Hey guys! I’m glad to be back after a week off in which I took the ACT, but now I cannot wait to jump into Week 8 of the NFL season. Big thanks to the main man MB for taking over this column last week, he absolutely nailed it with some of the selections, most notably Jameis Winston and his dominating performance against the 49ers. But I’m still better-looking.
Anyway, I had to miss last week due to my taking of the ACT test, which reminded me of Fantasy Football. We prepare as long and as hard as we can, even maybe spending money to prep for the test, yet we still do not know what will be on it: so we need to not only be prepared for it, and we need some luck on our side. It helps if we also can pull off at least one lopsided. But I don’t know how that last statement refers to the ACT, but at least we got it out of the way.
This week kinda marks the halfway point of the year. Leave a comment down below of what your record is, and if I and this column, or even Razzball in general has contributed to your success. Or declines. Accentuate the positive.
Of first matchup of Week 8 comes between two styles of football in the AFC. One marked by a solid defensive unit, and on offense, marked by a traditional conservatism offensive attack, and in turned, marked by strength at the HB position. Then we have the Colts…
Start of the Week: Spencer Ware
Catching balls of the backfield? Check. Great success in open field? Quite possibly a top-5 offensive line? Check. A great matchup? You better believe it. Even with the possibility of Jamaal Charles being worked back into the picture, ware still has one of the more highers floors based purely on the fact of Andy Reid’s offensive playcall style, which pretty much automatically guarantees that Ware will get at least 15 carries, maybe 20, depending on if he’s a good boy.
Ware has all the qualities we want in a Start of the Week, especially when you consider that the Colts’ rush defense 32 in the NFL of all defenses. Ware should get plenty of work, and as long as they don’t pull a LeSean McCoy, he should be very valuable in one of the best matchups on the slate.
Fire ’em up with confidence. .
Note: I will be more than happy to answer specific lineup questions below, but I won’t be selecting the “obvious” plays unless I don’t think they are so obvious. Regardless of a great matchup, you won’t see names like Tom Brady, David Johnson or Antonio Brown. Those are no-brainers. Fire ’em up with confidence.
Russell Wilson (@ NO)
Wilson’s fantasy production has been a little worrying to this point; he’s played well some games, and has given us some hope for his annual “It’s-Cold Outside Finally, So Let Me Ball Out” mindset once the fantasy playoffs happen. He’s also done the most Russell Wilson-y thing this year as well, tearing up the Jets on one healthy ankle, but failing to put up superstar numbers against Atlanta at home. That makes sense. That’s kinda what we expect with Wilson: crush the toughest of matchups, but lay an egg against what is supposed to be an easier matchup. So, we have an easy matchup on our hands, but he’s still the chalk play in a game that were it played at Seattle, would have a different likelier outcome, but alas, Brees is at home. Wilson will face a defense that has given up an average of close to 300 yards per game coming into tomorrow, also ranking as the 28th-best pass defense according to Football Outsiders. Yes, Wilson has struggled, and he has certainly been far from the production point (especially in the redzone) that we would want him to be, but this is a great spot for the Seahawks to crank it up a bit in the second half of the season. And he’s got a baby on the way.
Brock Osweiler (@ DET)
You know the deal. Start him when he’s facing the absolute worse pass defenses in the NFL, and bench him against middle-of-the-road or good pass defenses. Osweiler found himself under tremendous scrutiny these past few weeks, especially once he went back to Denver. Easy for us to say it now, but the Texans probably shouldn’t have given him that much money. That is aside now, and so we focus on the week ahead, where he’ll face a Lions defense that has yielded some huge games to Andrew Luck (385 yards with 4 TD’s), Aaron Rodgers (205 yards with 4 TD’s), and even Case Keenum (321 yards with 3 TD’s and 1 INT). Sure, Osweiler might not be as talented as Rodgers or Luck, but it goes without saying that the Lions secondary (ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass according to Football Outsiders) is an absolute mess, and we can happily rely on Osweiler if we need a streaming option, or if we have our QB on bye. He doesn’t look so good against good defenses, but he looks great against bad ones.
