If you drafted wisely and have a strong bench, you will likely face lineup decisions on a weekly basis. Those decisions can often make or break fantasy seasons. For example, owners who started Kirk Cousins or Matthew Stafford over Matt Ryan or Carson Wentz may have won in Week 7 due to a risky or bold call. However, if you decided to play Devonta Freeman or Kenny Golladay over Latavius Murray or Marvin Jones, the decision may have cost you a victory. It’s small lineup decisions like those that can leave fantasy owners saying the dreaded words: “My bench outscored my starters.” Well in order for that not to happen, it’s vital to be aware of players drawing tough matchups who pose a significant risk to your fantasy success. Let’s take a look at several players who check that box in Week 8.
As always, I’m not telling you to bench all of these guys. But take a look at your bench and consider whether you have a better option.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (at NO)
Murray (owned in more than 99% of leagues) had his first subpar fantasy performance of his rookie season in Week 7 against the Giants, accounting for just 132 total yards and no touchdowns. Owners had become accustomed to prolific yardage output, both through the air and on the ground from the dynamic young signal-caller, as he had previously topped 300 total yards in four of his first six career games.
This Sunday will be the start of the toughest span of games for the rookie quarterback. it all begins with a road trip to New Orleans to take on the 6-1 Saints. New Orleans, which currently boasts the sixth-best defense in the league, will be the toughest opponent Murray has faced through seven games. Murray falls out of the top-12 in Week 8. Owners are better served streaming Vikings QB Kirk Cousins or Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater, both of whom have much more favorable matchups than Murray. In information provided to Sports Illustrated courtesy of Vegas Whispers, the sharps out in Vegas have begun supporting the Saints at the betting windows, laying the 9.5 points on the home favorite, further indicating Murray could struggle to produce at the level his fantasy owners have come to expect.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (at NE)
Mayfield (owned in more than 75% of leagues) returns after the Browns’ bye week to face the best defense in the NFL on the road in Week 8. Nursing a hip injury, Mayfield is a complete fade against a Patriots’ defense that forced Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to 'see ghosts'. Mayfield has struggled playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in the NFL. It doesn’t help that he will face a New England defense that has held three-of-seven opposing quarterbacks under 200 total yards and four-of-seven foes out the end zone.
We advised you here at SI Fantasy back in Week 2 that the Patriots would be the top scoring defense in 2019. That has certainly come to fruition. New England is on pace to shatter several NFL records en route to becoming one of the most dominant units in league history. If what the experts out in Vegas believe is accurate, making this a two-touchdown point spread, then Mayfield himself may be seeing more than just ghosts at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (at LAR)
We highlighted Mixon in this very spot last week and he once again proved he could not be trusted, posting just two yards on 10 carries. Mixon (owned in 100% of leagues) has become hard to roster, let alone start, scoring only one touchdown on the season and failing to top 7.4 PPR fantasy points in four of his seven games this season. Mixon has averaged a woeful 0.66 yards per rush in his last two games against the Ravens and Jaguars. He has gained fewer than 20 yards on the ground in four of his seven games overall.
The third-year back faces a Rams’ defense in Week 8 that just shut down a powerful Falcons offense and punished Matt Ryan in Week 7 (five sacks causing three turnovers). Mixon and the entire winless Bengals offense has been so disappointing, fantasy owners should not trust Mixon as more than a dart throw flex at best. The once promising running back has only finished higher than an RB2 once all season. That says quite a bit after seven weeks of action.
Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills (vs PHI)
Gore (owned in more than 89% of leagues) has quietly been solid this season, posting double-digit PPR fantasy points in half of his outings. However, he now faces an Eagles defensive unit that has allowed just four touchdowns to opposing running backs. Not to mention, Philadelphia has allowed only one running back to top 100 yards on the ground all season long (Ezekiel Elliott). The Bills may look to beat the Eagles through the air since the Birds have the sixth-worst pass defense and have allowed 14 touchdowns in seven games. Gore is a volume-based, touchdown-dependent flex starter in Week 8. Owners should be wary of starting him, especially with Devin Singletary vulturing carries. Buffalo should look to get the rookie more involved in the offense following his return from injury.
Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns (at NE)
Landry (owned in more than 93% of leagues) has scored single-digit PPR fantasy points in three of his six games this season and has failed to find the end zone in 2019. Landry, who is nursing a sore ankle, won’t get any relief in Week 8 when he faces the league’s best defense in the New England Patriots. The Patriots have allowed just one passing touchdown in seven games. They have have held all but one opposing wideout (Golden Tate in Week 6) under 78 yards receiving. In information provided to Sports Illustrated courtesy of Vegas Whispers, the sharp money out in Vegas was so strong and heavy supporting the Patriots that the books were forced to adjust the opening line of -10.5 points to the current line of -13 presently seen all around town.
DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers (at SF)
Moore (owned in more than 98% of leagues) has been great this season, posting 13-plus PPR fantasy points in five-of-six games this season. However, the second-year wideout will draw the best pass defense in the NFL in Week 8. The undefeated 49ers totally shut down the Browns and Rams passing attacks in recent weeks.
The 49ers have not allowed an opposing wideout to top 30 yards receiving over the past two games. The Panthers' offense could struggle mightily on Sunday when quarterback Kyle Allen, who has led the Panthers to four straight wins since taking over for the injured Cam Newton, makes his most difficult road start of his young career. Moore is a boom-or-bust fantasy option in Week 8. Owners should temper expectations.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (at BUF)
Ertz (owned in 100% of leagues) has just six receptions for 92 yards over his last two games. Shockingly, the elite tight end has just one touchdown on the season. Ertz, who required premium draft capital to acquire this summer, has disappointed owners despite posting double-digit PPR fantasy performances in five-of-seven games. Yardage has been the problem, as he has 57 or fewer receiving yards in four games thus far. He will now match up against a Bills’ defense on the road that has not been kind to opposing tight ends. Buffalo has surrendered just 17 receptions (2.8 avg/gm) for 192 yards (12 yds/gm) and no touchdowns in six contests. Fantasy owners need to temper expectations in Week 8 as the frustrations felt the last two weeks with Ertz’s production could continue for a third consecutive game.
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