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Inside the Matchup

Week 8

By: Andy Swanson | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green



Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:

JAX @ SEA | NE @ LAC | TB @ NO | WAS @ DEN | DAL @ MIN



- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Packers at Cardinals - (Caron)
Line: ARI -6.5
Total: 50.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The COVID-IR list has hit the Packers passing game particularly hard this week, likely eliminating both wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard from Thursday’s contest against the Cardinals. With their top two wide receivers out and Marquez Valdes-Scantling still technically on the IR, there are a lot of questions as to which players will be lining up out wide for Green Bay this week. If Valdes-Scantling does play, look for him to be the primary wide receiver aside from slot receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb’s targets have been minimal so far this season but he has seen 13 targets over his past three games, so it would stand to reason that he should see an uptick this week. It’s really tough to trust any of the Packers wide receivers this week as anything more than a Flex, but that’s more than you can usually say about them.

The other player who seemingly should see some additional work this week is tight end Robert Tonyan. Tonyan had a huge 2020 but has been a massive disappointment this season, primarily due to a lack of touchdowns. He scored just his second touchdown this past week, on four catches for 63 yards, which was his best performance of the season. Assuming that the Packers will be utilizing wide receivers who do not typically get to play with Aaron Rodgers, it would make sense that Tonyan should be viewed as a low-end TE1, even in a tough matchup against a good Packers defense.

Aaron Rodgers is typically a solid WR1 for fantasy but without his top two wide receivers, he becomes a borderline benchable fantasy asset this week. The Cardinals defense is very good even if their secondary is not full of star players, so there’s a decent possibility that fantasy owners have a better option in single-QB leagues.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: With the Packers passing game significantly hampered, it would be wise to assume that they’ll lean more heavily on their running game than they have so far in 2021. Aaron Jones turned in one of his worst performances of the season in Week 7 against Washington, but he had been on a fairly decent tear over his previous two contests, so we shouldn’t expect that the Packers have given up on him.

Jones looks like a strong bet to finish with at least 15 touches this week and he could see additional usage in the passing game due to the health of the other pass catchers in this offense. Consider him a low-end RB1 for fantasy this week.

Fellow running back AJ Dillon should remain on fantasy benches until we see his usage move up significantly, or if the Packers are in what should be a strong game positive script.

Value Meter:
QB2: Aaron Rodgers (high end)
RB1: Aaron Jones (low end)
WR3: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
TE1: Robert Tonyan
Flex: Randall Cobb
Bench: AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill, Equanimeous St. Brown

Passing Game Thoughts: A top three quarterback once again this season, Kyler Murray has shifted from being one of the most active runners in the league to one who has rushed for fewer than 20 yards more often than he’s rushed for above that number. Still, his passing game success has increased so dramatically that it hasn’t really mattered, although it has meant that we’ve seen a more consistent fantasy output versus what we saw this past year when he had quite a few huge spike weeks and then would provide duds on occasion. Murray has made himself an every week must-start and that’ll be the case again this week against a Packers defense that hasn’t been great against opposing passers and has struggled against mobile quarterbacks.

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) continues to be the Cardinals’ best option in the passing game and he’s now scored four times over his past three contests and he’s scored at least 10 PPR fantasy points in all but one game this season. Normally he’d have the difficult task of matching up against star cornerback Jaire Alexander in this game, but Alexander is currently on IR and won’t be back in time to face Hopkins. Continue to roll with Hopkins as a low-end WR1 this week.

A.J. Green started the season off strong, but has taken a bit of a back seat in recent weeks, as Christian Kirk has become more involved in the offense and has now scored in back-to-back games. Kirk and Green are both players who fantasy owners could consider if they’ve been bit by the injury bug or if bye weeks have you scrambling, but they’re low-end starters in normal 12-team leagues. Rookie Rondale Moore has had some exciting moments this season but he’s averaged fewer than four targets per game over his past five contests, so he can probably be cut in most seasonal leagues and he’s certainly not someone we should be looking to start in this game.

Tight end Zach Ertz has been an interesting add for the Cardinals and he got into the end zone this past week while tying Green for the team-lead in receiving yardage in his debut this past week. It would’ve been hard to imagine that Ertz could finish as a TE1 this season if he stayed in Philadelphia where he’d have to battle Dallas Goedert for playing time, but now the chances that he’s fantasy relevant for the remainder of the season seem pretty strong.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: The fantasy frustrations continued for Chase Edmonds owners this past week as the running back finally saw a season-high 15 carries, but it was accompanied by his lowest catch total of the season as he caught just one pass. Edmonds has now touched the ball more times than any player in the NFL this season without scoring a touchdown. Normally this would be a screaming positive regression situation, but the Cardinals have essentially told us that Edmonds will only be scoring this season if he gets the ball outside of the red zone and breaks it for a touchdown. While we saw a decent floor from Edmonds earlier this season, he’s now scored 10 or fewer PPR fantasy points in three straight games, while catching three or fewer passes in all of those games. He’s not droppable but Edmonds is someone who fantasy owners should be worried about right now and he’s more of a Flex than he is an RB2 right now given his lack of ceiling.

Teammate James Conner has done enough to make Edmonds owners pull their hair out, but Conner himself simply hasn’t been an every week starter for fantasy either, despite the fact that he’s already scored six touchdowns this season. Conner has been held to 11 or fewer fantasy points in all but three games and he’s almost a complete touchdown-or-bust fantasy player. The Cardinals have a chance to score quite a bit in practically every game so Conner is a decent bet to score each week, but he’s almost completely unused in the passing game so there’s a very low floor for him.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins (low end)
WR3: A.J. Green
TE1: Zach Ertz
Flex: Chase Edmonds (high end), James Conner, Christian Kirk (PPR only)
Bench: Rondale Moore

Prediction: Cardinals 31, Packers 24 ^ Top

Dolphins at Bills - (Ilchuk)
Line: BUF -14.0
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: As Deshaun Watson trade rumors swirl, Tua Tagovailoa posted some strong numbers in Week 7 (32-40-291-4 TD). However, he also threw two bad interceptions (his fourth in four games) and the big play continued to elude this offense. Tua is averaging just 7.1 yards per attempt, dinking and dunking his way down the field. While that my keep the Bills’ pass rush at bay this week, the more passes needed to get down the field, the more chances for Tagovailoa to make a mistake, especially against a Buffalo defense that will show him a wide array of pressures and coverages.

Tua’s favorite target is WR Jaylen Waddle, who has 57 targets and a team-high three scores. TE Mike Gesicki has snagged 21% of Miami’s target share and leads the team in yards and yards per game. WR DeVante Parker should be back after missing several weeks due to injury. He offers some big play ability, averaging just under 15 yards per catch. Fellow WR’s Preston Williams and Will Fuller (injured) have been non-factors.

Simply put, there hasn’t been a team that’s been better against the pass than the Bills. Buffalo ranks top 3 in the NFL in just about every major category – Yards per attempt (1st-5.7), TD’s allowed (1st-5), Passer rating (1st-62.1), INT’s (2nd-10), and Completion percentage (2nd-58.3). Though they have a lower-than-expected sack total (14), they do get pressure on the pocket and will force Tua into his fair share of mistakes. They are also tough defending up the seam, which is where Miami’s leading receiver, TE Mike Gesicki makes his living.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: Dolphins HC Brian Flores seems to have learned from his mentor Bill Belichick that two, three, or four running backs is better than one. Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, and Salvon Ahmed have shared the load thus far this season, and in frustrating fashion, a different back seems to be the focus of the game plan every week. Brown actually started in Week 7 before an early injury sidelined him. That should be good news for Gaskin owners this week. Gaskin has been the Dolphins best runner and offers a legitimate outlet in the passing game with 36 targets in seven games. With Brown going down, the team signed Duke Johnson, but he’s not likely to be a major factor, at least this week.

The Dolphins could find some elements of a winning game plan on the ground. Buffalo is yielding 4.2 yards per carry, and while they have stood tall against the run in the red zone, Gaskin and Gesicki have been dangerous receivers down in the shadow of the goal posts. Gaskin has yet to eclipse 15 carries in a game this season, but with Brown out, a heavy run load against a beatable run defense could make him a sneaky play.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tua Tagovailoa (low-end)
RB2: Myles Gaskin (low-end)
WR2: Jaylen Waddle (mid-range)
TE1: Mike Gesicki (high-end)
Flex: DeVante Parker (if he plays)
Bench: RB Malcolm Brown, WR Preston Williams, WR Will Fuller

Passing Game Thoughts: You don’t need me to tell you about Josh Allen. After a slow start to the season, he has passed for 300+ yards in three of his last four games (over 350 in two of them) and connected on 12 of his 15 TD’s in the past month. WR Stefon Diggs is the alpha dog of the receiving corps, averaging over 75 yards per game, and the only guy in the group with a 100-yard game on the resume this season.

WR Emmanuel Sanders has become the big play threat, averaging over 17 yards per catch, and Cole Beasley, working mostly from the slot, has been a valuable outlet in the possession game. He could be a beneficiary of TE Dawson Knox’ injury with more targets now available in the middle of the field. Converted QB Tommy Sweeney stepped in mid-game for Knox (broken hand) and scored a touchdown right out of the box. HC Sean McDermott says there’s an opportunity in this offense for Sweeney, so he’s worth watching this week to see how his role evolves.

The Dolphins have been vulnerable against the pass, to put it nicely. They rank among the bottom five or six teams in the league in yards per attempt (8.0) and passer rating (104.1), have allowed 15 passing TD’s (29th) and have just 3 INT’s (27th) and 12 sacks (27th). Opposing QB’s have completed 65.8% of their passes against this unit, which has given up 37 plays of 20 yards or more. So here comes Allen, Diggs, Sanders, Beasley, and company. Sign me up!

