The 2018 NFL season rolls on, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.0 points per game per team. We could be in for another week of high scoring with a 10-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday, Oct. 28, at 1 p.m. ET.
With four teams on bye, two in London and six in prime-time games, we are without the following quarterbacks:
- Thursday Night Football: Dolphins (Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore) at Texans (Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue)
- International Series (London): Eagles (Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood) at Jaguars (T.J. Yeldon, Carlos Hyde)
- Sunday Night Football: Saints (Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram) at Vikings (Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray)
- Monday Night Football: Patriots (James White, Sony Michel) at Bills (LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory)
- Byes: Falcons (Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith), Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott), Titans (Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry) and Chargers (Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler)
For analysis on the smaller slates, consult Chris Raybon’s premium strategy guides (released throughout the week).
In writing this piece, I’ve relied primarily on the FantasyLabs Models. This breakdown is less of a comprehensive analysis of each running back and more of an introduction to this week’s players via our large suite of analytic DFS Tools. We’ll start with four high-priced running backs, follow with three rushers at the top of our individual Pro Models and finish with the rest of the slate’s fantasy-relevant backs.
For updates on Vegas spreads and over/unders, check out The Action Network Live Odds page.
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Highest-Priced Running Backs
This week, four running backs have top-five positional salaries on DraftKings and FanDuel.
- Todd Gurley: $9,800 DraftKings; $11,000 FanDuel
- Saquon Barkley: $8,800 DraftKings; $8,900 FanDuel
- Joe Mixon: $7,300 DraftKings; $7,800 FanDuel
- Kareem Hunt: $7,100 DraftKings; $8,100 FanDuel
Todd Gurley: Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) vs. Green Bay Packers, 56.5 Over/Under
UPDATE (10/27): Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) is officially doubtful and fully expected not to play.
If you listened to the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, you know how we feel about Gurley: You pretty much have to jam him into your lineup every week.
Ever since beard model and head coach Sean McVay joined the Rams, Gurley has easily been the best running back in football, leading the position with 28.3 DraftKings points per game and 3,049 yards and 33 touchdowns from scrimmage. Gurley has an 82.3% market share of snaps, and he’s the unquestioned alpha on the No. 1 team in The Action Network NFL Power Rankings. Barring an injury, he’s a mortal lock for at least 18 opportunities (rushes plus targets), a threshold he’s hit in every game in the McVay era.
Last week, Gurley had an unreal slate-high 70.15% ownership rate in the high-stakes Luxury Box guaranteed prize pool on DraftKings, and he responded with his third consecutive multi-touchdown game. We’re once again projecting him to be the slate’s most popular back, which makes sense: Gurley is the only back with at least 25.0 DraftKings points in every game this season. Of all the backs to play 10 or more games over the past two seasons, Gurley has easily the highest Plus/Minus at +8.27.
Gurley led the league (in 15 games) with 37 opportunities inside the 10-yard line last season, and he’s on pace to shatter that mark in 2018. Through seven games, he has 28 carries and five targets inside the 10, and that doesn’t take into account his two successful two-point conversions in Week 2. With Gurley’s goal-line opportunities and scoring prowess, it’s not a surprise that he leads all backs on the slate with 0.55 fantasy points per snap in point-per-reception (PPR) scoring. Additionally, Gurley leads all non-quarterbacks with his +500 odds to win the 2018 MVP award.
Green Bay should be rested and prepared coming off a bye, but Gurley has a decent matchup against the Packers, who rank 25th with a Pro Football Focus (PFF) rush-defense grade of 70.0. While the Rams’ offensive line ranks first with 5.74 adjusted line yards per attempt and a 12% stuffed rate, the Packers defense is 29th and 32nd with marks of 4.96 and 12%, respectively (Football Outsiders).
The matchup probably doesn’t matter for Gurley because of the focused way in which the Rams use him. Of all backs with 10 or more carries per game, Gurley has faced fronts of eight or more defenders on a league-low 9.03% of his runs (per Next Gen Stats). When the box is loaded, the Rams audible to the pass. As a result, Gurley tends to get the ball in matchup-neutralizing situations. If a team is running primarily when it has advantageous fronts, the overall strength of the opposing run defense matters less.
