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
A.J. Brown, TEN ($7.5K DK | $7.7K FD) vs. David Long Jr., LAR
Deebo Samuel, DK Metcalf, and A.J. Brown represent the three most physical wideouts in the game. Now that it appears AJB’s surgically-repaired knees are fully healed, opposing defenders looking to man-up on the former Ole Miss Rebel beware. But Brown will need to tap into his zone skills in Week 9. The Rams are featuring the third-highest rate of Cover 4, fifth-highest of Cover 6, and eighth-highest of Cover 3. Los Angeles’ 13th-highest FPG allowance to WRs is supported by reception- and yardage-heavy numbers. They’ve limited WRs to the fourth-fewest TDs/game (0.63). But Brown is far from the typical WR, willing to allow challenging TD rates stand in his way of hitting paydirt.
During his career against Cover 3, Brown ranks seventh with 0.57 FP/Rt. He’s also generated 3.00 YPRR (sixth-best) and a 12.82 YPT (fifth). When opposed by Cover 4 during his time in the NFL, Brown ranks fourth-best among all WRs with 0.58 FP/Rt, third with 3.61 YPRR, second with 15.4 YPT, and fifth with a 33% increase to his air yards/target. The alignment rates tell us a portion of Brown’s Week 9 challenge will be provided by the coverage from David Long Jr. He’s limited his coverage to 0.99 YPCS (22nd), 0.20 FP/CS (12th), 0.16 AY/CS (sixth), and a 95.7 TPR (44th). With Derrick Henry likely out for the season, the Titans will need Brown to continue the dominant play that’s resulted in him averaging 32.4 FPG over the last two weeks.
Robert Woods, LAR ($6.4K DK | $7.1K FD) vs. Jackrabbit Jenkins, TEN
If you can free up $9.4K/$9.4K in salary, Cooper Kupp is the most obvious optimal play on the slate. But this is also a spot of nuclear potential for Robert Woods. Tennessee is distributing the most FPG to opposing WRs this season (47.5). And they are also handing out the most red zone touches to WRs (2.38). Bobby Trees will square off with Jackrabbit Jenkins on just under two-thirds of his reps. Jenkins has permitted 1.11 YPCS (31st), 0.26 FP/CS (42nd), 0.19 AY/CS (18th), and a 115.4 TPR (69th). The Titans are featuring the eighth-highest Cover 2 rate, 13th-highest of Cover 1. With FP/Rt averages over the last three seasons at 0.37 vs. Cover 2 (23rd-best), but Kupp is clearly superior in Cover 1 situations. Tennessee is very stingy against the run. And that is a factor that should require the Rams taking to the air.
Final notes on Tennessee
We enter Week 9 on the blind with their preparations for life without King Henry. Expecting a big workload for AJB is the easy part. Finding out if Ryan Tannehill ($6.3K/$7.5K) will be able to hit his stride without the attention paid to Henry on play action is another story. The backfield options for the Titans in Week 9 are limited to Jeremy McNichols ($5.7K/$6.0K), Dontrell Hilliard ($4.0K/$4.5K), and Mekhi Sargent ($4.0K/$5.3K). McNichols is likely to see the first shot at controlling the lead carry share. But we will also need to account for Adrian Peterson and, potentially, D’Onta Foreman in the coming weeks.
The Titans will need all healthy hands on deck this week. It seems that that is a tall ask as it relates to Julio Jones ($5.5K/$6.5K). At this point, it would not surprise me one bit if Julio decides to hang up his cleats soon. If Jones is unable to play, the collection of Chester Rogers ($3.1K/$5.0K), Marcus Johnson ($3.0K/$4.8K), and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine ($3.4K/$5.2K) do not offer much in the way of DFS reliability. It finally happened. Anthony Firkser’s ($2.6K/$4.5K) uninspired play had already opened up opportunities for MyCole Pruitt ($2.5K/$4.9K). Now Geoff Swaim ($2.9K/$4.6K) has leaped over both to collect the featured role for himself.
