Four teams take a seat this weekend. When we enter Week 10, 50% of team bye weeks will be behind us. As for Week 8, the numbers tell us the defensive side of the ball controlled the action through the air. Case in point, we witnessed a full point reduction in season-long targeted passer rating (TPR) for outside cornerbacks, and more than a two point drop for free safeties (FS). The qualified FS position had a phenomenal week, slicing 20% off their overall air yardage/coverage snap (AY/CS) average in a single weekend. The AY/CS allowances proved stingy from all defensive units as passing offenses were forced to take the air out of the ball. The adjustment resulted in slight increases in yardage allowed/coverage snap (YPCS) and FPs/coverage snap (FP/CS) by inside/slot corners and strong safeties.
For all of the attention paid toward NFL rule changes favoring the offensive side, scoring is down 5.2% from last season. That’s the most significant decline from the previous season’s average since scoring declined by 6.0% from the 1987-to-1988 seasons. Key injuries, COVID-19 deactivations at inopportune times, and dreadful kicker accuracy have certainly impacted that average. And Week 8 did not hold back any punches. Of the 10 teams with two-or-fewer defeats, three were crippled last week either by losing a key offensive player (Derrick Henry from Tennessee and Jameis Winston from New Orleans), or a COVID-19 positive test (Aaron Rodgers from Green Bay).
If you struggled through Week 8 with your DFS results, there’s no better time than the present to get back on track. We can all take comfort from the original motivation for this wagering game we love: we always have a brand new week with a full bounty of cash up for grabs. And you can always count on me following every aspect of the process to the letter to provide you with every conceivable advantage.
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
*28-28 (50%); 6-4 in Week 8
New York Jets (+10.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Buffalo Bills (-14.0) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Denver Broncos (+9.0) at Dallas Cowboys
Minnesota Vikings (+6.0) at Baltimore Ravens
New England Patriots (-3.5) at Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints (-5.5) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Las Vegas Raiders (-3.0) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+6.5) at Miami Dolphins *Assuming Tyrod Taylor plays
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.0) at Philadelphia Eagles
Kansas City Chiefs (-7.0) vs. Green Bay Packers
Arizona Cardinals (-1.0) at San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams (-7.5) vs. Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.0) vs. Chicago Bears
*19-25 (43%); 2-7 😱 in Week 8
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars (Over 49.0)
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys (Over 49.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens (Over 50.0)
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (Under 46.5)
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (Under 42.0)
Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins (Over 46.5)
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs (Under 48.0)
Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (Over 45.0)
Tennessee Titans at Los Angeles Rams (Under 54.0)
Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers (Under 40.0)
*39-15 (72%); 8-4 in Week 8
Indianapolis Colts (-510) vs. New York Jets
Buffalo Bills (-1000) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys (-410) vs. Denver Broncos
Baltimore Ravens (-250) vs. Minnesota Vikings
Cincinnati Bengals (-140) vs. Cleveland Browns
New England Patriots (-180) at Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints (-235) vs. Atlanta Falcons
Las Vegas Raiders (-150) at New York Giants
Houston Texans (+230) at Miami Dolphins *Assuming Tyrod Taylor plays
Los Angeles Chargers (-135) at Philadelphia Eagles
Kansas City Chiefs (-335) vs. Green Bay Packers
Arizona Cardinals (-110) at San Francisco 49ers
Los Angeles Rams (-350) vs. Tennessee Titans
Pittsburgh Steelers (-250) vs. Chicago Bears
Matchups to Target
Jonathan Taylor, IND ($7.9K DK | $9.2K FD) vs. Jets’ Cover 1 | 3
All signs point to the fantasy scoring in this game being dictated by the RBs. On the Indianapolis side, Jonathan Taylor is fresh off taking a season-high share of backfield carries (80%). In none of the previous seven games has JT even eclipsed a 60% share. Before we get too excited by that, it must be clarified that the 16 carries from Week 8 is only one carry more than Taylor’s average going into the game (15.0). And it was very odd that Taylor’s number was only called seven times — compared to 29 dropbacks for Carson Wentz — during a first half when his offense held the lead for 86% of the 30 minutes of play. However, for DFS purposes, we only care about the 21.2 FPs from Taylor.
