The NFL Handbook – Week 8

There are very few things in life more frustrating than fantasy football. No matter how many hours you put into analyzing stats and watching games, there will always be those few performances that defy the odds, data, and even rationality.

The unpredictability of the NFL is unmatched, wildly entertaining, and why I’ve analyzed each of the 13 Week 8 matchups, and compiled this handbook to help you identify which matchups to target (and avoid) in your fantasy leagues. Hopefully, alleviating some of the frustration. I’ve also  suggested what I feel to be the best bets should you happen to be in Vegas this weekend.

For the fantasy portion, I’ve broken each team’s fantasy relevant players into four categories:

  1. Ballers –  Either the you just aren’t benching, or the ones with favorable match-ups.
  2. Under the Radar – Guys who you may not start typically, but have a good opportunity to produce. Good for dfs (DraftKings, Fanduel, etc.) as they should have low ownership.
  3. Temper Expectations – Proceed with caution. May be players you’d normally start, or guys who’ve been playing well, but might not put up the numbers needed to justify a start this week.
  4. Bums – It’s a good idea to just avoid these guys in your lineups.

Complete Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings

For the betting side, I used the opening spread and over/under totals from sportsinsights.com. A lot of the lines have moved in reaction to the money, injury updates, etc., but picking and choosing which current odds to use felt a bit too arbitrary. If you have any questions regarding the updated odds, feel free to comment, shoot me an email: leonard@maximizeyourodds.com, or hit me up on Twitter: @maxingyourodds

Minnesota Vikings (5-2, 4-3 ATS) at Cleveland Browns (0-7, 2-5 ATS)

Spread: MIN -7.5

O/U: 38

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
MIN 12.11 (5th) 11.16 (1st) 20.29 (19th) 7.37 (15th) 3.00 (7th) 8.57 (20th)
CLE 18.87 (25th) 14.57 (7th) 18.37 (10th) 10.99 (30th) 12.86 (32nd) 7.14 (11th)

As mentioned in this week’s matchup preview, the Browns have have yet to allow a RB hit 70 yards, are allowing the fewest yards per carry (2.95), and the 6th fewest yards per game (72.14) to opposing backs. They’ve also allowed multiple TD passes in five of their seven games, and have been dreadful in defending tight ends.

If you need a QB streamer this week, Case Keenum fits the mold as we should see less McKinnon/Murray, and more Keenum/Rudolph.

Meanwhile, Kizer draws another start this week, but who cares? You’re not starting him, or any Browns. Their defense has averaged 8.7 fantasy points per game over their last three, though. So, there may be temptation to stream them this week against this Vikings team which has a tendency to struggle with putting points on the board.

Avoid it.

Keenum has been glassware artisan careful with the football, rarely gets sacked, and this offense will put up yardage. There’s next to no upside.

Browns 3 – Vikings 24

Ballers: Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings DST

Under the Radar: Case Keenum

Temper Expectations: Jerick McKinnon, Latavius Murray

Bums: The entire state of Ohio

Oakland Raiders (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Buffalo Bills (4-2, 4-1-1 ATS)

Spread: BUF -3

O/U: 44.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
OAK 17.30 (20th) 18.89 (21st) 18.70 (13th) 9.03 (24th) 5.43 (12th) 10.00 (28th)
BUF 12.34 (6th) 13.98 (5th) 18.63 (11th) 8.68 (22nd) 5.50 (13th) 8.67 (21st)

Last week, I mentioned Amari Cooper as an under the radar play. And, while I expected a good game from him, 210 yards?! 33 fantasy points?!

Damn.

Hopefully you trusted me, and/or kept the faith in Mr. Cooper, but if you saw him ball out on your bench it might not be a bad idea to plug him in this week. It’s looking like there’s a chance E.J. Gaines misses this one as well, and without him, this Bills secondary hasn’t been quite as imposing. Most of A.J. Green‘s production came from a 1st quarter 77-yard TD pass, but he had a solid 2nd half with Gaines sidelined. And, last Sunday saw Mike Evans finish with 88 yards and a TD against these Gaines-less Bills.

It’d be easy (and justifiable) to call Cooper’s performance an outlier, but the Bills have allowed back-to-back 300+ yard games to QBs, and 4 passing TDs over that stretch. Derek Carr also looks to be 100%; which is more good news for Cooper’s fantasy owners, and Raiders fans alike.

Now, Tyrod Taylor also had himself a day on Sunday as he welcomed back Jordan Matthews, and Deonte Thompson. The latter gave the Bills their 1st 100-yard receiving game of the season, and looks to be the deep threat that Taylor has been missing since the Bills brass shipped away all of his weapons during the off-season. Great news considering the Raiders have allowed two receivers to go for 100+ on them over their last three, and are allowing over 13 yards per reception to opposing WRs; more than all but 13 teams.

You can expect both passing attacks to follow up their surprising performances with some solid output in this one, and while I wish I could say the same for the running backs – and just make this one huge fantasy party – I’m a bit hesitant on both ends.

