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Fantasy depth charts tested


Week 8 marks the half-way point to the NFL season, and for fantasy owners it is a week where roster depth is tested more than any other. This week the Cardinals, Packers, Jaguars, Rams, Giants, and Titans are all on a bye. Even if you take out Carson Palmer (broken arm) and Aaron Rodgers (broken collarbone) from the list, there are still no less than 15 fantasy starters missing from line-ups in that field of teams.

I'm like all of you, I am hitting the waiver wire to find replacements for my kickers and defenses this week. I don't do kicker projections because their entire scoring system depends on the offense moving the ball over mid-field, then stalling out. What I do is draft the kicker I think will do the best in the final round, then around Week 3 I add the best performing kicker if someone is better. I repeat this about every 2-3 weeks to make sure I have the best possible kicker available.

Defenses are different, since there are always 1-2 teams in every league that hoard defenses. So far this season the Jaguars have the #1 ranked defense not just in the NFL, but in fantasy football as well. But, they are on a bye this week. So, we need to find a quality streaming option. My suggestion this week is to go with the Eagles, Bengals, or Saints. The Eagles are owned in around 80 percent of leagues, so they may not be available. If that is the case, I go with the Bengals, who are owned in around 65 percent of leagues. The Saints have come on strong the previous four games, making them a solid option in the more competitive leagues where defenses are thin.

Start 'em

Andy Dalton – Bengals: Dalton had a slow start to the season under OC Ben Zampese, managing just 394 yards passing, 0 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions through the first two games. Then, the Bengals made the switch from Zampese to Bill Lazor, and the offense came alive. Since Week 2, Dalton has averaged 241.5 passing yards, and has thrown 9 TDs, and 4 INTs.

This week the Bengals draw a Colts team that is as lost on defense as they are on offense, allowing a league-worst 196 points against this season. Points allowed isn't where it stops either, as the Colts are the 2nd worst in total YPG allowed at 425.4, 2nd worst in passing YPG at 300.7, and are the 10th worst in opposing QB rating at 93.5.

The numbers are in Dalton's favor, and I fully expect QB1 numbers from him at home. John Ross is practicing in full this week, and appears to be on track to play in Week 8. He's likely to be limited in his first action since Week 2, but his speed adds another weapon in Dalton's arsenal. 

Philip Rivers – Chargers:Despite the Chargers 3-4 record this season, Rivers has been about as good as you could hope for on a losing team. He's averaging 259.4 YPG passing, and has thrown 12 TDs to just 5 INTs. The numbers would be better if he hadn't have thrown 3 of his 5 INTs in Week 3 against the Chiefs.

The Colts may be the 2nd worst defense in several areas, but it is the Patriots defense that takes home 1st prize in most of the worst-defense categories. The Patriots give up 426.7 total YPG, 310.3 passing YPG, and are tied for the league lead at 15 passing touchdowns allowed. With an opposing QB rating of 103.8 this season, Rivers has an elite fantasy match-up on paper for Week 8.   

Joe Mixon – Bengals: It's always a risk to put too many eggs in one basket, playing multiple players from one team in a given week. But, given the fact that the Colts give up 124.7 YPG on the ground (7th worst), and a league-worst 10 rushing TDs this season, Mixon's coming out party could be in Week 8. 

I don't think it is unreasonable to say Mixon could get 100 yards rushing this week. If he adds a touchdown or two to that total, he will finish as a top-end RB1 for the first time this season. This would be the week where I turn him loose on offense and let him show us what his full potential is.

Alvin Kamara – Saints: Kamara is the reason why the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson. The Saints 3rd round rookie is a dual-threat RB who is averaging 66 rushing yards and 31 receiving yards over the previous two games. The only real drawback to Kamara is Mark Ingram, who is still holding down the RB1 duties.

Kamara splits time and touches with Ingram. But, even with that, he is still ranked as fantasy football's #31 RB in PPR formats. He's more of a RB2 than an RB1, but someone that can provide quality numbers in a bye-heavy week for fantasy line-ups.

Nelson Agholor – Eagles: The Philadelphia Eagles have the best record in football at 6-1 this season, and Carson Wentz being the 3rd best QB in fantasy football is a big part of it. Agholor entered the season on the cusp of being labeled a bust, with his first two season in the NFL yielding just 59 receptions, 648 receiving yards, and 3 touchdowns in 28 games.