Jameis Winston (vs. OAK)
The Bucs are 3-3. If they win this week versus Oakland (they certainly can do so), and Atlanta loses versus Green Bay (they certainly can do so), the Bucs will be in 1st place. WHAT?!?!?! Well, at the forefront of their recent success is Famous Jameis, who certainly looked good last week en route to 269 yards with 3 TD’s and the win at San Francisco. This week he’ll come home to Tampa to face an Oakland defense that is not a very good one, giving up close to 308 yards and 2 TD’s per game this year. Also ranking as the 26th-best pass defense according to Football Outsiders, Winston should have no difficulties Sunday, with great 1v1 matchups across the board for his wideouts as well.
HONORABLE MENTION: Carson Palmer (@ CAR) – A lot of people want to get on the bandwagon for this week, but I’m not crazy about him.Why am I not crazy about him? Well, he’s been inefficient (to say the least) this year, and although the Carolina secondary is not a good one, on paper, they had a bye week to figure it out and get healthy. However, he’s still Carson Palmer, and you can even look at it that he has a narrative to beat them in his return to Carolina since last year’s NFC Championship.
Tyrod Taylor (vs. NE)
He did fairly well in Week 4 against the Patriots in New England, posting 246 passing yards, 1 passing TD in addition to 28 yards on the ground, and on the year, he has done fairly well too. But this is a different scenario. He’ll be at home, but he will quite possibly be without LeSean McCoy and maybe even Mike Gillislee, in addition to Sammy Watkins’ continuing absence. The Patriots do a very good job of eliminating opposing offenses #1’s, and that begs the question, if McCoy is out, who is Buffalo’s number 1? I say it’s Taylor. Yes, Robert Woods has done well, and they’ll most likely put Malcolm Butler on him, but I highly doubt they’ll double-team him. Also, unlike McCoy, New England’s run D is good enough against Gillislee that they won’t even have to send extra help. Taylor is the best offensive talent that the Bills have right now, and the Patriots will do everything they can to make it a long Sunday afternoon.
Carson Wentz (@ DAL)
Make no mistake, what Wentz did to start the year was far from fluke performances, but we’ve seen the true Carson Wentz now that opposing teams have some film on him. Even in his solid performances for the first 5 weeks of the season, he was very inconsistent. He did very well in Week 3, after turning in average performances Weeks 2-3. Then, he hasn’t shown us any improvement since that point, but can we blame him? After all, he played Minnesota last week. And we all know how that goes. He has been up and down, and I don’t see him going back up anytime soon. He’ll square off against a Dallas defense (on the road) who does a New England-like job in shutting down opposing threats, rankings 8th in the NFL and 4th in DVOA versus opposing #1 WR’s and #2 WR’s, per Football Outsiders. Wentz is only valuable in 2-QB leagues for this week.
Really quick before we move on to our backs, why only two mentions for “Sits”, and obvious sits at that? Well, I think that is in large part due to the fact that there aren’t many options that I am worried about. There are a whole bunch of QB’s this week that I look at them and think, well, maybe they aren’t top-5 options, but you aren’t benching them. Alex Smith? Yeah, he has a pretty good matchup. Carson Palmer? I’m not crazy about him, and if you have better options I could see him as useful, it’s a good matchup in theory. Philip Rivers? He’s got a tough matchup in theory, but he is so active not only on the basis of passing attempts (which saying that he is active in that category is an understatement for his entire career), he is 2nd in the NFL in Redzone passing attempts. See what I mean? Drop a comment below for your specific questions regarding the position and we will tackle the week ahead together.
Jeremy Hill (vs. WAS)
Here’s the thing with Jeremy Hill. Before I begin, what a great name for a podcast! I know Alec Baldwin has his own similarly titled, but this is NPR worthy. Anyway, back to one of the more frustrating fantasy players to date. Just when you think it’s Giovani Bernard’s time to shine (due in large part to the fact that I was more productive with the ball on Sunday than our man here, and I don’t play football), nope. Hill definitely ran the ball very well to the tune of 168 yards and a score. Let’s just hope this can continue, and from the looks of some of his runs last week against Cleveland, I think it should (or at least for this week). Washington’s front seven is just getting blown up at the line of scrimmage, and it shows, as they give up close to 115 yards per game on the ground. The frustrating thing is that Hill hasn’t gotten much usage in the Redzone that we would like to see, but from a matchup standpoint, this is one of the best on the week.
Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. OAK)
The great thing about Doug Martin’s injury (from a fantasy standpoint, I obviously don’t wish injury on a player) is that there is some consistency to Tampa’s backfield with their lead dog out. Yes, Peyton Barber scored last week against San Francisco, but Rodgers still got his to the tune of 26 carries for 154. That is the great thing about Rodgers’ production these last few weeks: ultimately he is a #2 back based on volume alone. He will get the work he needs to turn in a solid fantasy day, and he gets another turn against a Raiders run defense that ranks 27th in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, giving up an average of 117 rushing yards per game.
Christine Michael (@ NO)
I was wrong about Christine Michael for this 2016 fantasy season. Or at least for the time being (Rawls should be coming back soon). Michael has had some disappointing seasons and short-lived careers in numerous places, and I thought it would continue back in Seattle, but Michael has actually done quite good, and in PPR leagues, he’s the 15th-best back in the NFL. So mad props to him, and personally, I hope it continues for him once Rawls comes back. Michael gets such a great matchup this week, even on the road, it makes my head hurt. According to Football Outsiders, the Saints have the 28th-best run defense in the NFL. I’m actually quite shocked it is this high. This is a front seven that surrendered 151/3 in Week 1 against the Raiders, 194/3 to Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in Week 3 (and a receiving TD), and 96/2 to Jonathan Stewart in Week 6. Michael has received a steady workload throughout 2016 thus far, and he’s as close to a must-play in my eyes as you could get.
Mark Ingram (vs. SEA)
Man, has this dude been frustrating. 5. He has lost 5(!!!) rushing TD’s to either Coby Fleener or John Kuhn this year. The issue with Ingram is that there is just too many other offensive weapons with Fleener, Cooks, Snead and of course, Michael Thomas, to go along with a poor defense, so New Orleans sees themselves throwing the ball a majority of the game. Combined with this is the fact that Ingram has a tough stretch upcoming (will face Broncos, Panthers and Rams in weeks 10-12), just makes it more apparent that Ingram will most likely turn in a disappointing fantasy year. This week is no exception against Seahawks. He’ll face a rush defense that ranks 4th against the rush according to Football Outsiders. Also, in a game that will likely end up being a shootout due to the high-powered nature of both offenses combined with the mediocrity that is the Saints, I don’t think the Saints will commit to the run at all to garner a floor for Ingram.
I’m not going to do what I usually do, and go super in depth on a fantasy matchup that can be summarized in less than 5 seconds. These guys are somewhat respectable, especially Carey, as he has seen a significant workload that has been rising these past few weeks, but it won’t matter against a really tough Minnesota defense that ranks 7th in the NFL against the run. Phew, done.
Isaiah Crowell (vs. NYJ)
Man oh man has Crowell been very consistent thus far in 2016, much to the shock of many (humble brag). However, for this week, I would stay away, as the Jets’ defensive unit are one of the most funnel-iest of the funnel defenses we’ve seen this year. Their secondary is atrocious while their front seven is really good (except when facing David Johnson). Ranking 3rd in the NFL against the run and 31st against the pass, according to Football Outsiders, the Jets should force the Browns to air it out and beat them over the top and expose their secondary, and it makes sense that the Browns will do that, especially with Josh McCown being back under center. The game script is not in Crowell’s favor this week.
Like I have mentioned with Osweiler above, and something I will continue to state with Fiedorowicz below, the Houston offense gets a perfect opportunity to have a “get-well game” against a struggling Detroit secondary that made Case Keenum look like he wasn’t Case Keenum. Against a secondary that ranks 29th and 17th in the NFL against opposing #1’s and opposing #2’s, respectively, Hopkins and Fuller should have no issues Sunday, as their offense should rebound following a rough outing in Denver last Monday.
