The second half of the fantasy football season is upon us. Matchups are becoming more important as the weeks roll on, so let’s get right to my Week 8 start and sit recommendations. These are players that I am generally higher or lower on than most analysts. Below you will see why I am fading a popular Week 8 stack, and why I recommend starting a running back who has finished outside the top-35 for four consecutive weeks. Hey, go big or go home, right?
Week 8 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterback to Start
Daniel Jones, New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs
Daniel Jones bounced back from an abysmal Week 6 outing, but still finished outside the top-12 last week. He ended the week as the QB16, which isn’t great considering that six teams were on a bye. Still, there were some encouraging signs, mostly as it relates to his health. Jones ran the ball five times (excluding kneel-downs) and even made a circus catch on a trick play. That should ease concerns that the nasty-looking concussion he suffered in Week 5 affected his play the following week. Jones only had to throw the ball 33 times last week, as New York led for the final 42:53 of game action. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jones will be asked to a bit more than that this week when the Giants face the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
The Chiefs have struggled mightily to hold onto the football, but they are still a prolific offense. They are third in yards per game and eighth in points scored per game. Suffice to say, the Giants will not allow three points this week as they did last. That alone will force New York to be more aggressive on offense. Jones will be facing a defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers. All signs point to a pass-heavy game plan, particularly with Saquon Barkley likely to miss another game due to his ankle injury. Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney both got in limited practice sessions this week. Their presumed availability would boost Jones’ outlook. Daniel Jones can easily put up top-10 numbers this week, especially after we have seen Kyler Murray and Aaron Rodgers fall short of their Week 8 projections.
Quarterback to Sit
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
I realize this may seem like an odd recommendation on my part. Joe Burrow has thrown for multiple touchdowns in every game this season and is coming off consecutive top-eight fantasy performances. But I promise this is not my Jets fandom talking. I have no delusions about how bad they are. It is because they are so bad that I don’t think Burrow is going to have a huge fantasy day. New York has the lowest implied total (16 points) on the Week 8 slate. Mike White will be the Jets starting quarterback on Sunday. The 26-year old had never played in an NFL game before he replaced the injured Zach Wilson last week. In fact, if you Google “Mike White”, the guy who was in School of Rock comes up before the quarterback. That should tell you all you need to know.
Having said that, the Jets have been halfway decent in limiting pass production. They have allowed just six touchdown passes on the year. That is more a function of how bad they have been against the run than anything. But to that end, the Bengals have two very capable running backs who can exploit New York’s deficiency against the run. Joe Mixon is the main threat, but don’t underestimate Samaje Perine. Cincinnati has given Perine a total of 28 opportunities in his last two games. This could be a game in which we see the Bengals run it 30 times. That would lower the likelihood of Burrow putting up another top-eight fantasy game. Burrow has a solid floor, as the Jets are hardly a dominant defense on the back end. But I just don’t see this as a high ceiling week for Burrow and the Bengals passing game.
Running Backs to Start
Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
This recommendation is probably not for the weak of heart. If I am being truthful, it makes me a little nervous myself. After all, Gaskin has posted single-digit rushing yards in two of his last four games. But I would never offer advice that I would not take myself. I currently have Gaskin ranked as more of a Flex play than a pure RB2, but I believe there is some upside here. My listing of Gaskin as a Week 8 start probably has less to do with Gaskin himself and more to do with the injury to Malcolm Brown. Miami placed Brown in injured reserve this week after he suffered a quad injury last week. That leaves Miami with one fewer option in what had become a rather crowded backfield. Gaskin now figures to get the bulk of work against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The matchup itself is not great by any means. Buffalo has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. However, Gaskin has been targeted a ton this season. He entered Week 8 third among running backs in receptions and fourth in targets. This gives him a projectable role in a game where Miami should face plenty of negative game script. The last time Miami was huge underdogs, Gaskin caught two touchdown passes and finished as the overall RB4. Gaskin is highly unlikely to repeat that performance this week, of course. However, that game highlights the benefits of starting running backs who are utilized in the passing game. Between the usage as a receiver and an expected bump in volume due to Brown’s injury, Myles Gaskin is shaping up as a sneaky Week 8 fantasy play.
Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions v. Philadelphia Eagles
Jamaal Williams has struggled to get much traction for fantasy purposes over the past few weeks. He has just 21.2 total points in half-PPR scoring over the last four weeks. That is not exactly the type of production we are looking for. However, I believe there is some optimism concerning his Week 8 outlook. First and foremost, Williams is still getting a fair share of volume. D’Andre Swift has gotten the headlines recently with his string of three straight top-18 fantasy games, but Williams remains heavily involved in Detroit’s offense. Williams is the Lions’ leading rusher heading through seven games. He has had at least 12 opportunities in five of seven games this year, including four of the last five. This should serve him well against a Philadelphia Eagles defense that struggles against the run.
