What I Saw: Thoughts On Week 8 (Part 1)
My name is Sam, and I love fantasy football. The worst parts of my week are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, mostly in that order. Every week, I’ll be helping my colleague and friend Derek Frei tell the story of what happened as we together cover the broad strokes of every game. Feel free to use this as just another tool in making decisions about your own fantasy teams, or to disregard it as swill drummed up by yet another tool that disagrees with your own obviously superior intellect! And now, on with the show:
49ers vs. Eagles
QB: This is the point in the season where the weather is going to start having an impact on games, and it was certainly not helpful for the Niners. Bad weather tends to aid defenses by making turnovers a bit more likely and making passing a little more difficult. At least that’s what CJ Beathard was telling his coaches and teammates to try to excuse a performance that is being described in polite circles as “poopy”. Beathard posted a dismal 47% (even lower than his season average of sub-53%) completion rate, averaging just 4.64 yards per pass. It was so bad that the Niners promptly traded for Jimmy Garopollo. Sorry Beathard, maybe next season? In the meantime, the Niners struggles at QB mean that all their receivers are going to struggle unless Handsome Jimmy can save them.
Carson Wentz is having an MVP season (so far). He “only” threw for 2 touchdowns this game, but again that was on a rainy day in a blowout. Wentz looked incredible in the pocket, breaking tackles while keeping his eyes down the field, but I’m not sure if it’s really because Wentz is just that good or because the 49ers don’t actually want to get sacks. Wentz will throw to just about anyone who can get open, and there’s usually someone open, so he will likely continue to post QB1 numbers. However, his O-line has recently started refusing to block, so that could change as the Eagles face better defenses. It’s hard to say if the weather might explain the OLine’s struggles, but certainly, next week against DEN will be telling. Overall, it just looks like the Eagles are really feeling the loss of veteran OT Jason Peters from week 7 against WAS. Peters tore both his ACL and MCL, will be out for the season. If you can get good value for Wentz in a trade and have a good QB replacement, you may want to let him go to try and bolster your team elsewhere. If the Eagles struggle against DEN, I would jump ship before any potential trade partners realize what’s happening.
RB: Carlos Hyde had 9 targets, but was only able to catch two of those balls (Beathard!). For what it’s worth, Hyde certainly looks like a workhorse RB, but he’s going to struggle mightily as long as he’s part of an offense that produced just 238 total yards and converted just 3 of 15 third downs. The lone bright spot of Niners offense was a designed play to Matt Breida, which turned into a highlight-worthy catch-and-run TD. It remains to be seen if SF will continue to try to get Breida the ball on purpose, but it does make him look like a reasonable pickup for those of you in 32 team leagues. The Eagles’ line is about as good at run blocking as Beathard is at throwing the ball in rain. The Eagles Are About To Collectively Suck (Calling It Now). LeGarrette Blount was routinely met behind the line of scrimmage on runs and was held to just 3 YPC. Bad weather normally favors the run game, but I doubt even stud Jay Ajayi can save the Eagles’ run game.
WR: Alshon Jeffery finally showed up to play, scoring on a well-earned 53-yard catch-and-run TD. One would hope this signals a turnaround for the mostly disappointing Wentz’s presumptive #1 receiver, but it’s far more likely that the Niner’s CB’s and safeties are simply worse than Jeffery on a down year. I do wonder if Jeffery’s past two seasons in CHI and long-term injuries have simply relegated him to WR3 territory for the remainder of his career. After all, Jeffery has barely been startable in a season where Wentz is lighting fires all over the place and it can’t simply be that he has had a sort of tough CB schedule thus far. Nelson Agholor actually looked pretty good, but I would think his down week was due in part to weather as well as game script. None of the 49ers receivers should be relied on except in quiet desperation unless something drastic changes first.
TE: Thankfully for Wentz owners, DEN loves to give up touchdowns to TE’s and that means Zach Ertz will probably have a great game (as if he’s capable of a bad game), so it really wouldn’t surprise me if Ertz came away with 2 TD’s next week. If he doesn’t, you can all tell my bookie that I’m out of town for awhile but I will totally hit him up as soon as I’m back.
