Week 8 of the NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the Buffalo Bills hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bills sit at 4-3 with some questionable losses on their resume. They’ve lost two of their last three games and even in the win during that span, they barely beat out the New York Giants 14-9. They’ve taken some licks on defense after losing Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano, and Da’Quan Jones in the span of a couple of games. We’ve seen the Bills play to the level of their opponent the last few games and a short week of prep could lead us to a similar game script in this matchup. On the other side of the ball, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost three of their last four and will now play four of their next five games on the road. Let’s take a look at the top plays and lineup strategies for Thursday’s NFL DFS Showdown contests on DraftKings and FanDuel!
Spread: Buffalo Bills (-8.5)
Over/Under: 43.0 points
Weather: Temps in the mid-60’s with overcast skies. Winds likely won’t exceed 10-12 mph.
TNF Injury Report
- Baker Mayfield, Quarterback – Probable (Knee)
- Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle – Questionable (Groin)
- Chris Godwin, Wide Receiver – Probable (Neck)
- Matt Feiler, Guard – OUT (Knee)
- Kaevon Merriweather, Safety – OUT (Ankle)
- Dawson Knox, Tight End – OUT (Wrist)
- Von Miller, Linebacker – Probable (Rest/Knee)
- Ed Oliver, Defensive Tackle - Questionable (Toe)
- Jordan Phillips, Defensive Tackle – Questionable (Back)
- Baylon Spector, Linebacker – OUT (Hamstring)
- Quinton Morris, Tight End – OUT (Ankle)
NFL DFS MVP/Captain Picks
Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
We have to account for the possibility that there could be a blowout. The Bills are sizable favorites, but I believe the Bills D/ST is in such rough shape that the Bucs can potentially keep pace in this matchup. Allen has posted at least 25 fantasy points on DraftKings in three of his last four starts. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in four straight games with the 300-yard bonus in two of those performances. The Bucs are quite stingy against opposing quarterbacks. They’ve kept them in check for the most part, but this is a plus matchup for Allen if Vita Vea can’t go. Allen has the dual threat passing and rushing upside that make him an ideal captain candidate on Showdown slates.
Just looking at his output on DraftKings and we can clearly see he provides a great floor and some outstanding, slate-breaking upside. Over his last three performances, he’s averaging 13 targets per game and he has at least six catches in every outing so far. He’s gone for 100+ receiving yards in five of seven games so far and we know he is Josh Allen’s favorite target. Defenses can try and scheme to take him away but good luck with that. He has a 33% target share on the season, and roughly a 40% first-read target share over the last month. He has all the qualities of an NFL DFS Captain candidate and we’ve seen potent passing attacks put up numbers on this Tampa secondary.
Chris Godwin won’t appear in this section but he’s still viable at Captain. But I can’t deny how good Mike Evans has been this year. The Bills, on paper, look tough against opposing wide receivers. But they haven’t truly been tested in their last couple games since they started sustaining several injuries. I’m also of the mindset teams really try to run the ball on them to keep the Buffalo offense off the field, but I digress. Evans saves you $2,000+ at Captain if you opt not to go with Allen or Diggs. When he’s on the field this year, Evans has roughly a 33% target share, a 28% target per route run rate, and he sees almost half of Tampa’s air yards. The passing volume may be down this year, but Evans’ efficiency has gone nowhere. His targets aren’t as consistent, nor as abundant, as Diggs’ but he still has at least eight targets in five of six games this year and he has four touchdowns as well.
What I’m going to start doing with the NFL DFS Showdown Playbook is recommending a Captain who may be in a leverage spot. Kincaid may not be as contrarian as I think, but I imagine most will take the savings and utilize him at Flex rather than play him at Captain. But he caught all eight of his targets last week and has yet to find the end zone in his rookie season. The Bucs have played zone coverage on roughly 68% of their defensive snaps this year and seven of Kincaid’s catches last week came against New England’s zone coverage. Without Dawson Knox, the idea is that he’ll see plenty of additional work. And he’s certainly gained plenty of experience this year with Buffalo putting an emphasis on 12-personnel. Last week was just a scratch at the surface of what he could do. Remember, in DFS you want to be early to the breakout and that could be tonight. If playing Kincaid at Captain, be sure to correlate him with Josh Allen in the Flex.
