Week 8 Offensive Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar plays for Week 8


Joe Flacco (at Carolina)

Save for an ugly overtime loss at Cleveland, Flacco has at least been an adequate fantasy quarterback every week, and a good one in good matchups. This week brings a plus matchup at Carolina against a defense that has allowed multiple passing scores in each of the last five games (including to Alex Smith), and over 300 yards in three of five (including to Eli Manning). Flacco has been remarkable when it comes to getting on the same page as his trio of new receivers and they should be able to win against the Carolina corners.

Case Keenum (at Kansas City)

The Chiefs matchup for quarterbacks let us down last week when the Bengals folded up shop in the third quarter, and in the first Denver/Kansas City matchup in Week 4, when the Broncos defense held down Patrick Mahomes for three quarters and Keenum wasn’t asked to carry the offense. This week in Kansas City, he’s more likely to be forced to throw to keep up with Mahomes. Keenum has over 300 yards and multiple passing scores in each of the Broncos last two losses, and the release of Chad Kelly removes the threat of Keenum getting benched in the second half if things aren’t going well. There’s risk here, but the game script should dictate good numbers from Keenum and the Broncos passing game.

C.J. Beathard (at Arizona)

Beathard had a rough time of it against the Rams defensive line last week, and the Cardinals pass rush is no pushover, but he notched three total touchdowns against them a few weeks ago, and he adds value as a runner. Beathard didn’t have Marquise Goodwin in the earlier loss when he also threw for over 300 yards, and he might get back Dante Pettis, who was also out in Week 5.

Running Back

Raheem Mostert (at Arizona)

Check back on Matt Breida’s status as there is some hope that he could play this week despite yet another game that was cut short because of injury last week, but as long as Breida out, Mostert will be good to go as a bye RB2 or flex. He has showed much more burst than Alfred Morris, and he’s a better receiver out of the backfield. The Cardinals have consistently been one of the easiest matchups for running backs this year, and the 49ers backs put up 140 rushing yards and over 100 receiving yards against them in the first matchup.

Jordan Howard (vs NY Jets)

Howard’s profile has dropped enough that he fits in this column, but this week should get him back in the good graces of his fantasy teams. The Jets have allowed two scores to the opposing #1 back in each of their last three losses, and the outlook isn’t good for them with an undermanned offense and defense this week. Howard should have had two scores last week, but one was wiped out by penalty, and he should also have a chance to post his best rushing numbers of the year if the Bears can build a lead.

Jalen Richard (vs Indianapolis)

Richard is the Raiders running back to play if you think they are going to be behind big in the second half and that is certainly possible with the red hot Colts coming in on Sunday. He gobbles up receptions when the Raiders are losing with 6,7 and 9 catches when the Raiders have lost by double digits this year. It’s unknown how the team will respond under Jon Gruden to knowing that they are playing out the string this year without their #1 receiver, but if they can’t answer the bell, Richard will be a big part of the second half offense.

Trenton Cannon (at Chicago)

The speedy scatback gets his chance this week with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire on injured reserve (McGuire could be back next week) and the team down to scraps at wide receiver. If the Jets fall behind to a superior Bears team on the road, Cannon should get a lot of snaps in the second half, which was good enough for him to post 4-69 as a receiver last week.

Kenjon Barner (at Buffalo)

If the Patriots don’t call Kenneth Farrow up from the practice squad this week, Barner should be in line for double digit touches and potential goal line opportunities for a team that hasn’t scored less than 38 points since Week 3. Barner is a decent pass catcher out of the backfield and a competent runner, which is enough to create fantasy relevance in this prolific offense. The Bills were gashed by Marlon Mack and the Colts running game that hadn’t done that anyone so far this year, so the Patriots should be able to take advantage.

Wide Receiver

Taylor Gabriel (vs NY Jets)

Gabriel had his first quiet week in three games against the Patriots last week, but that was in part because Bill Belichick respected Gabriel enough to play deeper coverage to prevent Gabriel from getting open for a long reception or score - which in turn gave Trey Burton a lot of room to roam in the middle of the field, fueling his biggest game of the year. This week, Gabriel is facing a Jets secondary that is down to a third string free safety and has been nursing injuries at corner all season. He should pick up where he left off in Week 5.

Tre’Quan Smith (at Minnesota)

Smith clearly took over as the #2 receiver last week against the Ravens, and he should be in for a bigger game, likely to avoid Xavier Rhodes in the Sunday night showdown vs. the Vikings. Minnesota’s defense collapsed against the last top end passing attack they faced, allowing all three of the top Rams receivers to have at least 100 yards and a score, which bodes well for the explosive Smith’s chances to get free in the secondary at least once for a long gain and possible score this week.

Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant (at Houston - Thursday)

Amendola and Grant should be in the crosshairs often on Thursday night with Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson out for the tilt with the Texans. Amendola has at least six catches and 59 yards in each of the two Brock Osweiler starts, and Grant fits into the Wilson role, getting short passes that allow his speed and quicks to create big plays, as Wilson did with two long scores against the Bears from Osweiler in Week 6. Both should up rack up targets with the Dolphins emphasis on the short passing game and DeVante Parker active, but clearly out of favor with the coaching staff.

Josh Reynolds (vs Green Bay)

Reynolds was a dud in place of Cooper Kupp last week, but the game script didn’t ask Jared Goff to throw a lot. That should change this week against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers, who will be as healthy as he’s been since the beginning of the season and have his full complement of receivers available. The Packers defense has allowed multiple scores to opposing wide receivers except they faced Buffalo and when the Bears put the offense on moth balls in the second half in Week 1. Reynolds has a chance for a startable fantasy game in what should be a high-scoring affair.

Chester Rogers (at Oakland)

Rogers still had four catches on a day that Andrew Luck only threw 23 times, so he looks like he’ll still be a solid part of the pass offense even with the return of TY Hilton. In two of the last four games the Raiders secondary has allowed three different wide receivers to score, and if a wide receiver other than Hilton scores in this one, it’s likely to be Rogers, who has at least 4-40 in each of the last four games.

Tight End

Ben Watson (at Minnesota)

Watson had his best game of the year last week in his return to Baltimore, and he’s set up to be a good streamer this week against the Vikings. Minnesota has given up a tight end touchdown or at least 90 receiving yards to tight ends in every game except the loss to the Rams, when the Los Angeles receivers sliced and diced their secondary. Watson has had at least four catches in three of the last four games and appears to be a steady part of the passing game even with the return of Mark Ingram.

Chris Herndon (at Chicago)

Herndon has scored in back-to-back games and he was inches from a second score last week against the Vikings. The Jets are down to Jermaine Kearse, Andre Roberts, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett and the newly signed Rishard Matthews at receiver with Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa banged up and Terrelle Pryor released. Herndon should remain a focal point of the passing game, building on his chemistry with Sam Darnold, and trying to cash in against a Bears defense that has allowed a tight end score in four of the last five games, with only the Gronk-less Patriots failing to do so.

Vance McDonald (vs Cleveland)

McDonald probably shouldn’t be a sleeper with strong numbers in three of his last four games, but just in case you need a nudge to start him coming off of his bye, the Browns allowed a 5-67 line to OJ Howard last week (and 12 total tight end receptions to the Bucs), a 8-110-2 line to Jared Cook (and three more receptions to Lee Smith in the same game), and 3-60 to Jesse James in the first meeting with the Steelers.

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