For the Raiders, well, you might have heard that Marshawn Lynch got a little too amped during Thursday night’s game and will be sitting this one out (hopefully disguised in the crowd). Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington both saw nine carries in Lynch’s absence – with Richard catching four passes to three for Washington – and you can assume their touches will be pretty close in this one as well. Thing is, who knows how it plays out? And more importantly, the Bills have allowed just one RB to go over 75 yards, are allowing just 3.6 yards per carry to opposing backs, and have surrendered just three rushing TDs to the position.

Maybe worth the gamble in a DFS contest, but I’m not overly excited about either.

Now, for the Bills and Mr. McCoy, you might see that the Raiders have allowed the 15th most fantasy points to opposing RBs, and think yup! But, they’ve allowed just two RBs to find the end zone on the season (rushing), and just contained rushing leader Kareem Hunt. The addition of NaVorro Bowman will only help this unit, and even more damning, McCoy is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the season (38th).

Now obviously, a decent passing game will do wonders for McCoy’s production. After all, he did see the best game of the season last week in what just so happened to also be Tyrod’s best game of the season from the yardage standpoint. However, if you have better options, it might be wise to employ them this week.

This game has the potential to be the best we see this week, so the three point spread makes sense for what figures to be a tightly contested matchup. But, I like the Bills here at home. The Raiders are coming off an emotional division win, and this just feels like a statement game for this Bills squad who has the better defense and ground game.

Raiders 20 – Bills 23

Ballers: Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Tyrod Taylor

Under the Radar: Jared Cook, Deonte Thompson

Temper Expectations: Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, LeSean McCoy, Jordan Matthews

Bums: Nick O’Leary

Indianapolis Colts (2-5, 3-4 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-4, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: CIN -10

O/U: 41

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
IND 19.21 (27th) 24.26 (31st) 24.14 (28th) 9.01 (23rd) 12.71 (31st) 11.86 (32nd)
CIN 13.55 (11th) 14.77 (8th) 17.68 (9th) 4.68 (4th) 9.67 (26th) 9.00 (24th)

Yawn.

The Colts have allowed three straight 300+ yard passers, 4 TDs over their last three games, and lost FS Malik Hooker for the season. They’ve also allowed back-to-back 100+ yard rushers (though Derrick Henry got his on a 72-yard TD with like a minute to go). They’ve also allowed four rushing TDs over their last two games. They’ve also allowed two 100+ yard receivers in their last three (despite allowing just 1 TD over that stretch). They’ve also allowed a TE to catch a TD in four of their last five games.

Stream Dalton. Stream Mixon. Stream Kroft.

It is worth noting that Vontae Davis has been lights out. In fact, opposing #1 receivers are averaging just 61.7 yards per game against the Colts and have a grand total of 1 TD catch (Davis missed the 1st 3 games, and with him, the TD number is 0).

You’d be foolish to bench A.J. Green, but just saying.

Offensively, the Colts have more interceptions (5) than they do TD passes (3). They’ve also had an individual RB exceed 50 yards just twice (no 100 yard games). They’re also averaging just 17 points per game, and have failed to score a TD in almost a third of their games.

Play the Bengals DST.

Colts 13 – Bengals 27

Ballers: Andy Dalton, A.J. Green

Under the Radar: Joe Mixon, Tyler Kroft

Temper Expectations: T.Y. Hilton

Bums: Jacoby Brissett, Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, Donte Moncrief, Jack Doyle, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill

Los Angeles Chargers (3-4, 3-3-1 ATS) at New England Patriots (5-2, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: NE -7.5

O/U: 49

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
LAC 13.07 (8th) 18.23 (17th) 21.77 (23rd) 4.19 (2nd) 4.57 (10th) 7.43 (12th)
NE 23.17 (32nd) 19.13 (22nd) 27.37 (30th) 9.31 (25th) 1.43 (2nd) 6.00 (3rd)

The Patriots have won three straight; the Chargers have won three straight.

For the Pats, Brady has completed 66% of his passes, and has five TDs while averaging 269.7 yards per game over that three game stretch. For the Chargers, Rivers has completed 58% of his passes, and has six TDs while averaging 236.6 yards per game over that three game stretch.

While those numbers may appear to be impressive at 1st glance, if you dig a bit deeper, there’s reason to believe that this game will not turn out to be an aerial assault.

Exhibit A:

As I mentioned in the matchup piece, this Pats D has looked much sharper since their Week 4 loss to the Panthers, and has held opponents to just 12.7 points per game during that three game stretch. Only Josh McCown has tossed multiple TD passes over their last three (he still should’ve should’ve had 3), and the Pats just limited Matt Ryan to 233 yards; not only their first sub-300 opponent, but also his lowest yardage total on the season.

Exhibit B:

On the season, the Chargers are allowing an average of just 207 passing yards per game (8th fewest), not a single QB has hit the 250 yard mark against them, and they’ve allowed just five receivers put up double-digit fantasy points.

Exhibit C:

The Chargers have averaged 25 rushing attempts per game over their last three after averaging just 18.25 through four. That’s a pretty large jump, and seeing that they’ve won the three games in which they’ve averaged more rushes, the wise man would conclude they’ll probably employ a similar game plan here.

