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Inside the Matchup
Week 8
10/25/17; Updated: 10/27/17

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Jake Gordon


CAR @ TB | CHI @ NO | HOU @ SEA | DEN @ KC



- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Dolphins @ Ravens - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: A rib injury to starter Jay Cutler opened the door for Matt Moore, a favorite backup to some in the fantasy community, to take over the starting role in the interim as the Dolphins travel to take on the Ravens on Thursday Night Football. Moore breathed some life into the stagnant Dolphins offense with 188 yards passing and two touchdowns in a come-from-behind win at home against the Jets.

Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry were the primary beneficiaries to Moore taking over the starting role, with the two wideouts combining for 178 yards and three scores on 20 targets. Stills’ recent increase in targets and touchdown production is directly connected to DeVante Parker missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Parker is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game and was unable to practice on Monday, but does look likely to start on Thursday.

Baltimore, the fourth-most difficult pass defense regarding points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks, presents a more difficult challenge for Moore than the Jets offered Week 7. Aside from the outlying four-touchdown performance by Blake Bortles in London, the Ravens have not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than one passing touchdown in a game. The stellar performance by the Ravens defense has not equated to wins, as Joe Flacco and the floundering Baltimore offense has been unable to keep the Ravens in games.

Three of the five starting offensive linemen for the Dolphins were limited or did not participate in practice on Monday, headlined by right tackle Laremy Tunsil who missed practice with a knee injury. Defensively for Baltimore, starting cornerback Jimmy Smith missed Monday’s practice as he continues to deal with a knee injury and safety Eric Weddle was limited due to an ankle ailment. Both players are expected to play on Thursday.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: To say that Jay Ajayi has been a bust through the first half of the fantasy season would be an understatement. Despite ranking sixth in attempts (125), Ajayi ranks 27th in fantasy points per game (8.2) and has yet to find the end zone. The former Boise State Bronco has been nursing a sore left knee all season and was limited in practice on Monday with toe, knee, and elbow issues.

If there were ever a game for Ajayi to break out, it would be against the Ravens, a team that ranks fifth in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Five separate RB’s have managed to post double-digit performances against Baltimore this year, including Latavius Murray, who rushed for 113 yards and a score on 18 carries last week in Minnesota.

The return of defensive lineman Brandon Williams, one of the better run-stopping D-lineman in the league, would shore up a leaky Ravens run defense. That thought did not come to fruition, as the Ravens allowed 169 yards on 33 carries to Murray and Jerick McKinnon.

One factor that could derail an Ajayi breakout game is the health of the Dolphins offensive line that has three players banged up with various injuries. If the short week does not allow center Mike Pouncey or left tackle Laremy Tunsil to play, Ajayi could be in for another disappointing week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Moore (Low-Ed)
RB1: Jay Ajayi (Low-End)
WR2: Jarvis Landry (High-End)
WR3: DeVante Parker (Injury concerns)
WR3: Kenny Stills (Low-End)
TE2: Julius Thomas (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: In a game that pits the two worst passing offenses in the NFL in terms of total yards per game, Joe Flacco ranks 28th in passing yards, and his 70.0 passer rating is second-worst only two rookie DeShone Kizer (47.8). Injuries to critical members of the offensive line and receiving corps have greatly limited the effectiveness of the Baltimore passing game, while poor play an inaccuracy by Flacco has also attributed to a disappointing 2017 for the Ravens.

On a positive note for Flacco and the passing game, starting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace participated in team drills on Tuesday and look primed to play against the Dolphins but check the inactive list prior to gametime. Starting wide receivers have found mixed results this season against Baltimore, with five players posting double-digit games, highlighted by Michael Thomas’ 8/39/1 line Week 4.

In a surprising move, veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell was released by Miami on Monday after a disappointing two years with the team after signing six-year, $63 million contract in 2015. The former Seattle Seahawk cornerback who used the team’s Super Bowl victory as a springboard to a lucrative contract played poorly in his stint with the Dolphins before losing his starting job to rookie Cordea Tankersley.

Running back Buck Allen continues to be the primary pass-catching option out of the backfield, with a team-high eight catches on 11 targets in Sunday’s loss to the Vikings. At a mere 3.6 yard per reception and no touchdowns, his value last week and this week resides mostly in PPR formats.

Even in a bye-nado week where six teams are on a break, there are numerous streaming quarterback plays more attractive than Joe Flacco. With zero 300-yard or three touchdown games on his 2017 resume and zero touchdowns in three of seven contests, Flacco does not present a high floor or a high ceiling for fantasy owners.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: The Irish-Dancing fueled emergence of Alex Collins into a viable NFL running back is a great story. A second-year back cast off from Seattle finds himself in a starting role after injuries and suspensions hit the incumbent starting corps. At just under six yards per carry, Collins has been one of the more efficient running backs in the NFL, but the fact that he has yet to score a touchdown this season makes him a low-end No.2 RB or flex play.

Collins may find it challenging to notch his first touchdown this week against a Dolphins team that has been stout against the run after giving up 13.8 points Week 1 to Melvin Gordon. No running back has topped more than 68 yards against the Phins and only Tevin Coleman has managed to score a rushing TD against the Miami defense since Week 3.

Of the two backs, Buck Allen has the clearer path to fantasy relevance as the pass-catching option for Flacco. Although he typically scores the majority of his points in the second half of games in which the Ravens are ahead, Allen managed to post his eight catches last week when the Ravens were trailing the Vikings.

The unpredictable nature of Thursday Night games and the difficulties the short week of preparation presents makes all offensive players in the game questionable starts. With two of the league’s worst offenses taking on each other on a short week, one could argue to two best fantasy options are the defensive units for these two teams.

Value Meter:
QB3: Joe Flacco (Low-Ed)
RB3: Alex Collins (High-End)
RB3: Javorius Allen (High-End)
WR3: Jeremy Maclin (Low-End)
WR3: Mike Wallace (Low-End)
TE2: Ben Watson (High-End)

Prediction: Dolphins 20, Ravens 17 ^ Top

Vikings @ Browns (Twickenham, England) - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Vikings received a double-bonus from the scheduling committee this season with one of their “road” games taking place on a neutral field in Twickenham, England as part of the NFL’s international series. Not only do the Vikings get the benefit of not playing an actual road game this week, but they also get to play against the hapless Browns who continue to be the laughing stock of the league.

The three London games played in 2017 have been dominated by teams with solid defensive units going against struggling offenses. That narrative looks to be in play once again this week as the Vikings’ 10th-ranked defense should have little trouble shutting down rookie DeShone Kizer and the 21st-ranked Browns offense.

Offensively for the Vikings, quarterback Case Keenum will start his fifth game of the season in reserve of injured Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Keenum has been serviceable from a real-life football perspective, leading the Vikings to wins over Chicago, Green Bay, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, but his 15.4 fantasy points per game average places him outside the realm of a trustworthy fantasy option as the 29th ranked QB.

But with six teams on bye and many owners scouring the waiver wire for a fill-in play, Keenum could be an option as the Browns struggle defensively against the pass (11th-most points to opposing quarterbacks). Marcus Mariota is the only opposing quarterback this season to not post at least 17 fantasy points against the Browns, with Jacoby Brissett and Andy Dalton each scoring over 30 points against Cleveland.