Mid-Tier & DFS Value Plays
I don’t have too much to say regarding Baker Mayfield, but he can go out and put up 15-20 fantasy points if there’s volume. We’ve seen quarterbacks have an uptick in success against Buffalo given all their injuries on defense. Mac Jones went for 250+ and two touchdowns last week. But prior to that, the Bills allowed just four passing touchdowns in their previous six games. I like to believe Baker is a better quarterback than Mac Jones and has more upside. However, I’m keeping expectations in check simply because this is a short week and these games can be ugly early on. But I still think Baker correlates well with any Tampa player you plug in at Captain.
James Cook, RB, Buffalo Bills
James Cook could become an even better play should Vita Vea be ruled out. However, that’s also a benefit to Latavius Murray. I don’t know if I can stomach Cook because he doesn’t get the high-value goal-line work. Cook is four inches shorter and about 40 pounds lighter than Murray. He’s just not built for the short-yardage involvement. However, he did catch a seven-yard pass for a touchdown last week, so he has some potential to score in the red zone. He’s used plenty between the 20’s and should touch the ball roughly a dozen times at minimum. The Bucs are pretty good against the run. They gave up 118 rushing yards to the opposing running backs of the Atlanta Falcons last week, but Atlanta needed over 30 attempts to get there. Should Vita Vea be ruled out then that’s certainly a bump to Cook in this matchup. If you’re in need of a paydown then it’s Latavius Murray ($4,800) but he’s very dependent on a touchdown.
I feel like we’re living in a simulation because Rachaad White is more expensive than Chris Godwin for this game. White is far from efficient, but he gets plenty of volume. He hasn’t even run for 80+ yards in a game this year, but he does have 83 rush attempts in six games all while averaging 3.2 yards per carry. But nobody else has made a case to cut into his workload. Plus, he’s involved in the passing game with at least three receptions in five straight outings. And to go with all that, he caught all six of his targets last week. He has just one touchdown on the year, but we can still get exposure to this guy because, as bad as he may be to watch, he rarely comes off the field.
Godwin’s ceiling isn’t as high as other players on this slate so while I won’t be playing him at Captain, we know he certainly has the talent to get there. He’s averaging 10 targets per game over his last three appearances so there is an effort to get him the ball. He’s a volume receiver out of the slot and the $7,800 price tag is actually pretty damn good given the talent level.
Now I hyped up a lot of the “on-field” metrics for Mike Evans because when he’s on the field he does get attention. But on the year as a whole, Godwin and Evans have an identical 24.9% target share. One has found the end zone four times, while the other hasn’t. We know the touchdowns will come at some point. Even if he doesn’t score on Thursday this is still an outstanding price.
Gabe Davis, WR, Buffalo Bills
Davis seems to find the end zone whenever I think he’s an awful play so he’s sure to go off tonight. After finding the end zone in four straight games, he’s done very little for season-long fantasy managers the last two weeks. And that speaks to the boom-or-bust nature of Davis. He has just 27 receiving yards over his last two games so he truly is a touchdown-dependent option. The target share isn’t consistent but it’s hard to ignore the big play upside with this play. Plus, he’s only $6,800 in this matchup which is too cheap for what his ceiling is. He has just two games this year with more than six targets so he will certainly make or break your Showdown lineup(s).
The kickers are more expensive than the D/ST’s tonight which always gives me some pause. Let’s start with Tyler Bass ($5,400), who has made just one field goal in his last three games and six extra points in that span. That’s a total of nine fantasy points on DraftKings. That’s not very good. At this price tag you certainly need volume. In the last five Thursday Night Football games we’ve seen 20 total field goal attempts. That averages out to roughly two per kicker and if you mix in some extra point attempts, there’s a path to double-digit fantasy points for these options. Tyler Bass is better than one field goal in three games. And if the Bills play to the level of their opponent then that opens the door for some possessions stalling in the red zone. Closer games lead to more field goal attempts. This isn’t a very good price tag for Bass, but you can make it work. Remember, we did see him go for 13+ fantasy points on DraftKings in three of his first four games this year. In Tampa Bay’s last four games, the opposing kicker has attempted three field goals, which is a good floor for Bass so long as he makes them.
