Football gods—actually, schedule makers—are giving us a little bit of margin this week getting back to a two-team bye weekend. This time around, only Baltimore and Dallas won’t make their players available for your fantasy teams, but some quality assets are sidelined. Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, or Amari Cooper—just to name a few—will all be sidelined, and that will surely impact more than one lineup out there. So now is the time when you must prove yourself as the best GM of your league by fielding a team full of win-not-kill studs for Week 8.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10- or 12-team league, you must have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Matthew Stafford, DET (vs NYG) - START
While you may not consider Stafford one of the best NFL quarterbacks, he’s always been a great fantasy asset at a QB1 level. This season, he’s scoring the seventh-most points per game among quarterbacks and is fifth in passing touchdowns. Just last week, in a shootout against the Vikings, Stafford passed for a massive 364 yards and four touchdowns (!) on 30 completions. All of the four touchdowns went Marvin Jones’ way, who only had one prior to last weekend’s game. That, added to the fact that Kerryon Johnson left the game injured and was put on IR not too long after, makes me think Stafford is 1) more than capable to provide his receivers—no matter who—with scoring chances and 2) he’ll have to throw the ball more without a bellcow in the backfield. This weekend Stafford plays against a middling Giants defense (11th-most points per game allowed to QBs) that has already been shredded to pieces by other veteran quarterbacks such as Tom Brady (334 yards) and Kirk Cousins (306 yards, two TDs) no more than two weeks ago.
Josh Allen, BUF (vs PHI) - START
People keep trying to drag Josh Allen’s value down, but I’ll keep talking him up. Allen might only be the QB14 overall through seven weeks on points per game, but there is no other player at the position putting on performances as solid as those he’s accruing. If it wasn’t for his game against New England (153 yards, 3 INTs, 16.3 fantasy points), Allen would have scored 20-plus points, thrown one or more touchdowns, and reached 200 yards in each of the games he’s played. On top of his passing, Allen’s rushing upside should also be taken into consideration: he’s the only QB to have rushed for 20-plus yards in all six games he’s played and is tied with Lamar Jackson in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks with three. With Buffalo taking on Philadelphia next, Allen should have another solid performance this week. The Eagles are giving up 24.4 points per game to the position, have surrendered 14 passing touchdowns, and are coming off back-to-back games allowing 333 and 239 passing yards.
Baker Mayfield, CLE (at NE) - SIT
Are we really sure Mayfield is the real deal? Let me doubt it for a minute. While Mayfield has not been atrocious this season, he’s been far from good. He’s currently a borderline QB3 in fantasy football and his TD:INT ratio sits at a no-so-promising 5:11. Mayfield has yet to finish a game without throwing an interception or with multiple touchdowns to his name. In front of him this weekend: New England. And do you know what New England is good at? Scaring the hell out of quarterbacks—ask Sam Darnold. The Patriots defense has already intercepted 18 passes (ten more than the second-best teams in the league) and in seven games they have only allowed one passing touchdown and 1209 yards (172 per game). Pick a bowl and mix a little bit of shaky Mayfield, an average-ish receiving corps, and a stout defense and you’ll have the perfect dough to cook a failure.
Kyle Allen, CAR (at SF) - SIT
Kyle Allen will lead the Panthers from the pocket at least once more. For all of the fireworks Carolina Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey brings to the table weekly, Allen looks like the pure definition of bland play. Yes, he’s won every game he’s played, and that is good for Carolina. For fantasy owners, though? Not so much. After an incredible debut this season (261 yards, four touchdowns), Allen has three touchdowns in his other three games and only one performance over 14 fantasy points. While he’s not thrown an interception, that’s just because of his super risk-averse style of play (he’s averaging only 6.7 Yards per Attempt in his last three weeks, even fewer than Joe Flacco or Sam Darnold). His upside—if it actually exists—all comes from what his receivers can do after the catch. That, paired with a really tough matchup against San Francisco, calls for an easy fade this week. The Niners are on a three-game streak in which they have allowed under 100 passing yards and five or fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Leonard Fournette, JAX (vs NYJ) - START
Poor Fournette has had to hear a fair amount of critics since the season started. Truth be told, he wasn’t great for the first three games of the year scoring 13.4, 12.7, and 15.2 fantasy points. But from Week 4 on he has improved quite a lot and became a really solid weekly play. He kick-started his “comeback” in Week 4 against Denver (26.5 points to the tune of 225 yards on a season-high 29 carries) and has logged 115-plus yards from scrimmage in each of his past four games. It should be added that to all of that good production he still has to add scoring, as he’s only been able to score one touchdown through seven weeks. The Jets don’t know how to stop opposing rushers (they rank fifth-worst in fantasy points per game allowed to the position) and have been scored on the ground at least once in every game since Week 2. I’d say Fournette sees some positive regression this week and not only rushes for 100-plus yards but he also crosses the goal line.
