5 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups to Exploit in Week 8
In fantasy football, matchups are key to setting any lineup.
This series will take a look at a few matchups that can be exploited for success on the football field and for profit in DFS.
Ravens Offense vs. Steelers Defense
The mighty Baltimore Ravens will be facing the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers in arguably the game of the week on Sunday afternoon. Baltimore's offense ranks just 17th in our Net Expected Points (NEP) per play metric so far after ranking first a season ago -- in large part because Lamar Jackson ($8,300) has dropped from first to 23rd in passing efficiency. Jackson has just a 69.1 passer rating when blitzed this season, compared to a 112.2 rating when not blitzed (per Pro Football Focus), which is significant going into this matchup against the fifth-ranked Steelers' defense, which has blitzed more than any team outside of Baltimore this season.
Pittsburgh is allowing the fourth-fewest FanDuel points to opposing quarterbacks this season as well as the fewest quarterback carries. Jackson is averaging 8.3 rushes per game after averaging 11.7 in his 2019 MVP season. One thing going for Baltimore is that it has 10-2 record coming off its bye week since John Harbaugh was hired. It’s worth betting on this coaching staff to build a smart game plan against Pittsburgh, and it’s worth continuing to bet on Jackson, who arguably has the largest fantasy ceiling in the league, even in a tough matchup.
Mark Andrews ($7,000), like Jackson, has regressed a bit and faces a difficult matchup. Andrews currently sits at 20th in yards per route run among tight ends after recording the second-best rate in PFF history (since 2006) a year ago. The Steelers have allowed the 16th-most targets to tight ends this season but rank among the seven stingiest defenses in receptions, yards, touchdowns and FanDuel points allowed to the position. However, Andrews is currently the TE5 in FanDuel scoring in large part because of his 14 end zone targets and five touchdowns, which rank seventh and fifth, respectively, among all players this season.
Jackson and Andrews are viable plays due to relatively low projected popularity and proven history as fantasy studs. However, Marquise Brown ($5,900) has the juiciest matchup of any Raven, as Pittsburgh is allowing the eighth-most FanDuel points per game to opposing wide receivers as well as the eighth-highest rate of explosive pass plays (per Sharp Football Stats). Brown currently ranks just 47th in FanDuel points this season but has seen at least six targets in every game and ranks eighth in total air yards among all players.
A Hollywood explosion is coming soon, and it may very well come against a Steelers defense that is allowing the seventh-most yards per receptions to receivers this year.
49ers Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The San Francisco 49ers have been among the most injured teams in the league thus far but are still 4-3 after a convincing win over the New England Patriots. The Niners have scored 30-plus points in four of seven games this season, and their Week 9 opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, has allowed 30-plus points in three of its six games.
Undrafted rookie running back JaMycal Hasty ($5,600) has been thrown into the mix in the San Fran backfield on Sunday after injuries to Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson -- though Coleman may be back for this week. The Seahawks rank sixth in run D efficiency and have allowed the seventh-fewest FanDuel points to running backs this season, but Kyle Shanahan’s running back-friendly, outside-zone scheme is enough to warrant consideration for playing Hasty at his low salary if Coleman winds up sitting.
George Kittle ($7,700) also faces a tough matchup against a Seattle defense that ranks has allowed bottom-five clips in targets, receptions, touchdowns and FanDuel points to tight ends this season. The Seahawks have faced an underwhelming schedule of tight ends thus far, though, as Hayden Hurst (who is averaging 3.8 catches per game this year) is the best tight end Seattle has played. Kittle, on the other hand, is averaging seven catches a game and caught all seven of his targets for 86 yards in his lone game against the Seahawks last season.
Hasty and Kittle are strong plays but not nearly as good of a play as Brandon Aiyuk ($5,900). With Deebo Samuel going down with a hamstring injury last week, Aiyuk is unquestionably San Francisco’s number-two pass-game option behind Kittle. Samuel has been used in the short game, with six carries and an average depth of target of just 2.6 yards this season. Aiyuk, meanwhile, has earned four carries of his own but has an average depth of target of 11.0 yards this season -- which is ideal against a Seattle defense that has permitted the most targets, receptions, yards and FanDuel points to opposing wide receivers this season.
Jimmy Garoppolo ($6,600) has been perhaps the most efficient quarterback in the league this season and will face Seattle’s 26th-ranked pass defense, which has allowed the second-most FanDuel points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Volume is typically a concern for Garoppolo, but that shouldn’t be an issue this week, as the Seahawks are allowing the most plays and pass attempts per game to opposing teams this season.
Bengals Offense vs. Titans Defense
The Cincinnati Bengals currently sit at 1-5-1 as the rest of the AFC North all have at least five wins. The Bengals rank bottom-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but due to a fast-paced, pass-heavy offense that lives in negative game scripts, the Cincy offense is one to target for fantasy.
Joe Burrow ($7,600) is coming off a 35-point fantasy performance against the Cleveland Browns in which he dropped back to pass 52 times. Burrow has yet to throw fewer than 30 attempts in a game this season, a trend that is likely to continue this week as the Bengals are 6.0-point underdogs against the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are allowing the fifth-most passing touchdowns and 10th-most FanDuel points to opposing quarterbacks this season.