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Devin Singletary and Zack Moss have been sharing the load in the run game with Allen. Though the total touches have nearly equal, Moss seems to have evolved as the RB1 on 1st and 2nd down and in the red zone, while Singletary is more involved in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield. Moss is probably the more valuable fantasy back due to the red zone work, but Singletary could be a PPR play with his receiving skills.

Miami is allowing 4.2 yards per carry on the season, but they’ve tightened things up a bit, limiting the Falcons and Jaguars to less than 100 yards on the ground the last two weeks. That’s a positive, but probably won’t affect the outcome much as Buffalo figures to attack primarily through the air.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high-end)
RB2: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss (low-end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (high-end)
WR3: Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders (mid-range)
FLEX: TE Tommy Sweeney (low-end)
DEF/ST1: Buffalo Bills
Bench: TE Dawson Knox

Prediction: Bills 21, Dolphins 10 ^ Top

Panthers @ Falcons - (Swanson)
Line: ATL -3.0
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Things have quickly turned for the worse for Sam Darnold and the Panthers offense. After four straight games with 20 or more fantasy points, Darnold came crashing down with two passing touchdowns and five interceptions in his last three games.

He was so bad against the Giants on Sunday that head coach Matt Rhule benched him in favor of PJ Walker, who managed to complete just three of 14 passes for 33 yards.

Rhule has stated that Darnold is his starter this week and that he still believes he Darnold is the QB of the future. Only time will tell on the latter part, but at least Darnold and D.J. Moore fantasy managers can get excited about this fantasy matchup.

The Falcons have given up the fourth-most points to opposing quarterbacks this season, and they have yet to give up a rushing touchdown to an opposing QB. 15 passing touchdowns and nearly 1600 yards in six games is a ton of fantasy goodness for a team like the Panthers to exploit.

The question, is will Darnold stop seeing ghosts and start running the ball again in the red zone that made him such a potent fantasy asset in two QB leagues?

For whatever reason the 2021 season for Robby Anderson is a complete bust and you can move on. In seven games, Anderson has just catches for 204 yards and a pair of scores. He was on the field for 95% of the offensive snaps last week, faced the No.2 CB for the Giants, and caught three passes for 14 yards.

The optimist in me wants to point to his 20 targets over the past two weeks and 49 on the year, but those appear to be empty targets and Anderson is a bust.

D.J. Moore on the other hand should be in your lineup and is poised for a big game. Although only one opposing WR has topped 100 yards in a game this season against Atlanta, They have given up nine receiving touchdowns to opposing WRs in six games, including multi-touchdown games to Mike Evans and Terry McLaurin.

Another reason to love Moore this week is the unfortunate neck injury to starting cornerback A.J. Terrell. Terrell has been ruled out, leaving Fabian Moreau and Kendall Sheffield as the likely starting corners.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie Chuba Hubbard continues to be the lead running back for the Panthers with Christian McCaffrey on IR with a hamstring injury. Hubbard saw 53% of the snaps last week compared to 45% for Royce Freeman, which was a bit of a change from Week 6 when Hubbard was on the field 65% of the time.

The Falcons rank 12th in points allowed to running backs over the past three weeks, With Myles Gaskin and both Michael Carter and Ty Johnson of the Jets reaching pay dirt. It would not surprise us to see Hubbard reach the end zone, but it is likely that the Panthers will look to pass the ball more against the Falcons than trying to move it on the ground.

No.1 CB AJ Terrell is out and the Falcons have not given up more than 74 rushing yards to any opposing backs.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Darnold (High-End)
RB2: Chuba Hubbard (Low-End)
WR1: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
TE2: Dan Arnold (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan and the Falcons host Sam Darnold and the reeling Panthers. Winners of two straight and three of their last four, the Falcons have done a good job taking advantage of a soft part in their schedule, with wins over the Giants, Jets, and Dolphins.

With the Panthers losing four straight and Sam Darnold playing like the Darnold of old, the Falcons have a good shot of winning a third consecutive game.

From a fantasy perspective, Ryan is producing right about where we as a fantasy industry collectively predicted. Not exactly a true QB1, but a solid QB2 who has the ability to produce QB1 games in the right matchup. His 19.6 points per game have him on pace for .3 more per contest than last season, and he is on pace to throw 34 passing touchdowns this year.

Kyle Pitts was drafted to be the unicorn rookie tight end who would break all the tight end records. With 471 yards and 31 catches through six games, Pitts is well on his way to break Mike Ditka’s rookie record of 1076 receiving yards set in 1961. Pitts truthers have the naysayers second-guessing their Pitts hate right now.

As we all expected, an Atlanta Falcon wide receiver is currently ranked in the top five in fantasy points per game. Unfortunately, that player is not second round pick Calvin Ridley, the player everyone thought would breakout with Julio Jones leaving. No, the WR to own so far this season is journeyman Cordarrelle Patterson, who boasts six total touchdowns and over 500 combined yards in six games.

The Panthers rank 22nd in fantasy points allowed to WRs and 20th to QBs. They are an up and coming young defense that held Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts, and Jameis Winston with three combined passing touchdowns in 2021. Those three did salvage their respective fantasy days with three total rushing touchdowns - something we will not expect to see from a statuesque, pocket passer like Matt Ryan.

No other team has allowed fewer points to opposing running backs than the Panthers, including the Bucs, who have yet to five up a rushing touchdown. To beat the Panthers you need to throw the ball, and no other team has scored fewer points running the ball than the Falcons.

To win this game the Falcons will need to protect Matt Ryan and give him time to throw the ball. That may be a bit more challenging with the likelihood of Stephon Gilmore making his debut for the Panthers on Sunday. Gilmore, widely considered one of the top corners in football, was traded to the Panthers by the Patriots two weeks ago for late round picks.

With Gilmore joining a talented young secondary that includes Jeremy Chinn and CJ Henderson, teams like the Falcons may find it very difficult to move the ball against Carolina the remainder of the season.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: No other team has done less on the ground with their running backs than the Falcons. Those numbers are skewed a bit because Cordarrelle Patterson is technically listed as a wide receiver and not a running back.

However, even with those numbers added to the subpar performances by Mike Davis, the Falcons would still be a bottom-half rushing team.

Teams that have found success against the Panthers have done so through the air, which does not bode well for Davis, who currently ranks 39th at the position with 8.5 fantasy points per game. He is not getting enough work to justify starting him, and his volume in the passing game has disappeared over the past two weeks.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (High-End)
RB3: Mike Davis (Low-End)
WR2: Calvin Ridley (High-End)
WR2: Cordarrelle Patterson (Low-End)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (High-End)

Prediction: Carolina 28, Atlanta 21 ^ Top

Steelers @ Browns - (Green)
Line: CLE -3.5
Total: 42.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Prior to their bye, the Steelers had to sweat out an overtime win at home against a Seattle team with Geno Smith making his first NFL start in nearly four years. Sure, a win is a win, but it was a struggle. Perhaps the extra rest will do Ben Roethlisberger (oblique/hip) some good as he manages a strained oblique and sore hip. In Week 6, Big Ben completed 29 of 40 passes for 229 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs. It was the fourth time in six games Roethlisberger has averaged fewer than 6 yards per attempt.

With JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder) lost for the season, a new name emerged as a popular target against the Seahawks in Pat Freiermuth (7-58-0). The rookie nearly matched his season-to-date total Sunday night, and his security blanket role is sure to remind fans of Heath Miller, who was a longtime favorite of Roethlisberger. On the outside, Diontae Johnson (9-71-0) seems set to lead the way in targets most weeks while Chase Claypool (2-17-0) is more of the designated downfield threat. James Washington (1-9-0) could also be worth keeping an eye on.

Cleveland is currently ranked seventh in pass defense on the year, and only the Bears and Vikings have registered more sacks than the Browns (20). The last time they faced Roethlisberger in the regular season, the veteran passed for just 162 yards and a TD in a 31-point blowout. He and Freiermuth should remain benched this Sunday, though the first-year TE is worth stashing in deeper leagues. Johnson can be plugged in as a No. 2 receiver while Claypool holds value as a No. 3.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: It took a few weeks, but Najee Harris is now positioned as the top option in Pittsburgh’s offense, topping 20 touches in each of his last four games. It can be a grind at times, such as his 81 yards on 24 carries versus Seattle, but his skills as a receiver allow him to supplement that production -- he caught six passes for 46 yards and a touchdown in that Seahawks game. Cleveland is as tough as anyone this side of the Bucs at stopping the run, but Harris’ dual-threat skills allow him to retain RB1 value.

Value Meter:
RB1: Najee Harris
WR2: Diontae Johnson
WR3: Chase Claypool
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger, Pat Freiermuth

Passing Game Thoughts: After reinjuring his non-throwing shoulder in Week 6, Baker Mayfield (shoulder) gave way to Case Keenum on Thursday Night Football. Keenum threw for 199 yards and a TD in the win over Denver, but with the extra rest it looks as though Mayfield might return after missing just one start. Of course, the reality is the Browns are going to try to run the ball down Pittsburgh’s throat no matter who takes the snaps with the passing game sprinkled in to keep the Steelers honest.

It doesn’t help that Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) and Jarvis Landry (knee) are both banged up. Landry, who was activated from the IR before Week 7, suffered an unrelated knee injury, while OBJ further exacerbated his existing shoulder woes. Neither has been a full participant in practice, so you’ll want to monitor their status leading up to Sunday. Even assuming both play, the numbers have been mediocre at best most weeks, and there’s no reason to think that will change here.