The possible return of No.1 wideout Stefon Diggs from a groin injury would be an added bonus for Keenum and the Viking passing offense. Diggs and Keenum connected on eight passes for 173 yards and two scores against the Bucs Week 3 in what turned out to be the best game of Keenum’s five-year NFL career. Head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday that Diggs will make the trip to London with the team - a positive sign that Diggs may return to the field in a very attractive matchup against Cleveland. Diggs was also a full participant in Thursday’s practice.

A matchup preview of the Browns would not be complete without the prerequisite recommendation of starting tight ends against Cleveland. Only the Giants have allowed more points this season to the position than Cleveland and no team over the past two seasons has given up more receiving touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Needless to say that Kyle Rudolph is a nice option this week, despite the fact that Rudolph and Keenum have yet to find a rapport this year.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: It took a bit of research to find one thing that the Browns have done well this season as a team. Their offense ranks in the bottom half of the league, DeShone Kizer is dead last in quarterback rating, Isaiah Crowell has been a bust despite promises from head coach Hue Jackson about increasing his usage, and the Browns pass defense is just behind New England for most passing TDs allowed on the year.

The one thing that Browns can do is shut down the run game on defense, as evident by the fact that they ranked 26th in fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. Big name running backs like Le’Veon Bell, Lamar Miller, DeMarco Murray, and Jeremy Hill (I kid) have failed to deliver solid performances against this unit. In fact, only the venerable Frank Gore has managed to score a rushing touchdown against the Browns (despite just 57 yards on 25 carries).

Both Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray are viable fantasy starts this week, as McKinnon will be active in the passing game and a likely positive game script fueled by a lopsided first half will give Murray a chance to rack up closing stats as the Vikings run out the clock in the second half. But expectations on Murray should be tempered somewhat due to the Browns proficiency at stopping big bruising backs.

Value Meter:
QB2: Case Keenum (Low-End)
RB2: Latavius Murray (Low-End)
RB2: Jerick McKinnon (Low-End)
WR1: Adam Thielen (Low-End)
WR2: Stefon Diggs (Injury Concerns)
TE1: Kyle Rudolph (Low-end)

Passing Game Thoughts: Head coach Hue Jackson continues to spin the QB roulette wheel in Cleveland, with rookie DeShone Kizer benched last week after struggling to score an offensive touchdown against Tennessee. Cody Kessler replaced Kizer and was equally ineffective and inefficient, and Jackson has once again decided to return to Kizer this week in London.

It may surprise some to learn that the combination of Kizer, Kessler, and Kevin Hogan have combined for 139.8 fantasy points on the season, which is 13th-most in the league through seven weeks. The Browns trio of passers have scored more points than Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and of course Joe Flacco.

Despite their combined fantasy success in the midst of a season to forget, none of them are worthy of a start this week in any format. The Vikings allow the 5th-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, and no QB has thrown for more than two touchdowns. Jameis Winston’s 24.8 points in Week 3 are the most scored against Zimmer’s defensive unit this year, which included three interceptions in a 34-17 blowout loss for the Bucs.

The defensive unit for the Vikings enters the game reasonably healthy with cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Mackenzie Alexander limited with hamstring and hip ailments, while defensive end Stephen Weatherly was unable to practice Wednesday due to a knee injury.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: The dreadful 2017 season for early-round bust Isaiah Crowell continued last week with a horrendous 35-yard performance on 17 carries. In somewhat of a surprising turn of events, Crow did salvage his week somewhat for PPR owners with four catches for 36 yards on six targets.

Duke Johnson continues to be the more efficient running back and most effective passing weapon with 26 yards on seven carries and 45 yards on six receptions. Both running backs will find it difficult this week against the Vikings, a unit that has allowed the second-fewest points this season. Only Ameer Abdullah has managed to score a rushing touchdown against the Vikings run defense and only two backs on 185 combined touches have managed to top 10 fantasy points in a game.

If forced to choose between the two, Johnson continues to make more sense as he is a skilled pass catcher who can thrive in negative game scripts. Crowell’s value is capped as an early-down back dependent on touchdowns, something he has failed to achieve in 2017.

Value Meter:
QB2: DeShone Kizer (Low-End)
RB2: Duke Johnson (High-End)
RB3: Isaiah Crowell (High-End)
WR4: Kenny Britt (Low-End)
WR5: Rashard Higgins (Low-End)
TE2: David Njoku (Low-End)

Prediction: Vikings 34, Browns 10 ^ Top

Colts @ Bengals - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: After a 27-0 blowout loss at home to the Jaguars last week, the Colts face another tough opponent as they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. The success of any passing game starts with protection and the ability of the offensive line to provide enough time for the quarterback to examine the defense and make an accurate throw. This basic fundamental of football has escaped the 2017 Colts, a team that has allowed the most quarterback sacks this season (a whopping 4.0 per game). Second-year quarterback Jacoby Brissett has not been afforded enough time to make plays in the passing game, and all skill position players on the Colts have suffered as a result.

Brissett looks poised for another Sunday of scrambling for his life against a Bengals defense that is tied for fifth in quarterback sacks on the season, led by linebacker Carl Lawson with 3.5. The Bengals have been stout this season against the pass (26th overall in points allowed), with only Aaron Rodgers scoring more than 20 points in a game this season.

The big play ability of T.Y. Hilton to score from anywhere on the field and the hefty volume of targets for tight end Jack Doyle make both players viable starters, but expectations should be tempered for both players. Injuries to cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Adam Jones would bump up the projections for Hilton if either player is unable to play.

Knee and pelvis injuries to starting center Ryan Kelly is something to keep an eye on as we approach Sunday, as an absence of Kelly in this matchup would make an already weak offensive line worse. If for some reason the Bengal defensive unit is available in your league, I highly recommend picking them up and starting them against the Colts.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: The 25th-ranked offensive line in 2016 according to ProFootballFocus is once again one of the worst in the league in both run blocking and pass protection. The Colts enter Week 8 ranked 22nd in fantasy points scored by running backs, with Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, and Robert Turbin (IR with an elbow injury) combined for 108 fantasy points on 191 touches.

The injury to Turbin and pedestrian 3.4 YPC for Gore will likely open the door for rookie Mack to earn more touches in the second half of the season. Mack rushed for 26 yards on five carries while adding four receptions for 40 yards in last week’s 27-0 blowout loss to the Jaguars. With a similar trailing from behind game script likely in the cards for the Colts, Mack could be an excellent flex option against the Bengals.

Cincinnati is stout against the run, and only Terrance West has managed to score a rushing touchdown against the Bengals rush defense, making Gore a risky option considering his value is linked to rushing TDs. Mack, on the other hand, could excel in the passing game, as three running backs have logged nine or more targets out of the backfield vs. Cincy in 2017, highlighted by Duke Johnson’s nine catch game in Week 4.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jacoby Brissett (Low-End)
RB3: Marlon Mack (High-End)
RB3: Frank Gore (High-End)
WR1: T.Y. Hilton (Mid-Range))
TE1: Jack Doyle (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton overcame a dreadful five-turnover game Week 1 against the Ravens and a touchdown drought that lasted two games to once again become a viable fantasy quarterback. The Red Rifle took advantage of bad defenses in weeks three and four, posting 18.4 and 33.2 points respectively against Green Bay and Cleveland.

