Fantasy football analyst Sal Vetri will use this space to deliver his keys to victory every week of the 2023 NFL season.
Finding No. 1: The best (RB) spot of the week belongs to Isiah Pacheco
Pacheco and the Chiefs face the Broncos this week as seven-point home favorites. Pacheco played Denver in Week 6, on a short week, on the road. Despite the unfavorable conditions, he earned a season-high 22 touches and produced 98 yards.
Since Week 4, Pacheco has earned 70% of the Chiefs carries. He’s scored a TD in four of his last five games. This may seem unsustainable, but starting RBs in Patrick Mahomes offenses average over one TD per game.
The Broncos are allowing 143 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs. They’ve allowed 17% more yards to backs than any other team. Expect Pacheco’s successful season to continue.
Finding No. 2: The Pick Up and Play is Trey McBride
He’s seen his routes run increase for four straight weeks. In Week 7, McBride earned a season-high six targets on 20 routes run. His usage has quietly been better than Zach Ertz’s in the past two games.
On Tuesday, we received news that Ertz will be placed on IR and miss at least the next four games. This should result in more playing time for McBride.
McBride was the Cardinals’ second-round pick last season and he’s one of the most productive college TEs ever. In 2021, he earned over 1,100 yards on an elite 11.2 targets per game.
If you’re in need of a TE, McBride is worth a start in Week 8.
Finding No. 3: Derrick Henry is in the sketchy spot of the week
Henry’s had a fine season so far but his underlying usage is concerning. Henry has played his fewest snaps since 2018 and is averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry. Part of this is due to rookie Tyjae Spears playing over 50% of the snaps this season.
This week Henry and the Titans will face the Falcons’ No. 1-ranked run defense as road underdogs. The Titans are expected to start second-round rookie QB Will Levis. Expect Atlanta to stack the box against Henry and if the Titans fall behind in this game, you’ll likely see Tyjae Spears earn more snaps.
Finding No. 4: Joshua Palmer is trending up
Palmer exploded in Week 7, posting 15.8 points on seven targets. Palmer has easily held off first-round WR Quentin Johnston since Mike Williams’ injury, earning 22 targets to just seven for Johnston.
Palmer has a great matchup in Week 8 against the Bears’ bottom-10 defense and, more importantly, his playoff schedule is fantastic. Palmer will face the Raiders, Bills and Broncos who all have bottom half of the league secondaries. He now averages 13 fantasy points on eight targets per game without Mike Williams in his career.
Cam Akers saw a season-high 48% of the rush attempts in Week 7. He earned two more carries than Mattison in this game. It’s not shocking to see Akers earn more touches considering Mattison hasn’t been efficient this season. Mattison is earning just 3.9 yards per carry and he hasn’t been productive despite seeing a top-five opportunity share this year.
The Vikings throw at the third-highest rate in the league. Mattison needs every opportunity he can get. His outlook becomes worrisome if this split backfield continues. If he has a solid game against the Packers this week, look to trade him away.
Finding No. 6: The Texans backfield is something to watch
Devin Singletary led the Houston backfield in snaps, opportunities and routes run in Week 6. Head coach DeMeco Ryans credited the team’s success on the ground to Singletary’s increased usage.
Singletary was used in key situations in Week 6. He handled nine of 13 snaps in the fourth quarter compared to just two for Pierce. Singletary was also two times more efficient than Pierce in this game.
This usage has gone under the radar as Singletary is rostered in just 19% of Yahoo leagues compared to 94% for Dameon Pierce. Add Singletary and watch this backfield closely against the Panthers’ bottom-five run defense.
Finding No. 7: Demario Douglas is a rookie to monitor in deep leagues
He was the talk of Patriots training camp, making plays almost every day in practice. In Week 7, his role expanded with JuJu Smith-Schuster out. Douglas ran a season-high 76% of the routes and earned six targets. He turned this into 74 yards on five touches.
Douglas played college ball at Liberty. He averaged 9.3 targets per game last season and was heavily involved on special teams which is an indicator of talent and explosiveness.
There’s a chance his role decreases once JuJu is back, but Smith-Schuster has been losing snaps even when healthy this season. Douglas stood out in Week 7 and this could lead to more future opportunities.
Finding No. 8: Raheem Mostert is the bounce-back candidate of the week
He had his worst game of the season last week scoring just 5.6 points on a season-low 10 touches. Mostert had a brutal matchup against the Eagles’ defensive line which has allowed just 49 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs, the second-fewest in the league.
Despite the poor week, Mostert was still efficient. He averaged 5.1 yards per touch and now ranks fifth in RB efficiency. This week, the Dolphins are 10-point favorites against an injury-riddled Patriots defense. In Week 2 against New England, Mostert earned 25.2 points on 19 touches. Expect him to bounce back and finish as a top-10 RB in Week 8.
Finding No. 9: Chris Olave is the buy-low of the week
He’s been one of the more frustrating players in fantasy and it has nothing to do with him. Olave’s inconsistencies are mostly due to Derek Carr’s shoulder injury.
In Week 7, Olave earned an elite 15 targets but this led to just 9.2 points as Carr struggled to find Olave. Only 61% of his targets have been catchable this season. I’d expect this to balance out as Carr is further removed from his injury. But the good news is Olave is earning targets at an elite level. He now has 10+ targets in five of seven games this season.
His upcoming schedule is promising against the Colts’, Bears’ and Vikings’ secondaries.
Finding No. 10: Don’t panic about DeVonta Smith
Smith has averaged just 6.2 points per game since Week 3. This ranks 55th among all receivers. But during this time, he’s ran 100% of the Eagles’ routes and earned seven targets per game. This is still great usage, so what’s the issue?
AJ Brown is on a historic run the past five games, averaging 140 yards during this time. There hasn’t been much to go around for the other receivers on this team, especially in weeks where Dallas Goedert is involved. I expect this to balance out just like it did last year, and it may start this week as Smith faces the Commanders — who have allowed the second-most points to WRs — this week.