The Steelers haven’t been as strong defensively as we’re accustomed to, and that includes the No. 15 pass defense. Pittsburgh is doubtless hopeful that their five sacks of Geno Smith on SNF usher in a more productive pass rush after they managed just 10 sacks over the first five games combined. There is minimal value attached to Cleveland’s passing game right now, with Beckham and Landry as nothing more than flex plays.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: With Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf) out of action against Denver, the Browns turned to D’Ernest Johnson, who delivered 146 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. It looks like Cleveland will get Chubb back this week after missing two games, but Hunt is on IR, so Johnson should still be involved. The Steelers are 12th in the NFL against the run (107.7 yards per game), though they’ve allowed an NFL-low two rushing TDs on the year. Assuming Chubb returns he’s a strong RB2 with Johnson checking in as a solid flex.

Value Meter:
RB2: Nick Chubb (inj-calf)
Flex: D’Ernest Johnson
Flex: Odell Beckham Jr. (inj-shoulder)
Flex: Jarvis Landry (inj-knee)
Bench: Baker Mayfield (inj-shoulder), Kareem Hunt (IR)

Prediction: Browns 20, Steelers 16

Bengals at Jets - (Ilchuk)
Line: CIN -10.5
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: HC Zac Taylor and the Bengals coaching staff have taken Joe Burrow’s training wheels and tossed them into the Ohio River! The second-year signal caller has been given the green light to take to the air, heaving 30+ pass attempts in three of the last four games (he had 29 attempts in the 4th game). He’s responded with a 300-yard game, a 400-yard game and 10 TD passes in that span. For the season, he is completing 69% of his passes for just under 2,000 yards in seven games, tossing 17 total TD’s and averaging over 9.0 yards per attempt. He does need to cut down on the interceptions (8), but he is a lock and load QB1 every week and could be in line for epic numbers in this matchup, as are his stable of receivers.

WR Ja’Marr Chase is second in the NFL with 754 yards and is a big play waiting to happen with a league-leading six plays of 40+ yards. Fellow wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd both have 40+ targets and TE C.J. Uzomah is second on the team with 5 TD’s. That’s all good news for Burrow, but they spread the wealth in this system, so PPR owners are going to want to look elsewhere outside of Chase for their receivers. All four receivers are averaging over 10 yards per catch (Chase is at 21.5 and Uzomah is at 15.2).

The Jets have the youngest roster in the league, and that inexperience has manifested itself on the defensive side of the ball. They are talented and athletic, but they are learning on the fly, particularly in the secondary. Gang Green ranks in the bottom third in big plays allowed in the passing game (29 of 20+ yards), opponent passer rating (102.2), and yards per attempt (7.7) while yielding a 69% completion rate to opposing QB’s. They are also the only defense in the NFL without an interception. Combine those numbers with a very average 14 sacks and it starts to get hard to figure out how the Jets even managed one win so far.

On top of that, injuries are piling up. S Jamien Sherwood, LBs C.J. Mosley and Jarrad Davis, DE Carl Lawson, and S Lamarcus Joyner are all expected to miss time due to injury. After watching the Bengals tear up a good Ravens defense last week, fantasy owners should be lined up for the impending airshow at Met Life Stadium on Halloween.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Joe Mixon is the story in the Bengals run game with 539 rush yards (3rd in the NFL) on 123 carries (2nd in the NFL), and he has four rush TD’s while getting a bulk of the work in the red zone and goal line packages. Owners should keep an eye on Samaje Perine who returned to the lineup last week and promptly stole some of Mixon’s reps in the passing game. That’s been a strength of Mixon’s game in the past and a place for him to do his thing out in space, so it’s a bit concerning.

As bad as the Jets have been against the pass, they’ve been fairly effective against the run, ranking 8th in the league in yards per carry (4.1). However, they have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns, second-most in the NFL. So while Burrow and company will likely be throwing it all over the field, once they get near the goal line, look for a heavy dose of scoring opportunities for Mixon.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow (high-end)
RB1: Joe Mixon (low-end)
RB3: Samaje Perine (mid-range)
WR1: Ja’Marr Chase (high-end)
WR3: Tee Higgins (mid-range)
FLEX: Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah

Passing Game Thoughts: The recently arrived Joe Flacco will likely be inactive this week as just arrived in New York on Friday. He played in a similar system in Denver in 2019 and for what it’s worth, his completion percentage (65.3) and yards per attempt (7.0) that season were among the best of his career. Mike White is expected to start this game and given his lack of experience it’s difficult to even consider Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder and Elijah Moore as fantasy options. Running backs Michael Carter and Ty Johnson have been averaging 7-8 targets per game, while the tight end position has been nearly non-existent in this offense. We’ll have to see if that changes with White behind center.

Cincinnati’s defensive unit is anchored by a couple young linebackers who can play in coverage (rookie Logan Wilson leads the team in tackles and INT’s), and safeties Vonn Bell and Jesse Bates lead a capable secondary that doesn’t necessarily take the ball away, but doesn’t yield the big play and has given up just seven TD’s through the air (tied for 3rd in NFL). They are also 6th in the league in opponent passer rating (84.8) and 4th in yards per attempt (6.6). This Bengals defense can pressure the QB (19 sacks – 5th in NFL) and should keep things in check especially with White calling the shots.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie RB Michael Carter has emerged as the lead back in New York. He’s quick and explosive with very COD skills, but he is limited by average to bad line play. He’s averaging a mere 3.5 yards per carry, and while he can be a weapon as a receiver, he’s likely to average 50-60 yards per game without any reliable touchdown boost in his arsenal. While Tevin Coleman seems to have faded from the picture, Ty Johnson is stealing just enough touches to make both he and Carter fantasy irrelevant.

The Bengals have been solid against the run thus far and have an impressive defensive line group. They are deep and aggressive off the ball and are allowing 4.0 yards per carry.

Value Meter:
WR3: Corey Davis (mid-range)
WR4/FLEX: Jamison Crowder (low-end)
Bench: QB Mike White, RB Michael Carter, WR Elijah Moore, TE Ryan Griffin

Prediction: Bengals 31, Jets 13 ^ Top

Titans @ Colts - (Swanson)
Line: IND -2.5
Total: 50.5

Passing Game Thoughts: As the No. 20 ranked quarterback in points per game through seven weeks of action, Ryan Tannehill has been a disappointment for fantasy managers based on what he accomplished last season.

Tyler Heinicke, Sam Darnold, and Matt Ryan have all averaged more fantasy points per game than Tannehill, who currently sits with seven passing touchdowns in seven games. An inexplicable stat when you consider he has A.J. Brown and Julio Jones at his disposal, and with Derrick Henry forcing teams to play an extra man in the box.

We would like to project this as the week in which the Tennessee passing offense finally gets going, but we thought that would be the case last week against the Chiefs, and that certainly did not come to fruition.

There are some positives to consider. First, Brown posted his first 100-yard game of the season last week against Kansas City and also scored a touchdown - his first since Week 1.

Second, Julio Jones appeared to be OK in this game from a health perspective and did not make his lingering hamstring injury worse.

The Colts have a much better run defense than pass defense this season, with numerous injuries to their secondary that has an aging Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes played well last week against the 49ers in a monsoon, but he is not the player he once was and can be beat by big receivers like Brown and Jones.

The Colts have given up the 8th-most points to opposing WRs, including a touchdown to both Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers when the two teams faced off Week 3 in Tennessee. Marquise Brown torched them for a pair of scores and 125 yards in Week 5, and Deebo Samuel also had a great game last week with 7/100/1.

The Colts can be beat in the air and the Indy offense is much better right now than when the teams faced off in September. This should be a high scoring game and you want a piece of it, start both Brown and Jones.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Even when held to just a 3.0 rushing average and 86 yards on 29 carries, Derrick Henry still came through with over ten fantasy points because he threw a touchdown pass.

King Henry is the fantasy MVP of the year and entered last week with more fantasy points than any of the starting quarterbacks. Insane production from a generational talent.

Henry posted 28/113/0 the last time the two teams faced off, with another 31 yards receiving in the air. I would expect a similar stat line with a rushing touchdown or two added in for good measure.

On a positive note for both the passing and running game, the Titans appear to be getting healthier on their offensive line. Both starting tackles Kendall Lamm and Taylor Lewan practiced in full on Wednesday and appear to be ready to play. Starting guard Rodger Safford also looks like he will play after dealing with some injuries last week against the Chiefs.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ryan Tannehill (Low-End)
RB1: Derrick Henry (Elite)
WR1: A.J. Brown (High-End)
WR2: Julio Jones (Low-End)
TE2: Anthony Firkser (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Based on the video of his sloppy interception/fumble in the red zone against the 49ers last week, you would likely think Carson Wentz has been terrible for the Colts in 2021.

That assumption would not be true, as the former first round pick of the Eagles has just one interception in seven games and is completing nearly 65% of his passes with 11 touchdowns strikes on the season.

Not numbers you want to get excited about for fantasy purposes, but certainly viable production for the Colts to win games and enough output to make a few of the skill portion players in on the team fantasy worthy.

Michael Pittman Jr. is the top wide receiver on the team and the one you want on your fantasy rosters. The second year player has 35 catches for 549 yards and a pair of scores. While the touchdowns are not exactly what you would hope for, he has seven or more targets in four a seven games.

The team will likely get T.Y. Hilton back in action this week. Hilton missed the first five games with a neck injury, but returned Week 6 with 80 yards on four catches. For the Colts to win, they will need to get a similar stat line.

Outside of how they played last week against the Chiefs, the Titans have been dreadful against opposing wide receivers. Only Washington has given up more points and catches to wide receivers, and 11 different players have at least ten fantasy points against the Titans this season. Fire up Pittman and Hilton is worth a start as well as a flex.