The Eagles have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs so far this year. That includes the second-most rushing yards permitted (820) and seven rushing touchdowns. Detroit has phased Williams out of the passing game to a degree in recent weeks. However, Detroit is only a 3.5-point underdog in this game. That means Williams is likely to get his normal share of the pie. Swift is certainly the preferred option from a fantasy perspective, but Williams is a viable Week 8 option as well. Detroit added Williams to their injury report on Thursday with a thigh issue, so keep an eye on that situation. If Williams is active on Sunday, I would recommend starting him as a high-floor play.
Running Backs to Sit
Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos v. Washington Football Team
I went back and forth on whether to include teammate Javonte Williams here as well, as I do not love the matchup for either this week. Ultimately, I decided I prefer Williams by a hair. Both backs are nearly splitting the workload in half thus far. Melvin Gordon has 97 opportunities through seven games, whereas Williams has 91. The reason I would rather start Williams this week is because of how the pair have been deployed in the passing game. Gordon’s usage as a receiver has been consistent. He has three games with two targets, three with three, and one with four. You can almost guarantee he will catch either two or three passes in any given week. Williams, on the other hand, has seen a spike in his passing game involvement. He has 20 targets in his last five games, including a season-high seven last week.
The Washington Football Team has allowed six receiving touchdowns to enemy backs this year. That is tied for tops in the NFL. Meanwhile, their 3.45 yards per carry allowed is the second-lowest in the league. This is not a game where I expect Denver to have a ton of success on the ground. Williams is more explosive than Gordon (14th in yards after contact per rush, Gordon is 34th) and elusive (second in PFF’s elusive rating metric), and is now receiving more work in the passing game. That is why I give the rookie the edge over the veteran this week. I consider Javonte Williams on the fringe of RB2/Flex status, whereas I rank Gordon as a mid-range RB3 in this matchup. He may be a Flex play depending on your other options, but I would prefer to sit him this week if possible.
Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons v. Carolina Panthers
The Atlanta Falcons practically phased Davis out of the offense last week, giving him just four opportunities. Game plans are often opponent-specific, but to me, it was very telling that Davis was virtually ignored following Atlanta’s bye. That is especially true when you consider that Davis has essentially been replaced by a converted wide receiver. Perhaps the coaching staff finally saw what appears to have been obvious for weeks – that Davis is not a lead back in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year. Even if this were a plus matchup, it would be difficult to start Davis given what we have seen of late. But given the tough matchup, it gives fantasy managers an easy excuse to leave Davis on the bench for a week to help determine if he has any fantasy value going forward.
Wide Receiver to Start
Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
This is shaping up to be a make-or-break week for Robby Anderson for fantasy purposes. The Panthers wideout’s usage has been incredibly encouraging as of late. He has been targeted 38 times in the last four weeks. That is tied for the sixth-most in the NFL. However, that has not led to much production. Anderson has just 13 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in that span. He and quarterback Sam Darnold just cannot seem to get on the same page for whatever reason. The pair have an excellent chance to redeem themselves when they face the Atlanta Falcons this week. Atlanta has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.
So far this season, Anderson has lined up in all three primary locations (left, right, and slot) on at least 32 percent of offensive snaps. Atlanta, for their part, generally leaves their trio of cornerbacks stationary. That means that Anderson will see all three in coverage. Left cornerback A.J. Terrell is the only one who has graded out as even an average cornerback so far. I will take my chances on Anderson having success against slot corner Richie Grant and right corner Fabian Moreau on the other two-thirds of snaps. Atlanta has just 10 sacks on the year, which is the third-lowest number in the NFL. Darnold is much better when he is operating from a clean pocket. I expect him to be able to connect with Anderson at a much higher rate than their recent games would indicate. Anderson is a WR3 for me this week.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks v. Jacksonville Jaguars
The consensus has mercifully ranked Allen Robinson outside of the top-40 wide receivers this week. I feel like my life’s work is almost complete. Next up is Tyler Lockett. Yes, Geno Smith has played poorly in place of Russell Wilson. But Lockett has simply not gotten it done regardless of who Seattle’s quarterback has been. Lockett is the overall WR67 since Week 3. I use that timeframe because both Smith and Wilson have attempted exactly 71 passes each since Week 3. So it is not as if Smith is solely to blame for Lockett’s woes. If you must take up for Lockett and lay the blame at Smith’s feet, that still doesn’t change much about the receiver’s Week 8 outlook.
