We only have two teams on a bye this week. It’s a welcome sight after dealing with six byes in Week 7. Betting responsibly is always the first step toward maximizing profits. This is a waiting game. Think of DFS as an invading army utilizing a war of attrition on the enemy barricaded within a castle. Your opponent may have walls, the high ground keeping them safe. We know the riches inside will be ours as soon as the food and water supplies are exhausted. The absolute worst move we can make is to squander all of our resources at the opponent in a single, futile attack.
Base the amount you put on the line each week on your bankroll. Determine a percentage that you would be willing to lose each week. But you are wagering far too much if losing the entirety of that amount would cripple your bankroll for future slates/weeks. If we were simply dealing with binary code, all variability would be eliminated. But living, breathing athletes will always have the final say over any scouting or statistical process. Busted coverages and/or a string of unexpected broken tackles can lead to results nobody on Earth can predict. However, we are not in competition with football players. We only need to outthink the field in our preparation.
In Cash/Single Entry (SE), we must follow the ownership projections very closely. If 25-50% of the field is on a specific player, we will fall below the cash line if that player hits and we fade. It’s better that we roster the individuals with the highest anticipated ownership determined using every tool available to us. When dealing with large-field GPPs, the contrarian will rule the day. Identifying the individuals with the highest upside, lowest projected ownerships will differentiate your lineups toward striking oil when the cards fall in your favor.
You’ll see a number of coverage metrics throughout this series. The following chart provides the full names for the acronyms and the average numbers for each position group:
If you’d like to learn more about/refresh yourself with each of the defensive coverage shells and other relevant schematic details mentioned throughout this series, utilize the following resources:
Fantasy Shells: Coverage Glossary
Fantasy Shells: Cover 1
Fantasy Shells: Cover 2
Fantasy Shells: Cover 3
Fantasy Shells: Cover 4
*22-24 (48%); 4-4 in Week 7
Arizona Cardinals (-6.5) vs. Green Bay Packers
Buffalo Bills (-13.5) vs. Miami Dolphins
Los Angeles Rams (14.5) at Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans (-1.0) at Indianapolis Colts
Detroit Lions (+3.5) vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears (+3.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers
New England Patriots (+5.5) at Los Angeles Chargers
New Orleans Saints (+5.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minnesota Vikings (+2.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants (+10.0) at Kansas City Chiefs
*17-18 (49%); 3-3 in Week 7
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets (Over 43.0)
Los Angeles Rams at Houston Texans (Under 47.5)
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (Over 50.5)
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (Under 48.5)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (Over 42.0)
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (Over 45.5)
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (Under 49.0)
Washington Football Team at Denver Broncos (Over 43.5)
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (Over 55.0)
*31-11 (74%); 8-4 in Week 7
Arizona Cardinals (-280) vs. Green Bay Packers
Cincinnati Bengals (-475) at New York Jets
Buffalo Bills (-900) vs. Miami Dolphins
Los Angeles Rams (-955) at Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans (-115) at Indianapolis Colts
Cleveland Browns (-190) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
San Francisco 49ers (-170) at Chicago Bears
New England Patriots (+185) at Los Angeles Chargers
Seattle Seahawks (-180) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-240) at New Orleans Saints
Denver Broncos (-160) vs. Washington Football Team
Minnesota Vikings (+125) vs. Dallas Cowboys
Kansas City Chiefs (-425) vs. New York Giants
Matchups to Target
Joe Burrow, CIN ($7.1K DK | $8.7K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3
We have a new No. 1 in FPs/dropback (FP/DB) among all QBs over the last three seasons when facing Cover 1: Joseph Lee Burrow out of Ames, Iowa. After plastering 416 yards and three TDs on the Ravens last week, Burrow overtook Kirk Cousins with 0.62 FP/Db. On 26% of dropbacks, Burrow has collected 33% of his career yardage, and 43% of his TDs against single coverage. His FP/Db improves by 54% over his average (the highest such increase), his YPA improves by 26% (also first), and he’s generated a 118.8 passer rating (the top mark) when opposed by the scheme.
The score in this one is going to get out of hand. Before it does, New York’s fourth-highest rate of Cover 1 will not help the Jets’ cause. Burrow may not pass much inside the 10, but he should have free reign to unleash between the 10’s. And the NYJ pass defense has disintegrated in recent weeks. In both games this season where the Bengals won by double digits, Burrow threw for three TDs, and dipped into profit levels. The most significant obstacle standing in Burrow’s way this week is his RB teammates stealing the Halloween candy.
Ja’Marr Chase, CIN ($7.5K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Brandin Echols, NYJ
If you were wondering who the catalyst might be for Burrow swiping away the Cover 1 mantle from Cousins, look no further than the fifth-overall selection from the 2021 draft — Ja’Marr Chase for those left scratching their heads. Not wanting to be left out of the top-spot-stealing-party, Chase overtook Davante Adams for No. 1 in FPs/route (FP/Rt) with 1.13 after his 8/201/1 line from last week! Yes, it’s only 64 routes compared to 476 for Adams, but that takes nothing away from the instant impact Chase has made during Cincinnati’s impressive season.
Chase is also pacing the field vs. Cover 1 with an astounding 6.00 YPRR and 20.2 yards/target (YPT). On 28% of his rookie routes against Cover 1, Chase has collected 46% of his receptions, 51% of his yardage, and 50% of his TDs. The alignment percentages state Chase will see the most reps across from ‘21 sixth-rounder Brandin Echols. My gut tells me that DC Jeff Ulbrich will want his top outside corner, Bryce Hall, on Chase for as many snaps as possible. Considering that Chase put up 5/165/1 on Marlon Humphrey, will it make any difference? Oh, by the way, the coverage algorithm is projecting 35.1 FPs for Chase this week — 31% more than any other wideout.
Joe Mixon, CIN ($6.9K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3
It should come as zero surprise to learn that Joe Mixon is my RB1 for Week 8. And the coverage formula backs up that assessment with 26.3 projected FPs. New York is authorizing 38.4 FPG to RBs this season, 19% more than the next team on the list (Seattle). The most pure rushing (20.7) and pure receiving FPG (17.7) are built into the number. It certainly hasn’t helped their cause that they are also favoring the most red zone touches/game to RBs (8.17). And the wheels have fallen off over the last four, gift-wrapping 46.3 FPG to the position. I totally get it. That is a lot of italization for one matchup. Mixon currently ranks eighth with 19.7 touches/game. With that in mind, it’s quite disappointing to see that he ranks 47th with 0.77 FPs/touch. But the currency he’ll require for profit (volume) will not be on short supply this week.
Final notes on Cincinnati
Don’t look now, but Samaje Perine ($4.9K/$5.7K) has quietly formed a timeshare with Mixon during Week’s 5 and 7 — Perine missed Week 6 due to COVID-19. Since the formula is only factoring the full season, I love Perine far more this week. Whereas Mixon has flopped on a per touch basis, Perine ranks 14th-best with 1.01 FPs/touch. I will have a ton of exposure to both backs this weekend. If Jeff Ulbrich does plant Bryce Hall across from Chase, Tee Higgins ($5.2K/$6.3K) is going to have his way with Brandin Echols. I just have my concerns that he’ll manage to do enough for our attention. Chase is creating separation on man coverage that simply cannot go untargeted. That leaves Higgins and Tyler Boyd ($4.8K/$5.8K) with TD-dependency. New York is also one of the worst in the league at defending TEs. C.J. Uzomah ($3.7K/$5.7K) is on a bit of a heater. If he decides to leave his mark on the Jets, Higgins and Boyd could end up with empty Halloween buckets.
Final notes on New York
Just when I was about to write about how Joe Flacco’s ($4.3K/$6.1K) addition could be the best thing to happen to the NYJ offensive upside all season, he informed the staff he will be unable to join the team until Friday. Can we blame him? Flacco will go from a two-win Philadelphia franchise, back into the one-win dumpster fire he thought he’d vacated. Sadly enough, during Mike White’s limited Week 7 action ($5.0K/$6.3K), he actually managed to top Zach Wilson’s 36th-ranked FP/Db (0.218) with the 35th-best number (0.245). When Flacco does make his journey back to Mean Green-land, he’ll supply just as much downfield aggression as Wilson, but with far better accuracy.