Sony Michel, NE (vs CLE) - START
This is the weirdest and most unexpected thing I’ve written all season long, but yes, I’m putting Michel in my list of starters for Week 8. I have been fading Michel for weeks now, but during his last few games, he’s started to show a completely different game to what he started the season with. Michel in his first four games: 171 rushing yards on 62 attempts (2.8 Y/A), two touchdowns, no receptions on the passing game. Michel in his last three games: 219 rushing yards on 57 attempts (3.8 Y/A), four touchdowns, six receptions for 51 yards. That is what I call turning things around, and Michel has done it for good. He’s put up 21, 13 and 22 fantasy points lately and he faces a Browns defense that is allowing the seventh-most points per game to RBs in a favorable matchup in which New England enters as a 12.5-point favorite. Expect more than a bunch of runs from Michel and to see him rack up yards against Cleveland.
Jordan Howard, PHI (at BUF) - SIT
If we’re talking about pure rushers, then Howard is the lead-back of the Eagles. If we’re talking about multi-faceted ones, then Miles Sanders would pencil in as the RB1 given his usage and production in the passing game. All things considered, Howard looks less useful for his team each passing week. The fact that Howard is limited in what he can provide (he has two targets in his last three games combined) cuts his upside a lot. Sanders, while not incredible on the ground (42 yards in his last three games compared to Howard’s 161), makes up for it with a really solid receiving ability (146 yards on 10 receptions) and out-performs Howard from scrimmage each and every game. So not only is this a clear committee and is Howard in a timeshare situation, but he’s also the least producing back of the Eagles. It’s time to move from Howard and either start Sanders or skip Philadelphia’s backfield altogether.
Le‘Veon Bell, NYJ (vs JAX) - SIT
Looking at season numbers, you might think Jacksonville isn’t that good at stopping running backs—they rank at a slightly below-average 18th in points given up to RBs. Digging deeper, though, we find out that the Jaguars have surrendered more than 90 yards on the ground only once (to Christian McCaffrey, no less), and no other player since Carlos Hyde in Week 2 has reached that mark. Le’Veon Bell himself had his best rushing game in Week 7, and he could only run for 70 yards. Bell has been disappointing from the start of the season, and only his receiving game put him at RB1-level during the first couple of weeks. His last two games have been underwhelming efforts of just 53 and 76 yards from scrimmage to get him to 12.3 and 8.6 fantasy points respectively. Sam Darnold might not be the solution for the Jets offense, but relying on Bell too much doesn’t look like could fix the Jets woes on offense either.
John Brown, BUF (vs PHI) - START
It is all about stacks this week, folks. Don’t judge me, the matchups merit going for them. If you read Josh Allen’s blurb above you already know the Eagles are bad at defending the passing game. They have allowed 14 passing touchdowns and 11 of those were thrown to receivers. The fewest amount of points a receiving corps (New York Jets) has scored against them were 22.2 and still scored a touchdown. Just two weeks ago Minnesota’s group hanged 68.9 points and four TDs on them. There will be plenty of yards and scoring chances available for the Bills wideouts and John Brown is the best of them. Brown has reached 50-plus receiving yards in every game this season, topping at 123 and scoring two touchdowns through six games. He’s been targeted more than seven times per game on average, and catching more than five of those passes weekly. That volume calls for positive scoring regression and there isn’t a better game to pump his TD count up than this weekend’s.
Kenny Golladay, DET (vs NYG) - START
Another receiver, another stack. If Matthew Stafford (read above) looks primed to have quite a week, so does no. 1 Lions receiver Kenny Golladay. Yes, you read it right: no. 1 Lions wide receiver. Don’t let last weekend’s four-touchdown game from Marvin Jones get things wrong in your mind. Jones was targeted 13 times (second-highest mark of his career) and caught 10 passes for the first time since he turned pro. Of course, he had never scored more than two touchdowns in a game. Sounds like someone about to come down to earth. Golladay, on the other hand, is averaging nine targets and five receptions per game. Every game Golladay has finished with four or more catches this season he’s racked up 121 yards or one/two touchdowns and if Stafford doesn’t forget about him again—which he shouldn’t—you can count on a floor of around 17 fantasy points with a ceiling of 30 points as the Giants defense is giving up the eight-most yards per reception at 14.2.
D.J. Moore / Curtis Samuel, CAR (at SF) - SIT
To a certain extent, you can say the Niners are average at best on offense. That’s the reality, even with their 6-0 record in place. What can’t be argued is that San Francisco has the second-best defense in the league only behind New England’s—and the only difference might be the ridiculous amount of interceptions the Patriots have gotten. At the other end of the field this weekend, facing the Niners will be Carolina. And as I’m fading Kyle Allen (read above), I don’t want to have anything to do with Moore or Samuel either. Both wideouts are the no. 1 and 2 of the Panthers offense (other than McCaffrey), but their numbers have fallen a little short of expectations. If it wasn’t for his last week’s weird performance (one touchdown on four receptions, another rushing), Samuel would be averaging 10.1 fantasy points per game. Moore has been better but he has yet to reach 100 receiving yards or catch 10 passes in a game. The Niners have allowed the fewest completions (51) and yards (681) through Week 7 and rank second in catch percentage (50.5%) and fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers (26.0)—all of the Browns, Rams, and Washington’s receivers combined were limited to 183 yards and no scores in the last three weeks by San Francisco.