The Jets found some life last week in East Rutherford. And the play calling from the Bengals matched the Colts’ as some of the most puzzling of the weekend. When Joe Mixon scored at 14:57 in the second quarter to knot the game at seven-all, Cincy was either even with New York or ahead for the next 29 minutes and 21 seconds. Yet, overall, Zac Taylor only called for a designed run on 28% of snaps against a defense that had previously surrendered the most FPs rushing and receiving to opposing RBs. Even after holding the Bengals’ RBs to 33 rushing yards — all from Mixon, NYJ is still permitting the most FPs to RBs overall (37.0), and the most over the last four games (41.8).
With the Colts unable to work out a pre-deadline deal to send Marlon Mack out of town, his usefulness may have run its course. We are unlikely to ever see Taylor go well over 20 carries, but it’s almost a lock that we’ll see him go over 100 rushing yards with a trip into color on Thursday Night Football. My view of Taylor as a top-three RB for Week 9 is fortified by my projection algorithm, not surprisingly, calling for JT to be the top-scoring back this weekend.
Zach Pascal, IND ($4.6K DK | $5.6K FD) vs. Michael Carter II, NYJ
Saving the matchup specifics on Michael Pittman Jr. for his writeup below, let’s just preface by stating that the Colts’ passing attack will likely be forced to collect production from elsewhere. If nothing else, HC Robert Saleh’s first season in New York has been successful from the stance of piecing together a quality secondary. With stud strong safety Marcus Maye now two weeks removed from his IR stay, the metrics should continue to improve. Even when T.Y. Hilton left Week 8 with the concussion that will also keep him out for Week 9, Indy kept Zach Pascal in the slot. Ashton Dulin was called upon to fill Hilton’s shoes on the perimeter.
Pascal will find coverage from Michael Carter II on around 50% of his routes. Is it a smash spot for Pascal? No. To date, Carter is authorizing 0.97 YPCS (13th among slot CBs), 0.21 FP/CS (12th), 0.10 AY/CS (seventh — holds less importance from the slot), and a 91.1 TPR (14th). But the Jets are ceding the sixth-highest percentage of FPG production to receivers aligned on the inside. After Pittman’s situation is explained, the full extent of the situation will highlight why the Colts will need to extract most of their receiving production either from their TEs, RBs, or Pascal.
Michael Carter, NYJ ($5.3K DK | $6.3K FD) vs. Colts’ Cover 2 | 3
Prior to the Jets’ Week 6 bye, Michael Carter averaged 1.6 receptions on 2.8 targets/game. Exposure to the 2021 fourth-rounder revolved entirely around reaching the end zone on the ground. That valuation flipped upside-down since the moment Zach Wilson injured his knee. Over the last seven quarters with Mike White under center, Carter has assembled a 17/162/0 receiving line on 22 targets. Those numbers are nothing short of CMC numbers.
Carter was able to supplement his receiving numbers with 13.7 FPs on the ground last week, but it’s important to remember that the damage was done against a Bengals’ run defense currently abandoning 27.3 FPG for RBs (sixth-most). The Colts’ run defense is on another level. They are approving the third-fewest FPG to RBs (17.7) and the fewest rushing TDs/game (0.25). White may not have the aggressiveness of Wilson, but he is determined to put the ball into the hands of his RBs. During his seven quarters of play, White has targeted a RB on 44% of his throws, accounting for 49% of receptions, 49% of yardage, and 25% of TD passes.
Matchups to Avoid
Michael Pittman Jr., IND ($6.0K DK | $7.3K FD) vs. Bryce Hall, NYJ
What happened to Ja’Marr Chase last week? Yes, he scored a TD, but wasn’t he supposed to go nuclear after all the writing space I dedicated to his game-changing numbers against a Cover 1? Well, either the Jets’ coaching staff read over Advanced Matchups last week, or we can confirm New York is dedicated to the craft of analytics. Over the first seven weeks of the season, NYJ used Cover 1 on nearly one third of all defensive snaps. In a Week 8 matchup with the best Cover 1 QB (Joe Burrow) and best WR — at least this season, the Jets cut that Cover 1 number down to just over 10%. While it’s an extremely frustrating result from what appeared to be a smash spot, you can be assured that I take note of all extreme matchup-specific alterations to defensive scheme rotations. When a defense frequently utilizes this type of analytic approach (i.e., Arizona Cardinals), we are forced to add them to the exotic, no trust list — currently populated only by the Cards.