None of the changes under center are going to aid the cause of Michael Carter ($4.9K/$5.7K) or Ty Johnson ($4.4K/$5.3K). The New York O-line has looked far better in run blocking, but allowing the opposition to score three points for every one of theirs is not a formula calling for ground production. Flacco should infuse Corey Davis ($5.2K/$6.1K), Jamison Crowder ($4.8K/$5.6K), and Elijah Moore ($3.9K/$5.2K) with some meaningful receiving lines over the remainder of the season. White did complete all of seven attempts against the Cover 2 of the Patriots last week. Just keep those expectations at rock bottom for the Jets until Flacco is ready to go.
Matchups to Target
Stefon Diggs, BUF ($8.1K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room, as someone among the DK pricing staff used an elephant finger when setting up Stefon Diggs’ salary this week. Is this an outstanding matchup for Diggs? Most definitely. But pricing a WR scoring the 19th-most FPG as the WR5 is ridiculous. Coverage analysts everywhere should be issued an apology for ruining this heavenly matchup. The last time these teams met, Tua Tagovailoa played a grand total of nine snaps before leaving due to an injury that landed him on IR. Prior to the Buffalo offense grinding out the clock on the ground, Diggs collected 3/53/1 of his 4/60/1 overall receiving line inside the coverage of Xavien Howard.
Even though this rematch will be played in Orchard Park, Miami will have a fully healthy Tagovailoa, and he’s played quite well since being activated from IR. And we can always count on the ‘Phins bringing along their second-highest rate of Cover 1, the highest rate of man schemes. During the last three seasons, Diggs ranks sixth among all wideouts with 0.69 FP/Rt, sixth with 3.32 YPRR, and fourth with a 31% target share against Cover 1. On 25% of his Cover 1 snaps, Diggsy has procured 33% of his catches, 37% of yardage, and 40% of his total TDs. And Howard has not lived up to his reputation this season. He’s permitted his coverage to post 1.52 YPCS (56th), 0.36 FP/CS (67th), 0.35 AY/CS (48th), and a 102.6 TPR (47th).
Zack Moss, BUF ($5.2K DK | $6.1K FD) vs. Dolphins’ Cover 1
Call me bullish, but the upside for the red zone/goal-line/superior receiving RB within one of the top-three most explosive offenses cannot be understated. First of all, Zack Moss has run circles around Devin Singletary as a receiver. He’s posted 1.28 YPRR vs. 0.31 for Singletary and 7.79 YPT vs. 2.24. Moss has collected the seventh-highest goal line carry share (15%), taking the fifth-most carries inside the five (1.6/game). Moss found the end zone twice when these teams met in Week 2. And the Dolphins have allowed the sixth-most FPG to RBs (27.7) and second-most red zone touches/game (6.86). If the Vegas money can be trusted toward Buffalo as 14-point home favorites, the stage should be set toward Moss turning in a profit with pricing as the RB35/28.
Mike Gesicki, MIA ($5.0K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Tremaine Edmunds, BUF
If we simply placed our trust into the FPG data, fading Mike Gesicki would be the call against a defense handing out the eighth-fewest FPG to TEs. But we have some compelling data pointing toward giving serious consideration to Gesicki this week. During the last three campaigns, Gesicki has done his very best work against Cover 4. He ranks 10th-best with 0.31 FP/Rt and fifth with 9.61 air yards/target. Buffalo fields a Cover 4 at the league’s second-highest rate. The Bills will use MIKE LB Tremaine Edwards in primary coverage of Gesicki. He’s sanctioned 1.18 YPCS (57th), 0.31 FP/CS (62nd), 0.09 AY/CS (40th), and a 112.8 TPR (57th). During two 2020 matchups with Buffalo, Gesicki averaged 18.4 FPG. Finally, in the two games since Tagovailoa was activated from IR, he’s targeted Gesicki with back-to-back 20% shares, and 22 FPG.
Final notes on Miami
If Tua Tagovailoa ($5.5K/$7.1K) gets DeVante Parker ($4.9K/$5.7K) back on the field this week, Tua could surprise with his production. Don’t think the Deshaun Watson trade rumors have evaded his notice. Tagovailoa may not be in Miami’s future plans, but he will find multiple teams willing to invest within a league starving for QB upside. And he’ll have the remainder of the season as a dress rehearsal. In his one full start against the Bills — Week 17 last season, he scored 18.2 FPs. A repeat of the number would provide a 10% profit on DK this week as the QB20.
Myles Gaskin ($5.6K/$5.7K) may manage to post more RB1 numbers in the future, but this is one of the most inconsistent three-headed backfields this season with Salvon Ahmed ($4.0K/$5.1K) and Malcolm Brown ($4.0K/$5.0K). It’s clear that Jaylen Waddle ($5.6K/$6.4K) is the go-to option for Tagovailoa. It’s a long season and Parker may attempt to alter that perception. However, Waddle is averaging 20.1 FPG when Tua is under center. And three of his four highest target shares have been provided by Tagovailoa. The time for Preston Williams ($3.1K/$5.1K) to steal a portion of the spotlight will evaporate when Parker returns to the lineup.
Final notes on Buffalo
Josh Allen ($8.1K/$8.8K) is universally known as one of the top QBs in football. But, long before he established that stardom, he was one of the top Cover 1 QBs around. We definitely can’t completely eliminate anyone playing a significant role in this offense. But Devin Singletary ($4.6K/$5.5K) just doesn’t win anywhere consistently enough to even invest a GPP stab in the dark. Diggs is the clear choice in man-heavy matchups, but Allen has had a consistent eye for Emmanuel Sanders ($5.4K/$6.7K). He’s collected 18.5 FPG over the last four games. Inside the coverage of Byron Jones, Sanders will be allotted 1.28 YPCS (46th), 0.29 FP/CS (48th), 0.36 AY/CS (52nd), and a 111.7 TPR (56th).
“Cover 4 Cole” Beasley ($4.9K/$6.1K) is a more descriptive nickname than his preferred “Young 2% Milk.” Just when Dawson Knox was blazing a trail toward top-five TE consideration, he was forced to undergo hand surgery. Fingers crossed he returns without missing a beat. Until then, Tommy Sweeney ($2.9K/$4.3K) offers a cheap avenue into the Buffalo offense.
Matchups to Target
Tyler Higbee, LAR ($4.5K DK | $5.3K FD) vs. Christian Kirksey, HOU
Tyler Higbee has had a quiet season for the 6-1 Rams. He currently ranks 17th with 9.1 FPG, drawn from a 14% target share (13th). If we’re being honest, nobody in the LAR offense has a chance to eat after Cooper Kupp takes his league-leading 11.3 targets/game and 28.9 FPG. But Kupp will run into a challenge on Sunday. If Matthew Stafford searches for a new home for some of that volume, he’ll find Higbee in a smash matchup. The Texans feature the second-highest rate of Cover 2 and 11th-highest of Cover 1.
Over the last three seasons, Higbee ranks seventh-best with 0.39 FP/Rt vs. Cover 2. And he ranks fifth-best (0.45) over that time against Cover 1. He’s plucked 31% of TDs across from Cover 1 on only 20% of routes. One of the primary defenders standing in Higbee’s way will be Christian Kirksey. He’s surrendered 1.05 YPCS (38th), 0.21 FP/CS (26th), 0.12 AY/CS (59th), and a 98.4 TPR (32nd). As a unit, Houston is approving the third-most FPG to TEs (18.5) and the most red zone touches/game (1.57).
Matchups to Avoid
Brandin Cooks, HOU ($5.7K DK | $6.0K FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
If you followed my advice on fading T.J. Hockenson last week, you avoided a game from Hock where he played enough snaps to matter across from Jalen Ramsey. Keeping with his inconsistent pattern this season, Ramsey followed a Week 6 game where he split his time between the slot and outside, and then playing nearly all of Week 7 on the perimeter. Ramsey is simply playing the matchups. He’s not shadowing individual receivers, he’s taking away areas of the field where offenses want to attack. If not for the likely return of Tyrod Taylor, I wouldn’t even waste my time listing Brandin Cooks as an Avoid. But Taylor fed Cooks with 21 targets, a 14/210/1 combined line, and 22 FPG in the two weeks they played together this season. In five games without Taylor, Cooks is averaging 12.7 FPG.
