Here, I’ll run through every Week 8 game and rank them from best to worst from a fantasy perspective. We’ll also look at betting lines to project possible winners and game script, as well as examining one key matchup to watch in each game.
1. Green Bay Packers (3-2-1) at Los Angeles Rams (7-0)
Favorite: Rams (-9.5)
The Packers will travel to Los Angeles to take on the undefeated Rams as 9.5-point underdogs. Green Bay has never been a bigger dog at any point in the Aaron Rodgers era. The Rams are a tough team to beat. They’ve scored over 32 points in all but one game this season and have held their last two weak-link opponents to 30 combined points. The Packers haven’t fired on all cylinders consistently this season but they’re far from a pushover. This game should easily shoot out. We know the players who should thrive from the Rams perspective and they’re locked-in every week. The issue is who beyond Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams will push the scoring on Green Bay’s side. The backfield is still mired in a three-way committee where no member has much of a predictable path to a ceiling. The receiver group is in flux with old faces coming back hoping to recoup playing time lost to some intriguing rookies.
Matchup to watch
The Packers receiving corps is an uncertain projection right now with Randall Cobb and perhaps Geronimo Allison set to return. We should all hope the impressive rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling doesn’t get yanked out of his big slot role for Cobb but this is Mike McCarthy’s Packers we’re talking about. One steady player is Jimmy Graham, who’s starting to get rolling with 26 targets over his last three games. He’s coming off his first 100-yard effort as a member of the Packers and heads into an ideal spot with a matchup against the Rams. Not only the game come with the highest over/under of the week points but the Rams leaky defense allows the fifth-most yards (499) to tight ends this year. Just over 31 percent of LA’s total passing yards allowed have gone to that position. Only Baltimore checks in higher with 32.9 percent of a much smaller pie. Graham is priced as the TE8 in Yahoo DFS ($17) and makes for a great core play across all formats this upcoming slate.
2. New Orleans Saints (5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1)
Favorite: Saints (-1)
The Saints are the ever so slight favorite on the road in Minnesota. These two teams played each other last season with results of 48 and 53 combined points in the Week 1 and Divisional Round playoff game, respectively. The Vikings are on their third quarterback of this series with Kirk Cousins now at the helm. They are also a much different scoring unit, ranking third in the NFL with a 67.7 passing play percentage after finishing 28th in 2017. With the Saints also operating at maximum efficiency on offense, and neither team defense playing up to the levels they set in 2017, we should see a shootout emerge in Minnesota’s dome. The only fantasy plays you could argue aren’t in an ideal spot are the two early down running backs in Latavius Murray and Mark Ingram. The Vikings and Saints are both bottom-seven in yards per carry allowed to running backs but the scoring potential of this game makes it impossible to not break ties in favor of all these players.
Matchup to watch
It’s a virtual lock that the masses will be quick to throw in the towel on Tre’Quan Smith after he dropped a 3-44 line in Week 7 when got plenty of hype following Ted Ginn’s move to IR. Don’t be so quick to fade. Remember that Smith and the Saints were playing against the NFL’s best pass defense in Baltimore. All the peripherals were there for Smith in his first game without Ginn. The explosive young wideout played on 73 percent of the team’s snaps, led the team with a 34 percent share of the air yards and ran the second-most routes (21) on the team behind Michael Thomas. Smith is a legitimate deep threat getting crucial usage on a high-powered offense. Injuries have been a theme in the Vikings secondary all season and they’ve allowed the fifth-highest yards per pass attempt (8.2). Smith makes for a fine deep dart throw in what should be a high-scoring game.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-3)
Favorite: Bengals (-4)
A pair of upstart offensive-leaning teams square off in Cincinnati. While Jameis Winston has been his same old mistake-prone self, the Bucs offense continues to march of at a 27.5-point average over his two starts. Both teams rank top-13 in pace of play and points per drive. The Bucs defense has been notoriously leaky but the Bengals aren’t too far off. Opposing offenses have run 69.6 plays per game against the Bengals, the third-highest mark in the league. There’s no reason this game shouldn’t push the over on the 54.5-point total. Get everyone in the pool in this spot. O.J. Howard is the top sleeper in the Buc offense. Howard leads all tight ends with 30 plus targets in yards per route run and gets a great matchup in Week 8 to keep up the hyper-efficiency. The Bengals have allowed an NFL-high 48 catches to the tight end position as their linebackers continue to struggle in pass coverage.
Matchup to watch
Over the last two weeks, C.J. Uzomah ranks third on the Bengals in air yards, has played on over 91 percent of the team snaps in each game and is tied with Zach Ertz for the third-most routes run among tight ends with 69. At the tight end position, that kind of opportunity is about as good as you can ask for outside the top two tiers. Uzomah is a good start once again in Week 8 as he heads into a matchup with the Bucs who have been ripped up by just about everyone through the air, tight ends included. Tampa Bay has allowed league-highs in catch rate (78.4 percent) and yards per game (89.7) to the position.
4. Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1)
Favorite: Steelers (-8)
The total here feels a tad low. Both Cleveland (first) and Pittsburgh (fifth) are top-five in plays run against their defenses this season. The teams also rank second and eighth in offensive plays run. This AFC North divisional spat could easily turn into a shootout with both teams exchanging blows. The Browns defense is particularly weak in the middle of the field on second down, allowing a 109 passer rating on throws fewer than 15 yards and a 110 rating on 15-plus yard throws. The Steelers have a pass-catching running back, dynamic young slot receiver and athletic move tight end who can exploit that. We could get a fantasy bonanza here but it will be up to Cleveland to hold up their end of the bargain in Pittsburgh. As currently constructed, the Browns have few matchup advantages over the Steelers and the AFC North leaders could run up the score quickly in this spot.
Matchup to watch
If there’s one area where the Steelers could completely stifle the Browns to the point that a shootout is not possible, it’s in the pass rush. Baker Mayfield has been getting completely pummeled since he took over as a starter. Cleveland allows a league-high 10.7 adjusted sack rate this year and is top-five in quarterback hits allowed. The team’s plans to remake their offensive line have failed this year with major leaks springing across the pass protection group. Mayfield manages a mere 45.1 passer rating when under pressure this year, per Pro Football Focus. He’s an intriguing QB2 play in Week 8 given the potential high-scoring script of this game but this is a major red flag for the entire team’s outlook.
5. Denver Broncos (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2)
Favorite: Chiefs (-10)
The Chiefs continue to roll on offense, leading the NFL at 37.1 points per game with an NFL-high average 6.4-point lead on their drives. Denver just dropped 45 points on the Cardinals on the back of two pick sixes. Heading into Week 7 they hadn’t cleared 25 points since Week 1. If this game is going to push for the over, it’ll be on the back of the Kansas City offense, which is a tough unit to doubt. The Chiefs defense was a sieve to start this season but is beginning to tighten up at home, allowing just 24 combined points while totaling six turnovers and seven sacks over their last six two games in Kansas City. Denver ranks 14th in passing play percentage (61.4 percent) but their best bet to stay in this contest is to control the script with the ground game, especially using their best running back Phillip Lindsay. Despite some improvements in their pass defense efficiency, the Chiefs still get stomped on the ground. They allow the third-highest yards per carry (5.1) to running backs this year and rank 22nd in stuff rate at 16 percent (run tackles for two or fewer yards gained).
Matchup to watch
Sammy Watkins has recorded lines of 6-78, 2-18 and 4-74 while averaging just 6.3 targets per game since suffering a hamstring injury against these Broncos back in Week 4. Nevertheless, he still has a stronghold on the third-place spot on the team’s air yards totem pole with a 16 percent market share. That’s enough to keep him in play as a flex during the bye week gauntlet. Watkins will go to work against Bradley Roby and a perimeter cornerback group that has struggled in Denver this year. Roby leads the corner group in catches (31), yards (453) and touchdowns (three) allowed in coverage, per Pro Football Focus.
6. Indianapolis Colts (2-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-5)
Favorite: Colts (-3)
While these two teams are close in record they’re trending in completely opposite directions. The Raiders have no mortgaged two of their best players (Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper) in the last three months for future picks. They’re clearly eying the future and putting out a declining product for 2018. The Colts continue to offer plenty of positive indicators, especially on offense. Indianapolis runs the fastest-paced unit in the NFL (29.4 seconds/play), ranks fourth in plays run per game (69) and 10th in points per game (27). Frank Reich has already made his impact felt and is molding this unit into a progressive, modern-era scoring attack. With Cooper gone, Marshawn Lynch on IR and Derek Carr regressing before our eyes, Oakland is fresh out of offensive difference-makers. It’s a stretch to devise how they’ll score points to keep up with the Colts, much less stop them when they’re on defense.
Matchup to watch
Marlon Mack gets a good opportunity to double-up on strong rushing performances after popping the Bills for 126 yards and a score on 19 carries in Week 7. While he’s the road favorite this time around, the Colts run game should have the edge on the Raiders defense. Chris Ballard has quietly fixed Indianapolis’ more than half-decade-long issue on the offensive line. In addition to allowing the lowest sack rate (3.1 percent) in the NFL this year, the Colts rank fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, which credits yardage gain to the run-blocking. Oakland allowed the fifth-highest yards per carry (4.88) to running backs this year. Mack could trample his second defense in a row.
7. Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (4-2)
Favorite: Ravens (-2)
While this game opened up as a pick ‘em, the line has shifted to Baltimore as a two-point favorite. That seems like a slight to a 4-2 Panthers team but Carolina is one of the more difficult teams to figure out. The team pulled out late-game miracle wins against the inferior Giants in Week 5 and an Eagles team who stomped them in the first half last week. Sandwiched between them was a loss in Washington that featured an early 14-0 deficit and a putrid game-ending drive. The Ravens and Panthers are complete opposites from an offensive tempo perspective. Baltimore ranks No. 2 in pace of play in neutral situations and first in plays run per game. Carolina ranks 26th and 22nd, respectively. The more you look at this contest from a bird’s eye, the more it does indeed appear it could go either way.
Matchup to watch
Greg Olsen snagged his first touchdown of the season last week despite totaling just five yards in Philadelphia. He hasn’t gone off for a big game in his two weeks back but the peripheral numbers are starting to add up. Olsen has been on the field for 98 and 100 percent of the Panthers snaps over their last two games and he’s run 73 routes, second-most among all tight ends in that span. As strong as the Ravens have been as a pass defense, they’ve allowed 39 catches to tight ends, tied for fifth-most in the NFL and an NFL-high 32.9 percent of their total yards to the position. Olsen takes 67 percent of his snaps in the slot, where Baltimore’s weakest cover corner Tayvon Young (120 passer rating allowed) lines up.
8. Seattle Seahawks (3-3) at Detroit Lions (3-3)
Favorite: Lions (-2.5)
The total here feels generous given how these two teams have played this season. The Seahawks are the most run-heavy offense in the NFL at 49.5 play percentage and rank 25th in plays per game. With the offensive line gelling and Kerry Johnson emerging as a bell-cow type of talent, the Lions are starting morph into the identity their offseason moves signal they clearly intended to build this offseason. Their scoring unit is slowing down as the year wears on. Detroit ranks dead last in situation neutral offensive pace and 21st in plays per game. Both of these offenses have the quarterback play and talent at the skill-position levels to get this into a high-scoring game but it’s crystal clear that isn’t either coaching staff’s preference.
Matchup to watch
Last we saw Chris Carson he disappointed with just 14 carries for 59 yards and a goose egg in the passing game against the Raiders. The Seahawks didn’t need to do much with Oakland completely non-competitive in that game. Carson played just 41.5 percent of the team snaps and handled 48 percent of the running back carries but that may have been due to the controlling nature of the script. If this game stays close, as the pace suggests, Carson could get more burn. The Lions are still one of the run defenses we need to target, as they are the lone team to allow north of six yards per carry on the year.
9. New York Jets (3-4) at Chicago Bears (3-3)
Favorite: Bears (-7.5)
The Bears are more than a touchdown favorite with the Jets coming to town. After a dominant month to start the season, the defense has allowed 31 and 38 points to the Dolphins and Patriots in back-to-back weeks. The offense has remained statistically hot, despite Mitchell Trubisky looking shaky as a pure passer last week. Nevertheless, with a bevy of diverse weapons and Trubisky’s rushing ability, they’re still a top-half of the league offense on a weekly basis. The Jets offense was hot coming into Week 7, dropping a combined 76 points on the Broncos and Colts over their previous two contests. Sam Darnold just fell on the wrong side of turnover variance with three picks, two fumbles and one loss while taking three sacks. If Darnold is to get going again, he’ll need to get slot receiver Jermaine Kearse involved again. While he was a favorite in the fantasy world last week, Kearse blanked games. He still ran 40 routes (second-most on the team) and could get rolling if the Jets find their footing.
Matchup to watch
With New England taking away Taylor Gabriel and clamping on Allen Robinson with Stephon Gillmore, the Bears simply decided to feature Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton as the target leaders in last week’s game and that left little for the wideouts to do on the outside. Gabriel still tied for the most routes run on the team (45). The Jets have faced the sixth-most (40.6) pass attempts per game this year and 75.3 percent of their total passing yards allowed have come from wideouts. With Robinson still nursing a groin injury, Gabriel could lead the team in targets this week and is a strong contrarian option after his Week 7 dud.
10. New England Patriots (5-2) at Buffalo Bills (2-5)
Favorite: Patriots (-13.5)
The Patriots walk into Buffalo looking to clock the Bills. A massive 13.5-point spread shows they’re expected to do just that. The Bills will start Derek Anderson for the second-straight week after dusting him off the shelf heading into Week 7. Anderson gifted the Colts four turnover and ran a non-functioning offense in Indianapolis last week. A 13.5-point spread is a ton for a road team to cover but a Derek Anderson-led, LeSean McCoy-less Bills team has next to no prayer of scoring points. The only true blowout of New England’s 2018 campaign came against another division-rival team with a 38-7 crushing of Miami. We could see No. 2 here.
