NFL DFS Week 8 Picks
Simplicity is going to be the theme this week. We’re at the mid-point of the NFL season which usually means the statistical analysis/breakdowns of teams’ strengths/weaknesses are getting nice and static. It’s simply pinpointing obvious smash spots and clear edges to take advantage of on a weekly basis. You might call it a flowchart strategy or sticking to the status quo, but bad NFL teams just do not change dramatically enough to veer away from the known knowns. The unknown knowns usually occur near the end of the season when playoffs loom ahead for teams on the bubble. That’s when you’ll start to see drastic strategical changes such as a heavier running gameplan, higher defensive focus on a particular player and/or scheme, and perhaps, even more, touches for a certain playmaker. Until then? Let’s stick to the known knowns and leave the unknown unknowns to those who want to wrangle with the unanswerable questions of NFL DFS. Questions like, “Why does Bill O’Brien hate Duke Johnson so much? How has Joe Mixon not seen a top-five target rate among RBs? Is Tom Brady secretly Benjamin Button?”.
After our Lord and savior Aaron Godgers had himself a mighty fine day against the hapless Raiders secondary, it’s no surprise that Watson ticks all the boxes as a top QB play for the week’s slate. He was robbed of a great TD play near the end of the game that would have given him a 300+ yard day with two touchdown passes and a few picks. Either way, Watson’s been a legitimate top-five fantasy QB for most of the season for the high-octane Texans offense. While he won’t have Fuller for the Raiders game, the Texans did trade for Kenny Stills who showed up in a big way last week with a 4/105 day after Fuller left the game. Coutee is also healthy for slot duties, making Watson the clear stud QB against the 30th DVOA Raiders pass defense that’s also graded as the 2nd worst coverage (PFF). Watson’s still operating at the 5th highest YPA with the 6th best-adjusted completion percentage. Easy and simple!
Back into the well we go! Wilson had his worst game of the season last week with his 1st interception thrown (that was also returned for a touchdown) and failed on several redzone trips. However, he’s continuing to operate as the top overall QB in many, many metrics despite the dud. He’s still got the best QB rating with BOTH a clean pocket and under pressure. He’s in a great spot against a putrid Falcons defense that’s somehow worse than the Raiders secondary. Saddled with a 31st DVOA pass defense ranking, the Falcons do have a better-graded coverage than the Raiders by one whole spot! Hey, being the 3rd worst is better than the 2nd worst! Gotta find those silver linings. Two clear top QB plays in clear smash spots with the projections clearly pinpointing the clear edge. Don’t be a fool!
With Kerryon Johnson being placed on IR, the Lions offense now solely rests on Stafford’s cannon of an arm. He put up big numbers against a tough Vikings defense once Kerryon left the field, putting up a 384/4/1 stat-line and adding yet another 3+ TD game for the current season. He’s been a sneaky DFS play for a while now due to his continued high percentage of the team’s touchdowns, a trend that should continue as the Lions become more pass-heavy in the wake of Johnson’s injury. Stafford gets a juicy match-up against the bottom five Giants pass defense in a home game. The Giants are still giving up the 7th most fantasy points to opposing QBs despite Kyler Murray’s ho-hum game last week. The Lions also have been playing at a faster pace as of late and rank 8th fastest after the 1st half. Chances are the Lions will continue that trend with an uptick to their pass per play percentage without their bellcow RB to slow down the game. I’ll continue to take Stafford at well below the elite QB tier as long as he has a high TD equity and throwing at the 8th highest YPA.
BOOST ‘EM UP!
Bear with me here. Tannehill has returned to starting QB status after he took over for the floundering Marcus Mariota mid-game in Week 6. The results have been surprisingly elite at first glance. In the two games (well, game and a half?) Tannehill has played, he would rank 4th best in adjusted completion percentage, 3rd highest YPA, 6th best QB rating, and 3rd best QB rating while kept clean among QBs in the same span. However, he does have one blemish among the many great stat nuggets he achieved during that time. He ranks 24th worst while under pressure, an all too common trend with Tannehill dating back to his Dolphins days. Tannehill just simply struggles whenever there’s consistent pressure as he gets skittish and tries to run for his life while seeing ghosts on the field. He’ll get a 25th DVOA Buccaneers pass defense that’s had a pretty inconsistent pass rush (22nd graded). The Bucs are heavily reliant on Shaquil Barrett for most of their QB pressures. Contain Barrett and the Buccaneers just don’t have any reliable answers on the edge. I’d think the Titans would catch on to the trend and try to double team Barrett at all times. That should allow Tannehill to take advantage of a run-funnel Bucs defense that boasts the 6th best-graded run defense but ranks 6th worst in coverage. If Tannehill can continue his high YPA and their run offense ends up getting stymied, he’s got a great shot at obliterating his projections in a sneaky shoot-out. Temper your expectations though, as Tannehill can very easily fold under pressure against any team. I’ll crank his volatility to a 30 while leaving his projections alone.