The Colts have a defense that is even worse than the two teams Dalton beat up on for 51 combined fantasy points, making him an excellent play this week, along with wideout A.J. Green. Green’s 12.1 fantasy points per game places him seventh among wide receivers, just ahead of Mike Evans and Michael Crabtree. Green ranks just inside the top twelve in targets this season (57), and his 545 receiving yards is second only to Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown. Needless to say, Green is a great start this week and should surpass his 12.1 average points per game, with a negative game script caused by defensive touchdowns by the Bengals acting as the one main threat to a big offensive game for the former Georgia Bulldog.

Owners in need of a bye-week replacement should consider starting tight end Tyler Kroft against the Colts. Indy has allowed the ninth-most points to opposing tight ends, including a career-high seven catches for 81 yards and a score for 49ers rookie George Kittle in Week 5. Kroft is available in 61% of Yahoo leagues, despite the fact that he has a top-10 matchup and has scored a touchdown in two of his last three games.

Brandon LaFell could also be a sneaky play considering the fact that he has 15 targets in his last two games, for nine catches and one receiving touchdown. With cornerback Vontae Davis likely shadowing Green for most of the game, Dalton could use his other wideout to attack the subpar Colts pass defense.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie Joe Mixon looked like the future stud running back most people anticipated last Sunday against the Steelers, rising for 48 yards on seven carries, while adding three catches for 20 yards. A negative game script and a head-scratching decision my head coach Marvin Jones limited Mixon to a few carries in the second half and Jones continues to incorporate sloth-like Jeremy Hill and his 3.2 YPC average.

Mixon shared his displeasure regarding his limited use to reporters after the game, bringing up the possibility of two contradictory narratives. Will Lewis see the error in his ways and give the squeaky wheel rookie more touches, or will a head coach known for his stubbornness punish Mixon for speaking out by limiting his workload? Your guess is as good as mine, but if forced to choose one outcome, I lean toward the former with Mixon having a great game against a Colts defense that has allowed the second-most points this season to opposing running backs.

The forgotten man in the Bengal trio backfield is Giovani Bernard. The veteran third-down and change of pace back has seen his volume decrease in each of the past four games to the point in which he is fantasy irrelevant in all formats. Hopefully, Marvin Lewis will move to a two-back rotation with Mixon working as the first and second down back, and Bernard handling third and passing down duties. But until that happens, Bernard should be dropped in all formats.

Value Meter:
QB1: Andy Dalton (Low-End)
RB1: Joe Mixon (Low-End)
WR1: A.J. Green (Elite)
WR3: Brandon LaFell (High-End)
TE1: Tyler Kroft (Low-End)

Prediction: Bengals 24, Colts 21 ^ Top

Steelers @ Lions - (Swanson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Winners of two straight games, including an impressive victory over the Chiefs on the road at Arrowhead in Week 6, the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger face another difficult challenge this week with the Lions at Ford Field. After a season-high 55 pass attempts against Jacksonville in a lopsided 30-9 loss, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and head coach Mike Tomlin decided to focus on the run with Le’Veon Bell, while limiting the number of passes thrown by Big Ben. Roethlisberger threw 49 passes combined in the team’s two wins while limiting the number of interceptions to just one.

Limiting interceptions will once again be essential for the Steelers as they take on a Lions team that is tied for second in interceptions forced (9) on the year. Detroit ranks 19th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, with Matt Ryan and Cam Newton as the only two opposing QB’s to score more than 18 points in a game.

The off-field drama surrounding Martavis Bryant and his frustrations regarding not getting enough passes in the Pittsburgh scheme led to a demotion of Bryant to the practice squad and subsequent deactivation this week against Detroit. The absence of Bryant opposite all-pro Antonio Brown opens the door for rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster to get more action. The second-round selection from USC had three touchdowns on the season and 231 yards on just 19 targets. An increase in usage this week, especially with Antonio Brown shadowed by Darius Slay, could equate to a big game for Smith-Schuster.

Tight end Jessie James has been missing in action for most of the season after starting off with a monster two-touchdown game Week 1 vs. Cleveland. His target share is not large enough to consider playing him in ten team leagues, but owners dealing with bye week blues in larger formats may want to consider him a flyer. Detroit has been susceptible to tight ends (12th most points in six games) this season, and their ball-hawking secondary tends to omit coverage on tight ends. Just ask anyone who lucked out Week 5 when Ed Dickson and Cam Newton torched the Lions for 175 yards. While a huge game like that is not likely, James could be a sneaky start with touchdown upside.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Le’Veon Bell leads as running backs in carries (169) and targeted (33) this season as the all-pro running back continues to be the focal point of the Steelers offense. With 30 or more touches in three of his last four games, it begs the question if his ridiculously high workload could lead to overuse and injury.

Regardless of whether or not Tomlin is playing with fire when it comes to the health of Bell, it would behoove the Steelers to continue to feed their workhorse this week. The way to beat the Lions is with the run (7th-most fantasy points allowed to RB’s), and the Steelers have the blueprint to victory set up with their last two wins based on limiting Big Ben’s throws pounding the rock.

The Lions come off the bye reasonably healthy on the defensive side of the ball with defensive end Ziggy Ansah and linebacker Paul Worrilow dealing with knee injuries. Both players were limited in practice on Wednesday but appear to be on track to play. Safety Glover Quinn was a full participant in practice yesterday as he deals with a concussion.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ben Roethlisberger (High-End)
RB1: Le’Veon Bell (Elite)
WR1: Antonio Brown (Elite)
WR3: JuJu Smith-Schuster (High-End)
TE2: Jesse James (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Steelers present a difficult matchup for Matthew Stafford and the Lions in that the strength of the Pittsburgh unit is their pass defense, while the Lions’ most effective tool is the passing game. To beat the Steelers, you need to play solid defense and run the ball. It is an old school way of playing football, especially by today’s NFL standards, but it has proven to be the winning formula in 2017.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford faces a difficult task of moving the ball against a Steelers unit that trails only Jacksonville in fewest points allowed. Although those stats are somewhat skewed by the fact that Pittsburgh has only one top-12 quarterback in Alex Smith, there is no denying the efficiency in which the Steelers have limited opposing quarterbacks to an average of 172 yards per game.

In a surprise to many, Golden Tate showed up as a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, opening the door for a possible early return from a shoulder injury that was previously thought to keep Tate on the shelf for a few weeks. Fellow wide receiver and deep threat Kenny Golladay also managed to get in a limited practice after missing the last few weeks with a hamstring injury. Tate still appears to be a long shot to play, while Golladay missed practice on Thursday suggesting he will be inactive on Sunday. T.J. Jones and RB Theo Riddick could play a bigger role in the passing game.

The Steelers are relatively injury-free on the defensive side of the ball with only defensive end Stephon Tuitt limited with a back injury. Pittsburgh beat reporter James Wexell reported via Twitter on Sunday that Tuitt will miss the game.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The Lions enter Week 8 as one of the worst rushing teams in the league, with 85.6 fantasy points scored in six games (14.3 FPts/G). The combination of Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, and Dwayne Washington have just two rushing touchdowns on the season while averaging a pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry.

The fact that the Lions struggle against the run does not bode well for the team in terms of x’s & o’s, as the best way to attack the Steelers is on the ground and not through the air. Ameer Abdullah has shown some promise this year, but he has only one game with 20 or more carries and continues to be limited on the goal line. Theo Riddick is not getting enough volume in either the passing or ground game, and he has been surprisingly inefficient when given his limited carries.