Ramsey took a hit to his metrics last week when he chose to rush Jared Goff rather than sticking with D’Andre Swift. The result was a 63-yard catch-and-run to the house. Only the second TD he’s surrendered this season (DK Metcalf in Week 5). On his 39 other Week 7 coverage snaps, Ramsey permitted a 4/9/0 line. But he made up for that mistake by picking off a throw to Hock inside the red zone, protecting a 25-19 lead with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. With stellar coverage from Dont'e Deayon emerging from the slot, Ramsey is free to focus on taking away the opposition's toys. That’s very bad news for Cooks in Week 8.
Final notes on Los Angeles
The pricing has officially caught up with production for Matthew Stafford ($7.6K/$8.2K). Lovie Smith’s defense has been just good enough to disrupt FPG production from their opponents. After Darrell Henderson Jr. ($6.5K/$7.7K) failed to take advantage of Detroit last week, how can we trust him against a better run defense from the Texans? Either way, Henderson has cemented his role as the lead back, with Sony Michel ($4.0K/$5.2K) cleaning up the scraps.
Can anyone stop Cooper Kupp ($9.0K/$9.2K)? Houston nickelback Tavierre Thomas is willing to try. And, believe it or not, Thomas has been the premiere slot corner in the NFL This season. He’s limiting his coverage to 0.26 YPCS (the fewest), 0.08 FP/CS (second), 0.03 AY/CS (second), and a 67.2 TPR (fifth). It may be an unstoppable force meets an immovable object-like situation.
If Thomas’ tremendous coverage holds up, Kupp’s volume will fall to Higbee and Robert Woods ($6.3K/$6.8K). If his pattern holds up, we’ll need to wait until Week 10 for Van Jefferson Jr. ($3.9K/$5.7K) to have another quality game since he’s been posting two flops in between. In all seriousness, Houston is not a great stylistic matchup for Jefferson. DeSean Jackson ($3.3K/$5.2K) has just been a complete afterthought.
Final notes on Houston
We witnessed Tyrod Taylor ($4.9K/$6.3K) post some decent early-season numbers. If he is cleared to make this start, I’ll be fading. The Rams are only standing for the sixth-fewest FPG to QBs overall (16.2), and that number has fallen to the fourth-fewest over the last four (14.0). If it’s Davis Mills ($4.8K/$6.3K) again, he’s only an option in Cover 1-heavy matchups, and Los Angeles utilizes the third-lowest rate of Cover 1.
With Mark Ingram II shipped off to New Orleans, I have my fingers crossed that David Johnson ($4.2K/$5.1K) will be the beneficiary. In spite of only touching the ball 49 times this season, he’s still managed to collect 5.8 receiving FPG (19th), and 1.00 FPs/touch (15th). Knowing OC Tim Kelly, Johnson will likely split the backfield with Phillip Lindsay ($4.0K/$4.7K). As for the options at receiver behind Cooks, if you dare to expose your lineups to Nico Collins ($3.2K/$5.1K), Danny Amendola ($3.0K/$4.9K), Chris Moore ($3.0K/$5.0K), Pharaoh Brown ($2.7K/$4.5K), or Jordan Akins ($2.5K/$4.6K), I wish you the best of luck.
Matchups to Target
Ryan Tannehill, TEN ($6.6K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 3
During the last three seasons while Ryan Tannehill emerged as a top-10 QB, he’s posted the eighth-highest FP/Db against Cover 2 (0.38) and seventh vs. Cover 3 (0.43). Matt Eberflus’ Indianapolis defense is relying on the fifth-highest rate of Cover 3 and 10th-highest of Cover 2. The Titans have won five-of-six games, giving every indication of being playoff-ready during their 27-3 beatdown of the Chiefs. The Colts have won three of their last four, but those victories were collected facing the Dolphins, Texans, and 49ers. And Tennessee just took down Indy in Week 3 by a score of 25-16. Tannehill still managed three TDs strikes and his highest output of the season (23.48 FPs) without the services of A.J. Brown (sans eight snaps) and Julio Jones due to injury.
With AJB and Julio still inching themselves closer to 100% health, we’ve yet to see the true ceiling from this offense. A scary thought after taking victories over Buffalo and Kansas City the last two weeks. And we’ll see the Titans forced to take to the air more than they would like against a Colts defense that has been one of the top-10 defenses against play action — the bread-and-butter of this offense — this season. The Colts are giving a green light to the ninth-most pure passing FPG to opposing QBs (17.1). And the factor that reared its ugly head in Week 3 — a pass rush generating the third-fewest QB pressures — has yet to be resolved. I’m all over the moneyline for Tennessee, ATS, and for this game to exceed the implied total with both offenses nearing 100%. And I’ll have a good amount of investment in Tannehill, potentially posting his best line of the season.
A.J. Brown, TEN ($6.9K DK | $7.6K FD) vs. Xavier Rhodes, IND
The most significant factor benefiting Tannehill in Week 8 is A.J. Brown, at least on appearances, playing at full health. Consider that over the last six quarters of play, Tannehill has fed AJB with a 15/224/1 receiving line and 46.4 FPs on 17 targets. Going up against an Indianapolis defense utilizing Cover 3 on nearly 40% of snaps, Brown posting 0.52 FP/Rt the last three seasons when facing the scheme will certainly come into play. He’s also fabricated 2.80 YPRR (fifth-highest) and 12.4 YPT (third). The alignment numbers will place him across from Xavier Rhodes on just under half of his routes. Rhodes is indulging 1.52 YPCS (55th), 0.26 FP/CS (37th), 0.29 AY/CS (35th), and an 86.1 TPR (26th). The data tells us that, when you attack Indy’s secondary, you do it on the perimeter since it's where they are permitting 19.5 FPG (sixth-most).
Michael Pittman Jr., IND ($5.3K DK | $6.6K FD) vs. Greg Mabin, TEN
In order for a Tannehill-AJB stack to reach into its ceiling, some kickback from the opposing offense will be needed. The ground game of the Colts seems to be hitting its stride, and Michael Pittman Jr. has emerged as the WR1 for Carson Wentz. During the previous six games, Pittman is averaging 16.5 FPG. If we remove his poor output from the 31-3 drubbing of the Texans in Week 6, he’s averaging 18.6. And don’t buy into the narrative that T.Y. Hilton took over with his 4/80/0 line in Week 6. Hilton collected 65% of that yardage on a 52-yard reception. And Pittman only saw one fewer target in a game where little was asked of the Colts’ passing offense.
Is it possible Hilton overtakes Pittman? Absolutely. But the consistent flow of evidence in front of us points to a solid relationship between Pittman and Wentz. With the Titans playing last-man-standing at cornerback, Pittman is going to see a lot of reps against Greg Mabin, a recent free agent signing. Mabin submitted a solid performance last week, but he managed to avoid any coverage snaps on Tyreek Hill — most likely by design. However, Mabin struggled in coverage last season with Jacksonville. And, even if Mabin is plastered with splash allowances, Tennessee doesn’t have anyone better to take his place.
Final notes on Tennessee
Derrick Henry ($8.9K/$10.5K) managed to eclipse 100 rushing yards in their last match, but failed to reach the end zone. Preventing a paydirt visit is far from an anomaly for the Indianapolis defense. They have been the most difficult defense to score against by opposing RBs, conceding only 0.29 TDs/game. I do love the matchup for Julio Jones ($5.8K/$6.5K) across from Isaiah Rodgers. Like Brown, Jones has been better during the previous three seasons against Cover 3, ranking third-best with 0.58 FP/Rt. But I prefer AJB over Julio this week since Brown appears closer to 100% and Jones is still earning the trust of Tannehill.
