NFL DFS Week 8 Picks
Well, last week was full of highs and lows throughout the day. Some suffered many, many lows with seemingly Kearsed lineups. Others were able to bust through the DFS wall with a 2ToN Mack Daddy truck and top various GPPs behind the Colts stack. Still, there’s still EIGHT more weeks of the NFL regular season. That’s eight more chances to become a millionaire through the battle-tested DailyRoto optimizer, and this just might be the week to do it! Why do I say that? Looking through all the potential games on the main slate, one particular stat appears over and over. 50+ point total games. Yes, there are currently five (!) games that have a Vegas total of at least 50 points. That is by far and away the highest amount of potential shoot-out games this season. It’s such an abundance of game stacks to choose from that I’ve decided to highlight each one of them with my usual plays. That’s right! It’s a special week! Instead of the picks format across all main slate games, the piece will focus on those five games that everyone likely will target in lineup construction. That includes the incredibly popular 2ToN Sleeper Pick for each game! So go ahead and scroll down for your weekly dose of shenanigans and tomfoolery with some shockingly accurate picks. It’s what I do.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Cincinnati Bengals
Gotta think the two starting QBs would be the preferred options to try and cover every possible weapon both have in their arsenal. Winston is the better option since the Bucs don’t really have a running game and their passing attack has been able to put together explosive plays every week even with the QB change. The Bengals offense as a whole has ground to a halt since Mixon’s return, now averaging the 6th fewest plays per game despite the 13th fastest pace. Despite the lack of offensive plays, the Bengals defense is still giving up the third most plays and apparently have forgotten how to cover as evidenced by last week’s shredding via Air Mahomes. Winston has elevated the Bucs’ offensive attack since his return, pushing the team’s pace higher (10th fastest) and implementing his usual track record of high no-huddle rate (4th highest percentage in the last two weeks). That has resulted in an increase of offensive plays, pushing the Bucs to 9th most with the fastest pace among all teams in the last two weeks. Winston remains a top-notch QB1 for as long as his weapons remain healthy and their running game continues to falter.
Of course, you should probably stack your QB picks with their favorite targets. The problem with Winston stacks is he has generally spread around the ball, peppering each and every one of his capable receivers with no discernible affinity towards anyone. Not even Mike Evans. That’s why I prefer the Dalton stack with A.J. Green over Jameis and…well, anyone. You’d essentially have to include at least two of the following players in any Winston stacks – O.J. Howard, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and DeSean Jackson. Yikes.
Meanwhile, Green pops as the third best overall WR option on the optimizer in a pool of supreme potential receivers. That may be due to the Bucs’ horrendous pass defense that’s been a pass-funnel all season, boasting a top 10 rated run defense but a nut-low 32nd DVOA pass defense. Their pass rush has been non-existent thus far this season, allowing opposing QBs to tack on the highest fantasy points per game average. Allowing the most passing touchdowns can do that to a defensive unit. Green should be the main beneficiary of a good Red Rifle game, provided said Red Rifle actually targets him for the entirety of the game. Last week saw Green accumulate 117 yards on 7 catches (14 targets), the majority coming in the first half with only one catch in the second half. Disgraceful! If the Bengals want to take advantage of a weak secondary, Dalton has to feed his stud WR in every single quarter! I believe in Green and so does the opto, so the decision is yours to make. Don’t muck it up.
With Peyton Barber possibly hobbled and in danger of missing the game, Ronald Jones may step in as a great value play to choose from the game. As I mentioned before, the Bucs generally don’t stick to the run often enough to maximize results. That may be an issue for low-level talent like Peyton Barber, but for an explosive rookie like Ronald Jones, getting the opportunity could mean everything. When Barber exited the game in the third quarter, Jones saw immediate work with five touches, including a short touchdown run. That’s progress. He was also on 29 offensive snaps and should inherit close to the 50 snaps left by Barber. That’s enough snaps to hit value in a high powered offense while still having the ceiling of being the only goal-line back. Good enough.
