Outside the Huddle: Week 8

Fantasy football suggestions for when you face the player in your league who celebrated Todd Gurley’s touchdown last week as if he were the greatest team manager on the planet.

Before looking at any matchups these days, I ask myself three questions:

  • Who’s playing the Jets?
  • Who’s playing the NFC East?
  • How many picks will Kirk Cousins throw?

The Jets are playing the Chiefs, so you start every Kansas City player possible even if they’re on the practice squad. Same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the New York Giants and (checks blood pressure) the Philadelphia Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys, who have the worst-ranked passing defense in the NFL. Cousins will travel to Green Bay and may throw multiple interceptions as he tries to save his job and convince the Minnesota fan base that he was worth the $66 million extension he signed this offseason. Not that anyone will start him but Tua Tagovailoa will make his debut against the Rams, and I hope his hip has fully healed because when the Rams defensive line piles on top of him, it’s going to feel way different than those powder puff SEC defenses that Tua was used to while at Alabama.

Here are some scary matchups for what hopes to be a crazy Halloween weekend of football:

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (@ Bengals) or Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs Steelers)

Now that Tannehill is out of Miami, he’s emerged as a top-ten quarterback and has found something of a career resurgence with the Titans ever since taking over for Marcus Mariota. Last season, he nearly led Tennessee to the Super Bowl and earned the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year, which the NFL should rename the Thank You For Getting Me the Hell Away from Adam Gase Award. With 15 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, he will have the Titans offense rolling against a Cincinnati Bengals team near the bottom of every defensive statistical category. So why be worried? Well, if you could hand the ball off to Derrick Henry and let him manhandle a weaker defense, wouldn’t you? Henry had 212 yards against the Texans, so this game is shaping up to be a superior ground performance, which leaves Tannehill more as a glorified game manager.

Lamar Jackson, on the other hand, is playing the undefeated Steelers and their top-ranked defense in a crucial AFC North rivalry game. The Ravens have now scored 20 or more points in 29 consecutive games, equaling Kurt Warner’s “Greatest Show on Turf.” Typically, Jackson is a must start regardless of the opponent. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions and has run for almost 350 yards, including 100-plus yards against Philly last week. But the Steelers have the second-best run defense and give up a league-low 8.8 rushing yards against opposing quarterbacks. And Jackson is starting to develop a tic in big games. He wasn’t as productive against the Chiefs or the Texans this year and had one of the worst games in his career against the Titans in last year’s playoffs. His fantasy projections this week could be inflated.

Your angle: Lamar Jackson is a video game cheat code. You offer out that up-up-down-down-B-A-B-A-Start.

Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys (@ Eagles) or Allan Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears (vs Saints)

Amari Cooper was the first player to catch for over 1,000 receiving yards in his rookie season when he was with the Raiders, and his trade mid-way through the 2018 season rejuvenated a Dallas offense that had become too dependent on Ezekiel Elliot every week. With back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, Cooper developed great chemistry with Dak Prescott and was more than halfway to another big-yard season when Dak went down and Andy Dalton was nearly decapitated by Jon Bostic. With the loss of Prescott and now Dalton, the Cowboys will turn to Ben DiNucci, the pride of James Madison University, whose last start came against North Dakota State in the FCS national championship game. This is a classic great receiver, rookie quarterback trend, so expect a total collapse in Cooper’s numbers until Dalton returns.

The Chicago Bears are hoping to build on the relationship between Nick Foles and Allan Robinson, who vaulted into a top-ten receiver when Foles took over the starting job from Mitch Trubisky early in the season. Robinson had double-digit targets three straight weeks until the Bears spread the ball around against the Panthers two weeks ago. This week, the Bears will play the Saints, who have a top-ten fantasy scoring defense and are stronger against the run. Foles will be forced to air it out more, which is troublesome for Robinson as Foles has thrown an interception every game he’s played in this season. Robinson also took a big hit late in Monday night’s game against the Rams and entered concussion protocol. Though cleared to play, he’s one hit closer to another early exit and a longer layoff.  

Your angle: Ben DiNucci is the next Pro Bowl quarterback to come out of Division I-AA.

Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter. 

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