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




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

Table of Contents

Daily Fantasy Football Matchups: Los Angeles Rams (25) at Miami Dolphins (21)

Los Angeles Rams Passing Game

The Rams didn’t need anything extraordinary from quarterback Jared Goff in their week 7 trouncing of the (previously) first place Chicago Bears. Goff three 33 times (his sixth game in 7 weeks between 27-33 attempts), completing 70% of his passes for 219 yards, two touchdown, and no interceptions, good for the 17th best fantasy score among quarterbacks a week ago. That seems to be the preferred stat line for coach Sean McVay, who continues to run a unique offense that, on average, has the most compact formations in the league, while using some of the highest rates of pre-snap motion and play-action passing. This puts Goff in tremendously advantageous positions to find wide open receivers – essentially, the Rams beat you on offense before the ball is snapped. And Goff has been fantastic in these situations, ranking 7th in the NFL in Play-Action Completion percentage, and leading to a top-10 ranking in adjusted yards per attempt and receiver yards after catch per target. This is a well-honed, highly refined offensive scheme that is capable of simply outsmarting opponents, and that’s the most likely scenario as the Rams passing attack goes up against the Dolphins defensive unit that ranks in-line with league averages in yards allowed per attempt, and ninth worst in PFF’s coverage grade.

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As has been the case all season, the passing offenses consolidated around the Rams’ two star receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, who each saw 16%-plus of the Rams’ targets a week ago (and 24%-plus a week ago), and rank within 2 percentage points of each other in season-long target share. The slight preference, if deciding between the two (and ignoring salary, for a moment) is Woods, as his average depth of target is slightly higher than Kupp’s (8.6 versus 7.1) and Woods, in a reversal of previous year trends, is seeing the most red zone looks on the team, and most importantly, is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three. Kupp, to his credit, still leads Woods in receiver air conversion ratio (RACR) and has the slight edge in true weighted opportunity share, ranking within the top 30 players in the NFL in that metric. Woods isn’t far behind, of course, ranking 34th wideouts. Woods also happens to come with an ever so slight salary discount, coming in as the 14th highest salary wideout on the main slate (Kupp is 12th). The Awesemo projections rank inside the top-12 receivers this week, making this a perfect opportunity to differentiate through using multiple lineups with multiple combinations or even stack all three (Goff-Woods, Goff-Kupp, Goff-Woods-Kupp are all viable), though the projections see the receivers as a slightly more advantageous play than their quarterback. Don’t hesitate to use Goff, especially when stacking, but in his salary-range (he’s $6,500 on DraftKings this weekend), there are a slew of talented upside options at the quarterback position.

With starting tight end Tyler Higbee (hand contusion) inactive, Gerald Everett played 76% of snaps for Los Angeles in week 7, and finished the game earning 16% of the team’s targets, producing 28 yards and a touchdown to make him one of the best values on last Monday’s showdown slate. But Everett shared the field with fellow tight end Johnny Mundt more than expected, as Mundt played on 64% of the Rams’ snaps and actually out-gained Everett by 19 yards. Of course, with low-salary tight ends, capturing touchdown upside is always the most important factor (since so many have flimsy weighted opportunity metrics), and Higbee leaves behind nearly 15% of the team’s red zone targets when he’s absent. Everett could easily expand on his week 7 performance if Higbee’s inactive again, but if Higbee’s able to suit up, the Awesemo projections are actually bullish on Higbee’s chances in a relatively plus-matchup. The Dolphins rank above-average (tougher for opponents) schedule adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but that doesn’t preclude this tight end unit from succeeding at all, especially within the distinctive Sean McVay offense.

Los Angeles Rams Rushing Game

The Rams’ three-headed monster shrunk to two last Monday Night, with rookie Cam Akers held without an opportunity for the second week in a row. Akers has now played on just 3% of the team’s snaps over the last two weeks, making the second round rookie a complete non-factor except for the most risk-embracing tournament players. While it’s possible the running back hot-hand approach in Los Angeles continues to fluctuate, it looks like a majority of the touches and snaps are coalescing around Darrell Henderson, with Malcolm Brown enjoying a consistent, carved-out role in the passing game and at the goal line. In fact, Henderson has been out-targeted by Brown 5-to-2 since week week 6, indicating the lead in high value touches are likely to stay in Brown’s favor. The Rams rank first in rush DVOA as a team, while the Dolphins rank 32nd in defensive rush DVOA, making this an extremely enticing matchup on paper, but the difficulty will be in deciding which of the running backs pop that week. The Awesemo projections make that choice fairly clear – but on Henderson or no one else. Henderson’s projection ranks him ahead of his 17th highest running back salary.