I think we should give Godwin another chance to hit value once more, as last week’s showing was rather mediocre. He got his highest percentage of the team’s offensive snaps last week, out-snapping both DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries. That’s a crucial stat to keep in mind, as Godwin has been a red zone phenom whenever given the chance, converting his 8 opportunities into 4 touchdowns. If the snap counts continue to go his way, Godwin should more than double his value at his low price point in a favorable match-up considering they move him all over the place. If he can continue to out-snap Humphries, he may end up being the preferred slot option for the Bucs. That’s a big ceiling boost against a Bengals pass defense giving up the 6th most combined yards to opposing receivers. As long as Godwin receives a high snap share, the red zone potential alone makes him a worthwhile add to all lineups.
You know who’s been rather reliable for the Bengals offense at a premium position? C.J. Uzomah. Since Eifert was put on I.R., Uzomah has stepped in as the starter and tallied a modest 10/110/1 on 11 targets. That line would look better had the Bengals not gotten romped by the Chiefs last week. Still, those are pretty decent numbers for a low tier TE. He’ll get a Bucs defense that ranks second worst in yards/touchdowns given up to opposing tight ends. They’re also giving up the highest fantasy point average to the position. For a 32nd ranked pass defense, it’s clear that the two biggest holes of the defense have been their TE coverage and handling number one WRs. Uzomah has sneaky potential to be a top-five scoring TE at the worst position in DFS. I like his odds to dunk on a vulnerable LB unit.
Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers
This is gonna be a toughie. Ben at home? Antonio against possible Denzel Ward coverage? James Conner already dumping 30+ points on Browns narrative? Baker revenge game? Decisions, decisions. I think I’m going to go with two Steelers top plays, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. I do believe Denzel Ward is a budding star at cornerback and while Antonio Brown could easily dust him without any effort, I’m going to respectfully pivot off him onto Smith-Schuster in the better match-up on paper. T.J. Carrie has been the Browns nickelback this season, and it hasn’t gone too well for him with a 96.3 passer rating against his coverage. The Browns unexpectedly deployed a different defensive strategy against the Bucs due to an E.J. Gaines injury, moving Damarious Randall from his usual free safety position to boundary CB with the responsibility of covering Mike Evans. Randall thusly gave up 9/104 on 12 targets as the new #2 cornerback. Not a great idea, Browns. Both Randall and Gaines remain as DNP for the Browns at the time of the writing, which would certainly change things for the Steelers passing attack. As for now, I’m still going to stick with JuJu and his impressive 29% market share of the team’s red zone work. Roethlisberger clearly prefers JuJu as his primary read in the RZ, almost doubling Brown’s red zone targets. It hasn’t paid off handsomely for Smith-Schuster though, with only two touchdowns out of 16 chances. Still gotta love those numbers and Ben’s willingness at giving him plenty of chances to score. Add on the most plays given up by the Browns defense, and you have a recipe for a huge game.
Unlike JuJu, James Conner has actually been able to cash in his team-leading red zone work with five total touchdowns on 19 tries. What’s appealing about Conner this week isn’t just his big red zone workload, but the decline of the Browns’ run defense. The Browns were a top 10 rushing unit in the first quarter of the season, but that number has since dropped to 25th DVOA during the second quarter. They’ve now given up the 4th most total rushing yards with the 2nd most rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs. With Le’Veon Bell still up in the air on whether or not he’ll report, all signs point to yet another big Conner workload. After a few games of relative ineffectiveness and under 20 touches, Conner has come alive in the last two weeks with 48 total touches in that span. He averaged over five yards a run and nabbed four total touchdowns with 300+ total yards. That is some Le’Veon-esque numbers, and it should continue against an exploitable run defense. Slam dunk.
