Fins Fantasy: Best & Worst Fantasy Matchups for Week Eight

Well everyone, after the 3,000-word book that I wrote last week, management at the Deep End has finally decided to put me on a word count. So, that I can provide adequate analysis on my favorite and least favorite matchups for this week, I’m going to have to reduce my opening paragraph by about 15 words, or about one and a half jokes. I can assure you that this call for brevity hurts me considerably more than it hurts you all, as it’s my mediocre joke-telling that determines how I perceive my value as a man. And, with that modicum of interesting personal information, let’s move on to this week’s matchups.

Must Start QBs:

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Matt Ryan vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers– Matt Ryan has been putting up pedestrian numbers the last few weeks (no 300yd or 3TD performances since week 2), but I’m looking for him to rebound with a home matchup against the Bucs. In addition to having one of the league’s worst pass defenses, the Bucs have repeatedly looked like a high school team while playing Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Matt Ryan’s last two home games against the Bucs were 3TD performances, and I’m expecting that production this week as well.

Phillip “The Garbage Man” Rivers vs. Baltimore Ravens- If fantasy players were penalized when their game becomes out of reach, then Phillip Rivers would be as terrible in fantasy as the Chargers are in reality. Fortunately for Rivers and, more importantly, his fantasy owners, fantasy football is not based in reality. Phillip Rivers has been the king of garbage time the last few weeks, as he scored 3TDs in the 2nd half of his game against the Raiders, which was well out of reach by halftime. Very little of this is actually on Rivers. Outside of Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates, Rivers receives absolutely no support from the rest of the team. Danny Woodhead is, by some ridiculous miracle, the best RB on the team. Melvin Gordon has been plain awful. The O-line would probably let an encyclopedia salesman through to sack the QB, and the defense lacks any blue chip talent outside of 2nd year CB Jason Verrett. Yet, despite the rest of his team’s ineptitude, Rivers has been putting up very good numbers. This week’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, who have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, is definitely favorable. My prediction: Rivers 350yds, 3TDs. Roll with the Garbage Man this week.

QB Matchups I Don’t Like:

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Derek Carr vs. New York Jets- Derek Carr has been a very solid fantasy QB this season, but he has yet to enter the realm of “every week starter” like Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning, etc. Until he has a few years of dominance over tough competition, he’ll have to remain a strong matchup based starter. This week’s matchup against the vaunted Jets defense will be brutal, as they have the best defense east of Denver. I’d recommend sidelining Carr this week, but I suppose anything is possible when you have a receiver like Amari Cooper.

Jay Cutler vs. Minnesota Vikings- I’m going to refrain from making any jokes about Jay Cutler and his penchant for turnovers, largely due to the fact that he’s actually improved on that aspect of his game immensely in the last few weeks. He’s put up solid numbers, and he’s even approached fantasy starter territory for QB deprived teams. However, the Vikings’ defense has been solid all year, only allowing an average of 16.67 points to opposing teams. While they don’t get a whole lot of sacks or turnovers, the Vikings defense has been excellent at keeping their opponents out of the end zone, which hardly bodes well for an average (at best) QB in Jay Cutler.

Must Start RBs:

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Justin Forsett vs. San Diego Chargers- Justin Forsett has been solid the last few weeks, with four straight games and 10+ fantasy points. After an early season slump, he has reestablished himself as the solid RB2 that he was last year. And, this week’s matchup against a very soft San Diego run defense is the best he’s had since his 23 point performance against the Browns in week five. Forsett is the kind of player that takes what the defense gives him, and the Chargers are likely to give more opportunities than the average defense. I’d definitely start Forsett as an RB2 with very high upside, as he has the chance to explode this week against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. He’s also a great option in daily leagues, as he’s much cheaper than a lot of other starting RBs this week.

Chris Johnson vs. Cleveland Browns- Honestly, I’m probably going to put whichever RB plays the Browns in this column for the foreseeable future. They still have the 32nd ranked run defense in the league, and that dead last ranking may not even do their level of atrocious ineptitude justice. They’re so terrible at stopping the run that I can honestly envision Trent Richardson, who could not register a longer career run than Peyton Manning (seriously, look it up), having a 100-yard performance. If the Browns’ vomit-inducing defense wasn’t enough to convince you, here’s another strange stat for you: Chris Johnson is 2nd in the NFL with 567 rushing yards. Johnson has rather shockingly returned to form to become one of the best RBs in fantasy football. If Andre Ellington and David Johnson didn’t vulture so many of his TD opportunities, he’d probably be even better than his 9th place ranking. While I don’t see the former Titan/Jet (No wonder he didn’t do anything for 5 years) as a sure RB1, he’s definitely a very good RB2, and a hell of a bargain in daily leagues playing the worst run defense in football.

*Also, if you’re a genius and drafted Todd Gurley in the 6th Round, start him every week regardless of matchup.

RB Matchups I Don’t Like:

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Jeremy Hill vs. Pittsburgh Steelers- Hill’s matchup against the Steelers isn’t necessarily a bad one. After all, Chiefs’ RB Char…Char…chan…Charcoal West ran wild last week against the Steelers for 110 yards and a TD. Jeremy Hill is in this column simply because he isn’t the best running back on his team right now. Gio Bernard has taken over the role of best Bengals fantasy RB, and it isn’t really that close. Outside of a 2TD game in week one and a lucky 3TD performance in week four, Hill has been flat out bad. His 259 yards from scrimmage (232 rushing, 37 receiving) are well below Gio Bernard’s 546 yards from scrimmage (427 rushing, 119 receiving), and Hill hasn’t even had a game over 60 yards rushing since week one. While his presence as the team’s best goal line threat will yield him some solid fantasy performances, it’s very difficult to rely on those kind of games to get out significant fantasy points.

