Happy Week 8, everyone. Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to over the weekend.
Start of the Week: Cam Newton at Bucs: After looking “back” to CaMVP status ins Weeks 4 and 5 against the Patriots and Lions — both on the road — as the overall QB2 and QB5 those games, Newton has cratered a bit over the last two. He turned the ball over six times (five interceptions and one fumble) against the Eagles and Bears and finished with fewer than 240 passing yards in both games. Newton still managed the QB5 finish in Week 6 versus Philly due to 71 yards and a score on the ground, but he bottomed out with a QB25 day in Chicago last Sunday. He has had two of his three lowest completion percentages the past two weeks. But on a positive note, Newton is back to running the ball. Over his last four games, Cam has averaged 8.75 rushing attempts. One of those contests was a seven-carry, zero-yards effort in Detroit where he kneeled at the end of the game. However, in the other three, he averaged 55 yards and scored twice. The Bucs have been absolutely terrible against quarterbacks this season. They’re 31st in fantasy points allowed to the position and 32nd in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. The defense isn’t generating any pressure; Tampa Bay is dead last in the NFL with seven sacks and just lost promising second-year DE Noah Spence to season-ending shoulder surgery on Wednesday. The situation is so bad that 43-year-old ex-Bucs DE Simeon Rice is dead serious about wanting to come out of retirement to play. He hasn’t played a down since 2007. Newton should have a clean pocket all afternoon, giving him plenty of time to pick on the cornerback trio of Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, and Robert McClain, as long as McClain (concussion) is able to play. Hargreaves and McClain are Pro Football Focus’ Nos. 90 and 102 cover corners, respectively, out of 113 qualifiers. The only way this would be a better spot for Newton is if it was in Carolina. Panthers-Bucs has a respectable 45.5-point Vegas total and has shootout potential. Newton was hurt for both matchups with the Bucs in 2016.
Andy Dalton vs. Colts: In four games under new OC Bill Lazor, Dalton has managed fantasy finishes of QB19 (@ GB), QB3 (@ CLE), QB15 (vs. BUF), and QB23 (@ PIT). The Week 7 matchup on the road in Pittsburgh is as tough as it gets, so we’ll throw that one out. Dalton has been much better under Lazor and now gets a juicy spot at home against a defense that is getting torched at the moment. The Colts are 29th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 30th in pass-defense DVOA. Indianapolis is tied for 22nd in sacks with 13 and just lost first-round FS Malik Hooker to a torn ACL and MCL last week against the Jaguars. Hooker accounted for three of the team’s seven interceptions. The Colts have been utterly dreadful against the pass despite facing one of the softer quarterback schedules that includes Jared Goff, DeShone Kizer, Brian Hoyer, and Blake Bortles. Goff was the QB14 in Week 1, Kizer the QB12 in Week 3, Hoyer the QB7 in Week 5, and Bortles the QB15 last Sunday. Further adding fuel to the fire, three of the Colts’ top DBs didn’t practice Wednesday. Safeties T.J. Green and Darius Butler are battling hamstring and ankle issues, while CB Rashaan Melvin has a concussion. Melvin has been a pleasant surprise, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers. Supposed “No. 1” CB Vontae Davis is No. 97. Dalton is very much on the streaming map. The Bengals’ implied team total of 25.75 points is the fifth-highest of Week 8.
Philip Rivers at Patriots: Rivers attempted his fewest passes (26) of the season last week against the Broncos but was still able to toss a pair of touchdowns and coast the Chargers to an easy win. Rivers and the Bolts head back east for their second 1 PM ET start of the season. Those have never seemed to bother Rivers, however, and he had arguably his best game of the season Week 5 at the Giants. Rivers threw for 259 yards and three scores that day for a QB8 finish. He’s really only had one awful game this season, tossing three picks in Week 3 versus the Chiefs. Rivers is the QB9 on the year. The Patriots stifled the Falcons’ passing attack last Sunday night, but the Foxboro fog certainly played a huge role in that. New England remains dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 28th in pass-defense DVOA. No team has given up more passing yards or touchdowns through the air. Alex Smith (QB1), Deshaun Watson (QB15), Cam Newton (QB2), and Matt Ryan (QB13) have all had big games in Foxboro. The Chargers’ offensive line is No. 7 in pass-blocking DVOA, while the Patriots have been unable to generate a consistent pass rush on defense. Rivers also has one of the best pass-catching corps in the league. The 48-point total in Chargers-Patriots is the second-highest of the week, and the Bolts will be considerably up in pace against a New England offense that currently ranks No. 2 in pace. Rivers is an elite QB1 play.