It really won’t matter if it’s Chester Rogers ($3.2K/$5.0K) or Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($3.1K/$4.9K) that is featured out of the slot this week. Kenny Moore II has most definitely struggled this season compared to performing as one of the league’s top nickelbacks last season. That said, he’ll be more than a match for Rogers and/or Westbrook-Ikhine. Did Josh Reynolds ($3.0K/$5.2K) actually grace us with his presence last week? The cash Tennessee is forking out for his 90 empty receiving yards to date is disgusting. Marcus Johnson ($3.0K/$4.8K) not only provides superior upside, he’s much cheaper. Anthony Firkser ($2.7K/$4.8K) has flopped during a golden opportunity to seize the TE role for the long haul to the extent that he’s now splitting the role with MyCole Pruitt ($2.5K/$4.9K).
Final notes on Indianapolis
I definitely had my doubts about Carson Wentz ($5.7K/$7.2K) heading into the season, but he has won me over with his FPG consistency. Removing the results from the previous meeting between these teams when Wentz sprained both of his ankles, he’s averaging 20.1 FPG over the other six games. With five TDs over the last four games that’s seen him average 102 rushing yards, Jonathan Taylor ($7.2K/$8.5K) has consistently punished weaker run defenses. Keep in mind, the two rotten outings for JT were collected against top-10 run defenses. One of those was Tennessee in Week 3. This will be the litmus test to determine if he’s deserving of his bloated pricing.
Taylor’s success has come at the direct expense of Nyheim Hines’ ($4.5K/$5.6K) role. While Marlon Mack ($4.0K/$5.3K) is still lingering on the roster after multiple teams reportedly passed along interest. If T.Y. Hilton ($4.9K/$6.2K) plays, he’ll join Pittman in having an excellent matchup, with Jackrabbit Jenkins standing as his counterpart. Jenkins is permitting 1.26 YPCS (44th), 0.29 FP/CS (50th), and a 121.3 TPR (64th). The one downside to facing Jenkins is that he’s done a quality job preventing big plays — Hilton’s specialty, as evidenced by his 0.24 AY/CS (20th).
Elijah Molden seems to be finding his groove as the Titans’ nickelback. Bad news for Zach Pascal ($4.4K/$5.3K). Even under a new OC (Marcus Brady), the Colts continue to waste Mo Alie-Cox’s ($3.2K/$5.1K) opportunities on Jack Doyle ($2.6K/$4.5K). Whereas Doyle is one of the least efficient TEs (his 0.19 FP/Rt ranks 47th), Alie-Cox is one of the most efficient (his 0.57 FP/Rt ranks second). MAC is still in play with pricing as the TE24/20.
Matchups to Target
D’Andre Swift, DET ($7.1K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Cover 2 | 4 | 6
D’Andre Swift has been fed with at least 20 touches in back-to-back games. With that volume, a productive game is assured when facing the appropriate opponents. Judging by the coverage algorithm projecting Swift for the third-highest RB output, the matchup appears appropriate. The Eagles are relinquishing the third-most FPG to RBs (30.5), the fourth-most on the ground (17.7), and 10th-most through the air (12.8). Philadelphia is also forking over the seventh-most red zone touches/game to backs (5.0).
Jamaal Williams may be splitting the carries with Swift, but the receiving role is entirely on Swift’s plate. With recent comments from HC Dan Campbell stating he simply cannot get the ball into Swift’s hands enough, perhaps we’ll see his role taken to another level above his current 18.3 touches/game (11th). With Swift providing the fifth-most FPs/touch (1.07), a further boost in touches could skyrocket the weekly output from the former Georgia Bulldog. Pricing as the RB9/12 may seem steep, but all of the stars are aligning toward profit over value in Week 8.
Kenneth Gainwell, PHI ($5.0K DK | $5.9K FD) vs. Cover 2 | 6
Miles Sanders is week-to-week with an ankle sprain. However, before we get too carried away with our expectations for his replacement, we need to remember that Philadelphia is running the ball at the third-lowest rate. For example, in Week 7, Eagles’ RBs took 18 handoffs compared to 34 passing attempts. But the root of the low handoff rate is that, in addition to averaging 4.1 scrambles/game, Jalen Hurts is collecting a 22% carry share that’s only behind Lamar Jackson’s 23%. With all of that understood, the vacated touches from Sanders that we should all be focused upon is as a receiver.
When Sanders was injured, Boston Scott took one more carry than ‘21 fifth-rounder Kenneth Gainwell. But it was the rookie that doubled up Scott in routes and saw 88% of the backfield targets. The Lions are yielding 28.7 FPG to RBs (fourth-most), 13.3 through the air (fifth). Using my coverage formula, if we extract 49% of the projected Week 8 output for Sanders — the percentage of his yearly production as a receiver — and apply it to Gainwell’s total, it would result in 19.1 FPs for the former Memphis Tiger. That’s a nice profit on RB40/35 pricing. If Philly has any goal line opportunities, Scott will contend for them with Hurts. But Gainwell will be the clear target, particularly within DKs full PPR format.
Matchups to Avoid
Kalif Raymond, DET ($5.3K DK | $5.7K FD) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
I’ll keep this quick since I’m not anticipating massive interest in lineup exposure to Kalif Raymond. Although, he did just post a 6/115/0 line on the Rams last week. It should be noted that Raymond managed to collect those numbers while sidestepping Jalen Ramsey altogether. In fact, he found 4/78/0 against LBs and safeties. Raymond moves all across the formation to find those mismatches. But he will run at least one third of his routes on Darius Slay’s sideline. Slay has been phenomenal this season, closing down his coverage to the tune of 0.67 YPCS (fifth-best), 0.21 FP/CS (16th), 0.16 AY/CS (fourth), and a 73.1 TPR (12th). When he works to Steven Nelson’s side of the field, Raymond will find a bit more room. But he will face another breakout performer in Avonte Maddox when he runs another third of his routes from the slot.
Final notes on Philadelphia
It seems we will finally need to dish out real dollars for Jalen Hurts’ ($7.2K/$8.4K) outstanding floor. It was fun while it lasted. If the Eagles are ever forced toward actually featuring Jordan Howard with any type of workload, rock has officially hit bottom. One of Philadelphia’s wideouts is going to do well. The most obvious candidate being DeVonta Smith ($5.5K/$6.2K), further reinforced by his 32% target share from Week 7. Smith will draw the most difficult coverage from an improving Amani Oruwariye.
Until Hurts establishes better consistency through the air against schemes other than Cover 3, the history of coverage success for DeVonta, Quez Watkins ($4.0K/$5.3K), and Jalen Reagor ($4.1K/$5.5K) is of little reliability. Dallas Goedert ($4.7K/$5.9K) was the recommended receiving option last week but, like Oruwariye, Alex Anzalone has been refining his coverage craft after a rough start to the season. His efforts have played a large role in Detroit shutting down TEs to the fourth-fewest FPG over the last four weeks (6.6).
Final notes on Detroit
An average of 11.6 FPG the last five weeks and one TD vs. four INTs over the last three renders Jared Goff ($5.2K/$6.8K) worthless in our DFS pursuits. This is a spot where Jamaal Williams ($4.7K/$5.6K) could actually dip his toe into some profit if Detroit manages to build a lead. I’m perplexed as to how Goff threw an average of 7.7 targets Amon-Ra St. Brown’s ($3.9K/$5.1K) way the three previous weeks, then completely forgot about him last week. On the other hand, we shouldn’t understate the role Dont'e Deayon played in shutting down ARSB. Week 8 will not be any better when he’s dealing with Avonte Maddox.
I’m shocked the Lions haven’t added Golden Tate to the mix after they featured Geronimo Allison ($3.0K/$4.7K) and KhaDarel Hodge ($3.0K/$4.8K) on the left side on 93% of the passing snaps last week. You can bet that Steven Nelson is chomping at the bit to improve his numbers across from those playmakers. As in most weeks, T.J. Hockenson ($5.4K/$6.2K) will combine with Swift as the focal points of the Detroit passing offense. And the Eagles are renouncing 17.2 FPG to TEs (sixth-most) and 1.43 red zone touches/game (second).
Matchups to Target
Diontae Johnson, PIT ($6.7K DK | $7.5K FD) vs. Denzel Ward, CLE
Individuals on both offenses stand out, but this is a clash of top-five defenses with the potential for the type of nuclear offensive output that we witnessed in the Browns’ 48-37 victory in the Wildcard Round last season. The decisive factor for both teams will be at QB. Will it be Baker Mayfield or Case Keenum? And what version of Ben Roethlisberger will show up? During Pittsburgh’s last two matchups with Cleveland, Diontae Johnson has averaged 17.7 FPG. That said, Diontae only played with Big Ben in one of those two, and he posted 22.7 FPs. The Steelers have played the seventh-most difficult schedule this season.
