Congratulations to all fantasy owners on reaching the midway point of most season-long formats! I hope most of you survived the initial onslaught of injuries in the NFL this season.
With a solid sample of fantasy production in the books this season, you may see teams surface here more frequently to ensure we discuss matchups impacting high-usage fantasy players. Week 8 is upon us!
The elites outside – Week 8 wide receiver matchups
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Buffalo Bills (TNF)
Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis have been moved around thus far, in contrast to the wide corners of Tampa Bay, who stick to their own sides of the field with Carlton Davis III on the left and Jamel Dean on the right.
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Diggs currently cracks the top 10 across the league in yards per route run (Y/RR)* at 2.68 (PFF); he should maintain this top-end production as he outgrades both Davis III and Dean in receiving vs. coverage at 82.2, against 67.8 for Davis II and 59.8 for Dean (PFF). Davis III is yet to give up a touchdown in the four games he has played, but Diggs will be forcing him to cover potential receptions further down the field with an aDoT of 12.4 (PFF). I expect Diggs to find the paint at least once on Thursday night.
Gabe Davis is putting together a solid touchdown campaign with four on the board already. I like Davis as a WR2/Flex this week as the versatility of him and Diggs will allow Sean McDermott to find matchups for Davis against Jamel Dean, who has conceded two touchdowns and a competitive passer rating of 129.2(PFF); low hanging fruit for Josh Allen.
I am expecting Dalton Kincaid to play mostly out of the slot this week to draw a matchup with Christian Izien, who has given up a pair of touchdowns in coverage. Kincaid will have a size matchup in the red zone and could very well score his first NFL touchdown getting those targets at tight end with the absence of Dawson Knox.
Christian Benford and Dane Jackson will be on the outside in coverage for the Bills; I see a very interesting matchup between Mike Evans and Benford on the horizon, potentially one where Benford follows Evans. Benford concedes the lesser grade in receiving vs coverage to Evans; however, they will be looking for the ball at the same spots on the field with very similar aDoTs; Benford has an exceptional forced incompletion percentage at 18% ( PFF) and has only conceded 16 receptions over six starts in 2023 (PFF).
Chris Godwin should have a solid day going against Dane Jackson outside and Taron Johnson when he moves into the slot. Godwin is yet to find the end zone, a trend that is not sustainable, and these two corners both give up receptions on more than 80% (PFF) of the targets they receive, in addition to passer ratings in the 120 (PFF) range. This is the week when Baker Mayfield and Godwin finally get on the same page.
Matchup Winners: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Dalton Kincaid, Chirs Godwin
Matchup Losers: Mike Evans
Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys
Cooper Kupp has played in three games since returning from IR; in those games, he has played 48.6% (PFF) of snaps out of the slot. I expect that percentage to grow this week as Jourdan Lewis is the weakest link of this Cowboys coverage group and primarily stays inside. Kupp should beat Lewis consistently in that matchup, tallying a high reception total, which will be lucrative, with Lewis conceding 14.3 yards per reception (PFF). Kupp out of the slot should be a focal point for the Rams.
Puka Nacua is playing most often to the right of Matthew Stafford; if this pattern holds, he will be seeing the veteran Stephon Gilmore for most of the day, who will give him issues. Gilmore will keep Nacua in front of him with a deeper aDoT, and is not giving up YAC (84 total in six starts), a category in which Nacua remains a league leader with 277 yards (PFF).
Tutu Atwell should have his own problems on the other side against the Cowboys’ DaRon Bland. When quarterbacks have tried to throw Bland’s way in 2023, they have an embarrassing passer rating of 22.7, and Bland is near the top in the NFL in forced incompletion percentage. Sean McVay should be aware of where his advantage is; if you depend on Nacua in your lineup, you may need to start someone with slightly more risk and upside for a spike week. Sit Atwell down if he is one of your flex options.
While CeDee Lamb has had a slower start than his managers were expecting, week 8 offers another opportunity for correction in the slot against Ram’s corner Cobie Durant. Lamb is the higher-graded player by a significant margin, but Durant is stingy with a forced incompletion percentage of 18% (PFF), and these two share very similar aDoTs. Lamb will need to improve on his contested catch rate of 33.3% (PFF) this week to tally a solid reception total, but looking at the other matchups on the outside, Lamb will be the Cowboys’ best chance to stretch the field. I am banking on Lamb catching a long touchdown this week to salvage his day.
Looking at the snaps through seven weeks, it is likely Michael Gallup will face off with Derion Kendrick and Brandin Cooks with Ahkello Witherspoon. Both of these corners should be doing everything they can to keep Gallup and Cooks in front of them, as they have played deep while targeted this season. I do not see the ceiling coming into play for either Gallup or Cooks.