Mo Alie-Cox has a score in each of the last two games and four on the season. His lack of volume makes him the ultimate boom-bust, but if you are hurting at tight end and want a touchdown-dependent option, Alie-Cox is on a short list of targets.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: The return of all-pro guard Quentin Nelson was apparent last week for the Colts running game, as Jonathan Taylor ran all over the 49ers at Levis Stadium.

For the Colts to beat the Titans, Taylor will need to be the focal point of the offense and help the Colts win time of possession and keep Henry and Co. off the field.

Outside of a huge game for James Robinson in Week 5, no other running back has topped 63 rushing yards. The Titans shut down Darrel Williams and the Chiefs last week, and the tandem of Devin Singletary and Zack Moss did not fare much better the week prior.

Make no mistake, this is a good run defense and a not so good pass defense and the Colts would fare better targeting them in the passing game. However, just like the Titans, the Colts want to be a run first team and Taylor will be given around 20 touches.

One player who has not been effective lately is Nyheim Hines, who has fewer than three fantasy points in five of his seven games. He did have his best game of the season when these two teams faced off in Week 3, but then followed with 2.0, 1.8, 2.7, and 1.7 in his last four. Start at your our risk.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz (High-End)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (High-End)
WR2: Michael Pittman Jr. (Low-End)
WR3: T.Y. Hilton (Low-End)
TE2: Mo Alie-Cox (High-End)

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Indianapolis 24 ^ Top

Eagles @ Lions - (Green)
Line: PHI -3.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Doubtless you’ve heard some variation of “Person X is playing checkers, and Person Y is playing chess.” In the case of Nick Sirianni, it feels like he’s currently partaking in a spirited game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Nowhere does that seem clearer than in his handling of Jalen Hurts, who, despite being a second-year QB that’s heavy on athleticism but light on experience, is asked every week to carry a heavy offensive burden while being afforded little help from a running attack. It’s not that the Eagles can’t run. They don’t even try it.

Well, it’d be more accurate to say their backs don’t, as Hurts trails only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards among QBs this season. A week ago, he ran 13 times for 61 yards against the Raiders; as a passer, he hit on 18 of his 34 throws for 236 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. His top targets are Dallas Goedert (3-70-0), who returned from a Week 6 absence due to COVID in an expanded role following the trade of Zach Ertz, and DeVonta Smith (5-61-0), the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. Last year’s first-round receiver, Jalen Reagor (2-25-1), had a couple solid showings early but hasn’t topped 25 yards since Week 3.

Although opponent passer rating isn’t a “fantasy stat,” it can help establish the strength or weakness of a defense. To that end, the Lions are last in the NFL, due in large to their 15-to-4 TD:INT ratio and whopping 9.5 yards allowed per attempt, which is comfortably the most in the league. Detroit’s struggles solidify Hurts as a No. 1 option alongside Goedert with both being borderline top-five plays at their position. Smith is the only viable target outside as a WR3.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: With Miles Sanders (ankle) expected to miss a couple of weeks, the tandem of Kenneth Gainwall and Boston Scott will fill that role. Gainwell, who is third on the team in carries (26) and yards (120), figures to get most of the work as he’s a capable receiver as well. The Lions are 21st in the league against the run, allowing 120 yards per game. Given that Sanders averaged only nine carries per game in the lead role, Gainwell shouldn’t be viewed as more than an RB3.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts
RB3: Kenneth Gainwell
WR3: DeVonta Smith
TE1: Dallas Goedert
Bench: Miles Sanders (inj-ankle), Jalen Reagor

Passing Game Thoughts: Surprise onside kicks and multiple fake punts were part of the playbook in Week 7 as the Lions tried to upset the Rams in LA. They came close, but their hopes were ultimately dashed when Jared Goff was intercepted in the end zone, ending a 15-play, 9-minute drive with zero points. The former Ram performed about how you’d expect, throwing for 268 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs. While he isn’t the reason the Lions are losing, he’s not doing a lot to elevate those around him.

Other than T.J. Hockenson (6-48-0), the Lions are bereft of reliable fantasy weapons in the passing game. Quintez Cephus (collarbone) showed promise early, but he’s on IR with a collarbone injury and looks unlikely to return. Amon-Ra St. Brown had 18 catches in Weeks 3-6 but was not targeted in LA. Kalif Raymond (6-115-0) has been inconsistent but leads the team’s wideouts with 26 receptions, 334 yards and 2 TDs. Hockenson is the only one to earn a starting slot in fantasy leagues, though, as he’s a solid TE1.

While the Eagles rank a respectable 11th in pass defense (227.7 yards per game), they owe quite a bit of that “success” to their poor work against the run, which has led to teams keeping the ball on the ground against them. To that end, Philly has given up 26.4 points per game this year, which is 24th in the NFL, so teams are moving the ball on them in whatever way they see fit.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts:
If they played for a better team, the one-two punch of D’Andre Swift (21 touches, 144 yards, 1 TD in Week 7) and Jamaal Williams (12-57-0) would garner more attention. As it is, that tandem has accounted for 1,064 of the team’s 2,478 total yards and 7 of their 13 TDs. As noted, the Eagles have struggled to contain the run, ranking 29th at 133 rushing yards per game. Plug Swift into your lineup as an RB2 with Williams as a low-end RB3.

Value Meter:
RB2: D’Andre Swift
RB3: Jamaal Williams
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Bench: Jared Goff, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown

Prediction: Lions 24, Eagles 23 ^ Top

49ers @ Bears - (Green)
Line: SF -4.0
Total: 39.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Moving the ball successfully was always going to be a challenge last Sunday night in a torrential downpour, but even grading on a curve couldn’t earn Jimmy Garoppolo passing marks. Back under center following a one-game absence due to a calf injury, Jimmy G completed 16 of his 27 attempts for 181 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs; he also fumbled twice, losing one. Although Mike Shanahan called it Garoppolo’s worst game, he’ll start again this Sunday, though it feels like a switch to Trey Lance (knee) is merely a matter of when.

With George Kittle (knee) still on IR, Deebo Samuel (7-100-1) is the only reliable option in the 49ers’ passing game right now. His 648 receiving yards rank fourth in the NFL, despite SF having played only six games, and his 17.1 yards per reception is eighth. He’s working through a calf issue that has limited his availability in practice this week, but there is optimism that he’ll suit up. Brandon Aiyuk (1-6-0) continues to rank among the league’s most disappointing fantasy performers, but he showed enough as a rookie that he’s at least worth keeping on your watchlist in case he turns things around.

Statistically, Chicago may be a top-10 defense against the pass (219.7 yards per game; 8th), but they had no answers against Tampa Bay last Sunday when the Bucs pushed out to a 35-3 lead at halftime that included four TD strikes from Tom Brady. The Bears lead the NFL in sacks (21), but they’ll be without Khalil Mack (foot) this Sunday and perhaps for quite a while afterwards, which is a major blow. Even so, the only playable option in San Francisco’s passing game is Samuel, who is a WR1 if he suits up.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Since returning from a shoulder injury, Elijah Mitchell has logged 28 of the 33 carries from San Francisco’s running backs, firmly establishing himself as the top back and casting fellow rookie Trey Sermon into the abyss. Mitchell has run for 100-plus yards in two of his four games, but his lack of work in the passing game could cap his value. He’s an RB2 against the Bears’ 23rd-ranked run D, which will also be affected by the loss of Mack.

Value Meter:
RB2: Elijah Mitchell
WR1: Deebo Samuel
Bench: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance (inj-knee), George Kittle (IR)

Passing Game Thoughts: There was a lot of angst among the Bears fanbase about Matt Nagy’s decision to start Andy Dalton ahead of Justin Fields when the season started. Given what we’ve seen since Fields took over for an injured Dalton it’s a classic case of be careful what you wish for. The rookie has taken a pounding behind a suspect line, and even when given time his accuracy and decision making have been spotty. Fields was mauled by the Bucs in Week 7, absorbing four sacks, fumbling three times (two lost) and throwing three interceptions. It was ugly.

Speaking of ugly, Allen Robinson (2-16-0), who caught 102 passes for 1,250 yards and 6 TDs last season, is currently on pace for a 56-607-2 line even with a 17th game. At this point you couldn’t be blamed for jettisoning him to the waiver wire. Darnell Mooney (2-39-0) has shown better chemistry with Fields, though he still barely cracks the top 50 in receptions or receiving yards. Cole Kmet (5-43-0) has shown some signs of life recently, hauling in nine passes in the past two games; he had 10 grabs over the first five.

In terms of yards allowed, the 49ers have done well this season, giving up just 205 per game, which is fifth-best in the NFL. The splash plays have been notably absent, though, as their 12 sacks are tied for 26th, and only the Jets have fewer INTs. They should be plenty good enough to hold up against Chicago’s passing game, though, where you could make a case that none of their players should be in a fantasy lineup this week. If you’re in need you could roll the dice on Mooney as a flex.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Easily the most positive development recently has been the play of Khalil Herbert. Pressed into action by the injury to David Montgomery (knee) and subsequent COVID list visit for Damien Williams, Herbert has carried the ball 55 times for 272 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. The 49ers have been below-average against the run with their 119 yards allowed per game only good enough for 20th in the league. Expect a heavy workload for Herbert, who is a solid RB2. Williams could also see action, though he had just four touches last week, and might qualify as a lottery ticket play in deep leagues.

Value Meter:
RB2: Khalil Herbert
Flex: Darnell Mooney
Bench: Justin Fields, David Montgomery (IR), Damien Williams, Allen Robinson

Prediction: 49ers 23, Bears 17 ^ Top

Rams @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: LAR -14.5
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The potent Matthew Stafford-led Rams offense heads to Houston to take on the Texans in what might be the most lopsided game this year. Stafford has an abundance of riches with top receiver Cooper Kupp, along with Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, and DeSean Jackson.

