Game Flowbotics A-to-Z - Week 8
In last week’s A-to-Z, I bemoaned the Thursday Night Football game between the Broncos and Cardinals, petitioning the football gods to give us better games on Sunday. Welp. Thankfully, I didn’t run into the same Week 7 buzzsaw that cut down a lot of other folks. In fact, I went 5-2 across my seasonal leagues with some eye-popping scores in a couple spots. But it could all come crashing down this week, or any week. To help with your lineup decisions before variance tries to serve you a fat slice of humble pie, here’s this week’s Game Flowbotics matchups spreadsheet:
Week 8 Game Flowbotics
Editor’s Note: Have questions? Check out this Game Flowbotics primer from earlier in the season or contact @GameFlowbotics on Twitter.
Now let’s dive in, A to Z, for Week 8 of the 2018 NFL season.
A is for Admiral Ackbar.
This week’s most probable trap feels like the Detroit Lions. They are favored by three at home, but the Seattle team they’re facing ranks 18 spots higher in total DVOA, and the Seahawks are coming off their bye. Furthermore, we know Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer want to run the ball, which shouldn’t be a problem because Detroit ranks third-worst in run defense DVOA and their defense line ranks second worst in Adjusted Line Yards. Fire up Chris Carson, fade Matthew Stafford, and take the under.
B-C-D is for Boyd Con Dalton.
“Con” is Spanish for “with,” amigos, and if you believe in Andy Dalton this week, you should stack him con Tyler Boyd. Or at least that’s what Tampa’s numbers against slot receivers say. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns about Cincinnati’s passing offense.
It's not just about Boyd… Losing Eifert, Ross, and Bernard seems to have tanked the passing offense altogether. pic.twitter.com/oLOadTieOv
— Greg Smith (@gregsauce) October 25, 2018
Still, I must admit the common perception of Dalton’s recent schedule feels off. Miami (18th in pass defense DVOA), Pittsburgh (20th), and Kansas City (12th) weren’t horrible matchups, but they weren’t nearly as appealing as this week’s matchup against the Bucs. The Pewter Pirates rank last in pass defense DVOA and allow the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
So which matters more: Daltons’ prime matchup or his recent struggles without Tyler Eifert, John Ross, and Giovani Bernard? When in doubt, defer to the oddsmakers. Cinci is favored by four in a game with a 54-point total. For what it’s worth, I would take the points with Tampa, but that notion reinforces the appeal of Dalton and Boyd as they try to keep pace with Jameis Winston.
E-F is for Ertz Fantastic.
Trip it. Zach Ertz is on another planet among tight ends. He’s received at least nine targets in every game this season, averaging 88.3 yards per contest. In Week 8, Ertz faces a Jacksonville defense that Travis Kelce ripped for 100 yards on eight targets back in Week 5.
G-H-I is for Get Hines In.
Marlon Mack is back in the shop for a tune up, so it’s time to get Nyheim Hines out of the garage again. With Ryan Grant also up on blocks, plus the ever-looming threat of T.Y. Hilton’s hamstring stalling out, Hines should have ample opportunity in the passing game to make up for his deficiencies on the ground. The Raiders rank second-worst in DVOA against running backs as receivers.
J is for Jonesin’ for Jones.
The Aaron Jones bandwagon is clearing out, and for good reason. Mike McCarthy refuses to increase Jones’ usage. It’s frustrating because, once again, the Packers are faced with a matchup where Jones could shine if given the opportunity. The Rams rank 24th in run defense DVOA and allow 4.7 yards per carry, which is seventh-worst in the NFL. But because L.A.’s offense is so prolific, their opponents have been game-scripted away from establishing the run. The 19.3 rushing attempts they allow per game are ninth-fewest in the league. I’ll admit it’s somewhat stupid to advocate taking the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands, which is why I’m only advocating Green Bay to take the ball out of the hands of Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery.
K is for Keenum KOs Kelly (Kinda).