There are not many value plays to like from the game. Most of the great looking plays are priced out of the ‘value’ tier, even if the optimizer actually has James Conner as a tremendous value only behind Gurley and Mixon. Chubb is still relatively low priced for a solid RB2, but it’s not a smash spot for him as the Steelers have only given up the sixth most total rushing yards. Njoku has now started being prices as a top tier TE, which is quite fair for what’s done since Mayfield’s been a starter. Callaway is….not an option. That leaves Baker Mayfield as the only real value play, coming off a lackluster day against a poor Bucs pass defense. He struggled to corral any sort of offensive rhythm in the 1st half, but got it together with several key touchdown passes to get the game to overtime. That still didn’t save his day as a strong value play, and I suspect the same may happen this week. While the Steelers pass defense isn’t as dreadful as the Bucs, they’re still giving up the 5th most plays despite sitting on a bye week. It’s a 20th DVOA ranked pass defense that’s gone through various changes in their CB shuffle, allowing the 5th most passing touchdowns to opposing QBs. It’s a decent match-up for the third fastest paced Browns offense in perhaps yet another shoot-out in Mayfield’s short career.
You know what I found interesting with the Steelers’ last game before their bye? They basically replaced James Washington with Vance McDonald from a snap count point of view. Washington had usually garnered at least 30 snaps every week since Week 2, but those numbers had been on a steady decline while McDonald’s snaps rose. In their last game, McDonald actually had more snaps at WR than Washington while tripling Washington’s snap count in the process. That leads me to believe that the Steelers are trending towards playing more 2 TE sets but in new, intriguing ways with McDonald somewhat in the Washington role. That’s some serious potential in a high-powered offense with more mismatches than what a traditional TE role would get. The Browns have done well in their TE coverage, ranking 2nd DVOA in TE coverage and around average/above average in yards/points given up. The recent change-up by the Steelers’ usage of McDonald has me thinking that the numbers on paper may not matter for McDonald if he’s able to line up against smaller bodies and let his athleticism take over. Worth a shot.
Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs
I’m sure most of you are just going to stack the entire Chiefs offense. It’s not a bad option considering they’ve been one of the best offenses in the past month with the 3rd most points per snap and continued elevated pace (15th fastest, up from the bottom five slowest). Mahomes has been an absolute stud, continuing his sizzling streak of at least 300 passing yards in six straight games. He’s also thrown for 18 touchdowns in that span with two rushing touchdowns to top it off. His partners in crime, Tyreek Hill (2nd) and Travis Kelce (2nd), are both near top fantasy scoring leaders in their respective positions. So why am I going to pivot away from all of those weapons in favor of Kareem Hunt?
Easy. It’s a divisional rematch that historically leans towards lower scoring games on the second go-around. The Broncos also have been ramping up their pass rush, thanks in part to Von Miller playing out of his mind in the last few weeks. That’s led to teams running more against a 28th ranked run defense to great success, with the most overall rushing yards given up and seven TDs to opposing RBs. The Broncos have also sort of righted the ship in their pass coverage, coming in as 2nd best with the second most sacks as well. That’s why I think the Chiefs may opt for a heavier dose of a surging Hunt, averaging nearly 150 total yards on a 20 touch average over the last four weeks. Not to mention his six total touchdowns scored in the same span. Incredible numbers, and it can only get even better from here on for a red-hot offense. Forget Tyreek, forget Kelce. Hunt is my favorite play out of this game.
Sanders should be considered a higher end value play with how he’s performed behind an inconsistent QB, ranking 3rd in fantasy points scored among WRs. He’s team leader in total targets, yards, and actually has the most touchdowns out of everyone not named Keenum. He’ll be battling the Chiefs’ primary nickelback in Kendall Fuller for 63% of Sanders’ routes in the slot. It’s a favorable match-up as Fuller has regressed from his recent superb season as a Redskin, surrendering 391 yards and two TDs on 29 catches. That is the most among all Chiefs’ defenders, an undesirable stat to have on the 26th worst defense. Normally I would suggest stacking Sanders with Keenum as they’re both affordable (Keenum especially), but I don’t have much faith in Keenum amid trade rumors surrounding both Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. The former seems like a safe bet to stay in Denver, while the latter may be traded by Sunday’s end. That would obviously put Sutton face first on the Value Town Map. For now, I’m comfortable touting Sanders as a great target just below the tier one WRs.
