Should You Bench Burrow and Chase?
NFL Week 8 - There may not be a bomb cyclone this Sunday, but Halloween is poised to usher in the broader winter weather this season. The Dolphins-Bills, Washington-Broncos, and Giants-Chiefs games have forecasted temperatures south of 50 degrees this weekend, and those temperatures tend to shift play calling a toward the run, cut completion rate by 2% and passing yards by 3% per attempt, and increase rushing yards and touchdowns by 5% and 13% per attempt. The rest of the season, pay some extra attention to which teams play in domes and which play in the elements. And always, mind the matchups.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven)—home and road and dome and outside—the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 8 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
With Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray, and Matthew Stafford locked into lineups, Sam Darnold should test some mettle with the best matchup upgrade among the quarterback streamers. The Falcons are back to their usual ways of porous defense. They rank 30th in DVOA in overall defense and against the pass, and they increase passing touchdown rate by 47%, second-most in football. And Darnold will play this game in the dome in Atlanta, a situation that tends to boost yards and touchdowns by 4% and 5% per target even for visiting quarterbacks. But I'm sure you have noticed that Darnold has been horrific the last three weeks. After throwing for 300 yards in three of his first four games with the Panthers and accounting for at least two touchdowns in all four of those games, Darnold has declined to 177, 207, and 112 passing yards and two total touchdowns the last three weeks. Yikes. I do think matchups were a factor in that fall from grace. The Panthers have poor pass protection, and the Eagles, Vikings, and Giants rank 17th, second, and eighth in adjusted sack rate on defense. But even facing a bottom-five team in adjusted sack rate, I'm not sure I could pull the trigger on Darnold.
In shallower formats, you hopefully can save yourself the Darnold dilemma and just play Kirk Cousins. He's up to 11th in my true talent rankings after a fast fantasy start this season with 13 touchdowns in six games. And he jumps a few spots from there to eighth this week at home in the dome in Minnesota and facing a Cowboys team that, despite increasing interception rate by 117%, lands as a positive fantasy matchup with their boosting of pass plays by 2% and passing yards and touchdowns by 10% and 9% per attempt. And thanks to a recent bye, Cousins is available in 47% of ESPN leagues. Pick him up and start him if you are missing Lamar Jackson this weekend.
Best DraftKings Values: Jalen Hurts ($1,100 underpriced at $7,200), Kirk Cousins ($300 underpriced at $6,500), Tom Brady ($100 underpriced at $7,400)
Best FanDuel Values: Jalen Hurts ($800 underpriced at $8,400), Justin Herbert ($600 underpriced at $7,900), Patrick Mahomes ($500 underpriced at $8,400)
Their trade of Joe Flacco to the Jets may have moved the Eagles a step closer to a quarterback switch to Gardner Minshew this season—if you spend more time with fantasy than traditional statistics, note that Hurts has a -5.9% passing DVOA and a 61.2% completion rate, the latter of which is the second worst of non-rookie starters ahead of only Jameis Winston (58.9%). But for all of my longer-term concerns, I have no fear for Hurts this week in Detroit. The Lions are unquestionably the best passing matchup, increasing yards and touchdowns by 31% and 57% per attempt, both the most in football. Hurts may miss out on the garbage time that has saved his fantasy days a few times this year. But if he throws a pair of touchdowns to build a lead, it won't matter. Hurts has run the ball at least seven times every week, and with a fantasy equivalence of 100 or more passing yards before he even throws a pass, Hurts can turn even moderate passing production into a No. 1 fantasy total at his position.
I seldom have an opportunity to advocate for Patrick Mahomes in daily formats, and so I want to take that chance while I have it this week. I can't explain what happened on Sunday. The Titans are 18th in pass defense DVOA and wouldn't be that high if they hadn't completely derailed the then No. 1 Chiefs passing offense. But Mahomes has had the occasional poor passing game in his career. He threw for 200 yards and one touchdown in Denver in Week 7 last season. He went for 182 and one and 175 and one in consecutive games on either side of his Week 12 bye in 2019. He's human, but he is the best human at throwing footballs. And while others may be scared off by a 3-4 record even though the Chiefs defense is disproportionately responsible for it, I'll happily start Mahomes with an $8,400 FanDuel price tag that is $200 less expensive than his previous low salary this season. He faces some matchup challenges in an average Giants pass defense and a 63% chance of rain with cool temperatures on Monday night. But Mahomes has defied all of the typical conditional splits in his career and strikes me as an excellent bet to bounce back.
