Fantasy News & Analysis

Jeff Ratcliffe's fantasy football focus: Facts, predictions, and tips for Week 8

Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) makes a touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Fantasy Focus is a weekly column that breaks down everything you need to know to set your fantasy football lineups. Make your start and sit decisions with fantasy facts, injury information, matchups stats, predictions for the week and more.

Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies in fantasy football. When you think about the overall goal of the game, it’s simple: score the most points. Yet, in the heat of battle, we often overlook that objective. And one of the most common places where we do this is when we shoot for upside.

Upside is a good thing. There’s no denying that. But there’s always a careful balance of ceiling and floor in fantasy football. I’ll often get asked questions that go something like this: “I know you have Player A ranked higher, but should I start Player B because he has more upside?”

This week, that might be something like Robert Woods as Player A and D.K. Metcalf as Player B. Hey, I get it. Metcalf is sexy and Woods’ production this season has been about as sexy as yours truly sporting a Chippendales bow tie and banana hammock.

But “sexy” doesn’t win you fantasy matchups. Points do.

When making your start/sit decisions, don’t opt for upside. Start the player who is going to score the most points. Write that down in permanent ink and commit it to memory. It sounds super simple because it is.

Seattle @ Atlanta

Greenline: SEA -7, O/U 53.3

Fantasy facts: Russell Wilson may be coming off a somewhat down fantasy week, but he’s still an elite fantasy quarterback who also gets an extremely favorable matchup this week. Atlanta has been a fantasy cheat code for opposing quarterbacks with a league high 27.4 fantasy points being scored against the Falcons defense. Wilson enters the week second in fantasy scoring, and first in end zone throws with a whopping 29. That’s eight more than second-place Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers. Wilson’s ample shots to the end zone make him one of the highest-ceiling plays on the board this week.

Matchup upgrade: Speaking of those end-zone targets, a whopping nine of them have gone to rookie WR D.K. Metcalf. That leads the league through the first seven weeks. But Tyler Lockett is no slouch in that department either, as he recorded three in last week’s contest. Both receivers get a healthy upgrade this week against a Falcons secondary that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers over the last five weeks.

Matchup downgrade: There aren’t any terrible matchups on the board in this contest, but Devonta Freeman owners should be aware that the Seahawks check in as the No. 22 matchup for running backs. Seattle is currently seeing just 17 rushing attempts per game from running backs, which is the third-fewest in the league.

Key injuries: All eyes are on Matt Ryan’s Friday practice status. The Falcons signal-caller left last week’s loss with an ankle injury and did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. If Ryan is unable to go, Atlanta will turn to Matt Schaub. Stating the obvious, but that wouldn’t be a good outcome for the Falcons’ skill position players. You’re still starting Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman, but Schaub would be the quarterback equivalent of low tide for this offense.

Philadelphia @ Buffalo

Greenline: BUF -0.8, O/U 43.4

Fantasy facts: It’s easy to be a box score scout and simply look at last week’s results. But if you went with that approach, you’d likely be led to believe that Dallas Goedert has closed the gap with Zach Ertz. However, the usage stats tell a different story. Last week, the Eagles ran 34 passing plays. Goedert was on the field for 19 of them, with 16 routes run and three snaps as a blocker. Meanwhile, Ertz played 30 of those snaps, running 29 routes and staying in to block on one snap. Sure, Goedert had the bigger fantasy day, but Ertz is still clearly the preferred receiving option. Better days will be ahead for Ertz and Goedert remains a boom-or-bust TE2.

Matchup upgrade: John Brown has quietly posted top-20 fantasy numbers so far this season, and he’s a good bet to continue to roll this week against the Eagles secondary. Philadelphia got Jalen Mills back in the lineup last week, but he did little to help. Mills allowed six catches on eight targets for 74 yards. Brown should have no problem against Mills and the rest of the Eagles corners. Likewise, those in deeper leagues in need of a Hail Mary play may want to give Duke Williams a look. He’s a big-bodied receiver who could make his presence felt in the red zone.