Exhibit D:

The Chargers are allowing 4.9 yards per carry (I should’ve just put 5) to opposing backs; which is the 2nd highest average per tote in the league. They’ve also given up 123.4 rushing yards per game to backs which also happens to be the 2nd highest average. After facing four solid run defenses to start the season, the Patriots have found themselves with a few run friendly run matcups in recent weeks and have responded by averaging 128 rushing yards over their last 3. If we compare that number to the season totals, they’d own the league’s 6th best rushing attack.

Simply put, I like Gordon this week. I also like the Pats backs, but identifying which one I like most is the issue. Here are their rushing attempts over this overly small, three game sample I’m so obsessed with…

Dion Lewis: 31

Mike Gillislee: 30

James White: 9

Rex Burkhead (only played last week): 6

If you’ve never owned a Patriots RB in fantasy football, but now do, welcome to the yearly Bill Belichick roulette. I honestly don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason to his rotation, but based on what I’ve observed, surely there is; but 1. I don’t have the time to study their offense, and 2. I’m too dense to figure it out even if I did. I do know, however, that the Chargers have been solid at containing receiving yards to backs; so Burkhead and White get a big no thanks. Still, you never know with Belichick.

You’re more than welcomed to go down that path if you so choose, but beware!!! *creepy Halloween voice*

Now, don’t get me wrong, there will will be plenty of passing. Neither of these QBs are named Trubisky, and both rank in the Top-5 in passing attempts on the season. You’re rolling with Keenan Allen, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola on the strength of their offenses with no questions asked. I’m just letting you know now, the results may be a bit lackluster. Especially for the Pats.

It’s also worth noting that the Patriots have allowed a TE to score in five of their seven games while the Chargers have yet to allow a TE to find the end zone. Now no, don’t drop Rob Gronkowski in favor of Hunter Henry. However, if Henry has the better fantasy day, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

You might have guessed where I’m going with this one, but I don’t think the Patriots win this by more than 7. Despite their 0-4 start, this is not a bad Chargers football team and I expect them to keep this one close. I also believe they have a legitimate shot at winning outright. Especially, if Rivers continues to protect the football.

Chargers 20 – Patriots 23

Ballers: Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry

Under the Radar: Dion Lewis, Mike Gillislee

Temper Expectations: Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, Rex Burkhead, Anyone who’s name has WR next to it, Rob Gronkowski

Bums: James White

Chicago Bears (3-4, 5-2 ATS) at New Orleans Saints (4-2, 4-2 ATS)

Spread: NO -9

O/U: 50

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
CHI 13.05 (7th) 17.23 (15th) 18.96 (15th) 6.80 (10th) 11.43 (30th) 8.29 (18th)
NO 16.18 (17th) 18.45 (19th) 21.30 (21st) 6.93 (12th) 2.83 (4th) 7.50 (13th)

I hate mixed messages. Like when someone tells you there’s nothing wrong, and you can clearly tell that there is, but since they told you there wasn’t you go about your business only for them to come back an hour later with attitude because you didn’t care that they were upset… After you asked, and they said nothing was wrong.

With that out of the way, of the teams which have played seven games, only Jacksonville, Minnesota, Carolina, and Pittsburgh have allowed fewer yards than Chicago. The Bears have limited some of the league’s top QBs – Ryan, Winston, Roethlisberger, Rodgers, and Newton – to an average of 230 passing yards per game with only Rodgers throwing more than one TD pass. They’ve also allowed just one receiver to go over the 50 yard mark while allowing no TDs to the position over their past three games. They rank 6th in the league in sacks with 21, and also have nine takeaways on the season with four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and three defensive TDs over their last two games…

But, this is not the week to stream the Bears defense.

I’ll tell you Leonardo. The Saints have faced some pretty tough defenses this season, yet Drew Brees has been sacked just five times; fewer than every starting QB with at least five starts who’s not named Case Keenum, and tied with Marcus Mariota. The Saints offense is averaging 28.5 points per game; 4th most. The Saints have allowed an average of 2.83 fantasy points to opposing DSTs; 4th fewest. The Saints are at home…

I think you get the point.

If you have Brees, you’re starting him; that goes without saying. But, at the same time, being a little nervous is completely understandable. The same can be said for Mr. back-to-back 100 yard rusher, Mark Ingram, because while the Bears have surrendered a rushing TD in five of their seven games, they’ve also allowed just 3.8 yards per carry and 90.3 yards per game to opposing RBs. But again, you’re starting him.

The Saints receivers, though? Not quite as clear.

Despite Brees averaging 275 passing yards per game, Ted Ginn‘s 141 yards last week against Green Bay gave Brees his 1st 100+ yard receiver on the season. In fact, prior to Sunday, no receiver had gone over 90 yards, and just four times had a Saints receiver put up over 75. Brees has that Oprah quality to him, you get some yards! You get some yards! You get some yards! Which keeps everyone happy, but also caps their weekly upside. Expect the same this week.