Stafford also has the benefit of playing for one of the better offensive minds in the league in Sean McVay. Add up all those factors and you have the No.6 ranked fantasy quarterback and the top ranked fantasy WR corps going against a team that ranks in the bottom ten in points allowed to QBs, RBs, and TE’s.

The Texans have been surprisingly good against opposing WRs, with only five touchdowns allowed in seven games. But that is more of a correlation to the fact that they give up so many points and yards to the other positions, and not an indictment to their pass defense prowess.

Start all of your Rams pass catchers with confidence, as this game should be over by half-time.

Higbee is an interesting play here based on the fact that Houston has given up four passing touchdowns to tight ends over the past three games. With so many options as his disposal Higbee may not be needed, but based on matchup alone, you should consider him a strong play.

Houston given up the sixth-highest yards per play this season and ranks among the worst in allowing big splash plays in the passing game. As they likely will focus on Kupp and Woods, Jefferson could be a sneaky home run play in DFS and deeper leagues.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Darrell Henderson has done an excellent job filling in for Cam Akers as the lead back for the Rams, with 417 yards and four rushing touchdowns on just 96 carries. He currently ranks as the No.11 running back in fantasy, and should find no issue improving his ranking this week against a terrible Houston defense that ranks 9th in points allowed to opposing running backs.

The Texans have been gashed for 435 yards and four rushing touchdowns over the past three weeks, highlighted by 145 yards and a pair of scores by Jonathan Taylor.

Houston lacks playmakers at all three levels of the defense, and their offense continues to put them in unfavorable game scripts.

Starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury but does appear to be on track to play. The one injury of note for the Texans on defense is starting linebacker Christian Kirksey. He was limited on Thursday with a thumb injury, but should still suit up for Houston.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (High-End)
RB1: Darrell Henderson (High-End)
WR1: Cooper Kupp (Elite)
WR2: Robert Woods (Low-End)
TE1: Tyler Higbee (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Unlike the Rams who have an abundance of riches on both sides of the ball, the Texans have just one player worthy of starting on offense, and a defense void of anyone likely headed to the pro bowl.

Brandin Cooks has the 5th-most targets of any wide receiver in the NFL and is the one and only viable receiving threat for rookie quarterback Davis Mills. Although he has tapered off somewhat over the past few weeks, Cooks should be started in all formats as a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3, especially in leagues that give points for receptions.

Other than Cooks, the only other player who might be an option is David Johnson as the pass-catching back for the team. Johnson did have five catches for 27 yards last week and should get more action with the departure of Mark Ingram to the Saints via trade.

We are not advising a start if Johnson in most formats, but in PPR formats with multiple flex spots he is interesting. The Rams have given up the 8th most receptions to opposing running backs and Johnson, despite being a shell of his former self, is the second best receiver on the team.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Mark Ingram was traded back to the Saints on Wednesday, giving the 31-year-old veteran a new outlook on the season and opening the door for Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson to get more work in the backfield.

Neither player is a good option this week, although the Rams have given up the 13th-most points to opposing running backs.

De’Andre Swift torched the Rams on a long receiving touchdown last week, and he and Jamaal Williams did combine for over 100 rushing yards.

The caveat, is that game between the Lions and Rams was surprisingly close. This game, will not be, and rushing yards will be tough to come by simply because of a sideways game script.

Because David Johnson is the better pass catcher, he is the more favorable player to start if forced to play a Texan this week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills / Tyrod Taylor (Low-End)
RB3: David Johnson (High-End)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (Low-End)
TE2: Pharaoh Brown (Low-End)

Prediction: Los Angeles 35, Houston 10 ^ Top

Jaguars at Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -3.5
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Trevor Lawrence got his first NFL win the last time we saw him as the Jaguars narrowly squeaked out a victory over the Dolphins. Lawrence passed the ball 41 times for 319 yards and a touchdown in the victory. While he extended his streak of one-or-fewer passing touchdown games to five straight, Lawrence has been more careful with the ball in recent weeks, having thrown just one interception over his past three contests, in contrast to the seven picks he threw over the Jaguars’ first three games.

Lawrence himself really isn’t a fantasy consideration in most leagues right now other than in SuperFlex/two QB leagues where he’s a fringe QB2, and now he’ll face a Seahawks defense that has given up just four passing touchdowns over their past four games combined. The Seahawks defense isn’t particularly great, but their own offense is so conservative - especially right now - that most of their games have been very low scoring. This obviously isn’t great for the fantasy production of either team.

The one player who has been truly useful among Jaguars pass catchers this season is veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones. Jones had his biggest game of the season the last time we saw the Jaguars, back in Week 6, when he turned in a seven catch, 100-yard, one touchdown performance against the Dolphins. Jones is averaging nearly eight targets per game which is by far the most on the team and it’s enough to make him a solid WR3 for fantasy.

The only other Jacksonville wide receivers who we have much interest in right now are Laviska Shenault and Jamal Agnew. Shenault saw a season-high 10 targets back in Week 6 and has averaged nearly seven targets per game on the season. His average target depth is quite low so he’s not doing a ton with his opportunities and he hasn’t yet scored a touchdown so his season long statistics look bad, but this type of usage will eventually lead to some decent fantasy production. Agnew, meanwhile, has broken out a bit over his past two games, having seen a total of 13 targets in those contests. He had only been targeted once in his first four games this season, so this increased usage is certainly something to note. He’s not worth even owning right now in normal leagues, but he’s someone to keep an eye on in this game, in case he sees an even higher target share in this one.

Tight end Dan Arnold is a relatively unknown player, but he could be a decent bye/injury replacement this week. He’s been targeted 13 times over his past two games and Jacksonville obviously wants to involve him heavily in the passing game after trading for him earlier this season. He’s not a sexy name and he won’t likely give you huge production in any game this season, but Arnold is someone who’s available in most leagues and could be an option if you’re in a pinch, even though we’re ranking him just out of TE1 range this week.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: By far the most useful fantasy asset in this Jacksonville offense is, once again, James Robinson. Robinson started the season off slow as he earned the trust of the new coaching regime, but he has now averaged over 20 PPR fantasy points per game over his past four contests despite the fact that the Jaguars won only one of those games.

This week they have a real chance against what has become a bad Seattle team in the absence of quarterback Russell Wilson. If the Seahawks are unable to move the ball again this week, that should give the Jaguars the opportunity to lean heavily on Robinson yet again. He’s a high-end RB2 with top five upside against Seattle.

Value Meter:
RB2: James Robinson (high end)
WR3: Marvin Jones
Bench: Trevor Lawrence, Laviska Shenault, Jamal Agnew, Dan Arnold

Passing Game Thoughts: The loss of Russell Wilson has really hindered the production of the Seattle passing game and the offense as whole. Geno Smith hasn’t been a complete disaster or anything, but it’s quite noticeable that the offense is not nearly as smooth and they haven’t been able to make the big plays that we’ve become accustomed to seeing with Wilson behind center.

This lack of firepower is extremely frustrating as this Week 8 matchup against Jacksonville appeared to be one of the potential “boom” weeks for the Seattle passing game and now it’s one where we have to be seriously concerned about starting pretty much anyone. Smith himself is normally an easy sit for fantasy, but the matchup against an awful Jacksonville defense could make him intriguing in two QB/SuperFlex formats. He’s still a low upside option, but it’s worth considering that the Jaguars rank in the bottom 10 in the league in fantasy points per game given up to opposing QBs even though they’ve faced the likes of Tyrod Taylor, Teddy Bridgewater and Tua Tagovailoa in three of their six games - all three of whom turned in 24 or more standard fantasy points against the Jags.

Wide receiver DK Metcalf is probably still a must-start for almost all leagues, but he’s no longer a WR1 with Geno Smith at the helm. The Jaguars receiver has turned in just eight total catches over his past two games with Smith at quarterback and he needed a massive 84-yard touchdown reception to save what was otherwise a horrible fantasy day against the Saints this past week. Metcalf is good enough that he can make something out of few targets, but he’s going to need to be hyper-efficient if he’s going to continue to turn in WR1 fantasy days until Wilson returns.

Tyler Lockett has now become an obvious bench asset. He was struggling for a few weeks even before Wilson got hurt, but Lockett has now turned in 11 or fewer PPR fantasy points in five straight contests, including a 35-yard and 12-yard receiving day over his past two contests. We know that Lockett is capable of delivering absolutely gigantic weeks, but the number of duds he’s given us in a row is just unacceptable and there’s very little reason to believe that he’s going to suddenly see a massive increase in targets.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: With Chris Carson still out, the Seattle backfield remains a gross situation for fantasy. We have seen that Alex Collins has been by far the team leader in carries over the past three weeks, but he’s now averaging under 3.6 yards per carry in his three games as Seattle’s primary ball carrier. The Seahawks have been through this before with other backs, including Carson himself, so they’re not likely to change course anytime soon, but Collins’ upside is very limited for fantasy purposes given that he’s not an active contributor in the passing game. Collins has caught just six passes on the season and he’s never been much of a pass catcher throughout his career, so he’s going to need to get his points on the ground and via touchdowns. With Seattle’s offense struggling as much as it is without Wilson, the touchdowns are unlikely to come in bunches and fantasy owners are more likely to be left frustrated than they are satisfied, even in the good matches he faces like the Jaguars in Week 8.

