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Single-game DFS Week 8: Primetime lineup picks

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Single-game primetime daily fantasy football contests have arrived at Yahoo Fantasy. It’s an absolutely thrilling and different way to approach DFS that pushes managers to be creative in lineup construction when only focusing on single games.

Every week I’ll offer up my general, high-level view of the three island games on the schedule as well as some of my favorite salary-based plays — and of course, my top pick for the all-important SUPERSTAR spot.

Thursday Night Football

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

It feels like it’s 2020 all over again with the Packers seeing a huge chunk of their wide receiver room likely wiped out amid a COVID outbreak.

Davante Adams hit the list on Monday and it’s doubtful he can get cleared in time to play. Allen Lazard followed him on Tuesday and because he is unvaccinated, won’t be able to get back in time to play. If Marquez Valdes-Scantling remains on IR (there’s a chance he’s activated), the Packers will be down to the bottom of the barrel at wide receiver.

The loss of Adams alone shifted the line from around -3 Arizona to -6.5 toward the home team. The Cardinals are 7-0 and have been a legitimately great operation all year. They deserve that kind of respect as it is, though Green Bay has not lost since that fluky Week 1 trouncing by the Saints.

The 50.5-point projected total and the two quarterbacks in place here make this a still-tantalizing matchup.

Aaron Rodgers is good enough and the Packers running game is still efficient enough to put up points. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense go five-deep at pass catcher and boast a solid one-two punch out of the backfield. This game would hold more juice if Adams played, no question, but this is still a fantasy-friendly environment.

Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers should still be able to put up points on TNF. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

We know who is in play for the Cardinals but let’s look at some of the possible cheap plays for Green Bay with Adams and Lazard out of the mix.

Robert Tonyan ($11) leads the list after his best game in over a month with 63 yards and a score against Washington. There hasn’t been anything wrong with Tonyan’s playing time this year; he’s third on the team in routes run but he just hasn’t been getting the ball. With this COVID situation, that’s going to change. Then we get to Randall Cobb ($13) and Equanimeous St. Brown ($10). With a 10.1 aDOT, Cobb is the safer option.

All told, I’m not sure there will be much need for you to chase the savings to the point you’re plucking multiple guys from this tier.

SUPERSTAR pick: Kyler Murray ($40)

In addition to their COVID issues in the wide receiver room, Green Bay still carries a lot of absences on defense. We’ve seen big-time passing units like the Bengals rip off big plays against this D and even Washington got Terry McLaurin loose in the secondary last week. The Cardinals could be playing in a positive game script throughout the night as the favored team and Murray has just been on fire this year.

Must-play: Aaron Jones ($28)

The Cardinals' pass defense has been quite good this year but you can attack them on the ground. Arizona ranks 32nd in explosive rushing plays allowed. Aaron Jones only managed six carries last week but Green Bay can’t possibly call plays like that in Week 8 with their receiver situation. This looks like a perfect buy-in situation with Jones.

Sneaky cheap option: Christian Kirk ($14)

Why is Christian Kirk the receiver with the fourth-most expensive salary on the Cardinals? Kirk has cleared four catches in four of six games this year and has 60-plus yards and/or a touchdown in all but two contests as well. He’s been a steady producer. He might go under-deployed in DFS contests while gamers hone in on the Packers pass-catchers who are getting the COVID bump in the same salary range.

Sunday Night Football

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

Two strong NFC teams will meet on Sunday night with plenty of big-name fantasy players in the mix. This one has the potential to be a game with plenty of points.

The one cloud hanging over this matchup is Dak Prescott’s status. He suffered an injury on the final play of Dallas' overtime win over New England right before their Week 7 bye. Most of the tone coming out of Dallas has been optimistic about the situation so we can proceed as if Prescott is playing. Obviously, if he doesn’t go, that throws a wrench in all of this.

These two offenses are among the most dangerous in the league, as they’re littered with young and old talent. Dallas ranks third in pass offense DVOA and Minnesota sits at sixth. There are not five quarterbacks playing better than Prescott right now and Kirk Cousins is also playing great ball. It’s not outlandish to say he’s been one of the 10 or 12 best passers in the league this year.

The one challenging part of this game is picking the correct items out of a buffet of strong options.

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The Vikings rank 22nd in the neutral pass rate. We know what type of team they want to be. Dalvin Cook handled 29 carries in the Vikings' win before the bye and should be closer to 100 percent now. In addition to looking like a league-tilting back the rest of the way, he’s an awesome play at $32. There’s certainly a temptation to try and ram him and Elliott into the same lineup.

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33)
A healthy Dalvin Cook is a game-changer on offense. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The volume in the passing game is mostly concentrated between the top two receivers. Justin Jefferson will likely run more of his routes against Anthony Brown at left cornerback, giving him the best matchup. Even if this game approaches its 55-point projected total, playing third receiver K.J. Osborn is a bit too daring.

