injuries to exploit in the Packers defense this week, although that didn’t work out too well for Cam Newton in Week 7. It looked as though Green Bay would be vulnerable without Sam Shields but they swallowed up Cam Newton and spat him out in a dominating performance at home. Meanwhile, Drew Brees has been very un-Breesy and turned what was a great game into a disaster by throwing a late INT last week that gave the Lions their winning touchdown drive. He finished his day with 342 and 2 TDs but throwing away a game they should have won is far from ideal. The Packers defense is going to be a challenge this weekend as they’ve allowed the 7th fewest FPPG to opposing QBs over the last 5 weeks. Brees is also going to be without his favorite check-down back, Pierre Thomas, and will have a limited Jimmy Graham to help him out (he played just 40% of snaps last week and shouldn’t see a ton more in Week 8). That’s going to put a ton of pressure on the receivers and last week Marques Colston stepped up with a big game. Colston hauled in 6 catches for 111 yards out of the slot but this week he might not be able to find the same space he did against Detroit. He’ll see Casey Hayward when in the slot, and Hayward is #16 in coverage on PFF while holding opposing WRs to a ridiculous 0.31 fantasy points per target. On the outside, it’s looking like Kenny Stills will contend with Tramon Williams most often and the Packers are unlikely to shadow any of the Saints receivers since they don’t really have one elite option. Williams has struggled at times this year but is still relatively solid. He sits at #82 on PFF in coverage and has allowed 1.46 fantasy points per target on the season. That leaves Brandin Cooks matched up with Davon House on the other side of the field. House has allowed just 9 receptions on 21 targets this season and filled in admirably in Week 7 with Sam Shields out. It’s a tough matchup for Cooks and while I expect the Saints WRs to take on a bigger workload this weekend with the slew of injuries to their skill positions, it seems like a bit of a crap shoot figuring out which one will perform best. Stills probably has the most upside because he’s the biggest deep threat and Cooks is likely the safest play, with Colston not usually sporting enough upside to warrant rostering.
Where the Packers defense has been vulnerable is in the rushing game. They’re allowing the 15th most FPPG to opposing backs this season but they’re also helped a lot by their high-paced offense forcing other teams to throw. Teams who have been able to establish the run have had success against them and the only two backs with 20+ carries this season (Marshawn Lynch and Matt Forte) have had 100 or more rushing yards. I referenced it above but Pierre Thomas is out for the Saints, as is Khiry Robinson. This leaves New Orleans often rotating-door of backs to Mark Ingram and Travaris Cadet. Cadet is primarily a pass-catching back who could be involved in the passing game a lot if he plays a similar role to Pierre Thomas. Cadet had 6 catches for 51 yards last week and if he finds the end zone he could easily pay off his really cheap price tag. Ingram is a bit more intriguing though because he won’t be splitting carries but the Saints are also a pass first offense. Looking back to the games where Khiry was the featured back and Ingram was out though, Robinson had an 18 carry and 21 carry game. Ingram is more talented than Robinson and should see somewhere in that range of carries which is good news against this Packers defense. Bottom line, both of these guys are in play but Cadet is extremely risky.
Green Bay Targets
- Aaron Rodgers – $9000
- Jordy Nelson – $7800
- Randall Cobb – $7500
- Davante Adams – $3500
New Orleans Targets
- Drew Brees – $8100
- Travaris Cadet – $3000
- Mark Ingram – $4300
- Kenny Stills – $4400
Washington at Dallas – MON, OCT 27
Over/Under: 49.5 Points
Spread: DAL -9.5
The final game of the week pits two divisional foes going in opposite directions against each other. The Cowboys continue to impress by staying committed to the running game. The biggest issue is the question of ‘When does DeMarco Murray get injured?’ It’s not really a question of if, but when at this point since he’s been injured every season since he was in high school. Luckily in daily fantasy, we don’t have to worry as much about that since we can draft a new team every weekend. And right now, Murray is the best running back in football by a long shot. He racked up 22 more carries in Week 7 with 128 yards and another touchdown. He’s now hit that 100+ rushing yard bonus on DraftKings every week this season and while he’s been tremendously consistent, I’m going to avoid him in Week 8 tournaments. His price has sky rocketed and while the carries are promising, the matchup here is worrisome. Washington is allowing the fewest FPPG to opposing backs this season and despite the loss of Brian Orakpo, it looks as though their front seven is the real deal. I love that Dallas is a significant favorite here, but if this game gets ugly Jason Garrett needs to dial down Murray’s workload and that could lead to some stolen touches from Joseph Randle. Also, after allowing 100+ yards to Arian Foster in Week One the Redskins have yet to allow another back to reach the 80 yard plateau. The even held LeSean McCoy to 22 rush yards on 20 carries in Week 3.