In all five games Johnson has played this season, the opposing defense ranked within the bottom-10 teams in FPG permitted to WRs at the time of the matchup. That hasn’t prevented Diontae from averaging 19 FPG. And he’s accomplished that through target shares of at least 32% in four-of-five games. Diontae will square off with Denzel Ward on half of his routes. Ward is releasing 1.13 YPCS (32nd), 0.25 FP/CS (31st), and a 100.2 TPR (44th). Ward only allowing 0.18 AY/CS (eight-best) will not be an issue for Johnson’s underneath style that’s only averaging 10.3 air yards/target. The Browns use the highest rate of Cover 4 and eighth-highest of Cover 3. Chase Claypool will shred the Cover 4 looks, Diontae will want to focus his attacks on the Cover 3 snaps. Over the last three seasons, Johnson ranks fourth-best with 0.55 FP/Rt vs. Cover 3.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
Will we get the Ben Roethlisberger ($5.4K/$6.6K) from Week 6 last season that collected all of 10.98 FPs or the one that threw for over 500 yards for 32.04? A large-field GPP punt sure. Just do not get carried away with the investment. Week-after-week Najee Harris ($7.5K/$9.0K) continues to amaze me. He’s averaged 6.6 receptions and 24.3 FPG during the last five weeks. But his current pricing would only offer a 7% profit on both platforms if he repeats that average this week. Chase Claypool ($6.3K/$6.5K) actually holds the overall superior stylistic matchup over Diontae here. He ranks 21st with 0.45 FP/Rt against Cover 3 and 15th with 0.44 FP/Rt vs.Cover 4. But alignment averages will pit Claypool on Greg Newsome II. The coverage profile for Newsome is quite unique, limiting his responsibility to 0.85 YPCS (11th), 0.19 FP/CS (12th), 0.29 AY/CS (29th), and a 113.7 TPR (59th).
Claypool has assembled 5/101/1 and 5/59/2 lines in his last two games against Cleveland. As long as Roethlisberger doesn’t stand in the way, both Johnson and Claypool have a chance to post great numbers in Week 8. If you are forced to put James Washington ($3.8K/$5.1K) in the slot to get him on the field, that’s precisely that you do. I can never be convinced that Ray-Ray McLoud III ($3.3K/$4.8K) is the optimal play. Provided with 34 routes in Week 7, McLoud provided his team a 2/18/0 line. No less than 200 slot receivers currently in football shape could match that efficiency. Pat Freiermuth ($3.6K/$4.9K) appears to have surpassed Eric Ebron ($3.1K/$4.7K) on the depth chart.
Final notes on Cleveland
If Baker Mayfield ($5.5K/$6.5K) suits up, I’m far more inclined to approach this matchup with shootout potential. If Case Keenum ($4.9K/$6.4K) get’s the call for a second start, we already know the Browns will focus on their ground game grinding out the clock with Nick Chubb ($6.8K/$8.0K) and D’Ernest Johnson ($5.4K/$6.7K). Under the Mayfield-starting scenario, Cleveland would also need Jarvis Landry ($5.0K/$6.0K) to suit up in order to maximize the potential of the offense.
If Landry does play, Odell Beckham Jr. ($4.6K/$5.7K) would see a boost with Pittsburgh featuring both of the schemes — Cover 2 and 3 — where he’s posted his best numbers the last three seasons. Nothing during their careers is pointing to upside here for either Rashard Higgins ($3.1K/$5.0K) or Donovan Peoples-Jones ($4.2K/$5.3K). Yes, the Steelers have been great against TEs, but I still like Austin Hooper ($3.1K/$4.8K) as a salary-relieving punt this week. He ranks fourth with 0.46 FP/Rt during the last three seasons against Cover 2.
Matchups to Target
Deebo Samuel, SF ($7.4K DK | $7.8K FD) vs. Kindle Vildor, CHI
The number of true shadow corners has dwindled to the point that expecting more than one-or-two per week might be expecting too much. And ~90% of the shadow assignments we’ve seen this season have ended with the corner covering another receiver on more than a handful of snaps. With this in mind, the importance of alignment percentages is brought into the spotlight. Jaylon Johnson is a talented, ultra-competitive corner. He called out Davante Adams in Week 6, following through on his shadow promise by limiting Adams to a 3/84/0 line. But the same approach did not work as well last week. An early Mike Evans-travel resulted in a 4/57/2 line by halftime. Unsurprisingly, Johnson stuck to his right sideline in the second half.
If Johnson convinces Sean Desai to let him tail Deebo Samuel this week — provided he plays, it will not last once he puts his hands on Samuel’s RB-like physicality. However, the percentages tell us it will be Kindle Vildor that is stationed across from Samuel on nearly half of his reps. With the Bears utilizing a massive rate of Cover 6 (second-highest), the defensive focus is on masking the setup, and zone responsibility. But that level of conterminous vicinity is still significant. Vildor is giving up 0.92 YPCS (17th), 0.23 FP/CS (24th), and 0.18 AY/CS (sixth). Those metrics likely point toward viewing Vildor as possessing outstanding coverage skills.
To be clear, that is precisely why I use all four of these coverage data points. While a defender may fool up to three of the metrics, I’ve yet to see anyone fool all four. Consider that Vildor has also allowed a 133.8 TPR (70th). And that he’s had his coverage targeted at the second-lowest rate. Opposing offenses have been attacking Duke Shelley’s porous defense in the slot, as well as Johnson in coverage of their No. 1 wideouts. If the alignment numbers hold up — and I believe they will, this will be the week Vildor is thrown into the fire.
Elijah Mitchell, SF ($5.4K DK | $5.8K FD) vs. Bears’ Cover 6
Only two RBs have crossed the goal line on the ground against Indianapolis this season. Darrell Henderson Jr. in Week 2 and Elijah (Eli) Mitchell last week. We can disregard Mitchell’s poor output in Week 5 due to Trey Lance keeping a massive 57% carry share for himself. Perhaps it’s a petty take, but Mitchell also scored a TD in Week 2 that was called back on a hold. In the other two games when he was given a featured role, Mitchell averaged 19.6 FPG. The coverage algorithm is projecting 18.9 FPs for Mitchell on both platforms. Posting 19.7 FPs on a Colts’ defense that has held opposing RBs to the fewest FPG over the last four games (15.7) removes all concerns in facing a Bears’ defense permitting the 10th-fewest over their last four. In addition, Chicago is recognizing 7.50 red zone touches/game (second-most) and 4.75 goal-to-go carries/game to RBs (the most).
Khalil Herbert, CHI ($5.4K DK | $6.5K FD) vs. 49ers’ Cover 3 | 4
Who’s the only RB to rush for over 100 yards versus Tampa Bay this season? Better yet, who’s the only RB to rush for more than 67 yards? Who’s the only RB to run for more than 23 yards on a single carry against the Bucs? Well, the questions are being asked under the Khalil Herbert heading, so the answer is obviously Herbert. All eyes were on Damien Williams ($5.3K/$5.5K) after David Montgomery injured his knee. But Herbert has seized the opportunity with his spectacular play. He’s averaging 16 FPG since Montgomery’s injury, 20.3 in two games as the lead back. The ‘9ers rank 16th in PPG allowances to RBs this season (23.8). That number has dwindled to the fourth-fewest over the last four (18.7) but, if Herbert can manage 100 yards facing the Buccaneers, he’ll certainly do well against San Francisco.
