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Four capable wide receivers plus only one ball equals zero worthwhile starters for fantasy. Go ahead and check my math on that one. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Fantasy Football Week 8: Kill, Marry, Chill

Against all odds, the 2020 NFL season is on. Which means so is your fantasy season. You already have your top guys you’re always starting, but it’s those borderline calls you need to get right to win. So, each week, we’ll go through some guys that we want to “kill” (not looking to start), “marry” (locking into our lineups), and “chill” (considering as sleeper options) to help you fill out your lineup and lead you the promised land of a fantasy championship. Here’s what you need to know for Week 8 of fantasy football.

Kill

Quarterback – Joe Burrow (vs. TEN)

I get why you might be thinking about starting Burrow this week: He’s QB 10 on the season, he’s coming off the best game he’s ever played in the NFL, and he’s about to face a Titans defense that isn’t very good.

Let’s dig a little deeper though, shall we?

Burrow was QB 18 after the first six weeks of the season. And even after that Week 7 outburst, he still has more weeks scoring outside of the top 20 for the position (three) than he does inside the top 10 (two).

My Life Behind an Offensive Line That Couldn’t Block a Beach Ball Against a Light Breeze: The Joe Burrow Story. (Bryan Woolston/AP Photo)

Burrow’s volume (he leads the league in pass attempts) has been his saving grace for fantasy owners. And if running back Joe Mixon misses his second straight game, Burrow could be in line for another 50+ passes to try and keep pace with Tennessee’s bulldozing offense. I’m too worried about the possibility of a lot of turnovers, though.

Burrow has thrown four interceptions and fumbled the ball five times in the past four games. The Titans, meanwhile, are forcing two turnovers per game, which is tied for the best rate in the league. A rookie quarterback who’s prone to bad mistakes and playing behind a porous offensive line is an opportunistic defense’s best friend. The Bengals aren’t afraid to let Burrow throw the ball till his arm falls off. Problem is, he can’t throw many passes if the other team always has the ball. Leave him on your bench this week.

Pass Catcher – All of the Steelers’ wide receivers (@ BAL)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only undefeated team left after they eked out a 27-24 win against the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans. Let’s see how they like playing the Baltimore Ravens though.

Baltimore’s arguably the most talented team in the league and they’re coming off a bye week. That’s a bad combo for Pittsburgh’s passing game. Diontae Johnson was WR 3 and JuJu Smith-Schuster was WR 19 in PPR last week, but Tennessee’s pass defense is in the bottom 10 for fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in standard and bottom five in PPR. Baltimore, on the other hand, is allowing the fifth-fewest points per game to wide receivers in standard and the ninth-fewest in PPR.

Since Pittsburgh has a deep core of pass catchers, none of the wide receivers are playing with much consistency. Chase Claypool is the only Steeler to record more than 60 receiving yards in back-to-back games. That streak ended in Week 7 though when he caught just one pass…and took it for -2 yards.

Here’s the kicker: The Steelers will want to lean on their run game in this one. James Conner is playing like a Pro Bowler again and Benny Snell has flashed as a change-of-pace back. The Ravens are also not nearly as stout against the run as they are versus the pass. Pittsburgh ought to eat up yards on the ground, dominate time of possession, and keep Baltimore’s offense off the field.

Maybe Johnson, who’s the clear-cut number one option in the passing game, cracks the top 20 this week. I’m just not confident enough to roll with him. Try to find safer options for your WR and flex spots who aren’t rocking black and yellow.

Marry

Quarterback – Teddy Bridgewater (vs. ATL)

Death, taxes, quarterbacks scorching the Falcons’ defense. Matt Stafford continued the tradition last Sunday, and I expect Bridgewater to keep it going.

I hate to say you should start guys solely based on matchups—it’s too simplistic of a way to think about fantasy football—but the Atlanta Falcons are just that bad. Their defense has given up over 300 pass yards in six of seven games this season. As for that seventh game, the Seahawks had a mere 299 passing yards. Fantasy-wise, quarterbacks are scoring, on average, 27.6 points per game when they play Falcons. Obviously, that’s the highest mark in the league. And the superlatives don’t stop there. The data I found only went back to 1994, but it looks like the Falcons are on their way to set the record for most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in a season.

Bridgewater’s QB 18 right now, but he had a slow start to the season, scoring only two touchdowns over the first three weeks. Between Weeks 4 and 7, he was QB 9 and had three top-15 performances, including one top-five finish.