Falcons vs. Jets
QB: Weather was once again a factor (recurring theme?) as the Falcons juuuuust barely edged out the Jets away in MetLife Stadium. Remember when I said weather helps create turnovers? Matt Ryan does. Twice this game, C Alex Mack and Ryan joined forces to fumble the ball away. Matty Ice has turned in a pretty disappointing performance thus far in the season. After last year when he seemed to be putting on a clinic most weeks, Ryan has now thrown for only 9 touchdowns across 7 weeks. Ouch. The Falcons are doing their best to rely on their 2 -man tandem at RB, so Ryan isn’t being asked to pass nearly as much as in years past. As for the Jets, Josh McCown is looking pretty good of late. His performance on the season isn’t quite at the Fitzpatrick ‘15 level, but he has thrown 9 TD’s in the last 4 games now. At the very least, McCown is looking like a match-up dependent streamer candidate which helps if you’ve lost your QB to injury, are struggling with byes or if your QB is normally Phillip Rivers.
RB: Tevin Coleman had a couple of great runs and a 22-yard reception for a total of 104 all-purpose yards. Not too shabby on just 14 carries. RB Devonta Freeman seems to be struggling with a shoulder injuring, posting just 61 all-purpose yards, 41 of those rushing. While that is over 100 total rushing yards for the corps, we all know the -man tandem is capable of more. Bilal Powell looked pretty good in his limited touches. He might have only gained 33 yards on 14 carries, but he was fighting on every carry for everything he could get. He definitely looks like he has the potential to break off a long run on any given carry, he just can’t be relied on for it. Plus, while Powell continues to lead in carries, RB Matt Forte is the pass catcher of choice out of the backfield. Forte looked just OK on his 7 targets, catching 6 of them for 45 yards, but he definitely isn’t in his prime any longer. He will obviously be a better back in PPR or .5 PPR, but in standard, he is hard to trust as any more than a FLEX and together, Powell and Forte will just continue to hurt each other’s value.
WR: Julio Jones somehow continues to prove that anyone drafted in the first round is capable of busting, no matter how “proven” they are. Jones has just 1 TD through 8 weeks. One. Uno. Un. It really is unfathomable as the Falcons have only won 4 of 7 games so far (they also had a bye), and you would think that alone would lead to greater involvement of one of the best WR’s in the game today. Whatever the Falcons need to do to right the ship, they need to do it fast (throw Julio the ball!). Robbie Anderson looked pretty impressive, catching all 6 of his targets for 104 yards and a TD. He’s got a tough matchup against the Bills coming next, but he has already scored in 2 consecutive weeks and should be considered a prime candidate for bye-week filler woes and is FLEX=worthy moving forward in competitive leagues. Hopefully, you grabbed him off the waiver wire, because with just 30% ownership on Yahoo, he won’t be available for long. Jermaine Kearse is who we thought he was, and should probably be dropped in most leagues. Whatever he did for all 6 of you that somehow played him for the first half of the season, he’s not likely to produce much more.
TE: The Falcons were able to come back after falling behind, in no small part thanks to TE Austin Hooper, who looked very good this game. Sadly, this is likely to be Hooper’s best game of the season. The second half of his 16 games features 5 teams in the top third against TE scoring, and the other 3 are in the middle. All his TE friendly games are now behind him. Although game script and injuries can always bring surprises, I wouldn’t try to rely on Hooper as my TE unless everyone else in my league is hoarding TEs. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins seems to be about as good as the defense allows him to be. While he was targeted 5 times and caught all 5 targets, his low yardage trend continues and he only has one TE-friendly game left @DEN in week 14. Still, BUF is only 12th against TE’s to date in standard, so ASJ may be FLEX-worthy for one more week. He is still TD dependent, but that’s usually the case with all but a few top TE’s, anyway. You could do a lot worse, is what I’m saying.