Perhaps the Lions will renew their focus on the run, giving Abdullah at least 20 carries similar to their game plan against Minnesota. Another option could be for offensive coordinator JimBob Cooter to use short passes to Abdullah and Riddick as an extension of the run. Pittsburgh has allowed the seventh-most receptions to running backs this season, and the Steelers can be beaten on screens.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford (High-End)
RB2: Ameer Abdullah (Low-End)
RB2: Theo Riddick (Low-End
WR2: Marvin Jones (Low-End)
WR3: Kenny Golladay (Low-End, if he plays)
TE3: Eric Ebron (Low-End)

Prediction: Steelers 24, Lions 21 ^ Top

Panthers @ Buccaneers - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week’s performance against the Bears was a reminder of Cam Newton’s struggles as a passer in the NFL and the risks he presents in the fantasy realm. He is simply not accurate and isn’t padding his weekly fantasy totals with his legs. He is now 49 for his last 86 passing attempts with only one passing touchdown and five interceptions. That’s almost the opposite of his two-game totals for Weeks 4 and 5 this year. There is a decent fantasy ceiling with Newton but the floor is awfully low as well. Carolina’s gregarious quarterback hasn’t had the best numbers against the Bucs in his career so I’d be hesitant to use him this week on the road. That being said, Tampa Bay is allowing the second most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks so there is hope for a rebound from the entire Carolina passing game in Week 8. Outside of his tough match up a week ago, Devin Funchess has proven to be more good than bad over the past month. He and Kelvin Benjamin are the best bets to find the end zone this week assuming the offense can cut down on its turnovers. Ed Dickson has played well in relief of Greg Olsen but he isn’t getting enough targets to be a difference maker for fantasy managers.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Eighty-seven. That is the amount of rushing yards the Panthers have gained between weeks five and seven. Needless to say, that is the fewest of any NFL team during the same span (Denver had more with one less game played). I’ve been pretty supportive of Jonathan Stewart in recent weeks thinking that things would turn around but now I’m less confident. What should be a two-headed nightmare for defenses has been tamed. He isn’t a lock to see 15 touches each game and he hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 1’s touchdown reception. The Bucs have yielded five touchdowns over their past five games and Stewart scored his last rushing touchdown against Tampa in Week 17. I’m not starting him over everyone but he is definitely in the flex conversation. Christian McCaffrey is the X-factor this offense needs to take off. He poses so many matchup problems that he will continue to compile solid fantasy totals via the passing attack.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton
RB2: Christian McCaffrey (PPR)
WR2: Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess
Flex: Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffery (Standard)
Bench: Russell Shepard, Ed Dickson

Passing Game Thoughts: Tampa Bay is averaging more offensive total yards per game-392.8 to be exact-than anyone not named the Patriots this season. That result is coming from the league’s second most pass-friendly play calling with the Bucs passing on nearly 65-percent of its play calls through six games played. So why is Jameis Winston ranked eleventh in fantasy points scored game (standard)? His per game averages are being brought down his lousy Week 6 stat line and his season totals haven only started to catch up since the team had its bye in Week 1. The truth is that the defense is been bad and the reins are off Winston. He has a good shot at adding a fifth 300-yard passing game to his 2017 ledger this week against the Panthers so get your guys into the lineup. O. J. Howards two-touchdown effort a week ago has resuscitated the hype around the rookie tight end. Don’t be fooled, Brate received more targets in the same game and remains the better tight end to own as Tampa tries to right the ship following three straight losses.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Carolina looks like a different team playing without Luke Kuechly (concussion). His return this week would drop Doug Martin’s value down a peg or two but he remains a low end RB2 entering Week 8. Martin has seen his workload decrease since returning to the field this season. He has been able to keep his fantasy owners happy by riding the coattails of the passing game into the end zone in two of his three games played. This divisional rivalry should be pretty close throughout but Martin has only scored once in six games versus the Panthers. Given his touchdown dependent scoring lines lately, I’d try to find another option this week. Jacquizz Rodgers has seen minimal work since returning to a backup role.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jameis Winston
WR1: Mike Evans
WR2: DeSean Jackson
TE1: Cameron Brate
Flex: Doug Martin
Bench: Jacquizz Rodgers, O.J. Howard, Adam Humphries

Prediction: Buccaneers 21, Panthers 20 ^ Top

Bears @ Saints - (Gordon)

Passing Game Thoughts: As a fantasy owner It’s tough to love a passing game that only attempts seven passes in an entire game let alone one in which there are few playmakers. That is what Chicago is bringing to the table with rookie starter Mitchell Trubisky under center. Da Bears are dead last in fantasy points scored by quarterbacks and wide receivers over the past three weeks. Those stats are not born out of poor play, however, as the Bears have played quality defensive units over that stretch. This week should provide a better barometer of what fantasy owners can expect from Chicago’s passing scheme over the rest of the year. It’s unlikely that the Bears defense will shut down the Saints offense enough to allow the offense to be so conservative this weekend. That should open the doors for Trubisky to shatter his current high-water mark of 128 passing yards in this contest but it isn’t nearly enough to make him a starting fantasy option. It does however, make it plausible for Chicago to have a worthwhile flex receiver this week. The only problem is that there isn’t a true touchdown threat amongst this group of receivers. Chicago pulled off a rare trade to upgrade its talent at the WR position but Dontrelle Inman isn’t likely to make an impact after only a handful of days with the team. If you feel like dipping your toes in the frigid waters of this passing attack, TE Zach Miller is the best gamble. The veteran tight end is the team’s best red zone target and could easily see an uptick in production for Week 8 if there are more passes to go around.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: The media spotlight may be on Mitchell Trubisky’s development, or lack thereof, in the passing game but the fantasy spotlight is on the Bears’ rushing game. Jordan Howard hasn’t seen less than 19 touches over the past five weeks and is easily the strongest fantasy player the team has to offer this week. Unfortunately, he has become a volume based RB2 that is playing a team that typically forces teams to abandon the run. Not the Bears. They have no other choice but to stick with the run if they have any hope of winning games in 2017. That’s good news for Howard owners but it still doesn’t paint a great picture for his outlook this week. New Orleans has only given up two rushing scores to running backs on the season and I’m not sure the Bears will have many opportunities to score touchdowns in this game. They are amongst the worst in attaining first downs and have already seen eight drives end due to a lost fumble this year. Tarik Cohen is the play-making counterpart to Howard’s yeoman role. Cohen is a logical choice to see a ton of work out of the backfield in the second half if the Bears are trailing by more than two scores. He salvaged his Week 7 day with a lone 70-yard reception. The youngster hasn’t had much luck on the ground in recent weeks so he is dependent on a passing game that hasn’t taken the reins off its rookie quarterback. With more passes in the forecast I’d consider deploying Cohen as a flex in PPR leagues but pump the brakes in traditional scoring leagues.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jordan Howard
TE1: Zach Miller (low end)
Flex: Kendall Wright, Tarik Cohen (PPR only)
Bench: Everyone else