Thing is, one of them is bound to catch a TD pass, so you can’t exactly bench them. Brees has thrown a total of seven TD passes to his receivers with Coleman catching three, and Thomas/Ginn each catching two. So, if your guy so happens to be the lucky one this week, a six point performance will become a 12 point performance. And, if not? Well, four to six points it is. Then, there’s the impending return of Willie Snead to further complicate things…

Like the Patriots backs, good luck with that.

Meanwhile, the Bears offense has been offensive. Per usual, start Jordan Howard, and you can get away with Tarik Cohen in PPR leagues as the Saints have allowed the 3rd most receiving yards to opposing backs. Now, let’s move on to more important things.

Bears 17 – Saints 26

Ballers: Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram

Under the Radar: Tarik Cohen (PPR), Zach Miller, Saints DST

Temper Expectations: Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Saints WRs

Bums: Mitch Trubisky, Dion Sims, Coby Fleener

Atlanta Falcons (3-3, 2-4 ATS) at New York Jets (3-4, 4-2-1 ATS)

Spread: ATL -4.5

O/U: 47

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
ATL 15.06 (15th) 19.87 (27th) 18.67 (12th) 5.68 (5th) 6.00 (14th) 11.00 (31st)
NYJ 17.35 (20th) 19.77 (26th) 22.09 (25th) 9.57 (26th) 8.00 (20th) 4.43 (1st)

MISSING!

Austin Hooper – White male, 22 yo, 6’4″

Last seen in Foxborough, MA where he saw just one target despite a favorable matchup. If found, please contact 1-800-TE-STREAMER

That’s too many numbers, but whatever. Now I know, it’s hard to trust a guy after he sees just one target; a six yard catch. However, the Falcons tight end sees another favorable matchup this week against the Jets who’ve allowed 4 TD passes over their last three games and 52.9 yards per game on the season to the position. Hooper had seen 16 targets in the two games prior to his disappearing act, so if you need a TE (and are feeling lucky) he’s your guy.

Moving on…

Everyone likes to point out how the Falcons blew the 25 point lead in the Super Bowl. But, don’t forget, the same Falcons started 5-0 in 2015 before losing 8 of their last 11 and missing the playoffs. This year’s rendition of disappointment started the season 3-0 with no sign of a Super Bowl hangover. Well, they’ve now lost three straight, and sit 3rd in their division.

Sad!

Let’s start from the top. Matt Ryan – who was last season’s MVP – has been largely underwhelming to start the season, and has been even more so in recent weeks.

Over the Falcons last three games, Ryan is averaging just 241 yards and has a 1:1 TD/INT ratio. Yes, he’s thrown a TD pass in every game this season, but he’s thrown more than one in just… one game. And, he threw for two – it’s not like he balled out and went for four – bringing his grand total on the season to seven. For reference’s sake, through six games last season, he had put up 14 and had just one single TD performance to his credit.

Not good.

The Falcons were also a Julio Jones TD catch away – with about 4 minutes remaining in a game that had been decided about an hour prior – from not scoring a single point in six straight quarters of football.

Also, not good.

Well, they’re heading to Jersey to face the Jets who’ve allowed an average of two passing TDs per game, and I’m hoping the Matt Ryan we saw last season resurfaces. The Jets have allowed just 239.7 passing yards per game, however, and no QB (not even Brady) has gone for 300 on them this season. So, there’s reason to worry. Nonetheless, please show up old Matt Ryan. I’m tired of hearing all of this “Kyle Shanahan was the real MVP jargon”.

Meanwhile, Josh McCown and the Jets receivers come into this one flying high. McCown has thrown seven TDs over their past three games (he also has 4 interceptions), and four of them have landed in the hands of Jets WRs. Either Anderson or Kearse is likely to score, but again, picking who is the challenge (I’m leaning Anderson’s way).

The good news for Atlanta?

The other three TDs landed in the hands of Austin Seferian-Jenkins; who happens to play tight end. The Falcons have yet to allow a TE to score this season.

The bad news for Atlanta?

Well, besides their struggling offense, they’ve also allowed four passing TDs to be reeled in by WRs over their last four games. Including three to the Bills and Dolphins; two of the more inept passing offenses the league has to offer.

Want more bad news for the Falcons?

They’ve allowed an average of 103.2 rushing yards per game, and 4.5 yards per carry to opposing RBs. The Jets have shied away from the ground game in recent weeks, but their backs are averaging a robust 4.4 yards per carry (they’re the Patriots 2.0 fantasy wise, though).

You still want more?!

Well, since Week 2, the Jets have allowed just 1 rushing TD and have held their opponents to an average of 82 rushing yards. The bright side is that they also have a tendency to give up oodles of yards to RBs in the passing game; a good sign for the old Matt Ryan and Freeman/Coleman.

All told, the Falcons shouldn’t be favored against anyone other than the Browns, Colts, or 49ers at this point. Let alone, by 4.5.