Tyrod Taylor vs. Raiders: Taylor was listed in this same space last week and answered the bell with a QB9 finish at home against the Bucs. His home-road splits have been well documented. Taylor has been much better at home since the start of 2016. In three starts at home this year, against the Jets Week 1, Broncos Week 3, and Bucs Week 7, Taylor has completed 64.37% of his passes for 705 yards and a 5:1 TD:INT mark. He averages 8.1 YPA at home compared to 5.77 on the road, and Taylor’s 1.03.9 passer rating in Buffalo is 24.9 points higher than away from New Era Field. Taylor has managed a pair of top-10 finishes at home in 2017 while averaging 18.9 fantasy points. He gets another very favorable draw against a Raiders unit that is 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Despite employing Khalil Mack, the Raiders are 27th in sacks, and they’re the only team yet to record an interception. The Bills are averaging over 25.5 points per game at home in 2017. The Buffalo offense runs completely through Taylor and LeSean McCoy. Taylor buoys his floor with 35 rushing yards per game at home. Buffalo’s implied team total of 23.75 points has a decent chance to hit the “over.”
Derek Carr at Bills: After not having a 300-yard game to his name through six weeks, Carr erupted for 417 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 7. The 417 yards were the second-most of his career, behind only a 513-yard explosion against the Bucs in 2016. Before last Thursday night versus Kansas City, Carr had been held under 200 yards in three-straight games, one of them being an injury-shortened Week 4 in Denver. Carr seems to be well past that back issue, but the Raiders now travel from the southwest coast all the way northeast for a 1 PM ET start. Oakland has yet to have a full-blown east coast early game this season. It’s obviously not an impossible task, but it certainly isn’t easy. Making things tougher will be the Bills’ pass defense. Buffalo has allowed just five passing touchdowns all season and is tied for third in the league in interceptions. First-round CB Tre’Davious White is Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 cover corner. Fellow outside starting CB E.J. Gaines has allowed just a 50.5 passer rating in his coverage, but did leave Week 7 with a hamstring injury. The Bills are labeling him day to day. The one positive for Carr may be more pass attempts on his plate with Marshawn Lynch suspended for Sunday following his altercation with a referee in Week 7. The Raiders have a 21.25 implied team total, while the Bills allow just 18.3 points at home.
Matthew Stafford vs. Steelers: Stafford’s results have been all over the place through six games. He has just two top-12 finishes, and the one in Week 6 against the Saints was aided by 52 pass attempts after New Orleans kept intercepting him and returning them for touchdowns. The good news is Stafford should be well over an ankle injury he suffered Week 5. The Lions are coming out of their bye but get the Steelers’ elite defense. Pittsburgh is No. 1 in pass yards allowed, No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA, and No. 2 in sacks. Lions fill-in LT Greg Robinson has been Pro Football Focus’ second-worst tackle to this point. He was hurt in Week 6, and Brian Mihalik had to replace him. Mihalik finished as PFF’s third-worst pass-protecting tackle that week. This is a real problem spot for Stafford. The 45.5-point total in Steelers-Lions is more than fine, but both of these offenses are bottom-seven in pace. I’m taking the under on this one and avoiding Stafford in fantasy.