|Worst Week 8 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
The bad quarterback matchups center on second-year starters Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow this week. The persistent Deshaun Watson trade rumors have likely talked you out of starting Tagovailoa in fantasy. But if his 620 passing yards and six touchdowns the last two weeks piqued your interest, I'll implore you to look elsewhere this Sunday. The Bills are bad enough of a matchup in a typical week. They have nearly lapped the field with their -34.2% pass defense DVOA; they are a top-two cutter of completion rate (9%), passing yards per attempt (21%), and passing touchdowns per attempt (50%); and they're the No. 1 promoter of interceptions per attempt (125%). But this game is also in Buffalo, and there's a 59% chance of rain and forecasted wind gusts of 18 mph. Without bigger back Malcom Brown to play power football, the Dolphins may need Tagovailoa to play catch-up. But that doesn't make him a compelling choice for typical format. He falls from ninth to 19th in my weekly rankings.
Worst DraftKings Values: Joe Burrow ($1,100 overpriced at $7,100), Aaron Rodgers ($900 overpriced at $7,400), Ryan Tannehill ($300 overpriced at $6,600)
Worst FanDuel Values: Joe Burrow ($500 overpriced at $7,800), Matthew Stafford ($400 overpriced at $8,200), Jameis Winston ($300 overpriced at $7,400)
Burrow may have convinced you of a status as an every-week fantasy starter with 416 yards and three touchdowns on the road in Baltimore last Sunday. His $7,100 and $7,800 DFS salaries suggest that is the case, but I have those as substantially overpriced this week. New York City does not share the weather concerns from upstate, but Burrow has averaged 3.2 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road in his career even after last week's outburst. Meanwhile, the Jets are the wrong sort of bad defense for passing productivity. They are bottom-six in DVOA against the run as well as the pass, and that has led their opponents to increase their run plays by 16% per game and cut their passing touchdowns by 37%, both top-five in football. Facing an untested former fifth-round quarterback in Mike White, the Bengals are a strong bet to score some points and win. But I wouldn't be surprised to see Joe Mixon and even Samaje Perine taking those points.
|Best Week 8 Matchups - Running Backs|
With Miles Sanders set to miss this Sunday's game with an ankle injury, I feel confident that some Eagles back will benefit from a Lions matchup that increases run plays by 11% per game and rushing yards and touchdowns by 4% and 8% per attempt. Jordan Howard seems likely to get the call from the practice squad, but I'll still advocate Kenneth Gainwell as my preferred choice and a back-end RB2 at 22nd in my rankings this week. Gainwell seems small at just 200 pounds, but he has a compact build at just 5-foot-9. I think he can handle a heavy NFL workload, at least temporarily. He took 16.5 carries per game in his last season at Memphis in 2019 and did so even with Antonio Gibson as a teammate. Meanwhile, Gainwell has a low floor in PPR formats with a 13.4% target share that even alongside Sanders is 12th-highest at his position. Gainwell could have a fantasy field day facing a Lions team that is a top-four booster of running back catch rate (9%), yards per target (29%) ,and touchdowns per target (452%). The Lions have allowed six receiving touchdowns to backs this season.
As a low-volume receiver, Damien Harris is one of the more sensitive running backs to matchups. He managed just 10 carries and 10 yards in back-to-back games against the Saints and Bucs, who are ranked second and fourth in run defense DVOA. But he went off for 207 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks against the Cowboys and Jets. This week's Chargers matchup could be more of the latter. They rank 32nd in run defense DVOA, increasing run plays by 15% per game, and yards and touchdowns by 25% and 63% per carry.
Best DraftKings Values: Cordarrelle Patterson ($1,000 underpriced at $6,200), Michael Carter ($800 underpriced at $4,900), Kenneth Gainwell ($800 underpriced at $5,000)
Best FanDuel Values: Elijah Mitchell ($1,100 underpriced at $5,800), Saquon Barkley ($900 underpriced at $6,500), Michael Carter ($800 underpriced at $5,700)
I have been resistant in deference to my man Mike Davis, but I think it's time to let go. The Falcons clearly have. Cordarrelle Patterson has seen his snap share grow from 33% in Weeks 1 and 2 to 59% and 73% the last two games and seen his carry volume double from seven to 14. Add that to a 14.4% target share that is eighth-highest among running backs, and you have a no-brainer top-10 option at the position and a tremendous value still as just the 16th most expensive DraftKings back at $6,200.