Falcons 24 – Jets 23

Ballers: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones

Under the Radar: Mohamed Sanu, Austin Hooper

Temper Expectations: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse

Bums: Taylor Gabriel, Elijah McGuire, Austin-Seferian-Jenkins

San Francisco 49ers (0-7, 4-3 ATS) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-1, 5-2 ATS)

Spread: PHI -13

O/U: 47.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
SF 20.79 (31st) 26.36 (32nd) 21.57 (22nd) 4.41 (3rd) 7.29 (18th) 10.71 (30th)
PHI 18.50 (24th) 13.97 (4th) 22.50 (26th) 9.61 (27th) 3.43 (8th) 6.43 (7th)

I won’t even insult your intelligence. You want no part of this San Fran offense, and every part of Philly’s. The Niners offense gets a bump if Brian Hoyer starts (undecided at this point), but either way, no thanks.

49ers 13 – Eagles 31

Ballers: Carson Wentz, LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST

Under the Radar: George Kittle, Wendell Smallwood

Temper Expectations: N/A – Blount/Smallwood could eat into each other’s production. Have to see how it plays out.

Bums: Literally everyone on San Francisco except possibly Kittle

Carolina Panthers (4-3, 3-4 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4, 1-4-1 ATS)

Spread: TB -1

O/U: 44

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
CAR 13.73 (12th) 13.83 (3rd) 17.56 (8th) 6.86 (11th) 10.43 (27th) 7.86 (14th)
TB 19.98 (30th) 19.22 (23rd) 28.25 (31st) 7.18 (14th) 2.83 (4th) 8.50 (19th)

The Bucs swept Carolina a season ago, but prior to that the Panthers had won six straight. The Bucs have the longest NFC South championship drought with their last coming in 2007. They need this one to keep their division hopes alive, and couldn’t have caught Carolina at a better time as they’re in the midst of a 2-game skid which includes a 3-point outburst against the Bears.

Problem is, Tampa Bay has allowed more passing yards per game than all but two teams, and have given up at least one passing TD in each of their six games; allowing multiple in three. They also rank towards the top in rushing yards allowed to QBs; despite facing five tortoises disguised as QBs. They’ve also allowed four rushing TDs over their last two games, and to make matters worse, it looks like Luke Kuechly will return for this Carolina defense.

Not exactly stacking up in their favor.

The good news is, after finishing 2nd in interceptions a season ago, Jameis Winston has just four thus far, has gone turnover(less) in four of their six games, and has multiple TD passes in three. The Panthers have just one interception on the season, and in the four weeks prior to the seven pass whatever the hell that was by Chicago, had given up 10 TD passes while allowing an average of 244.5 passing yards per game.

Winston will need to capitalize on the matchup as the Panthers have also yet to allow an opposing RB hit 70 yards, and have given up just three rushing TDs on the season. Just don’t expect to the the King of Blown Coverages, O.J. Howard, to be roaming free again this week.

Did I mention Kuechly should be back? Oh, I did? Ok, well the Panthers are allowing just 34.3 yards per game to opposing TEs; the 3rd fewest mark in the league. Darren Fells‘ two TDs in Week 5 feel a bit fluky, and both of Zach Ertz TDs in Week 6 came with Kuechly in the locker room. They haven’t allowed a TE to score aside from those four.

By process of elimination, expect Evans and Jackson to be extremely busy in this one. Maybe even take a flier on Adam Humphries. Yes, the Panthers have held opposing WRs to the 7th fewest yards per game at 120.3, but that’s because the Bears accounted for just one catch and eight yards from their WR on Sunday. Remove him from the equation, and Carolina has allowed 140.3 to the position, just slightly below the league average.

Not to mention, it’s the only positive matchup to be had offensively.

It’s hard to have confidence in this Panthers team with how bad they’ve looked in back-to-back weeks, but Cam had put together two straight MVP-esque performances in the two games prior. Maybe he’s utilizing some two on two off type strategy to conserve energy? Who knows. But I do know, Tampa Bay has allowed 25.2 points per game (4th most), has just four interceptions (4th fewest), and just seven sacks (last) so Carolina should look much better offensively this week.

Oh, and their defense is fire.

Panthers 27 – Bucs 17

Ballers: Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Jameis Winston, Mike Evans

Under the Radar: Ed Dickson, Adam Humphries

Temper Expectations: Christian McCaffrey, DeSean Jackson

Bums: Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard

Houston Texans (3-3, 4-2 ATS) at Seattle Seahawks (4-2, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: SEA -6

O/U: 43

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
HOU 16.69 (18th) 14.55 (6th) 19.75 (17th) 8.22 (19th) 9.00 (23rd) 8.83 (23rd)
SEA 10.81 (4th) 14.80 (9th) 15.37 (4th) 8.05 (18th) 2.67 (3rd) 6.67 (8th)

Outside of their quarterbacks, neither of these teams have an imposing rushing game, and both defenses have been stout against the run.

Next.

We know what Russell Wilson is about, and the Texans have allowed the 5th most rushing yards to opposing QBs, the 5th highest yards per reception rate to opposing WRs, and the 8th most yards per game to opposing TEs.