As a big home favorite, Gurley could benefit from a run-heavy game script. With wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) questionable to play after missing last week, Gurley could seize a larger portion of the goal-line work: Kupp leads the team and is top-six in the league with seven targets inside the 10. As a home favorite throughout his career, Gurley has averaged 1.12 touchdowns per game.
On Sunday morning, I might look to bet the over on Gurley’s rushing touchdown prop. In 22 games with McVay, Gurley has scored 24 touchdowns on the ground, and this year he’s scored as a runner in five of seven starts. Given that the Rams lead all teams with their 33.0-point implied Vegas total and that their game has the slate’s highest over/under, I like Gurley’s chances of putting one into the end zone.
To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 150-71-5, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
With his high usage, three-down ability and multi-touchdown upside, Gurley is a game script-independent potential GPP winner. Under McVay, the Rams have hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 17-of-23 games, and Gurley has position-high median, ceiling and floor projections in our Models and is tied for first with nine DraftKings and 15 FanDuel Pro Trends.
Saquon Barkley: New York Giants (PK) vs. Washington Redskins, 42.5 O/U
It’s hard to throw any shade at Barley just because the Giants were foolish enough to use the No. 2 overall pick on him. He’s just seven games into his career so this number will regress, but Barkley has a position-high 27.1 DraftKings points per game and +9.05 Plus/Minus among all running backs since 2014. He has hit his salary-based expectations in every game this year and is yet to have fewer than 22 DraftKings points in any game.
Here’s what I said about the rookie phenom in Barkley’s 2018 NFL Draft prospect profile.
Each year Barkley progressed. As a sophomore, he showed that he could handle a full workload, earning 300 touches in a breakout campaign. As a junior he became a bona fide threat in the passing game: He finished just three receptions off the team lead, and he was first among all Football Bowl Subdivision running backs in receiving yardage. Barkley is a complete three-down player, and as his two return touchdowns highlight he has the agility and speed to break long plays whenever he touches the ball.
Barkley as a prospect is no less impressive than the backs selected with top-10 picks in the past few years.
In fact, Barkley is more impressive than all of them: He’s a better receiver than Fournette and bigger than McCaffrey. Unlike Zeke, he produced as a freshman. Unlike Gurley, he’s not entering the NFL fresh off an ACL tear. And based on his combine performance, he’s the best athlete of the group. With his age, physical profile, and production, Barkley is the best running back prospect of the past decade.
Months later, Barkley hasn’t done anything as a professional to undermine that evaluation. Playing in an offense limited by quarterback Eli Manning and an offensive line that can neither pass block (8.4% adjusted sack rate, 25th) nor run block (3.21 adjusted line yards, 32nd), Barkley has just eight opportunities inside the 10-yard line this year. Yet he’s still averaging a touchdown per game thanks to his big-play ability: He has five touchdowns of 15-plus yards and three of 50-plus yards. Saquon doesn’t need to be near the end zone to score six points.
While Barkley’s average of 14.0 carries per game is less than ideal, he’s yet to have fewer than 10 rush attempts in a game and his receiving workload more than compensates for his rushing shortfall. He’s tied for first among all backs with his 61 targets and has sole possession of first with his 424 yards receiving. Among all players (including wide receivers and tight ends), he’s sixth with his position-high 49 receptions.
As impressive as Kamara and Christian McCaffrey were in the receiving game last year as rookies, no running back in NFL history has gotten more targets (61) or receptions (49) in his first seven career games than Barkley. Prorated to 16 games, those numbers extrapolate to 139.4 targets and 112 receptions, putting Barkley on pace to best not only Reggie Bush’s rookie records of 121 targets and 88 receptions (2006), but also the all-time records of 137 targets set by LaDainian Tomlinson (2003) and 102 receptions Matt Forte (2014).
With all the volume Barkley gets as a receiver, he’s had at least 18 opportunities in every game this year. Add it all up, and Barkley trails only Gurley, Gordon and Hunt with his seven touchdowns as a running back and is second in the NFL with 905 scrimmage yards.
Because of his usage, Barkley is a game-script and matchup-agnostic three-down back seeing 82.1% of his team’s offensive snaps. The division rival Redskins rank 26th against the run with a 1.1% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA — but that doesn’t really matter. One way or another, Barkley is getting his.
Barkley has a position-high 96% Bargain Rating on FanDuel.
