By Week 8, most fantasy football fans feel like they know the players on their rosters and even a few free agents from the waiver wire they’ve kept their eye on.
Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I give nicknames to my star players to loudly celebrate a touchdown or egg them on, even though they can’t hear me. I checked.
For example, former Texans running back Domanick Davis became “Dominate” Davis in 2004, the year he totaled 14 touchdowns.
We’ve learned that a few NFL up-and-comers have nicknames, such as the Steelers' Chase Claypool — “Mapletron,” because he hails from Canada and reminds fans of Calvin “Megatron” Johnson — and the Browns' Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins. Whenever the Browns face Marquise Brown’s Ravens, the rights to “Hollywood” should be on the line. Best stats win.
I have some other monikers I’ve come up with:
Tee Higgins as “Hot Wheels”: Clemson fans already know his back story. The Bengals receiver grew up a fan of the toy cars. “Hot Wheels Higgins” has a ring to it.","type":"text
Donovan Peoples-Jones as “The Peoples' Champion”: After that high-difficulty, game-winning catch for the Browns, no explanation is needed.","type":"text
"Kyler Murray as “Kylo Run:” How is the Cardinals quarterback not being called this every week during highlights of him scrambling?","type":"text
Justin Herbert as … : I admit I’m struggling with a nickname for the long-bomb artist and fantasy savior in the baby-blue No. 10 jersey for the Chargers. “L.A. Ten”? “Rainbow Herbert”?","type":"text
On that note, let’s get to the start 'em and sit ‘em.
On that note, let’s get to the start 'em and sit ‘em.
Browns QB Baker Mayfield vs. Raiders
Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski praised Mayfield for bouncing back from adversity.
Mayfield had his worst game of the season against the Steelers (119 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) in Week 6, and during Sunday’s game against the Bengals he lost top wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to a season-ending knee injury. However, Mayfield responded by throwing five touchdown passes, including a pinpoint toss to Donovan Peoples-Jones for the game-winner.
Stefanski also sensed a special connection between Mayfield and Rashard Higgins, who had a season-high 110 yards receiving.
"You can’t discount the rapport between him and the quarterback,'’ Stefanski said, via Cleveland.com. “Obviously, there’s something there. He has a great feel for throwing to Hollywood. Again, I give great credit to the kid when earlier in the season he was not getting the reps that I am sure he wanted.”
Mayfield will get a chance to build on that relationship with Higgins, as well as with tight ends Harrison Bryant and David Njoku, against a Las Vegas Raiders team that has allowed eight touchdown passes over the last three weeks and 300-yard games in each of the last two.
Also consider: Eagles QB Carson Wentz vs. Cowboys
Panthers RB Mike Davis vs. Falcons
Carolina coach Matt Rhule said Monday that he was “hopeful” Christian McCaffrey could return from his high ankle sprain in time for Thursday’s game, but on Tuesday he said he wants to see how McCaffrey responds to practice.
McCaffrey, who wore a red no-contact jersey, was designated to return from the injured list.
Rhule was cryptic Tuesday about the likelihood McCaffrey plays or even how he looked physically, but perhaps you can read between the lines.
“I think we take the same approach with every player. I don’t want guys putting their careers in jeopardy,” Rhule said when asked whether the short week is a factor.
Later, he added, “I think it differs by position. I think an O-lineman or D-lineman can deal with some different injuries. I think when you’re talking about a running back who obviously makes their living running, cutting, producing power, you have to make sure that they have all those skill sets available to them. That’s been our approach with him.”
Obviously, all this affects Davis' viability in what could be a huge matchup for him. He had his best output of the season (20.9 fantasy points) in Week 5 at Atlanta, and Carolina hosts the rematch.
It’s a calculated risk for fantasy managers, but it’s reasonable to believe that even if McCaffrey plays, he’s going to be given a limited role considering his injury and the nature of his position. As Rhule seemed to imply, it would be foolish to risk McCaffrey’s season — or his career, for that matter — when Davis is more than capable of handling the Falcons.