Matchup to watch
As of publication, the only two healthy backs on New England’s active roster are James White and Kenjon Barner. With Sony Michel not set to play in Week 8, White and/or Barner would theoretically have to assume the early down LeGarrette Blount-type role the rookie was dominating. Michel was purely a two-down banger, as he ran just 23 pass routes through six games. White has earned the trust and praise of the Brady/Belichick brain trust but he’s been almost exclusively a receiving weapon in his career. Just 35 percent of his measly 40 runs this season have gone up the middle. Barner is largely an unknown but has a scat back profile. Whatever New England does with its backfield, it’s imperative we figure it out because of all the production it brings. As such a massive favorite, the Patriots should be in a run-heavy game script. It’s likely that White becomes an extension of the run game as an outlet receiver and approaches 20 touches.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5)
Favorite: Eagles (-3)
A pair of disappointing teams fly over to London for a game with the lowest projected total of the week. Carson Wentz has played well on the Eagles side but the unit’s issues in pass protection and the ground game have made this a low-ceiling unit. Philadelphia has run the fifth-most plays per game this year but rank 22nd in points per game and 18th in yards per drive. The team has only gone over 24 points in one of Wentz’s five starts. On the other side of the field, the Jaguars are once against a mess with Blake Bortles at the controls. Last week the quarterback was benched, the run game welcomed a confusing addition and there was reportedly fighting in the locker room featuring some big-name defenders. Not only should this game flirt with that under, but the Eagles could also cover that three-point spread.
Matchup to watch
The Jaguars secondary normally inspires fear but Alshon Jeffery should still be deployed in all fantasy formats. Not only is A.J. Bouye going to miss this contest, but 72.3 percent of the Jaguars total passing yards allowed have also come by wide receivers. That’s still good for a league-low 130 yards per game but if anyone is set to exploit this spot, it’s Jeffery. The hulking wide receiver owns a 36 percent share of the team’s air yards since he returned in Week 4 from an offseason surgery. He should line up against Jalen Ramsey is some spots but trust the volume on this one.
12. Washington Redskins (4-2) at New York Giants (1-6)
Favorite: Washington (-1)
While Washington sits atop the NFC East, the Giants finally accepted their fate this week as a rebuilding team about six months too late and began shipping off players in trades. Washington is hardly a team that will boat-race anyone but they’re giving a measly one point to a moribund Giants team. It’s likely due to their road status but that still feels weak. Washington slows down the pace of their opponents on offense, allowing just the fourth-fewest plays run per game (60), and are opportunistic defensively to end drives. So far this season, 15.4 percent of the drives against Washington’s defense have ended with a turnover, ninth-highest in the league. The Giants offense is wandering in the wilderness and this is far from a get right spot.
Matchup to watch
It’s strange to say but Adrian Peterson is the central pillar and defining figure of an offense in the year 2018. Peterson has allowed Washington to keep a run-heavy identity that limits opponent’s opportunities on offense. Without a functioning run game, Alex Smith would be left to throw his way out of games with a banged-up supporting cast. Peterson might single-handedly be keeping this team out of the offensive cellar. He’ll get a chance to keep up the momentum in Week 8 now that the Giants jettisoned crucial lane-clog Damon Harrison. Snacks led the Giants with 20 run stops this year, according to Pro Football Focus, and was tied for third among all NFL defenders.
13. San Francisco 49ers (1-6) at Arizona Cardinals (1-6)
Favorite: Cardinals (-1)
The battle for the NFC West basement. San Francisco gifted Arizona their lone win of the season a few weeks ago but will now aim to vanquish them in the Cardinals home stadium. Both of these teams got taken to the woodshed in Week 7, with the Cardinals getting a 45-10 undressing on Thursday night before the Rams gave the 49ers a 39-10 kick in the team Sunday afternoon. This is easily one of the least inspiring games on the slate. Arizona ranks dead last in plays run per game (52.6) and 24th in situation-neutral pace. Mike McCoy was fired this past week for taking the offense back to the stone age. Byron Leftwich’s first priority will be to kick this offense into a faster gear but he remains a complete unknown. The 49ers offense showing in Green Bay during Week 6 that they’re always a wildcard for a strong offensive showing but this game should go safely under.
Matchup to watch
Most of what we’re watching in this contest revolves around what, if any, changes Byron Leftwich brings to the offense. Mike McCoy employed a strange approach where it appeared he believed the middle of the field was reserved for running, while the outside is where you must pass. A mere 19 percent of Josh Rosen’s throws this year went into the short (fewer than 15 yards) middle of the field. Meanwhile, 63 percent of David Johnson’s carries went right up the middle behind center. It’s no surprise that Josh Rosen’s Next Gen Stats expected completion rate (59.3%) is lower than any other quarterback this season. McCoy actively made life more difficult for his players. Spreading this offense out and reversing both data points would open up room for a sleeper with a prime matchup like Christian Kirk to thrive. The rookie runs 65 percent of his routes away from left cornerbacks, where Richard Sherman (limited Wednesday practice) would line up if he plays.
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