Burrow’s top targets will be A.J. Green ($5,800), Tyler Boyd ($6,400) and Tee Higgins ($6,000) -- all of whom played at least 80% of offensive snaps last week. Green and Boyd each rank top-15 in targets among receivers this season, while Green ranks second in air yards and Boyd ranks second in end zone targets. Higgins leads the team in yards per reception and touchdowns.
All are sound options against the Titans' defense, which is allowing the fourth-most FanDuel points per game to opposing receivers, but Boyd likely has the strongest matchup against slot cornerback Chris Jackson, who currently ranks 125th among 126 qualifying cornerbacks in PFF coverage grade.
Through the first six weeks of the season, Joe Mixon ($7,400) ranked first in touches and top-10 in yards from scrimmage, touchdowns and FanDuel points among running backs. If Mixon suits uo, he’d be a strong play against a Titans defense that ranks 29th in rush defense efficiency and 20th in FanDuel points allowed to running backs this season, especially considering that Mixon was getting more involved as a pass-catcher -- he averaged 3.0 targets in Week 1-3 before averaging 5.7 in Weeks 4-6.
If Mixon isn’t able to go, Giovani Bernard ($5,900) would be a strong low-salary play for the second week in a row after he played 76% of snaps and scored 18 FanDuel points in Mixon’s absence last Sunday.
Raiders Offense vs. Browns Defense
The Las Vegas Raiders are coming off a disastrous 45-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fortunately for Las Vegas, it will have an easier matchup this week against the 28th-ranked Browns' defense after playing the Buccaneers’ league-best D.
Cleveland is allowing the fourth-most FanDuel points to quarterbacks as well as the third-most to wideouts. Derek Carr ($7,300) has quietly scored 20-plus FanDuel points in four of his past five games and has thrown multiple touchdowns in each of the past five. Hunter Renfrow ($5,100) ranks second on the team in targets and will likely have the best matchup out of the slot, but he doesn’t offer the same ceiling as Henry Ruggs ($5,700), who has caught just eight passes this season but turned half of them into gains of 25-plus yards and saw a career-high snap share (75%) last week.
Darren Waller ($6,800) currently ranks second in targets and sixth in FanDuel points among tight ends this season and will play a Cleveland defense that has allowed the fourth-most targets and 11th-most FanDuel points to tight ends. Waller ranks eighth in red zone targets among all players this season and could find the end zone in a game with the third-highest total of the weekend (50.5, per FanDuel Sportsbook).
The Browns rank a middling 16th in FanDuel points allowed to running backs this season, but like every other game, Josh Jacobs' ($7,800) fantasy production will rely mainly on game script. In Las Vegas’ three wins, Jacobs is averaging 22.5 FanDuel points per game, but in its three losses, Jacobs is averaging just 7.1 points. The Raiders are 2.5-point underdogs at the 5-2 Browns, and fantasy managers should roster Jacobs with the same confidence they have about the Raiders winning in Cleveland.
Vikings Offense vs. Packers Defense
The Minnesota Vikings will face the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season. In the first matchup in Week 1, Green Bay accumulated 43 points and more than 500 yards of total offense in a game that saw a combined 77 points scored. There should be plenty of points this week, as well, as Green Bay has scored 30-plus points in every game this season -- save for its loss against the top-rated Tampa Bay defense -- and allowed an average of 26.5 points per game.
Dalvin Cook ($9,200) is expected to return from a groin injury just in time to face a Packers defense that has allowed the most FanDuel points to running backs this season. Green Bay is the only team that has ceded double-digit running back touchdowns on the year, while Cook is tied for the lead league in touchdowns going into Week 8 despite having played just five games. He was limited to 12 carries for 50 yards against the Packers in Week 1 but scored two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.
Rookie Justin Jefferson ($6,600) has burst onto the scene, as he currently ranks sixth in FanDuel points per game among wide receivers in large part due to a nine-catch, 166-yard, two-touchdown performance in Minnesota’s game against Atlanta in Week 6. Jefferson is mispriced with just 15th-highest salary among receivers. Adam Thielen's ($7,700) price is more reasonable, as he’s the fifth-most pricey receiver and ranks third in FanDuel points per game. Thielen ranks just 18th in targets but sixth in air yards and second in end zone targets -- he’s seeing among the most valuable targets possible for fantasy production.
Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander is PFF’s highest-graded cornerback this season, but Thielen got to him for four receptions, 66 yards and a touchdown on six targets in shadow coverage in their Week 1 battle. The Packers have also allowed the fewest yards to wide receivers this season, but Jefferson and Thielen should each benefit from negative game scripts as the Vikings are 6.5-point underdogs, which is the largest line on the main slate outside of the atrocious New York Jets (+19.5).
Gus Logue is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice Gus Logue also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username GUSL. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his/her personal views, he/she may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his/her personal account. The views expressed in his/her articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.