Joe Mixon: Cincinnati Bengals (-4) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 54.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) is out. Center Billy Price (ankle) is doubtful.
Given that the spread opened at -6 and they have gotten 59% of the tickets so far (find live betting data here), the Bengals are on the wrong side of reverse line movement. So there’s room for caution with Mixon. After all, in Week 7 the Bengals scored just 10 points against a poor Chiefs defense. Even though they have another great matchup this week — the Bucs are dead last with a 22.6% defensive DVOA — it’s entirely possible that the Bengals could once again go full Andy Dalton.
The reverse line movement suggests that there’s significant sharp money backing the Bucs, which is concerning for Mixon as, even though he’s supposedly a game script-insulated player as a three-down lead back, throughout his career he’s had notable per-game win/loss splits.
- Wins (10 games): 13.8 PPR points, 16.7 carries, 2.8 targets, 2.4 receptions, 90.2 yards and 0.40 touchdowns from scrimmage
- Losses (nine games): 10.0 PPR points, 10.6 carries, 3.3 targets, 2.4 receptions, 55.2 yards and 0.33 touchdowns from scrimmage
Nevertheless, Mixon is a significant home favorite, which puts him on the beneficial side of his home/away and favorite/underdog splits. In three career games with double-digit carries as a home favorite of more than three points, Mixon has produced.
- Home favorite of at least -3.5 (three games): 20.0 PPR points, 18.7 carries, 3.3 targets, 3.0 receptions, 129.7 yards and 0.67 touchdowns from scrimmage
- All other situations (16 games): 10.5 PPR points, 13.9 carries, 3.0 targets, 2.3 receptions, 63.1 yards and 0.31 touchdowns from scrimmage
Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) missed Weeks 5-7 and did not practice on Wednesday. He’s extremely unlikely to play in Week 8. In his three games without Bernard, Mixon has averaged 15.3 rushes and 5.3 targets per game without having fewer than 18 opportunities in any of the starts. Mixon looks like a lock for 15-plus opportunities, probably more.
The Bucs aren’t just bad on defense: They are 30th in pass defense against running backs with a 29.6% DVOA — which should benefit Mixon significantly — and they are injured. They will definitely be without linebacker Kwon Alexander (knee), strong safety Chris Conte (knee) and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (shoulder), all of whom are on injured reserve. Additionally, Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (calf) and starting edge rusher Vinny Curry (ankle) sat out last week and have yet to practice this week.
Mixon is the highest-rated FanDuel back in the Freedman Model.
Also on the Bengals:
- Mark Walton: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
With Bernard out, the fourth-round rookie will once again serve as the backup. Over the past month, he’s averaged just 4.5 opportunities per game, failing to hit 40% of snaps played in any game or earn an opportunity within the 10-yard line.
Kareem Hunt: Kansas City Chiefs (-10) vs. Denver Broncos, 53.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Center Mitch Morse (concussion) will miss his second consecutive game. The interior depth of the Chiefs offensive line will be tested with backup center Jordan Devey (pectoral) and starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (fibula) both on injured reserve. With backups Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie tentatively expected to start at center and right guard, the efficacy of the Chiefs offense could be diminished.
Long gone is the memory of Week 1, when Hunt had 49 scoreless yards on 16 carries and no receptions. In Week 7, Hunt led all running backs with 37.1 DraftKings points on a 20-touch, 141-yard, three-touchdown performance. Even though head coach Andy Reid screwed over bettors with his end-of-game decision not to kick a field goal inside the 10-yard line, the Chiefs helped public bettors crush sportsbooks in Week 7. With Hunt averaging 19.9 opportunities, 109.7 yards and 1.28 touchdowns per game, the Chiefs are 7-0 against the spread (ATS) this year, the league’s only remaining undefeated ATS team.
On a per-game basis, they have …
- Outscored their implied totals by 10.1 points (No. 1 in the NFL)
- Surpassed their game total by 10.2 points (No. 1)
- Covered their spreads by 10.1 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs lead the league with 37.1 points per game and are nearly unstoppable on offense.
With his three-down skill set, Hunt has had only minor splits.
