New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 51 pts, Patriots Total: 29.5 pts, Dolphins Total: 21.5 pts
A big, fat Vegas total on a Thursday night? Well, yes, but the Patriots are playing, so what do you expect?
Congratulations to you if you rolled with Miami's defense in Week 7, as they eviscerated the ghost of the Houston Texans. Don't think about getting cute and playing the Dolphins' defense this week. New England D/ST opponents average negative fantasy points through seven weeks.
Lamar Miller, mentioned last week in this space as a cash game lock and the focal point of the team's rejuvenated offensive approach, should be a fairly popular Week 8 play. I'm not sure his matchup – or likely game script – warrants investment in Miller though.
The Patriots, allowing the 10th fewest points per play, are seeing opponents run the rock just 24.5 times per game (ninth fewest). Miller isn't reliably involved in the Dolphins' passing game, seeing six targets in the first couple games of the Dan Campbell era. New England has allowed two rushing scores this year and held opposing offenses to less than 100 yards in four of six games. Probably Miller has a decent floor, but I don't think he has much of a ceiling against New England. Miller, since the start of the 2014 campaign, has averaged 5.5 more fantasy points in Miami wins than in losses.
Ryan Tannehill hasn't traditionally thrived in Miami losses either. He's notched 4.5 more fantasy points in Dolphins wins (22.9 points), so if you think Miami can hang around in this one, Tannehill makes for a fine middle-tier quarterback. Tanny, who is taking more snaps from under center in the team's new offense, has completed an unholy 85.1 percent of his aimed throws over the past two weeks. While the Pats' secondary has proven a tough matchup, I think Tannehill could drop back quite a bit here. I don't see him as a great cash game play, however. I like him in GPPs.
Miami's coverage unit has allowed more than 270 passing yards in all but two of its 2015 games. Tom Brady, the last reliable top-end quarterback, is as good a cash game option as any in Week 8. Fantasy's No. 1 signal caller is averaging a hefty 0.59 fantasy points per drop back – sixth highest in the league. Brady is nearly an automatic 20 fantasy points.
Julian Edelman, running 53 percent of his routes from the slot, will be covered primarily by Brent Grimes. Grimes hasn't been anything close to a shutdown corner, but opponents are certainly picking on other parts of the Miami secondary, as we saw last week when Nate Washington went off against the Dolphins. I don't see Edelman taking his usual must-play DraftKings status in Week 8. That's partly because Brady doesn't force the issue when teams put their best cover guy on Edelman and in part because I think Rob Gronkowski has a highly exploitable matchup here.
Miami has played three teams – the Jets, Texans, and Jaguars before Julius Thomas' return – that have almost no tight end involvement in their offensive schemes. Jordan Reed, Washington's primary pass catcher when he's healthy, scorched the Dolphins for nine grabs, 71 yards and a score, while Delanie Walker caught eight balls for 98 yards against Miami. I expect the Pats to fully exploit weak coverage among Miami's safeties and linebackers, making Gronk both a set-it-and-forget-it cash game tight end and a tournament play with a truck load of upside.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday, 9:30 a.m.)
Vegas O/U: 45 pts, Chiefs Total: 25 pts, Lions Total: 20 pts
Vegas projects the Chiefs to be one of the five highest scoring offenses of Week 8. That's quite the projection for the post-Jamaal Charles offense. It's hopeful news for new workhorse runner Charcandrick West, who saw a whopping 76 percent of the team's rushing attempts in Week 7 against Pittsburgh. He turned 24 touches into 21 PPR fantasy points.
I'm more than a little bullish on West in this matchup against a Detroit defense allowing the ninth most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to running backs. Every offense with a viable running attack has posted more-than-solid ground numbers against the Lions' squishy soft front seven. I think we can safely say West is in line for 20 touches and should be a budget-saving cash contest runner on FanDuel and DraftKings.
If you believe Alex Smith can continue the trend of quarterbacks putting up fat stat lines against the Lions' secondary, only deploy him in cash games. Smith, even in a game that projects to be high scoring, lacks the kind of ceiling that we seek in GPPs. Smith, in my estimation, has an elevated floor. Only two teams allow more schedule-adjusted points to opposing passers.
I don't think anyone knows what to expect in the wake of Detroit firing its offensive coordinator, but it's been encouraging to see the team moving Matthew Stafford around, outside the pocket, and throwing downfield like he did in his fantasy heyday.
Stafford in Week 8 faces one of the NFL's most generous coverage units, as signal callers have cracked 250 yards in all but one game in 2015. KC has given up more than one passing score four times this year. Here's why I think Stafford is a fine (and cheap) tournament option: The cure for Detroit's offensive line woes might be that the Chiefs are third worst in pressuring the quarterback through seven weeks. They're getting a measly three hits per game on enemy passers. With time to throw, Stafford could hit a lofty ceiling with his plethora of excellent pass catchers.
I have no quarrels with plugging Calvin Johnson into your cash game lineups, but I like Golden Tate – going against the struggling corner Steven Nelson – as a GPP stack with Stafford. The Stafford-Tate pairing, per the stack generator, is projected to score just four fewer fantasy points than Stafford and Megatron. The former pair is $2,900 cheaper on DraftKings. Tate is seeing a healthy 8.1 targets per game.
