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NFL Slant And Go: Can Aaron Rodgers Keep Up With The Rams?

Chris Spags

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Despite the hideous Thursday night game in front of us, the main slate of the NFL this week is shaping up to be a very interesting one with a few rivalries, marquee matchups, and one coaching change that I think could completely change the complexion of one game between a couple of also-ran teams coming off a blowout. There’s a lot to dig through this week and a lot of guys coming off bad performances last week that seem equipped to turn things around in Week 8 so I’ll do my best to wade you through all of that over the course of this Slant and Go fantasy football column.

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Cleveland Browns (21.3 implied points) at Pittsburgh Steelers (29.3 implied points)

The Browns were the victim of a dead cat bounce last week for the Buccaneers defense as they switched defensive coordinators and the result was a game that was nowhere near as good as what you’d hope it would be for most of these guys. Here’s an interesting thread from Warren Sharp about the hideous playcalling of the Browns thus far:

I’d like to believe “The Rat Man” Damian Ratley would have excelled last week if not for the playcalling. This seems like a decent Jarvis Landry spot given how the Browns will likely be trailing almost immediately and his target share while Ratley or Antonio Callaway could get something going if they actually get enough targets. Tight end with David Njoku might be the best spot to attack though with the Pittsburgh D allowing a 20.5% performance boost to TE according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. The Steelers have defending pass catching RBs the best on the slate with a -42.7% boost there so any vibe for Duke Johnson will be tough to overcome. Nick Chubb should also see some carries and even though his lack of pass game involvement isn’t the best, it’s possible he sees enough goal line work to be valuable.

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Pittsburgh should be able to run all over the Browns with James Conner and I’d have to imagine he’ll be one of the more popular guys on the slate. I also don’t mind Ben Roethlisberger back at home given the team total and his price. Conner should be able to get his regardless but Roethlisberger may be underowned. Antonio Brown also seems a bit too cheap for the number of targets he gets in what should be a mostly plus matchup for him. The Browns have done a good job defending the secondary and tertiary targets so that could open up some more appeal for a vintage Ben-Brown team-up. Conner is the guy to want in the matchup but I wouldn’t sleep on some pass game value creeping up given the Browns’ egregious 413.6 yards per game allowed.

Seattle Seahawks (23.3 implied points) at Detroit Lions (26.3 implied points)

The Seahawks have would should be a prime matchup for both the passing and rushing games as long as their offensive line doesn’t allow Detroit’s surprisingly effective pass rush to pin down Russell Wilson too much. Chris Carson should see more work than he did in the Seahawks’ disappointing effort versus Oakland and he again is very cheap for a guy who sees an average of 16.8 touches per game. But the pass game is where I’d really look with the Lions secondary offering noteworthy DVOA boosts at every position in the pass game along with a 6.6% passing TD rate. Wilson and Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, or David Moore could all pay some dividends and Baldwin in particular looked much closer to his usual form in Seattle’s last game than he did in the early part of the season.

On Detroit’s side, they’ll get a Seattle defense who isn’t as good as their heyday but remains a bit disrespected overall. Theo Riddick remaining out with be a big boost for Kerryon Johnson following another breakout game last week so keep an eye on his practice schedule. Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay continue to rank up targets but watch out for Michael Roberts; it would be a points chase going to him this week but he looked a lot like the tight end role that Matt Stafford and coordinator Jim Bob Cooter like in this offense that Luke Willson and co were not able to provide. He won’t have many two-TD weeks but his target share creeping up would be interesting. Tate would be the guy I trust the most despite an ankle injury that’s limited him in practice while Golladay seems like a good candidate to regress to his usual target share after only seeing two looks last week. Marvin Jones remains cheap but he’s failed so many times that I wouldn’t advocate anyone trusting him at volume.

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Denver Broncos (21.8 implied points) at Kansas City Chiefs (31.8 implied points)

The Chiefs defense has started to look more feisty at home and they could be in play here given how Case Keenum will likely have to force some throws to keep up with Kansas City and their sky high team total. But I don’t mind Keenum here in a bounce back spot after the Broncos trounced the Cardinals on D and never really needed him to do much. Emmanuel Sanders is the guy to look at the most but Demaryius Thomas responding to recent trade rumors with a big game would be an interesting bit of narrative to spin. Watch Courtland Sutton too; the rookie has seemed tantalizingly close to a breakout in recent weeks and given the leaks in the KC secondary, this could be the day he gets going. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman should be in play with the former more bankable but the latter still getting a nice share of touches. This team will desperately need points and they have to come from somewhere.