Matchup downgrade: It’s tough to trust Carson Wentz as anything more than a fringe-QB1 this week. Buffalo has defended the pass very well this season and currently allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. the other side of this matchup, the Philadelphia run defense continues to hold opposing backfields in check. Running backs are averaging 3.3 yards per carry against the Eagles, which is the second-fewest through the first seven weeks. This isn’t the week to fire up Frank Gore. Likewise, fade Devin Singletary. Hist time is coming, but not this week.

Key injuries: DeSean Jackson remains sidelined for the Eagles. At this point, it’s tough to say when he’ll be back on the field, but the good news is that Philly hasn’t placed him on injured reserve. Stay tuned.

LA Chargers @ Chicago

Greenline: CHI -4, O/U 41.9

Fantasy facts: The fantasy community has been made their disappointment with Melvin Gordon clear over the last three weeks, but the numbers suggest his lackluster production isn’t really his fault. Over that span, he’s faced the top three defenses in PFF run grades: Broncos (first), Steelers (second), and Titans (third). While Austin Ekeler has remained a productive fantasy option thanks to his role in the passing game, he’s actually been worse than Gordon on the ground since Gordon returned. Gordon is averaging 2.25 yards per attempt with 1.89 coming after contact, while Ekeler has posted just 2.15 yards per carry with an average of 1.85 coming after contact.

Matchup upgrade: The good news for Gordon owners is that the Bears have surprisingly been the seventh-best fantasy matchup for running backs this season, with an average of one rushing touchdown scored on Chicago per game. Gordon isn’t an RB1 option, but you could certainly get away with starting him as your No. 2 this week.

Matchup downgrade: Allen Robinson has been one of the biggest bounceback fantasy options of 2019. The Bears receiver enters Week 8 third in the league in team target share with 26%. Robinson is in every-week starter territory as an WR2, but it should be noted that he’s going to see a shadow from Casey Hayward in this contest. The Chargers corner is allowing just 2.3 catches per game this season.

Key injuries: Keenan Allen popped up on the injury report with a hamstring on Thursday. Mid-week downgrades often put the player at risk of sitting, so we’ll have to keep a close eye on his status heading into this weekend. If Allen sits, Mike Williams will move into WR2 territory.

NY Giants @ Detroit

Greenline: DET -7.9, O/U 49.3

Fantasy facts: Marvin Jones was an absolute fantasy rock star last week with four touchdown receptions against the Vikings. It’s no coincidence that Jones also saw four end-zone targets in this game. That’s three more than he had for the season heading into last week. While this could be a one-week fluke, an uptick in red zone looks for Jones will push him up into every-week WR3-plus territory.

Matchup upgrade: Meanwhile, Jones’ teammate Kenny Golladay managed just one catch in that contest. But pay that result no mind, as Golladay is poised to bounce back in a big way against the shaky Giants secondary. The trio of Janoris Jenkins, Grant Haley, and DeAndre Baker are allowing an average of 10.4 catches per game. Jones is also in play in this plus matchup.

Matchup downgrade: The Giants are far from a standout defense, but oddly enough, they’ve done a good job of holding opposing tight ends in check this season. Only the Patriots, Bills, and 49ers have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to the position. This isn’t the week to stream T.J. Hockenson.

Key injuries: Kerryon Johnson landing on injured reserve opens the door for Ty Johnson to lead the Lions backfield. Many fantasy players aren’t familiar with Ty, but let’s be clear that he’s a big fantasy downgrade on Kerryon. Ty has major speed, but he’s a kid who couldn’t hold the starting job last year at Maryland. It’s wise for anyone who went out and picked up Ty to temper their expectations. … Sterling Shepard managed to get back on the practice field but was unable to get a full session in this week. Shepard is nearing a return but won’t suit up this week.

Tampa Bay @ Tennessee

Greenline: TEN -1.6, O/U 45.2

Fantasy facts: People love to hate Mike Evans for fantasy purposes, but this emotion seems to be misguided. Sure, Evans is a boom-or-bust option, but he’s shown over his career that he has one of the highest weekly ceilings of any wideout in the league. He’s also heavily used in the red zone and currently ranks fifth in red-zone targets with 16 and tied for fourth in end-zone targets with six. Do yourself a favor and don’t sit Evans.