I’m not going to go out on a limb and say Teddy’s due for a 30-point week. I’m looking at his Week 5 performance against Atlanta, when he finished as QB 12 in fantasy football, as a baseline for what to expect in Week 8. Maybe he doesn’t quite crack the top 10, but I’d feel really good knowing that my QB isn’t going to get me fewer than 20 points.

Running back – Myles Gaskin (vs. LAR)

Kudos to all you Myles Gaskin owners. Between Weeks 3 and 6, the second-year back placed as RB 18 in standard and RB 11 in PPR. He’s also coming into this week off of back-to-back top-10 finishes in both formats. Not bad for a guy you probably picked up for next-to-nothing on the waiver wire.

He’s probably an RB2 over the rest of the season, but I see a top-10 finish this week for two reasons.

First, Tua Tagovailoa will be making his first career start at quarterback, and this matchup is a doozy. The Rams rank sixth in the league in total defense and are holding opposing passers to a league-best 5.3 net adjusted yards per pass attempt. Naturally, Miami’s game plan will call for a lot of quick-hitters and screen passes so Tua can string together some drives and make this game competitive. Gaskin, one of the league’s better receiving backs, figures to be a big part of the passing game.

Second, Jordan Howard is no longer poaching goal line scores. Gaskin only has one touchdown this year on 109 touches. That’s an absurdly low rate, especially for someone with the 10th most rushing attempts inside the red zone. The problem is that Howard was getting all the goal-line work to begin the season, with his eight carries inside the five-yard line the fourth-most in the league. The vulture isn’t circling anymore though, because the former Chicago Bear has been a healthy scratch in Miami’s past two games. If he stays out of the lineup, Gaskin figures to regress to the mean and put up some scores sooner, rather than later. This is an easy call. Gaskin’s an RB1 in PPR and an RB1/2 in standard.

Chill

Running back – Le’Veon Bell (vs. NYJ)

The Le’Veon bell revenge game narrative makes for some easy content, but I’m going to be better than that. I think there are reasons why Le’Veon will do well against his former team in fantasy in Week 8 for reasons that have to do with, you know, football.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is second in the league in yards from scrimmage, but he’s struggling in the passing game and near the goal line. The first-round pick is only logging 5.5 yards per target. That’s a far cry from the efficiency of some of Andy Reid’s recent running backs. By comparison, Kareem Hunt averaged 8.5 yards per target in his 27 games with the Chiefs.

CEH’s two touchdowns thus far are an even bigger disappointment. Coaches were already noting his scoring troubles after Week 1, so I can’t imagine how they feel after six more weeks of the same. The rookie has taken 12 carries from inside opponents’ 10-yard line. That makes him one of 39 players who have six or more carries from inside the 10. Of that group, Edwards-Helaire is the only one who hasn’t scored a touchdown in those situations.

That’s where Bell comes in. It’s been a while since he was one of the game’s best running backs, but in his 62 games of service with the Steelers, he ran for 35 touchdowns and picked up 2660 receiving yards.

The Jets have allowed the fifth-most touchdowns and eighth-most receptions to running backs. So, you can call it a revenge game, but this is about Le’Veon finding his stride again now that he’s out of that dumpster fire of a franchise. He’s a flex play in all formats.

Pass Catcher – Jimmy Graham (vs. NOR)

You know the edict when it comes to fantasy tight ends: If you don’t have one of the elite guys, get someone who’ll find the end zone. Jimmy Graham will be finding the end zone this week.

When you’re on the five-yard line, you throw a goal-line fade to Jimmy Graham. Take your “the analytics say it’s an inefficient play” bullshit somewhere else. (Mike Dinovo/USA Today)

He has only one touchdown since Week 3, but that drought won’t continue for long. The 11-year pro is tied for first in both targets and catches from inside the 10-yard line. That kind of short-field work against this Saints defense makes for ideal conditions. New Orleans has allowed six touchdowns to tight ends in their six games this season. They’re one of just three teams to allow one or more touchdowns per game to the position.

Injuries are also a factor here. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Cordelle Patterson both missed practice on Wednesday. If they’re unable to suit up for this game, that’s 30.6% of the offense’s target share up for grabs. Then there’s tight end Cole Kmet. The second-round rookie is starting to take on a bigger role in the offense, but a back injury limited his participation in Wednesday’s practice. If he can’t go on Sunday, Graham will have little competition for targets in the red zone.

This is all without even mentioning that he’s getting consistent opportunities with Nick Foles as his quarterback (but you should have already known he would). Since Week 4, Graham’s fifth in targets and fourth in receptions among tight ends. Add six points from a touchdown on top of that, and you have a top-10 TE in Graham this week.