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Miami Passing Game

In a relatively shocking announcement, the Dolphins are handing the keys to their offense over to rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, despite the above average play of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had Miami playing .500 football and just a single game back of the final wild card spot in the AFC. Tagovailoa, until his major hip injury in 2019, was the undisputed number one prospect in the 2020 draft, after finishing his only season a full-time starter with one of the most impressive stat-lines college football history (his 2018 season adjusted yards per attempt at Alabama in ranked top all-time, prior to Joe Burrow breaking the mark last season), and being one of the game’s brightest stars is in his range of outcomes, but it couldn’t be further from a guarantee. It’s a risky move, certainly, with a massively high range of outcomes for Miami (the ceiling is Colin Kaepernick’s historic run from injury replacement to Super Bowl starter, the floor is Nathan Peterman’s infamous five interception start in Buffalo), but the Dolphins front office has firmly decided this is the right time to evaluate their roster with Tagovailoa under-center, as they prepare for not just this season, but next, when Miami has 5 draft picks in the first two rounds in the 2021 draft. Unless Tagovailoa can pick up right where Fitzpatrick left off in this offense, or improve upon it (Fitzpatrick ranked 11th among quarterbacks in expected points added per play and 17th in true drive success rate), the entire move is a bit of a dig at the rest of the Dolphins’ roster, who are already collectively outplaying preseason expectations while the rest of the division underperforms.

While projecting the rest of the Dolphins’ production is difficult (due to the difficulty of projecting Tagovailoa), the most obvious beneficiary of a (theoretically) efficient passing game would be Davante Parker, who’s the 21st highest salary wide receiver on the main slate, Parker has games of 3, 5, 8, 8, and 12 over his last five appearances, giving him the highest average target total on the season. Parker is the only Dolphins receiver in the top-40 in true weighted opportunity share, but has only seen 3 targets in the red zone or the end zone, somewhat lowering his touchdown upside. Mike Gesicki should also be heavily involved, and has a great chance to lead the team in opportunity as well (since he’s built a rapport with Tagovailoa as a member of the Dolphins’ scout team). Gesicki already has two games as the target leader in Miami, but also has three games with two to three targets, and has a salary within the top-6 tight ends on the main slate. That makes him a high variance play with nearly no margin for error (he needs about 15 points to be a value at his salary), but the upside should be the only thing fantasy gamers are considering when looking to utilize players from this matchup in fantasy lineups. The floor, with a first-time starter under center, is fully understood – it’s 0 points. On a much more positive note, the Rams are fourth worst in the NFL in schedule adjusted fantasy points allowed to the tight end position.

It’s also possible we see a surprise contributor with a brand new starter under center, such as Preston Williams, who’s had four or more targets in all but two contests this season, or even the speedster Jakeem Grant, who has met that same four-target threshold twice already this season. Even Adam Shaheen, who’s on the field more than his target count would imply due to his continually improving ability as a blocker (that just earned him a two year contract extension) could easily see a 1-3 target bump in usage, making him a surprise value in a slate desperate for tight end values at low salaries. The Awesemo projections are particularly bullish on Parker and Ford, despite the latter receiver being held catchless since week 5, as they present the most upside relative to their salary based expectations.

Miami Rushing Game

Regardless of the turnover at the quarterback position, don’t expect the Miami backfield to move away from running back Myles Gaskin, who continues his sunrise season as the undisputed leader of the Dolphins’ running backs. Gaskin has recorded opportunity totals of 14, 14, 21, 22, and 27 over his last five games, and has only one game with less than 10% of the Dolphins’ targets. It’s rare that we can find undisputed number one backs in the $5,200 salary range on DraftKings (the 25th highest running back salary on the slate) without an injury, or a legendarily poor matchup, but neither of those things are true in this game. Yes, there’s an incredible amount of uncertainty due the quarterback change, but Gaskin is the best bet for production on the entire Dolphins’ roster. The Awesemo projections rank Gaskin nearly over half a dozen spots higher than his salary would imply this week. Gaskin’s a go this weekend, even if the matchup with the Rams, who rank seventh best in schedule adjusted fantasy points against to running backs, is on the difficult side. The usage is there, and the salary is just right.

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Prediction: Rams 27, Dolphins 20.

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.

Return to the main Week 8 Matchups Breakdown page.

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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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