Chase McLaughlin ($4,600) is an $800 discount off Bass and he has three straight games with exactly two field goal attempts. Through the first five weeks, the Bills were a tough matchup for kickers. But as you’ll see shortly, they haven’t been as good overall in their last few games. In back-to-back games coming into this meeting, the Bills have seen consecutive opposing kickers go three-for-three for double-digit fantasy points. The Bucs had some red zone blunders last week against the Atlanta Falcons, hence why the Dirty Birds won the ugly game at the end of the day. But with Buffalo hurting on defense, this is actually a good opportunity for Tampa to move the ball between the 20’s and maybe stall out for some field goal attempts. As always, you can correlate a kicker with their quarterback at Captain, but I wouldn’t play either of these two in that spot.
The Bills D/ST ($4,400) is actually priced rather reasonably. If this were a Sunday night game, I’d probably fade them. But it’s a short week and these Thursday games can get off to a bit of a rough start. But as mentioned at the top of the article, this unit is hurting and missing some star players. There’s also this telling tweet from Aaron Schatz of Fade The Noise:
Now what exactly happened in Week 5? The Bills went to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars and suffered a ton of injuries. Since then, this defense has been rather pedestrian. They collected just one sack and one takeaway last week against the New England Patriots, who boast one of the worst offenses in the league. The Bills are far from a slam dunk in this matchup but at least we can manage expectations with this week’s price tag. Keep an eye on the status of Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips.
It's hard to make a case for the Buccaneers D/ST ($3,600), but again it’s a short week for both defenses. I’ve mentioned this already but Vita Vea’s status is crucial to a lot of matchups for this game. And this is a position of variance. A pick-six can flip the script for either one of these two teams. The Bucs don’t generate a ton of pressure and they’ve taken advantage of several home games as they’ve had just one road game since Week 2. So I don’t the travel has taken too much of a toll on them this week. But at the same time, they’re up against an explosive offense and one of their best defensive weapons is a game-time decision. Josh Allen is prone to mistakes and questionable turnovers, but he’s only been sacked five times since Week 2.
NFL DFS Dart Throw Bargains
It’s curious to see how the Bills deploy their depth receivers but Shakir certainly is the third receiver at the moment. He was on the field for 24 offensive snaps including 20 pass plays. His involvement has steadily increased and it led to him catching all four targets last week, and he was asked to block on only two pass plays. It does seem like the involvement could stick with Knox out. I’m going to guess a lot of people skip over Shakir for more savings, but I love how he’s trending heading into this matchup.
Otton has variance and it depends on his involvement. Given how porous the Bills' pass rush has been lately, he may not have to block too much, which is great because he kind of sucks at it anyway. He had five receptions on six targets last week, but he has three or fewer targets in half his games this season. He’s a little touchdown-dependent but he has put up at least nine fantasy points in half his games this year.
This is a tough pill to swallow because Thompkins is not the likely third wide receiver for Tampa anymore. Trey Palmer ($4,200) is listed ahead of him on the depth chart and ran 31 routes last week. His price is tough to fit given the low floor, so I still might prefer Thompkins for the excess in savings. But be mindful, Thompkins did lose a fumble last week so he might be in the doghouse. But he does have at least three targets in four straight games entering this matchup.
I’ll always be interested in Harty whenever the Bills are on a Showdown slate. However, he has just two catches on two targets in the last two games. He ran fewer routes than Khalil Shakir last week, but with Dawson Knox ruled out there’s an opportunity for every value receiver in this offense to get some love. When Harty can do things like this, it makes you wonder why they don’t try to get him more reps…
Sherfield isn’t my favorite “punt” for the Bills but he played 23% of the offensive snaps this week. The general idea is that all the depth pieces on Buffalo see a few more snaps with Knox out. I’m not entirely convinced the Bills commit to as much 12-personnel with Ko Kieft as they did with Knox. This is the price point where we just need a couple catches from Sherfield. But for $600 more I would absolutely prefer Harty.