I'll have the Stafford-Tate stack in more than a couple GPPs. No defense has allowed more wide receiver touchdowns than the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 48.5 pts, Falcons Total: 28.25 pts, Bucs Total: 20.25 pts
The Bucs have been roasted on a spit by every opponent with a strong group of receivers this season, managing only to shut down wideouts from Tennessee and Carolina. That makes Julio Jones as perfect a cash play as he's been all season and it makes Leonard Hankerson an interesting prospect.
When adjusted for strength of schedule, the Bucs are the fourth most generous team to enemy pass catchers through seven weeks. I see Jones as the safest of the high-end receivers options in Week 8. He has the week's second most favorable WR-CB matchup, per Pro Football Focus.
It's plain to see that Devonta Freeman's emergence and Matt Ryan's generally poor play takes Atlanta's quarterback out of the running as a reliable cash contest option. Ryan is 25th in fantasy points per drop back, tied with Kirk Cousins. Ryan could come with some upside, however, as Tampa allows a sky-high 68.7 percent completion rate and seven yards per pass attempt.
It doesn't matter that Tampa hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 4. Freeman's volume and passing game involvement gives him fantasy football's highest weekly floor. I would prefer Le'Veon Bell if Ben Roethlisberger suits upon Sunday, but Freeman is game script proof and remains a no-brainer cash game staple.
Mike Evans is seeing tremendous volume of late. Evans saw another 11 targets from Jameis Winston last week, tallying eight grabs, 164 yards and a score. He also had two big plays wiped away by penalty. I see the big receivers as a lock for double-digit targets. What's more, he's up against a secondary that has been dominated by No. 1 wideouts in 2015. Evans will have an advantage of four inches and 29 pounds on Jalen Collins, the Atlanta corner who will guard Tampa's behemoth.
Doug Martin will be plugged in to some of my cash game contests not just because he's seeing workhorse-type touches, but because the Falcons give up 30.6 adjusted fantasy points to opposing backs. The one worry here, as per usual, is game script. Martin is phased out of blowouts in favor of third-down back Charles Sims. Martin, barring a game flow debacle, is a fantastic candidate to find pay dirt. Runners have found the end zone 10 times against the Falcons through seven weeks.
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Diego Chargers (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Vegas O/U: 50 pts, Ravens Total: 26.5 pts, Chargers Total: 23.5 pts
This contest isn't even a sneaky high-scoring one. It's almost assuredly going to involve a lot of point scoring as neither defense can stop anyone on the ground or through the air.
Keenan Allen, slated to see coverage from Jimmy Smith, has a top-10 WR-CB matchup in Week 8. That's a good thing considering the Chargers have stopped trying to run the football and have taken to the air against anyone and everyone. Allen, the league leader in receptions with 62, will meet his DFS value if he gets out of bed on Sunday morning. Get him into your Week 8 cash games. Only Kansas City allows more adjusted fantasy points to receivers than Baltimore.
Danny Woodhead is a DraftKings cash game lock. His price remains low(ish) and he'll continue to benefit from San Diego's one-dimensional attack. Woodhead has played at least 45 percent of the team's offensive snaps in all but one 2015 game and has been targeted on 16.4 percent of the team's throws. That's not bad considering the Chargers have thrown an unbelievable 302 passes through seven games – tops in the NFL.
Philip Rivers is both a cash game option and a sensible tournament play. No one since Stafford in 2012 has been all but guaranteed to approach 40 throws every single week. Unlike Stafford, Rivers has been relatively efficient with his enormous opportunity, notching 0.46 fantasy points per drop back. Baltimore's banged-up secondary is allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt (third worst). That number has ballooned to 9.5 yards per attempt over the past three weeks.
Joe Flacco is a nice correlation play with one or two of the Chargers' offensive weapons. San Diego's secondary has given up at least two touchdown tosses in five of their seven 2015 contests, managing to limit just one quarterback (Teddy “Mehddy" Bridgewater) so far.
Unless the Ravens' defense manages some sort of miraculous shutdown effort against Rivers and company, Flacco will be forced to push Baltimore's offense. I don't think Flacco's floor is all that scary either. Flacco and Steve Smith are projected by the stack generator as a top-10 Week 8 stack. They're much cheaper than any other top QB-WR combo.
San Diego is the most generous defense against opposing runners, when adjusted for strength of schedule. Justin Forsett, whose role in the Ravens' offense is as secure as any back outside the top tier, becomes hard to pass up at his DFS price tag in this tasty matchup.
Forsett, who touches the football on 40.3 percent of his offensive snaps, has the added benefit of seeing 4.2 targets on a weekly basis. That could jump in Week 8 if the proceedings are as high scoring as Vegas believes they'll be. Running backs are ripping off runs at 5.3 yards a pop against the Bolts' front seven. That number is even higher when the Chargers are on the road. Forsett, in my estimation, is a locked-in top-5 Week 8 runner.