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STATS’ Favorite Fantasy Plays: Week 8

By: Andy Cooper

As always, when you read this, please be aware that I’m not intending to touch on every player, but rather a few unique or pivotal opinions. If I don’t touch on some of your guys, by all means, reach out on twitter (@cshcwartz18), and perhaps I’ll get back to you.

Welcome to one of the craziest weeks for byes that I can remember. Six teams are on byes, so season-long owners are scrambling for waiver-wire replacements. In DFS (especially on Draft Kings, which doesn’t include SNF in the main slate), it’s even tougher to find specific punt plays and fades – there will be lots of overlap of players, especially among those of you who enter multiple lineups. For this week, I’ll not only highlight the usual amount of players with longer blurbs, but I’ll also point out waiver-wire or punt-play type guys – with less explanation – at each position.

Here are some of my picks:

High-End QB Play: Carson Wentz, PHI (vs. SF)

San Francisco is a defense to target, allowing the sixth-most passing yards this season despite trailing almost all the time (that means they’re very, very bad). Carson Wentz has reached bona fide stud status – as well as MVP candidate status – and now gets his easiest matchup yet. Coming off an explosion last week on national TV, he will be highly owned – and for good reason. You won’t want to fade him in cash games, and if you have him in season long, it’s time to consider him your elite QB1, even over guys like Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, and Cam Newton. This is the rare week where he is ranked above Tom Brady, as well, and he’s still much cheaper.

Stack Partner: He’s not the sneakiest GPP play because he’ll be such a popular pick. Pretty much all of his usual targets are good stack partners, though. Zach Ertz (No. 1 TE this week) and Alshon Jeffery (WR1 this week) should and will be in lots of your lineups.

High-End QB Play: Jameis Winston, TB (vs. CAR)

Obviously check on his injury status before game time, but if he plays, he’s an underrated fantasy option. Carolina’s pass D appears good based on raw stats (i.e. yardage allowed), but if you dig deeper, lots of that is due to three of six games against Brian Hoyer, Tyrod Taylor, and Mitchell Trubisky (who completed four passes). They’re actually middle-of-the-road when it comes to yards per attempt allowed (despite the soft schedule), and they’re one of six teams allowing a 100+ passer rating on the year. I could see a competent pass offense tearing them up, which makes Jameis a sneaky GPP play and a QB1 in season-long.

Sleeper QB: Andy Dalton, CIN (vs. IND)

San Fran is getting more attention as a defense to target, due to the whooping they received last week from Dallas. Indianapolis is almost as bad, though. They’ve allowed the second-most passing yards per game, despite trailing so often (that means they’re very, very bad). It’s no surprise, knowing this, that they’ve allowed the most yards per attempt in the NFL. Dalton has enjoyed success since the change in coordinator, averaging 242 yards per game with 10 TDs in the four games since. Even though he struggled against Pittsburgh’s good defense last week, he is the best cheap DFS option and bye week fill-in this week against a bad defense.

Stack Partner: A.J. Green is the obvious one. He’s our No. 2 WR behind only Antonio Brown and ahead of Julio Jones this week. He’s priced like it, which should keep his ownership down, as it’s tough to roster him and also the stud RBs that somehow all don’t have byes (i.e. Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott). I’ll touch on a couple other stack options for Cincinnati later in the piece.

QB Fade: Philip Rivers, LAC (@ NE)

New England’s defense has looked better since a thumping from Cam Newton, allowing only four pass TDs over the last three games, including a dominant effort against Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week. They’ve been doing it with injuries, too, indicating that a lot of the newcomers and backups in the scheme are starting to figure it out and gel. New England is still generally a pass defense to target, just due to game flow, but not enough so to make Rivers a better fantasy play than guys like Taylor and Dalton who either contribute rushing stats or have better matchups.

Waiver-Wire Picks: If you can’t snag Dalton, I like Case Keenum and Josh McCown. If you’re desperate, C.J. Beathard has the potential to put up 15-20 points in a garbage-time situation.

High-End RB Play: LeSean McCoy (vs. OAK)

Zeke went off last week, but we are maintaining a level head and ranking Shady right up there with him as the No. 2a RB this week. He looked spry last week after his bye, finally regressing positively into some TDs. Despite Oakland’s run D having looked good on paper, they didn’t face a good rushing attack this year until Kareem Hunt last week (4.9 yards per carry, over 80 yards). What separates Shady from the non-Bell pack is his receiving – with no WRs that Tyrod trusts, and Charles Clay hurt, he racks up targets and receptions (6.5 targets per game this year). He leads this week’s RBs in our projected receptions and receiving yards, making him a potential PPR monster and DFS winner. He is a must-play in DFS cash and also a great GPP play, especially if Zeke will have higher ownership levels.

High-End RB Play: Mark Ingram, NO (vs. CHI)

Fact 1: Chicago’s defense has been mighty impressive. Fact 2: New Orleans is still expected to score around 29 points. Fact 3: Chicago’s defense has been much better against the pass than the run. What does it all mean? There’s a good chance New Orleans manages to rack up a lot of yards and points (even if not as much as usual), largely via the run. This is good news for Ingram, who is a mid-range RB1 alongside guys like DeVonta Freeman and Jordan Howard this week.

High-End RB Play: Joe Mixon, CIN (vs. IND)

Surprise! We’re targeting the Colts run defense, too. This has less to do with their run defense and more to do with game script, though. Since the coordinator change, Mixon has 14 rushes per game, despite only one positive game script. He could set a season-high in touches this week, and he has the talent and potential to make the most of it. Particularly on Draft Kings, where Le’Veon is not part of the main slate, he seems like a great cash option.