However, Agholor appears to have finally "gotten it", and has already racked up 24 catches, 366 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns this season. With Alshon Jeffery drawing most of the attention from CBs and Safeties, Agholor has seen a lot of single-coverage this season, which has allowed him to find holes in the secondary. Zach Ertz is the redzone target for the Eagles, but Agholor has been the man getting them into that position.

Kenny Stills – Dolphins: The Dolphins lost Jay Cutler this week due to cracked ribs he suffered against the Jets in Week 7. With Cutler out, the Dolphins will move longtime Dolphins back-up Matt Moore into the starting role for at least this week. On paper, that sounds like a downgrade. But, when you consider that Moore threw for 188 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT in relief in Week 7, and Cutler was averaging just 165.8 YPG passing this season, and had thrown 7 TDs, and 5 INTs.

Still has gotten the start the past two weeks while DeVante Parker tries to heal his injured ankle. In those games, Stills has come up big with 10 catches for 134 yards and 3 touchdowns. That's amazing production when you consider the production the Dolphins are getting at the QB position. What makes Stills a little more interesting this week is Moore. Moore and Still likely get more practice time together than Moore does with Landry. If you factor that into the equation, Stills all the sudden becomes a realistic threat to put up WR1/2 numbers again this week. If you need a WR this week, I would put Stills right up there at the top of the waiver wire list.   

Kyle Rudolph – Vikings: Rudolph has been fairly solid as far as fantasy TEs go, averaging 5.7 targets, 3.7 receptions, and 34.9 yards per-game this season. Those are TE2 numbers, but the targets show that the Vikings are making an effort to give him involved in the passing game.

This week the Vikings take on the Browns, and their 2nd worst defense at defending fantasy TEs. Rudolph has only scored 2 touchdowns this season, but the Browns have given up 51 receptions, 487 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns to TEs this season. The only reason the numbers are worse for the Browns this season is because of the 7 games they've played this season, only two of the games have had a TE in the top 15 for fantasy TEs this year.

I'm not going to say Rudolph has a realistic shot at being the #1 ranked TE when the final whistle blows this week. But, Rudolph has just as good of a match-up this week as any TE in the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Bengals fantasy defense is ranked just outside the top-15 this season, but they would likely be closer to the top-12 if not for two bad games against the Ravens and Steelers. Their 18 sacks tie them for 9th in the NFL, while their 4 INTs tie them for 21st.

As I mentioned earlier, the Colts are a mess on both sides of the ball this season. Their defense gives up the 2nd most points to fantasy QBs, while their offense gives up the MOST fantasy points to defenses this season. The only time this season that they haven't given up 10-plus points to a fantasy defense was in Week 3 when they gave up 6.00 points to the Browns defense. To put that in perspective, the Browns are the 24th ranked fantasy defense this season, and only 7.84 points ahead of the last placed Bucs defense.

  • Make sure you DO NOT cut the Jaguars defense to add a bye-week filler, because someone like me WILL pick them up!

Sit 'em

Deshaun Watson – Texans: Watson has been nothing short of a stud fantasy QB in every format this season, racking up 1,297 passing yards, 202 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 2 2-point conversions, and a lost fumble. Those numbers have vaulted the Texans rookie QB to the #4 ranking for fantasy QBs through 7 weeks of the season.

The problem with Watson this week is he runs into a Seahawks defense that gives up the 3rd fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. While the Seahawks secondary isn't the same "Legion of Boom" we may remember, the team as a whole has allowed the fewest points (94) this season.

I would consider Watson more of a QB2 on the road this week.

Matthew Stafford – Lions: Stafford has been ok this season, but not the QB he once was when he had Calvin Johnson at WR. So far Stafford has 1,428 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and a 2-point conversion. But, Stafford also has 4 INTs and 4 lost fumbles that to knock his fantasy stock down a peg.

Stafford has two big hurdles to overcome this week in the Steelers defense, and possibly no Golden Tate. The Steelers give up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to QBs this season. [Golden] Tate is dealing with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. He did get in a limited practice on Wednesday, but still looks like a true game-time decision at best.

Of his 6 games this season, Stafford has thrown for 250 or more yards in 3 of the games, and even had a low of 122 passing yards in Week 2. His history this season already suggests he isn't going to throw for 300 yards, making his fantasy outlook a little murky. Factor in the Steelers defense, and Tate's injury, and you have a QB2 with a low ceiling.