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees is coming off back-to-back two-interception games to face one of the better defenses in the league in Week 8. Nonetheless, the Saints are one of the top five offenses in the NFL and present fantasy owners with plenty of starting options this week. If you happen to own a quality backup to Brees with a better matchup there is an argument to be made for sitting Brees. I don’t think this game will turn into a blowout unless turnovers pile up for the Bears so expect New Orleans’ pass catchers to hit their averages this weekend. Which receiver to own after Michael Thomas is the tougher question. Brandon Coleman out-snapped Ted Ginn Jr. 54 to 39 in Week 7. Yet Ginn had the bigger fantasy day to remain the better fantasy option between the two. However, Willie Snead (hamstring) was able to practice in full this week. Snead is a major threat to steal playing time away from Ginn this year but until it happens it is tough to predict how the targets will be split. Anyone getting regular looks in this offense should be on the fantasy map, but this could be a week where fantasy owners choose to wait and see how the passing game is affected with Snead in the lineup.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Over the past three weeks only Jacksonville has scored more fantasy points with their running backs than New Orleans. The tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are getting it done for the Saints and fantasy owners despite splitting the workload. You can look at the snap count and adjust your weekly projections but they are both worth starting in all formats. Kamara plays up in PPR leagues but he has had at least 80 total yards in each of his last three games. In a lesser offense I may consider holding the rookie out in a tough matchup. However, the recent play of this backfield and struggles of the opposing offense should translate into plenty of work for both running backs in Week 8.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees
RB2: Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara
WR1: Michael Thomas
Bench: Ted Ginn Jr., Willie Snead, Coby Fleener, Brandon Coleman

Prediction: Saints 26, Bears 12 ^ Top

Texans @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The only thing that could stop the dominance of Deshaun Watson was the one thing he couldn’t control - the bye week. Prior to that, Watson had been perhaps the biggest surprise breakout superstar of the 2017 season. However, after facing some suspect secondaries like the Patriots, Titans, Chiefs and Browns, Watson now faces perhaps the most daunting possible matchup - a road game against the Seahawks and the 12th Man. Seattle has given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season and only one quarterback has thrown for more than one touchdown in a game against them thus far. In fact, they’ve held four of their six opponents to fewer than 10 fantasy points at the QB position. Of course, Watson is another animal in comparison to any of the other QB’s they’ve played against, but the most comparable QB they’ve gone against is probably Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett, who was held to 157 passing yards with one touchdown and 33 rushing yards.

Watson is still a borderline QB1 this week but temper your expectations as this might be the week he comes back down to Earth. If he doesn’t, however, it’s all systems go for Watson being perhaps a top-three fantasy QB for the remainder of the season. As far as receivers go, expect both DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller to see their fair share of Richard Sherman. Still, Hopkins himself is a borderline WR1 simply due to the target share he sees and the likelihood that he’ll be moved all over the field to take advantage of other defensive matchups. Fuller’s reception totals have remained low and his touchdown rate is completely unsustainable but it’s hard to argue with success. Put him in your lineup as a low-end WR2 or Flex option, but he’s probably better used in non-PPR formats.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: While Lamar Miller certainly hasn’t set the fantasy world on fire this season, it’s true that the running game still revolves around him and D’Onta Foreman is unfortunately unusable for fantasy purposes as long as Miller is healthy. Miller has carried the ball between 14 to 19 times in every game this season and he’s been surprisingly decent in the passing game, but he’s only been a fantasy RB1 in one game so far this season. The Seahawks have been elite against opposing running backs as well, having allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position and they have not given up more than 65 rushing yards in a contest since Week 3. On paper, this looks like a tough game for Miller, who is still a mid-level RB2 because of his consistent usage but his upside is also fairly limited.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson (low-end)
RB2: Lamar Miller
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
Flex: Will Fuller
Bench: D’Onta Foreman, Bruce Ellington, Ryan Griffin

Passing Game Thoughts: You get the feeling that the big game from Russell Wilson is coming. It sort of came this past week when Wilson lit up the Giants for 334 yards and three scores. Still, his running really hasn’t been there despite the fact that he appears to be back to his old, mobile self. Doug Baldwin has had a tough start to the season but he got back on track this past week as well, when he caught nine passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Graham has also now scored touchdowns in back-to-back weeks and appears to be one of the top options at the position again. In Week 8, Graham will get a Texans defense that gave up 98 yards to Travis Kelce and 89 yards with a touchdown to Rob Gronkowski, so make sure to get him in your lineup. Wilson has the ability to light this defense up and should be a locked in QB1 as long as the team is struggling with running the ball with their running backs. Essentially their entire offense has to go through him.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Running game? What running game? Seriously, this situation is about as bad as it gets. An offense that hasn’t been able to run the ball all season with a cluttered backfield where as many as four players are getting carries on a week-to-week basis does not inspire much confidence for fantasy purposes. The one player who might still be able to produce numbers because of his pass catching ability is C.J. Prosise but he’s been hobbled with injuries and seems unlikely to play this week against the Texans. If you’re absolutely desperate, you could roll the dice on Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy and hope for a short-yardage touchdown, but that’s about what it has become at this point for the Seattle running game. No player is worth much for fantasy purposes, especially this week against a Houston defense that has given up the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs with only one total rushing touchdown given up on the season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson
WR1: Doug Baldwin
TE1: Jimmy Graham
Flex: Paul Richardson
Bench: Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, J.D. McKissic, C.J. Prosise, Tyler Lockett

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Texans 20 ^ Top

Broncos @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off of one of the worst performances of his professional career, Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian has to look to get back on track if he wants to even hold onto this job going forward. Thankfully, this week he’ll get one of the secondaries that has been lit up multiple times this season, the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City has given up 20 or more points to opposing QBs in four of their seven games this season, including a monster three touchdown and 400-yard performance to Derek Carr this past week. It’s certainly reasonable to bench Trevor Siemian as he has looked terrible, but his receivers - specifically Demaryius Thomas - look like great options in this contest. The thing to watch in this game is the health of Emmanuel Sanders who is still not practicing after injuring his ankle in Week 6. The Broncos-Chiefs game is a Monday night contest and while the team has hinted that Sanders has a chance to play, it doesn’t look particularly likely that he will. If he’s unable to suit up, look for Bennie Fowler to get a chance to play yet again. Fowler actually led the team in snaps at wide receiver this past week and was also the team’s most productive pass catcher against the Chargers. Fowler himself does have some Flex-worthy upside in this matchup if Sanders does not play. If Sanders is able to play, however, he likely won’t be at full capacity, which would significantly limit his upside, so he should probably still be benched for fantasy purposes, at least for the time being.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: C.J. Anderson is still the lead dog in the Denver backfield, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to trust him for fantasy purposes as he has now failed to exceed 11 touches in back-to-back contests - both multiple-score losses to the Giants and Chargers. The game script of being behind on the scoreboard rarely leads to fantasy production for running backs, but that is especially true for players like Anderson who are not used much in the passing game. One player to watch out for in potential blowout losses for Denver is fellow running back Devontae Booker who has creeped back up into fantasy relevance with a couple of decent pass catching games in these blowout losses. If Booker is able to continue to make plays in the passing game, he may work himself into more playing time than the 34 total snaps he has seen in the past two weeks. This game does look like another potential big loss for the Broncos, so be careful with Anderson as he may be limited again in touches.