Matchup upgrade: Of course, the good WR/CB matchup in this contest is actually on the other side with Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Adam Humphries all getting a matchup boost against the Bucs. Since Week 3, only the Falcons have allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.

Matchup downgrade: Derrick Henry enters the week as the No. 12 fantasy running back and is coming off a solid performance in Week 7. While he’s still a fantasy starter in redraft leagues, Henry owners should be aware of this matchup. Tampa defends the run well and currently allows the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.

Key injuries: The much-maligned Bucs TE O.J. Howard, popped up on Thursday’s injury report with a hamstring. Howard has fallen out of favor for fantasy purposes, but if he sits, Cameron Brate would be a Hail Mary streamer option.

Denver @ Indianapolis

Greenline: IND +4.8, O/U 43.6

Fantasy facts: Zach Pascal was a popular waiver add this week after catching 6-of-6 targets for 106 yards and two scores last week. Those numbers certainly look good, but be careful if you picked up Pascal. In terms of routes run, Pascal was actually fourth among Colts receivers last week with a route on just 44% of the team’s passing plays. As the No. 4 receiver, it’s going to be hard for Pascal to put up anything that remotely resembles consistent fantasy production.

Matchup upgrade: It’s tough to find much to like in this contest, but the Colts do stand out as a favorable matchup for tight ends. So far this season, only the Cardinals and Bucs allow more fantasy points per game to the position. Noah Fant is a streamer option if you’re hard up at tight end this week.

Matchup downgrade: Don’t underestimate the Broncos defense this week. Jacoby Brissett is faced with the third-toughest matchup, and T.Y. Hilton figures to see a shadow from Chris Harris Jr. The veteran corner has been tasked with shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers multiple times this season and has surrendered just over two catches per game with 15 receptions in his coverage through the first seven games.

Key injuries: None

Cincinnati @ LA Rams

Greenline: LA -12.2, O/U 48.2

Fantasy facts: Jared Goff’s inability to push the ball downfield had resulted in a disappointing start to the season where he ranks just 15th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring. That said, Goff did show signs of life last week. The Rams signal-caller posted an average depth of throw of 9.4 yards. While that’s far from an elite aDOT, it is at least respectable. It was also a somewhat sizeable increase on the 7.9 yards he averaged over the first six weeks of the season.

Matchup upgrade: A year ago, Todd Gurley was the hottest thing in fantasy football. Now, he’s a guy who people debate benching every week. Well, this isn’t one of those weeks. Gurley draws the turbo-charged fantasy matchup against the hapless Bengals run defense. Cincinnati is allowing a league-high 184.4 scrimmage yards to opposing backfields. Gurley is a top-10 play this week.

Matchup downgrade: With A.J. Green on the sideline, Tyler Boyd has emerged as the top fantasy option in the Bengals receiver corps. Most weeks, that means we shouldn’t think twice about starting him. However, a tough matchup looms in this contest against the Rams. Newly acquired corner Jalen Ramsey will likely track Boyd in shadow coverage. We saw Boyd struggled against a shadow from the Ravens, so he’s a player to consider fading this week.

Key injuries: It’s looks like we’re finally coming down the home stretch of A.J. Green’s rehab, as the Bengals wideout was able to get limited work in on Wednesday and Thursday. However, Green won’t suit up this week and is far from guaranteed to play next week.

Arizona @ New Orleans

Greenline: NO -9.8, O/U 48

Fantasy facts: Chase Edmonds exploded onto the fantasy scene last week with the top fantasy performance of any running back. With David Johnson banged up, it’s likely Edmonds gets another crack at featured duties in this contest. However, even with Johnson healthy, there’s a good chance we still see plenty of Edmonds. So far this season, he’s been much more effective independent of his blocking than Johnson. Edmonds is averaging 3.25 yards after contact per attempt, which is over a yard more than Johnson’s 2.01.

Matchup upgrade: With Jared Cook looking likely to be out again this week, Josh Hill will serve as the Saints’ top pass-catching tight end. Hill posted the ninth-most fantasy points among tight ends last week and is in play as a streamer option. Arizona has been very friendly to opposing tight ends with a massive 91.1 receiving yards and 1.1 touchdowns per game surrendered to the position.

