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Week Eight matchups to exploit or avoid

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Recent posts by William Del Pilar

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Posted Oct. 26, 2011 @ 12:20 p.m. ET
By William Del Pilar

When an NFL team loses 62-7 you have to view it as a fluke, ignore all the numbers and move on. The only thing to take from a game like that are injuries and no more. If you're a Saints fan, enjoy it. if you're a Colts fan, it was a reality check to the season your team is experiencing.

Week Eight brings the following teams on bye: Falcons, Bears, Packers, Jets, Raiders, Buccaneers. That means you lose RBs Michael Turner, Matt Forte, WRs Greg Jennings, Plaxico Burress, Darrius Heyward-Bey and TE Jermichael Finley.

Exploit

RB Chris Johnson, Titans (vs. Colts)
CJ2K is the nickname many use for Johnson, but he's playing nothing like a 2,000-yard rusher so far this season. He has a three-game average of 15.7 attempts for 56.7 rushing yards and 0.3 TDs on the ground, plus 3.67 receptions for 17.3 receiving yards and zero TDs as a receiver. His numbers have been dropping over the last two games after a 101-yard performance in Week Four. The Colts' visit is timely because over their last four games they're allowing 227.5 offensive yards and 1.25 TDs. If C.J. can't exploit this matchup, it's time to trade him.

QB Curtis Painter, Colts (at Titans)
Painter had a horrific Week Seven, going 9-of-17 for 67 yards and zero touchdowns with one interception. He won't forget the 62-7 beat-down the Saints gave the team. I hope he can just put it aside, not let it affect him, take what he can from it and move on. This week he's facing a Titans squad that started the season strong but has faltered the last few weeks. Over the last three games they're allowing opposing quarterbacks 291.3 yards and 2.67 TDs per game. Painter isn't being starting in typical leagues, but in larger leagues and high-stakes leagues, some are desperate and this is a matchup he can exploit.

RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers (at Chiefs)  
Mathews (thumb) has another minor nagging injury, but he's playing through it. He's facing a Chiefs team that is playing great football against opposing backs. Over their last three games they're only allowing 94.7 rushing yards and 0.3 TDs to the position. They're also allowing opposing backs 24 receiving yards per game, for a total 118.7 offensive yards. Combine that with Mathews' solid play against them earlier this year (21-98-2 rushing, 4-51-0 receiving), and this is a matchup he can exploit. 

WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens (vs. Cardinals)
Boldin clearly is not the receiver he once was, with a three-game average of 4.3 receptions for 66.7 yards and 0.3 TDs on 7.67 targets per game. In fact, out of those three, he only had one good game (8-132-0), which skews his numbers. Luckily, he's facing a Cardinals team that is allowing opposing wide receivers 210.3 yards and one TD per game this season. This is a matchup he can, and should, exploit.

WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins (at Giants)
Marshall's been playing good football despite how fantasy owners perceive the QB situation in Miami. He has a season-average of 5.67 receptions for 80.5 yards but only 0.17 TDs per game on 10.17 targets per game. He's obviously the No. 1 receiving option. He's facing a Giants squad allowing 200 yards and 1.3 TDs per game over their last three to opposing WRs. Barring a QB meltdown, he can exploit this.

WR Jabar Gaffney, Redskins (at Bills)
WR Santana Moss (hand) is out 5-7 weeks, meaning Gaffney is now the No. 1 receiver. He's the team's steadiest player, averaging 3.8 receptions for 60.2 yards and 0.17 TDs on 7.17 targets per game. He's facing a Bills team that's allowing 215.7 yards and 0.67 TDs per game over their last three. There are questions about Gaffney's ability to be a No. 1 and successfully face the top corner every game. I'm not sure he can, but this game could be a shootout, meaning he'll have ample opportunities to post some points. The matchup to exploit is there. 

TE Evan Moore, Browns (at 49ers)
For those desperate for a tight end, Moore may be the primary pass-receiving TE this week as there's a chance Benjamin Watson (concussion) doesn't play. Watson was the third-down guy but Moore was supposedly the redzone threat. Watson has a season-average of seven targets per game whereas Moore's season-average is only 3.5, so we're looking at a few extra targets this week. That's big because the 49ers are allowing, over their last three games to the position, six receptions for 54 yards and 0.67 TDs per game. In larger leagues this is a potential matchup to exploit.

