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Matt Savoca’s Week 8 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown Column

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Matt Savoca's game-by-game breakdowns of the Week 8 daily fantasy football slate for NFL DFS lineups on DraftKings + FanDuel + Yahoo.

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Daily Fantasy Football Matchups: New England Patriots (19.75) at Buffalo Bills (24.25)

New England Passing Game

Week 7 was one of those “bury the tape” performances, as they say, for the New England Patriots. Facing a motivated San Francisco team, the Patriots’ offense, led by quarterback Cam Newton, fell flat on its face for the third week in a row, and now finds itself in uncharted territory for the winningest franchise over the last two decades – third place. Newton threw the ball an unbelievably low 15 times (his second game failing to crest 20 pass attempts), and only completed a season-low 60% of his passes on a measly 168 air yards. His .58 passer air conversion ratio was worst among all starting quarterbacks a week ago, as well. The advanced metrics are no kinder, with Newton ranking 38th in catchable pass rate, 30th in adjusted yards per attempt, and outside the top-35 in red zone completion rate. And all of this occurred before the game-altering news that Julian Edelman is out indefinitely for a knee injury that requires surgery. Edelman, the consistent drumbeat of the New England pass offense since 2013, may have played his last game as a Patriot (though beat reporters are claiming there’s a chance this injury isn’t season-ending), creating a massive void in the already struggling New England passing attack.

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Moreover, Newton’s low volume passing attack hadn’t been nearly as concentrated towards Edelman since he’d returned from the Covid-19 list, in fact over their last four games, the Patriots’ player with the highest target share is actually passing-game specialist back James White (he only played in three of four contests), with wideout Damiere Byrd seeing just over 1% less of the Patriots’ targets than Edelman. It stands to reason that the primary beneficiary of Edelman’s extended absence would be Byrd, who also leads in air yards since week 3. With N’Keal Harry not healthy, and not practicing as of Thursday afternoon, it does seem like there’s some possibility that targets funnel towards Byrd in this matchup, which is fairly rare to say about a receiver with a salary under $4,000 (he’s $3,700 on the main slate.). Nonetheless, Byrd is still a player who would need both a volume bump as well as solid efficiency numbers in order to have a great day, but at his salary, Byrd only needs 11 to 12 DraftKings points to be considered a value. The Awesemo projections rank Byrd quite a bit higher than his salary based expectations. We’ll also likely see more of Jakobi Meyers, who’s played on 40% of the team’s snaps over their last four games, could possibly be tapped for the volume-slot role that Edelman traditionally played. Meyers has already lined up in the slot on 28% of his routes this season, and that’s been with Edelman in the game. While it’s undoubtedly speculative, betting on Meyers to be efficient (on what will very likely be less than 6 targets) isn’t the worst idea, especially if Buffalo gets ahead early, forcing New England into comeback mode as the game wears on. Meyers’s salary is even lower than Byrd’s, just $3,500 on the main slate this weekend.

New England Rushing Game

The Patriots’ rushing game is still dominated by their quarterback, at least when the game is close. Newton, still part of the run-heaviest offense in the entire NFL, had his lowest rush share (16%) of the season in week 7, but much of that had to do with game flow, the Patriots were losing big, and forced to play outside of their typical run-oriented scheme. In more neutral game scripts, expect 25-40% of carries to be Newton’s, assuming health. Damien Harris, who had fantasy gamers buzzing after a 100-yard performance in week 4, had a healthy bounce-back performance after a tough week 6, seeing 53% of carries and seeing a target as well, finishing with 70 total yards. Still, Harris has only played on 35% of snaps over the last two weeks, which means plenty of looks (particularly in the passing game) are headed toward James White, and Rex Burkhead continues to mix in, earning 25% of the team’s rushes over their last three games. With Buffalo struggling against the run on a per-carry basis (they rank 21st in the NFL), the Awesemo projections see the Patriots’ backs, particularly White and Burkhead, as solid flyer-options in tournaments.

Buffalo Passing Game

The Bills didn’t need Josh Allen at his best in order to beat the New York Jets (who continue to find new lows in their woeful season), and they didn’t get in week 7. While the final numbers look decent enough, as Allen passed for 307 yards and over 7 yards per attempt, many fantasy gamers, particularly those who chose to play him daily fantasy football lineups last week were certainly disappointed by Allen’s lack of touchdowns against a Jets defense that has given up points left and right to previous opponents. At the very least, Allen’s completion percentage, a metric he’d seemed to have made a marked improvement in, at least through the team’s first four games, rose back up to early-September levels after two down-week, Allen completed 70% of his 43 attempts last Sunday. This week he faces a Patriots defense that hasn’t been nearly as effective as it was a season ago, ranking 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per pass attempt, and 18th in points allowed per play. Even before the drama surrounding reigning Defensive Player of the Year, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is apparently selling his New England-area home with an offer-deadline aligning with next Tuesday’s trade deadline, causing speculation he could be on his way out, this looked like a matchup that was winnable for the Buffalo offense in all phases. Allen looks like a strong play, even as the fifth highest salary quarterback on the main slate.

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It’s reasonable to expect Gilmore to line-up, at least most of the time, on Stefon Diggs, as the Patriots have used Gilmore in shadow coverage in 3 of 6 matchups this season. Diggs continues to see alpha wide receiver usage, commanding 27% of the Bill’s air yards, and 34% of the team’s air yards over the last five weeks. Diggs is up to ninth in the NFL in true weighted opportunity share, and 8th among wideouts in expected fantasy points per game. And that’s right where his salary is on DraftKings this weekend, as well. The Awesemo projections actually have projected for even more than that salary implies, but betting on Diggs will likely be fairly popular this weekend – Diggs is projected for nearly 12% ownership, the 5th highest among all wideouts on the main slate. Beyond Diggs, you can absolutely take a look at either or (in tournaments,) both Cole Beasley and John Brown. Brown returned to practice for Buffalo this week, and the expectation is he’ll be able to return to his typical 15%-20% of Bills’ targets, and 20%-30% of air yards, which would make him a higher upside play than Beasley, though credit where credit is due – Beasley has been quietly tremendous this season, posting at least 45 yards receiving in all but one contest, and reaching 100 yards in two games as well, including his season-high 112 yard performance against the Jets last weekend. Both of these players, much more than the Buffalo tight ends, offer high-upside (yes, even for Beasley) access to an offense that could easily produce upwards of 75% of the 44 Vegas-expected points in this matchup. The Awesemo projections particularly like Brown, who’s only the 40th highest salary wide receiver on the main slate.

Buffalo Rushing Game

There’s certainly need for some contextualization (did I mention the Bills were playing the Jets last weekend?), but in a surprising turn of events, Zack Moss saw 10 opportunities, compared to Devin Singletary’s 13. It’s the closes the two have come in looks since week 1, when Singletary commanded 16 looks to Moss’ 13. It still seems that Singletary has the firm lead in the passing game, as he’s had at least two more targets than Moss in every game they’ve played in together, but the more important aspect in this case is game flow and salary. The Bills are expected to score plenty of points, and play with the lead, at home, making their starting running back a solid option for fantasy gamers fundamentally. Then considering Singletary is only the 26th highest salary running back on the main slate, and you have yourself the makings of value-back. The Awesemo projections for Singletary (and for Moss, who’s 36th among running backs in salary this weekend) are quite positive compared to the middling projection implied by his salary.

Prediction: Bills 27, Patriots 12.

Looking for more NFL DFS picks and daily fantasy football matchups content? We have loads of articles, data, and more on the Awesemo NFL home page. Just click HERE.

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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