Value Meter:
QB2: Geno Smith (low end)
WR2: DK Metcalf
Flex: Alex Collins
Bench: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Gerald Everett, Will Dissly

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Jaguars 16 ^ Top

Patriots at Chargers - (Caron)
Line: LAC -4.0
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Mac Jones has been quite good as far as rookie NFL quarterbacks go, but his fantasy production hadn’t really matched his real-life production until Week 7 when he finally earned his first 20-point fantasy game of his career. It took a 300-yard, two touchdown, zero interception day to make it happen, but Jones showed that he’s capable of helping the Patriots hit the 50-point mark in a game and that’s something that most didn’t think was possible at this stage of his career.

This week Jones and the Patriots will face a Chargers defense that has been excellent against opposing quarterbacks, having conceded the third-fewest fantasy points per game to the position thus far. This is despite the fact that they’ve faced the likes of Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson. The last time we saw them was in Week 6 when the held Lamar Jackson to 167 yards passing, but they also allowed him to rush for 51 yards in what was a blowout Ravens win so it made sense that Jackson didn’t need to do much throwing. Mac Jones won’t be able to follow Jackson’s path of fantasy production via his legs so this becomes a difficult matchup as the Patriots are on the road against a team coming off of a bye and a defense that has been difficult to throw against. Jones could be a low-end QB2 in two-QB/SuperFlex leagues but he’s probably a player to avoid this week in most situations.

When it comes to the Patriots pass catchers, the only one who has really been consistently productive continues to be Jakobi Meyers. Meyers has been targeted at least five times in every game this season and he’s averaging over eight targets per game. Remarkably, he still hasn’t scored a touchdown in his NFL career so it’s tough to think he has a very high ceiling, but he’s someone who is a solid PPR flex even against a Chargers defense that has given up the league’s fewest points per game to opposing wide receivers this season.

Tight end remains a committee situation in New England, but Hunter Henry has really separated himself from Jonnu Smith as the team’s more reliable pass catching weapon and he’s now inside the top-12 producers at the position. The Chargers have been excellent against opposing passing games in general, but it’s been underreported that they’ve actually struggled quite a bit against opposing tight ends. Sure, they’ve faced some of the league’s best in Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews, but all of those players have produced big games against the Chargers and this defense also gave up a huge game to Cleveland tight end David Njoku back in Week 6. Look for Henry to be targeted regularly in this one and he should be in lineups as a solid TE1 option this week.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: With back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, Damien Harris seems to have established himself as the primary ball carrier for the Patriots after a few weeks of not-so-great production in Weeks 3, 4 and 5. Harris now faces a Chargers defense that has been crushed on the ground by opposing running backs. Opposing team running backs have broken the 100-yard rushing mark in all but one game against Los Angeles, including two games of 180 or more rushing yards.

With the Chargers having such a good pass defense, look for the Patriots to lean heavily on their running game in this one and that should mean another 15-plus touch day for Harris. He’s not going to give you much in the passing game, but he can certainly give you a solid RB2 fantasy day without catching passes as long as he’s able to get into the end zone at least once, as he’s now done in three straight contests.

Harris’ fellow backfield members Brandon Bolden, Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor have all seen some playing time, but they’re essentially fighting for the same piece of the pie as the team’s primary passing down back. It looked for a couple of weeks as if Stevenson was carving out his role in the offense by taking over as the lead third down back, but things got back to normal in Week 7 when Stevenson didn’t play a single snap meanwhile Bolden played the second-most snaps among Patriots backs while catching six passes for a season-high 79 yards and a touchdown.

None of the other Patriots backs should be trusted as anything more than Flex players, but Bolden is someone who you could sneak into your lineup in PPR formats if you’re in trouble in Week 7 or even beyond.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mac Jones (low end)
RB2: Damien Harris
TE1: Hunter Henry
Flex: Brandon Bolden (PPR only), Jakobi Meyers
Bench: Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Nelson Agholor, Jonnu Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: The last time we saw Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers was back in Week 6 when they got absolutely smashed on the road in Baltimore. Herbert turned in one of his worst games as a pro and practically everyone else in the offense struggled to deliver even minimal fantasy points. Needless to say, their bye week couldn’t have come at a better time as the team had an opportunity to regroup prior to hosting the Patriots here in Week 8.

New England’s season-long defense against opposing quarterbacks has been quite good thus far but their schedule should also be noted as they’ve had the opportunity to play twice against Zach Wilson along with games against Tua Tagovailoa and Jameis Winston. They did, surprisingly, contain Tom Brady when they held him to no touchdown passes, but then they got smoked in back-to-back weeks when Houston’s Davis Mills threw for 312 yards and three scores against them before Dak Prescott torched them for 445 yards and another three scores. Needless to say, we haven’t seen the Patriots face many difficult passing games, especially ones as efficient as the Chargers have been throughout most of this season. Herbert probably shouldn’t be ranked as a top-half QB1 this week, but he’s still firmly in the QB1 discussion.

His top two receivers, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, should both be in fantasy lineups as well. The Chargers’ overall target distribution has been extremely consolidated thus far and there’s really no reason to think that won’t continue. Williams has given fantasy owners four spike weeks and two dud weeks so he’s been the definition of “boom or bust,” but he’s been a lot more boom than bust and that should make him a low-end WR1 in this one. Allen, meanwhile, has been almost the exact opposite of Williams as he’s finished between 10 to 20 PPR points in every game. He really hasn’t given and big weeks, but he also hasn’t completely dudded whatsoever. He’s seen at least eight targets in all but one game, so it would seem likely that we’ll eventually see a few big weeks from Allen, but for now he’s a solid PPR WR2.

Tight end Jared Cook is the third option in the Chargers passing game and can be considered a fringe TE1, but one of the things holding him back is Los Angeles utilizing fellow tight end Donald Parham in the red zone more often than we had expected. Parham has scored twice on just nine total targets and certainly those additional touchdowns would’ve been huge to give Cook more fantasy points.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Week 6 was an unexpectedly brutal fantasy performance for Austin Ekeler as the Chargers running back carried the ball just six times for seven yards during an embarrassing loss to the Ravens. Still, Ekeler avoided a complete disaster as he was able to turn in four catches for an additional 48 yards, giving him nearly 10 fantasy points for the day. While that game was frustrating, Ekeler’s fantasy owners should take solace in the fact that this is probably the worst game script that he’ll face all season and he still didn’t completely ruin your fantasy day.

This week’s matchup against New England should be much better as the Chargers are a five point favorite which should allow Ekeler to see more work on the ground while still maintaining his normal high target share for a running back. It’s not the world’s best matchup on paper as the Patriots haven’t yet allowed an individual 100-yard rusher this season, but they have given up four 100-plus total yard days to backs and that should fit well into what Ekeler is good at.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Mike Williams
WR2: Keenan Allen
TE1: Jared Cook (low end)
Bench: Larry Rountree III, Justin Jackson, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Donald Parham

Prediction: Chargers 27, Patriots 21 ^ Top

Bucs @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: TB -4.5
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: At 44 years of age, Tom Brady is in the midst of his best statistical season for fantasy managers. His 26.4 points per game is .5 points more than his record-setting 50 touchdown campaign in 2007, and he is on pace to complete 67% of his passes for only the second time since 2000.

The man is a freak and he is surrounded by some of the best weapons of all time.

This week’s matchup should be interesting, as the one team that has done a relatively solid job containing Brady over the past two seasons are the Saints. Although Brady and the Bucs won their Wild Card matchup vs. New Orleans last season, they did lose both regular season contests, including Brady’s worst game with the Bucs, when he had three interceptions and no passing touchdowns. Brady should be out for redemption, and will look to make up for those two regular season losses in 2020.

The matchup is not great, as he will be down Antonio Brown and possibly Rob Gronkowski, leaving just Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Evans has had his struggles in the past with Marshon Lattimore, and the Saints also go reinforcements last week with the return of Marcus Davenport.

It is quite difficult to run on the Saints, with opposing running backs managing just 2.77 yards per attempt. To win this game, it will be on the shoulders of Brady on offense and defense’s ability to shut down Alvin Kamara.

The matchup for Brady to exploit will be Chris Godwin in the slot against Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson is great in run support, but big wide receivers like Godwin who are elite route runners can cause issues.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Leonard Fournette managers have benefitted from the veteran running back taking over the starting job and running with it in 2021. The former LSU star has been on the field for 295 snaps compared to just 95 for Ronald Jones, with Gio Bernard also seeing 96 snaps of his own.

In this matchup, Fournette may see a slight decline in snaps in favor of Bernard simply because the Saints are stout against the run and are getting healthy on defense. Just ask the Seahawks and Alex Collins of hard it is to run against Dennis Allen’s front seven, as he likely is still having nightmares of Demario Davis hitting him behind the line of scrimmage.

If you have Fournette you are starting him, but I would temper expectations a bit. Bernard is worth a flex is very deep PPR leagues, and Ronald Jones should be on the waiver wire.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (High-End)
RB3: Leonard Fournette (High-End)
WR1: Chris Godwin (Low-End)
WR1: Mike Evans (Low-End)
TE2: Cameron Brate (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Jameis Winston’s first season as the unquestioned starter in New Orleans has been a success when you consider the team is 4-2 and well within playoff contention.

For Winston fantasy managers, the jury is still out.

Winston has two monster games with five and four touchdown passes, respectively, against the Packers in Week 1 and the Football Team Week 5. He also has three games of one or fewer passing touchdowns, and three games in which he completed fewer than 55% of his passes.

Only the Bears, Browns, and Lions have scored fewer fantasy points as a WR unit, and the tight end tandem of Juwan Johnson and Adam Trautman have just 172 receiving yards and three touchdowns combined.

There is not much to like from a fantasy perspective in the passing game and Michael Thomas is still not practicing.

You can start Marquez Callaway with the hope of a possible deep shot over the injury riddled Bucs secondary, but he is more of a boom or bust play at this point.

The only player who is a must start in this game for the Saints is Alvin Kamara, who has proved over and over again this season that even when he struggles to run the ball, his value as a pass catcher is unmatched.