Case Keenum needed help from a Colorado resident weilding a vacuum, but Chad Kelly is no longer a threat to his job. This bizarre story is good news for Keenum’s owners in 2QB and Superflex leagues, but this week’s matchup against Kansas City might not be. He could only muster 245 passing yards with no touchdowns and one interception against the Chiefs in their last meeting, and the 10-point spread of this game indicates the Broncos will eventually fall into a predictably pass-heavy game script. “Pass-heavy” might seem appealing for your fantasy quarterback, but qualifying the phrase with “predictably” makes it a bad thing.
In Week 5, Blake Bortles amassed 430 passing yards, but he threw four picks in the process. Blake the Snake salvaged his day with 9.4 fantasy points from rushing stats, but we can’t count on that sort of production from Keenum. Through seven games, he’s only rushed eight times for 26 yards.
And because Denver’s second-ranked rushing offense is facing Kansas City’s last-ranked rushing defense, the Broncos are incentivized to avoid a pass-happy game plan if at all possible. That means we’re likely to see a lot of Phillip Lindsay early (and maybe Royce Freeman, on the chance he suits up). If the Chiefs eventually start to run away with the game, they can key in on stopping the pass, just as they previously did against Keenum in Week 4 and Bortles in Week 5.
L is for London’s Burning.
American football was probably the furthest thing from Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ minds when they wrote this song, but the malaise of boredom they described fits the Jacksonville offense like a Union Jack speedo. According to DVOA, the Jaguars rank 27th in offense, 25th in passing offense, and, worst of all for a self-branded ground-and-pound team, 28th in rushing offense. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles allow the fewest rushing attempts and the third-fewest rushing yards per game to running backs. Only the Ravens have held rushers to fewer fantasy points per game.
Enter Ser Blake Bortles, the first of his name, Perverter of QB Analytics, and King of Garbage Time. Plugging him into fantasy lineups isn’t for the faint of heart, but Philadelphia’s defense funnels volume to the passing game. Or if you’re afraid Bortles will burn through your DFS bankroll like 70s automobiles guzzling petrol up and down the Westway, you might be better served attacking this matchup with his receivers. No. 1 wideouts have tallied 103.6 adjusted yards per game against the Eagles, No. 2 wideouts get 60.2, and both those numbers are above league averages. Don’t go crazy with exposure to Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief, but using them in a few lineups is fine, even if only for the excuse to get up early and watch their game.
M is for Marcus Murphy.
One of my favorite waiver wire dart throws this week, Marcus Murphy has the chance to produce big PPR numbers out of nowhere this weekend. Unfortunately for me, when LeSean McCoy practiced on Thursday, that chance of a Murphy breakout slimmed down like Matt Damon in Courage Under Fire. But if it turns out McCoy can’t play, Murphy is in line to see most if not all the backfield receiving work against a Patriots team allowing 9.2 adjusted targets per game (1.9 above the league average) and 60.7 adjusted receiving yards per game (15.4 above the league average).
N is for Negativity.
That’s the type of bias I feel when I look back at the past two games (okay, recency bias too) from Stefon Diggs. He posted only 33 receiving yards in each game, and those sorts of dud weeks make me question why I drafted him as my No. 1 wide receiver in one of my home leagues (amplifying the tilt I already had for drafting Le’Veon Bell second overall). But if I zoom out and consider Diggs’ season rationally, I can find reasons to use him confidently on Sunday against the Saints. In previous weeks, he went for 9-128-2 against the Packers, 11-123-0 against the Rams, and 10-91-0 against the Eagles. Week 8 against the Saints also figures to be a shootout-type game, so look for Diggs to get more prominently involved relative to his recent lackluster performances.
O is for Over-Owned?
Check out this week’s 2QBXP podcast for my discussion with Bubba Entrekin about the potential for Kansas City’s players to be highly owned in DFS now that they’re back on the main slate. In addition to talking about the difference between “good chalk” and “bad chalk,” we pegged Cleveland-Pittsburgh as a somewhat contrarian matchup to target for shootout potential and identified some interesting game stacking options.
P-Q is for Pierre/Pettis Questionable.
