Sleepers And Busts: Week 8
Week 8 has arrived and this season has been a whirlwind so far. Countless injuries have upended plenty of fantasy teams and the ones that have not been affected by injury have likely been strapped with one of the many high profile busts in 2019. If you have been fortunate enough to avoid either of these then chances are you are sitting pretty atop your league but this week we lose more than a few fantasy starters as the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens head to their bye weeks. Add these factors up and you may need a little help with your teams. Here are the Sleepers And Busts: Week 8 edition to point you in the right direction.
Teddy Bridgewater Vs The Arizona Cardinals
Teddy Bridgewater of the New Orleans Saints is doing his best to earn himself a payday in the future by taking this team to a 5-0 record as a starter with 9 TDs to 2 INTs and Sean Payton has not been shy about throwing the ball. Bridgewater has averaged 23 completions on 33 attempts (69.7% completion rate) with the last three games all over 240 passing yards and 7 TDs in total. For the first few weeks, New Orleans was not throwing the ball downfield very much as demonstrated by their 6.49 yard per attempt but in the last three weeks they have 7.7 yards per attempt average which would rank 10th in the NFL right now tied with Philip Rivers and Lamar Jackson. The 9 TDs Bridgewater has are more than Derek Carr, Kyler Murray, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and Baker Mayfield among others.
Below you can also see that Teddy “Two Gloves” is actually the QB12 in the same span and in the top 15 among QBs in points per games just slightly behind Tom Brady. He has one of the most reliable targets in the NFL in Michael Thomas and with recent reports of the Saints releasing the recently signed Zack Zenner, Alvin Kamara could be nearing a return as well. Drew Brees will return soon as he is already throwing a full-sized football but for now, the offense is Bridgewater’s and he has a good opportunity in Week 8 to have another solid outing as New Orleans welcomes the Arizona Cardinals to their building. The team that is currently allowing the fourth-most points per game to the QB position (24.5).
Arizona may have gotten Patrick Peterson back recently but at this stage in his career, the chances that he fixes all the problems are slim. Peterson will be on Thomas and attempt to contain the NFL’s leader in receptions and yards in 2019. The two have faced once before in MT’s rookie season and Thomas was able to have a solid day with 7 receptions on 10 targets for 52 yards and a TD. Thomas has only gotten better since than so he should be fine and be able to produce for Bridgewater.
If Kamara is able to return, he is good enough to overcome most matchups and always provides a dangerous pass-catching threat out of the backfield and through the air might be the best option to score. The Cardinals have only allowed three rushing TDs to running backs this season and allows the 10th fewest PPR points to the position (22.0).
Plan Of Attack
The place to attack Arizona is through the air and particularly to the tight end position. The Cardinals have allowed 55.1 PPR points more than the next closest team and are the only team in the league allowing over 19.1 points per game to TEs (24.3 PPG). Tight ends have caught a TD from Bridgewater in three straight games. This is an area New Orleans can look to exploit especially if Jared Cook is able to return from injury. Arizona allows the 15th most PPR points in the league to WRs but that could be due in large part to the effectiveness that tight ends have demonstrated.
Bridgewater should be able to have a solid day for you if you are in need due to the loss of Dak Prescott or Lamar Jackson to their bye weeks. Or, maybe you lost Patrick Mahomes on Thursday Night Football. the upside might not be sky high but the floor should be high.
Kyle Rudolph Vs The Washington Redskins
Minnesota Vikings tight end has normally been a somewhat reliable low end starting tight end… if there is such a thing. In 2019 though, he has been far less a part of the Vikings passing attack than in years past. Because, in a manner of speaking, they did not really have much of one when the season started. Minnesota completed just 37 passes through the first three weeks and Rudolph saw just 6 targets. Even since the passing game has picked up (Week 4), Rudolph still saw just 2 targets with 2 receptions in Weeks 4 and 5 but in Week 6, 3 targets and 6 in Week 7. “The Redzone Reindeer” had a season-high 58 yards and scored his first TD of the season. There was one big difference in Week 7. Adam Thielen did not play the whole game (hamstring injury).
Data Via FFStatistics
Rudolph was able to capitalize on the absence of the Vikings slot receiver. Tight ends generally run a large majority of their routes in the same area of the field as slot receivers. Obviously Rudolph can not do the things that Thielen does but we have seen in years past that he can be a very viable red zone target when he gets the opportunity. Kirk Cousins has thrown the ball 31.5 times over the past four weeks and is completing over 70% of his attempts regularly. A season-high of 18 routes ran in Week 7 is not all that much but encouraging to see the uptick. Fellow tight end Irv Smith Jr also saw 6 targets following the Thielen injury. Cousins was targeting the position a lot.