- At home (11 games): 21.2 DraftKings points, +4.19 Plus/Minus
- On road (12 games): 19.4 DraftKings points, +2.21 Plus/Minus
- As favorite (17 games): 20.3 DraftKings points, +2.76 Plus/Minus
- As underdog (12 games): 20.3 DraftKings points, +4.29 Plus/Minus
Still, it doesn’t hurt Hunt’s prospects that he’s a double-digit favorite at home. In Reid’s tenure as Chiefs head coach, Arrowhead Stadium has a league-worst 15-28-0 over/under record. No home team since 2013 has lost over bettors more money (-31.2% ROI) than the Chiefs (per Bet Labs). But most of those games were with a different quarterback. With Patrick Mahomes leading the offense, the Chiefs should put up points. Plus, this is the only game on the slate with two top-10 teams in situation-neutral pace.
Last year, Hunt underwhelmed against Vance Joseph’s defense in Week 8, turning his 22 carries and five targets into just 68 scoreless yards, but in a restful Week 17 he turned his one carry into a 35-yard touchdown (and an NFL rushing title). And in Week 4 of this season, he trashed the Broncos for 29.5 DraftKings points, 175 total yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, four targets and three receptions. Hunt should have little trouble exploiting Denver’s back-friendly funnel defense, which ranks second against the pass (-17.9% DVOA) but 29th against the run (4.3% DVOA).
Hunt is tied with Gurley for first with nine Pro Trends on DraftKings and 15 on FanDuel, where he’s the top running back in the Levitan Model.
Model Running Backs
Besides Mixon and Hunt, there are three running backs atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
- James Conner: $7,500 DraftKings; $8,000 FanDuel
- Isaiah Crowell: $3,700 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Peyton Barber: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
James Conner: Pittsburgh Steelers (-8) vs. Cleveland Browns, 49 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee) is out. Backup Matt Feiler is expected to start in his place.
Death. Taxes. Le’Veon Bell’s counterproductive holdout. As the Steelers entered the Week 7 bye, there was the expectation that Bell (contract dispute) would report to the team during the week, collect a paycheck for doing nothing and then play the rest of the season. One week later, Bell still isn’t with the team, which means that we should expect another game of Conner as the lead back.
Through his six games as the backup-turned-starter, Conner hasn’t been quite as good as Bell, but he’s been an elite arbitrage option in fantasy and reality, highlighting the extent to which Bell is replaceable at a fraction of the cost. (Side note: Bell needs to fire his agent.)
- Bell, 2014-17 (49 games): 24.5 DraftKings points, +3.09 Plus/Minus, 20.1 carries, 6.8 targets, 5.5 receptions, 137.5 yards and 0.69 touchdowns
- Conner, 2018 (six games): 25.2 DraftKings points, +9.34 Plus/Minus, 17.2 carries, 5.8 targets, 4.3 receptions, 118.3 yards and 1.17 touchdowns
While it’s possible the Steelers’ organization is trolling Bell by giving his backup so many goal-line opportunities — the one area in which Bell has been relatively deficient throughout his career is scoring touchdowns — it’s also possible that the team views Conner as a young runner capable of using his 6-foot-1, 233-pound frame in high-leverage, short-yardage situations.
Either way, Bell is not with the Steelers and Conner’s crushing as the starter. Conner has played on 85.3% of the offensive snaps and seen a whopping 91.4% of the backfield opportunities. He’s the only Steelers back with a carry (14) or target (two) inside the 10-yard line. With this type of workload, it’s no wonder he’s producing like an elite back.
In Week 1, Conner had his best game of the season against the Browns, putting up 38.2 DraftKings points in a 36-touch, 192-yard, two-touchdown road smackdown. Now at Heinz Field, where the Steelers have been significantly more productive (29.9 points at home vs. 22.5 away) since 2014, Conner is primed to punish the upstart Browns, who are dead last in the league with 60.6 and 35.9 PFF run-defense and tackling grades.
Conner is the back du jour in our Models. Raybon and SportsGeek have him as the No. 1 option on both DraftKings and FanDuel. Meanwhile, Levitan has Conner as the top back on DraftKings, while Bales, CSURAM88 and Koerner have him as the highest-rated back on FanDuel. Only in the Freedman Model is Conner not the top option on at least one of the platforms.
Isaiah Crowell: New York Jets (+7.5) at Chicago Bears, 45 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (groin, released) are out. Wide receiver Robby Anderson (ankle) is doubtful and fully expected not to play. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum (back) is questionable but tentatively expected to play.
