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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 8

Welcome back to this week’s edition of “Red Light, Green Light”, which is a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s (and Monday’s) NFL contests. While this piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used for some of those decisions as well.

In each of the NFL Week 8 game profiles below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious concerns, and need to have expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Bye Week Teams: Jacksonville, L.A. Rams, Arizona, Green Bay, New York Giants, Tennessee

Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Vikings Browns
Quarterback 28th 8th
Running Back 31st 26th
Wide Receiver 14th 22nd
Tight End 18th 3rd
Defense/Special Teams 28th 2nd
Vegas Line: Vikings -9.5
Vegas Over/Under: 37.5
Kyle Rudolph has at least five catches in three straight contests, but is averaging only 45 receiving yards per game over that span. Look for Rudolph to have one of his better games of the season against a Browns defense that gives up 71 yards per game to tight ends, good for third-most in the NFL. The Vikings D/ST is one of the top options of the week, as the Browns lead the NFL in turnovers and have given up 20 QB sacks.
Jerick McKinnon stumbled a bit last week, putting up just 57 total yards on 17 touches, while teammate Latavius Murray compiled 118 on 18 touches (all rushes). Both Minnesota backs should be plenty involved in a contest that sees their team favored by 9.5 points, but the committee situation along with the Browns’ allowing just 3.0 yards-per-carry (YPC) to RBs caps any theoretical upside. Adam Thielen continues to see heavy targets in the absence of Stefon Diggs (groin), with 25 over the past two weeks. Thielen has still not found the end zone this season though. Duke Johnson is averaging 65.3 total yards per game while seeing limited touches. It stands to reason that if/when the game turns into a blowout in Minnesota’s favor that Johnson will be the primary beneficiary.
Stefon Diggs (groin) is practicing this week with a chance to play Sunday, but it’s possible the team could limit his playing time or hold him out entirely against the lowly Browns, whom the talented receiver almost certainly won’t be needed against. The Browns coaching staff continues to insist on giving Isaiah Crowell the majority of the backfield work, and Crowell continues to disappoint, averaging 3.2 YPC on the season and not eclipsing 60 rushing yards in any single game. Ricardo Louis has totaled 46 receiving yards the last two weeks after combining for 135 over Weeks 4 and 5.  David Nkoku posted a season-high 58 receiving yards last week, but has yet to catch more than three balls in any game this year. Case Keenum has become more of a game manager since his blowup Week 3 game against Tampa Bay, and should continue to serve as one against the winless Browns.

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Chargers Patriots
Quarterback 25th 1st
Running Back 14th 6th
Wide Receiver 10th 4th
Tight End 31st 8th
Defense/Special Teams 28th 31st
Vegas Line: Patriots -7.5
Vegas Over/Under: 
48
Philip Rivers faces off against a Patriots defense that allows the second-most passing yards per game, but the matchup may not be quite the slam-dunk it appears to be. Here are the QB finishes against the Patriots the last three weeks (QB10, QB7, QB14). Melvin Gordon is set up for a rebound performance after last weeks’ 44 total yard stinker, as the Patriots give up 158 total yards per contest to opposing backfields, and will yet again be without run plugging LB Dont’a Hightower (pectoral). Hunter Henry has now either scored or eclipsed 70 receiving yards in four straight weeks. Over the four contests prior to last Sunday’s dismantling of the Falcons, the Patriots were allowing 62.3 yards per game and gave up three touchdowns to tight ends. Don’t be discouraged by Rob Gronkowski‘s low output last Sunday, as the Patriots did not need to rely on him in a contest that was never really competitive. Gronk has scored four touchdowns in three career contests against the Chargers. Keenan Allen has averaged just 51 receiving yards per game the past three weeks, but has seen no fewer than 7 targets in any single game this season. The Patriots give up the most receiving yards per game, setting Allen up as one of the top WR options in fantasy this week.
Brandin Cooks is quietly third in the NFL in receiving yards, but has just one 100-yard receiving game this season. Chris Hogan‘s fantasy value has been largely touchdown-driven with five in seven games played, with a season-high of 78 receiving yards back in Week 2. Tom Brady has not thrown more than two touchdowns in a contest since Week 3, and the Chargers have been stingy to opposing QBs in terms of fantasy points allowed.
Mike Gillislee has not scored a touchdown since Week 2, and is being out-carried on early downs by Deion Lewis. At this point, Gillislee is a touchdown-dependent back that is not scoring touchdowns. Tyrell Williams‘ disappointing season continues after he caught just one pass for 11 yards last week, and has just 6 targets the past three weeks. Danny Amendola (knee) is banged up, and has only gone over 48 receiving yards once in his past 5 contests. Don’t chase Travis Benjamin‘s two touchdowns from a week ago. as the speedster has not caught more than two passes in a game since Week 3.

Chicago Bears at New Orleans Saints

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Average 2017 Fantasy Points Allowed
Position Bears Saints
QB 26th 16th
RB 22nd 13th
WR 23rd 12th
TE 24th 21st
Defense/Special Teams 4th 26th (tied)
Vegas Line: Saints -9
Vegas Over/Under:
 47.5
Mark Ingram has amassed 56 offensive touches, gone over 100 rushing yards twice, and scored three times in the two games since Adrian Peterson was traded. Alvin Kamara has averaged 96.7 total yards per game since Week 4.
The Saints playing as favorites in their past three games has not suited Drew Brees. as he’s thrown just five touchdown passes over that span. New Orleans is favored by 9 this week, so it’s possible that Brees is handing the ball off frequently in the second half. Though Michael Thomas (knee) has been a bit of a disappointment considering the expectations coming into the season, he has gone over 80 receiving yards in 4 of 6 games this season, but is currently dealing an injury that clouds his Week 8 status. Ted Ginn has totaled 207 receiving yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks, and could see an increased workload if Thomas can’t suit up. Jordan Howard has averaged 23 touches per game over the past five weeks, but could find himself out of the game plan if the Bears fall behind early. Benny Cunningham (hamstring) is iffy for Week 8, meaning the Bears may be forced to use Tarik Cohen as their passing down back, a role that could see plenty of action if the game script goes as predicted. The new-and-improved Saints D/ST is worth using in a home matchup against a dysfunctional Bears offense.
The Bears D/ST has been fantastic the past two weeks, but they haven’t all of a sudden dialed the clock back to 2006, so keep them reserved against Drew Brees in the Superdome. Willie Snead (hamstring) is practicing fully this week, and is expected to return to action. Even with Michael Thomas (knee) potentially sidelined, it will be hard to trust Snead given he has just once catch for 11 yards on the season, and has been in and out of the Saints’ lineup since his suspension ended in Week 4. Tanner Gentry was the only Bears WR to even catch a pass last Sunday, as Chicago game plan moving forward appears to be hiding rookie Mitchell Trubisky behind the running game. Zach Miller has two touchdowns the past three weeks, but has not gone over 39 receiving yards during that span.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.