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The Plot Thickened in Week 8

Week 8 of the NFL season had some perplexing real-life outcomes that resulted in insane fantasy performances. Sunday saw six players with at least 30 fantasy points, and that number is even greater if you play in a PPR format.

Take out those big performers and you're left with a huge chunk of guys putting up 20+, some more surprising than others. Overall, it was a meaty week for points, so ideally you were on the winning end of some of these breakout performances.

 

A Career Week for Big Ben

By Andy from Pittsburgh, United States (big ben) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsThe best way to go about discussing the wildness that was Week 8 is to attempt to figure out which performances you should expect to continue and which you shouldn’t. Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Ingram, Kyle Orton (yes, THAT Kyle Orton), Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate, Martavis Bryant, and to some extent, Brandin Cooks, all lead the charge in the “don’t expect it to continue” category, for a multitude of reasons.

Roethlisberger had himself a career day, becoming the only quarterback in history to have multiple games with over 500 passing yards. Throwing six touchdowns certainly yields some fantasy goodness, but the unfortunate part about Ben’s big day is that chances are you weren’t starting him this week anyway. Ben has been an average fantasy QB, and despite his recent success, there isn't much to take away from this in terms of fantasy.

What you can count on, however, is that rookie Martavis Bryant looks to have stepped right into the number two receiver role for the Steelers. I had mentioned in my Steelers preseason preview that there was room in this offense for a second receiver to have some fantasy relevance, and the consensus was that spot would go to second-year player Markus Wheaton. Unfortunately, Wheaton just never really panned out due to some drop issues, so Bryant has been given the opportunity, and he has proven he’s ready for the workload. He’s not a must-add in a standard 10-team league, but if you’re in a deeper format or you start three wide receivers, Bryant is definitely worth a stash.

 

Players To Buy, Hold & Sell

There isn't much to say about Kyle Orton’s fantasy relevance in leagues that don't start two quarterbacks. Golden Tate, Larry Fitzgerald and Mark Ingram are all prime sell-high candidates at this point in the season.

Tate has been excellent during Calvin Johnson’s absence, but with the Detroit Lions on bye this week, it’s expected that Megatron will return to the lineup in Week 10. Tate has certainly earned himself some more targets from quarterback Matthew Stafford, but this is as good as it is going to get for Tate. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have Tate in your lineup through Calvin’s health issues, lucky you, but it’s time to cash in. There is bound to be a team in your league that is hurting for a receiver, so see if you can swap Tate for an upgrade.

We’ll get to the Arizona offense when we discuss their matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles a bit later, but as far as Larry Fitzgerald is concerned, it’s just been one game. Out of the seven games the Cardinals have played this season, Fitzgerald has ended the day with single digits five times. He’s not “back;” he just had a good game.

That leaves us with two Saints players who were instrumental in Sunday night’s rout of the Green Bay Packers in Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks. Both Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson were out for this game, which left Mark Ingram as the primary running back. Ingram put up 172 yards on the ground, which will easily end up being his best game of the season. There might be an owner in your league who saw this game and now predicts big things for Ingram the rest of the way, but I’m not buying it.

Once Thomas and Robinson return, this backfield will go right back into being a three-headed monster. Luckily, the Saints tend to score a lot of points (at home anyway), so there will be weeks where each running back puts up numbers, but good luck figuring out which happens when. As for Brandin Cooks, he’s still the team’s second receiving target, so he’s bound for a big game here or there. I wouldn't necessarily sell high on Cooks, since these kind of games can flare up for him, but don't expect it on a consistent basis.

Outside of these unexpected big days, a bunch of regular of fantasy stars showed up this week, which is always reassuring. Sure, there were some clunkers, but hopefully you were able to avoid that this week.

 

Week 8 Recap - Impact Players & Game-by-Game Analysis

Chargers @ Broncos

By Jeffrey Beall (Cropped from File:Peyton Manning - Broncos.jpg) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsJust when it looked like we were going to be treated to a decent Thursday Night Football game, the Denver Broncos decided to turn it up in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers, and they never looked back.

Here’s one semi-broken sentence that will sum up the entire Broncos team and offensive situation for you: Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, Ronnie Hillman has firmly replaced Montee Ball, Demaryius Thomas is a beast, Julius Thomas cooled off a bit as expected and Emmanuel Sanders has rendered Wes Welker irrelevant. That was easy, huh? I’d attempt to do the same thing here with the Chargers, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. So let's take a quick look, shall we?

Many expected Ryan Mathews to have returned by now, but it would appear he'll be held out through the Chargers bye in Week 10. Branden Oliver is still the lead back, despite failing to do much in this game. He’s still worthy of a start in Mathews’s absence, so ride it out for now, just be wary that this is going right back to a split workload (at best) once Mathews is healthy. Keenan Allen finally found the endzone, and he could potentially be a buy-low candidate. I doubt the Allen owner in your league has been satisfied with his performance thus far, so you could potentially steal him away in some sort of package deal.