Matchup downgrade: Fantasy owners in season-long leagues should never sit Michael Thomas. But the Saints receiver is a fade candidate in DFS this week with the possibility that he sees a shadow from Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals got Peterson back from suspension last week, so it isn’t clear how they’ll use him. But Peterson could put a damper on Thomas’ fantasy upside if does end up tracking him.

Key injuries: There’s a chance we could see Drew Brees under center for the Saints this week. The veteran has progressed well in his rehab and got limited work in at practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Those in 2QB leagues who have relied on Teddy Bridgewater will want to keep a close eye on what the Saints do this weekend.

NY Jets @ Jacksonville

Greenline: JAX -6.6, O/U 40.8

Fantasy facts: Leonard Fournette was a massive fantasy disappointment last year, but he really has the look of a post-hype sleeper in 2019. The Jags running back is second in the league with 24.6 touches per game, and currently sits seventh among running backs in fantasy scoring. His three-down role will keep Fournette in the RB1 conversation going forward, especially against a defense like the Jets who just surrendered a three-touchdown day to Sony Michel.

Matchup upgrade: We saw D.J. Chark come back to earth last week, but fantasy owners should despair. Chark is poised to bounce back this week with a favorable WR/CB matchup on tap against the Jets. Darryl Roberts has seen a massive 46 balls thrown into his coverage this season, and Trumaine Johnson’s struggles continue. Despite his hefty salary, Johnson currently grades out as the No. 93 corner in the league.

Matchup downgrade: Robby Anderson may be on the trade block, but he’s going to play for the Jets this weekend. However, fantasy owners should think twice about using him. With Jalen Ramsey out of the mix, there’s a good chance Anderson sees a shadow from A.J. Bouye. While Ramsey often got all of the attention, Bouye is a good corner in his own right and currently grades out 35th at the position for 2019.

Key injuries: None

Carolina @ San Francisco

Greenline: SF -5.4, O/U 43.3

Fantasy facts: Pierre Garcon is a name you likely didn’t expect to read in this piece, but he’s worth mentioning for a very specific reason. In 2013, Garcon racked up 113 catches on 181 targets as the X-receiver in a Shanahan offense. The 2019 49ers really didn’t have that type of receiver until this week when they traded for Emmanuel Sanders. The veteran receiver is poised to see a healthy workload with the 49ers. And for those who don’t buy into this idea because of Jimmy Garoppolo, just remember that Garcon put up those numbers with Robert Griffin the year after his breakout rookie season and Kirk Cousins at the beginning of his career.

Matchup upgrade: Good luck finding a favorable matchup in this contest.

Matchup downgrade: The only defense that has been able to stop Christian McCaffrey this season has been the Bucs, but we could add a second team to that list after this week. The San Francisco defense has been excellent so far this year and enters this week as the toughest fantasy matchup for running backs. Don’t overthink it in season-long leagues. McCaffrey is a starter no matter what. But this is a good week to fade McCaffrey is DFS.

Key injuries: Cam Newton’s foot still isn’t right, so the Panthers will continue to roll with Kyle Allen. While Newton is far from a fan favorite for fantasy purposes, he’s done nothing but put up fantasy points when he’s been under center over the course of his career. If he’s available, Newton is worth picking up and tucking away on your bench.

Cleveland @ New England

Greenline: NE -12.5, O/U 46

Fantasy facts: It was a wide receiver trade week in the NFL, and the Patriots got in on the action, acquiring Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons. With Josh Gordon now on injured reserve, Sanu slots in as the No. 2 receiver in New England. While there’s certainly some fantasy appeal to that role, it’s important to keep in mind that Sanu comes with very little upside. In fact, the veteran wideout has just one 100-yard game in the last five years.

Matchup upgrade: Sony Michel hasn’t been efficient this season, but he is coming off a three-touchdown outing in Week 7. The Browns have been one of the better matchups for running backs this season with 159.5 scrimmage yards per game surrendered to the position, which is sixth-most in the league. Michel remains an unsexy RB2 play.

