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12 Sec Ago : We're on to the eighth weekend of the 2023 NFL season and we're sure you are fully prepared for the loaded Week 8 slate. But just in case you need some last-minute intel, our NFL analysts have you covered at the 11th hour.
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First, analytics writer Seth Walder breaks down five stat trends that could be pivotal this weekend. Fantasy football writer Eric Moody runs through five players who are rostered in fewer than 50% of ESPN fantasy football leagues as of Saturday who could be picked up and started in a jam this weekend. That's followed by NFL analyst Matt Bowen making five predictions about how things could play out on Sunday, including some player props. Finally, insider Jeremy Fowler gives the latest buzz, rumors and news you might have missed.
Walder: Five key stat trends that could determine the winners
Should the Texans lean more on quarterback C.J. Stroud against the Panthers?
I say yes. I like to look at the difference in a team's expected points added per play between run and pass plays, and then compare that to how often that team chooses to run or pass. And the Texans stand out there. They are dramatically more efficient on passing plays (0.14 EPA per play on designed pass plays vs. minus-0.12 on designed runs) and yet rank 28th in designed pass rate when win probability is 15-85%.
While this is not ideal looking backward at the first six games, the good news is 3-3 Houston has unrealized upside if it just passes the ball more. And that could -- and should -- start Sunday in Carolina.
Wilson's splits against man and zone coverage are pretty stark. He has a 59 QBR vs. man... and an 18 QBR vs. zone. These splits are often noise, but in this case the trend continues back to last season: Expanding the sample to 2022, the numbers are 55 and 24, respectively.
Now let's spin this forward to Sunday's matchup. The Giants run man coverage 53% of the time, the sixth-highest rate in the league. They also blitz a ton (41% of the time, second most), and Wilson's QBR is 60 against the blitz this season, which ranks 20th. That's much better than his 38 QBR overall (29th).
But could a young Giants cornerback make life difficult for Wilson?
Deonte Banks, the No. 24 overall pick in this year's draft, is off to a nice start to his career, according to nearest defender numbers from NFL Next Gen Stats. Banks has allowed 0.9 yards per coverage snap -- much better than the average for outside corners this season of 1.4. He also has minus-11 expected points added allowed when targeted.
His first pick came last week against the Commanders, and he has certainly been part of the Giants' defensive improvement over the past few weeks after a very rocky start.
Could the Dolphins' screen game sink the Patriots?
Let's be honest, there are many offensive levers, plays and players that might sink the Patriots in this game against the Dolphins. But here's one particularly alarming stat for New England: The Patriots rank last in EPA allowed per screen (0.45).
And guess who runs more screens than anyone else? Yup, the Dolphins. Miami runs screens on 7% of its offensive snaps and has recorded 0.25 EPA per screen, fourth best, this season.
Can Penei Sewell protect Jared Goff from Maxx Crosby?
Sewell has been well-regarded as an NFL offensive tackle for some time, but pass block win rate indicates he has stepped up in 2023. The Lions' 2021 first-round pick ranks second among tackles in pass block win rate (95%) -- behind only Minnesota's Brian O'Neill, who held off San Francisco's Nick Bosa on Monday night.
That should be helpful for Detroit against Las Vegas on Monday because Maxx Crosby -- one of the only parts of the Raiders' defense that worries offenses -- typically lines up opposite the right tackle.
Moody: Five fantasy sleepers you should pick up -- and can start this week
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers (43.8% rostered)
When Miles Sanders missed Week 6 against Miami with a shoulder injury, Hubbard took over as the starter and scored 16 fantasy points on 20 touches. But you should still start him against the Texans despite Sanders' return to practice Wednesday coming out of last week's bye. Hubbard leads the Panthers in rushing (242 yards), and the backfield should be a committee at this point. Plus, the Texans' defense has given up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to running backs.