Smith will be under center when Seattle hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The Jaguars have plenty of shortcomings defensively. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 9.03 yards per attempt against the Jaguars. That is the second-highest total in the NFL. But opposing wide receivers have only scored four touchdowns against Jacksonville this season. Only two teams have allowed fewer touchdown receptions to opposing wideouts. Slot corner Tre Herndon has repeatedly been victimized, but Lockett has only lined up in the slot on 38 percent of snaps. He is more likely to square off against Shaquill Griffin, who has been much more solid in coverage. We know Lockett has a high ceiling, but we haven’t seen it in quite some time. Lockett’s top weekly performance since Week 3 is his WR39 outing in Week 5. It is hard for me to value him any higher than that in this matchup.
Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
Lost in the emergence of the Cincinnati Bengals becoming an AFC powerhouse and Ja’Marr Chase rewriting the rookie record books is that fellow Bengals wideouts Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd have struggled to provide a positive return on investment for fantasy managers thus far in 2021. Higgins was drafted as a low-end WR2 in 12-team leagues, with Boyd as a low-end WR3. Neither is a top-40 fantasy wide receiver heading into Week 8. To be fair, Higgins missed two games. But even his per-game numbers have been a disappointment compared to his ADP. At some point, things will begin to even out a little bit for Cincinnati’s triumvirate of wide receivers. Chase will come back to earth a bit, and Higgins and Boyd will have better days. I just don’t think that will necessarily happen in Week 8.
Higgins was targeted more than any wide receiver last week and finished as the WR28. I am all for chasing volume, but I do not think this is the week to do that with Cincinnati’s wide receivers. The Bengals will travel to face a New York Jets team that is a rare run-funnel team. New York has allowed far and away the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. But they rank third in fantasy points and receiving yards allowed to the wide receiver position. They have also given up just three receiving touchdowns to wideouts on the year. This is a game Cincinnati should win handily, as they are double-digit favorites. I just do not see either Higgins or Boyd getting enough opportunities in this game to force them into starting lineups.
Tight End to Start
Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks
Dan Arnold’s career as a Jacksonville Jaguar has gotten off to a less than stellar start. He had a fumble returned for a touchdown in Week 5 and had just two catches and a costly drop the following week. But his usage has been encouraging when you consider that he has only been in town a short time. Jacksonville acquired the former Panther at the end of September, so Arnold had little time to learn the playbook and become acclimated to his new surroundings. Jacksonville’s Week 7 bye should have given Arnold more time to settle in and become familiar with his new offense. I believe that will suit him well for his upcoming matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle has been a middle-of-the-pack defense in terms of fantasy points allowed versus tight ends. However, linebacker Jordyn Brooks has been a liability in pass coverage. He has given up the most yards per route run (1.63) against tight ends this season. Arnold has accounted for 1.61 yards per route run, which is sixth-most among active Week 8 tight ends. Given the extra time to prepare, I expect Jacksonville to exploit this matchup. Arnold is available in over 50 percent of Fantrax leagues and makes for an ideal streamer for fantasy managers with Darren Waller or Mark Andrews out on bye this week.
Tight End to Sit
Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
I was a bit surprised to see that Rob Gronkowski is expected to play this week. I figured Tampa Bay would give him some extra time to heal given their upcoming bye. But Gronk appears willing and able to suit up on Sunday against the Saints. I can certainly see the desire to add him back to your active roster in fantasy. Gronkowski has played just three games this year and is tied for third among tight ends in touchdown catches. He has upside that is hard to come by at the position. There is no denying that. I just don’t know if this is the right week to rely on that ceiling. In addition to his injury concerns, Gronkowski will face a difficult Week 8 matchup in the Bayou.
The Saints have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends so far in 2021. They are one of just four teams who have yet to permit a touchdown to a tight end. And teams have had chances. Opponents have targeted tight ends five times against New Orleans in goal-line situations, but none have found paydirt. One of the reasons for the Saints’ success against tight ends has been the coverage of linebackers Demario Davis and Pete Werner. The duo rank inside the top-10 in Pro Football Focus’ defensive grades among qualified linebackers. And Davis has allowed just 0.81 yards per route run against tight ends this year. The circumstances are less than ideal for Gronkowski heading into this matchup. Expecting him to pick up where he left off before the injury seems like it is asking a bit much given the circumstances.
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