Ben Roethlisberger at Lions: Big Ben on the road has been a situation to mostly avoid in recent years. That notion hasn’t changed this season. Roethlisberger has played four road games in 2017, finishing as the QB15 (@ CLE), QB25 (@ CHI), QB21 (@ BAL), and QB18 (@ KC). The Browns and Chiefs games qualified as plus matchups. The Lions are middle-of-the-pack (14th) in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and ninth in pass-defense DVOA. Only six teams have surrendered fewer touchdown passes. On a positive note, this one will be played in a controlled environment at the Ford Field dome in Detroit, but it’s just not enough to get excited about streaming Big Ben. On the year, he’s the QB23 in total fantasy points and the QB27 in points per game. If not for his name recognition, we wouldn’t even be talking about Roethlisberger for fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Dion Lewis vs. Chargers: Lewis has set a season-high in carries in three-straight weeks, seeing seven in Week 5, 11 in Week 6, and 13 last Sunday night against the Falcons. He has eclipsed 50 yards on the ground all three times and scored on a goal-line plunge against the Jets in Week 6. Lewis has apparently passed Mike Gillislee on the depth chart as the preferred goal-line and early-down back. For now. Things can always change under coach Bill Belichick, which makes this backfield such a quagmire. The only downside on Lewis is he doesn’t catch many passes anymore since James White has a stranglehold on that job. But the matchup this week is ripe for the picking. The Chargers are 31st in rushing yards allowed per game and surrender 4.99 YPC to running backs. They’re 27th in run-defense DVOA as opposed to eight against the pass, so this sets up as a spot for the Patriots to potentially lean on the ground game. Chargers-Patriots has a 48-point total, only behind the 50.5 mark in Cowboys-Redskins for the highest of the week. And New England’s 27.75-point implied team total is the third-highest of Week 8. Lewis is a strong RB3/FLEX play with upside in an offense that knocks on the door of the end zone plenty.
Joe Mixon vs. Colts: Mixon ran the ball just seven times and amassed only 10 touches in the Week 7 loss to the Steelers. After the game, he voiced his frustration to the media, saying he wished the Bengals would lean on him more as a workhorse. Unfortunately, the coaches don’t seem to be willing to do so, and head man Marvin Lewis essentially told rookie Mixon to shut his mouth. The Bengals losing by 15 points last week certainly played a role in Mixon’s diminished usage. The three previous weeks under OC Bill Lazor, Mixon played 53% of the snaps and saw touch totals of 21, 21, and 15. Unlike last week, game script figures to be in Mixon’s favor this Sunday. Cincinnati is a massive 10.5-point home favorite and sports the fifth-highest implied team total of the week at 25.75 points. The Colts were playing solid run defense to open the season, but that’s gone out the window of late. Only the 49ers have given up more fantasy points to running backs this season, and Indianapolis is 21st in run-defense DVOA. T.J. Yeldon hadn’t even played in a game yet this season but came off the pine to rush for 122 yards and a touchdown on nine carries against the Colts last week, finishing as the RB6. Teammate Chris Ivory also scored a touchdown on the ground. In Week 6, teammates Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray were the RBs 10 and 11, combining for 232 yards and a long touchdown. Mixon is in a slump-busting spot with a chance to have his first 100-yard rushing game. The Colts have allowed the most rushing touchdowns to the position.
Jerick McKinnon vs. Browns: McKinnon was the star of the show in Weeks 5 and 6 following Dalvin Cook’s season-ending ACL tear in Week 4. But it was Latavius Murray who shined brightest last Sunday against the Ravens. Murray rushed for 113 yards and a score on 18 totes and finished as the RB9 on the week, while McKinnon turned his 17 touches into 57 scoreless yards. There’s been some worry floating around this week, but McKinnon is still the 1A to Murray’s 1B. The two were always splitting early-down work, but before last week Murray wasn’t getting anything going, averaging a pitiful 2.37 YPC. Murray was getting phased out in the second half of games due to that bad play. It changed last week, but more often than not, McKinnon is going to be the one running circles around Murray. And McKinnon is able to keep a safe floor because he gets all the pass-game work. The Browns have played stout run defense through seven weeks, allowing a league-best 2.95 YPC to running backs. They’ve stymied the Texans and Titans running backs in back-to-back weeks. The presence of No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett has been huge since he made his debut in Week 5. But Garrett reported to the team on Tuesday with a concussion and has been placed in the protocol. It’ll be difficult for him to gain clearance in time for Sunday morning’s London tilt. Garrett’s loss would be huge and provide a big boost to the Minnesota offense. Since Cook’s injury, McKinnon has played 59.2% of the snaps to Murray’s 40.4%, and McKinnon has out-touched Murray 59-48. McKinnon will likely find the sledding to be tough on the ground, but he’s averaging 4.7-30.3-0.33 as a receiver the past three weeks to help set a safe floor. McKinnon is a locked-in RB2 with huge upside. The 37.5-point total in Browns-Vikings is the second-lowest of the week, but this has the potential to be a lopsided affair dominated by Minnesota as 9.5-point favorites.