Crowell is in a tough spot as a big road underdog facing a defense that has a league-best DVOA (-15.8%) and PFF run-defense grade (91.0) and is looking for redemption after giving up at least 30 points in each of the past two games. In the words of Coldplay, “Nobody said it was easy.” At least I think that’s how it goes. I don’t know. I don’t actually listen to Coldplay.
Crow is incredibly hard to trust due to his radical scoring splits this season. When he scores a touchdown, he’s a potential GPP winner. When he’s scoreless, he’s horrendous.
- With a touchdown (three games): 25.8 DraftKings points, +16.77 Plus/Minus, 100% Consistency Rating, 13.7 carries, 1.3 targets, 1.0 receptions, 128.0 yards and 1.67 touchdowns
- Without a touchdown (four games): 5.1 DraftKings points, -3.72 Plus/Minus, 0% Consistency Rating, 10.0 carries, 2.3 targets, 1.5 receptions, 36.0 yards and zero touchdowns
He clearly has a lot of downside, but there aren’t many backs who have his upside at minimal ownership.
On top of his volatility and low popularity, Crow has three factors in his favor this weekend. First, he’s cheap. He has a position-high 99% Bargain Rating on DraftKings, and with his salary he provides significant roster flexibility. Second, backfield partner Bilal Powell (neck) was just placed on injured reserve, so Crow should have most of the workload to himself.
Third, the Jets will be without wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (groin, released) and maybe Robby Anderson (ankle, questionable), who missed practice on Wednesday. With fewer established receivers, the Jets could lean more on the running game.
The Jets have a good defense: They are dealing with some injuries, but they are first overall with an 86.0 PFF coverage grade. If the Jets defense can limit Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, generate turnovers and keep the game close, then Crow could approach 20 touches through a run-heavy, ball-control game script.
Crowell is the No. 1 DraftKings back in the Koerner Model.
Also on the Jets:
- Trenton Cannon: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
Cannon has just 14 opportunities this season, 13 of which have come in fourth-quarter, mop-up duty. He did get 73 yards last week on two carries and five targets (four receptions) after Powell exited the game early, but he seems unlikely to play more than 25% of the snaps unless the game gets out of hand.
Peyton Barber: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4) at Cincinnati Bengals, 54.5 O/U
Despite being the starting running back for an offense averaging 27.8 points per game, Barber has scored seven-plus DraftKings points in one of six games this season. Of all the starting backs in the league, he without question has been the stone-cold worst. And now Barber (knee) is dealing with an injury he suffered late in Week 7. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and is questionable to play against the Bengals. As AC/DC puts it, “If you want blood, you got it” — because I actually do listen to AC/DC. Monitor Barber’s situation as the week progresses.
After rewarding investors with a 17-touch, 106-yard, one-touchdown performance against the exploitable Falcons defense in Week 6, Barber returned to mediocrity in Week 7, gaining just 30 yards on 11 carries and two targets and losing a goal-line touchdown to second-round rookie Ronald Jones.
But there is room for optimism (assuming that Barber is healthy by Sunday). Barber has played 55.8% of the offensive snaps and gotten 64.6% of the team’s backfield opportunities. In his 11 games since becoming the lead back in Week 13 of last season, Barber has averaged 16.1 opportunities per game, and as is the case almost every week, his ownership will be low.
He also has a good matchup this week. The Bengals have surrendered a top-five mark of 31.6 DraftKings points per game to opposing running backs. They’ve allowed every backfield they’ve faced to score at least 20 DraftKings points. On top of that, the Bengals defense could be without key run defenders in linebackers Nick Vigil (knee) and Vontaze Burfict (hip), both of whom are questionable and didn’t practice on Wednesday. Vigil missed Week 7, while Burfict exited the game early. They both seem unlikely to play.
Against an exploitable and injured defense, Barber has the potential to turn a couple of his touches into touchdowns.
Barber is the No. 1 back in the Bales, CSURAM88 and Freedman Models.
Also on the Bucs:
- Ronald Jones: $3,700 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
After playing no snaps in Weeks 1-3, Jones has averaged 7.7 opportunities per game over the past month, although more than half of them have come in garbage time. But with his superior receiving skills (83.3% catch rate vs. 50%) and 2-yard touchdown last week, Jones might start to steal more work from Barber.