Texans Vs. Seahawks
QB: Week 8 brought us a QB battle for the ages. DeShaun Watson pulled a Russell Wilson, throwing bombs and rushing all over the field. It turns out, O’Brien’s expectations for a QB have been right on the money and he just needed to find one of the few QB’s that could do everything he wants his QB to do, and Watson is proving him right every week. Watson started off red hot throwing Will Fuller V a beautifully placed bomb on the first drive, continually showed poise in the pocket, great awareness of the defense, and just generally wrecking the Hawk’s secondary to the tune of 402 yards (a season high) and 4TD’s (incredibly, that is not a season-high, nor is it even a tie for season high). Watson opened with a fantastic TD on the first drive, but on the next drive, he threw a pick-6, the first of 3 INTs. I find it incredible that he still scored a season-high 35.78 points in standard. It’s telling that the Seahawks DS/T scored just 13 points even with 5 sacks, 3 interceptions, and a TD. Normally, you would expect a defense to pull 20-something with those kinds of numbers, but not this game. Russell Wilson also pulled a Russell Wilson in this game, posting his best game of the season so far. Wilson threw a whopping 452 yards and 4 TD’s to match Watson, though Wilson only had 1 INT to Watson’s 3. Basically, everything about this game was out of proportion.
RB: Lamar Miller, who had just his second TD of the season in this game saw plenty of use in the passing game, as well. That was important for Miller owners because the Hawks’ run defense held him to just 54 yards on 21 carries. Miller’s usage shows promise, as upstart D’Onta Foreman had just one snap. That may have been a consequence of some off the field issues the Texans are going through, but apparently, the Texans feel comfortable not using him at all. In the post-game celebration, RB’s Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy kept to themselves talking about how they were totally going to do better next game! They spent the night quietly drinking with each other in the corner trying to avoid any questions about how their 6 carries each yielded an incredible -1 yards and buying Wilson, Richardson, and Graham one round after the other as thanks that their sorry butts might be carried to a Superbowl without earning it. Yikes.
WR: Congratulations if you own any part of the Texans offense as they are firing on all cylinders. Will Fuller V is converting TD’s at an incredible rate, and while we’ve seen that before (anyone remember Falcons’ RB Antone Smith from 2014?), I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he will stop scoring what with how well Watson is playing. Fellow WR DeAndre Hopkins posted 228 yards and a TD for his highest score of the season in standard. Hopkins owners are salivating at the mere thought of Hoppy stepping onto the field on Game Day. On the other side of the ball, Wilson made Paul Richardson look like a champion, throwing 105 yards and 2 TD’s his way. That actually puts Richardson’s point total in standard above fellow WR Doug Baldwin who saw 10 targets but converted just 6 catches into 54 yards. It’s not clear if this game was an aberration in their usages, but it makes Richardson look like a great FLEX pickup with high upside. He and Baldwin might just be in a 1A/1B situation. WR Tyler Lockett looked great, catching 6 of his 8 targets for 121 yards. Lockett is a guy I would love to see get more designed plays because he is just so exciting to watch, but with so many mouths to feed, Lockett will likely remain boom-or-bust and dependent on game flow.
TE: Jimmy Graham had a great 2 TD performance, even the yards weren’t there. I personally think Graham is their best RZ option, and the recent slate of TD’s (4 in the last 3 games) seems to support that. If the Seahawks DS/T continues to give up huge numbers to opposing teams, Graham will be needed. The Texans’ TE’s, on the other hand, were basically non-existent and can safely be ignored.
Cowboys Vs. Redskins
QB: Dak Prescott’s continues to impress at the head of the Cowboys’ helm. It’s hard to say what impact losing Elliott will play on the Cowboys just yet, but he was a key part of the offense and the next 6 weeks without him will likely lead to a pretty big downgrade for all the ‘Boys. Prescott will need to step up in a big way if they want a shot at the playoffs. Kirk Cousins has been putting the team on his back lately, but things are starting to look pretty grim. Cousins has had down games before (like weeks 1 and 2), but basically, none of the Redskins’ receivers seem to be learning anything from practices that they can take onto the field. Weather certainly didn’t help, but it’s more likely the Washington OLine is just banged up and won’t be much better until they get healthy again. Cousins had very little time for plays to develop, so despite being a top tier QB talent-wise, he will likely continue to struggle. Cousins owners will want to consider streaming for next week’s game against the Seahawks.
RB: The poor Cowboys have probably just lost the last hope that RB Ezekiel Elliott will either not be suspended or that his suspension will be postponed. That’s truly a shame because his performance over the last several weeks has been incredible. Whoever takes over this backfield, if indeed Elliott’s suspension is upheld, is anyone’s guess. The only sure thing is that the Cowboys’ offense runs through Elliott, but will not run through his replacement. It’s still a fun game to guess at who will take over the backfield because a Cowboys RB should still provide at least RB2 value if they’re competent. Chris Thompson will likely be the primary beneficiary of Washington’s decimated OLine. He is already having a great season and is in a good place to continue. Rob “Fat Rob” Kelly sure ain’t helping Washington- he looked sluggish.