I'm not sure whether Michael Carter has scaled the same mountain. His snap share has steadily increased from 25% in Week 1 to 72% in Week 7 after a bye, but that latter rate may be a bit inflated by Tevin Coleman's possible one-week absence for a hamstring injury and Ty Johnson's possible Week 7 concussion. Even with those concerns, I see Carter as $800 underpriced in both fantasy formats. The key for me is the rookie back's nine Sunday targets, triple his previous season high. Carter was scouted as one of the best receiving backs in the 2021 class, and with a less talented thrower at quarterback in Mike White, Carter should see another heavy target volume this weekend no matter the availability of his backfield teammates.
|Worst Week 8 Matchups - Running Backs|
Close to halfway through the season, it's pretty clear which defenses are the ones to avoid for backs in fantasy. The Bucs, Browns, and Bills are all top-six in run defense DVOA. The Bucs and Bills cut run plays by 60% and 29% per game. And the Browns and Patriots cut rushing touchdown rate by 55% and 87% per attempt. But it will be interesting this week to see how Alvin Kamara, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris, and Myles Gaskin fare in those matchups since they are some of the most versatile backs in football. Their projected contributions as receivers insulate them from the downgrades in excess of 1.5 or 2.0 fantasy points I often see for the worst matchups at the position. Kamara, Ekeler, and Harris even maintain their true-talent third-, fourth-, and fifth-place rankings at the position. Maybe have a bit of caution with those players in DFS, but don't sweat their top spots on the bad matchup list in traditional formats.
Worst DraftKings Values: Damien Williams ($1,000 overpriced at $5,300), Alvin Kamara ($800 overpriced at $8,700), Joe Mixon ($600 overpriced at $6,900)
Worst FanDuel Values: James Robinson ($1,000 overpriced at $8,200), Austin Ekeler ($900 overpriced at $8,700), Damien Williams ($200 overpriced at $5,500)
For me, the No. 1 back to avoid in daily formats is Damien Williams. But that is more about workload concerns than fears of a 49ers team that is 10th in run defense DVOA and slightly increases run plays by 5% per game and rushing touchdowns by 12% per attempt. I have always loved Williams' talent. He was top-10 in both avoided tackle rate and yards after contact per attempt with the Chiefs in 2019 before he opted out of 2020 for COVID concerns. But unfortunately for his fantasy value this year, the Bears landed what looks like a gem in sixth-round rookie Khalil Herbert. Herbert ranks fourth among regular backs with a 21.5% rushing DVOA. And after the backs split time in Week 6, Herbert asserted a bell-cow role with a 77% versus 17% snap share in Week 8. Maybe Williams' off week on the COVID reserve list contributed to the workload imbalance, but I wouldn't bet on that at his still-expensive $5,300 and $5,500 DFS prices.
|Best Week 8 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Calvin Ridley has endured a slow start to his 2021 fantasy season. But after the Falcons forgot to show up in Week 1 in a 32-6 loss to the Eagles, Ridley has also landed three of four games on the road—not even counting the neutral-site London game that he missed. That really matters. Domes increase No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns by 8% and 9% per target at home. And Ridley himself has averaged 2.7 more PPR points per game at home than on the road since the start of 2019. He jumps from 12th to eighth in my receiver rankings this week even facing a Panthers defense that remains ninth in football in pass defense DVOA.
Christian Kirk couldn't maintain his season-high 85% snap share from Week 6 between Maxx Williams' season-ending injury and Zach Ertz's arrival in a trade. He played just 72% of snaps last week and for me needs a plus matchup now to earn flex consideration as the 43rd receiver in my true-talent rankings. Luckily, he has that tonight against the Packers. Like Ridley, Kirk will have the benefits of a home dome stadium. And while the Packers are a difficult passing matchup at full strength, their loss of Jaire Alexander has let their pass defense slip to 21st in DVOA. And with every Packers cornerback sliding up the depth chart, it has had ramification for non-No. 1 receivers. The Packers are a top-five booster of No. 2 (120%) and slot receiver touchdowns per target (42%). Kirk and A.J. Green are decent bets to score tonight even next to the first half's silver medalist in receiver touchdowns, DeAndre Hopkins.
