News & Analysis

Erickson: Week 8 fantasy football rankings overview

In this week’s preview of the Week 8 NFL slate, I'm highlighting key insights for every game that I didn’t cover in PFF’s huge NFL Week 8 Preview.

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I'll identify sleepers, busts, DFS picks and waiver-wire options with consideration for injuries and other fantasy-relevant news and notes. It’s the behind the scenes look into my Week 8 fantasy rankings

And as a special treat — it is Halloween szn after all — I’ll also call out my favorite DFS stacks. Stacking has been a tried-and-true approach to winning tournaments — if the right stack hits, then it’s an instant print fest. Should come in handy with the holidays quickly approaching!

NEW YORK JETS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

There isn’t a more lopsided matchup this week than the Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs taking on the 0-7 New York Jets

We’ll start from the Jets’ side (shouldn’t take long) with running back Le’Mical Perine, who offers value as a low-end RB2 this week. That’s because he is emerging as the starter in the backfield — he tied Frank Gore last week in carries (11) but led in snap share (70%), routes run (16) and targets (three).

The Chiefs’ biggest weakness is against the run, as they have allowed the third-most rushing yards to RBs this season (4.8 yards per attempt). Their defense could also be without a major contributor: Defensive lineman Chris Jones is dealing with a groin injury and has already missed a game this season because of it. He is the Chiefs’ highest-graded player on the DL (83.6).

There’s also an extremely high likelihood of garbage time for the Jets’ offense, which could lead to more targets for Perine. 

Another player who could see targets on the Jets’ offense is rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims. In his first NFL game, Mims commanded six targets and led the team in receiving yards (42). 

Both Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder are dealing with injuries, so Mims could easily stumble into eight to 10 targets. He’s an under-the-radar DFS option on DraftKings at just $3,200. 

Now, onto the exciting offense — there shouldn’t be any Chiefs player not in starting lineups this week. I highlighted Le’Veon Bell as a “start” this week in my Week 8 start em’ or sit em' and he should be in lineups along with Patrick Mahomes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill

Mahomes is priced way up in DFS ($8,100), so he’s hard to fit in cash game builds, but he is probably a great player in tournaments — this is a spot where he could easily just throw five touchdown passes.

He would be best to pair with his usual suspects in Kelce and Hill, but my lean is toward Hill as the priority. Hill is coming off a 10-target game and should be able to do some real damage against a Jets’ secondary that has allowed fifth-most receiving yards to WRs.

They rank middle of the pack this season in fantasy points allowed to receivers because they have allowed just five receiving touchdowns to the position. This seems destined to regress,as every other team that has allowed 1,200 or more yards to WRs this season has allowed an average of nine touchdown passes. 

Also, feel good about sprinkling in CEH and Bell in DFS lineups as well. The Jets have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the RB position this season. Taking into consideration prices and salaries, I draw a slight lean toward Bell because he could end up seeing a bulk of carries near the goal line. 

Bell is probably a better option in tournaments with CEH profiling more as a cash play. That would make my favorite GPP stack in this game Mahomes, Hill, Bell and a bring-back with Perine. Spending down at RB makes it much easier to fill up the rest of the lineup with stud wide receivers. 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ BUFFALO BILLS

There are not many fantasy options to trust in New England after their offensive showings the past two weeks. Quarterback Cam Newton can’t be trusted with his current supporting cast of pass-catchers, and the matchup greatly favors the Patriots’ running backs.

The Bills have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards to RBs over the past four weeks, so Damien Harris fits the mold as an RB3 option this week. He falls at No. 30 in my Week 8 running back rankings because he has established himself as the clear early-down back with 33 carries since his Week 4 breakout game. 

There’s also a chance that the Patriots get some key starters back on the offensive line, which would further cement their ground game as one that should produce on Sunday. PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart ranks the Patriots’ OL with the highest advantage this week. 

The bad news is that Harris is also dealing with an ankle injury (ugh), so that would likely thrust Rex Burkhead into a massive workload. James White played a season-low 10 snaps in Week 7 despite the Patriots trailing. Burkhead is the stone minimum on DraftKings ($4,000).  

Oct 4, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws the ball in the first quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Allen was listed as a “sit” for me this week, but it’s important to recognize on behalf of my Twitter mentions (don’t roast me) that the Allen “sit” comes with a caveat — whether John Brown is available. Monitor Brown’s status heading into Sunday and also stay tuned to whether the Patriots have cornerback Stephon Gilmore available.