On that other end of the spectrum, Kansas City has actually been quite awful against the run save for the Mixon let-down from last week’s SNF debacle. The Chiefs currently rank dead last in DVOA run defense, allowing the 8th most total rushing yards and 2nd most receiving yards to opposing running backs. That leaves the door wide open for Philip Lindsay to jump on the scene as an under the radar RB play. Lindsay continues to thrive in a RBBC with Freeman/Booker, rushing for 238 yards and two TDs in the last four games. The biggest question for me with Lindsay is will the Broncos utilize him more on passing down instead of Booker? He’s only seen 14 targets in those four games, with only one memorable game (6/48 receiving), putting a damper on his ceiling against a team that’s been hemorrhaging yards to running backs through the air. It’s still a damn good match-up for the speedy rookie, who just might end up being leaned on to stave off the explosive Chiefs offense with a run-centric game plan. It’s probably the only way the Broncos have a chance to slow down Air Mahomes and pull off the upset.
Indianapolis Colts vs Oakland Raiders
With all the uncertainty about the Raiders’ offense without Marshawn Lynch and Amari Cooper, it’s safe to say that banking on Andrew Luck is probably the best way to attack this game. Luck has been dialed in for the last month, cranking out three 4 TD games in that span. Yes, you read that right. Luck has been on a rampage ever since reports of having an air gun surfaced after his first few games, cranking out 1,286 passing yards on 64% completion and 15 touchdowns over the last four games. Absurd. He’ll get the 2nd worst DVOA Oakland pass defense coming off a bye where Gruden basically confirmed a total rebuild with the Cooper trade among other things. Seems like a good spot to crank up the ol’ pop gun once more for Luck, but you really should stack T.Y. Hilton with the admiral.
Hilton’s been out a few games with various injuries but his return last week was a successful one, relatively speaking. Tre White had shadowed Hilton for most of the game, shutting him down outside of a few touchdowns. Yes, just a few teeny, tiny touchdowns. Hilton finished the day with 4/25/2, but won’t have the issue of a Tre White shadow against an abysmal Oakland secondary. Hilton should see plenty of grizzled veteran Leon Hall in the slot (40% of routes ran), which seems like such a massive speed disadvantage for the elder Hall. Even worse, with the Raiders’ constant defensive shuffles and trade rumors swirling regarding both Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph, the pass defense just has not been able to stick to a singular game plan with the same personnel grouping. That has led to many explosive plays, of which Hall has been mostly responsible for with the most yards given up among the starters. It’s a sheer speed edge for Hilton in what should be a big passing day for Luck.
Of course, a new look Raiders offense coming into town can only mean one thing. Brand new toys to play with! With Lynch out for the season, Doug Martin is now back into the picture as the Lynch replacement. Don’t worry, I actually don’t think he has any juice left and hasn’t improved his vision much. I prefer Jalen Richard as a pure PPR value play as the Raiders likely will play from behind early and often. That means more passing down work for Richard, a role he has excelled in all season long whenever the game script flips favorably towards him. Richard has put up a 31/253 line on 37 targets as a pure passing down back with games of 7/48, 6/53, 6/59, and 9/55 in games Raiders were either losing big or had to go pass-heavy for the comeback. Even as a passing down only back, Richard still has the second most targets on the team with the 2nd highest market share. There was always the possibility of Richard being a dud due to a heavy Lynch game plan, but with Beastmode out of the picture, that can only leave even more work for Richard once Martin eventually flops as a “featured” back. Strictly a DraftKings play.
With Cooper gone, one would think either Jordy Nelson or Martavis Bryant would gobble up Cooper’s 14% market share and 32 targets. The most likely recipient of those targets should be Martavis Bryant, whose snaps had progressively been increasing on a weekly basis save for a Week 5 aberration. Those snaps hadn’t been very productive, but he still played a pivotal role as the deep threat to keep defenses honest over the top. With Cooper gone, Bryant jumps in as the de-facto #2 WR with Jordy Nelson assuming most of the slot duties. That pits Bryant against Indy’s biggest secondary weakness in Nate Hairston, while their best cornerback in Kenny Moore should be battling Jordy in the nickel. Hairston has an appalling 128.3 passer rating on passes in his coverage, giving up 313 yards and 2 TDs on 25 catches. Hairston has been consistently the weakest link for the Colts’ pass defense every week, and it just may continue with Bryant assuming the Cooper role.