RB Sleeper: James White, NE (vs. LAC)

Dion Lewis has been getting more snaps and touches, and Rex Burkhead is healthy, but that has come at the expense of Mike Gillislee more so than White. White still had nine touches last week, which is enough to make him a flex option in standard and a borderline stud in PPR. He should get targets and receptions this week against a Chargers D that is strong on the outside and funnels passes to backs and tight ends.

RB Fade: Doug Martin, TB (vs. CAR)

As I mentioned, it’s really hard to find fades this week. Every player is ranked much higher than usual due to the byes, and a guy like Doug Martin is still a borderline RB1. He’s just not worth his price tag in daily fantasy, as I prefer Lamar Miller (cheaper), Joe Mixon (cheaper), and Alvin Kamara (better), in the borderline RB1 territory. Carolina has been top 10 against the run, in terms of both yards per carry and yards per game.

Waiver-Wire Picks: If nobody snatched up Oakland’s replacement backs, both Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington should have some value as long as one or the other doesn’t run away with the hot hand. Marlon Mack is a flex option with Robert Turbin hurt, and Wendell Smallwood has a dream matchup against San Fran as long as he suits up.

High-End WR Play: Michael Crabtree, OAK (@ BUF)

The Rex Ryan Bills struggled to put up points and contributed to low-scoring matchups. Those days are gone, as this matchup features an over/under of 45, which could mean plenty of throwing. Buffalo has allowed the seventh-most pass yards per game, and Derek Carr looked all the way back last week on national TV. That’s good news for Crabtree, who, despite all of Oakland’s ups and downs, has managed 80+ yards in three of six and a TD in four of six games. He’s a WR1 this week, given all the byes, and a nice value in DFS.

WR Sleeper: JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (@ DET)

Martavis Bryant will be a healthy scratch for the foreseeable future. Since passing Eli Rogers on the depth chart, JuJu has registered three TDs and had three-plus receptions in four of six games. People love asking “should I bench my WR1 with Darius Slay covering him?” The answer is almost always no, especially this week, as nobody prevents Brown from being the overall WR1. Slay’s presence and Bryant’s absence, however, could both add up to more targets than usual for JuJu. He’s a borderline WR2 who is still priced like a WR4, so he’s a great cash play in DFS (though not part of the Draft King main slate).

WR Fade: Julio Jones, ATL (@ NYJ)

There, Julio got his TD for the season. All kidding aside, obviously you’re starting Julio and can expect top-five WR production. This week in DFS – at least in cash lineups – I prefer rostering stud RBs instead of spending your money on Julio. Atlanta desperately needs a win, and they’re more likely to kill out clock with a run-heavy script than they are to air it out if they have a lead (just like in the Super Bowl, right?). Of all weeks, this just isn’t the one to roster Julio in cash. (Now that I reverse jinxed him into his first multi-TD game in years, please thank me if you own him in season-long).

WR Fade: T.Y. Hilton, IND (@ CIN)

Cincinnati is a poor matchup for opposing WRs (we have them rated as bottom five, meaning good). They limited, but didn’t stop, Antonio last week. Also, as some of the shine is starting to wear off Jacoby Brissett, T.Y. has been a frustratingly low producer, bottoming out to average 1.5 receptions for 23 yards over the last two weeks. In fact, if you eliminate monster games against the two worst teams in football (SF and CLE), T.Y. has averaged 2.6 receptions for 36 yards against the five other competent teams (yuck). He’s merely a borderline WR2 even with so many byes, ranked right around the much cheaper Smith-Schuster.

WR Sleepers and Waiver Wire Picks: The following guys are all solid waiver wire options. They are also all priced on DFS as if it’s a normal week, and not a week where 20 percent of players are on byes and WR4s are WR3s. These guys are: Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Robbie Anderson, Brandon LaFell, Torrey Smith.

High-End TE Play: Jason Witten, DAL (@ WAS)

The “play your TEs against Cleveland and the Giants” narrative has gained full steam, but Washington has also struggled against TEs. Look at their games against fantasy-relevant TEs: Travis Kelce, Jared Cook, and Zach Ertz (x2) all put up 80+ yards and/or a TD. Now they face Witten, who bounced back with two consecutive good weeks after two stinkers, and who has shown both a nice floor (volume) and ceiling (red-zone looks) this season.

TE Sleeper: Tyler Kroft, CIN (vs. IND)

I’ve already touted how bad Indy is, so instead I’ll tout what Kroft has been doing since Tyler Eifert went down. He’s been a steady, startable fantasy TE, averaging just about 4/40/1, with four-plus receptions each of his last three games. For some reason – maybe a mistake, honestly – he’s priced practically at the minimum on Draft Kings, making him a must-play. He’s also a TE1 this week and potentially a nice long-term pickup in season-long.

TE Fade: Jared Cook, OAK (@ BUF)

You may not be able to do better than Cook if you own him in season-long, with guys like Martellus Bennett, Evan Engram, and Delanie Walker all on byes. Buffalo handles TEs well, though, grading out as our No. 5 fantasy defense against TEs. I like other borderline TE1s like Kroft and Jack Doyle more this week.

Waiver-Wire Picks: Honestly, pick out of a hat. If you’re really in a bind, I like Austin Hooper and Nick O’Leary. O.J. Howard is a popular pick-up, but he’s too TD dependent (even for a TE) and one of the most likely guys to put up a 0/0/0. Go ahead and roster Howard if you feel you need some upside, but if you want a safer pick, I like Ryan Griffin.