Rudolph and the Vikings will take on the lowly Washington Redskins in a Week 8 TNF matchup. This selection of Rudolph as a potential sleeper is more so about opportunity than matchup but there are still a lot of things to like about it. Washington has only allowed 2 TDs to the tight end position but that does not seem so unimpressive when you consider that only the Arizona Cardinals have allowed more than 4 TDs to TEs thus far in 2019.
Also, think about the pass defense against WRs. They have allowed a lot of production as a whole but most of it is loaded up in three games. DeSean Jackson, Taylor Gabriel, and Julian Edelman combined for 22 receptions on 26 targets for 346 total yards and 6 TDs. All three are not your traditional outside WR and right now, Minnesota does not have a threat like these. Stefon Diggs can do a lot of the same things as all three but is more of an all-around WR. Not a lot left after that but there has been a decent amount of production to be had. Just not a blow-up game to win a week.
A Little Context
We can also use some context to explain some of these.
- DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey combined for 3 TDs in Week 1 and Ertz still did not kill your team. Definitely not what you expected coming out of draft season but as we have seen. Maybe last season was just a career year.
- Dak Prescott has thrown the ball down the field at a career-high mark and the WRs have benefited. Witten still hauled in a TD.
- Chicago has failed to use the TE this season as in years past. Outside of Allen Robinson, the offense has been B. A. D. bad.
- This was the second game for Giants rookie QB, Daniel Jones. There was Saquon Barkley in the lineup, yet, Wayne Gallman was able to do a great impression. Engram did not lose your week.
- Whoever starts at TE for the Patriots will never be Gronk but Ryan Izzo had a TD and nearly 40 yards receiving
- Miami… Explains it all…
- This one was puzzling because, with SanFrancisco’s lack of a dominant WR option and the 49er’s inability to run the ball in the game, Kittle should have had a bit better of a day. This could just be another case of a career year in 2018 and this could be something we see more of.
The TEs should have plenty of opportunities with only Stefon Diggs to really eat up targets outside. Washington could struggle to keep this a game butKirk Cousins may also want to stick it to his former team and run it up, just a little. Start Rudolph with the most confidence you have had since Week 1.
With the news of Kerryon Johnson landing on injured reserve, Ty Johnson might just be in line for a majority role in the Detroit Backfield. Detroit will likely acquire a new piece for the backfield but for at least one week, Johnson should be the lead dog in the backfield. He and the Lions will get a team that just allowed another young backup RB from Arizona to run all over them and score three 20+ yard TDs on the ground. Chase Edmonds laid waste to the Giants defense in Week 7. Johnson is stepping into a potential role that provided Kerryon 19.2 touches, 82.2 total yards, and 0.6 total TDs through the first five games of the season prior to Week 7. As we saw above, Ty Johnson might have a perfect matchup to start off with.
Data Via FFStatistics Defense APP
You can see above that prior to Week 7, the Giants have allowed…
- 10 Top 40 RB or better performances
- Nine RB3 or better performances
- Seven RB2 or better performances
- Five Top 20 or better performances
- Two RB1 or better performances
- One Top Five RB performance (Now two including Chase Edmonds)
New York has allowed 7 rushing TDs following Week 7 and they may not have allowed a TD through the air to a back but they have allowed 40+ yards in four games to an RB and three 4+ reception games. Johnson only had 5 targets (4 receptions) before Kerryon Johnson was sidelined and the rookie hauled in 4 receptions on 4 targets for 28 yards in the second year backs stead. The Giants are allowing the sixth most PPR points (28.9) and the fifth most standard points (22.6). Johnson may prove to be nothing special but he has an opportunity to carve himself out a large role in a surprisingly solid offense and a great place to start is Week 8 at home against the G-Men. Start as a low-end RB2/FLEX play but there is upside here.
College RB Efficiency Metric
Below is a little from my efficiency metric I have worked on and Ty Johnson met some thresholds that some pretty elite company met in the last four seasons. Is this a guarantee of his success? No, absolutely not, but it does give some hope that there could be some success in his future. The Metric also has a competition adjustment to account for the difference between the quality of opponents they faced.
Carson Wentz @ The Buffalo Bills
Carson Wentz is coming off a game in which he and the rest of the Eagles looked outmatched by a team that was coming off a loss to the New York Jets. In Week 8, Wentz and company will take on the Buffalo Bills and their often underrated, and almost always great defense. A defense that boasts one of the best cover corners in the league in TreDavious White. White should be able to keep Alshon Jeffrey in check. The rest of the Eagles wide receivers have been a huge let-down since the injury to DeSean Jackson. We talked briefly above about Zach Ertz and the possibility that last season was just by far and away, the best we will ever see from Ertz.
The Bills are a top-11 defense against RBs, a top-seven against WRs, Top-two against TEs, and top-four against QBs as you can see below. Buffalo is one of four teams that have allowed fewer than 80 points to QBs, The easiest route to fantasy points seems to be on the ground. The Bills have not faced the most difficult schedule of QBs but they did hold Tom Brady to fewer than five points per game.