Next.

The biggest question in this game is what the hell should we expect from Deshaun Watson in his toughest test as a starter? I know a guy (won’t mention names) who happened to pick up Watson, then traded away Cousins – who he drafted to be his starter – in an effort to improve other areas of his team.

I can’t be the only one, and now we’re left to wonder, do we roll with Watson this week or stream a Dalton/Keenum? Tough decision because while Watson has impressed, he’s averaging 239 passing yards per game over his five starts; which is good for 15th. Seattle has held opposing QBs to just 202.3 yards per game on the season (7th fewest), and at home that number drops to a microscopic 128 yards per; though they did face the 49ers and Colts.

Yes, Watson is clearly better than Hoyer and Brissett, but his struggles under pressure have been evident thus far. While you may think of Seattle’s front seven as one of the best, they’re without Cliff Avril, and per FootballOutsiders have a 28.9% QB pressure rate; which ranks 24th. The Texans also may have 3x Pro Bowl T Duane Brown in uniform for the 1st time this season.

Not looking as bad as I initially thought.

Also, the Seahawks have allowed the 7th most rushing yards to QBs despite facing Brian Hoyer and Eli Manning who combined to put up zero rushing yards on them. On the season, only Cam Newton has more rushing yards than Watson, and in his five starts he’s averaged 37.2 rushing yards per game to go with two rushing TDs.

That’s the kicker.

Obviously, he’s not going to come out and throw for 300 against this D; 200 is a stretch. However, he’ll get you 3-4 additional points with his legs – which makes his floor relatively high despite what figures to be a low passing number – and there’s the chance he makes it in the end zone via the run. All told, 175, a TD, and an interception feels like a safe projection; giving him nine fantasy points. Add the three he’s likely to get through rushing, so we’re up to twelve, and if he happens to find the end zone we’re now at 18…

And, that’s a relatively low projection. You just can’t pass up the upside, and you have to take the risk. Period. Seattle is just too tough at home, though.

Texans 20 – Seahawks 24

Ballers: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham

Under the Radar: DeShaun Watson (kinda), Ryan Griffin, Paul Richardson/Tyler Lockett

Temper Expectations: Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller

Bums: D’Onta Foreman, Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, J.D. McKissic

Dallas Cowboys (3-3, 3-3 ATS) at Washington Redskins (3-3, 2-4 ATS)

Spread: DAL -2.5

O/U: 50.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DAL 17.93 (22nd) 18.32 (18th) 23.07 (27th) 6.27 (8th) 2.83 (4th) 8.17 (17th)
WAS 18.01 (23rd) 16.68 (11th) 16.42 (6th) 11.70 (31st) 6.67 (16th) 9.33 (26th)

That boy Zeke went hard last week! Like someone came at his mom, little sister, or wife/gf sideways hard. Like the 49ers stole something from him hard. Like this might be my last game for a while hard…

Luckily, for Zeke and Cowboys fans alike, it wasn’t his last game and the Redskins now have to deal with the wrath of Mr. Elliott.

The good news is, Josh Norman has been upgraded to probable. But, the bad news is, they may be without three starters on their offensive line… Oh, and did I mention they have to deal with Zeke?

Well, on the season, the Redskins are allowing the 3rd fewest rushing yards per game to opposing backs at 65.7 per; a far cry from the 114 being allowed by the Niners. In Elliott’s two games against the Skins last season he averaged 90 yards per while finding the end zone thrice, but this unit looks to be much improved. Only Kareem Hunt has gone over 100 yards on them – and he narrowly made it with 101 –  and they’ve given up just 3 TDs on the ground to backs. However, they have allowed a receiving TD to an opposing back in 50% of their games and Zeke ranks 4th in that category with two.

He’ll make up for any lost yardage on the ground through the air. You’re not benching him, anyway. Dez Bryant, though? Different story.

In the 3.5 games the ‘Skins played without Josh Norman, they allowed three passing TDs to WRs. In the 3.5 games the ‘Skins played with Josh Norman in the lineup, they allowed just one passing TD to WRs. In the two games against Washington last season, Dez averaged 87 yards per game, and failed to find the end zone. Even without Norman in the lineup, the ‘Skins have allowed the 9th fewest passing yards per game to opposing WRs, and seeing how they’ve allowed the most to opposing TEs at 86.5, Witten is the pass catcher to have in your lineups this week.

The Cowboys haven’t pulled in an interception in four straight, and are allowing an average of 247.8 yards per game with nearly two passing TDs to opposing QBs. They’ve also allowed three backs to go over 100 yards, and are allowing an average of 50.2 receiving yards per game to the position.

Cousins? Yep. Thompson? Yep. Crowder? Yep. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Terrelle Pryor resurfaces here, though it appears that Ryan Grant is slowly supplanting him as the main guy on the outside.

This game featured the highest opening point total of the week, but two of the last three between these two have gone under the total and over the last 10 the under record sits at 5-4-1. Given the injuries to Washington’s line, and a healthy Redskins defense, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams contain the opposing offenses. I also like the Redskins at home; they’re due for a win after losing three straight to the Boys.