Running Back Rundown
Here’s a quick look at the remaining fantasy-relevant backs on the slate.
Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers (+2) vs. Baltimore Ravens, 43.5 O/U
- $7,000 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
McCaffrey is coming off his two worst performance of the season (13.6 and 14.0 DraftKings points), and now he faces a Ravens defense that has held opposing backfields to an NFL-low 14.6 DraftKings points per game. McCaffrey has a team-leading 40 receptions and 299 yards after the catch, but the Ravens are No. 3 in pass defense against backs with a -35.3% DVOA.
Still, if you want to roster him in GPPs, use our Lineup Builder to stack McCaffrey with quarterback Cam Newton. Since 2014, No. 1 backs on average have had a 0.39 correlation with their quarterbacks. With Newton, McCaffrey has a robust 0.79 correlation on account of his receiving prowess. Last week, McCaffrey and Newton were stacked together in just 1.60% of Millionaire Maker Lineups, and this week their ownership rates will be significantly lower because of their matchup.
David Johnson & Chase Edmonds: Arizona Cardinals (+1) vs. San Francisco 49ers, 42.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Left guard Mike Iupati (head) and right guard Justin Pugh (hand) are questionable but tentatively expected to play after practicing on a limited basis all week. Backup guard Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring) is out, so the Cardinals will be thin at the position if either Iupati or Pugh misses the game.
- Johnson: $6,700 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel
- Edmonds: $4,200 DraftKings; $4,700 FanDuel
Right now on Bovada there’s a prop bet on whether Johnson will hit the 100-yard rushing threshold in any game this year. That’s how poorly the season is going for him. Based on his offensive line, Johnson is a potential fade candidate. But he still has six touchdowns on the season, and in the four games decided by no more than 10 points, he’s averaged 17.6 DraftKings points, 17.5 carries and four targets per game. In a 28-18 win over these same 49ers in Week 4, Johnson had his best game of the season with 21.2 DraftKings points, 71 yards and two touchdowns.
Edmonds is a low-efficiency change-of-pace back stealing 4.7 opportunities per game from Johnson.
Tarik Cohen & Jordan Howard: Chicago Bears (-7.5) vs. New York Jets, 45 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin) is officially questionable but reportedly expected not to play.
- Cohen: $7,100 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Howard: $6,000 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
Cohen saw just seven touches for 44.7 scoreless yards from scrimmage per game in Weeks 1-3, but he has since averaged 15.3 touches for 126 yards, one touchdown and 26.6 DraftKings points per game with a +17.29 Plus/Minus.
Those numbers are certainly noisy with the vicissitudes of big-play randomness, but his enhanced usage augurs well for the future. Howard had 21 touches per game in Week 1-3. Since then, he’s averaged 12.7.
Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson & Kapri Bibbs: Washington Redskins (PK) at New York Giants, 42.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Thompson (ribs) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) are questionable but tentatively expected to play. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) is out for Week 8.
- Thompson: $5,500 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Peterson: $4,900 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
- Bibbs: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
Thompson has missed the past two weeks. He practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but he also did that last week before sitting. He looks like a game-time decision. Dating back to last season, he is the No. 11 fantasy back with 15.8 DraftKings points per game and a +4.52 Plus/Minus.
Peterson (ankle/shoulder) is also dealing with injuries but is expected to play this week. In the midst of a renaissance campaign, Peterson is averaging 97 yards and 0.5 touchdowns from scrimmage per game, but he’s been a highly game script-dependent player. In victory, he has 18.0 DraftKings points per game with a +8.26 Plus/Minus. In defeat, 7.1 and -4.48.
In his two games without Thompson, Bibbs has averaged 9.2 DraftKings points with two carries and 3.5 targets per game.
Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines & Jordan Wilkins: Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Oakland Raiders, 50.5 O/U
- Mack: $5,400 DraftKings; $6,700 FanDuel
- Hines: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
- Wilkins: $3,800 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
Mack (ankle) is of course dealing with an injury, but he had a limited practice on Wednesday and is tentatively expected to play. Since returning to action in Week 6, Mack has averaged 22.6 DraftKings points on 18 opportunities per game. Mack is the league’s most north/south runner with a 2.76 Efficiency Rating (Next Gen Stats).