Bryant was actually second on the team in total air yards behind Cooper, with an impressive 13.3 aDOT. That number likely goes down as his target volume increases, but the deep threat role should still solely be his. It’s a shot in the dark but looking at snap count and the Colts’ defensive scheme, it’s more than likely that Bryant ends up torching Hairston in his new role. Or the entire Raiders team could get shut out. Who knows, but that Gruden guy sure is a grinder.
Green Bay Packers vs Los Angeles Rams
Well, well, well. Here we are, the most anticipated game of the slate. Rodgers. Goff. Woods. Cooks. Gurley. Adams. Crosby. Wait, what? Silly bunny, this isn’t KickerDuel! Whew, boy. Which ones to pick? Full game stack? Not a bad idea, skip! Let’s actually figure out the Gurley game here first.
The Packers have only given up the 11st fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, allowed the 12th fewest rushing yards but the 10th highest yards per carry, and their rush defense currently rank 29th DVOA. What gives?
Well, the Packers’ run defense is a bit of an oddity as the Packers have had some high passing volume games with Rodgers forcing other teams to abandon an effective rushing game in order to keep up with the Packers’ pace. In most Packers games, there has been an RB that has been able to eat up yardage against a soft run unit but eventually faded away in favor of more passing. That may also happen to Gurley, but the Rams run so much 11 personnel that 8-9 man boxes simply do not exist to help stop the Gurley train. That makes it quite difficult to hone in against Gurley and effectively stop the passing attack as well, something the 49ers took full advantage of with Breida and Mostert running up against the edges of the Packers defense. Point blank – Gurley is a stud that has been unstoppable and should continue being unstoppable….until Rodgers puts up a 21-0 lead and forces the Rams to play catch-up. Improbable!
While there are more top plays to be had, the prices of those said top plays actually could fall into the value category. Both Rodgers and Goff are at favorable prices compared to the other QBs possibly involved in shoot-outs, with Goff’s stack options also flying in as top-tier values. Robert Woods has continued to pile on yards week in and week out, going six straight games with at least 80 total yards. He ranks as the best overall play among WRs in the projections and has nearly double the value of the next closest WR! A big part of that reason may be due to Cooper Kupp missing the game once again, making Woods the primary slot receiver. That gives him the best shot of success against an improving Packers secondary that’s struggled to gain consistent nickelback play. One of the more impressive stats regarding Woods is how diverse his route tree has been and how far he actually gets down the field. He’s currently 5th in yards per route run, has a 11.7 aDOT, and has the 14th most air yards among WRs. That’s crazy for a guy playing 40% of his snaps in the slot! Both Woods and Cooks rank high in aDOT with top 5 YPRR numbers and near top 20 total air yards, so it’s no wonder Goff comes in as the best QB value on the slate with Rodgers a close third. Stack the Rams, baby! STACK, STACK, STACK!
Both Cobb and Allison are expected to return to the Packers lineup, so which one should we pick to stack with Rodgers? I actually prefer Allison over Cobb simply due to his bigger route running numbers, as Cobb has still been limited by his route tree that’s full of short, dinky routes like rubs, hitches, and slants. Allison was proficient on his routes run, averaging a healthy 13.1 aDOT and almost doubled Cobb’s total air yards with only two more targets and catches than Cobb. Allison is the clear player to target regardless of target shares between him and Cobb, as he has the higher ceiling with the bigger playmaking potential. The Rams may rank 7th DVOA as a pass coverage unit, but they have been victimized often over the past few weeks. The secondary as a whole has given up 9 touchdowns over the last four games, compared to only 2 in the first three games. The Talib injury and the CB shuffle between Sam Shields/Troy Hill didn’t help matters during those last four games. Rodgers doesn’t care about all of that, and Allison should reap the benefits of a discombobulated Rams pass defense.