Whether you are waiting on MNF to learn your Week 7 fate or not, it’s never too early to take a look at next week. Take an Early Look at a few players here and start getting a feel for your Week 8 options while this week’s action is still fresh. Good luck tonight!
Matt Ryan vs. TB ($7,100) – In Week 8, we’re missing the Bills, Jaguars, Redskins and Eagles to the byes, which doesn’t seem so bad. But, then we’re also missing the Patriots and everyone’s new favorite toys, the Dolphins, for most of the weekend’s action, as they square off on Thursday night. So with Brady unavailable, and Rodgers and Luck both facing top-3 defenses, Ryan is on your radar sooner than you think. And I am here to tell you to ignore it. Personally, I don’t care how good Julio is, or how bad the Bucs are at defending the pass, Ryan has two games this year with 20+ fantasy points, and none higher than 24. He might not be a bad play in a cash game, but if you’re looking to win big, look elsewhere.
Cam Newton vs. IND ($6,800) – When I say look elsewhere I mean maybe here, for example. Indy seems like maybe they’ve shored up their D-line a little since last year, only to suffer on the back-end of their defense, but the great thing about Cam is, he’s the running game and the passing attack. It’s not often you get a QB who you honestly think will probably score a rushing TD in a game, but in this matchup, Cam qualifies. Not a bad thing to remember in a 4-point per passing TD format.
Philip Rivers @ BAL ($6,600) – Most of the production might have come in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss – which he eventually made sort of look kinda close, you know, on paper – but it all counts. Think of those first three quarters as a positive – they’ll keep his ownership percentage down. No matter what else happened, he threw the ball 58 times. FIFTY-EIGHT. And it is no fluke – over their last three games, since around the time they realized they have no running game, he is averaging 57 attempts per game. Oh, and, the Ravens are the worst team in the league at defending against the pass – there’s that too. Works for me.
Jay Cutler vs. MIN ($5,200) – On paper the matchup doesn’t look good, with Minnesota ranking 5th against opposing quarterbacks. However, the Vikings played Rivers in Week 3 (246 and a TD), but other than that, these are the teams they have faced: 49ers, Lions (twice), the Broncos and the Chiefs – not exactly high flying aerial attacks right now. Cutler had 23 points in his last outing, and is coming off the bye with a presumably fully healthy Alshon Jeffery on the outside. It shouldn’t be hard for him to return value on this price tag.
Adrian Peterson @ CHI ($7,400) – This seems to be the week that the NFL wants to demonstrate to us that – never mind seven games – an entire NFL season is a small sample size. A team plays 16 games in the NBA in a month; it doesn’t even take three weeks in MLB. Your favorite team is playing something like 12 other teams this year, meaning well more than half of the league is off their schedule. My point: Chicago is 9th against opposing running backs in much the same way Minnesota is 5th against QBs. The Bears have faced the Packers, Cardinals, Seahawks (with Rawls, who went for 106 yards), the Raiders, the Chiefs (in the week they lost Charles), and the Lions. None of those teams have Adrian Peterson, if I am remembering correctly. Combine their suspect secondary, with poor rushing opponents, and no one has had a reason to run on them. The Vikings, though, have a pretty good reason starting at tailback, who could very well single-handedly knock them out of that top ten against RBs this weekend. It will be fun to watch him try, at least.
Mark Ingram vs. NYG ($6,400) – Ingram is the best skill player on the Saints right now. Even if you leave his 8-catch, 98 receiving yard performance a few weeks ago out of the equation, he’s getting you 3-10 points in the passing game every week, a great complement to his rushing totals. He is the kind of player who will push for 100 total yards almost every week, even if he can’t do it consistently just with the ground attack. And 100 total yards with a couple of catches is a great base for a player in this price range. A few extra yards here or there or a single score, and he suddenly goes from a decent value to a fantastic value, without as much risk as many others just because of his high usage levels.
Todd Gurley vs. SF ($6,300) – OK, so just do it. If you’re in a cash game, and you don’t start him, you’re wrong. If you’re in a GPP and you bench him just because you noticed he was 67% owned in week 7 and you need to fade someone, there is a good chance you’re also wrong. If the guy who costs $6,300 ends up being the highest-scoring player of the weekend and you didn’t have him, you’ve already lost. By Thanksgiving, he is going to cost $7,500+, right up there with the Le’Veon’s and AP’s of the world, and at that price, you’ll consider him. Strongly. At this price, just jump on the bandwagon and recognize that for the forseeable future you only need to draft eight players, not nine.
Ronnie Hillman vs. GB ($4,600) – It is completely impossible to know how he is going to be used or what he is going to do, which makes him a guy to leave alone in your cash contests. He might get you a zero. But the Broncos’ greatness this season has largely been a result of their defense, which is facing it’s stiffest test in Week 8 against Green Bay. If the Broncos suddenly find themselves needing points, they might also find that Hillman is a vital piece to that puzzle. Peyton hasn’t been their only problem this season, as they have struggled with offensive line woes as well, which helps explain why C.J. Anderson and Peyton fell off a cliff simultaneously. Hillman can help in a few ways if he is getting the majority of the work, providing an outlet if Peyton can’t seem to push the ball downfield, but also using his quickness to help set up blocks and create running lanes and finally giving the Broncos the game-breaking threat out of the backfield they thought they had from the beginning.