Final notes on Los Angeles
I’ve already explained that Tennessee’s run defense has been its most valuable asset. Short of being gifted a good amount of goal-to-go carries, I’m not expecting much from Darrell Henderson Jr. ($6.9K/$8.0K) or Sony Michel ($4.0K/$5.1K). Matthew Stafford ($7.7K/$8.4K) may require QB4/3 dollars, but they’ll be invested in, perhaps, the highest floor among all QBs. With the release of DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson’s ($4.0K/$5.5K) immediate upside just spiked. If Kupp or Woods is injured, Jefferson could see enough touches to bust a future slate. Tyler Higbee ($4.2K/$5.2K) just isn’t seeing the money targets to justify spending the precious cap dollars.
Matchups to Target
Diontae Johnson, PIT ($6.7K DK | $7.2K FD) vs. Jaylon Johnson,
Three individuals stand out on Monday Night Football. All three play for the Steelers. One of those is also the most obvious wideout on the slate: Diontae Johnson. The Bears are throwing the fifth-most FPG at opposing WRs this season (41.5). Diontae has been provided with a target share of at least 32% in five-of-six games this season. And he’s fueling the ninth-most WR FPG (18.5) with the 11th-highest FP/Rt (0.51). Week 9 will bring Chicago’s exotic coverage rotation, featuring the highest rate of Cover 6. DJ ranks 11th-best with 0.45 FP/Rt over the last three years against Cover 6.
With down play in recent weeks, a matchup across from Jaylon Johnson doesn’t present as noteworthy at this stage. He’s commissioning 1.16 YPCS (42nd), 0.23 FP/CS (29th), 0.29 AY/CS (49th), and an 83.8 TPR (26th). With Diontae doing work all across the formation, even if Jaylon shows up with inspired play, sheer volume alone will push Diontae toward profit over value.
Final notes on Chicago
We finally saw significant strides in Justin Fields’ ($5.5K/$6.7K) games last week. Expect to see more of the same until Fields is essentially the same type of player that oozed upside while at Ohio State. Khalil Herbert ($5.3K/$6.2K) didn’t erupt for the numbers I’d hoped for last week, and he’ll face a stout Pittsburgh run defense. Damien Williams ($4.9K/$5.5K) is simply a distant afterthought. With improvements from Fields, expect the numbers for Allen Robinson II ($4.7K/$5.5K) and Darnell Mooney ($4.9K/$5.9K) to follow suit. If we could trust the Bears’ O-line to properly protect Fields from the vicious Pittsburgh pass rush, the passing offense would have every opportunity to find success against a vulnerable Steelers’ secondary. Marquise Goodwin ($3.1K/$4.9K), Damiere Byrd ($3.0K/$4.6K), Cole Kmet ($3.0K/$4.9K), and Jesse James ($2.5K/$4.7K) will cinue with their supporting roles.
Final notes on Pittsburgh
I’ve lost all faith in Ben Roethlisberger ($5.3K/$6.6K) providing any usable DFS performances after laying an egg against Cleveland last week. The Browns’ defense is no slouch, but Big Ben’s history of coverage success pointed toward a solid outing. Najee Harris ($7.8K/$8.7K) is the anti-equivalent of Roethlisberger. He’s young, dependable, and factors heavily on the ground and through the air. Najee is one of a trio of backs that top my list of options this week. The third-most appealing option for Monday night is, big surprise, Chase Claypool ($6.2K/$6.3K). The athletic phenomenon is being criminally underutilized, but is a threat to erupt every week. It didn’t result in numbers worthy of attention, but I did get my wish last week, nonetheless. James Washington ($3.4K/$4.8K) overtook Ray-Ray McCloud III ($3.1K/$4.9K) for featured slot responsibilities. I did not think Pat Freiermuth ($3.8K/$5.0K) would emerge this quickly. Just make sure to keep him on ice in Week 9 against an air-tight TE defense from Chicago.