Every week, at least one player becomes my fascination of whether he’s worthy of a fantasy football start as a streamer. The decision can be a mental wrestling match, but for the purpose of brevity, only one player can be chosen as the fantasy football gamble of the week.
The best fantasy football gamble for Week 8
Tracking my predictions: 2-5-0
Win: Player produces ≥ 75% of projected fantasy points
Loss: Player produces >75% of projected fantasy points
Tie: Player is ejected, leaves with an injury, or lands on COVID-19 list after publishing
2021 record: 8-9-1
2020 record: 5-10-1
I’ve made a couple of unlucky calls this year, but last week’s choice of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan was so bad that I cannot help but feel like I jinxed him all the way to the pine. In all reality, it wasn’t that poor of a prediction, since he was only 3.9 percent away from qualifying as a win.
No one entered last week thinking Ryan was the future of the Colts’ seemingly never-ending quarterback search, but few people could have seen him getting perma-benched after Week 7 on a team that has been a mess from top to bottom and left to right. While I’m not going to pretend like he hasn’t lost something from a physical standpoint, it’s still an unfortunate way to see a respectable career come to an untimely demise. Barring a bizarre trading scenario midseason or his 2023 release leading a desperate team seeing if there’s one last gasp in him, we’ve likely witnessed the end of Ryan’s time in the NFL.
Regardless, we still need to march on, so this week’s inclusion is another with tremendous risk but an equally exploitable matchup.
As mentioned, it should be abundantly clear to anyone considering Smith this week that the matchup is the driving force here. For his part, Smith as at least four targets in every game since Week 1’s two-look shutout, and he hasn’t seen more than six passes come his way following an eight-target Week 2.
The results just haven’t been there. A 62 percent catch rate is adequate, though Smith hasn’t done anything with the receptions. He posted a 4-42-0 line in Week 5, which was followed up with an impressively bad seven-yard performance on four catches in Week 6. Smith scored a TD to salvage some value in that one.
Minnesota returns from its bye week to face an Arizona defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points per game to the position in PPR scoring. No team has allowed more receptions, and only Seattle permitted more yardage in the first seven weeks of the season.
The Seahawks rank as the easiest defense to exploit after giving up three rushing touchdowns to the position, which is due to facing “tight end” Taysom Hill. Remove those TDs and Arizona is by far the weakest unit vs. pass-catching tight ends. Six players have scored 10 or more fantasy points against the Red Birds, and four of them were good for 17 or more points in PPR.
Kirk Cousins has arguably the top receiver in the game in Justin Jefferson, a proven veteran WR2 in Adam Thielen, and an underrated third outlet in K.J. Osborn, not to mention a capable checkdown in Dalvin Cook. Arizona’s defense of the receiver position has been technically neutral but extremely adept at preventing touchdowns. The last 63 catches by WRs have resulted in exactly one trip into the end zone.
Receivers have posted the 12th-most receptions and 13th-most yards per games in the last five weeks vs. the Cards. The matchups on the outside and shading to slow Jefferson should lead to more action for Smith, and the strength of this defense — the limitation of touchdowns for receivers — is an encouraging sign for the typically judicious Cousins to direct red-zone passes Smith’s way.
Tight end is a volatile position. Between injuries, bye weeks, and erratic play, it’s typically frustrating to find midtier plays from week to week. If streaming the position is your thing by choice or necessity, Smith is among the more favorable gambles of Week 8.
My projection: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 49 yards, 1 TD (15.9 PPR fantasy points)