WR: Dez Bryant will have to step it up for the Cowboys as well because his 39 yards from week 8 aren’t cutting it. While it’s possible that game flow and weather played a significant role in Bryant’s down game, next week will presumably require a lot more Bryant. We should know soon if Elliott’s suspension will be upheld, but it’s looking likely. This week was mostly about the weather and thus the run game. Without Elliott, Brice Butler and maybe even Cole Beasley would be good speculative grabs ahead of next week so you don’t have to blow FAAB or waiver wire priority to claim them following their game against KC. Jamison Crowder seems to be the only Washington receiver stepping up, because while WR Josh Doctson handily outsnapped WR Terrell Pryor, he didn’t do much outside of a single grab for a TD late in the game. He had a bad drive-killing drop in the game as well, but it seems unlikely that anyone outside of Thompson or TE Jordan Reed (when healthy) is going to be putting up much by way of points in standard or PPR until the line improves. Note: if you own Doctson, you may want to monitor Crowder’s health before dropping him though I currently expect Crowder to suit up next week.
TE: Jordan Reed was injured during the game and did not return. The oft-injured TE is now questionable for week 9. Like, actually questionable, not Belichick questionable. If you have Reed, you should be grabbing TE insurance in case he can’t go next week against the Seahawks. If he can, he may still be limited, but he’s one of the few Washington players that seems like he’s trying to win games, so you can’t really bench him. Despite his talent and experience, Jason Witten doesn’t seem to have much of a role with the Cowboys currently. I hope to see him more involved in Elliott’s absence, but I probably wouldn’t put him in my lineup until I have a better sense of where things are going.
Steelers vs Lions
QB: The Steelers Were A Mixed Bag this past Sunday. But not like a mixed bag of good candies that you hope are left over after Halloween trick-or-treaters have stopped coming by, more like a mixed bag of generic, not very popular hard candies that are passed out by the lame neighbors, and which are easily tossed aside for chocolate. Ben Roethlisberger has fewer points on the season than Le’Veon Bell. That’s kind of a weird thing. Big Ben has been struggling of late (as in this whole season, not just the last couple weeks), failing to top more than 17-ish points all season and his performance in week 8 probably makes him glad there’s a bye for PIT in week 9. He did throw for 317 yards, but just 1 TD (and 1 INT). On a day where QB Matt Stafford threw an incredible 423 yards, you would think he would also have somewhere int he neighborhood of 3 touchdowns, but Stafford is like Liz Lemon– he’s trying to have it all, but life just won’t let him. The Lions’ 15 points from week 8 were entirely field goals. Detroit failed to score a single touchdown in the air or on the ground. The Steelers have had some pretty up and down performances defense-wise, but they only had 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery on the night with zero INTs. The rest was just plain old good-but-not-great defense keeping the Lions from scoring TD’s and forcing them to kick FG’s instead.
RB: Le’Veon Bell is Le’Veon Bell. He remains a must-start, perhaps even more so with the passing struggles in PIT. The Lions’ Ameer Abdullah, on the other hand, is just as likely to score less than 5 points in standard as he is to score more than 5 points, and has only hit double digits once so far this season. One would hope you have better options than Abdullah, but I suppose it’s always technically possible that he could score a second TD this season. Not likely, just possible.