And that is a good thing, because he is going to find it nearly impossible to run in this game. Only the Panthers have given up fewer points to opposing backs and no opposing back in seven games has scored a rushing touchdown.

Look for Kamara to get around 10 targets with around 100 yards and a possible score in the air.

Some injuries of note to consider in this game are starting linebacker Lavonte David with an ankle injury, corner Jamel Dean with should/thumb issues, and pass rush specialist Jason Pierre-Paul. David and Dean look good to go, while JPP did not practice on Thursday and looks less likely to play.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Khalil Herbert rushed for 100 yards and added 33 receiving yards in last week’s blowout win for the Bucs, on just 18 carries and 5 receptions. It turned out to be a solid stat line and a bit of surprise, conceding how well the Bucs have don against other, more established runners

Zeke had 33 yards, Miles Sanders managed just 56, and Damien Harris posted -4 on four carries, yet Herbert is the first running back since Dalvin Cook last season to top 100 yards on the ground against the Bucs.

That provides some hope that Kamara can find some success running the ball. However, even if he can’t he is still an excellent play as a pass catcher.

Kamara had three touchdowns in two games last season against this front seven, and should get close to 100 total yards and a score on Sunday.

It is a little concerning that starting guard Andrus Peat missed practice all week with a pectoral muscle injury and is likely out for the game. You are still starting Kamara, but that development certainly does not make things look good for the interior of the Saints offensive line against Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea.

Value Meter:
Q21: Jameis Winston (High-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (High-End)
WR3: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
TE2: Adam Trautman (Low-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 14 ^ Top

Football Team at Broncos - (Caron)
Line: DEN -3.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to blame fantasy owners who benched or even cut Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke after he turned in back-to-back bad fantasy performances, but those who stayed the course in Week 7 were rewarded with Heinicke’s third 20-point fantasy day of the season. The QB threw for 268 yards and a touchdown with an interception, but most importantly showed off the athleticism that we’ve seen in spurts when he ran the ball 10 times for 95 yards. Heinicke is still a relatively unknown player throughout the league so this rushing performance was a surprise to most, but it’s worth considering that this is now his third 40-plus yard rushing day of the season. Only Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts have more of those games this season. Certainly we can’t expect Heinicke to carry the ball this much, or be this efficient, on a weekly basis, but we should be looking at him as more of a runner than most of us had previously assumed. If he’s able to add three or four fantasy points per game on the ground, that’s essentially an additional passing touchdown, and it makes him a viable bye week replacement QB and a decent starter in two-QB formats.

Things are looking a little tougher here in Week 8, though, as Heinicke and the Football Team head on the road to Denver to face the Broncos. Denver has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. This is a bit skewed as they’ve faced one of the easiest opposing schedules, but this is still a defense that can force a ton of pressure and they have one of the league’s most talented secondaries. With this being the case, this is probably not the week to be relying on Heinicke as your bye week or injury fill-in at quarterback. He can still be a low-end QB2, but let’s wait until after Washington’s Week 9 bye to get him into normal lineups, as he’ll get to face the Buccaneers’ patchwork defensive unit in Week 10.

The only truly reliable pass catcher in Washington right now is Terry McLaurin and even he has already turned in four games of fewer than 11 PPR fantasy points so far this season. McLaurin has, however, exploded with three 25-or-more PPR fantasy point games in the other contests so he’s been a great boom-or-bust type player. He’s seen seven or more targets in every game Heinicke has started thus far, along with 11 or more targets in four of those six contests, so it seems reasonable to assume that McLaurin’s floor will only get better while he maintains his high ceiling. This doesn’t, though, mean that his Week 8 matchup against the Broncos is an easy one. The Broncos have only allowed two 100-yard receivers this season and no wide receiver has scored more than once against them so far. McLaurin should still be looked at as a quality WR2 this week, but better days are on the horizon.

Other wide receivers in the Washington offense can be forgotten about for Week 8, but tight end Ricky Seals-Jones needs to be given a look if you’re in need this week. Seals-Jones has now been targeted 22 times over his past three contests without Logan Thomas in the lineup, and he’s produced an average of 12 PPR fantasy points in those contests. While Denver has been quite good against opposing tight ends, the consolidated target distribution in Washington makes Seals-Jones a startable TE1 this week.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: A shin injury has kept Washington running back Antonio Gibson limited in practice this week and it’s also presumably led to less playing time than usual, but the thing that fantasy owners should be truly concerned about is that J.D. McKissic just will not go away. Just as he did in 2020, McKissic has taken the lion’s share of the passing down snaps from Gibson which has allowed him to stay fantasy relevant most weeks, at least in PPR formats, but it’s also really hampering Gibson’s upside. McKissic has caught 12 passes over just his past two games.

It’s worth noting that the Broncos have been excellent at containing pass catching backs, but they also haven’t played against very many good ones. Still, no running back has caught more than three passes against Denver, so this is probably not the week to stuff McKissic into your lineup unless you’re in a desperate situation in a PPR league.

So what do we do about Gibson? Well, he’s certainly been disappointing over the past two weeks as he’s failed to reach even eight PPR fantasy points in either contest, but he’s still touched the ball a total of 28 times in those two contests so it’s not quite time to panic yet. We probably need to temper our expectations given McKissic’s usage and his shin injury, but Gibson does get to face a Broncos defense that just got done giving up 146 rushing yards and a touchdown to Browns third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson in Week 7. It took Johnson 22 carries to get there and it’s tough to assume that Gibson will see that kind of usage, but there’s still hope for a decent rushing performance in this game. Consider Gibson a low-end RB2 this week and hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised as he reemerges with an RB1 performance.

Value Meter:
QB2: Taylor Heinicke (low end)
RB2: Antonio Gibson (low end)
WR2: Terry McLaurin
TE1: Ricky Seals-Jones
Bench: J.D. McKissic, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries

Passing Game Thoughts: Teddy Bridgewater started off the 2020 season red hot with two 20-point fantasy performances, but he has since failed to reach that number in five consecutive games. This week he’ll have a chance to get back into that 20-point club as he faces a Washington defense that, for all their hype in the offseason, has been absolutely horrendous. The Football Team has given up by far the league’s highest fantasy points-per-game numbers to opposing quarterbacks, including five 30-plus point performances. In fact, no starting quarterback they’ve faced has scored fewer than 20 points in a game against Washington this season. It’s not easy to recommend Bridgewater for fantasy, but if there’s a week to trust him, this is certainly it - at home against this awful defense, especially if things continue down the path of Jerry Jeudy making his return.

Jeudy has missed six straight games for the Broncos after injuring his ankle earlier this season and he’s been practicing this week, leading many to believe that he’ll be on the field this Sunday. Unfortunately, the Broncos do play in a late-afternoon game so fantasy owners will need to have a contingency plan in the event that he’s still inactive, but Jeudy could be looked at as an immediate WR3 in this contest if he does play.

Of course, Jeudy return to the lineup will be a big dagger into Tim Patrick’s fantasy value. Patrick hasn’t been producing huge numbers, but he’s had 12 or more PPR fantasy points in all but two games this season which has allowed him to be a decent WR3/Flex option most weeks. Look for his targets to take enough of a hit that he should be out of lineups, however, assuming that Jeudy is back.

Courtland Sutton has been enjoying some big target volume games and will likely not see a huge dip in production with Jeudy back. This should be a great matchup for him either way, so get him in your lineups as a solid WR2 option this week against a horrible Washington secondary that has already given up 14 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season.

Tight end Noah Fant has quietly been a solid TE1 for fantasy this season, having already turned in four 12-plus PPR fantasy point days. He’s been targeted six or more times in all but two games and while we should expect that his target share does drop a bit with Jeudy’s return, he should continue to see plenty of playing time and enough targets to remain a TE1.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: The split Denver backfield continues to be a frustrating situation for owners of both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. Both players struggled to do much on the ground this past week against the Browns, but both also saved their fantasy days by scoring touchdowns in the receiving game. Each player is catching a few passes each week while maintaining about eight to 12 carries on the ground, which is giving them a decent weekly floor. Unfortunately, their ceilings are both very low as long as the other player is playing consistent snaps.

Things won’t be easy for them this week, either, as they’ll be facing a pass-funnel Washington defense that has actually been good against opposing runners. The highest single-game rusher they’ve faced so far this season was Alvin Kamara who rushed for just 71 yards against them back in Week 5.

Both Gordon and Williams could be viewed as flex players, but they’re both also benchable this week if you’ve got decent enough alternative options.

Value Meter:
QB2: Teddy Bridgewater (high end)
WR2: Courtland Sutton
WR3: Jerry Jeudy
TE1: Noah Fant
Flex: Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams
Bench: Tim Patrick

Prediction: Broncos 23, Football Team 20 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: MIN -2.5
Total: 53.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Will he or won’t he? That’s the question heading into Sunday night. The he, of course, is Dak Prescott (calf), and the will he/won’t he is whether he’ll be given the green light to play on the calf he strained back in Week 6. Originally, the belief was that last week’s bye would give the 28-year-old sufficient time to recover, but his limited practice participation and comments suggest that’s not a certainty. Without Prescott, the team would turn to Cooper Rush, which would doubtless lead to a heavier reliance on the run game.

New England had no answers for CeeDee Lamb (9-149-2) in Week 6, and the second-year pro has leapfrogged Amari Cooper (5-55-0) in the pecking order. In fact, Cooper hasn’t topped 70 yards in a game since Week 1 and has finished behind Lamb in yardage in four of those five games. Lamb’s play isn’t the only reason, though, as Dalton Schultz (5-79-0) has become an emerging presence. In his last four games, the Stanford product has gone for 75-plus yards three times and scored three TDs as well. All three are playable regardless of who starts, though only Schultz would retain his designation as a No. 1 option. Lamb would go from WR2 to WR3, and Cooper would become a flex.