Also consider: Broncos RB Melvin Gordon vs. Chargers
Colts RB Jonathan Taylor at Lions
This is the Lions rush defense in a nutshell: Falcons back Todd Gurley was trying not to score on them — which would’ve helped kill clock for Atlanta — and he still fell into the end zone.
The Colts likely won’t have that concern with Taylor.
“We are committed to the run,” coach Frank Reich said, according to Fox59.com. “Now, we have not been committed to the run as much as we would have liked to. But that’s who we want to be. We want to run the football.”
For someone who has put up only one 100-yard rushing game this season, it’s impressive Taylor has posted double-digit fantasy points in every game but one.
Also consider: Chiefs RB Le’Veon Bell vs. Jets
Bengals WR Tee Higgins vs. Titans
If the Titans' defensive staff plays this matchup like it did with the Steelers, it will have Malcolm Butler shadow the top threat and take its chances with the other pass catchers (which worked out great for Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, not so much for Chase Claypool).
For the Bengals, that top threat could be A.J. Green or Tyler Boyd, but it’s likely not Higgins.
He splits time fairly evenly between a wide set and the slot, and the Bengals often send him on crossing routes to free him up. The Titans have given up touchdowns to multiple wide receivers in three of the last four games. Higgins has had at least 70 yards and scored in three of the last four games.
Also consider: Raiders WR Nelson Agholor at Browns
Eagles WR Travis Fulgham vs. Cowboys
Travis Fulgham went from not seeing the field the first three weeks to playing the most snaps (78) among Eagles receivers against the Giants in Week 7, according to Rotowire.com.
There’s little to get in Fulgham’s way. The Eagles designated Jalen Reagor to return from a thumb injury, but that’s no guarantee he can play Sunday night. Meanwhile, they’ve been trying to trade Alshon Jeffery, who has yet to play this season as he recovers from a Lisfranc surgery and recently tweaked his calf.
It shouldn’t matter if Fulgham draws Trevon Diggs (who got burned by Washington’s Terry McLaurin on a touchdown) or Jourdan Lewis. Fulgham has seen at least 10 targets in each of the last three games.
Also consider: Buccaneers WR Scotty Miller at Giants
Bears TE Jimmy Graham vs. Saints
New Orleans gives up the second most fantasy points per game (12.6, according to FantasyData.com). How can the Bears not target Graham, especially in a revenge game against his first NFL team?
Graham also has been one of the Bears' best red-zone weapons, and the Saints are dead last (86.4%) in red-zone defense.
Also consider: Titans TE Jonnu Smith at Bengals
Packers K Mason Crosby vs. Vikings
Crosby’s numbers have dipped as the Packers offense has been pretty efficient. He kicked five extra points against the Texans.
But you’d think the Vikings would put up more of a fight in a game with division implications. They also have given up the most fantasy points per game (14) to kickers.
Also consider: Saints K Wil Lutz at Bears
Chiefs defense/special teams vs. Jets
The Chiefs are a whopping 19 1/2-point favorites in this game. It might have to do with the fact the Jets are dead last in point differential (minus-16.9) and yard differential (minus-120.7).
It’s a tall order to say the Chiefs will cover that massive spread, but it does suggest they might get a defensive or special teams score. They had a pick-six during a blowout of the Broncos on Sunday.
Also consider: Buccaneers DST at Giants
Cam Newton at Bills
Newton won’t come close to the dismal showing he had against the 49ers (98 yards passing and three interceptions for minus-0.2 fantasy points in standard scoring).
He was embarrassed after getting benched.
“The first thing I said to myself coming home was, ‘You keep playing games like that, bro, and it’s going to be a permanent change,’” Newton said, according to reports.
The Bills have given up some good performances to quarterbacks, but don’t you think — after years of getting bullied by Bill Belichick — they smell blood in the water? Last season Tom Brady was held to 150 yards and a pick in the first Bills game and 271 yards and a touchdown in the second.