The 2019 defensive player of the year has been rumored in trade discussion and has even put his house in New England on the market. If the Patriots decide to deal Gilmore, there’s a chance they just sit him out Sunday to make sure he doesn’t get injured. 

Should that happen, Allen would have to rise in my QB rankings from where he currently sits at QB12. 

Devin Singletary was listed as a “sit” last week and I don’t feel great going back to him in Week 8. The matchup is solid against the Patriots, who have allowed the second-most fantasy point to running backs over the past two weeks, but Zack Moss continues to eat into Singletary’s workload. 

Last week, Singletary barely out-snapped Moss (54% to 47%), and they split touches equally at 10 apiece.

Moss profiles as the better between-the-tackles grinder, so don’t be surprised to see him lead the backfield in carries on Sunday. 

As for the wide receivers, Cole Beasley is in a great spot based on his track record against the New England Patriots. In two games last season versus his AFC East rival, Beasley averaged seven catches, 11.5 targets and 96 receiving yards.

Stefon Diggs should also be good for a big play or two in this matchup. The Patriots have allowed the second-highest explosive pass play percentage this season (27.8%) to wide receivers, and Diggs leads the team in plays of 15-plus yards. 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ DENVER BRONCOS

The Chargers rank inside the top 10 this season in fewest fantasy points allowed to wide receivers this season, which makes it difficult to take a flier on any Denver Broncos wide receiver. 

The one area of the field the Chargers have given up wide receiver production is from the slot. Targets to slot WRs have generated a league-high 11.9 yards per target, which bodes well for rookie Jerry Jeudy.

Jeudy has played 75% of his snaps from the slot this season and has the potential to see an uptick in targets should Tim Patrick remain sidelined with a hamstring injury. 

Running back Philip Lindsay is dealing with a concussion, which would thrust Melvin Gordon III back into a locked-in three-down workhorse role similar to what we saw during the beginning of the season.

The Chargers’ run defense doesn’t stand out as a particularly difficult matchup — their PFF run-defense grade ranks 24th (52.9). They have also been vulnerable to pass-catching running backs. L.A. has allowed the sixth-most catches to running backs this season, and Gordon has at least two receptions in every game he has played this year. And let’s not forget that it’s a revenge game for Mr. Gordon. 

Mike Williams hasn’t enjoyed the fruits of labor being attached to a Justin Herbert offense like we all hoped he would. After absolutely balling out in New Orleans, Williams disappeared against the Jacksonville Jaguars

He has flamed out in every single game that Herbert has started this season, outside of the Saints game when Keenan Allen was forced to leave with an injury. 

The silver lining is that Williams is still running ahead of Jalen Guyton, who is unlikely to maintain his high-end touchdown production on such little volume. Expect some of Guyton’s deep targets to flow toward Williams. Herbert ranks seventh in yards and second in touchdowns (eight) on throws 20 or more yards downfield this season. 

Williams also has a solid track record against this Vic Fangio-led defense. Last year, in two games against the Broncos, Williams averaged 10 targets, 5.5 catches and 95 receiving yards.

With the defensive attention on Allen — he has traditionally struggled against Denver — don’t be shocked to see William turn out a bounce-back performance. Besides, Denver’s been much weaker against receivers lined up on the outside than in the slot.

Slot receivers have generated an 85.3 passer rating, while perimeter receivers have generated a 112.9 passer rating — 23rd in the league. 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Jimmy Garoppolo is on the QB streaming radar this week and is for sure in play on DraftKings at just $5,400. The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to the quarterback position.

The 49ers will be forced to throw more often with Russell Wilson putting points on the scoreboard, and that’s exactly why we love this game for fantasy football. 

Rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is a top-20 wide receiver for me this week because of the matchup and his expanded role without Deebo Samuel. I expect Aiyuk to fill in as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver and even shoulder some of the WR carries that Samuel had seen over the past few weeks.

Oct 25, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) makes a catch on a pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (not seen) during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Aiyuk saw a season-high eight targets back in Week 3 when Samuel was inactive and finished Week 7 with six catches for 115 yards on seven targets.

Running back Jerick McKinnon was a colossal bust last week because the coaches were “resting” him. To the dismay of those invested in McKinnon, Week 7 became the Jeff Wilson Jr. show. 