Matchup Winners: Cooper Kupp, CeeDee Lamb
Matchup Losers: Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Michael Gallup, Brandin Cooks
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers
Ja’Marr Chase will be moved wherever the Cincinnati Bengals see fit come Sunday against the 49ers. Chase has a near-even split out wide on the right or left and has played just under 25%(PFF) of snaps out of the slot through six games.
The best option for San Francisco against Chase will be Charvarius Ward, whose weakest category is YAC; Chase trails only Tyreek Hill in the category this season with 286 yards (PFF). Chase also outgrades Deommodore Lenoir, opposite of Ward and Isasaih Oliver in the slot. If the 49ers try to force Chase underneath, he has a contested catch rate of 75%(PFF)on routes under 10 yards and has logged 193 receiving yards (PFF) in that section of the field. Chase’s numbers on intermediate and deep routes are rock solid as well; he is too balanced a threat to fade even against a secondary as stout as the 49ers’.
I am going to fade Tee Higgins up against Ward and Lenoir as his receiving grade is down to 56.2 (PFF) this season, a career low, and his aDoT will not move these wide corners down the field. Higgins’ contested catch rate is just 18.2% (PFF) so if he is playing at a similar depth to these two, receptions will be scarce.
Tyler Boyd is more evenly matched with Isaiah Oliver in the slot, who offers the highest passer rating among the 49ers corners at 90.1(PFF). If Chase gets loose early, and the 49ers shade his way, Joe Burrow will be looking at Boyd to balance out the passing attack- do not overlook him as a potential flex option.
Deebo Samuel has been ruled out this week; Brandon Aiyuk and Geroge Kittle will be the main targets for Brock Purdy if he is able to play. I believe Aiyuk will be limited to receptions underneath with the wide corners of the Bengals, Cam Taylor-Britt and Dj Turner III, protecting the deep part of the field. Aiyuk’s aDoT is shallower than that of Taylor-Britt and slightly deeper than Turner III’s. The Bengals should be trying to limit production on the outside and keep the 49ers in the middle of the field.
In said middle of the field, George Kittle is set up for a big day as linebackers Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt handle many of the box coverage looks for the Bengals’ defense. Kittle will be asking these two to cover him further down the field than they are used to, and both Wilson and Pratt concede receptions on 80%(PFF) of their targets. Kittle should have the catches to spike out of TE slots in most leagues and will have chances to beat Wilson and Pratt inside the 20.
Matchup Winners: Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, George Kittle
Matchup Losers: Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins
Las Vegas Raiders vs. Detroit Lions (MNF)
The Las Vegas Raiders will bring two top 15 fantasy receivers into the Motor City on Monday Night. Jakobi Meyers will look to extend his touchdown streak to four games and Davante Adams will look to get back on track when they take on Cameron Sutton and Jerry Jacobs of the Lions out wide.
Adams will see Jacobs often, who is a bit sloppy; Jacobs is tied for the league lead in penalties with six (PFF) among corners and ranks second in missed tackles with six (PFF). Adams is an elite route runner; he should cause Jacobs problems, especially in the red zone; two of three touchdowns for Adams have come under 10 yards (PFF). If Jimmy Garropolo is able to start with an extra day between games this week, Adams should be the staple his managers expect him to be.
Jakobi Meyers has an aDoT of 10.6 (PFF) in comparison to 13.7 for Cameron Sutton- I believe this could be an advantage for Meyers this week as he can pile up receptions in front of Sutton and build on the damage he is doing inside the 10-yard line. Four of his touchdowns have come inside the 10, alongside a contested catch rate of 83.3% (PFF). Cameron Sutton has only one pass breakup in 2023(PFF); if he is able to close on Meyers in the red zone, Jakobi will have the upper hand and ultimately extend his touchdown streak to five games.
As we know from previous weeks, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds will be moved around offensively; the Raiders deploy Marcus Peters on the left side of their defense and Jakorian Bennett (who is questionable) on the right, with Amik Robertson in the slot. St. Brown and Reynolds should dominate on the outside against Bennet, who has a coverage grade of just 42.0 (PFF) and is conceding a passer rating of 128.7 (PFF). When they move inside against Robertson, they will find a corner who is giving up 14 yards per reception(PFF), and who was also beaten for a 77-yard completion earlier this season(PFF). I anticipate the Lions taking advantage of Peters staying in one place and exposing these matchups. Both St. Brown and Reynolds should have productive fantasy days.
Sam LaPorta should see a mix of three players, linebackers Divine Deablo (also questionable) and Robert Spillane, and safety Tre’von Moehrig. I like LaPorta here as well; his aDoT will stretch the coverage of all three. Deablo and Moehrig have given up three touchdowns collectively, and Spillane ranks in the bottom 20 among NFL linebackers defending YAC (PFF), a category where LaPorta ranks sixth overall (PFF). Bombs away for the Lions.
Matchup Winners: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Sam LaPorta
Matchup Losers: Those who bet the under
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