Alvin Kamara vs. Bears: In the two games since the Adrian Peterson trade, Kamara has been in on 46.3% of the snaps compared to 35.1% before the deal. Kamara has seen 14.5 touches per game in the past two weeks and has firmly settled in as the complement to Mark Ingram. Things have gone so much smoother with just the two-man backfield instead of trying to shoehorn Peterson into the mix. On paper, this doesn’t look like a great individual matchup for Kamara, as the Bears are 12th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and seventh in receiving yards yielded to the position. But this game will be played on the fast Superdome track. Bears-Saints has a total of 47.5 points, the second-highest of the week, while New Orleans’ implied team total of 28.25 is second only to the Eagles. The Bears have played solid defense at home (15.75 PPG), but they’ve allowed 29.3 PPG away from Soldier Field. We want exposure to the key pieces in the Saints offense at home. As nine-point favorites, New Orleans could be handing the ball off plenty in the second half. Mark Ingram would dominate most of those carries, but Kamara would also get his fair share.
Duke Johnson vs. Vikings: Johnson has only seen double-digit touches in 2-of-7 games this season. He’s very clearly the Browns’ best back and maybe the team’s best offensive skill player, but the coaching staff won’t commit to him, making it impossible to trust a guy like Johnson on such shallow volume in an offense that doesn’t score points. On top of all that, the Vikings present a stiff challenge in London on Sunday morning. Minnesota is No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and it has yielded the ninth-fewest catches for the fifth-fewest yards to the position. The Vikings are tied with the Broncos and Bengals for the fewest touchdowns given up to running backs, and Denver and Cincinnati have each played one fewer game. LBs Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have each received plus marks from Pro Football Focus in pass coverage. Cleveland’s 14-point implied team total is easily the lowest of Week 8. The Browns may again not find the end zone.
Frank Gore at Bengals: The Colts were blown out by the Jaguars last week, and Gore saw a season-low nine carries in the process, turning them into a meager 34 yards. Gore hasn’t scored since Week 3 and has rushed for 50 yards just once this season. Over the past four weeks, he’s averaged just 11.25 carries per game. That’s not enough when Gore averages just 3.4 YPC and doesn’t score touchdowns. Rookie Marlon Mack has been the big-play threat in the Indy backfield, but even he leads the league in carries for zero or negative yards and drops too many passes while being wholly unreliable in pass protection. Overall, this just isn’t a good spot for the Colts offense. The Bengals are No. 6 in run-defense DVOA and ninth in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Cincinnati has allowed just two touchdowns total to the position, and the return of WLB Vontaze Burfict from his three-game suspension to open the year has only made the unit better. The Colts are huge 10.5-point road underdogs. We could see a lot of Mack in the second half like last week.
C.J. Anderson at Chiefs: Anderson had a phenomenal on-paper matchup against the Chargers’ putrid run defense last week, but he only saw 10 carries, turning them into a solid 44 yards. The Broncos fell behind and had to play catch-up much of the second half. This team simply isn’t very good, and the offense flat-out stinks. Kansas City isn’t an imposing threat defensively; the Chiefs are 28th in run-defense DVOA and allow 4.37 YPC, but the offense plays at the slowest pace and can control the clock, limiting the opposing offense’s possessions. With Devontae Booker now healthy and Jamaal Charles still healthy, this is a three-man committee with no real fantasy asset. The Broncos are touchdown underdogs on the road, and Charles could see an uptick in playing time as he returns to face his former team. Off back-to-back bad games, Anders is more of an RB3.
