Injuries suck. Plain and simple. It’s still a part of the game, even if it forces some unattractive options into our lineups. Injuries also create ample opportunities for mismatches at a discounted price, provided the player isn’t actually terrible and doesn’t deserve a roster spot. Yeah, I’m looking at you Mr. Chris Ivory and your whopping 2.4 yards a carry on 17 freakin’ attempts!!! And that’s with Yeldon getting 100 yards at that! Disgraceful! Ok…Serenity now….serenity now. The QBs were some of the best plays on the slate, with Prescott putting up a smash game and DR’s favorite QB Russell Wilson following right alongside. Unfortunately, the WR pool was not as good despite some favorable match-ups. That likely will change this week as several top-tier receivers get some tasty match-ups, especially with the influx of higher priced RBs. It’s the midway point of the NFL season, which means you should at the very least know which defenses are terrible and which ones to avoid. It’s also when the DailyRoto projections really start to shine as it gathers data throughout the season, optimizing itself and becoming sentient as it tries to murder whoever decided taking out late swap was a good idea. Wait, I’m sorry. I have mistakenly identified Dink-Bot as the DR Project-Bot. Oh well, boys will be boys.
Anyways, onto the NFL DFS Week 8 picks!
Top Play – With one of the highest totals on the slate, Kirk Cousins suddenly looks like a legitimate top 3 QB option. The Cowboys’ defense got a cake match-up against C.J. Beathard and the failing 49ers, yet the defense still surrendered nearly 300 yards to a dilapidated 49ers offense. Well, they did give up 300+ yards if you take away the yards lost on sacks. Technicalities aside, Cousins has been a very good DFS option all year, having thrown for 300+ yards in 3 of his last 4 starts. Cousins also added 11 total touchdowns in that span, rushing for 74 yards which adds an extra dimension to his scoring. Despite the Cowboys running all over the 49ers, they are still the 13th fastest team with a defense giving up the 9th most offensive snaps per game. With the sudden emergence of Jordan Reed and his plethora of injuries seemingly behind him, Cousins now profiles as a top tier QB behind a wealth of offensive options as the Redskins have decided to promote Josh Doctson and Chris Thompson as main offensive cogs. A surging Captain Kirk in a high-scoring game against a defense giving up the 11th most fantasy points to opposing QBs and priced below the elite QBs? Even William Shatner would be proud. Cousins currently projects as the best QB play on the slate.
Value Play – It’s been a brutal season for Andy Dalton thus far, either looking like the old Dalton that was very nearly an MVP candidate before his injury or barely resembling a 3rd string QB as he flutters passes above A.J. Green’s angry head. Thankfully for the Red Rifle, he’s been able to be relevant in positive match-ups as evidenced by his 4 TD game against Cleveland. We all still remember how badly Dalton carved up the Packers defense before the entire team decided to turn into a pumpkin, right? Well, I suspect the Bengals will be looking for an offensive explosion against a Colts defense that just gave up 300+ passing yards to Blake Bortles. Yes, Blake Bortles. The Colts sit neatly as the 3rd worst ranked pass defense in the NFL, giving up the 6th most offensive plays and fantasy points to opposing QBs. It’s a slump-buster for Dalton and the anemic Bengals offense that’s dependent on their QB’s rhythm. Break that rhythm, and all hell breaks loose. You probably already started rostering Dalton the minute you saw the Bortles stat, right? Me, too. It’s a simple value play that may end up being overlooked as the casuals flock towards Deshaun Watson and Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Junior. There’s even Tyrod Taylor as another good value play target that may lower Dalton’s ownership. Sticking with the projections since I got yelled at last time for ignoring its love for Russell Wilson and others, Dalton pops as the 3rd best value thus far.
