This is NFL Week 8 Underdog Best Player Pick ‘Ems! This is your spot for finding the best-value weekly spots to pick whether players will go higher or lower than their projection. As usual, if you want weekly audio content for pick ‘ems, including getting in early on some lines that will move early in the week, check out the Pick ‘Em Power Hour every Wednesday and Friday with us hosts, Ahaan S. Rungta (@AhaanRungta) and Trevor Tipton (@FFCULater).
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Ahaan’s Week 8 Picks
Puka Nacua (LAR) LOWER than 75.5 receiving yards
The rookie Puka Nacua has had a historic start to his NFL career. Last week, we took his higher on receptions in a dream matchup. This week, we’re fading the overreaction. Nacua has averaged 125 receiving yards per game on 119 air yards per game without Cooper Kupp starting. Since Kupp’s return, Nacua is averaging 83 receiving yards per game on 92 air yards per game.
Last week, he was able to take advantage of a perfect matchup. However, this week, he gets a Cowboys defense that ranks No. 4 in dropback EPA/play allowed. Additionally, the Cowboys pose one of the biggest pass rush vs. pass block matchups on the week against the Rams’ banged up offensive line. Nacua will see a lot of cornerback DaRon Bland in man coverage. Bland ranks No. 1 in pass breakups, No. 6 in yards per target allowed, No. 11 in catch rate allowed, and No. 4 in QBR allowed.
As a safety blanket, Stafford will look to get Kupp more involved after a down game last week instead of forcing it to the rookie. This will leave the floor way too low in this one unless we get a couple of large chunk plays from Nacua. However, for that, Nacua has relied a lot on yards after catch (No. 2 in the NFL). This is instead of getting targeted on the deep ball (No. 69 in average depth of target). Dallas’ defense ranks No. 6 in PFF tackling grade and has allowed the No. 10-fewest YAC per game this season.
Jalen Hurts (PHI) HIGHER than 247.5 passing yards
The Commanders defense is just outright sorry. They rank among the league’s worst in pass DVOA, dropback EPA/play, and explosive play rate allowed through the air.
We will target that with a quarterback-receiver stack that has formed an elite connection over the last couple of years. Jalen Hurts has exceeded this projection in five of his seven games this season. Additionally, he has posted a season-high 319 passing yards in these teams’ previous meeting.
DeVonta Smith (PHI) HIGHER than 49.5 receiving yards
We will correlate Hurts to the most undervalued Philadelphia receiver on the pick ‘em board with a projection that reads as an ultimate buy low. Even though Smith has only posted at least 50 receiving yards in two of his seven games so far this season, he has posted 100, 58, 35, 154, and 54 air yards in the misses. The opportunity has been there. Now, he gets the benefit of this soft matchup and will primarily see cornerback Benjamin St. Juste. St. Juste has allowed at least 67 receiving yards on his coverage alone in four of his last five games. Smith has the huge play ability to cash this on just a couple of catches. We might not see his projection this low for a while after Week 8.
The beauty of a positively correlated stack on Underdog is that the pick ’em payout structure does not account for that correlation. This makes our three-leg entry worth a 5x payout instead of a 2x payout.
Trevor’s Week 8 Picks
Adam Thielen (CAR) HIGHER than 6.0 receptions
The Carolina Panthers roll into Houston this weekend with both teams coming of a bye week for their rookie quarterbacks. This will have allowed Carolina plenty of time to set up Bryce Young for success against the Texans. This year, Carolina has moved Thielen primarily into the slot. It has led to big rewards for the veteran wide receiver. Thielen is currently No. 7 in the NFL in receptions while being on the anemic offense in Carolina.
Bryce Young has made Thielen his primary target choice and he has delivered with at least 11 receptions three out of the last four weeks. He currently has an 83.1-percent catch rate and a 92-percent catch rate vs Zone. Houston runs the No. 6 most zone in the NFL. After only being in the slot 22-percent of his career, this move to the slot has rewarded fantasy players with elite production in receptions. Thielen currently has over double the targets of anyone on the Carolina offense. Therefore, we expect that trend to continue this week against the Texans.
Carolina has been in a negative game script for most of the season. This has led them to attempt more passes than expected. They are currently a top 15 team in the NFL in this category. PlayerProfiler models Thielen with close to eight receptions this week. His line is currently at 6.5 at sportsbooks which gives us an edge on the Higher for his receptions.
Patrick Mahomes (KC) HIGHER than 275.5 passing yards
Patrick Mahomes continues to be one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the NFL. He is always a threat to put up big numbers. This week, he faces a Denver Broncos defense that is ranked No. 30 in the league in passing yards allowed per game. Mahomes has a history of success against the Broncos, putting up 306, 328, and 352 passing yards in his last three matchups against Denver.
The Broncos are currently giving up 8.4 yards per pass attempt while allowing 16 passing touchdowns to start the 2023 season. They allowed Tua Tagovailoa to throw for 309 while giving up 70 points, Fields to throw for 335, and Mahomes has already put up 309 yards this season against them. Denver has allowed a 114.2 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks and now face one of the best quarterbacks in the league for the second time this season.
Denver Against Tight Ends
Mahomes is currently averaging 288.1 yards a game with a 101.0 passer rating while having a 75-percent completion percentage. Denver is also the worst team in the NFL this season against tight ends. This should allow his main target Travis Kelce to have another monster day for the Chiefs. Rashee Rice has also continued to grow in his rookie season and is starting to clearly establish himself as the clear number two target for Mahomes. Mahomes has exceeded 34.5 passing attempts in nine of his last 12 games against bottom 10 passing defenses (38.9 passing attempts/game average).
Kansas City has a 27.5 implied point total this week which also aligns with Mahomes going higher. I should be really able to type, Mahomes gets to throw against Denver’s sorry excuse for a defense, and that gives you all of the information you need for the week. With that being said, coming off a 400-yard game against the Chargers, we expect Mahomes and company to continue to put up points and yards this week against the Broncos. Mahomes should easily go higher than 274.5 passing yards.