Tyler Boyd, CIN (vs LAR) - SIT
Only four players have been targeted more than 70 times this season: Michael Thomas (78), Cooper Kupp (77), Tyler Boyd (73), and Keenan Allen (71). You might think Allen is having a bad season (he is), but even with that, he’s still averaging 17 fantasy points while Boyd sits at 14 per game. For a player with this volume of opportunities, the results are just unacceptable. And the list of stats painting a bad picture of Boyd goes on an on: he’s the only wide receiver with at least 470 yards to only score a touchdown, he’s averaging 10.4 yards per reception (21st among WRs with 30-plus catches), and if it wasn’t for his good performance against the cupcake-Cardinals in Week 5 then he would be on a five-game streak of not reaching even 13 fantasy points. Boyd has shown his ceiling, and it is quite high, but his floor sits at a very low value with only one touchdown in seven games (he’s been targeted three times inside the 20-yard line, nothing good). Oh, and in case you didn’t know, new Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey will be shadowing Boyd this weekend. Good luck, Tyler.
Jonnu Smith, TEN (vs TB) - START
I can’t lie to you, this is a risky play. First of all, we have to assume Jonnu Smith will be the Titans TE1 next weekend with Delanie Walker banged up. Even if Walker plays, it is expected to see him being at least partially limited, though. And second, Tennessee will roll with Ryan Tannehill at the helm for the second weekend after his good-not-great game in Week 7. Tennessee quarterbacks this season have targeted tight ends with one-third of their passes, surely not bad, and Delanie Walker’s 31 targets make him the second most-used receiver of the team. Assuming Smith takes his role, he should be in line for around six targets. Last week, he hauled in all of the three passes thrown his way for 64 yards. This weekend, the Titans host Tampa Bay. That is where the juice of this pick is at. The Bucs are allowing the second-most points per game to tight ends this season, and in four of their last five games, they have either gave up a touchdown to the position or surrendered more than 100 yards to it for an average of 21.5 fantasy points. That is way over what Smith has done to date, but Tampa Bay is the greatest of matchups he’ll have faced to this point.
Evan Engram, NYG (vs DET) - START
We all thought Engram was going to demolish Arizona in his comeback game after injuring his knee and missing Week 6, but he put on a near-perfect dud catching just one pass for six yards. Entering Week 8 it looks like Engram is finally at 100% and ready to show his true talent against the Lions. Again, don’t get carried away from what he did last weekend. Other than that, Engram has posted a nine-point game, two 10-point ones and another two of 23.3 and 28.6 fantasy points this season. He’s scored a couple of touchdowns and is one of the few sure-things at the position this year. The Lions are not the best matchup (they’re league-average in points allowed to tight ends) but they have surrendered 313 yards to opposing TEs and were torched by the Vikings players one week ago to the tune of 118 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions. Also, with Sterling Shepard’s chance of missing another game Engram’s opportunities and upside will grow even more.
George Kittle, SF (vs CAR) - SIT
It will be hard to bench someone like Kittle, even more in redraft leagues, but this looks like the moment to do it. Kittle is not playing bad, and it looks like he’s gotten his mojo back in Weeks 5 and 6 after he was able to get 20.8 and 18.3 fantasy points respectively. His Week 7 outcome wasn’t great against Washington but the conditions were horrid, truth be told. Now, Carolina will pose a far greater challenge for San Francisco and George Kittle. The only time Kittle has faced a top-10 defense against the position (Cincinnati in Week 2) he could only catch three passes for 54 yards. He’s on a two-game streak in which he has seen no looks inside the 20-yard line, and that could be the case this weekend with the Niners as 5.5-point favorites in a game with a total of just 41.5 points (second-lowest of the week). Expect the rushing game to be heavily used by San Francisco and factor in the addition of Emmanuel Sanders to the team (getting targets from the rest of the offensive players) and this doesn’t feel like Kittle’s week.
Zach Ertz / Dallas Goedert, PHI (at BUF) - SIT
Each of these two brings his own reasons to be benched this weekend. I’m more confident in sitting Goedert than Ertz, but both should be left out of your lineup. Zach Ertz comes from his worst game this season (two-of-six receptions, 38 yards) against a bad defense in Dallas’ that he couldn’t take advantage of. Two weeks ago he had another bad performance against Minnesota (four-of-nine, 54) and Buffalo’s defense ranks second in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends. Slump plus stout defense equals fade, but at the end of the day, it is Zach Ertz. If you have both Goedert and him, then put Ertz in your lineup. As for Goedert, it is just the opposite situation. He had a career-game against Dallas racking up 69 yards and scoring a touchdown on four-of-four receptions for a great 16.9 fantasy points mark. Other than that, though, he has not reached 10 points in any of his other five games and he even laid an egg in Week 3. Don’t buy on what Goedert did versus one of the worst defenses around, he’s about to regress to his average if not deeper against Buffalo.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is chapulana) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.