HOT TAEK – I’m going to go with a gut pick here. It’s going to be Matthew Stafford facing against a Steelers defense that’s been a dead zone for opposing QBs. The Steelers defense not only give up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to the position, they’ve been a lock-down defense against wide receivers as well with the least points given up. Yikes. But for whatever reason, I sense a big game from Stafford coming off a bye despite an injured Golden Tate, simply because the Lions are a different animal at home. Yes, I tried and failed an animal pun. The Lions are significantly faster at home compared to the road, running the no-huddle at a much higher pace and pushing down the field. The Lions’ game-plan seems quite apparent based on where they are, grinding the clock with the run game on the road and shooting it out in the air at home. Kenny Golladay, the Lions rookie WR sensation, looks poised for a comeback from a pesky hammy that knocked him out for 3 games. That’s a decent boost to Stafford’s tendency to chuck it up and pray for a moss. Considering the Lions are likely to be down early as Le’Veon Bell trounces over their hapless run defense, it’s conceivable that Stafford may have to pass it 40x just to keep the Lions in it. Not a bad GPP play at 0.00000000001% owned against a defense that basically gives up nothing to QBs. Yum.
Top Play – Le’Veon Bell just continues to get massive amount of touches no matter the opponent, having turned in a 38 touch game for a combined 193 total yards against a now 6th ranked Cincy run defense. He’ll face off against the 8th ranked Lions run defense that actually may be a lie. The Lions are coming off a bye, yet they give up the 6th most fantasy points to opposing RBs. The Lions also got absolutely ran over by the Saints before the bye, surrendering nearly 200 rushing yards to the Ingram/Kamara duo. That trend will likely continue as long as the Lions field one of the worst LB units in the league, both due to talent and injuries. Bell has now had touches of 39, 25, 35, and 38 in his last 4 games. Jesus. It seems as if no matter what happens, the Steelers are committed at feeding Bell at the defense’s expense. He’s one of the safest plays on the slate with the upside of a 30 point game every week. With many of the top tier now being priced closer to Bell’s salary, it seems as if simply choosing the massive workload and a sneaky match-up might be better than choosing a lesser RB in a better match-up. I would rather use Bell over Zeke this week simply because I think the Redskins have a better shot at bottling Elliott up than the Lions do against Bell. 40 touches incoming? Feasible!
Value Play – There’s some options this week that may not very exciting, such as Joe Mixon vs the Colts and Blount against the 49ers. Both RBs are now mired in RB committees, with Smallwood returning from injury and Corey Clement getting more RZ work lowering Blount’s floor. Mixon is clearly the Bengals’ best running back, yet they continue to use Jeremy Hill while staggering Mixon’s touches in games he starts off hot. I would take a chance on Mixon out of most of the 4k RBs, but if that doesn’t tickle your fancy then may I suggest Chris Thompson as a target for Cousins stacks? Sure, his offensive usage continues to be a roller coaster as he only received 12 touches in a game he needed to be utilized more. But the good thing about the Eagles game was Thompson finally started to out-snap the majority of the Redskins RBs, playing on 37 snaps compared to 27 for Kelley and a big fat zero to both Perine/Brown. It shows Gruden’s increased trust in Thompson and a potential increased workload for weeks to come. Dallas does not fare well against receiving backs as they have gave up receiving totals of /94/1 to Gurley, 3/36/1 to C.J. Anderson, and 5/59 to Andre Ellington. Thompson leads the Redskins in both receiving and rushing yards, making him a true dual threat in a positive match-up. Thompson could very well match Gurley’s stat-line if the Redskins continue to ramp up his snap count. Me likey.
HOT TAEK – Hey, remember my terrible taek on Orleans Darkwa last week against a low ranked DVOA run defense that wasn’t giving up much fantasy points to RBs? Well…..here it is again! Lamar Miller gets the now 23rd ranked SEA run defense that’s giving up the 4th fewest points to the position. So why on earth would I pick the same scenario again? I still think the Seahawks’ defense is bound for regression in regards to points given up, as they just do not possess the kind of run defense that correlates with their rankings. Eventually, someone’s going to get the 2-3 rushing TD game. Miller may be an underwhelming RB as far as fantasy goes, but he’s still receiving RB1 type touches with an increased involvement in the passing game. Miller has now totaled 113 touches through 6 games, nearly a 20 touch average per game! He’s still one of the best 1st down RBs with a 4.3 average, good for 10th best among all RBs. With Watson at the helm, the Texans’ offense has been much more linear instead of being the heaping dumpster fire it once was. That has stabilized Miller’s role as an every-down RB, giving him enough opportunities to get double digits fantasy points every week. Miller is still the team leader in RZ opportunities (11), owning a 25% overall market share with 43% of the RZ carries. If the Texans want to win the game against a stingy 5th ranked SEA pass defense, they’ll have to actually run the ball more than the Giants did. 19 snaps for Darkwa, Coach McAdoo? YOU FOOL! FOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!! Hopefully O’Brien doesn’t bench Lamar after the 1st quarter.