Alfred Blue vs. Tennessee Titans- Alfred Blue actually has a good matchup against a below average Titans’ run defense this week. However, just because you’re thrusted into the role of starting RB doesn’t mean you’re going to perform well. While Arian Foster was nursing an injury for the first few games of the season, Blue had a starting role. His stats, outside of a 139-yard and a TD outing against Tampa Bay, were awful. Outside of his one (fluke) outing against the hapless Bucs, he did not reach 5 fantasy points in any of his other four games with a significant role. Avoid using Blue unless you have exhausted every other feasible option.

Must Start WRs:

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Keenan Allen vs. Baltimore Ravens- Keenan Allen has been the steal of the draft at the WR position, and is currently ranked 6th among fantasy WRs in standard fantasy formats. He has been even more dominant in PPR leagues, as he just established an NFL record with 62 catches in seven games. This week’s matchup against one of the league’s absolute worst pass defenses (allowing 2nd most points to WRs) is a juicy one for sure. I think that Keenan Allen has a very good shot at being the highest scoring WR this week, and is a must start no matter who your other receivers are. He also makes a very good strategic cuff to Phillip Rivers this week in daily leagues.

Stefon Diggs vs. Chicago Bears- Diggs has come out of nowhere to become the Vikings’ best receiver in the last month. The rookie has back-to-back 100-yard performances, a better rapport with Teddy Bridgewater than any other WR we’ve seen thus far, and the number one spot on the depth chart locked up. This week’s matchup against the Swiss cheese Chicago Bears’ defense (7th worst against WRs) is definitely a favorable one. I’d advise fantasy owners to start Diggs over struggling big names like Randall Cobb, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, etc. He also makes a great option in daily leagues, as he’s very cheap for the production he puts out.

Calvin Johnson/Golden Tate vs. Kansas City Chiefs- Neither Calvin Johnson nor Golden Tate have lived up to their expectations this year, not by a long shot. However, this week’s matchup against the mightily struggling Kansas City secondary (most points allowed to WRs) is the best matchup they’re going to get all year. The sheer amount of points to WRs that the Chiefs are allowing on a per game basis leads me to believe that there will be enough points to go around for the struggling duo. Obviously, Megatron is the better option of the two, but the matchup elevates Golden Tate’s value from a bench WR to a very good WR3, or flex option with high upside. If you have either of these two, I’d recommend starting them.

WR Matchups I Don’t Like:

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Randall Cobb vs. Denver Broncos- Randall Cobb has been anything but reliable this season. He was supposed to be a top-15 receiver before Jordy Nelson went down to injury. Everyone thought that his previous production, chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, and lack of any other real threats in the receiver corps would lead to great fantasy production. Boy, were they wrong. Outside of a monster 3TD outing against Kansas City in week three, Randall Cobb has been flat out awful. In his last three games he has totaled just 105 yards. In all fairness, the lack of production could be partially a result of an AC joint sprain he suffered before the season, but the best receiver on this Packers’ roster is, far and away, James Jones. A road matchup against the NFL’s best defense with a penchant for shutting down number one receivers certainly doesn’t bode well for his production either. Keep Cobb on the bench this week.

Amari Cooper vs. New York Jets- Amari Cooper is a truly special receiver. The problem is: Darelle Revis doesn’t give a damn.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Carolina Panthers- It’s going to be tough to bench T.Y. Hilton after an incredible 150 yard, 2TD performance against the Saints last week. He was however, very lucky, as he put up his ridiculous performance on just four catches. Had he actually been adequately covered, he probably would not have been able to haul in 87 and 46-yard touchdowns. The Panthers’ top-5 defense are to the Saints’ defense as what Chocolate Cake is to Spinach; it’s much better, and much more likely to kill you. With shutdown corner Josh Norman likely shadowing Hilton for the night, I don’t like T.Y.’s chances whatsoever. If you have a deep WR corps and can afford to bench Hilton, I’d definitely recommend it.

Must Start TE:

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Tyler Eifert vs. Pittsburgh Steelers- Tyler Eifert has been the 3rd best fantasy TE in the league this year, after Gronk and Gary “Not even my mom drafted me” Barnidge. The Steelers’ defense has allowed the 3rd most points to TEs this season, so it’s safe to say the young, talented tight end has a favorable matchup. Unless you had Gronk on Thursday night, you have no excuse not to start Eifert.

TE Matchup I Don’t Like:

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Ebron vs. Kansas City Chiefs- Eric Ebron has been a top-10 fantasy tight end, so why bench him? As bad as the Chiefs have been defending WRs, they’ve been excellent at limiting the damage that TEs can inflict. They currently rank as the 4th best team at defending tight ends from a fantasy perspective, likely due to their superb safety and coverage linebacker play. Keep Ebron sidelined this week for sure if you can. Worst-case scenario, you pick up the best available free agent TE for a week. Jacob Tamme may be a nice option in a pinch if you’re in a 12-man league.

Must Start Defensive Matchup:

Texans Defense/ST vs. Tennessee Titans- The Texans’ defense has been awful all season, despite having the best defensive player of the last 10 years in J.J. Watt. A favorable matchup against the Mariota-less Titans could result in their best performance of the year. With a bad O-line, a non-existent running game, backup QB, and a dearth of receiving talent aside from Kendall Wright, the Titans simply don’t have the firepower to put up points. In my mind, the worst-case scenario is that the Texans allow 20 points and notch three sacks, which is a high floor considering the circumstances.

Defensive Matchup I Don’t Like:

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense/ST vs. Cincinnatti Bengals- The Steelers Defense was solid in fantasy football, until a surprise meltdown against a toothless Chiefs’ team last week. This week’s matchup against the undefeated Bengals is not a good one. So if you’re looking for a defense to start this week, steer clear of the Steelers.

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