Pierre Garcon missed practice on Wednesday, and Dante Pettis is rumored to be nearing his return, but their Week 8 matchup against Arizona isn’t an easy one to exploit. The Cardinals allow the seventh-fewest points per games to wideouts and rank 10th in pass defense DVOA. Steer clear of the 49ers and their 20.75-point implied total unless you have George Kittle or need to stream C.J. Beathard as your QB2. If given the option, I’d rather stream this game’s other quarterback, Josh Rosen. I’m cautiously optimistic about Arizona’s change at offensive coordinator (as a longtime 2QB and Superflex player, I have a soft spot for Byron Leftwich), and San Francisco’s pass defense is mediocre, ranking 23rd in DVOA.
R-S-T is for Rushing Savant Trubisky.
Despite his dreadful passing accuracy, Mitchell Trubisky has entered the discussion for every-week startability thanks to his legs. After scampering for over 60 yards per game in his past three matchups, he trails Cam Newton by only 12 yards for the league lead in quarterback rushing, and Trubisky has done it on 21 fewer carries.
U-V-W is for Undefeated Vs. World-beaters.
The Panthers are undefeated through three home games, but the Ravens’ defense has been extremely tough to beat. And I tend to devalue home-road splits, so I’ve taken Baltimore’s side in this matchup and buried Cam Newton at QB14 in my Week 8 rankings. His typically trustable rushing production could be harder to come by against the Ravens. Despite having faced running threats Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Marcus Mariota, and Taysom Hill, Baltimore has only allowed 16.0 rushing yards per game this season to quarterbacks. It’s tough to bench Newton in two-quarterback formats, but not unthinkable in a week like this when so many options who were cheaper in drafts like Mahomes, Cousins, Luck, Roethlisberger, Goff, Dalton, Trubisky, and Winston all have better matchups.
X is for Xerox.
Washington and the Giants aren’t copies of each other, but they appear to be evenly matched on paper. Their Week 8 contest features a one-point spread, and they respectively rank 24th and 25th in DAVE (which is DVOA weighted with preseason projections). But the Giants are 1-6, four games behind Washington in the loss column, and Eli Manning is on the hot seat despite no viable alternatives in New York’s quarterback room. The oddsmakers are begging us to take Washington with their line, which makes me wonder if they see something we don’t in favor of the Giants.
I don’t want to outsmart myself, so I’d bet on D.C.’s team, but if playing devil’s advocate for New York, I would point to Saquon Barkley’s likelihood of getting fed against Washington’s 26th-ranked run defense. I would also bank on Odell Beckham Jr. continuing his trend of feasting in this divisional rivalry:
And overall, I would play up Washington as pretenders in general. They’ve faced a soft schedule, with only two of six games on the road. The Giants themselves are a soft matchup, but it’s not as if Alex Smith and company have lit up all the bad teams they’ve faced. Rather than dwell on the curious spread, let the 42-point over/under be your guide and avoid using players from this matchup outside of studs like Barkley and Beckham.
Y is for YOLO.
You only live once (at least that’s what I’m told), so it’s okay to make some weird, tough, and/or bold choices in your season-long lineups. That’s especially true around this time of year, when bye weeks are most merciless. As a point of reference, and perhaps to help you feel better about your own roster problems, here’s a list of shaky starters I’m considering in some of my Week 8 lineups:
- Nyheim Hines, Javorius Allen, or Trenton Cannon as my RB2 (behind and equally miscast T.J. Yeldon as my RB1)
- Kenjon Barner or Ronald Jones as my RB2
- Yeldon, Barner, Donte Moncrief, Danny Amendola, and Chester Rogers all locked-in starters in a deep 12-teamer
Wish me luck.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzz.
Are we sleeping on DeAndre Washington now that Marshawn Lynch has hit injured reserve? Probably not, but I’m prepared to hit the brakes on the Doug Martin hype train at a moment’s notice.
Editor’s Note: DVOA, Adjusted Line Yards, Adjusted Sack Rate, and Versus-Receiver statistics from FootballOutsiders.com. Fantasy Scoring and Red Zone statistics from FantasyData.com. Snap data from airyards.com.
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