Not only is he getting his boy back, Josh McCown, he’ll square off against a New York defense that is very funnel-y. They are absolutely great against the run, ranking 3rd in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, while ranking 31st in the NFL against the pass, and they especially struggle against the deep ball, something Pryor has had success in. No longer are the days of Kevin Hogan, as Josh McCown will get the start under center Sunday, a QB that Pryor has enjoyed the most success with, as McCown can launch it right to where Pryor will need it. He’s a great WR2/high FLEX option this week in a great matchup. On the other side of the ball is Marshall, who will return with Fitzpatrick under center after Geno taking the start last week versus Baltimore, but tearing his ACL in the process. Marshall will face a Browns secondary that was absolutely torched by A.J. Green last week, and on the year, not only ranks 30th against the pass per Football Outsiders, but also gives up 180 yards with 1.5 TD’s on average per game. This is a great spot for both Pryor and Marshall in what will be a great matchup for the turn, and even the game in general is starting to look like a sneaky shootout game with the nature of the two defenses.
They both did okay a few weeks ago on Thursday Night Football, but this game has a different feel to it, despite it being pretty much the same matchups it had a few weeks ago. The Broncos do a very good job on all aspects of it on the defensive end, doing a great job of taking away opposing #1’s and #2’s, and that is what should happen Sunday against Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin. Only giving up an average of 91 yards and no TD’s per game since the start of the year, I have no confidence in starting these guys this week.
Cole Beasley (vs. PHI)
Well, it’s been a good ride with ya Cole. With Dez Bryant coming back, Beasley should return to his old form, which is a PPR FLEX play only against the best of matchups, and that is not what we have here today against the Eagles, even if it is at home. The Philadelphia secondary ranks 1st in the NFL against the pass, and 9th in the NFL against all other WR’s that are not opposing #1’s or #2’s.
Jimmy Graham (@ NO)
Like I have mentioned before, this Saints-Seahawks game has the recipe to become a shootout, due to the nature of both high-powered offenses combined with the mediocrity of the Saints defense. Enter Graham, who has almost re-emerged from an absence to show us some glimmers of his old form when he used to play in New Orleans. Hey! Revenge game! From a numbers perspective, yes, not only does New Orleans rank 28th in the NFL against the pass, they also rank 26th in the NFL against TE’s. Graham has a very clear path to be the best TE this week, if not for Travis Kelce (an elite play as well, possibly even better against a very bad Colts D when it comes to covering TE’s).
C.J. Fiedorowicz (vs. DET)
If you need a streaming option, look no further. Over the last 5 weeks, Fiedorowicz has averaged close to 7 targets per game, even with the struggling Osweiler at the helm of it all. This week, much like Osweiler himself, gets a great matchup at home to Detroit, a defense that ranks 27th in the NFL against opposing TE’s. Fiedorowicz has a legitimate floor, and with a nice ceiling for those streaming at the position.
Jason Witten (vs. PHI)
Witten has been decent, but that’s one of the reasons I don’t like his outlook rest of season. With Cole Beasley still continuing to work in the middle of the field, and with Dez returning, I don’t see how Witten could find significant fantasy production. Even if he does eventually, it won’t be this week against a Eagles defense that ranks 2nd in the NFL against TE’s, with an all-around solid unit.
Matt Bryant (vs. GB)
He’s been an absolute beast thus far, and he’ll continue in the dome against the Packers in what is likely to become a high scoring affair. At the bare minimum, he’ll tack on a bunch of FG’s, as the Falcons’ offense should have no issues scoring against this Green Bay secondary.
Josh Lambo (@ DEN)
He’s been very helpful to us thus far, and he may benefit from the thin air of Denver, but the Chargers have one of the lowest team totals on the day according to Vegas, and I don’t see them putting up a lot of points.
Defense & Special Teams
New York Jets (@ CLE)
They’re on the road, which isn’t an ideal situation, but Todd Bowles and Co. should blitz heavily in this game against Cleveland’s shaky O-Line. Oh, and it’s probably gonna be Kevin Hogan getting the start at QB in this one. I don’t care how shaky the Jets are against the deep ball, they should be fine in this one.
Philadelphia Eagles (@ DAL)
Yes, they’re a really solid unit, however they are on the road against Dak (really good thus far), Elliott (really good thus far), and they’ll be getting Dez back. I don’t have any interest in starting them in this one.
Thanks for sticking around to the end for what is shaping up to be a great eighth week of the NFL season. As always, if you agree or disagree with a player above, or have a general question or comment about your team, please do not hesitate to leave one below.
Best of luck, and I’ll talk to you guys next week as we try to get your team to 9-0 on the season.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @ohuhave12.