Normally CMC would be the clear top RB play on most weeks, but I do believe that the 49ers defense is one of the best defense in the league. It’s always going to be a risky play fading CMC but with the uncertainty of Kamara playing and the Giants falling apart on offense, I find myself pivoting to Todd Gurley in a gorgeous spot. It’s not a sexy play by any means due to a potentially volatile workload (Henderson 34% of the snaps last week) and the always dangerous McVay “Nah, I’m gonna pass it all game against a bottom tier run defense” cockiness. Still, I think Gurley has the ceiling of a 40 point game against a Cincy run defense that’s giving up the most fantasy points to opposing RBs by a very wide margin. Gurley may not have had his usual full workload (only 60% of the snaps) but he was still fed 19 touches and ate up all the goal-line work. Even if Gurley gets only 60% of the snaps again, it’s such a fantastic match-up that Gurley could still hit 100+ yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches. The Bengals run defense really is that bad (most rushing yards and T-2nd touchdowns given up) and the Rams perhaps may be moving towards a run-heavy approach with Goff’s continued struggles under center. It’s a risk I’m willing to take to nab a 90th percentile top RB play.
Well, the projections certainly favor Michel as the clear value RB play. No matter how much you tinker with the projections’ thingamabobs and doohickeys, Michel sticks out like a sore thumb. Not that it’s a bad thing or anything, but when it comes to Patriots and their running backs? It’s always going to be a dicey situation. Michel does offer massive salary relief with great upside in a top RB match-up. He’ll face a 25th DVOA Browns run defense that grades out as the 2nd worst run defense. Ah, you know what? When it comes to Michel, opposing defenses honestly do not matter. The Patriots defense is so elite that the offense generally ends up with great field position and numerous redzone trips. So numerous are those redzone trips that Michel has been fed 27 redzone touches (4th most among RBs) and scoring 6 TDs off those touches. He’s always going to be a TD dependent RB with how mediocre his running has been (3.5 YPC) and his low snap count (40% on the year, 37% last week while hovering near 50% in the 3 games prior). The Browns do have a pretty porous run defense and Michel does have a tantalizing price point attached to an even more tantalizing redzone workload (19 carries inside the 10!). Screw it! I will believe in the projections!
BOOST ‘EM UP!
This is more of an “opportunity knocks” play for me. We all know about Bell’s talent and skill-set. He’s had a tough season due to the Jets QB carousel and a putrid offensive showing against the elite Pats defense. His current statistics are mostly on the Jets’ offensive ineptitude rather than Bell’s actual performance. Bell had averaged 20+ touches before the last two weeks, something I expect to change very quickly against the 27th DVOA Jaguars run defense. He’s still got the 5th most routes run among RBs with the 8th most targets. If Darnold stops watching The Sixth Sense and actually runs the offense like a real quarterback, Bell has a great shot at a top-five RB score based on touches alone. He’s playing on well over 90% of the offensive snaps, operates as the #1 WR, and will largely be ignored by most of the DFS community as everyone flocks to the Saints RBs. The thrashing that CMC gave to the Jaguars’ linebackers (6/61/1 receiving) is still fresh on my mind, which then gives me flashbacks to when Bell used to do the same thing in Pittsburgh. I dunno. I just got this feeling that Bell puts up vintage Steelers Bell numbers against an exploitable defense as long as Darnold is competent enough. I’ll be boosting his numbers up a little bit with a 10 boost but leaving everything else alone. Hopefully, Bell starts to rev up as the Jets schedule lightens up, but I certainly won’t be late to the party.
Third time’s the charm? This is now Hopkins’ third appearance as a top WR play. Will he disappoint again? Probably. He still deserves to be nominated as a top WR play as long as he puts up copious amounts of air yards (4th most) and plays with a QB like Watson. With Fuller gone for a few weeks, one would think the Texans finally unleashes the Nuk Bomb against the hapless Raiders. Perhaps Hopkins can improve upon his unusually low aDOT of 10.4 and 1.85 YPR/R with Fuller gone. Perhaps Kenny Stills simply takes over the deep routes and leaves Hopkins stuck with his six targets on 2 yard drags. Who knows? What we do know is that the Raiders have allowed the T-2nd most receiving touchdowns and just traded away their former 1st round pick CB in Gareon Conley. We also know that Hopkins has now run the 5th most WR routes while seeing the 5th most targets as well. It’s just a matter of time, my babies.