With Mack’s return, Hines has been relegated to low-usage role. In his four games without Mack, Hines has averaged 7.3 carries and 8.5 targets per game; with Mack, four and two.
Wilkins has been an afterthought since Mack returned, averaging just 3.5 touches per game over the past two weeks.
Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick & LeGarrette Blount: Detroit Lions (-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 49 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Riddick (knee) is out.
- Johnson: $5,300 DraftKings; $6,900 FanDuel
- Riddick: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,200 FanDuel
- Blount: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
With Riddick (knee) out last week, Johnson finally played the majority of snaps (59.4%), and he responded with a 21-touch, 179-yard performance. The 2017 SEC Offensive Player of the Year has 10-plus touches in each of his past five games, and he’s hit his salary-based expectations in each of them, averaging 14.7 DraftKings and 99.2 yards per game. The backfield committee isn’t going away, but Johnson is locked in as the lead back.
Blount has scored three touchdowns inside the 5-yard line over the past two games. He’s the least talented back on the roster, but his goal-line role is secure.
Riddick is yet to practice this week. He’s officially questionable, but he seems unlikely to play. If he sits, Johnson will once again benefit from an increase in snaps and work in the receiving game.
Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman & Devontae Booker: Denver Broncos (+10) at Kansas City Chiefs, 53.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Right tackle Jared Veldheer (knee) will miss his fourth game in a row. Freeman (ankle) is also out.
- Lindsay: $5,200 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Freeman: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Booker: $3,700 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
With the exception of the Week 3 Ravens game, from which he was ejected in the first half, Lindsay has averaged 11.8 carries, three targets, 2.5 receptions, 89.2 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. He’s only 5-7 and 185 pounds, but he’s the clear lead back.
Freeman (ankle) leads the team four red-zone rushing touchdowns, but he has faced boxes with at least eight defenders on a league-high 54.93% of his carries (Next Gen Stats) and is unlikely to play this week after exiting Week 7 with an injury and not practicing on Wednesday. His absence could mean even more touches for Lindsay and perhaps some extra work for Booker.
Booker has just 29 touches this season and has yet to play even 40% of the offensive snaps in any game.
Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Alfred Morris & Kyle Juszczyk: San Francisco 49ers (-1) at Arizona Cardinals, 42.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Breida (ankle) is questionable. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon (shoulder, knee) is out for Week 8.
- Breida: $5,000 DraftKings; $5,900 FanDuel
- Mostert: $3,800 DraftKings; $5,600 FanDuel
- Morris: $3,500 DraftKings; $5,400 FanDuel
- Juszczyk: $3,400 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Breida (ankle) exited Week 7 with a lingering injury, but he’s tentatively expected to play through his questionable tag, as he has all year. For the season, he has a team-high 79 touches, 535 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns and is the clear lead back in a committee when healthy.
After being relegated to the sideline in Week 6, Morris took advantage of Breida’s in-game injury last week to “earn” nine carries and one target, which he sublimated into an ascetic 25 yards. Morris easily leads the team with six carries inside the five-yard line, but in only one game this year has he hit 4.0 yards per carry.
Juicy averaged 3.8 targets per game for 2.8 receptions and 38.8 yards in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s eight starts with the 49ers. In backup C.J. Beathard’s four starts this season, Juicy has averaged four targets for 3.3 receptions and 34.5 yards per game. The change at quarterback doesn’t seem to have hurt the pass-catching fullback.
After entering the league in 2015 as an undrafted free agent and bouncing around for years, spending time with six different franchises before joining the 49ers, Mostert has seized a role in this backfield, averaging 9.7 touches and 58 yards over the past three games. If Breida happens to sit, Mostert could benefit from his absence more than Morris does.
Nick Chubb & Duke Johnson: Cleveland Browns (+8) at Pittsburgh Steelers, 49 O/U
- Chubb: $4,700 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Johnson: $3,900 DraftKings; $5,300 FanDuel
In his first game without the traded Carlos Hyde, Chubb capably played as the lead back last week, rushing for 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but he has just three targets on the season and was a receiving nonentity in college. Chubb leads all backs on the slate with 0.66 PPR points per opportunity (PFF), but if the Browns find themselves in a pass-heavy game script as large road dogs, Chubb could finish with fewer than 10 touches.