 

Lions vs. Falcons (Across The Pond)

(Insert lame early-morning London football joke here.) This game started out being completely lopsided, before the Lions starting chipping away at the lead in the second half. They didn’t exactly come roaring back, but the aforementioned Golden Tate did manage to put up 151 yards. The bigger concern was that Reggie Bush missed this game, yet Joique Bell continued to disappoint in his absence. A lot of that can be attributed to the Lions being down big quick, but it’s still disappointing that this offense struggles to get production from its running backs.

On the Falcons side of things, both Roddy White and Julio Jones had decent PPR games here, but neither did anything spectacular. Both of Matt Ryan’s passing touchdowns went to fantasy-irrelevant players in Devonta Freeman and Bear Pascoe. Nothing you can do about that except sigh in relief if you're a Matt Ryan owner. I’ve said before that this middle-of-the-season schedule for Ryan is brutal, but if you can hang on until fantasy playoff time, it does get easier for him. Just plug and play better options off of your bench or the waiver wire if possible.

 

Bills @ Jets

Alright, ripping on the New York Jets is almost too easy at this point, so we just aren't going there. Chris Ivory is having himself a year. The yards weren’t there in this game with just 43, but he did score two touchdowns, so say goodbye to any relevance Chris Johnson might have had. Johnson had three rushes for seven yards in this game. He’s done. Ivory is clearly the lead back on this team, and as long as he can stay healthy, he’s probably a top-15 guy the rest of the way. Kudos to you if you’re riding the Ivory bus until the wheels fall off. (I am in one league, so I’m right there with you.)

Moving right along to the Bills, Sammy Watkins is an amazing talent. The difference between E.J. Manuel and Kyle Orton has been incredible for Watkins. Anthony Dixon got the first shot at the running back gig with both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller injured. I would expect the Bills to give Bryce Brown some more carries as they work him into the offense after being a healthy scratch the first few games of the season. No one knows just when Fred Jackson is returning, but the Bills are on a bye this week, so hopefully that gives him some extra time to rest up. Until then, this is a running back situation to avoid if at all possible.

 

Dolphins @ Jaguars

Lamar Miller has turned himself into a top-15 back a year too late, huh? The hype was there in 2013, and it sort of evaporated once the team signed Knowshon Moreno.  Then we all gained some interest once Moreno showed up to camp hurt and out of shape, but that disappeared once again after Moreno took the field, though it seems to have returned for good once Moreno hurt himself for real. It’s been a roller coaster of a year for Miller, but fortunately for him, he’s been productive enough to maintain fantasy relevance. He didn’t score a touchdown here, but he did put up 78 yards on 14 carries. With how bad running backs have been this year, you should absolutely take that from your RB2 and be happy.

Speaking of RB2s, Denard Robinson is right there with Lamar Miller. It took the Jaguars long enough, but it looks as if they have finally figured out their running game through Robinson. I’m still a bit hesitant to call Robinson an automatic every-week starter given his history and Jacksonville’s lack of success on the ground this year, but you can’t ignore the numbers. Speaking of numbers, junk time counts too, doesn’t it? Jacksonville wide receiver Allen Robinson has become the king of junk time as of late, ending the day with 82 yards and a touchdown. If you’re thin at wide receiver, Allen Robinson is worth a stash. Hey, just because the Jaguars don’t win every week doesn’t mean you can’t hoard their only two fantasy-relevant players right?

 

Rams @ Chiefs

Yikes! The Rams are a disaster. Just when we thought we could (possibly) count on one running back to run away with the job, Tre Mason ends the day with just seven carries for 32 yards. The Rams did keep their word by trying to get Zac Stacy more involved, and boy did they ever, with a whopping eight touches for 37 yards. This offense is just an absolute mess, and it’s only going to get worse with the news that emerging number one receiver Brian Quick has been lost for the season with a shoulder injury. It’s unfortunate that the Rams can’t field a single fantasy-relevant starter, but it is what it is.

There also wasn’t much to report on the Kansas City side of things, with Jamaal Charles proving he’s a stud once again by putting up 73 yards and two touchdowns. Charles only had 13 carries in this game, but sometimes that’s all he needs-- he’s a guy who breaks big runs and finds a way to get into the endzone. It’s those days where Andy Reid decides to only give Charles the ball nine times and he only manages 30 yards that will drive you crazy. Beyond that, Charles is a stud.