You might be surprised not to see Lockett among the WR plays, but I think Metcalf has a shot at breaking the slate. Metcalf has had tremendous upside all season with the volatility of a ’50s muscle car that runs on diesel and still has the original tires on it. The Seahawks have mostly plastered Metcalf on the left side of the field, which pits him directly against human burnt toast Isaiah Oliver for the majority of the game. Why is that a good thing, you silently ask? Well, Oliver has surrendered a stat-line of 29/412/3 in his coverage. That would rank in the bottom 10 in each category. Yes, he’s still starting for the Falcons. He’s also only the 19th highest targeted CB in the NFL. Basically, he’s burnt toast but only if he’s placed in a toaster. Wilson is the toaster in this comparison, guys. Wilson should take full advantage of a clear match-up edge between forever LWR Metcalf and forever RCB Oliver. The results of that hook-up should provide plenty of fireworks thanks in part to Metcalf’s proclivity at going deep. He’s now seen the T-13th most passes of 20+ yards, hauling in 6 of those (T-6th most) and notching two touchdowns. He’s 6th among all WRs in yards gained on deep catches. Remember, Metcalf is doing all of this while only running the 25th most routes (fewer than Mike Williams!) among WRs. I’m all in on the Russ/Metcalf stack, baby!
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With the trade of Emmanuel Sanders, Sutton has now Suttonly been put into uncharted territory for him. He’s the clear WR1 for Joe Flaccid’s piss-poor throws, although if we’re being honest, Sutton was essentially operating as the #1 for a while now. He was seeing a 24% market share of the team’s targets and figures to soak up some of Sanders’ 19% MS/T that he’ll leave behind. Sutton’s also been putting up significant air yards (19th most) with an 11.4 aDOT despite a low ceiling offense that prefers to run the ball. One of the main reasons to like Sutton more than the projections is his redzone work. Sutton has the 3rd most RZ opportunities on the team and currently sits on 32% MS/T of the redzone targets. Sutton doesn’t get an easy match-up against the bend-but-don’t-break Colts defense that mostly gives up underneath passes while limiting explosive plays downfield. With Sanders’ departure, I suspect the Broncos will ask more out of Sutton’s route tree and have him run shorter routes instead of his usual deep threat role. If Flacco can keep himself upright and makes Sutton a true target hog, then all bets are off for Sutton as a great value play in a meh match-up. I’m going to give him a 10 boost so he grades out as a positive play but handcuffing him to a 40 volatility due to Flacco being Flacco. Still should be a solid play regardless with a high target floor.
Man, what a season Waller has had so far. He just got a big contract extension as well! Waller put up a big ol’ 7/126/2 stat-line after he got that extension against a usually stingy Packers pass defense. He’ll get yet another tough match-up on paper (keyword – on paper) as the Texans have allowed the 8th fewest yards to opposing TEs with only 1 TD surrendered. Waller’s operating as a true #1 WR for the Raiders so pigeon-holing him as simply a TE would be a great disservice to Waller. He’s got a 27% MS/T with the highest YPR/R among TEs while splitting out wide every now and then. He’s been mostly an in-line TE, getting matched up against linebackers for most of his snaps. That’s led to the 3rd most receiving yards despite barely ever running out of the slot that’s usually popular with the elite TEs. He’s just that good right now. The projections have Waller as the easiest top TE play on the slate, and if he can keep up an almost 30% target share then Waller is essentially match-up proof. Slam him in!
Cameron Brate/Jonnu Smith/Josh Hill
These are the bargain basement picks at TE to choose from due to various TE injuries. Howard is on the wrong side of questionable which would make Brate the no-brainer value play on the slate. Even then, he’s still going to carry risk in a low-volume spot since Winston prefers to throw to both his stud WRs and opposing defenses. A 12% MS/T of the redzone targets as a backup TE will always keep Brate relevant. Jonnu Smith likely will be the starter with Delanie Walker likely sitting this week, but he’s never been more than a TD dependent blocking TE with 1/50/1 upside. Josh Hill gets the Arizona TE flowchart if Jared Cook can’t go on Sunday, but he’s also splitting time with Dan Arnold and could be phased out of the offense by both MT/Kamara. Dicey choices, but that’s life as a TE streamer. You are what you roster!