Kareem Hunt has been on quite the tear for the Chiefs and he obliterated these same Broncos just a few short weeks ago. Pat Mahomes is still the dude on this team but Hunt’s fantasy value has somehow been understated as he goes on these tears. I’m fine paying up for him though the ownership on him will be something to keep an eye on given those recent games. Mahomes to Tyreek Hill is always a popular connection and hard to avoid but I’m intrigued by Sammy Watkins at his price on DraftKings. There will be a lot of attention dedicated to stopping Hill and Travis Kelce and it seems like a spot to me where Watkins could greatly benefit after sitting in the garage the last few weeks and getting hurt for the Chiefs’ last game versus Denver. Kelce is very much in play too and he would gain more interest for me if he ends up lower owned than Hunt. It’s all fungible here based on ownership percentages to try to leverage.

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Baltimore Ravens (22.8 implied points) at Carolina Panthers (20.8 implied points)

Baltimore is surprisingly favored on the road versus a Carolina team coming of a really impressive comeback win versus the Eagles. The Panthers pass D is not particularly great, offering opposing QBs a 68.1% completion rate and 7.3 yards per pass attempt. It would not surprise me to see one of the receivers here have a nice day and even though it’s tough coming off a big game, I do tend to think John Brown is the best man for the job here. Michael Crabtree could easily get going too and it wouldn’t surprise me but Brown’s rapport with Joe Flacco and ability to get behind defenders always makes me a little intrigued in him. The run game has been mostly bleh but Alex Collins could be useful here; he seems to have seized the majority of touches out of the backfield and at $4,600 on DraftKings that could be a good spot for him.

I really don’t love anyone on the Panthers this week given what we’ve seen and discussed ad nauseum about the Ravens D. They’ve been the best team in the NFL in just about every major defensive category with relevance to fantasy and that’s despite being infinitely more unlucky with getting turnovers than they were last season. They did a great job limiting Drew Brees last week despite a narrow loss and I would expect the same here for Cam Newton and co. You could talk me into Christian McCaffrey given his price drop and a quiet run of games but the Ravens have defended pass catching RBs well and McCaffrey’s touches have been trickling downwards. Maybe another Torrey Smith revenge game if he’s healthy enough to go after banging up his knee? Eh. Devin Funchess in what’s likely to be a very low owned spot after he’s looked good recently could be the last spot to consider but it’s really going to be a tough one for the Panthers based on what I’ve seen.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25.3 implied points) at Cincinnati Bengals (29.3 implied points)

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It’s another shootout spot potentially for the Buccaneers and I’m very comfortable with Jameis Winston as well as Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson versus this Cincinnati D giving up 429.4 yards per game. The Bengals have been bad at generating pressure and that means a lot of opportunity for these Bucs receivers to get downfield and beat the middling Cincy secondary. Peyton Barber was apparently hurt last week and missed a practice this week that saw Ronald Jones getting the majority of first team work. Jones or Barber could be useful here but Jones would be particularly interesting if Barber is ruled out. OJ Howard has looked beastly when given opportunity and I’m fine with him too even if his role in the offense seems fluid, ditto Chris Godwin. I wouldn’t sleep on Adam Humphries either, a guy who’s averaged 6 targets per game since Winston returned to the starting role. It’s mostly Evans/Jackson to love here but those guys could punch one in with a few catches.

As I mentioned in the Browns write-up above, it seemed to me like the Bucs D improved very little with the switch to linebackers coach Mark Duffner at defensive coordinator other than the usual added motivation early and some rookie mistakes by Baker Mayfield that played into their hands. I like Andy Dalton getting back on track following a super disappointing game at Kansas City and don’t see the Bucs maintaining that level of competitiveness we saw as they seemingly blitzed the Browns on every play. Stacking AJ Green or Tyler Boyd with Dalton would be the move and it depends on how you see the game shaking out which would have more appeal; if the Bucs keep blitzing a lot, you could see more targets for Dalton’s favorite “under pressure target” Tyler Boyd. If not, you could see more love for AJ Green. I think both guys can have value though. I’ve been off the CJ Uzomah train mostly but he could be good versus a Tampa Bay D who’s allowed a 39.4% performance boost to TEs via DVOA. Joe Mixon is the other main dude to consider here and his load of touches plus pass game involvement make him an interesting play even though he really hasn’t shown the upside yet at this elevated price. I like him but I’d probably rather go to Kareem Hunt, a player who’s cheaper on DraftKings.