Matchup downgrade: It hasn’t been the massive fantasy for Odell Beckham Jr. that many had expected, and that isn’t likely to change this week. Beckham figures to get the star treatment from the New England secondary, which typically means a shadow from Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots standout has been excellent yet again this year, allowing just a 44% catch rate with zero touchdowns scored in his coverage.

Key injuries: None

Oakland @ Houston

Greenline: HST -6.5, O/U 51

Fantasy facts: Will Fuller is slated to miss several weeks with a hamstring injury, which opens the door for Kenny Stills. These two players are similar in a number of ways, especially when it comes to getting downfield. So far this season, Fuller saw a deep-ball target of at least 20 yards downfield on 34.7% of his targets. Stills enters this week at 36.8%. And he flashed this ability with two catches of 40-plus yards last week. While Stills is a downgrade on Fuller, it isn’t by much. There’s massive upside to be had with Stills as long as Fuller is sidelined.

Matchup upgrade: DeAndre Hopkins got off the schneid last week and found the end zone for the first time since Week 1. Look for Hopkins to continue to roll this week against a Raiders secondary that just shook things up and traded former first-round pick Gareon Conley to the Texans. That means Hopkins will see his share of Trayvon Mullen in coverage. Mullen has only seen five targets this season, but he’s allowed four of them to be caught with one going for a score.

Matchup downgrade: The matchups are generally favorable across the board, but the Texans are the No. 24 matchup for tight ends. That said, Darren Waller doesn’t really fit the mold of a traditional tight end thanks to his volume. Waller is one of just six tight ends who have seen at least 50 targets this season, and only Evan Engram averages more targets per game.

Key injuries: Josh Jacobs is coming off a big outing with 21 carries for 124 yards, but it looks like all the volume has caught up with the rookie back. Jacobs didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday with a shoulder injury. A missed practice Friday would put his Week 8 status in jeopardy.

Green Bay @ Kansas City

Greenline: GB -2.4, O.U 48.5

Fantasy facts: The fact that Patrick Mahomes is practicing this week is pretty remarkable, but all indications point to Matt Moore getting the start for the Chiefs this week. Moore is certainly a capable backup, but there’s very little fantasy juice here even with the Chiefs impressive surrounding talent. We have to go all the way back to this writer’s first year in the fantasy industry to find the first and only time Moore posted a 300-yard game. That performance came in October of 2010. So yeah, don’t expect a ton out of Moore this week.

Matchup upgrade: Instead, we should anticipate the Chiefs to lean on their run game. LeSean McCoy hasn’t exactly been a fantasy standout this season, but the veteran does average 5.4 yards per carry. He’s in play as a fringe-RB2 option against a Packers defense that allows the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs.

Matchup downgrade: The matchups in this contest are generally neutral or favorable, so we’re going to start the usual suspects this week.

Key injuries: We’ve learned the hard way with Davante Adams that we shouldn’t underestimate toe injuries. Adams initially downplayed the injury, but the Packers wideout hasn’t been on the field since Week 4 and still isn’t practicing. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison remain the top wide receiver options with Adams sidelined.

Miami @ Pittsburgh

Greenline: PIT -12.3, O/U 43.5

Fantasy facts: There appears to be a changing of the guard taking place in the Miami backfield, as Mark Walton assumed lead duties in the run game last week. The writing was on the wall for this move for the last several weeks, and the efficiency stats suggest this is the right call by the Dolphins. Walton has been solid after contact with 3.73 yards after contact per attempt. That’s over a yard more than Kenyan Drake’s 2.49 and over two yards more than Kalen Ballage’s 1.44. Walton isn’t the sexiest fantasy option, but he should be owned going forward in deeper leagues.

Matchup upgrade: It’s been a mixed bag for James Conner this season, but the Steelers running back gets a healthy upgrade Monday night. Conner faces a Miami defense that has given up an average of 174.2 scrimmage yards to backfields this season. While we can expect Benny Snell to see work as well, Conner is locked in as an RB1 play this week.

Matchup downgrade: Mark Walton is a roster stash, but he isn’t someone you want to force into your lineups this week. The Steelers have performed very well against the run this season and currently grade out as the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Key injuries: None

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