Isaiah Crowell – Browns: Isaiah Crowell has been nothing short of a total bust this season, managing just 41.0 YPG rushing, 15.4 YPG receiving, and failing to score a single touchdown in 2017. It's hard for any running back to get going on the field when defenses can stack the line, and that is exactly what defenses are doing with the Browns switching QBs every other game.

I was high on Crowell in the pre-season, and I am dealing with his bust season just like everyone else. The reality is the Browns are a mess on both sides of the ball, and it is only going to get worse this week when they take on a Vikings defense that gives up the 3rd fewest fantasy points to RBs this season.

It's hard to cut Crowell at this point because there are no better options out there. But, you can't play him either. If you are forced to use Crowell as a bye-week filler, the best you can hope for are flex numbers at the most.  

C.J. Anderson – Broncos: Anderson is another RB we were all high on in the pre-season, and he started 2017 off hot by racking up 20-plus carries in 3 of the first 4 games, and 294 rushing yards in those 3 games. The problem for Anderson and his owners is that in 3 of the Broncos 6 games this season, he's seen 10 or fewer carries in those games.

The Broncos are struggling to move the ball effectively and consistently with Trevor Siemian at QB. Because of that, Anderson's ability to produce has been just as inconsistent. Given the Broncos problems at QB, I would consider Anderson little more than a volatile RB2 this week on the road against the Chiefs.

T.Y. Hilton – Colts: Hilton has been hard to trust this season, largely due to the Colts still being without franchise QB, Andrew Luck. Hilton does have a pair of 150-plus yard games under his belt this year, but he's also accounted for fewer than 4 receptions and 60 receiving yards in the other 5 games. It also doesn't help his case that Frank Gore is averaging just 3.4 YPC, and Marlon Mack can't stay on the field for more than 50 percent of the Colts snaps.

With the Colts heading on the road to take on a Bengals defense that gives up the 6th fewest fantasy points to WRs this season, Hilton is not a WR I would trust to be in my line-up. If you MUST play him, play him as a WR3 and pray you get 4-5 fantasy points out of him.

Martavis Bryant – Steelers: What an absolute mess the situation in Pittsburgh has become for Bryant, who reportedly won't be active this week for comments he made on social media regarding his displeasure with his role on offense. It's not hard to understand his anger with him managing just 18 catches for 234 yards and a single touchdown through 7 games this season.

Antonio Brown is the target monster on the Steelers, and LeVeon Bell is right behind him. You know Bryant expects that. But, where he is getting mad is that rookie Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster has 17 catches, 231 yards, and 3 touchdowns this season.

Maybe Ben Roethlisberger makes an effort to get him involved when he is next active. But, Big Ben can't do that every game with Browns and Bell needing their touches, and Schuster showing he deserves some as well. All Bryant and his fantasy owners can do now is hope the Steelers work a trade for him.

O.J. Howard – Buccaneers: Howard has a big game against the Bills last week, managing 24.80 fantasy points thanks to a 6/98/2 line. That is a massive line for a fantasy TE, which then caused Howard's fantasy ownership to jump 20 percent when the waiver wire's opened on Wednesday.

The problem I have with Howard is that he has been primarily used as a blocking TE this season, while Cameron Brate has been the clear go-to guy when the Buccaneers reach the redzone. On top of that, the Bucs take on the Panthers and their 9th ranked fantasy defense against fantasy TEs this season. I would consider him a Hail-Mary play for Week 8, with better options likely being guys like Hunter Henry, Tyler Kroft, or Jared Cook. 

Denver Broncos defense: Despite being owned in 91 percent of fantasy leagues out there, the Broncos are ranked 20th for fantasy defenses this season. In that, they've managed just 16 sacks, 4 interceptions, and have just a single defensive touchdown to their credit. The main reason for the lack of stats may just be the time they are spending on the field due to the offense not moving the ball.

The Broncos head to Kansas City to take on the 5-2 Chiefs. The Chiefs are on a roll behind rookie RB Kareem Hunt, and revitalized QB Alex Smith. With Smith playing at the highest level of his career this season, and Hunt pushing for the #1 fantasy RB title, the Broncos will have an uphill battle on defense this week. Factor in the Chiefs defense and the Broncos offense, and this is a match-up I would avoid.

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