Start of the Week: Devin Funchess at Bucs: Funchess was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury, so this is assuming he plays. Since a two-target Week 1, Funchess has been far more involved in the past month-and-a-half. He’s 15th among all receivers with 53 targets, seeing an average of 7.6 per game. Over the past month, that number sits at eight per week. And they’ve been consistent looks, as Funchess has drawn no fewer than seven targets in a game since Week 2. The yards haven’t been there the past two outings (36 and 41) with Cam Newton struggling a bit, but this is a big get-right spot for the Carolina offense. The Bucs are dead last in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Only the Patriots and Colts have allowed more yards to the position. Funchess should get a healthy dose of struggling sophomore CB Vernon Hargreaves on Sunday. Hargreaves is Pro Football Focus’ No. 90 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers and has allowed the fifth-most yards in his coverage among those corners. Outside WRs Deonte Thompson (WR15), John Brown (WR15), Chris Hogan (WR7), Brandin Cooks (WR23), Odell Beckham (WR15), and Brandon Marshall (WR32) have all had strong weeks against this Tampa pass defense the past four weeks. The Panthers are a decent bet to hit the over on their 21.75-point implied team total.
Nelson Agholor vs. 49ers: Agholor helped us a lot in this space last week, putting up a 4-45-1 line against the Redskins on a night Carson Wentz threw four touchdowns. The Eagles remain at home and get an even tastier matchup against a hapless 49ers defense traveling east for a 1 PM ET start. Agholor hasn’t seen great volume at just 5.7 targets per game over the past three weeks, but he’s been efficient in pulling in 12 of those 17 targets and scoring a pair of touchdowns. He runs 85.6% of his routes out of the slot. Niners slot CB K’Waun Williams isn’t practicing due to a quad injury. FS Jimmie Ward slid to cover the slot after Williams went down last week, and Ward allowed both targets in his coverage to be caught for 96 yards, one a 72-yard touchdown to Ezekiel Elliott and the other a 24-yard completion to Cole Beasley. As a team, the 49ers are 29th in pass-defense DVOA and 25th in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Agholor has been a touchdown machine with five scores already. He’s in line for regression, but Week 8 presents another chance to ride the wave. The Eagles’ implied team total of 29.5 points is the highest of the week, and they love to throw it.
Pierre Garcon at Eagles: Despite being seventh among all receivers in targets, Garcon has just one 100-yard game and has yet to score a touchdown as the WR25 in PPR points per game. Subpar quarterback play has a lot to do with the lack of scoring. In rookie C.J. Beathard’s first start last week, Garcon managed a 5-49 line against Dallas. The 49ers likely don’t have a prayer to win in Philadelphia on Sunday as 13-point underdogs, but that could mean a ton of garbage time opportunity for San Francisco’s pass game. The Eagles are 26th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, and no team has allowed more catches to the position. Philly may get top CB Ronald Darby back from a severe ankle injury this week, but he hasn’t played in over a month; fellow outside CB Jalen Mills has been flamed in coverage, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 105 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers. Slot CB Patrick Robinson has been terrific as PFF’s No. 5 cover man. Rookie Trent Taylor mans the slot for the Niners. In two games against Eagles DC Jim Schwartz’s defense last season, Garcon went 6-77 on 11 targets and 5-59-1 on six looks. That obviously came with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback, but this is the exact same offensive scheme in San Fran.
Brandon LaFell vs. Colts: With six teams on bye this week, owners need to get a little crafty in finding a streamer on the waiver wire. In a couple of my leagues, I’ve turned to LaFell. He’s a near-every snap player and has seen 15 targets total in the Bengals’ past two games. However, LaFell has failed to top 32 yards receiving in a single game this season, but he did score his first touchdown last week against the Steelers. LaFell leads the team in red-zone targets (9) and is tied for sixth in the category among all receivers. The Colts are so banged up in the secondary, losing FS Malik Hooker to a season-ending torn ACL and CB Rashaan Melvin to a concussion last week. Melvin has been sidelined at practice this week and is easily the team’s top corner, checking in at No. 12 in Pro Football Focus’ cornerback rankings out of 113 qualifiers. It’s unclear what this secondary will look like on Sunday, but even when it has been healthy, the Colts are 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 28th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, and dead last in yards given up to the position. This obviously sets up super nicely for A.J. Green as the alpha dog in this receiving corps, but LaFell should still get his chances. The Bengals’ implied team total of 25.75 points is the fifth-highest of Week 8.