Cowboys 17 – Redskins 20

Ballers: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, Kirk Cousins, Chris Thompson

Under the Radar: Terrelle Pryor/Ryan Grant

Temper Expectations: Dez Bryant, Rob Kelley, Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis

Bums: Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2, 4-3 ATS) at Detroit Lions (3-3, 3-3 ATS)

Spread: PIT -3

O/U: 44.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
PIT 9.91 (2nd) 18.46 (20th) 11.96 (1st) 5.76 (6th) 6.29 (15th) 4.57 (2nd)
DET 13.45 (10th) 19.40 (25th) 20.03 (18th) 8.33 (20th) 11.17 (29th) 7.00 (9th)

Pittsburgh’s defense has been stingier than McDonald’s with their sauces, and Detroit is averaging the 7th most yards per game offensively. Pittsburgh is tied for 10th with 10 turnovers, and Detroit has the 3rd most takeaways with 14. Detroit’s D has allowed an average of 90.7 rushing yards and 56.7 receiving yards to opposing backs; Le’Veon Bell ranks 2nd and 10th among RBs in those two categories, respectively. Pittsburgh’s D has allowed the fewest passing yards per game, and Matthew Stafford ranks 15th. No WR has gone over 100 yards against the Lions, and Antonio Brown has gone over 100 in four of seven games…

Strength vs. strength, weakness vs. strength, strength vs. weakness, this matchup has it all and this one will be fun to watch.

Steelers 27 – Lions 26

Ballers: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown

Under the Radar: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ameer Abdullah, Marvin Jones

Temper Expectations: Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Matthew Stafford, Theo Riddick, Golden Tate

Bums: Vance McDonald, Darren Fells, Eric Ebron

Denver Broncos (3-3, 2-3-1 ATS) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-2, 5-2 ATS)

Spread: KC -7

O/U: 44.5

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
DEN 14.64 (14th) 11.32 (2nd) 16.52 (7th) 9.83 (28th) 11.00 (28th) 8.00 (15th)
KC 19.60 (29th) 16.76 (12th) 28.49 (32nd) 7.11 (13th) 0.86 (1st) 6.00 (3rd)

After opening the season 2-0, Denver has lost three of their last four and find themselves looking up at Kansas City atop the division. After opening the season 5-0, the Chiefs have dropped two straight and suddenly find themselves with some company in the division race.

Thankfully, someone has to win here. Although, I guess they could tie, but whatever both teams need this W.

The Broncos defense – along with Seattle – has been the gold standard for quite some time now, and not much has changed this season. That said, your 1st thought may be to bench Alex Smith in favor of one of the streamers I’ve mentioned throughout the article or maybe you drafted two QBs and have a serviceable backup. After all, the Broncos have allowed just 200.5 passing yards per game (6th) fewest, and every QB who’s tried their luck has failed to hit the 250 yard mark.

Tough matchup.

Thing is, Denver has allowed multiple TD passes in four of their six games this season, and have graciously allowed TEs to put up an average of 68.3 yards per game against them; 5th most. Now, you might have heard, but if not, the Chiefs have this TE that goes by the name of Travis Kelce. And, he’s pretty damn nice. 3rd among TEs in fantasy points, 2nd in receptions, 3rd in yards/TDs/targets… Like I said, he balls out.

About 22% of Smith’s passes have targeted Kelce, so doing some simple math: multiple TD passes + difficulty with TEs + ballin ass Kelce being bombarded with passes = Not so bad numbers for smith after all.

He’s leading all QBs in fantasy points on the season; don’t be foolish.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs perennially vaunted D has been raved by injury. This is a passing league, and very few teams can overcome the loss of two of their top defensive backs; the Chiefs haven’t been one of the few. They’ve given up a little under 284 passing yards per game (5th most), and of the seven QBs they’ve faced, four have had multiple TD days on them.

Enter Trevor Siemian: the man who stole my heart after two weeks and shredded it. Not a bad book title. He’s been bad, people. Sure, he’s averaged 255 passing yards over his last four, but he also has just two TDs and five interceptions to show for it; averaging just 10.1 fantasy points per game over that stretch.

Everyone deserves a 2nd chance though, right? You can give it to him if you’d like, but my heart is a bit tougher to win over. He’ll have to earn it back.

And, that Siemian is so damn selfish! I mean, he couldn’t just be wack on his own.. Nooo, he had to take C.J. Anderson down with him too. And, to make matters worse, DeVontae Booker is back in the fold and Jamaal Charles has been seeing 6-8 touches per game as well. Kansas City has struggled through the air, but they’re what can brown do for you consistent on the ground; I’d avoid the Broncos backfield at all costs until some clarity emerges.

I guess you could kind of say the same thing for Kareem Hunt this week. The Broncos have allowed the 2nd fewest yards per game, 3rd fewest yards per carry, and all of zero rushing TDs to opposing backs. And, Hunt is actually beginning to show signs of mortality; having not seen the end zone since Week 3 and averaging just 54 yards rushing over his last two.