Best DraftKings Values: Jerry Jeudy ($900 underpriced at $4,900), Jamal Agnew ($800 underpriced at $3,700), Diontae Johnson ($400 underpriced at $6,700)
Best FanDuel Values: Jerry Jeudy ($700 underpriced at $6,000), DeVonta Smith ($700 underpriced at $6,200), Chase Claypool ($400 underpriced at $6,500)
The best DFS values at receiver have more to do with injuries than with matchups this week. Jerry Jeudy has not played since a Week 1 ankle injury, but he looked poised for a Year 2 breakout that week with seven targets and 72 yards on just 31 snaps before getting hurt, and he is expected to play on Sunday. I'm not sure if his $900 and $700 underprices reflect an expected soft relaunch or a lingering fear of the Washington pass defense. But I thought I ranked Jeudy modestly at 25th in true talent, and the Washington defense does not deserve that respect any longer with a 29th ranking in pass defense DVOA.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is out for the season with a shoulder injury. And since the Steelers don't have a natural internal option to replace him, they'll likely have to lean a bit more on all of their skill players to replace his 6.8 targets per game from the first four weeks. Relative to their prices, I see Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as a DFS values on that assumption this week, the former at $6,700 in DraftKings and the latter at $6,500 in FanDuel. And although Cleveland's defense has improved after their myriad offseason additions, that improvement has skewed toward defense of the run (third) instead of the pass (23rd). The Browns cut run plays by 10% but are close to neutral for pass plays.
|Worst Week 8 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Where the bad passing matchups focused on second-year quarterbacks, the bad receiving matchups focus on their rookie No. 1 receivers. Ja'Marr Chase is up to fifth in my true-talent rankings and should never be benched in traditional formats. But he does fall to 14th at the position this week facing the run-promoting Jets. Top cornerbacks Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols have underwhelmed, allowing 8.2 and 10.4 yards per target this season. But the Jets have generated some decent pressure (6.2% adjusted sack rate, 18th) despite the injury to Carl Lawson and all told cut No. 1 receiver yards and touchdowns by 26% and 110% per target. Chase could have a bad day by his amazing standards if the Bengals settle for a conservative approach with more carries and more low-depth targets to slot receiver Tyler Boyd.
Worst DraftKings Values: Tyler Lockett ($1,300 overpriced at $6,100), Mike Evans ($1,100 overpriced at $7,000), Courtland Sutton ($700 overpriced at $6,400)
Worst FanDuel Values: Ja'Marr Chase ($1,000 overpriced at $8,200), Mike Evans ($600 overpriced at $7,500), Tyler Lockett ($600 overpriced at $6,600)
I expected a major decline with Seattle's temporary quarterback switch from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith. But I didn't realize the Seahawks would be quite this conservative with their backup passer. After Wilson finished fifth at the position with 61 deep attempts in 2020, Smith has thrown just five deep passes in two and a half games this season. It's little wonder then that Tyler Lockett has managed just 47 yards on his 10 targets the last two weeks. Some of that was likely matchups. The Steelers and Saints rank 13th and sixth in pass defense DVOA, and this week's Jaguars should be an easier test at 32nd. But I won't be eager to start Lockett until Wilson returns to throw him passes, at least not until his DFS price tags fall more than the $600 and $200 they have over the last two weeks.
Mike Evans and Courtland Sutton have their own teammate-injury concerns for their fantasy values. Both players have been fantasy forces as their team's No. 1 options in recent weeks. But Evans saw a modest 18.5% target share in Weeks 1 to 3 alongside the full complement of Bucs skill players. That was outside the top 40 at the position. It may not be a major concern until Antonio Brown returns as well, but Rob Gronkowski should play this Sunday and for me renders Evans a poor DFS value at north of $7,000. Meanwhile, Sutton will see his teammate Jeudy play for the first time since Week 1. And while those receivers likely won't see their three- to seven-target disparity from that week continue now that Sutton is fully healthy himself, Sutton should still see some drop in his DFS salary with Jeudy's return. But no, he's the same $6,400 in DraftKings this week that he was last week. And because of that, I would look elsewhere at the position.
|Best Week 8 Matchups - Tight Ends|
An Irv Smith injury and Zach Ertz trade have promoted Tyler Conklin and Dallas Goedert to unprecedented roles as unquestioned No. 1 tight ends for the Vikings and Eagles. That has them useful fantasy options in general at 18th and fifth in my true-talent tight end rankings. And both enjoy bumps from there this week, the former at home in the dome against the Cowboys and the latter on the road in the dome in Detroit. The Cowboys are not an all-around good passing matchup thanks to breakout cornerback star Trevon Diggs. But the team is weaker in coverage in the middle of the field and boosts tight end yards and touchdowns by 25% and 82% per attempt, respectively. Conklin could see an increased target volume this week, especially if the Vikings fall behind and need to pass to play catch-up.