In Week 7, the Bills held Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to 120 yards and two interceptions.
“We knew they were going to continue to attack us in the run game, so up front we said we’ve got to stop the run, and then we knew our secondary was going to come down on the third down,” Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes said, via rochesterfirst.com. “For us, it was just figuring out a way to stop that run, and we were able to do that and get off the field on third down.”
The Patriots are fourth in rushing with 155 yards per game, powered in part by Newton, but they’re 24th in third-down conversions (38.8%) and 25th in the red zone (55%).
Meanwhile, the Bills are favored by 3 1/2 points in what’s expected to be the lowest scoring game of the week (44 is the over-under), according to covers.com.
Also consider: Giants QB Daniel Jones vs. Buccaneers
Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde vs. 49ers
Hyde has a hamstring issue, but coach Pete Carroll was optimistic early in the week that Hyde can start in place of Chris Carson (foot).
“If Carlos is available to us, which we are hoping that he is, then we feel like we can keep the tempo going if Chris can’t make it” to play against the 49ers, Carroll said, via the Tacoma News Tribune.
Even if Hyde plays, you’re counting on him making it through a tough defensive matchup (fewest fantasy points to running backs) and be assured of a meaningful share of touches.
Also consider: Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins vs. Steelers
Chargers RB Justin Jackson at Broncos
Jackson’s (or Joshua Kelley’s) failure to get on track against the Jaguars should be concerning. The offensive line hasn’t been great in the running game, volume is split between the two backs, and the Broncos are tied for 10th in rush defense (109 yards per game).
They’re the second toughest defense for running backs in fantasy.
Also consider: Jets RB Lamical Perine at Chiefs
Dolphins WR DeVante Parker vs. Rams
Everyone’s projecting a great game for Parker, but why? We don’t know how much his groin injury (or latest injury du jour) is affecting him, and he’s got a tough matchup whether he draws Jalen Ramsey or Darious Williams.
And it seems as if the fantasy world just assumes rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will pick up where Ryan Fitzpatrick left off.
As South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Omar Kelly noted, “A main component of Chan Gailey’s offense is a receiver’s ability to improvise on his routes. But that only works when the receiver and his quarterback are on the same page. It’s likely going to take some time for Tagovailoa and his weapons to jell.”
Also consider: Lions WR Marvin Jones vs. Colts
Saints WR Tre’Quan Smith at Bears
Smith figures to get a lot of looks with Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still hobbled.
The Bears secondary has been brutal for wide receivers, keeping the position to one 100-yard game and two touchdowns so far — and the latest score came on the Rams' quick snap and throw to Josh Reynolds before the Bears defense could get set.
The bottom line is better talents than Smith have tried to test the Bears cornerbacks and failed, and this looks like a game where Drew Brees may have more success targeting Jared Cook and Alvin Kamara.
Also consider: Giants WR Golden Tate vs. Buccaneers
Colts TE Trey Burton at Lions
Burton had his best day against the Bengals with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. But Jack Doyle had three catches for 29 yards a score, too. Could Mo Alie-Cox return from a knee injury and siphon targets from both of them?
It just adds up to too many negative factors for Burton, including a matchup against a Lions defense that yields the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Also consider: Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. at Packers
Rams K Sam Sloman at Dolphins
The Dolphins are the second stingiest with regards to kickers, giving up two or more field goals in a game just twice. Sloman is on a six-game run of a single field goal per game.
He has never had more than three attempts, and in the three games in which he’s had more than one, he has missed one.
Also consider: Bengals K Randy Bullock vs. Titans
Ravens defense/special teams vs. Steelers
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions against the Titans, but it seems like an aberration. He threw just one pick in the previous five games, and the Steelers have lost just one fumble.
The Ravens excel at fumble recoveries (eight) but have just three interceptions.
Also consider: 49ers DST at Seahawks
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