Value Meter:
RB1: C.J. Anderson (low-end)
WR2: Demaryius Thomas
Flex: Bennie Fowler
Bench: Trevor Siemian

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs were unable to get back in the win column this past week but their offense continues to roll at a ridiculous pace as Alex Smith has now thrown 15 touchdowns without a single interception this season. To put that into perspective, in less than half of a season, Smith has now thrown as many touchdowns as he did in the entire 2016 season. While this pace seems unsustainable, the weapons are making it so that we have to consider Smith a QB1 for the time being. While the Broncos are great against the pass and have held Smith in check in the past, this appears to be a totally different Chiefs offense and it’s going to be tough to keep Smith on your fantasy bench even in this admittedly difficult matchup.

One place that the Broncos have quietly struggled is against opposing tight ends. They’ve given up at least 60 receiving yards to the position in five straight contests, including three touchdowns over that span, and they rank in the bottom five in the league in fantasy points per game conceded to opposing tight ends. Needless to say, with Kelce already being a must-start on a week-to-week basis, he now moves into possibly being ranked as the No. 1 tight end in the league this week in what should be a game where he is targeted heavily. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill might not have as easy of a time getting open as he’ll be lined up against perhaps the league’s best cornerback trio no matter where he goes on the field, but he is the type of player who just needs that one crease to take it to the house. Still, because of the matchup, he’s more of a WR2 this week instead of being the low-end WR1 with big upside that he usually is. Demarcus Robinson saw a bit of a breakout this past week, catching five passes for 69 yards against the Raiders, but it’d be wise to wait on deploying him in fantasy lineups, especially in what could be the toughest matchup he sees all season. Still, keep an eye on Robinson as the Chiefs do need another receiver to step up now that Chris Conley is on IR.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: After absolutely torching defenses for the first month of the season, Kareem Hunt has cooled off a bit over the past three weeks. Still, the rookie tailback continues to produce big numbers overall and he has compiled over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this season. The Broncos defense remains excellent against opposing running backs this season, having held opposing backs to fewer than 80 rushing yards in all but one game, but Hunt’s usage is just too much. If the Chiefs get out to a lead, as many expect that they will, Hunt should touch the ball around 20 total times in this contest, which would almost certainly lead to him having an RB2 floor with the potential, again, to be one of the high-end producers at his position. It’s a tough matchup, but the Chiefs are at home - don’t get cute. Start this super-stud back every week until he gives us a reason to not trust him.

Value Meter:
QB1: Alex Smith
RB1: Kareem Hunt
WR2: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce (high-end)
Bench: Charcandrick West, Demarcus Robinson, Albert Wilson, De’Anthony Thomas

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Broncos 17 ^ Top

Chargers at Patriots - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: In two games against the Broncos, Philip Rivers has five touchdowns and one interception. You would think that bodes well for a matchup against a pass defense that has allowed a 300-yard passer in every game in which they haven’t faced Matt Ryan. Rivers only threw for 183 yards last week and two touchdowns but he’s on track to post the lowest completion percentage of his career. Rivers has devolved into a one read QB. He looks at Keenan Allen and if Allen isn’t open, he just checks it down to Melvin Gordon. Allen had a down week last week as the Broncos inability to do anything on offense allowed the Chargers to just sit on their lead.

Allen is a strong WR1 play this week in what should be a higher scoring contest. As for Tyrell Williams, he may actually be playable, but he only saw one target last week and is not someone Rivers deliberately looks for. At tight end, the Hunter Henry ascension is on full display. Antonio Gates still won’t retire, but at least he is fading into the background. Henry continues to out-snap Gates and now has 20 targets over his last three games. He has become an every week option at the position.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Melvin Gordon has spent his entire career being inefficient and ineffective. He is not good at football however, for fantasy, we don’t care as long as he’s getting the ball. Gordon put up a dud last week, but still saw 18 carries and four targets. The opportunity is not going anywhere and neither are the goal line carries, even if coach Anthony Lynn is so uncreative that he runs four consecutive dives from the one-yard line. Gordon’s owners can’t be pleased about the four failures, but have to be encouraged by the usage. Gordon should have more success against the Patriots, particularly in the passing game. Austin Ekeler somehow caught four passes for six yards and a touchdown last week. He is the satellite back and the guy to own if Gordon goes down. However, as long as Gordon is healthy, he’s the only show in town.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers (low end)
RB1: Melvin Gordon (low end)
WR1: Keenan Allen (low end)
TE1: Hunter Henry (low end)
Flex: Tyrell Williams (last chance)
Bench: Travis Benjamin, Antonio Gates

Passing Game Thoughts: Another week, another good, not great performance from Tom Brady. You’re paying for consistency with Brady. The week winning upside is always there, but it’s not any more there for Brady than it is for a number of other QBs. The advantage Brady gives you is that even on his down weeks, he won’t completely fail you. The consistent 30+ point weeks are a thing of the past. Brady threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns last week, the first of which wasn’t really even a pass. Brady literally just let go of the ball after the snap and Brandin Cooks took it on a glorified jet sweep and followed his blockers into the end zone. Despite their shutout performance last week, the Chargers are going to struggle with the Patriots. Cooks remains consistent from with 85 yards or a touchdown in five out of seven games. Chris Hogan had a bounce back game after his one catch dud to post 71 yards on four catches. Rob Gronkowski led the team with seven targets, but had an empty 51-yard performance. Danny Amendola was just a total bust (3-17) and could miss this week’s game with a hyperextended knee. Cooks, Hogan, and Gronk will once again be strong starts.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Out of all four Patriots running backs, Mike Gillislee posted by far the worst ypc (3.9) last week. James White was at 4.8 with Rex Burkhead at 5.2 and Dion Lewis posted 5.8 ypc. Lewis led the team in carries with 13 and also got the start. He is the main back going forward while White continues to operate as the pass catching back. He caught all five of his targets for 28 yards and a touchdown. Burkhead looked good in his return from injury and would stand to inherit significant value if either White or Lewis went down. With both healthy, they are the two to own. Gillislee hasn’t scored since Week 2, which means he hasn’t been more than an RB4 since Week 2. He can be cut everywhere. Lewis and White are both setup for useful games this week as the Chargers should put up more of a fight than the Falcons, thus forcing the Patriots to do more offensively.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (mid-range)
RB2: James White (PPR)
WR1: Brandin Cooks (low end)
WR2: Chris Hogan (mid-range)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (the top option as always)
Flex: Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola (if he plays)
Bench: Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead

Prediction: Patriots 34, Chargers 27 ^ Top

Raiders at Bills - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Derek Carr just needed a game to get back into the swing of things. On his second game since missing just one week with his back injury, Carr exploded for 417 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 52 pass attempts. Over half (yes half) of his yardage went to Amari Cooper. Do not adjust your screen (you can rub your eyes if you want) as it really was Amari Cooper recording 74 more receiving yards last week than he did in his first six games combined. Cooper caught 11-of-19 targets for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He is back. Fear not Michael Crabtree owners as he was not left out of the action. Crabtree caught the game winning touchdown to mark his third consecutive game with a score. Although three of his touchdowns came in one game, he is currently averaging a touchdown per week. Even Jared Cook got involved with 6-107 on seven targets. The Bills’ once great pass defense just allowed a banged up Jameis Winston to throw for 384 yards and three touchdowns. Two of them went to O.J. Howard, which is encouraging for Cook’s prospects this week. The Raiders have a better offense than the Bucs and will struggle defensively, which sets Carr and friends up nicely for another potential score fest.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch cares so little about football that it’s truly embarrassing he’s still on an NFL roster. I’m not saying he can’t play anymore, but the man is just collecting a paycheck and getting the Beast Mode Brand ready for life after football. The Raiders rushing splits with and without Lynch are nearly identical. Lynch literally adds nothing to the team. Fantasy owners should not have been starting him for weeks and at least it’s literally impossible to make the mistake of starting him this week. His one-game suspension for pushing a referee makes that decision easier. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard will split snaps with a little Cordarelle Patterson sprinkled in. Neither Washington nor Richard is particularly appealing, but there are a lot of teams on bye this week making both a consideration for fantasy owners. Washington is the favorite for goal line carries as evidenced by the fact that he assumed that role last week. Richard is the pass catcher and more likely to pop a big play. Both can be viable fill in options. The Bills are top five in rushing defense and the Raiders are a passing offense. If you start either Raiders back, you’re hoping for a touchdown/a bunch of receptions.