For Chase specifically, of the six passing plays where New York used a Cover 1 last week, they didn’t use it once when Chase was on the field! That was last week, this week will not offer the same type of opponent. As it relates to Michael Pittman Jr., he’s yet to get over the hump of success when opposed by a Cover 1. He ranks 74th with 0.30 FPs/route (FP/Rt) against single-high during his career. That includes zero trips into the end zone, a 10% drop in yards/route (YPRR), 30% in air yards/target, 27% in yards/target, and a 135% decrease in target rate.
As with all receivers, when provided with enough volume, it’s always possible to overcome specific scheme issues. However, Pittman will draw Bryce Hall on enough snaps to push us off the budding star. Hall is sanctioning 0.91 YPCS (18th among outside CBs), 0.20 FP/CS (15th), 0.24 AY/CS (30th), and a not-so-good 101.7 TPR (51st). Hall hasn’t been perfect, but he has limited the FPs. Pittman will see a good number of reps against New York’s Cover 3, but will it be enough? He is still only priced as the WR20 on DK, but he is one of the easiest fades of Week 8 with WR12 pricing on FD.
Final notes on New York
As I’ve already explained, around half of Mike White’s ($5.3K/$6.7K) production has come upon the “backs” of his backs. And we don’t have enough of a sample size to expect anything remotely similar to his Week 8 output. However, we do know that he’s completed 84% of his 36 passing attempts against Cover 2 and Cover 3. Indianapolis fields those two coverages on nearly 60% of snaps. White targets his RBs enough that Ty Johnson ($4.4K/$5.5K) should have value for as long as he’s running the offense. Johnson has thrown together an 11/136/1 line during his seven quarters playing with White.
Perhaps we’ll see White’s reliance on RBs altered when Corey Davis ($5.1K/$6.4K) returns to action, which is unlikely to be this week. After missing Week 8, Davis has only played with White on 26% of his dropbacks. On those plays, White connected with Davis for a 4/47/1 line. Denzel Mims ($3.0K/$5.0K) replaced Davis last week. And it was quite a surprise to see Mims start, double-up the route numbers of Elijah Moore ($4.2K/$5.2K). It’s too bad that Mims wasn’t provided with this opportunity when Wilson was healthy since the pair could mesh together their deep aggressiveness. Attacking the Colts’ secondary has been far more prosperous from the outside (third-most FPG) than from the slot (16th). Likely best to temper expectations from Jamison Crowder ($5.0K/$6.0K) this week. Keelan Cole Sr. ($3.0K/$5.1K) started opposite Mims on the perimeter. I love seeing Mims on the field, but Cole playing over Moore for a rebuilding team is criminal. Tyler Kroft ($2.8K/$4.8K) actually scored a TD last week. Definitely won’t be wagering any of my bankroll that it happens again this week.
Final notes on Indianapolis
Remove Week 3 from the results when Carson Wentz ($5.9K/$7.5K) sprained both of his ankles, and he’s averaging 20.2 FPG. New York is handing out the third-most FPG to opposing offenses, but they’ve actually been somewhat stingy to QBs (13th-fewest). And Wentz ranks 34th in FPs/dropback vs. Cover 1 and 27th against Cover 3. Nyheim Hines ($4.6K/$5.2K) finally saw a bit of love with five targets in Week 8. Just not enough to draw our attention.
With T.Y. Hilton out this week with a concussion, Ashton Dulin ($3.0K/$5.0K) will see plenty of time. Not that he’ll do much with it. I didn’t add Mo Alie-Cox ($3.3K/$4.9K) as a Target after he returned a donut in return for listing him last week. However, I will have some MAC-action tomorrow night. He ranks sixth-best with 0.46 FP/Rt against Cover 1 the last three seasons.
I await the day when Alie-Cox is finally released from seeing snaps behind Jack Doyle ($2.8K/$4.6K).