In the wake of Hyde’s departure, there was some optimism that Johnson would see an increased role within the offense. That wasn’t the case in Week 7. Johnson led all running backs with 1,741 yards receiving in his first three seasons, but he’s yet to have more than six touches in a game this season.
Alex Collins & Javorius Allen: Baltimore Ravens (-2) at Carolina Panthers, 43.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Left guard Alex Lewis (neck) is out. Rookie backup Bradley Bozeman is expected to start in his place.
- Collins: $4,600 DraftKings; $6,100 FanDuel
- Allen: $4,000 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
Collins has averaged 16.0 opportunities per game with the Ravens, but this year Allen has out-snapped him (46.3% vs. 42.3%), out-targeted him (33 vs. 18) and out-carried him within the 5-yard line (six carries, three touchdowns vs. five carries, one touchdown). Collins has hit his salary-based expectations on DraftKings in just 28.6% of games this year; the Sith Lord, 57.1%.
The Panthers have something of a funnel defense, ranking sixth against the run (-17.3% DVOA) but just 26th against the pass (15.8% DVOA).
Doug Martin, Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington: Oakland Raiders (+3) vs. Indianapolis Colts, 50.5 O/U
UPDATE (10/27): Left guard Kelechi Osemele (knee) is questionable.
- Martin: $4,400 DraftKings; $6,000 FanDuel
- Richard: $4,200 DraftKings; $5,700 FanDuel
- Washington: $3,400 DraftKings; $4,500 FanDuel
Coming off the Week 7 bye, the offense is now without running back Marshawn Lynch (groin, IR) and wide receiver Amari Cooper (trade). The departure of Cooper has moved this spread from a pick ’em, and the Raiders’ implied total has dropped a full two points to 23.5.
Martin is yet to hit a snap rate of even 25% in any game this year, but Muscle Hamster looks like the player most likely to pretend to replace Lynch as the lead back. Richard will continue to play as a game script-dependent pass-catching option out of the backfield. He has at least five targets in every game this season but one. Washington is perhaps the team’s most well-rounded back, but he’s yet to play a snap this year, which seems in keeping with Jon Gruden’s modus operandi.
Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny & Mike Davis: Seattle Seahawks (+3) at Detroit Lions, 49 O/U
- Carson: $4,300 DraftKings; $6,300 FanDuel
- Penny: $3,900 DraftKings; $4,800 FanDuel
- Davis: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,400 FanDuel
Coming off the bye, the Seahawks backfield should be reasonably healthy and rested. The Seahawks have a league-high 49.5% rush rate, and the Lions rank 30th against the run with a 5.5% DVOA. They just acquired nose tackle Damon Harrison from the Giants to act as an interior run stopper, but it’s uncertain how much he’ll play or how effective he’ll be in Week 8.
Although this backfield is often in flux, it’s currently led by Carson, who has 22.7 touches and 103.3 yards per game over the past month. Penny (finger) is dealing with a minor injury but is expected to be active. He played only on special teams in Week 5, but in Weeks 4 and 6 he got a combined 20 touches and 119 yards on 29 offensive snaps.
Despite putting up a 124-yard, two-touchdown performance in place of an injured Carson in Week 4, Davis has seen his touch count diminish since then (25, 14, 7). He has five carries inside the 10-yard line over the past three games, but he’s an unreliable player in an inconsistent offense.
Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams & Ty Montgomery: Green Bay Packers (+9.5) at Los Angeles Rams, 56.5 O/U
- Jones: $4,100 DraftKings; $5,800 FanDuel
- Williams: $3,600 DraftKings; $4,900 FanDuel
- Montgomery: $3,600 DraftKings; $5,000 FanDuel
Never before has quarterback Aaron Rodgers been this big of an underdog. The Rams are the only undefeated team left in the league at 7-0, but the spread for this game is way off.
Since last season, Jones has been the best runner of the trio with 5.6 yards per carry. TyMont has been the best pass catcher with 7.21 adjusted yards per attempt from quarterback Rodgers. And Williams has been the best pass protector with just one sack allowed in 80 pass blocks. This is a true three-headed backfield. Since Jones (suspension) returned in Week 3, none of them has hit a 45% snap rate in any game.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 8 positional breakdowns.
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Pictured above: Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30)
Photo credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports