Week 8 Rankings & Game Flowbotics
We’re over halfway through the fantasy football regular season. You now have permission to panic. Maybe you’ve had bad luck with injuries, head-to-head matchups, or both. If you find yourself in a hole, trying to dig a way out, you probably need to steer toward more variance with your roster and the lineups you set. That means reexamining your approach to player evaluations both week-to-week and rest-of-season, at the risk of digging yourself a deeper hole.
A bad roster needs to take more chances on high variance players to create more opportunity to take down the better teams. You don’t necessarily want to move every boom-or-bust type of player up in your estimation, but you must be more willing to gamble on the ones you believe in. We generally know which players have lofty ceilings in a vacuum, but it’s their weekly matchups that give us confidence to start them. Let’s once again dive into those matchups with the Game Flowbotics spreadsheet:
The Week 8 rankings are a quick mouse-scroll away. For the space between, let’s focus on a few boom/bust options I’m intrigued by on the upcoming slate.
Mike Wallace & Chris Moore vs. MIA
Wallace is in the concussion protocol, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be active for Thursday Night Football. If he manages to play, and if Jeremy Maclin can suit up opposite him, Wallace is in a nice spot. If he sits, Chris Moore should fill his shoes. The Dolphins rank dead last in DVOA against #2 wide receivers, and they’re coming off a game where they made Josh McCown look like Dan Marino. Investing in the Ravens’ offense is unappealing, but this matchup presents a fine opportunity for production.
Kenny Stills at BAL
On the other side of the ball, Kenny Stills is a stay-away for me this week. He’s found success in DeVante Parker’s absence, but those games were against the Falcons and Jets, two teams with much softer secondaries than the one Stills faces on Thursday. The Ravens have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts. The best way to attack Baltimore’s pass defense is from the slot, and that’s Jarvis Landry’s domain. Stills is always a threat to break a big play, but the odds are more heavily against him in this contest.
Travis Benjamin at NE
New England’s atrocious pass defense to start the season is shaping up. They ranked 32nd in pass defense DVOA entering Week 6, 30th entering Week 7, and they now rank 28th. While this matchup is seemingly getting tougher, Benjamin’s production has also trended downward. He only saw one target in each the past two weeks, coinciding with the emergence of Hunter Henry and the debut of Mike Williams. So why am I higher on Benjamin than consensus? Bill Belichick typically aims to take away the opposing team’s top weapons and force less imposing players to beat him. This season, those secondary targets who’ve found success against New England have often been downfield threads like Tyreek Hill (7-133-1) Brandon Coleman (4-82-1), Bruce Ellington (4-59-1), and DeSean Jackson (5-106-0). The Pats will likely try to lock up Keenan Allen, and Benjamin leads the Chargers’ other receivers in air yards and average depth of target according to airyards.com. He’s widely available if you’re scraping the wide receiver barrel.
Taylor Gabriel at NYJ
I was very high on Taylor Gabriel last week. In a painful display of stupidity, I started him over Ted Ginn Jr. in one of my leagues. Gabriel had the same matchup against New England I just praised for Travis Benjamin, but I failed to account for the return of Mohamed Sanu. When both Sanu and Julio Jones are healthy, they tend to dominate targets for the Falcons. I suppose Atlanta might have wanted to target Gabriel more often against the Patriots, but couldn’t because of the thick fog in Gillette Stadium. Whether or not that’s the case, Gabriel is clearly third in the pecking order going forward. The Jets rank ninth in DVOA against #3 wideouts, holding them to 28% less yardage than the per-game NFL average. In a game where Jones and Sanu should have free reign in the secondary, I don’t trust the Falcons to get Gabriel involved, but all it takes is one big play for him to return value.
Trent Taylor at PHI
Only desperate fantasy owners need apply, but Taylor draws an Eagles defense allowing 8.3 passes and 67.9 yards per game to #3 wide receivers, compared to NFL averages of 6.8 passes and 51 yards per game to the position. The 49ers are 12.5-point underdogs in this tilt. Playing in catch-up mode, Taylor should garner at least as many targets as the five he’s seen in each of his past two games. He’s an interesting dart throw if you can stomach the fact that those targets are coming from C.J. Beathard.