Final notes on San Francisco
Jimmy Garoppolo ($5.6K/$6.9K) is supposed to feed on Cover 3. It’s clearly written inside his coverage history profile. He collected 8.2 FPs on a Colts’ defense featuring the fifth-highest Cover 3 rate. He also turned the ball over three times. No thanks. JaMycal Hasty ($4.3K/$5.0K) has a solid reputation as a skilled receiver. His return will cap the air numbers for Mitchell, while also waiting in the wings for an expanded role if the lead back is injured. The cliff dive from ‘20 first-rounder Brandon Aiyuk ($4.2K/$5.7K) is astounding. We can explain away some of the issues to playing with a rookie QB (Lance) in Week’s 4 and 5, and the clunker poster by Jimmy G last week. But he’ll need to provide some results very soon or he could be benched. Aiyuk has seen a nearly identical target share to Mohamed Sanu ($3.1K/$5.0K) since Week 2. Yikes! Perhaps Ross Dwelley ($2.8K/$5.0K) will receive a slight bump in targets.
Final notes on Chicago
Patience is of utmost importance with rookie QBs. The very last result Chicago wants is for Justin Fields ($5.0K/$6.4K) to lose his confidence. He’s clearly not on the DFS radar at this stage in his development. His struggles have pulled every bit of the upside for Allen Robinson II ($4.9K/$5.6K), Darnell Mooney ($4.8K/$5.7K), and Cole Kmet ($3.1K/$4.7K) right down with him. But the lights can turn on in an instant with some rookie QBs. If we can determine when that lightswitch has been flipped quickly enough, we’ll be able to roster all components of the passing attack at a considerable discount.
Matchups to Target
Matt Ryan, ATL ($5.9K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Panthers’ Cover 1 | 4
Rumors of Matt Ryan’s demise have aged very poorly. His string of impressive performances have brought his FP/Db ranks back within the top-17 QBs during the last three seasons vs. all five major coverage types. The best-of-the-bunch is an 8th-best ranking against Cover 4 at 0.38. Carolina just so happens to feature Cover 4 at the 8th-highest rate. Ryan has averaged 23.2 FPG over the last four games with 10 TDs to a single INT. Diggin a bit deeper, Ryan is producing 25.4 over the last three vs. defenses featuring Top-10 Cover 1 rates. You guessed it! The Panthers are using Cover 1 at the ninth-highest rate.
Kyle Pitts, ATL ($6.3K DK | $6.8K FD) vs. Jermaine Carter, CAR
Looking for a QB-receiver stack that could go nuclear without the ownership baggage? Look no further. Kyle Pitts has leapfrogged the field toward TE2 pricing on both platforms after averaging an 8/141/0.5 receiving line and 28.1 FPG over the last two games. If shelling out $6.3K/$6.8K for a TE turns your stomach, allow me to put the idea into perspective. First, let’s identify the catalyst from the Carolina defense that has led to them limiting opposing TEs to 12.1 FPG this season (19th). MIKE LB Jermaine Carter ghosted his coverage to 0.46 YPCS (fourth-fewest), 0.11 FP/CS (second), 0.04 AY/CS (eighth), and an 87.1 TPR (19th). It should be noted that Carter’s coverage has been targeted at the sixth-lowest rate among LBs. But none of the Big 4 metrics are signalling that is anything more than QBs avoiding his tight defense.
Why am I unconcerned that Carter could stunt Pitts’ production? Consider that Mike Gesicki (94%) is the only TE that has run a higher rate of detached routes (aligned off the line of scrimmage) than Pitts this season (81%). Travis Kelce continues to reign supreme atop the TE leaderboard in total routes run from the outside (92) and in the rate of doing so (32.7%). Pitts has run 25 fewer routes from wide (second-most), but he is an extremely close second in outside route rate at 32.4%. Why are these numbers significant? Carter has defended receivers out wide on 0.5% of his coverage snaps. And, while he’s defended the slot on 7% of his coverage snaps, he’s only defended slot receivers on 2% of snaps since Shaq Thompson injured his foot in Week 4.
All of that stated, the Panthers limiting TE production is a good thing for our Pitts exposure. That and his high pricing should repel enough of the field away to provide us with excellent stack upside. If paying up at TE is still an issue, Pitts is actually an outstanding value in comparison to other top wideouts. And we should view Pitts from a WR lens. If you find a TE punt that you want for salary relief, do not hesitate to use Pitts in your flex spot. Finally, Pitts is nearly unguardable in single/man coverage. That should pay off this week while facing Carolina’s high rate of Cover 1.
Final notes on Carolina
Things are not looking in Sam Darnold ($5.6K/$7.3K) land. It was concerning that he was benched in favor of P.J. Walker ($4.0K/$6.2K) against the Giants last week. But the Panthers’ coaching staff certainly found no pleasure watching Walker complete 3-of-14 attempts (21%). It would be foolhardy to attempt to excuse away all of Darnold’s issues. However, we simply must factor the revolting play of WR being paid big dollars to complement Carolina’s WR1, DJ Moore ($7.2K/$7.7K). Sideshow Bob Anderson ($4.7K/$5.7K) has only caught 18-of-47 targets (38%). After dropping three perfect passes, Anderson provided some hope when he managed to bring in the TD that sent the Panthers to overtime in Week 6. But he was back to his high school level of play last week with a 3/14/0 line on nine targets.
At this point, any chance of trading Anderson has dissipated. With Carolina looking at less than a 10% chance of making the playoffs at 3-4, whenever Terrace Marshall Jr. ($3.2K/$4.9K) is able to clear the concussion protocol, HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady should shift a high number of those wasted Anderson targets to their ‘21 second-rounder. With Brandon Zylstra hitting IR, if the Panthers are without Marshall for another game, why not send some of the volume Shi Smith’s ($3.0K/$4.6K) way? That or put an emphasis on getting the ball into Tommy Tremble’s ($2.6K/$4.6K) hands.
Final notes on Atlanta
For the first time since Week 1, Cordarrelle Patterson ($6.2K/$7.3K) failed to cover value, falling 4.8/2.7 FPs shy. Patterson did manage to hit paydirt on the ground for the first time since Week 2, but his 11% target share is the lowest since Week 1. That receiving production is massive if we are to continue to invest. Atlanta made it entirely clear that a changing of the guard was well in motion, as Mike Davis ($5.0K/$5.5K) only out-touched Wayne Gallman Jr. four-to-one.
Remember when it was believed that Calvin Ridley ($6.6K/$7.0K) would pace all NFL wideouts in FPG this season? He’s fallen well short of those expectations, but did manage to score his second TD last week, and was fed with double-digit targets for the fourth-straight week. The Panthers are particularly vulnerable on the outside (19.2 FPG stands as the eighth-most), so a smash spot is on deck with an opportunity for Ridley to get back on track. If Matt Ryan can get Russell Gage ($4.2K/$5.6K) going it would assist Ridley a great deal in shaking some of the safety help.
Matchups to Target
Hunter Henry, NE ($4.2K DK | $5.5K FD) vs. Kyzir White, LAC
Feel free to consider this Target opinion as drawn from Hunter Henry’s returning to face the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. It’s certainly an interesting take, but far from the reality. First of all, Henry has scored in four straight games. Second, Los Angeles is hemorrhaging 19.3 FPG to TEs this season (second-most), and 0.67 TDs/game (fourth). Third, he’s running twice as many routes as Jonnu Smith, resulting in double the air yardage both per game and per target. Finally, he’ll see plenty of coverage from Kyzir White. He ranks 40th in YPCS, 36th in FP/CS, and 30th in AY/CS.
Matchups to Avoid
Justin Herbert, LAC ($7.3K DK | $7.9K FD) vs. Patriots’ Cover 1 | 3
We have some decent data in support of the narrative that rookie QBs fall under some kind of a trance when facing Bill Belichick defenses. In the case of most rookie QBs, I tend to agree. But Justin Herbert is unlike nearly every single rookie QB that we’ve ever seen. Digging deeper into the details, it was very interesting to learn that Herbert’s efficiency falls off the most when opposed by the two schemes that Belichick just so happens to feature: Cover 1 and Cover 3. If the immediate comparison between those two coverages isn’t obvious, Cover 1 and 3 differ from 2, 4, and 6 in the availability of the middle of the field (MOF). The MOF is closed off by a defender patrolling “centerfield” in Cover 1 and 3. In Cover 2, 4, and 6, at least two defenders are stationed deep, leaving the MOF open between them. Among other adjustments necessary to succeed against the two MOF types, the big one being in the different types of routes inherently available.
When Herbert traveled to Foxboro in Week 13 last season, a quick glance at the box score immediately attracts the eyes toward the 45-0 result. The next most noticeable entries are 0 TD passes and two INTs for Herbert. However, a simple glance at the play list informs us that the Pats built a 28-0 lead prior to Herbert tossing his first pick midway through the third quarter. The issues for Herbert began in the second quarter when he only completed six-of-15 attempts for 3.7 YPA. His first INT was simply due to losing sight of a LB on a short crosser. On the second, he overthrew Keenan Allen on a deep corner, into the waiting hands of J.C. Jackson. Neither INT raised significant red flags. I could use the pair to highlight inherent risks in targeting those routes against the specific coverages, but Herbert has likely already made those adjustments in Year 2.
The reason I’ll be fading Herbert this week is in relation to the 14% decline in FP/Rt against both Cover 1 and 3 during his career. New England uses the second-highest rate of combined man coverages, the highest rate of Cover 1, and the 10th-highest rate of Cover 3. We know for a fact that Herbert is more than capable of excelling in the face of defenses using a high rate of either Cover 1 or Cover 3. I have a strong feeling that he struggles in relation to combining each of those competitive rates.
Final notes on New England
It would be unwise to headline your lineups with Mac Jones ($5.2K/$6.9K), but that doesn’t stand in the way of targeting one of his receivers. I was very close to writing up Damien Harris ($6.1K/$6.9K) for a second-straight week as a Target. And that is precisely how I am viewing him. He’s collected at least a 44% carry share in three straight weeks, resulting in an even 20.0 FPG. My projection formula has calculated him for 18.6 FPs in Week 8. Considering the Chargers are relinquishing the most rushing YPG (162.5), the highest YPC (5.4), and the highest rate of 20-plus yard scampers (4.47%), that projection even seems a tad low. What in the name of all things nautical blue is RB coach Ivan Fears doing to Rhamondre Stevenson ($4.6K/$4.8K)?
One week after Stevenson provided 62 total yards and a TD in return for eight touches, playing an absolutely pivotal role in forcing Dallas into overtime, the Pats healthy scratch him due to one failed protection? If teams around the league enforced that policy, you’d need to say bye-bye to Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, Antonio Gibson, and just about every RB rookie season in league history. To add further fuel into the fire, I’ve watched the play in question multiple times. Stevenson wasn’t even responsible for Jayron Kearse’s sack. Kearse was Hunter Henry’s assignment, yet Rhamondre took the heat since he was unable to clean up Henry’s mistake in time after tripping over Jones’ foot.
If this bush-league treatment doesn’t work out entirely in Stevenson’s favor… well, I’ll be unhappy. J.J. Taylor ($4.2K/$5.1K) may have scored two TDs against the Jets, but he was gift-wrapped two carries from the one-yard-line. Taylor ran for -1 yards on his third carry. Perhaps I just need to keep my trap shut concerning Brandon Bolden ($4.5K/$5.5K). Just when it seemed we could wash out hands of the 31-year-old target vulture, he eats up seven targets on 15 reps for a 6/79/1 line 🤮🤮🤮. If just from the number of times I’ve listed him as a potential Target, it must be clear that I am a significant believer in the abilities of Jakobi Meyers ($5.1K/$5.7K). That said, I’m steering clear in Week 8. LAC is a stout pass defense, rostering one of the top slot corners in the business in Chris Harris Jr., and featuring far too many Cover 6 snaps for Meyers’ liking.
If New England’s current 24% chance to make the playoffs drops to 0%, we had better see the Pats feature N’Keal Harry ($3.0K/$4.8K) on the outside over either Kendrick Bourne ($4.5K/$5.6K) or, my choice, Nelson Agholor ($4.0K/$5.4K) to see if he fits within the Patriots’ future plans. Another option would be to shift toward featuring a higher rate of Heavy personnel, using both Bourne and Agholor as situational options, permitting Meyers and Harry to work outside, and making room for Jonnu Smith ($2.8K/$4.8K) to be featured. Until either of those changes are made, fading every New England receiver on a weekly basis sans Meyers and Henry is the plan.
Final notes on Los Angeles
Austin Ekeler ($7.9K/$8.7K) is a top-five RB play every single week, independent of the matchup. I just hold him in much higher regard within DKs full PPR format. Looking at that box score against the Pats from last season, I’m haunted by the empty numbers from Mike Williams ($7.7K/$7.6K) and Keenan Allen ($6.5K/$6.9K). I am pretty sure it would be impossible for me to support either wideout more than I already do. For those that feel my view on fading Herbert is ridiculous, Allen is far superior against Cover 3 (0.46 FP/Rt) than Williams (0.26) over the last three years, and both are tied with 0.43 vs. Cover 1.
We’ve seen some movement on the Josh Palmer ($3.0K/$4.7K) front the last two weeks. Jalen Guyton ($3.2K/$4.8K) had better put some production on tape or he could find his starting role in jeopardy. Love me some Jared Cook ($3.4K/$5.2K) this week. He’s the only LAC receiver I’ll trust. That’s 50% due to ranking seventh-best the last three season with 0.44 FP/Rt vs. Cover 1 and 50% due to pricing as the TE22/18.
Matchups to Target
James Robinson, JAX ($6.6K DK | $8.2K FD) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
In between the top projection for Joe Mixon and the third-highest for D’Andre Swift, the algorithm favors James Robinson with the runner-up output at RB for Week 8. Over the last four games for the Jags, JRob has carry shares of 52%, 60%, 58% and 89% from Week 6. During that stretch he’s averaging 22.5 FPG. And three of those opponents (Arizona, Cincinnati, and Tennessee) field stout run defenses. Seattle will field nothing remotely close to a top run defense. The ‘Hawks are permitting the third-most rushing YPG (134.1), second-most total YPR (414.7), and the second-most FPG to opposing RBs (31.1).
Alex Collins, SEA ($5.3K DK | $7.0K FD) vs. Jaguars’ Cover 1 | 3
We have a laundry list of quality, affordable RBs to consider in Week 8. Alex Collins did not play the Saints well last week. Few RBs ever do, for that matter. But Collins is heading into a match with a Jacksonville defense abandoning 25.4 FPG for RBs overall (12th-most), 17.2 pure rushing FPG (fifth), and 5.0 red zone touches/game (seventh). As long as Collins’ health permits him to take the field, we can expect a fourth-straight game with at least a 57% carry share. It’s a matchup for the former Arkansas Razorback that aligns with the formats on both platforms, but may offer a fraction more upside with FDs half-PPR scoring with the Jaguars handing out the third-most rushing TDs/game (1.50).
Final notes on Jacksonville
The Seattle defense has been sanctioning all of the yardage an offense desires, just not the stretch of territory leading into the end zone that everyone desires most. That’ll make it business as usual for Trevor Lawrence ($5.5K/$6.7K). He’s thrown for at least 273 yards in half of his rookie games, but only one such outing with more than one TD toss. Marvin Jones Jr. ($5.9K/$6.4K) may have been the first Jags’ wideout to take off, but Laviska Shenault Jr. ($4.7K/$5.8K) has been the hottest of the group during their last three games.
‘Viska is leading the group with 19 targets, 13 receptions, 211 yards, and 2.60 YPRR. And Shenault is also pacing the bunch with 0.38 FP/Rt vs. Cover 3 during his career and 0.41 against Cover 6. The Seahawks are featuring Cover 3 at the second-highest and Cover 6 at the ninth-highest rates. Seattle has been more vulnerable to routes from the slot (22.6 FPG ranks seventh-most), perhaps sending a bit of value in Jamal Agnew’s ($3.7K/$5.3K) direction. Placing trust into Dan Arnold ($2.8K/$4.9K) may be a tough ask this week while he’s dealing with Jamal Adams.
