Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 8
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Derrick Henry was the RB1 in all of fantasy in 0.5 PPR in 2020, but Henry himself only had three weeks as the top fantasy scorer. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may lead the league in fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
(All predictions are for half-PPR and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks.)
1. Jameis Winston Exacts Revenge with 300 Passing Yards
Winston was, as one would expect, around league average in 2019. He averaged 0.10 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back that season -- a metric that includes a penalty for sacks and turnovers. He has been in 2021, too, as his 0.15 Passing NEP per drop back is exactly the league average mark.
Hitting 300 yards passing is not the mark it used to be. Five quarterbacks eclipsed that point in a messy Week 7, including the notoriously low-volume Mac Jones. But if the Saints are going to compete with Tom Brady and the high-powered Bucs, that might need to be the starting point for Winston.
He should have his best opportunity of the season to eclipse that threshold on Sunday. The strong Tampa Bay rush defense has forced a 70% pass rate by their opponents through seven weeks. New Orleans has the lowest pass rate in the league (47%) following Week 7, but this week, it will have to be on Winston's shoulders.
With a new season-high in pass attempts likely, the prediction is Winston tears apart a Tampa secondary that's allowing 277.1 passing yards per contest this season.
2. Damien Harris Sees Over 20 Carries
It does not get bolder in fantasy football than trying to predict what the Patriots will do on any given week.
New England's offensive market shares are a mess, but we do know this -- there is promise in young running back Damien Harris. Harris is averaging 0.04 Rushing NEP per carry, which is 19th among running backs with at least 30 carries. While fumble issues have relegated him to the bench at times, he has been largely effective.
Harris should be leaned on against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers are an outlier in terms of really terrible rush defenses. Their 0.14 Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per carry is the bottom mark in the league, and they just gave up three scores to three different Ravens tailbacks before a bye week.
Don't let Harris' measly 14 attempts in Week 7 fool you; Harris toted 8 of New England's 11 first-half running back carries before their contest with the Jets became well out of hand.
Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor are smaller backs used primarily in pass-catching roles, so if Rhamondre Stevenson is scratched again in Week 8, Harris should approach his 23-carry season-high against such a poor run defense.
3. Cooper Kupp Doesn't Score a Touchdown
I'm not sure how we've reached a point where this is a bold take. At the very least, it is one with an unfavorable probability.
Cooper Kupp has more games with multiple touchdowns (4) than games without any touchdowns (2) in 2021. That's largely something that -- if math, common reasoning, and regression apply -- will not continue.
Kupp is scoring at a rate per target that -- even at his lofty target totals -- makes his touchdown pace absurd:
|Name||Position||Team||Tgts||Rec TDs||Rec TDs per Tgt|
**Only Includes Wide Receivers with a Minimum of 20 Targets
The names on this list are incredibly talented receivers across the board, but some are also the most notable touchdown regression candidates in fantasy football at the moment. Kupp is no different just because of his volume.
The Rams are also scoring a touchdown rushing just 27.08% of the time (fifth-lowest in the NFL) despite some pretty positive game scripts, and the NFL average generally hovers around 33.0%. That could change, too.
Unless Cooper Kupp -- a wide receiver who went in the fourth round of most of your fantasy drafts and likely falls outside the top-12 spots in a talent redraft of all receivers in the league -- is about to shatter an NFL record in production, touchdown regression is coming.
4. T.J. Hockenson Reaquaints Himself With the End Zone
Bouncing from a negative regression candidate to a positive one, T.J. Hockenson might finally deliver on his volume this weekend.
Despite being second amongst all tight ends in targets (53), Hockenson has just two touchdowns for the Lions this season. While many of them are low-promise, empty targets from Jared Goff, he still stands out amongst tight ends due for serious touchdown regression in the positive direction:
|Name||POS||Team||Tgts||Rec TDs||Rec TDs Per Tgt|
**Only Includes Tight Ends with a Minimum of 20 Targets
Darren Waller (on a bye) and Mike Gesicki (facing the stingy Bills defense) will have to wait for another day. However, Hockenson draws an Eagles defense in the Halloween spirit lately. They're giving out touchdowns to tight ends like they're fun-sized M&M's.
Foster Moreau scored one for Las Vegas in a spot start, O.J. Howard scored for Tampa Bay the week before, and who could forget Dalton Schultz's pair on Monday night in Week 3? Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni publically turned his back on the defense, and his defense has responded in turn by turning their back to opponents' tight ends.
Hockenson is seeing tremendous volume for a tight end, and the prediction this week is that he turns that into finding paydirt.
5. The Chiefs Finish Outside the Top-12 Defenses
Still, the G-Men have had average weeks before last, so the path to failure was present. The same cannot be said for the historically awful Kansas City Chiefs defense in Arrowhead this weekend.
The Chiefs were on pace to be the worst defense in NFL history two weeks ago. A date with Taylor Heinicke two weeks ago helped them to their current mark of 6.6 yards allowed per play -- still comfortably the worst mark in the NFL.
At least numberFire's NEP model is slightly more kind. Kansas City (0.20) is only second-worst in Adjusted Defensive NEP to Jacksonville (0.24).
By either measure, their defense is awful. Normally, a home defense with a large favored spread is a pretty solid spot to target for a streaming option, but the Chiefs' defense cannot be trusted -- even against Daniel Jones -- to hold off a Giants offense that cobbled together 0.06 Adjusted NEP against Carolina. In fact, it's far more likely Jones and company have a nice day offensively.
numberFire's projections believe Kansas City to be a top-five unit on the week, but in my opinion, seek D/ST help from a different spot.