Avoid

QB Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (at Ravens)
I took a phone call Tuesday morning from a longtime friend who's been playing fantasy football for many years, and he still believes Kolb can be a solid fantasy quarterback. He was wondering if he's worth starting against the Ravens because they lost Monday night to a bad Jaguars team led by a rookie QB. Since he's a good friend, I didn't hold back and simply asked him what he's been smoking? Blaine Gabbert only threw for 93 yards, and the only positive note I saw was zero interceptions. Before assuming anything, always look at the stat line when you decide who to pick up, drop, start and bench. Kolb did have a solid fantasy game last week throwing for 272 yards, two TDs and one interception, but the Ravens' secondary has clamped down since the season started. Over the last three games, they're only allowing opposing QBs 144 yards and 0.3 TDs per game. Kolb has a difficult matchup and you should avoid it.

RB Montario Hardesty, Browns (at 49ers)
I love the heart Hardesty showed us last week going 33-95-0 rushing and 2-27-0 on two targets, but it took him 35 touches to get to that point. This week he's facing a revitalized 49ers squad that, over the last three games, is only allowing 58 rushing yards and zero TDs per game. They are weak at defending pass-receiving backs, but Hardesty is not a natural receiver, which hurts, as they're allowing 53.7 receiving yards and 0.3 TDs per game. Avoid this matchup if you can.

RB Alfonso Smith, Cardinals (at Ravens)
Smith is a hot waiver-wire pickup this week, but that may be a knee-jerk reaction. Beanie Wells (knee) should be back in 1-2 weeks. He only went 5-17-1, an average of 3.4 yards per carry, but in his defense, the team was playing from behind and the Steelers are reverting to their "Steel Curtain" roots. He goes from the Steel Curtain to face the Ravens. The Ravens uncharacteristically gave up 105 rushing yards to Maurice Jones-Drew, but I don't think Smith is the player M.J.D. is. The Ravens are only allowing 86 rushing yards and zero TDs per game over their last three contests. This isn't the matchup you want; avoid it.

WR Steve Breaston, Chiefs (vs. Chargers)
Breaston's been playing well. Last week he went 5-64-0 on nine targets and has a three-game average of 6.3 targets for 4.3 receptions, 68.3 yards and 0.7 TDs per game. I'm a big fan of the underdog, and he's done well considering how badly the Chiefs have looked at times this season. However, he faces a Chargers' team only allowing 68.7 receiving yards and one TD per game over their last three. In his only game against them, he was 3-55-0 on five targets. Not a horrible matchup, but with rookie WR Jonathan Baldwin back from injury, he'll cut into some of his targets. Avoid him if possible.

WR Jacoby Jones, Texans (vs. Jaguars)
Who doesn't have a love-hate relationship with Jones? He's what I call a tease. When you're ready to give up on him, he has a great game like he did in Week Six against the Ravens, going 4-76-1 on seven targets. Then, he'll immediately tank it the following week, like he did Sunday against the Titans, going 2-27-0 on four targets. He has season-average of 2.17 receptions for 33.8 yards and 0.17 TDs per game. It's time to be realistic: With Andre Johnson (hamstring) possibly returning this week and a Jaguars team allowing 127.3 yards and 0.75 TDs to opposing wide receivers over their last four games, avoid him.

WR Braylon Edwards, 49ers (vs. Browns)
Edwards (knee) is due back from his surgery and before going down had a two-game average of 2-24-0 on 4.5 targets. Hardly numbers to earn an instant start upon his return. The team is playing better overall so Edwards has value, but he's facing a Browns team that's only allowing 99 yards and 0.3 TDs to the position per game, over their last three. Let's watch Edwards first as I believe he could have fantasy value in the second half of the season. Right now, avoid this matchup.

TE Jake Ballard, Giants (vs. Dolphins)
Ballard's on a pretty good three-game run, averaging 3.67 receptions for 62 yards and 0.67 TDs, and has quietly slipped by most owners. He's facing a Dolphins team that is struggling offensively with the national spotlight on head coach Tony Sparano and his job security. However, his team is doing one thing well, and that's defending against opposing tight ends. They're only allowing 35.7 yards and 0.3 TDs per game over their last three, making this a matchup to avoid.

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