Julio Jones vs. TB ($9,200) – I know I don’t have to tell you that Julio is good, but I wanted to explain that he could easily still be worth the huge price tag even though I don’t love Matt Ryan in this game. Ryan may or may not have Hankerson, but he definitely won’t have anyone even close to on par with Julio. The fear with Julio that has developed is that the Falcons’ defense plays well, their opponent can’t score much, and they just rely on Freeman to get them through instead of turning to a high-volume passing game. But that’s only a valid fear for Ryan, not his stud wideout – yesterday, the Falcons scored ten point and Jones still had a good day, accounting for 37.5% of Ryan’s completed passes and 36.6% of his yards.
Antonio Brown vs. CIN ($7,800) – He is going to cost $9,000 after one week of playing with Big Ben. And if this is that week, that makes him a $1,200 value. Take advantage. It’s not as if there was something wrong with HIM – he’s fine. He’s better than fine, really, as his 22-fantasy-point performance with Landry Jones at the helm yesterday demonstrated. Keep in mind that throughout the preseason and the first three games of this year, he was the consensus #1 fantasy WR in football. Number 1, ahead of Julio and Dez and Odell and everyone else. And now he’s $100 more than Keenan Allen.
Alshon Jeffery vs. MIN ($6,400) – See Cutler, Jay. In his first game back from injury, prior to their Week 7 bye, Alshon had 8 for 147 and a TD. He is just clearly, far and away, both the most talented receiver on the Bears and Cutler’s favorite. You have to assume right now that he is 100% healthy heading into the stretch run, and facing a Vikings team which, while they look like they might present a challenge on paper, have actually played no one of note. They’ve faced the Lions twice this year – and that constitutes the best passing offense they’ve had to try to contain. Calvin Johnson, by the way, had 179 yards and 2 TDs in those two meetings.
Stefon Diggs @ CHI ($4,800) – It might feel like chasing points, drafting the guy who just had a good week last week. Can he really do it again, you ask yourself? Well, if he did, it would be four straight, not just two, so rest a bit easier. The Bears don’t exactly have a lock-down corner to scare you off, and Diggs has 19 catches for over 300 yards in his three career games so far. After finally getting into the endzone yesterday, his upside skyrocketed – but he doesn’t even need the score to return value at this price.
Greg Olsen vs. IND ($6,500) – I don’t see it. He’s the best receiver on the Panthers, but he has two games this season over 20 fantasy points. This price tag is inching way too close to Gronkian levels for my taste – he’s good, but is he that much better than everyone else? Short answer: no.
Tyler Eifert @ PIT ($5,300) – I love Eifert in this game, almost as much as I love Antonio Brown. This is going to be more of a shootout than you might be expecting from the AFC North rivals, and I will have no problem starting as many as a half-dozen guys from this game. Brown, Eifert, Bell, A.J. Green and both Bengals RBs should ALL be on your radar (I particularly like Gio in this one). But Eifert is a perfect example of what I was talking about with Olsen – I will take Eifert and the $1,200 all day, every day. He also has two 20+ point games and three others at 9.9 or higher. Cash game or GPP, Eifert has been displaying both consistency and upside, the magic combo you’re always on the hunt for.
Antonio Gates @ BAL ($4,800) – Gates is facing off against a Baltimore team that is great against TEs, but terrible against WRs and QBs. I don’t put a lot of stock in “against TE” stats, since that is more about scheme than talent, and schemes change. But, if you want to believe it, just remember that Gates had 9 catches and 90+ yards in both of his games this season. He is too good, and too integral a part of this offense, to let a matchup with a mediocre defense scare you off. If he’s playing, and the Chargers are scoring, he’s likely involved. If he misses time, I might let that rep of being good against tight ends from the Ravens keep me away from Ladarius Green, but Gates is getting my full attention if he is active.
Delanie Walker @ HOU ($4,100) – Houston, on paper, is also good at defending tight ends. But, on the field, is Houston really good at anything right now? The Titans don’t have so many weapons that you worry about Walker getting lost in the shuffle – on the contrary, he might be their best playmaker. And on top of all that, he has seven or more catches in three of his last four – catches you expect him to be able to do something with in a matchup against the Texans.
Rams vs. SF ($3,200) – I love my defenses playing at home. Coming off a 25-fantasy-point performance and playing against a bottom-3 offense that loves to give up sacks all helps too.
Jets @ OAK ($2,900) – Apparently Oakland is a bad matchup for opposing defenses – weird, huh? The problem is, the Jets defense is good for fantasy purposes just by being real-life good. They don’t score a bunch of defensive or special team touchdowns, or lead the NFL in sacks or takeaways (although they are third in that category). They just stop the other team from scoring points, that’s all. Another great call for a cash game lineup, all they need is a play or two to break their way to improve on their high of 17 fantasy points on the season.