Second time’s, the Charm…
Two weeks ago, I had Carson Wentz as a potential bust candidate against the Minnesota Vikings and I did not account for the Vikings overrated pass defense and Wentz did some solid work. Buffalo is not an overrated defense. They are one of three teams that have allowed fewer than 100 total points (91), fewer than 1800 yards of total offense (1756), and fewer than 105 first downs allowed (104). Playing offense against Buffalo is not an easy task. The Bills have three home games and the best day of the bunch belongs to former Bills QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick …
- Andy Dalton – 20/36 for 250 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs (Did have a 1-yard rushing TD), 18.1 points in 6-point
- Tom Brady – 18/39 for 150 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 4 points in all formats
- Ryan Fitzpatrick – 23/35 for 282 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT,(13 yards rushing, 1 TD, 23.6 points in 6-point
We know Fitzpatrick is prone to a good day eventually but even on the road, the Vikings have also given up 13 or fewer points to each quarterback they have faced on the road. Wentz followed up his nice game against Minnesota with a total dude in Dallas in Week 7. He heads back on the road to face what most would call a better defense and it could be a day to forget. Maybe look for a potential streaming option if you have room.
DJ Moore @ The San Francisco 49ers
Carolina Panthers WR DJ Moore has been a bit of a letdown thus far in 2019. This can be somewhat expected with a backup quarterback calling the shots. His targets and receptions are not the questions. Moore has received 8+ targets and 6+ receptions in four games this season but has scored just once. All the scoring opportunities in the red zone seem to go to Christian McCaffrey as well as Kyle Allen not throwing the ball downfield where Moore can utilize his skill set. Allen had a yard per attempt average over 10.0 but in the three games following, Allen is averaging 6.7 Y/A and has a high of 7.09. Moore is best utilized on routes down the field or when you can get the ball into his hands quickly. Not just short and intermediate routes.
DJ Moore is supposed to be knee-deep in his breakout season by now but quarterback injuries have kept his ceiling from blowing the roof off. This is likely to stay the same as the Carolina Panthers will travel across the country to take on the undefeated San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have proven their worth on defense and have become one of the best units in the league. Especially against the pass in the last three weeks. The 49ers have allowed just one game from a WR over 30 yards in the past three contests. Three games over 4 targets and none of the 13 have caught a TD. Jarvis Landry had the only tolerable day catching 4 of 6 targets for 75 yards.
Data Via FFStatistics
Moore will have another day with Allen as his quarterback and not to say Cam Newton has been good but when he is fully healthy, the man can let it fly. but for now, the upside is capped until a hopefully healthy Newton returns.
George Kittle Vs The Carolina Panthers
We have to come to the realization that George Kittle is an amazing player but he may not be exactly the player we saw last season. Similarly to Zach Ertz, as we talked about. You can see below that Kittle has played on about the same amount of snaps as he did last season. The third-year TE is on pace for fewer targets inside the red zone and he has zero targets inside the 10-yard line. Kittle has never been heavily targeted in the most optimal part of the field for scoring but he is on pace for career low numbers in this area.
This could mean he is due for regression or it could be a direct result of all the receiver additions San Francisco added. They also traded for former Denver Bronco, Emmanuel Sanders who will add to the abundance of slot/short-area receivers they have. This does not exactly help Kittle directly unless Sanders is able to pull safety coverage his way, freeing up Kittle in the middle.
The Carolina Panthers are one of seven teams in the league allowing 9.0 PPR points per game to tight ends so far in 2019 and as far as an overall pass defense, they rank fifth in yards allowed (1350), and they are tied for the eighth fewest TDs passing (7 total). You can see below, Carolina has allowed 2 TDs passing to tight ends and have held down all other tight ends to fewer than 9.0 PPR points. The most yardage they have allowed in a game is 57 and just Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams totaled more than 4 targets and 3 receptions but was only able to muster 20 yards receiving but was fortunate to haul in a TD.
Data Via Pro Football Reference
With the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, the target distribution could be a little more thinly spread out which is not going to help Kittle’s usage anywhere on the field as Sanders is and has been a useful weapon in the red zone. We have seen that Jimmy Garoppolo is not going to be the fantasy asset we had hoped. He is more of a real-life good QB than a fantasy star or even a regular streaming option. San Francisco is winning games and may not look to drastically change the formula even after the addition of Sanders. Do not expect a big game from Kittle in Week 8. His fortunes could change but right now, this may be the player we drafted in the third or fourth round.
It is getting down to it. We are entering crunch time and a loss can be the difference between a playoff push and trying to spoil others chances at the spot your team should be sitting in. Whatever the case may be, finish out the season strong and do not give out any easy victories. The next best thing to making the playoffs? The feeling of keeping someone else out of them. Good luck to all in Week 8 and hopefully this week’s sleepers and busts help you get the W.