WR: Almost all of Roethlisberger’s passing yards went to ascendant wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu’s 193 yard + a TD performance was a thing of beauty including a perfect 97-yard catch and run TD where he outran 3 Lions defenders for most of the way down the field and stealing the spotlight from star WR Antonio Brown who posted just 70 yards in the game. It certainly doesn’t help Big Ben that his other WR’s didn’t want to catch the ball that particular day, or that WR Martavis Bryant has something weird going on where he may or may not remain a part of the Steelers for much longer. The Lions may or may not have a good defense, but it seems like this game performance was more about the Steelers’ struggles than Detroit’s triumphs. Marvin Jones, Jr looked great, and was targeted a team-high 11 times, but Kenny Golladay has been out, and while I don’t personally think he’s much of a threat to Jones, they do seem to have a similar profile and role for Detroit so it’s very possible that Golladay’s impending return should temper expectations for Jones going forward. WR Golden Tate had a fumble in the game on a pretty big play, but still turned 8 targets into 7 catches and 86 yards. He’s probably back to healthy after dealing with a shoulder injury and has a pretty safe floor, so fire him up in week 9. The Lions take on Green Bay in week 9, and that is one of my favorite rivalries in football. I really do wish Rodgers was healthy so we could see these two teams each perform at high levels because Hundley is not looking super promising as QB for the Packers. I predict that Detroit straightens things out and wins pretty handily.
Broncos Vs. Chiefs
QB: Denver Needs A Hero. When I watch Denver QB Trevor Siemian I feel like he desperately wants to be the kind of hero. He craves to be able to put the team on his back and throw the game-winning pass for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter to pull off a come from behind victory that thrills, excites, and electrifies Mile High and gets him a free beer at the pub the next day. Siemian’s desire to be that hero instead of succeeding just looks to me like he is trying way too hard. That was no more apparent than a terribly thrown 2-pt conversion attempt that sailed way over the head of Benny Fowler. Siemian just isn’t that good, yet. Maybe he never will be, I don’t know. What I do know is that his performance, which included 3 INTs on the night, earned him a spot on the bench and a starting role for Brock Lobster, who may just be an upgrade for DT88. Alex Smith looked good, despite only throwing 1 touchdown. The Denver defense stepped up and held pretty much everyone besides Travis Kelce in check.
RB: For what it’s worth, I thought CJ Anderson looked like the best RB out there, but the Broncos seemed to disagree and were using Devontae Booker more and more through the second half, including on a red zone run that turned into a TD for Booker. I recommend stashing Booker in case he’s somehow got a chance to take over, but I wouldn’t count on it, and Jamaal Charles isn’t going anywhere, either, despite a fumble early in the game where Marcus not only ripped the ball out of Charles’ grip but also recovered the ball and ran it in for a defensive TD. Maybe Denver just saw a loss coming and wanted to save CJ’s health, I don’t know, but it wasn’t an encouraging night for CJA owners. I hesitate to play any Broncos players right now, but DT88, Sanders, and CJA all still have a decent chance to score double digits in any given game, so who knows. Proceed with caution. RB Kareem Hunt faced a solid run D, but I don’t expect him to stay down, so owners shouldn’t worry. He’s too good and the Chiefs O-line is exceptional at run blocking most weeks. Look for Hunt to bounce back next week.
WR: Siemian certainly wasn’t helped when stupid bye-week filler and temporary Sanders replacement Benny Fowler III dropped a wide open TD pass, effectively sealing my loss in my main league. Not that I’m bitter. But a dropped TD notwithstanding, Siemian is pretty responsible for all 3 INTs. Whether the Broncos need WR Emmanuel Sanders back, Demaryius Thomas to catch a few more bad passes to buoy bad QB play, CJ Anderson to run even harder than he already is, or Osweiler to be a better QB than he has been in the past, the Broncos need someone to step it up in a big way. As for the Chiefs, if you haven’t noticed it yet, Tyreek Hill seems to be keeping up a pretty hard odd/even split on the season so far. Still, he’s an amazing player, and clearly capable of big plays on a weekly basis, so you can’t exactly sit him and risk missing out. Bottom line: don’t be disheartened by a down week 8. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a big game anyway as the Chiefs head to Dallas for week 9 because that matchup has all the ingredients for a shootout.
TE: Travis Kelce can sure ball out. Denver has been giving up numbers to TE’s all season, so it wasn’t exactly unexpected. Still, Kelce is a locked in TE1 as one of the main offensive weapons for the Chiefs. Kelce already has 4 TD’s on the season so far and has topped 100 yards thrice while gaining 98 yards on another week. Dallas has been doing pretty well against TE’s, but unless you have Ertz or maaaybe Doyle (big maybe), Kelce should remain in your lineup. Denver’s AJ Derby caught himself a touchdown as well, but neither he isn’t any better than a shot in the dark and probably shouldn’t be rostered except in desperation.