Value Meter:
QB1: Derek Carr (mid-range)
WR2: Michael Crabtree (mid-range)
WR2: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
TE1: Jared Cook (low end)
Flex: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard
Bench: Marshawn Lynch, Cordarrelle Patterson

Passing Game Thoughts: Tyrod Taylor had his best game of the season last week, throwing for a season high 268 yards and a touchdown while adding 53 yards on the ground, his highest rushing total since Week 2 (55). Taylor’s passing upside is always limited and it doesn’t help that he really doesn’t have wide receivers. Taylor’s leading receiver was Deonte Thompson (4-107), who was signed last week. Other than Thompson, no one caught more than two passes except LeSean McCoy, who continues to lead the team in receptions. Taylor’s touchdown was to former QB third-string TE, Logan Thomas. A returning Jordan Matthews provided no help, catching just two of three targets for 10 yards. Meanwhile, Zay Jones saw nine targets and continued to be one of the least efficient players in the league by catching just two of them. Jones’ catch rate is currently the worst in NFL history. Taylor is a viable streamer in normal leagues and a starter in two-QB leagues, but his ceiling will always be capped. There are no pass catchers worth rostering.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: My “bold” prediction last week that LeSean McCoy would finally find the end zone was doubly correct as he did it twice! Shady carried the ball 23 times for 91 yards and caught five of seven targets for 31 yards. His efficiency is nowhere near typical Shady levels, but his volume is amongst the safest and highest in the league. As long as he can stay on the field, he will be an RB1. Hopefully the touchdown count can increase as McCoy was able to deliver after Mike Tolbert failed at the goal line. Tolbert is probably a better and safer move for the Bills, but us fantasy owners want that to be McCoy. He has a good shot to score again this week against a decidedly average Raiders run defense and the arrow is trending upwards on McCoy’s season long outlook as the schedule really opens up for the running game going forward.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tyrod Taylor (high end)
RB1: LeSean McCoy (mid-range)
Bench: All other Bills

Prediction: Bills 27, Raiders 24 ^ Top

49ers at Eagles - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: C.J. Beathard’s first career start wasn’t all that bad. He threw for 235 empty yards and added 30 on the ground including a rushing score. He’s like a lesser version of Trevor Siemian. Beathard led Marquise Goodwin to a relevant fantasy day, sending eight targets Goodwin’s way which resulted in four catches for 80 yards. Pierre Garcon caught five of seven targets for 49 yards. Trent Taylor caught all five of his targets for 39 yards. Beathard is unlikely to make anyone a superstar, but Goodwin and Garcon could both be viable starters this week in the wake of injuries and byes. The Eagles are one of the worst pass defenses in the league and the 49ers are going to be trailing the entire game. Garcon remains a WR3 and Goodwin could be a sneaky good start this week as well.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Remember when Matt Breida was going to take Carlos Hyde’s job? I ‘member. When someone is so far and away the best player on their team, they do not lose their job. Hyde is a true feature back. Breida touched the ball three times last week while Hyde touched the ball 18 times. Hyde’s volume saved his fantasy day as he was able to total 88 yards on the game and catch four passes. More encouraging were the eight targets Beathard sent Hyde’s way. Beathard is going to check it down a lot and Hyde is fully capable of capitalizing on that fact. The Eagles post the league’s best rushing defense meaning Hyde may struggle to get going on the ground, but should be heavily involved in the passing game, especially with the Eagles nursing a heavy lead allowing many dump offs to Hyde. This won’t be a ceiling game for Hyde, but he offers a high enough floor that is even better in PPR.

Value Meter:
RB2: Carlos Hyde (mid-range)
WR3: Pierre Garcon
Flex: Marquise Goodwin
Bench: C.J. Beathard, Matt Breida, Trent Taylor

Passing Game Thoughts: :Insert image of me waving a white flag here: I am done doubting Carson Wentz. I thought he was okay, but nothing special. I was wrong. Wentz is already a top 10 QB and pushing even higher. His touchdown pass to Corey Clement last week is another one of those plays you can point to that indicates a player has “it.” Wentz has thrown 11 touchdowns in his last three games and has been a fantasy monster. Amazingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s done it without Alshon Jeffery. In a game where Wentz threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns, Jeffery caught just two balls for 37 yards. He’s fallen behind both Zach Ertz and apparently Nelson Agholor in the receiving pecking order. Wentz can’t play any better than he has over the past three weeks and all Jeffery has to show for it is nine catches for 139 empty yards.

We all saw what Dak Prescott did to the 49ers last week. Wentz is going to light them up but if Jeffery can’t produce, he’s going to find himself on the cut list. Ertz, on the other hand, is pushing to finish as the top scoring TE on the season. He’s been the most consistent player in all of fantasy at any position, with at least five catches and 81 yards or a touchdown in every game. Ertz is physically gifted and he is a favorite target of Wentz, especially in the red zone. Ertz should be valued somewhere between Kelce and Gronk right now. Nelson Agholor has now scored in three straight games and five out of seven on the season. He hasn’t posted a 100-yard game and hasn’t topped four receptions since Week 1, but it is hard to deny he is not a weekly WR3 at this point. I still refuse to believe and the fact that he bobbled and caught at least two of his four receptions Monday night only adds to my concerns, but Agholor has been fantasy useful. Against the 49ers laughably bad defense, Aggy is certainly a starter.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: With Wendell Smallwood returning, this backfield turned into an unusable mess. Carson Wentz was the team’s leading rusher with 63 yards. Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner combined to touch the ball just three times. It was really just Smallwood splitting carries with LeGarrette Blount. Every time I try and give Blount credit and consider that maybe I was wrong about him, he goes and does something like this. Blount rushed for 29 yards on 14 carries. 21 of those yards came on a garbage time carry at the end of the game where he was just burning clock. That’s…bad. Smallwood wasn’t much better with 25 yards on eight carries. This week’s game projects as one where Blount could see 20+ touches and goal line carries. Whether he can do anything with that usage remains to be seen. He is probably worth gambling on, though. Smallwood is not.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Wentz (high end)
WR3: Nelson Agholor
TE1: Zach Ertz (behind only Gronk)
Flex: LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery
Bench: Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement

Prediction: Eagles 34, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Falcons at Jets - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Falcons offense has completely fallen apart. When you consider what’s changed from last year to this year, it’s hard not to point the finger at OC Steve Sarkisian. He’s taken the same group of players that produced the most efficient offense of 2016 and turned them into trash. Matt Ryan was the MVP last season but currently sits as the QB21 by average points per game. There is simply no justification for starting him. Bad matchup. Good matchup. It doesn’t matter. Ryan cannot produce. I thought maybe the Patriots defense would present a “get right” spot for Ryan. Instead, Ryan presented a “get right” spot for the Patriots defense as he became the first passer to fail to reach 300 yards against them.