Washington Redskins (21.8 implied points) at NY Giants (20.8 implied points)

The Redskins and their impotent offense get a matchup versus a Giants D who isn’t much to fear but still is likely good enough to keep the Redskins limited. Despite his abysmal target depth, Alex Smith has been at or under a 60% completion rate his last 4 games. His wide receiving corps, which was already iffy, has been hurt, thrusting guys like Michael Floyd into the starting lineup. Chris Thompson could get something going if he returns to the lineup, as expected, but I really hate this Redskins team from a fantasy perspective and even in a matchup versus a Giants team where it seems like they could get going, I don’t see how you trust any of these guys with more than a flyer if you’re entering a bunch of lineups.

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The Giants took advantage of their matchup versus the Falcons as best they could but ultimately couldn’t pick up a win on the road despite their most impressive team effort thus far. The Redskins defense has been the one competent thing they’ve had this year and they were able to really shut down Ezekiel Elliott last week. I don’t foresee them being able to do the same with Saquon Barkley but with his price now sky high, it’s a bit of a risky spot for him. Odell Beckham Jr. could be a guy who does get going if Eli Manning is able to avoid his own flaws long enough to get him the ball. I don’t mind Beckham and Evan Engram is cheap enough to be interesting too after a quiet first week for him returning from injury. But overall I’m inclined to think that this game is more ugly than not and I really don’t want much of it if people chase the Atlanta performance at all versus a Washington D who just isn’t that bad.

NY Jets (19 implied points) at Chicago Bears (26 implied points)

Rookie Sam Darnold posted a dreadful 17-for-42 line versus Minnesota at home last week and now he’ll get the hyper aggressive Chicago defense pinning their ears back to make him miserable. And that’s going to be a hard pass for me. The contrarian thought would be that somehow Darnold can get going but this low team total, his turnover tendencies, and the Bears’ defensive competence are a tough combination to talk yourself into. Maybe Jermaine Kearse is less of a jerk and actually catches a pass this week to spite everyone who rode him to zero catches on two targets last week but I’d be more inclined to play the Bears D than anyone here. Isaiah Crowell might be the one exception given his price and the chance of him getting more work with Bilal Powell out but you wouldn’t need much ownership there to get above the field.

Chicago may have a tougher time versus the Jets D than they will with the Jets O and I’m not super interested in the Bears when they’re shouldn’t need to put up points or have a really week defense on the other side. Maybe this is the Jordan Howard week we’ve been waiting for pretty much all season? Tarik Cohen is still the better play given how his price is still fairly reasonable too but Howard can’t be this bad forever. Seriously. Allen Robinson missed practice this week due to a groin injury and Taylor Gabriel as the WR1 coming off a poor effort versus New England would be interesting to me. Trey Burton got nine targets last week, his most of the year, and he could be a valuable safety blanket for Trubisky in the matchup again. It feels point chase-y though.

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Indianapolis Colts (26.3 implied points) at Oakland Raiders (23.3 implied points)

The Colts steamrolled an inferior team in the Bills last week and they get another very winnable matchup versus an Oakland team who’s been absolutely hideous versus the pass this season, including a 7.1% passing TD rate for opposing QBs. Andrew Luck and his 44.4 attempts per game should pair perfectly here and Luck will be one of my favorite QB plays on the week. TY Hilton also looks good for his price and target share and he could feast versus these Raiders. Marcus Johnson went on IR after looking like he was gaining Luck’s trust in recent weeks and with Ryan Grant not practicing, there should be some targets to be found for Chester Rogers or Zach Pascal. Jack Doyle returned to practice and his return will impact Eric Ebron even though both guys are playable despite that. Marlon Mack was the big story last week but he’s been missing practice and got downgraded throughout the week, not a great sign for him. Mack is great if he’s on the field but he may be worth a fade even if he suits up if he sees the field.

Oakland is likely reeling amidst a trade of Amari Cooper and reports that the team turned on Derek Carr after he cried on the field following an injury. They’ve also lost Marshawn Lynch to injury and it’s safe to wonder if this doesn’t end up with the Raiders booed off the field in one of their final games in Oakland. I’d expect Jared Cook to find himself highly targeted and I don’t hate Jalen Richard or Doug Martin given how much of an opportunity Lynch’s absence leaves behind. Jordy Nelson getting separation is still iffy for me and Martavis Bryant has yet to show any real connection with Carr. It sucks because this Colts pass D pretty bad, allowing a 72.1% completion rate, but I don’t see how or why you’d want to trust any of these dudes in what could be a listless game versus a Colts team who should be super confident after thrashing the Bills.