Top Play – There’s some really good options this week at WR, but I’m going with A.J. Green as he draws an excellent match-up against a busted Indy secondary that just lost its best player in Malik Hooker to an ACL. Sure, Keenan Allen has a tasty match-up against a lowly Patriots pass defense that’s starting to get banged up with injuries to Gilmore, Rowe, and Hightower. He’s not going to get the volume Green should get against the Colts, as there is just no one that can match up alongside Green for Indianapolis. Green’s also coming off a dud against Steelers despite destroying the Bills for 189 yards before the bye. That doesn’t worry me one bit, as no matter how ineffective Dalton may become, he still targets Green at a high pace (31% MS of team’s targets). As I stated above with Dalton, the Colts’ pass defense is simply non-existent at this point, giving up the 6th most points to opposing QBs and 7th most to WRs. It’s a lovely stack that will sink my lineups when Brandon LaFell gets the 5 red zone targets instead of Green. Or even worse, Tyler Kroft! Ughhhhh. Green projects as the 2nd best WR play on the slate. Starting to see a pattern here?
Value Play – Many will want to roster JuJu Smith-Schuster after his solid game and fantastic Twitter block of Mia Khalifa, and I won’t sneer at your choice at doing so on the news of a Martavis Bryant benching. Nor will I sneer at picking Josh Doctson in a high-scoring affair since he’s now the new number 1 WR for the Redskins. Or even Nelson Agholor! Let’s focus on someone who is actually the #1 target on his team with huge TD upside. That man’s name is Kelvin Benjamin, and he just might be one of the best 6k plays on the board. I also like Dougie Baldwin but he doesn’t have the same kind of TD upside Benjamin possesses. Benjamin will get to feast on a Bucs secondary that seems helpless at stopping anybody that doesn’t line up on Brent Grimes’ side. Kelvin will be running 72% of his routes away from Grimes, feasting upon Robert McCain and Vernon Hargreaves. The Bucs are now the dead last ranked pass defense, giving up the 4th most offensive snaps per game. The Panthers have been an offensive snap workhorse, averaging the 7th most on the season while hitting over 70 snaps for the past 3 weeks. That’s mainly due to their struggling running game, averaging the 9th most carries but the 19th fewest yards. That’s forced Cam Newton and the Panthers to rely on the pass attack to move the ball. That’s where big boy Kelvin will come in, mossing the diminutive Bucs cornerbacks on his way to a giant fantasy day. Please don’t hurt yourself again. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GODGERS!
HOT TAEK – Oh boy, oh boy. Which WR shall I curse this week? Hmm. I’m liking Tyrell Williams against the Patriots even if his workload has basically withered up over the past few weeks. I also like T.Y. Hilton against the Bengals for a GPP dart since he gets a decent match-up against a Cincy defense prone to deep bombs. Nah, I think I’m gonna go with Pierre Garcon against the Eagles. Garcon has not fared well with Beathard at the helm, only bringing in 5 of his 7 targets last week for a measly 49 yards and no touchdowns. It was a major disappointment considering Garcon had the upper hand on a torchable Dallas secondary, but hey, sometimes the third time’s the charm! Garcon gets a Philly team that’s getting destroyed by the injury bug, having lost their best coverage LB in Jordan Hicks and their LT Jason Peters. They’re still pretty banged up front with Kendricks dealing with a hammy and other guys nursing injuries. Here’s the sticking point for me regarding Garcon – he’s going to line up in front of Jalen Mills, notoriously one of the worst CBs in the NFL. It’s similar to the “Play any WR facing Justin Bethel” strategy before the Cardinals decided to bench Bethel for good. The Eagles are unlikely to do that with Mills unless Ronald Darby forces their hand, which is possible this week if he is able to continue practicing. Even then, screw it! It’s an Eagles secondary that’s missing important role players and has a huge weakness in the middle of their coverage. Garcon may not be a home-run threat, but he’s a savvy route runners who finds the soft spots in zone coverage. As long as Beathard doesn’t beat himself up, Garcon should have a respectable fantasy day, with maybe a Torrey Smith-like 65 yard TD on Mills. Beathard willing, of course.