T.Y. Hilton at Bengals: The WR26 in PPR, Hilton has essentially done all of his damages in a pair of home games against the Browns and 49ers; 64.5% of his yards and his lone touchdown came in those two contests. Hilton has been especially bad on the road. He’s averaged 2.3 catches for 35.3 yards and no scores away from Lucas Oil Stadium this season. The Colts’ offensive line has been dreadful, allowing 10 sacks at home against the Jaguars in Week 7. Things won’t be any easier in Cincinnati. The Bengals are ninth in sacks, 12th in pass-defense DVOA, and ninth in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Indianapolis’ implied team total of 15.25 points is the second-lowest of the week. Hilton just hasn’t been able to get cooking without Andrew Luck outside of cake matchups. This doesn’t qualify as one of those, especially with CB Adam Jones (back) looking likely to return after missing Week 7. Cincinnati just shut down Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant last week. JuJu Smith-Schuster scored a 31-yard touchdown on a busted coverage, managing eight yards on his other two targets. Hilton is a boom-or-bust WR3/4 who has busted more than he’s boomed in 2017.
Marvin Jones vs. Steelers: Jones is 10th among all receivers in targets per game (9) over the past four weeks, but it’s important to note that 14 of those came in the Week 6 loss to the Saints when Matthew Stafford attempted 52 passes at the Superdome. That’s well above normal for Stafford. Golden Tate (shoulder) was surprisingly able to practice Wednesday, but his status for Sunday night remains completely up in the air. Kenny Golladay (hamstring) is expected back after missing the past few weeks. That will let some air out of Jones’ balloon, as well. The Steelers represent an incredibly difficult matchup for receivers. Pittsburgh is No. 2 in total team defense, No. 1 in pass yards allowed, and No. 1 in fantasy points given up to receivers. Newcomer Joe Haden has yet to allow a touchdown in his coverage, while fellow outside CB Artie Burns is Pro Football Focus’ No. 21 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers. The Steelers are No. 10 in DVOA against opposing No. 1 outside receivers. Jones’ targets are all nice and dandy, but his 52.6% catch rate is 97th among 115 qualified receivers. That’s Martavis Bryant-ian levels. Jones is a mere WR4 in this spot.
Will Fuller at Seahawks: Fuller has played in three games this season after missing the first three weeks with a broken collarbone suffered over the summer. In those three games played, Fuller has caught eight passes, scoring a touchdown on five of them. That’s a ridiculous pace that is sure to come with severe regression. On the road at the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom looks like a letdown spot. Richard Sherman isn’t the shutdown corner he once was, but he and rookie Shaq Griffin have formed a formidable tandem on the outside. The problem area has been slot CB Jeremy Lane, who is apparently being benched in favor of ex-Patriot Justin Coleman. The Seahawks are fifth in pass-defense DVOA and fourth in fantasy points allowed to corners. Houston has been railroading teams in their path of late, but that’s highly unlikely to happen in Seattle. Knock Fuller down a few pegs.
Start of the Week: Tyler Kroft vs. Colts: In the four games since Kroft took over as the Bengals’ starting tight end, he has seen target totals of 4, 5, 7, and 4 while playing 93% of the snaps. The volume isn’t anything to write home about, but he has scored three touchdowns in that span and is being featured in the scoring area. The boxes to check when looking for a tight end streamer are: Is he on the field, and does he catch touchdowns? Kroft clearly checks both of those boxes. The Colts just lost ballhawking FS Malik Hooker to a torn ACL last week, and Indianapolis was already awful against tight ends before that injury. The Colts have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the position. Marcedes Lewis caught a touchdown against them in Week 7, and George Kittle hung a 7-83-1 line on Indy in Week 5. Kroft is my favorite streamer of the week in a game the Bengals should be living in the red zone and are implied to score 25.75 points, the fifth-highest of Week 8.
Kyle Rudolph vs. Browns: Going into each week, the first thing to do at tight end is to look and see which one is facing the Browns. This week, that’s Rudolph. Over the past three weeks since the Dalvin Cook and Stefon Diggs injuries, Rudolph has seen target totals of 9, 9, and 7. He had a brutally slow start to the season but has since picked it up in a big way. Diggs may be coming back from his groin injury this week, but it’s very doubtful he’s 100 percent. The Vikings would be smart to rest him through next week’s bye. The Browns are easily beatable without Diggs. Cleveland is 30th in yards allowed to tight ends, 30th in fantasy points to the position, and 30th in DVOA against tight ends. Delanie Walker should have had a huge day against the Browns last week, but Marcus Mariota bounced an easy touchdown to him and another long one was just broken up. Walker finished with a 7-63 line on 10 targets. Ryan Griffin had 52 yards and a two-point conversion in Week 6. Austin Seferian-Jenkins had six grabs and a touchdown in Week 5. Tyler Kroft had a career day with a 6-68-2 line in Week 4. Rudolph is a locked-in TE1 Sunday morning in London.