Green Bay Packers (23.8 implied points) at LA Rams (32.8 implied points)

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The Packers face the team with the highest total on the board and that should be a spot where you’d want Aaron Rodgers. The Rams D looked good for the first time in a while last week as they blew up the CJ Beathard chalk but I don’t think they’ll be able to do the things to Rodgers that they did to Beathard given Rodgers’ ability to adjust if, say, Aaron Donald was about to hit him 1,000 times in a game. Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb have returned to practice in limited capacities and look likely to start, likely dropping the intriguing Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the depth chart. Cobb working out of the slot would be more interesting to me after some weeks to get healthy. Davante Adams is the guy to look at with the receivers though with a 27% target share and him continuing to get 2.5 red zone targets per game. Jimmy Graham may see slightly less volume with Allison and Cobb back but he seems like a decent enough play too. The total here is lower than you’d hope but one would think this has one of the better shots at shooting out outside of the Bucs-Bengals game this week.

The Rams get a Packers D who hasn’t been good nor particularly bad this year and as is typically the case, everyone is in play again. Jared Goff and the receivers didn’t capitalize on Cooper Kupp’s absence and more concentrated target shares last week with the defense getting more than enough points to keep the Niners at bay. This week I could definitely see rolling out a full Rams onslaught again with Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods given the Packers’ higher likelihood of staying in the game and Kupp currently doubtful to see the field again. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to fade Gurley given what’s seemed like a locked in 30 points per game for him and he has a very real chance at setting a touchdown record this year. There will be better values at RB for sure but there is definitely some safety in just banking on Todd and sorting out the rest.

San Francisco 49ers (20.8 implied points) at Arizona Cardinals (21.8 implied points)

Last and certainly least we’ve got the 49ers heading into Arizona following a blowout where people decided “Yeah, it’s a good idea for me to trust CJ Beathard going against a sleeping giant Rams D.” But this week I think it does make sense to look back Beathard’s way versus a far more beatable Cardinals secondary. I’d likely favor George Kittle over Marquise Goodwin as the stack target given the Cardinals’ 21% boost to TE production via DVOA but both guys make some degree of sense. Matt Breida’s missed practice this week and Raheem Mostert has looked good given the opportunities he’s had. Mostert could be in a fantastic spot if Breida does miss the game while Breida is in a good spot if he ends up active.

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The Cardinals are coming off their own embarrassment versus the Broncos at home and maybe both these teams go full throttle on offense facing much more hospitable defensive competition than they saw last week. Josh Rosen has been really bad but the Niners have given up a ton of TDs to opposing QBs with a 6.1% passing TD rate along with brutal pass deflection and INT rates. Former QB Byron Leftwich takes over as the coordinator following the incompetent Mike McCoy’s firing and that could result in the offense being opened up far more. David Johnson too stands to be used better and given some of the offenses Leftwich has been a part of as a player, I would think he recognizes the value of splitting DJ out wide more and finding him the ball in a bunch of ways. Johnson could be one of the best plays on the slate and I’m reeeeeally curious to see his ownership. Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk would both benefit from any more competency in playcalling, as could Ricky Seals-Jones. I wish Vegas bought in a little more on this game but the more I think about it, the more I think there may be some reasons for hope given how truly dreadful McCoy offenses have been in a bunch of stops over recent years. Leftwich already seems to be making some improvements:

But I’m hoping that Leftwich’s experience in wide open offenses as a QB will translate to his philosophies as a playcaller. Spread these guys out and let them pick up yards, Byron, and both I and the Cardinals fans will all be happier for it.

There we go, the sort-of halfway point of my analysis of the NFL season is in the books. Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSpags, tune into the On the Contrary and the Live Before Lock show with me and Josh Engleman for more football talk this weekend, and I’ll see you guys next week with more.

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Chris Spags is the senior director of editorial strategy at Awesemo.com and contributes to the site's NBA, NFL, and MLB coverage as a writer and host of video content. Chris's content background from sites like Guyism, Uproxx, and Barstool Sports allows him to bring a unique spin to the world of daily fantasy sports analysis. Chris writes regular columns with NBA and NFL analysis as well as his inimitable style and his 'Four Corners' videos for basketball, baseball, and football DFS are the primary short form content offering on Awesemo's YouTube channel. You can find him on almost any given night providing analysis right up to slate lock on Awesemo's flagship Live Before Lock livestreams or on Twitter @ChrisSpags. You can contact Chris by emailing [email protected].

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