Top Play – If you’re willing to pay up for an elite TE, there’s two options waiting for your choice. Ertz or Gronk? If you’re not willing to dish out elite TE money, then I suggest you look at Jason Witten. There’s a chance Josh Norman comes back for the Redskins, which puts a damper on Dez Bryant’s fantasy ceiling. Generally speaking, whenever there’s been a tough CB match-up for Dez, Prescott has leaned heavily on the old Dad runner, having now fed him 42 targets for a 31/293/3 stat-line. Seems sort of mediocre at first, until you realize Witten had two clunkers in between his very good/solid games. Take away those two duds and you have a 29/272/3 stat-line in 4 games. That’s more like it! The Redskins are 28th DVOA in their TE coverage, giving up the 3rd most fantasy points to the position. Yes, it’s a little bit of a Cowboys/Redskins stack in the article, but it’s for a good reason! They all have great match-ups in a rivalry game that even Vegas knows will be high-scoring! When Dez is in doubt, choose Witten every time!
Value Play – Be careful before you roster O.J. Howard on the heels of his 2 TD game, as the Bucs still use Brate quite often especially in the red zone. Tyler Kroft continues to be a thing despite looking more like a garden gnome than a tight end. He’s a viable punt play against the Colts, but I think Dalton won’t need to rely on him as much as past weeks. That leaves good ol’ reliable Zach Miller as my value TE play of the week. Yes, the Bears did win a game with only 4 complete passes from Mitch Trubisky and 68 total rushing yards. Gross. That’s probably not going to happen again just like the Bears won’t get two defensive touchdowns against the Saints. Zach Miller received 2 of those 4 completed passes for 29 yards which if you think about it, that’s kind of like getting 10/100 on a normal team. Yowza! Okay, maybe not. The point here is Miller has continued to receive the majority of Trubisky’s targets, as little as it may seem. Eventually, John Fox will have to let Trubisky air it out especially when they aren’t nursing a 14 point lead early in the game. The Saints are not going to let the foot off the gas, forcing Mitch to have to orchestrate a real offensive drive or two. Or ten. It’s really just a weird volume play punt that could work out as the Saints’ safeties have been vulnerable in TE coverage, even if the metrics say otherwise. The only real TE Saints have faced this season was Gronk, who sliced their coverage up for a 6/116/1 stat-line. Is Miller Gronk-lite? No, but he’s certainly a respectable TE that basically nobody will roster in their line-ups. Whatever, just punt the damn position!
HOT TAEK – Man, remember when I had the Buffalo Bills as one of the worst defensive rosters in the NFL? Boy, that Sean McDermott really is a miracle worker, getting that defense into tip-top shape in less than a season! Still, they’re an inexperienced unit that have moments of defensive lapses that result in big plays. That happened twice with O.J. Howard, who was able to take advantage of an aggressive Buffalo defense by running into the soft parts of the zones. That’s something Jared Cook could do, as his rapport with Derek Carr has continued to improve over the season. He nearly came down with the game-winning touchdown against the Chiefs after keeping their drive alive several times. Cook has been one of the higher targeted tight ends in the NFL but doesn’t have the gaudy stats to show for his work. He’s now seen 41 targets on the season with 25 targets in his last 4, running nearly 60% of his routes out of the slot. That’s a mismatch for Cook against anyone on the Bills defense outside of Micah Hyde. The Bills have given up the 6th most fantasy points to opposing TEs despite a 13th DVOA TE coverage ranking, but that’s not the main stat I’m looking at. It’s the RZ market share for Cook as he has a 22% RZ target market share, good for 2nd most on the team. With Lynch suspended for the game, his 23% RZ total market share have to go somewhere and I’m betting it’s going to be Cook. I don’t believe in the Cooper hype after he finally blew up, so don’t cook your lineups with a guy who can’t even catch! Be that guy who went to Jared’s!