Perhaps the Falcons should draw up more plays for Julio Jones? Just a thought. Jones finally “caught” a touchdown pass last week. I put that in quotes because Jones didn’t really catch it, but rather Malcolm Butler caught the pass and then Jones grabbed it from Butler’s hands and said “this is mine now.” Jones is not a WR1 anymore and that is not going to change. He is still an excellent real life WR and a good one in fantasy, but he’s more WR2. However, that information is more useful in trade negotiations than weekly lineup management as you’re still never benching Jones. Austin Hooper completely disappeared last week after looking like he was going to be a bigger part of the offense, but Mohamed Sanu returned and saw 10 targets, putting him on the WR3 map for this week.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: Devonta Freeman averaged six yards per touch last week, yet only touched the ball 15 times. It harkens back to this offense just not being managed well. Freeman still has a high floor, but we would like to see that ceiling a little more. With Tevin Coleman an afterthought in the offense (just six carries and no targets last week), it is surprising that Freeman is not benefiting. Again, I am not quite sure what Sarkisian is doing. The Jets have struggled against RBs that are actually good (Jay Ajayi does not count), but they’ve only faced two of them (McCoy and Fournette) this season. Look for Freeman and perhaps Coleman to get back on track this week.

Value Meter:
RB1: Devonta Freeman (low end)
WR2: Julio Jones (high end)
WR3: Mohamed Sanu
Flex: Tevin Coleman
Bench: Matt Ryan, Taylor Gabriel, Austin Hooper

Passing Game Thoughts: Do you know who is definitely a better fantasy QB than Matt Ryan? Josh McCown. McCown accounted for all four of the Jets touchdowns last week (three passing, one rushing) and now has thrown for multiple scores in three straight games. There are a number of QB1s on bye this week so McCown should not be sitting in your league’s free agent pool. He spread the ball around last week with no player seeing more than five targets. Both Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse caught touchdowns, but Kearse’s was on his only target of the day. Another week, another touchdown for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The schedule is only getting more difficult and he can’t score every week (I think), but he’s a TE1 in this matchup. The Falcons are a team trending in the wrong direction and a loss to the Jets wouldn’t shock me in the least. McCown & Co. could be in for a nice weekend. Anderson and Kearse are on the radar as flex plays due to bye weeks, but neither is necessarily a recommended option.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Bilal Powell and Matt Forte were effective last week. Powell rushed for 43 yards on eight carries and added two receptions for 40 yards. Forte rushed for 41 yards on seven carries and added five receptions for 41 yards. It does look like Forte is back as the leading man for the Jets, but he is still splitting with Powell and Elijah McGurie gets into the mix as well. You could do worse than Forte as a PPR option. With 13 receptions over the last two weeks, he is the preferred play over Powell. If one of them is going to score a touchdown, it is more likely to be Forte as well.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh McCown (low end)
RB2: Matt Forte (low end)
TE1: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (low end)
Flex: Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson
Bench: Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire

Prediction: Jets 23, Falcons 21 ^ Top

Cowboys at Redskins - (Katz)

Passing Game Thoughts: Dak Prescott is the number one fantasy QB through the first seven weeks of the season. No one is talking about a sophomore slump anymore. Prescott threw one touchdown in Week 1 and two touchdowns in Week 2. Since Week 3, he’s scored (including rushing) at least three touchdowns in every game. He’s an every week elite option regardless of matchup. Prescott’s ascendance to the ranks of the elite has revived Dez Bryant a bit. Bryant has a touchdown in four of his last five games. He hasn’t caught more than seven balls in a game and has yet to top 100 yards receiving, but with 31 targets over the last three weeks, Bryant may just have another WR1 season in him. After Bryant, it’s still Jason Witten, who seems to alternate two game sets of usefulness and uselessness. Witten was a TE1 in weeks 1 and 2. He wasn’t even a TE2 in weeks 3 and 4. He was back to being a TE1 weeks 5 and 6. Based on that trend, you don’t want to start him this week, but I’d be willing to take out a position on Witten bucking the trend in a game that projects to be high scoring. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are not fantasy options.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott had the single best RB game of the season last week with 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns while adding a 72-yard touchdown reception on a really impressive run after the catch. Elliott has six touchdowns in six games and has rushed for over 100 yards three times. He’s an elite RB1. Washington’s run defense has been in the top third of the league, but they haven’t stopped anyone good. Both Todd Gurley and Kareem Hunt had no trouble picking up chunks of yardage on the Redskins. Zeke will do just the same.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high end)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (high end)
WR2: Dez Bryant (high end)
TE1: Jason Witten (low end)
Bench: Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Brice Butler

Passing Game Thoughts: Similar to Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins also has a nice streak of multi-touchdown games. He has scored (including rushing) three touchdowns in three of his last four games and posted back to back 300-yard passing games. After a slow start (which was a theme across the NFL), Cousins is putting up weekly QB1 numbers. Last week was the first time he relied on Jordan Reed to get him there. I secretly think Jay Gruden is a terrible head coach but we will know for sure in a couple years. His game planning seems to be awful. I am not quite sure why it took him six weeks and two quarters to realize that drawing up plays for Reed is a good idea. Reed’s second half snap count was higher than his first half as the Redskins were in catch up mode. In an effort to get back in the game, Reed saw more targets. It went pretty well as Reed racked up 84 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions. I’d still like to see Reed do it again before endorsing him as “back,” but last week was encouraging.

What wasn’t encouraging was Terrelle Pryor’s apparent benching. He has been unproductive all season and now appears to have fallen behind Josh Doctson and Ryan Grant on the depth chart. With Jamison Crowder having been completely irrelevant all season, it is surprising that Pryor was unable to get going. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case. Pryor is droppable. Doctson is quite talented and could emerge into as much as a WR2, but his snap share would have to significantly increase and his target count would have to rise. He’s a hold, but not yet a start. Vernon Davis is another pass catcher that may actually have value, irrespective of Jordan Reed’s status. Davis has posted Flex worthy numbers for four straight games. On a week featuring a litany of byes, Davis is a legitimate Flex option even with Reed healthy.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: Continuing on the Jay Gruden might be awful at coaching theme, I think it is fair to assume that he watches the games he coaches. So he is watching Rob Kelley be the worst RB in the NFL (without Paul Perkins around, Kelley takes the mantle). Over his last two games, Kelley has taken 14 carries for 39 yards. Samaje Perine has not been much better, but he certainly deserves a look at this point ahead of Kelley. Gruden won’t do it though because he knows better. At least Chris Thompson is being heavily featured as he provides the offense with the biggest spark and the most versatility. Thompson touched the ball 12 times last week for a total of 64 yards and a touchdown. He’s caught at least five passes in all but one game this season. Thompson has established himself as a weekly PPR RB2. He could lead the Redskins in receptions this week with them likely to be throwing a lot.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (mid-range)
RB2: Chris Thompson
TE1: Jordan Reed (mid-range)
Flex: Vernon Davis
Bench: Josh Doctson, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine

Prediction: Cowboys 34, Redskins 30 ^ Top