On the Dallas side, Amari Cooper should be healthy coming off the bye. Since he’s lined up at right wide receiver on 41 percent of his snaps, he’ll get the most reps against Breshaud Breeland, who allows a 64 percent catch rate and four touchdowns on the year. CeeDee Lamb isn’t a bad play by any means but Cooper gets a slight bump, especially given the $4 gap in their salaries.

SUPERSTAR pick: Ezekiel Elliott ($31)

With Dak Prescott coming in a little banged up off the bye, this looks like a great spot for the Cowboys to put the ball in Zeke’s hands over and over. Minnesota’s defense is much better this season but Elliott can still find success. The Vikings rank third in pass defense DVOA but 24th against the run. That is a wide gap — one Elliott can exploit.

Must-play: Justin Jefferson ($28)

Coming off his bye, Jefferson is ready to get back rolling on what’s been an elite season. He ranks ninth in the NFL in weighted opportunity and this matchup against Dallas is favorable. While Trevon Diggs has been a complete turnover magnet so far this year, he’s also been burned. He’s allowed the fourth-most yards in his coverage and has ceded 19 yards per catch. Jefferson can sting this secondary for big plays.

Sneaky cheap option: Tyler Conklin ($14)

This pick is tough this week because of Prescott’s injury muddying possible game flow and the fact these two squads are so top-heavy. Conklin is the cheapest player who actually has a legitimate weekly role on the team. He’s run the fourth-most routes on the team but does spend more time blocking than we’d like (17.5 percent of passing plays). Still, he’s worth a dart throw in a potentially high-scoring affair against a Dallas team that ranks 21st in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends.

Monday Night Football

New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs

If ever there was a get-right game for the Chiefs offense, it’s this week.

Kansas City is a 10-point home favorite with the shaky Giants coming into town. New York sports the 19th-ranked defense by DVOA and has had some troubling moments against offenses ranging all over the quality spectrum.

[Play in Yahoo's Week 8 Featured Single-Game DFS contest]

As long as Patrick Mahomes can play and the team can actually live in positive game script, at some point their turnover rate will normalize. There are some fundamental issues with this offensive roster right now; they can’t run the ball and the passing game has to press far too often, which leads to the turnovers. However, if they can control the script against Daniel Jones, we could be cooking with gas.

The biggest question comes down to who do you go with between Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill at $30 and $31, respectively. Neither player looks totally right at the moment while dealing with injury. Kelce has looked more troubling just by my eye test. Also tilting the tide in Hill’s favor is the fact that the Giants have been smacked around by interior pass-catchers. Hill takes 58 percent of his snaps inside.

Notice at the top I said this is a get-right game for the Kansas City offense. That’s because there is no hope for the defense. This isn’t a scheme problem, it’s a player problem and there are no young guys waiting to save them. What you see is what you get with the Chiefs. Teams will be able to exploit them all year, especially at the linebacker level.

On the Giants' side, it really depends on who plays. It sounds like (at least as of Wednesday) that Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, and Kenny Golladay are all trending in the right direction. It’ll be hard to trust any of them but we know Shepard has bankable volume when he plays and Toney has the open-field electricity. Both of those factors would be huge as they’ll both run through the middle of this defense.

Saquon Barkley would end up being a core play at $23 as both a rusher and receiver against this linebacker unit. He could easily be stacked with Jones to access all the Giants touchdowns as they attempt to keep up with the Chiefs. Of course, that depends on him being active, as his status is still up in the air.

SUPERSTAR pick: Patrick Mahomes ($41)

For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over the Chiefs 2021 season, Mahomes is still the QB5 on the season. He’d rank even higher if he didn’t get hurt last week. And, despite their destruction of Sam Darnold last week, we shouldn't trust this Giants defense.

Must-play: Daniel Jones ($28)

Kansas City’s hopeless defense is just the thing Daniel Jones needs to hit a ceiling game for the first time in a while. Jones has cleared 16 points in every game if you throw out the Dallas contest where he got hurt and the nightmarish Rams outing where he played with a skeleton crew. Most of Jones’ supporting cast is trending the right way coming into this week. He presents a great upside and floor blend.

Sneaky cheap option: Dante Pettis ($11)

Pettis is only a realistic option if two guys out of the Toney, Shepard, and Golladay contingent miss this game. Pettis leads the team with 65 routes run and has been targeted 15 times over the last two weeks. He’s split his time between the slot (51.5 percent) and out wide (48.5 percent) in this stretch. So he can see the field no matter which combination of that trio misses time. If those guys play, you might have to explore the Hardman/Pringle tier when looking for value which is ... not ideal.

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