After some early struggles, the Vikings have settled in nicely and now sit 12th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (230.3 per game). Beyond that, Minnesota leads the league in sacks (21) despite having already had their bye. Only two clubs have yielder fewer TD tosses as well. The Vikings will be without Patrick Peterson (hamstring), who was placed on IR, which should be to Dallas’ benefit. If Prescott plays, he’s a QB1. Rush would not offer any fantasy appeal.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: A year ago, Ezekiel Elliott was fumble prone and showed little of the explosiveness he’d had earlier in his career. This season, Elliott looks much more like the player that took the NFL by storm out of Ohio State. He’s averaging 104 total yards and 1 TD per game, and he should be an RB1 no matter who plays QB this week. Tony Pollard (10-41-0) is the wild card. He’s been a nice change-of-pace option this season, and his role could swell if it’s Rush under center. With Prescott, Pollard is a flex play. With Rush, he’s an RB2/RB3. This matchup is to Dallas’ advantage as the Vikings have surrendered 128 rushing yards per game, which is 26th in the league.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (inj-calf)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott
Flex: Tony Pollard
WR2: CeeDee Lamb
WR3: Amari Cooper
TE1: Dalton Schultz
Bench: Michael Gallup (IR)

Passing Game Thoughts: Like Dallas, the Vikings logged a walk-off overtime win over a mediocre opponent before enjoying their bye. After two middling performances, Kirk Cousins got back in the groove against Carolina, completing 33 of 48 passes for 373 yards and 3 TDs. It was the veteran’s third game of 300-plus yards, and he carries QB1 upside into every matchup. Of course, Cousins often offsets the ups with downs, and in Weeks 4-5 he struggled with just two combined TDs and a pair of INTs. That’s the risk you take when plugging Cousins into your lineup.

Minnesota’s most bulletproof option is Justin Jefferson (8-80-0). Through six games, the LSU alum is averaging 90 yards on 6.9 receptions per; he’s also scored three times and hasn’t recorded fewer than 65 yards receiving in a game. Adam Thielen (11-126-1) is far more volatile. In his six games, Thielen has only topped 50 receiving yards twice, but he leads the team in touchdowns with five. Tyler Conklin (3-71-0) and K.J. Osborn (6-78-1) have both had their moments as well, but much like with the Chiefs it’s difficult to count on anyone beyond the top two.

Feast or famine is probably the best way to describe Dallas’ pass defense. They have bled yardage (295.0 per game; 28th), but their 11 interceptions top in the NFL, led by Trevon Diggs, whose seven INTs are three more than anyone else. The Cowboys are also near the bottom in pressure with 11 sacks leading just three other clubs. We’ll see if the Vikings can exploit Diggs’ aggressiveness. Play Jefferson as a WR1 and Thielen as a WR2 this Sunday night.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: Unlike Dallas, the Vikings choose to only feature Dalvin Cook (29-140-1) despite how well Alexander Mattison has played when Cook has been hurt. It seems a short-sighted approach given Cook’s ever-lengthening injury history, but it makes life easy on fantasy owners from week to week. Cook is a matchup-proof RB1 every time he suits up, and Mattison offers no value in those situations. The Cowboys rank fifth against the run this year (86.2 yards per game) but 17th in YPC (4.3). Don’t be surprised if the Vikings try to control the clock in this one.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Dalvin Cook
WR1: Justin Jefferson
WR2: Adam Thielen
Bench: Alexander Mattison, K.J. Osborn

Prediction: Cowboys 34, Vikings 30 ^ Top

Giants at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -9.5
Total: 52.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It feels like many months ago that Daniel Jones was averaging 23 fantasy points per game over the first four weeks of the season and things have not been nearly as good for the Giants quarterback in the three games since. This Monday night matchup against the Chiefs might be just what he needs to get back into the top-12 at the position, however, as he’ll get to face a Kansas City defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. In recent seasons we’d write this off as the Chiefs just being so far ahead of teams on the scoreboard that they turn to a “prevent” type defense that allows teams to rack up passing yards but still allows Kansas City to win. With the Chiefs sitting at 3-4 on the season, however, it’s become glaringly obvious that not only are opposing QBs benefitting from the “prevent defense” factor when trailing, but they’re also lighting up the Chiefs through the air enough that they’re actually beating them.

The Giants have a loaded wide receiver group that is unfortunately decimated by injuries at the moment. The team is expected to be without rookie Kadarius Toney as well as veteran Kenny Golladay. Former 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis has been the biggest beneficiary of the Giants’ banged up wide receiver depth chart as he’s been targeted 16 times over the past two weeks, catching 10 of those passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. If the Giants end up being without Sterling Shepard again then Pettis is a decent PPR WR3 starter.

There is reason to believe, however, that Shepard will be back after the receiver logged a limited practice on Thursday. He’ll now have three days to get fully healthy prior to the Giants’ Monday night game. Shepard’s return would be a huge boost to the Giants’ pass catching unit as he’s been by far the team’s most consistent producer when he’s been on the field. Shepard caught seven or more passes in three of the four games he’s played significant snaps in and he’s very clearly Jones’ favorite target in the passing game. If you own Shepard then it makes sense to make a move to acquire Pettis this week as an insurance policy. Get Shepard in your lineup as a WR3 and pay attention on Monday night. If he’s inactive then pivot to Pettis and hope for the best.

The other player who may also be available on waiver wires in your league is Darius Slayton. Slayton has battled his own injury problems, but he was active in Week 7 against the Panthers when he was targeted a team-high nine times. He’s the preferred option if you’re choosing between him and Pettis in the event that Shepard is out, but he might already be owned in your league.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Saquon Barkley could make his return to the field this week, but all signs point to the running back still being a week away as he missed practice again on Thursday. Assuming Barkley is out, it looks like it’ll be the Devontae Booker show again on Monday night as the Giants head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs.

Booker has been decent in relief of Barkley thus far as he’s averaged over 15 PPR fantasy points per game in the three starts he’s made. He does have a somewhat difficult matchup against Kansas City, however, as the Chiefs have been quite good at containing opposing running backs. In fact, despite getting blown out this past week, the Chiefs were able to contain Derrick Henry on the ground, allowing just 86 yards on 29 carries (2.96 yards/carry) to the monster half back. Henry was able to salvage an otherwise poor (for him) fantasy day by surprising everyone with a passing touchdown, but it was still an overall quality showing for the Kansas City run defense. Prior to that game, the Chiefs had not allowed a single running back they’ve faced to rush for more than 55 yards since back in Week 2 when Baltimore’s Ty’Son Williams ran for 77 yards against them. They have also conceded just one running back rushing touchdown since that Week 2 contest against Baltimore.

On a positive note for Booker’s fantasy owners, he is active in the passing game and that’s where the Chiefs are getting exposed on a weekly basis. He’s not Saquon Barkley as receiver, but Booker has caught nine passes over his past three games and he’s been used as a third down back throughout most of his career, so expect him to be out there again in passing situations, which could allow him to still turn in a decent enough fantasy day even if the Chiefs do shut him down on the ground. Booker is a low-end RB2/Flex this week in PPR formats.

Value Meter:
QB1: Daniel Jones (low end)
RB2: Devontae Booker (low end)
WR3: Sterling Shepard
Flex: Darius Slayton, Dante Pettis (only if Shepard is out)
Bench: John Ross, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph

Passing Game Thoughts: For all the struggles that the Chiefs have suffered through so far this season, quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains an elite weekly fantasy option. The QB turned in his first bad fantasy performance this past week against the Titans in what was one of the worst games of his career. We can sit and speculate that the league has “figured out” Mahomes all we want, but the more than likely outcome here is going to be that Mahomes gets back on track eventually. It could and likely will happen this week as the Chiefs host the Giants on Monday Night Football.

A poor performance against the Giants this past week actually led to the Panthers benching Sam Darnold so there might be some belief that the New York defense is better than it is. However, a closer look at their game log will show you that while they’ve done well against the likes of Jameis Winston and Sam Darnold, they’ve actually been lit up by the better quarterbacks they’ve faced including Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and even Taylor Heinicke. Mahomes certainly falls into that category and one has to assume that the Chiefs will be looking to make a statement by reasserting themselves as an elite offense on national television. Look for Mahomes to deliver in this one.

The pass catching weapons in Kansas City continue to be a disappointment aside from the obvious top two in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. No other Chiefs receiver has provided any sort of reliable fantasy production and they should all remain benched until one of them establishes himself as the third option in this passing game. Until then, it remains the Hill and Kelce show, both of whom are must-start elite options at their respective positions, as they are pretty much every week.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Clyde Edwards-Helaire remains out which has meant that Darrel Williams has been the Chiefs’ starter over the past two weeks. A shockingly negative game script led to Williams being used minimally on the ground in Week 7 against Tennessee, but a more normal game script in Week 6 saw Kansas City lean heavily on Williams as he carried the ball 21 times, including a pair of touchdowns, against Washington.

Williams now faces a Giants defense that has already given up three 100-yard rushers this season and he should be in line for another day of around 15 carries. The other thing that’s flying under the radar is that Williams is actually being used a bit in the passing game. He’s looked at by most as more of a plodder, but he’s now caught three passes in each of the two starts he’s made for the Chiefs this season and that added passing game usage helps make him a solid RB2 option in this contest.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Darrel Williams
WR1: Tyreek Hill (high end)
TE1: Travis Kelce (high end)
Bench: Jerick McKinnon, Mecole Hardman, Josh Gordon, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Giants 20 ^ Top