 

Bears @ Patriots

New England absolutely annihilated the Bears in this game. Tom Brady’s mid-season schedule has been extremely favorable, and he’s backing that up with another huge day-- five touchdowns and 354 yards. After their next two matchups against Denver and Indianapolis, however, it starts to get a bit rougher for the Pats. They host a ferocious Detroit defense in Week 12, followed by trips to Green Bay and San Diego. I had advocated selling high on Tom Brady should his performance continue through Week 12, and that still might not be a bad idea, depending on what you can get for him. If you can package him with Golden Tate for Aaron Rodgers and a WR2, I’d do that deal in a heartbeat. See what you can get for Brady, but he’s not as automatic of a sell-high as he once was.

The Bears are still the same Bears they’ve been for the previous two weeks-- extremely frustrating to own. Forte had another solid game here, but Brandon Marshall struggled again. I can’t imagine there'd be a scenario where you'd feel comfortable benching Brandon Marshall, but his struggles of late are concerning. I wouldn’t completely bail, but it’s worth seeing what his value is in your league. If someone is still willing to pay full value for him as a top five or six receiver, then it’s fair to make the switch, but beyond that, I’m probably just riding out the bad times and waiting for the good.

 

Ravens @ Bengals

This game reminded me a lot of the London game in that it ended up being a close contest with very little relevant fantasy scoring. Baltimore running back Justin Forsett has firmly established himself as the primary back, despite Lorenzo Taliaferro vulturing away two touchdowns. Forsett still earned more than double Taliaferro's carries, so as much as it stinks, there’s nothing you can do but accept it.

Mohamed Sanu bounced back in a big way this week, with 125 yards on five receptions. Sanu is similar to Golden Tate in that he has earned himself a bigger role once number one receiver A.J. Green returns. The main difference between the two is that Tate is the more attractive name in terms of a sell-high. Despite both guys putting up similar numbers in the absence of their #1 receiver counterparts, Tate will definitely get more attention in your league by pure name value, and he's on the more established offense. In Sanu’s case, you’re probably better off just holding on and enjoying the bump in targets he’ll get even after Green returns. Besides, Marvin Jones was solid prior to his injury, so there is reason to believe the Bengals can support two wide receivers going forward.

 

Texans @ Titans

We’re going apply the same straightforward analysis to the Texans as we did with the Denver Broncos, if that’s okay with everybody: Arian Foster is back and a top-five RB for as long as he’s healthy, we’re witnessing the emergence of DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson is a solid PPR play and the touchdowns will come, Ryan Fitzpatrick is competent enough to keep the starting gig under center.

Time to talk Tennessee Titans (say that ive times fast). We’ve beaten the Bishop Sankey dead horse into oblivion, so that’s out, and Delanie Walker is just fine as a fantasy tight end, so that leaves new starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger. His social media prowess aside, Mettenberger actually looked decent out there, and the Titans should let him fly for the rest of the year to see what they have with him. It’s clearly not Tennessee's year, so they might as well let the rookie roll with it. He’s an interesting name for two-quarterback leagues, and I actually picked him up as my backup in the sole two-QB league I’m in. I’m not expecting much, but for a guy I only intend to play once, why not Mettenberger? Jake Locker proved he can be a relevant QB2 when healthy, given how many offensive weapons the Titans have, so if Mettenberger can show a Fitzpatrick-level competence, he should be good enough to keep the job.

 

Seahawks @ Panthers

This was another one of those games that had very little impact in terms of fantasy. That is, unless you own Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is an absolute stud, and he made some more spectacular catches in this game. He’s only going to get better, and the Panthers have a favorable schedule coming up, so if you own Benjamin, you should absolutely find a way to get him into your lineup every week. I’ve said plenty of times before that you should avoid the Carolina running back situation at all costs, but I can’t just completely ignore Jonathan Stewart’s 79-yard performance-- that is, until DeAngelo Williams returns, presumably next week. The Panthers have always used multiple backs, and even when they do focus on one guy, it’s tough to rely on him, given that quarterback Cam Newton can run on his own. It’s possible you’re wielding a playoff team that went WR heavy and could use a low-end RB2 for the playoff run, so I suppose Stewart or Williams is worth an add. Personally, I’m not touching either guy.

It was a tough day for the Seattle offense, but fear not-- Doug Baldwin will still be usable and Marshawn Lynch will Beast Mode the remainder of his final year as a Seahawk.

 

Vikings @ Buccaneers

Not exactly a barnburner of a matchup here either, but the most important aspect of this game was seeing Jerick McKinnon basically receive all the touches out of the backfield for the Vikings. 16 carries for 83 yards is solid, and he should remain a top-15 back going forward. It’s crazy to think that a third-string back on the Minnesota Vikings could be the type of guy that could win you a week-- perhaps even your league-- as an RB2 fill-in. Fantasy football works in mysterious ways.

The Buccaneers didn’t give us much to analyze from a fantasy perspective, aside from the fact that Doug Martin is still unusable. Vincent Jackson continues to be a headache to own, with his up-and-down play so let’s hope he gets traded to a better team. Mike Evans would automatically shoot up the fantasy rankings, as he’s proven he’s a talented player. The names being mentioned for possible destinations for Jackson have been Seattle, Philadelphia and New England. Without speculating too much about rumors, all three would be huge upgrades for V-Jax.

 

Eagles @ Cardinals

Jeremy Maclin went absolutely bananas in this game, with 12 receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns. It’s as if the other receiving options on this team have become invisible to Nick Foles. Zach Ertz remains in that 8-15 range of tight ends that could be usable any given week, so you just have to deal with the inconsistency. Darren Sproles was ruled out, leaving LeSean McCoy as the sole back of value for Philly. He ended the day with 97 yards on 24 touches, which is a step in the right direction for his expected big second half. I wouldn’t trade McCoy unless I’m getting at least 90 cents on the dollar-- I believe he’s due to turn it around.

We touched on Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald earlier, which leaves Michael Floyd, who was held to a big fat goose egg this week. Floyd didn’t record a single catch, but with the way Carson Palmer has been playing of late, you have to assume that’ll correct itself going forward. Palmer has been great for Arizona since returning to the lineup, and he's venturing into borderline QB1 territory. With guys like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Nick Foles failing to live up to expectations, it’s certainly possible that Palmer could overtake them in your starting lineup any given week. I would look at the matchups closely, and consider yanking my starter in favor of Palmer.

 

Colts @ Steelers

No one expected the Steelers to completely dominate this game the way that they did. The Colts actually almost came all the way back, but in the end they just had no answer for the Steelers offense. (That safety didn't help matters, either.) When a quarterback goes off the way Ben Roethlisberger did, everyone is bound to have a good game, and that they did, so let’s segue right over to the Colts side of the ball.

Reggie Wayne was ruled out for this game; rookie Donte Moncrief was the main beneficiary. It’s unclear just how long Wayne will be out, although the injury isn’t believed to be too serious. If it's short-term, Moncrief is no more than the third WR option for Indianapolis. Hakeem Nicks isn’t anywhere close to rosterable at this point, as evidenced by Moncrief’s breakout performance. Trent Richardson was surprisingly active for this game, but he ended up not really involved in the offense at all. Ahmad Bradshaw bailed you out with another touchdown in this game, but he didn’t get much work on the ground since the Colts were down big early in the second quarter. Bradshaw is another interesting sell-high candidate, but he should be treated as a top-15 running back going forward. Trent Richardson hasn’t been great, and with a lingering hamstring injury, Bradshaw is clearly the top back in Indy.

 

Raiders @ Browns

I had mentioned last week that Andrew Hawkins of the Cleveland Browns was developing into an interesting PPR/three-WR play, and he backed up that claim with an 88-yard day on seven receptions with a touchdown. It’s not like he’s going to be an automatic starter on your team, but if you’re struggling with dinged-up guys like A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Wayne, Hawkins has been a solid enough fill-in. Granted, the first two guys mentioned are expected back soon, so don't go crazy adding Hawkins, just keep an eye on him or stash him if you can afford the roster spot.  Jordan Cameron left this game with a concussion, and with concussions being impossible to predict, that’s a situation you just have to monitor. That said, I have no issue with dropping Cameron at this point. He hasn't lived up to expectations and is already enduring his second injury of the season.

The Oakland Raiders are an absolute mess. Tight end Mychal Rivera led the team in receptions, which helps no one. I never bought into this whole Andre Holmes/James Jones business, and despite Holmes catching a touchdown, I still don’t. He’s an add if you're desperate and nothing more.

 

Packers @ Saints

The last game on our slate is another one with a surprising outcome. The Saints ultimately blew out the Packers in New Orleans, in a game that could have gone the exact opposite way if it were in Green Bay. Eddie Lacy had a monstrous game… as a receiver. But hey, receiving yards count for running backs, too. Lacy remains a shaky top-12 running back going forward, and I’m still hanging on to him if I can. It would take a serious offer to deal him, considering how feeble RBs have been this year, especially when you consider the amount of scoring opportunities that are available as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

We've already discussed both Saints overachievers in Mark Ingram and Brandin Cooks, which really only leaves Drew Brees. Brees notoriously struggles on the road, so it was no surprise that he turned it up at home, to the tune of three touchdowns and 311 yards. I think Brees probably ends the year as the fourth-best fantasy QB behind Peyton, Rodgers and Andrew Luck, which, despite being slightly disappointing given how high he was drafted, is still pretty darn good.

 

Amazingly, Week 8 didn’t result in a slew of major injuries, outside of Brian Quick. There were some tidbits here and there with Giovani Bernard missing time in the fourth quarter, but the injury isn’t believed to be serious. A couple of other marginal players were banged up, including the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, who shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup at this point in the season anyway. It was refreshing to enjoy a week of the NFL season with wild fantasy performance and not have to worry about players going down. Let’s hope that continues as we speed toward playoff time.