Final notes on Seattle
How much longer until Russell Wilson and Chris Carson return? The upside of the entire offense is reduced down in the neighborhood of 75% without The Professor. Geno Smith ($5.3K/$7.0K) is simply stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to replace the future Hall of Famer. Although, Smith has not impressed… even from the expectations for a backup. Rashaad Penny ($4.0K/$6.0K) quietly made his return last week. It appears the team only envisions backup snaps for the former first-rounder. His return eliminates Travis Homer ($4.6K/$5.5K) and DeeJay Dallas ($5.0K/$5.6K) from the equation. Sorry folks, the TD reception for DK Metcalf ($6.8K/$7.4K) last week benefited from a clear push-off. I’d be all about listing Metcalf as a Target if Geno were tossing dimes on the reg. The reality is that Smith might need to be reminded that Tyler Lockett ($6.1K/$6.6K) is on the roster. Geno’s game is so out of whack that he’s featuring Freddie Swain ($3.2K/$5.0K) (nine targets) over Lockett (eight) the last two weeks.
Matchups to Target
Leonard Fournette, TB ($6.3K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Saints’ Cover 1 | 4
Whenever we see “Tampa Bay Buccaneers” the brain instantly takes our imagination towards expecting loads of FPG everywhere. Be that as it may, we have three examples of the teams facing off from the ‘20 season. Of course, the monumental difference being the Saints are now led by Jameis Winston instead of Drew Brees. Within each of those matchups, we saw a nearly identical New Orleans defense opposing a 100% identical Buccaneers’ offense. And the results for each of those games undercut floor value for nearly every offensive skill across the board.
The singular exception was provided by Leonard Fournette in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. With Ronald Jones II dealing with nagging injuries, Fournette took the backfield lead. He flipped 23 touches into five receptions, 107 total yards, and a six-yard receiving TD that served as the go-ahead points. With Fournette promoted to lead back, packing a similar workload, this game is setting up as eerily reminiscent. Fournette circumvented a tough New England run defense with his receiving skills in Week 4. He would’ve repeated that result last week had the Chicago offense managed to get going. Do not count on Fournette eclipsing 100 yards on the ground, but three-to-six receptions, 100 total yards, and a TD is entirely on the table.
Final notes on Tampa Bay
Remember that one time when New Orleans orchestrated a 38-3 destruction of Tom Brady ($7.4K/$8.3K) and the Bucs in Tampa Bay last year? Brees connected on four TDs, while Brady was picked off thrice. Do not expect The GOAT to repeat those mistakes. As much as the happy side of my brain is telling me to trust Brady in this spot, the reasoning side tells me to be weary. The balance between the two has me expecting efficient, under value output. I think it is a mistake to read too much into the coverage schemes for either team, or into the FPG averages calling for massive receiver upside.
Concerning the Saints’ corners, this may be the game when DC Dennis Allen unleashes Bradley Roby. If he does, it’ll be bad news for one of the Big 3 wideouts. He’s shutting down his coverage to 0.54 YPCS (fourth-fewest), 0.14 FP/CS (fifth), 0.05 AY/CS (fourth), and an 89.6 TPR (17th). If Roby remains in the slot, Chris Godwin ($6.4K/$7.2K) will be the victim. If he kicks to the outside, Antonio Brown ($6.1K/$7.3K) will pay the price. My guess is that we see Roby on AB and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on Godwin. And we know Marshon Lattimore is prepping for the next showdown with Mike Evans ($7.0K/$7.5K). Perhaps I’m taking the cautious approach, but none of these matchups scream value in return for their asking prices.
Last but certainly far from least, Rob Gronkowski ($4.6K/$6.5K) may return in Week 8. Gronk is normally an outstanding option against Cover 1 defenses — remember when I passed along that trusting the coverage rates here is a bad idea? — but Demario Davis has locked onto Gronkowski with vicious tenacity the last three matchups. We have enough quality options at TE this week that we can comfortably fade Gronk, O.J. Howard ($3.0K/$4.8K), and Cameron Brate ($3.0K/$4.4K).
Final notes on New Orleans
It appears Richard Sherman will take the field for Tampa Bay this week. A TB defense getting healthy just in time for this playoff calibur face-off is going to ruin everything for Jameis Winston’s ($6.0K/$7.4K) first game against his former team and HC Bruce Arians. Without Michael Thomas, Famous Jameis just doesn’t have the horses in the stable to attack the Buccaneers vertically. If you want my honest opinion, Winston would’ve already been replaced by Taysom Hill ($5.1K/$6.1K) if he wasn’t dealing with lingering concussion symptoms. As it stands, we’ll likely see nothing on the ground from Alvin Kamara ($8.7K/$8.4K), mixed with 10 receptions, 60-70 receiving yards, maybe even a TD, and falling a point or two under floor value.
If Mark Ingram II is cleared to take the field, that nothing on the ground might be from his doing. Marquez Callaway ($5.4K/$5.9K) is entirely untrustworthy, while Tre’Quan Smith ($3.9K/$5.5K) made his return last week, and continued with his unimpressive ways. It’s unfortunate that Deonte Harris ($3.6K/$5.4K) appears to be in danger of missing another game. He’s the best the Saints have to offer when Thomas isn’t on the field. I find it wildly amusing that we can roster Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Kawaan Baker, Tommylee Lewis, Jalen McCleskey, Kevin White, and Easop Winston Jr. on FD, yet Kenny Stills ($3.2K/Not Listed), a wideout that’s third on the team in routes run, is still unlisted.
Matchups to Target
Teddy Bridgewater, DEN ($7.4K DK | $8.3K FD) vs. Washington’s Cover 1 | 4
I follow a singular approach to Teddy Bridgewater exposure consideration. If the defense features Cover 1, INVEST! In all other scenarios, easy fade. Dramatic drum-tapping intro: survey says… Washington is still featuring Cover 1 at the 10th-highest rate. That’s all we need to know. During the last three campaigns, Bridgewater ranks third-best among all QBs with 0.56 FP/DB vs. Cover 1. It’s a 53% climb to his overall average (second-highest), and the scheme he’s generated a 114.3 passer rating against (third). On only 21% of dropbacks facing Cover 1 during those previous three years, Teddy has thrown for 38% of his total TDs.
Final notes on Washington
The news is not so great for Ryan Fitzpatrick’s chances of taking the field this season. But the same news is outstanding for Taylor Heinicke’s ($5.3K/$7.0K) continued development. Denver’s pass defense hasn’t been perfect this season, but they’ve still performed as a top-10 unit. Heinicke will do fine across from the Broncos’ fifth-highest Cover 1 rate. It’s against the highest rate of Cover 6 that removes him from my list. D’Ernest Johnson definitely didn’t have any issues shredding the Denver run defense last week. Do we feel strongly enough in Antonio Gibson’s ($5.7K/$6.2K) health to expect the same? Just too many quality RBs in Week 8 to take the risk. The same goes for Mr. Role Inconsistency himself, J.D. McKissic ($5.1K/$5.4K).
At the time of writing this up, we still don’t have anything new regarding Terry McLaurin’s ($7.6K/$7.4K) ankle injury. If he does take the field, unsurprisingly, he’ll be the only target for me from WFT. He’s scored 53% of his career TDs on only 26% of his routes against Cover 1. It doesn’t sound as though Curtis Samuel ($4.0K/$5.3K) will return. With Dyami Brown ($3.3K/$4.7K) also appearing unlikely, Heinicke may have to play another week with Adam Humphries ($3.4K/$5.1K), DeAndre Carter ($3.0K/$4.8K), Dax Milne ($3.0K/$4.9K), and or Antonio Gandy-Golden ($3.0K/$4.5K) behind F1 McLaurin. Within that scenario, Ricky Seals-Jones ($3.8K/$5.4K) does provide some upside. But his pricing is too high.
Final notes on Denver
Washington’s defense is actually above average in run defense. Sit tight on Melvin Gordon III ($5.2K/$6.0K) and Javonte Williams ($5.3K/$5.9K) until a Week 10 date with Philadelphia. Bridgewater is absolutely worthy of stacking in this spot. If we get very positive news on Jerry Jeudy ($4.9K/$6.0K) on top of his official activation, he would be my first choice. If the news states Jeudy will be in any way limited/eased into the action, Courtland Sutton ($6.4K/$7.1K) would jump to the forefront. When Jeudy is activated, Tim Patrick ($4.7K/$5.8K) will revert toward being the fourth option. After Jeudy and Sutton — in that order, Noah Fant ($4.9K/$5.8K) will continue to see a target share in the neighborhood of 16-18%. Sutton and Fant will also benefit from Washington’s seventh-highest rate of Cover 4.