Hunter Henry at Patriots: Henry has distanced himself from Antonio Gates as the Chargers’ clear-cut No. 1 tight end in recent weeks. He played 81% of the snaps last game against the Broncos and led the team with 73 yards on four grabs. Henry also drew a DPI call in the end zone. He has seen target totals of 8, 7, and 5 the past three weeks after putting up a pair of airballs in the first four games. Henry now gets a plum draw against a Patriots defense that is 27th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, 30th in touchdowns given up to the position, and 28th in catches surrendered. This game has shootout potential, as the Patriots’ team total sits at 27.75 points and their defense can’t stop opposing offenses without the help of fog. Keep riding Henry as a surefire TE1.
Austin Hooper at Jets: Hooper has been all over the map through six games. He saw just two targets each of the first three weeks before drawing a combined 16 looks in the next two and then seeing just one last week in New England. In Week 6 against a bad Dolphins pass defense, Hooper had a career day with seven grabs for 48 yards on nine targets. He gets a similarly-enticing matchup this Sunday. The Jets have allowed the third-most touchdowns to tight ends, yielding four the five touchdowns in the past three games. Gang Green breathed life into a near-dead Julius Thomas last week, coughing up 58 yards to him on three grabs. Rob Gronkowski found pay dirt twice in Week 6. Rookie David Njoku visited the end zone in Week 5. The Falcons should have success through the air in this one, though we’ve been thinking that a lot in recent weeks. There shouldn’t be any fog in Atlanta’s way Sunday.
O.J. Howard vs. Panthers: Howard threw himself onto the map with a 6-98-2 dismantling of the Bills last Sunday. However, he was extremely efficient, catching all six of his targets, and was still out-targeted 9-6 by Cameron Brate. Howard was just the one that got wide open on his touchdowns. It was nice to see Howard play 70.8% of the snaps, but he again blocked more than he ran a pass route. Brate remained the preferred option in the pass game and has Jameis Winston’s trust in the red zone. Ideally, we’d like to see Howard have another big game before trusting him as a streamer. The Panthers have allowed the fourth-fewest catches to tight ends and are expected to get MLB Luke Kuechly (concussion) back in the lineup Sunday. FS Kurt Coleman (knee) is also back practicing in full. Brate would be the preferred play if trying to decide between Tampa Bay tight ends.
Jack Doyle at Bengals: Over the last four weeks, Doyle is second only to Evan Engram in targets per game. Engram is at 8.5 while Doyle is right behind him at 8.3. Since his concussion, Doyle has target totals of 11 and 7 and scored one touchdown against the Titans in Week 6. He has an extremely safe floor and shouldn’t exactly be totally avoided in this spot based on his volume, but this is a very difficult matchup. The Bengals have allowed the second-fewest catches for the fewest yards and fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. They haven’t faced a daunting schedule of tight ends by any means, but WLB Vontaze Burfict’s return has only made their coverage in the middle of the field that much better. Doyle should be treated as a borderline TE1/2 in this spot.
George Kittle at Eagles: One of the most popular DFS plays at the position last week, Kittle was a massive letdown. Kittle played a four-week-low 47% of the snaps and ran a season-low 17 pass routes. Someone named “Cole Hikutini” employed by the Niners ran 18 pass routes at tight end after running just two the previous week. With that, we just can’t trust Kittle in a bad offense, even if the matchup suggests otherwise. Tight end streamers have to be on the field, and we don’t know if Kittle will suddenly again play 90% of the snaps. The Eagles have allowed the third-most catches to tight ends and just lost coverage standout MLB Jordan Hicks to a torn Achilles’, but Kittle would still have to deal with FS Malcolm Jenkins. Kittle is a last-ditch option for desperate owners.