But it’s a new week (and I’m not bitter) and it would make sense that McKinnon — now fully rested — is used in a larger capacity with Samuel and Wilson out and the projected game script versus Seattle. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see that Seattle ranks fifth in targets allowed to running backs this season with teams consistently trying to keep pace. 

Kyle Shanahan is a smart coach — after realizing he didn’t have to use McKinnon to beat the Patriots, he made the wise choice to keep his running back fresh for when the team would need to rely on him. 

During the first four weeks of the season, McKinnon averaged 4.5 targets per game without Samuel in the lineup or playing on a pitch count. In games with Samuel in the lineup, the 49ers’ scatback averaged just 2.3 targets per game.

McKinnon is my highest-ranked 49ers RB this week, above JaMycal Hasty, who will face the brunt of PFF’s second-highest-graded run defense. 

For the record, should Tevin Coleman be activated, he would be my preferred target over Hasty to be the early-down back. Shanahan has had an affinity for Coleman dating back to his Falcons’ days. When Raheem Mostert went down in Week 2, Coleman saw 16 touches. 

Due to Samuel’s injury, we should also see more of Kendrick Bourne especially near the goal-line. He’s a desperation play in traditional leagues, but he can offer TD upside. Back in Week 1, Bourne saw two end-zone targets working as one of the team’s starting wideouts. He’s also an extremely cheap way to get exposure to this game in DFS ($3,500).

Seattle has also allowed the second-highest percentage of explosive passing plays to the TE position this season, so be sure to have some George Kittle in DFS lineups this week.

I can’t imagine anybody is considering benching Russell Wilson even after he threw three interceptions last week. The 49ers’ matchup on paper looks tough (seventh-fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs), but this is misleading because of who they have faced — Cam Newton and Daniel Jones combined for 10 fantasy points against them.

The 49ers’ defense is still missing plenty of pieces from its championship-caliber unit from last year — that has been evident against above-average quarterbacks.

Kyler Murray, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz all scored 21-plus fantasy points against San Francisco. Wilson hasn’t scored less than 27 fantasy points yet this season. Considering the state of the Seahawks' running back room, Wilson is a lock for 30-plus fantasy points. 

Speaking of Seattle running backs, this is shaping up to be a difficult position to decipher. Chris Carson is likely out, Carlos Hyde has a mysterious hamstring injury and Travis Homer is banged up. Rookie DeeJay Dallas is the only running back fully healthy and would be the only RB active for Seattle if the latter are unable to suit up.

I have the backs ranked Hyde, Dallas then Homer and would feel comfortable playing the first two in my FLEX. Hyde operated as the three-down back when Carson left after the first half of Week 7, and Dallas possesses a three-down skill set if Hyde can’t play.

He’s a reliable pass-catcher — a former WR with only one drop on 29 catchable targets in college career — who can deliver big-play upside. His breakaway run percentage last season ranked 19th (49.6%) in the FBS.

In the battle of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf to determine which WR will finish higher, I side with Metcalf. I was higher on Lockett last week because, historically speaking, Metcalf had struggled against the Arizona Cardinals.

That’s not the case with San Francisco — Metcalf averaged 11 targets, six receptions and 75 receiving yards in two games last season versus the Gold Diggers. Lockett didn’t clear 51 yards in either game.

The 49ers are also allowing the fifth-highest successful play percentage on throws 20-plus yards downfield. Metcalf ranks third in the NFL in deep targets (14). 

My favorite stack from this game would be Garroppolo, Kittle and Aiyuk with Metcalf on the comeback. 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ CHICAGO BEARS

David Montgomery needs to be started across all traditional formats due to his sure workload, but in DFS he is a big fade for me. The matchup is too tough against the New Orleans Saints, who have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the RB position. 

In tough RB matchups, we can lean on pass-game usage to salvage running back fantasy value, but the Saints have faced the seventh-fewest targets and allowed the sixth-lowest yards per target (5.3) to running backs this season. 

But some Bears do garner my interest. Tight end Jimmy Graham is playing in a revenge game and faces a defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs this season. 

Graham has seen at least five targets in every game this season that Nick Foles has played, so he should be started across the board. Over that same time span, Graham has also seen five end-zone targets — third-most at the position.

New Orleans has faced the second-most tight end end-zone targets this season.

Rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney is another intriguing DFS option, especially if Allen Robinson is sidelined. Mooney is the team’s vertical threat, and that was fully showcased when he took home the bronze in air yards during Week 7.

If there were ever a time for those air yards to finally convert into fantasy production, it would be this week. The Saints defense is exactly what Mooney needs — it ranks last in deep pass attempt percentage against (25%) and second-last in yards per target to opposing wideouts.

Don’t be shocked to see Mooney turn his 162 air yards from Week 7 into some solid fantasy production in Week 8. And he’s just 3.5K on DraftKings, which is cheaper than Bears’ No. 3 wide receiver Anthony Miller

Quarterback Drew Brees is nowhere to be found when it comes to starting quarterbacks this week because of da Bears. They have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season and held opponents to the league’s third-lowest yards per attempt (6.5).

Without a full supporting cast, Brees has to be on the bench. 

The same can’t be said for Alvin Kamara, who should once again be a lock button in DFS. The Bears rank dead last in explosive run percentage allowed (18.5%). Kamara should also see another insane amount of targets with Emmanuel Sanders ruled out and Michael Thomas/Marquez Callaway looking shaky at best to play. 

Kamara is my No. 1 running back in Week 8

DALLAS COWBOYS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

I don’t anticipate Miles Sanders coming back from his injury for this game, so fire up Boston Scott as a — dare I say — RB1 against the Dallas Cowboys. Scott saw the majority of touches in the Eagles’ backfield last Thursday, including two carries inside the 10-yard line.

He offers upside as a pass-catcher, and the matchup could not be better Sunday night. Dallas has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and the most rushing yards (699) to running backs over the past four weeks. 

Eagles' Boston Scott (35) scores the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Giants in Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

Tight end Richard Rodgers is another player I am extremely bullish on this week — if he’s on the waiver wire, stop reading and go get him. He’s the No. 1 tight end in the offense and is coming off a solid performance (six catches for 85 yards). 

I am less optimistic about the Cowboys’ wide receivers this week with seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci under center. When it comes to addressing the wide receiver position, I try to avoid potential disaster situations. Unfortunately, that is what Sunday night is shaping up to be.

DiNucci played his final year of college ball at James Madison and posted an impressive 90.4 PFF grade. He also flashed upside as a rusher, compiling 360 rushing yards on 59 attempts. 

But he has no such accolades in the NFL thus far. It's going to be difficult to trust him to move the ball on offense against the Philadelphia Eagles who own the league’s third-highest pressure rate. 

The rookie quarterback’s rushing ability could also serve as a detriment to Ezekiel Elliot’s work in the passing game. He may just decide to tuck-and-run rather than check it down to Zeke. 

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

I highlighted most of the Buccaneers players as my “starts” in my column earlier this week, but one player who could be of use in a single-game DFS contest is rookie wide receiver Tyler Johnson.

During the last game that Chris Godwin missed (Week 5), Johnson played 73% of snaps from the slot and hauled in four catches on six targets for 61 yards. In the past two weeks, he has been on the receiving end of two Tom Brady touchdown passes.

With Godwin sidelined once again and AB not being available until Week 9, Johnson is a sneaky DFS play who will surely pay off his salary. 

Through seven weeks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers boast PFF’s second-highest graded defense (76.8), so naturally fading Giants players will be the approach. 

Darius Slayton is a no-go because is projected to toe-to-toe with Jamel Dean, PFF’s highest-graded cornerback (91.3) per PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart. Sterling Shepard is the only Giants wide receiver worth considering because he has a safe target floor and will see snaps from the slot, where Bucs’ other top CB Carlton Davis rarely travels. 

Tampa’s slot cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting is the secondary’s Achilles heel with PFF grade of 45.4, but Golden Tate isn’t seeing enough volume to take advantage of it. Tate has three targets and two catches in his last two games.

Meanwhile, Shepard stepped into the lineup fresh off an injury and commanded a 25% target share and a 31% target rate on routes run in Week 7. He also played just two snaps from the slot but was targeted on both. 

I don’t see Devonta Freeman getting healthy enough to be able to play Monday night, so if running back is of need look for Wayne Gallman. He dominated the snaps and saw usage in the passing game (five catches for 20 yards) after Freeman left Week 7’s contest versus the Eagles.

The matchup, as previously noted, is terrible, but Gallman offers juice in the passing game. Tampa Bay has allowed the fourth-most targets, third-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards to RBs this season. 

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