But, of course that just means you’ll bench him this week, and he’ll defy the odds and put up 200 yards, and 2 TDs. At least that’s my luck. I can’t blame you for benching him this week, can’t knock you for rolling with him either. But, from my vantage point, getting five points in your lineup hurts a lot worse than seeing 20 on the bench.

With the latter being where I’d leave him this week.

This game figures to be the icing on what should be an exciting, though limited, week in the NFL. Kansas City gets the W, but it’ll be closer than you might expect.

Broncos 20 – Chiefs 24

Ballers: Demaryius Thomas, Alex Smith, Travis Kelce

Under the Radar: Trevor Siemian, Bennie Fowler, Albert Wilson

Temper Expectations: A.J. Derby, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill

Bums: C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles

As always, thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe, and follow @maxingyourodds on Twitter to keep up to date with all of the latest analysis and insight.

*Thursday Night Football*

Miami Dolphins (4-2, 3-2-1 ATS) at Baltimore Ravens (3-4, 3-4 ATS)

Spread: BAL -3

O/U: 38

FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED BY POSITION
QB RB WR TE DST K
MIA 15.82 (16th) 15.53 (10th) 19.03 (16th) 8.38 (21st) 8.17 (21st) 6.00 (3rd)
BAL 10.27 (3rd) 21.65 (29th) 13.49 (3rd) 10.09 (29th) 9.14 (24th) 9.43 (27th)

A few things come to mind when thinking of the Dolphins: Don Shula, Ballers, Dan Marino… You know what doesn’t, though? 4-2, 300+ passing yards, and 4 TDs. And, the Jets defense has actually been solid, so I can’t even throw shade on Miami’s offensive explosion last week.

Well, at 15.3 points per game on the season, they’re still averaging the 2nd fewest in the league.

Maybe I can.

Meanwhile, the Ravens continue to struggle offensively and just put up less than 20 points for the 3rd time this season. Joe Flacco is averaging slightly below 170 yards passing per game, and has just 5 TDs to 8 INTs.

Now, you could argue that Miami presents a more favorable matchup than some he’s seen in recent weeks. But, despite allowing nine TD passes in just six games, the Dolphins have allowed an average of 241 passing yards per game and have an interception in consecutive games. So, until he proves otherwise, Flacco is just too risky to trust in your fantasy lineups.

However, he’s worth a flier in DFS leagues as he’ll be cheaper than a Louis knockoff in China Town, and three of the six QBs the Dolphins have faced this season have put up over 15 fantasy points.

It’ll be Matt Moore who gets the nod for the Dolphins at QB, and while he looked like the 2nd coming of Dan Marino Sunday, if I had to choose a QB from this game the choice is Flacco. And, there’s no thought involved.

For starters, we’ve seen this from Moore in the past; and rarely does he ball out consistently. If he did, he wouldn’t be a career backup. Secondly, no QB has reached 250 yards passing on this Ravens D, and only Blake Bortles has thrown more than one TD pass against them. Third(ly), Jay Ajayi has averaged about 25 carries over the past three weeks, and the Ravens are allowing the most rushing yards to opposing backs.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ajayi get 30 carries here.

Quietly, the Ravens ground game has been pretty solid in its own right. At 120 rushing yards per game, they rank 12th in the league, and Alex Collins leads all backs with 5.9 yards per carry. However, Miami has been pretty stout against the run – holding every back they’ve faced to less than 70 yards and allowing just three rushing TDs – so it’s probably best to steer clear of Collins and/or Buck Allen this week.

Now, the biggest issue with projecting the passing games for these two is the fact that it’s being played on a Thursday, and both teams face a gaggle of injuries with minimal recovery time.

For the Ravens receiving corps, Maclin, Wallace, Perriman, Campanaro, Matthews, Watson, and Williams are all listed as questionable. So, while I believe that Flacco has a better than 20% chance at decent numbers this week, who will be on the receiving in is a huge question mark. We don’t know if DeVante Parker will play at this point, so while Landry and Stills have balled out recently, there’s the threat that Parker returns and eats into their targets. Not to mention the Ravens Top-10 passing defense.

Landry is a lock in PPR leagues, as he’s brought in at least five receptions in every game this season. But, outside of that, it’s probably wise to avoid the catchers of passes in this matchup.

Overall, there shouldn’t be many points put up in this one. However, it is worth noting that the Dolphins have allowed their opponent to put a TD on the board in 71.4% of their trips to the red zone. How many times the Ravens make it is the question.

The under looks like a pretty safe bet, and this feels like a three point game which I can see it going either way. So, if I had to, I’d take Miami +3 because at worst, I think it’s a push. On the real, though? I have zero confidence in that pick.

Dolphins 17 – Ravens 14

Ballers: Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry (PPR)

Under the Radar: Julius Thomas, Joe Flacco, Griff Whalen, Ben Watson/Nick Boyle

Temper Expectations: Alex Collins, Jeremy Maclin

Bums: Matt Moore, Kenny Stills, Javorius Allen, Mike Wallace

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