Best DraftKings Values: Dan Arnold ($800 underpriced at $2,800), Ricky Seals-Jones ($500 underpriced at $3,800), Tommy Sweeney ($200 underpriced at $2,900)
Best FanDuel Values: Pat Freiermuth ($500 underpriced at $4,900), Tommy Sweeney ($500 underpriced at $4,300), Dan Arnold ($400 underpriced at $4,900)
The tight end DFS values are all about extra opportunities. Dan Arnold bested his season high of a 52% snap share with 73% and 62% snap shares for the Jaguars their previous two games. On the other side of a bye week, Arnold should be better up to speed for his new team now and may serve as a featured shallow target with DJ Chark out for the season and Laviska Shenault playing more on the outside because of it.
Ricky-Seals Jones is 11th with a 16.9% target share and tied for fourth with 1.9 expected touchdowns since he took over for an injured Logan Thomas. His salary has inched up from the minimum of $2,500 in Week 5 to $3,800 this week, but I still see that as underpriced by $500.
And Tommy Sweeney and Pat Freiermuth could follow in Seals-Jones' footsteps after the injuries of their respective teammates Dawson Knox and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Knox was tied for the positional lead with five touchdowns, and the Bills don't have anyone besides Sweeney to replace him. Meanwhile, Freiermuth set season highs with seven targets and a 60% target share in Week 6, the first game with Smith-Schuster sidelined. He may not be an instant top-five option at the position like fellow rookie Kyle Pitts, but Freiermuth looks like an atypical rookie tight end with fantasy value. He's up to 12th in my true-talent rankings, and he suffers only a modest fall to 14th at the position with the Browns matchup.
|Worst Week 8 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Some of the best tight ends have difficult matchups this week, but that shouldn't chase them from most of your lineups in traditional formats. Travis Kelce is an obvious every-week starter. For me, Dalton Schultz has joined him. He's up to third in my true-talent rankings—at least for this week when both Darren Waller and Mark Andrews are out on bye. But Rob Gronkowski, Robert Tonyan, and Ricky Seals-Jones are more interesting cases. I don't think you can bench Gronk any week that he plays, but I'll mention that I did lower his projected target volume relative to his excellent 14.8% share from the first three weeks. I'd like to see his role in a return from broken ribs before I lock him into my top five at the position.
Tonyan and Seals-Jones drop for their respective Cardinals and Broncos matchups. Those teams cut tight end yards by 50% and 3% per target and tight end touchdowns by 108% and 102% per target. But despite that and despite their typical modest fantasy expectations, Tonyan and Seals-Jones remain in my top 12 thanks to special circumstances this week. I already touched on Seals-Jones in his relief of normal starter Logan Thomas. But Tonyan might have a one-week role as the No. 1 Packers target with both Davante Adams and Allen Lazard likely to miss tonight's game on the COVID reserve list. That duo accounts for 94 of Aaron Rodgers' 221 pass attempts. That's 42.5%! It is risky to try to guess which Packers receivers will step up in their absences, especially facing a Cardinals defense that is second in pass defense DVOA. But there just isn't the same risk with Tonyan given the state of tight ends for fantasy outside the top five at the position. Start him in traditional formats, and start him in DFS if you're playing the full week slate rather than just Sunday.
Worst DraftKings Values: Zach Ertz ($700 overpriced at $4,400), Noah Fant ($700 overpriced at $4,900), C.J. Uzomah ($0 overpriced at $3,700)
Worst FanDuel Values: Zach Ertz ($400 overpriced at $5,700), C.J. Uzomah ($300 overpriced at $5,700), Noah Fant ($200 overpriced at $5,800)
C.J. Uzomah was a popular waiver wire pick-up after his second two-touchdown game of the season. He's now tied with Dawson Knox for the most touchdowns at the position this season and could pass him with the latter player sidelined with a hand injury. But Uzomah is a fantasy trap. His touchdowns have come from 2, 22, 31, 32, and 55 yards away from the end zone and net him just 0.8 expected touchdowns this season, so a tidal wave of regression is headed his way. Uzomah was a worthwhile flier at more modest DFS prices. But his DraftKings salary is up $700 from last week, and his FanDuel salary is up $500. And Uzomah remains outside the top 30 at his position with a 9.2% target rate this season. You can try him as a bye-week fill-in in traditional leagues, but I would steer clear in the daily formats.