Where Dallas can do the bulk of their damage is in the passing game. This Redskins secondary is atrocious and no team has a more drastic split between their DvP ranking against QBs and RBs. As mentioned above, their best in the league in FPPG allowed to opposing RBs but they’ve allowed the 3rd most FPPG to opposing quarterbacks. They have been slightly better in the past couple of weeks but the touchdowns are still rolling in, allowing 6 TDs over their last three games and 13 over their last 5 games. They’ve also faced Russell Wilson, who had 100+ rushing yards, Carson Palmer and Charlie Whitehurst. Not exactly the Murderer’s Row of QBs. Romo isn’t throwing nearly as much but he’s been incredibly efficient. Last week he had 279 passing yards on 23 attempts, completing 17. 17 completions for 279 yards and a 16.4 yards per completion rate. This is due in large part to his pair of deep threats, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Look for Dez to lineup as the LWR against David Amerson in coverage. Amerson is pretty bad, and ranks #145 in coverage this season on PFF. Bryant is easily a top-3 receiver in tournaments or cash games for Week 8. On the other side, you may be able to find a bit of value in Terrance Williams. Williams’ targets have been down a touch (5 over the last two games) but his matchup is fool proof. He draws Bashaud Breeland and his 2.05 fantasy points per target allowed average. He ranks #177 on PFF in coverage and has been an opposing WR’s dream all season. Continue picking on Breeland with the high upside of Terrance Williams who has found the end zone in 5 of the Cowboys 7 games this season. Last, and maybe least, is the emergence of Gavin Escobar in the red zone over the last couple of weeks. He now has 3 TDs in the last 2 games and led all tight ends in fantasy points in Week 7 with 3 catches, 65 yards and 2 TDs. The Redskins are middle of the pack against TE’s but the Cowboys love using Escobar in their 2-TE sets and Romo clearly feels comfortable with him near the goal line. He’s not a safe option at all because he doesn’t see many targets, but he’ll get red zone looks and can capitalize.
For the Redskins offense, the move to Colt McCoy has taken place and he’ll return to his home state to take on the Cowboys in what could one day be a Hallmark Channel movie feature. I can already see it, ‘Colt vs. The Cowboys – How one man came home and showed heart the size of Texas.’ In all seriousness though, he looked good after playing just the 2nd half against Tennessee last weekend. He threw for 128 and a TD while leading the Redskins back from the dead against the struggling Titans. The biggest beneficiary of this had to be Pierre Garcon. Just look at his first half vs. second half splits last weekend:
- Pierre Garcon (1st Half vs. TEN) – 1 Target, 1 Rec, 5 RecYd
- Pierre Garcon (2nd Half vs. TEN) – 5 Targets, 4 Rec, 82 RecYd, 1 RecTD
McCoy doesn’t have the strongest arm which likely weighs on the value of deep-threat DeSean Jackson quite a bit. Given how big the spread is on this game, it’s also likely that the Cowboys could be sitting in prevent defense in the 4th quarter leading to huge garbage time points for a possession receiver like Garcon. The only downside is that he’ll likely be lining up across from Sterling Moore on the majority of snaps. Moore is PFF’s #7 rated corner in coverage this season and has been significantly better than the guy on the other side of the field, Brandon Carr. Carr is rated #166 on PFF while allowing 305 RecYd and 2 RecTDs in coverage this season. Garcon does move around on the field and if McCoy feels more comfortable with Pierre, we could see Washington work to put him across from Carr more often than not.
The other option for McCoy (besides DJax) is Jordan Reed who has been playing great since coming off the injury. He has had two cupcake matchups (ARI and TEN) but he’s totaled 13 catches for 146 yards on 17 targets. Dallas is another cupcake matchup as their make shift linebacking corps is 2nd worst in the NFL in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends. Everyone has been saying this all season and it might be off-topic, but for the love of god when is this Cowboys defense going to seek its level. They’re not this talented and it’s hard to imagine they continue playing this well. Anyways, the point is that tight ends have had a ton of success against Dallas so far this season:
- Week 2 vs. Delanie Walker – 10 Rec, 142 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 33.2 FP
- Week 3 vs. Jared Cook – 7 Rec, 75 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 17.5 FP
- Week 3 vs. Lance Kendricks – 6 Rec, 29 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 14.9 FP
- Week 4 vs. Jimmy Graham – 8 Rec, 86 RecYd, 1 RecTD, 25.6 FP
- Week 7 vs. Larry Donnell – 7 Rec, 90 RecYd, 0 RecTD, 16 FP
Reed is in a great spot to continue his recent hot streak and should find his way into the Top-5 scoring tight ends for Week 8.
- Colt McCoy – $5600
- Pierre Garcon – $5200
- Jordan Reed – $4000
- Tony Romo – $7400
- DeMarco Murray – $8600
- Dez Bryant – $6900
- Terrance Williams – $4700