Welcome to Week 8 of Lessons Learned! In this article, we break down ten important takeaways from the prior week in fantasy football, and what they could mean for your lineups moving forward.
If you learned anything from Week 8 that you think we should know, send us a comment or shoot me a tweet @FantasySensei! Without further ado, let’s dive into the fantasy classroom.
1. Cam Newton is Fully Entrenched in the Stud Tier
In the current QB landscape, there are a very small handful of quarterbacks I would consider must-starts regardless of matchup. Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady … and Cam Newton. Cam is quietly having one of his best seasons as a passer, while continuing to add 5+ fantasy points on the ground every week, with an occasional extra touchdown.
Cam proved it on Sunday when he shellacked the elite Ravens defense for 32 fantasy points in 6-point per passing TD formats. And he’s honestly proved it all season, with his 13-4 TD-INT ratio, league-leading 309 rushing yards, and a 97.4 passer rating that’s second-best in his career to only the MVP season in 2015. I think Cam is a dark-horse candidate to win MVP again, and you should consider him a fantasy MVP at the very least.
2. The Dolphins Run D Is Good RB Medicine
A week after the Dolphins healed the Detroit Lions of their extreme allergy to Kerryon Johnson (who piled up 158 rushing yards on 19 carries), they were kind of enough to heal Lamar Miller of a case of oldbusteditis in Week 8. Miller totaled 133 rushing yards — his highest total in over two calendar years — and scored his second touchdown (in two weeks).
While there’s something to be said for Miller himself, the Dolphins have also allowed 100+ scrimmage yards to Tarik Cohen, Joe Mixon, Sony Michel, James White, and Dion Lewis over the course of the season. That’s seven backs in eight games. Only the Lions and Chiefs are allowing more scrimmage yards per game to running backs and only three teams have allowed more than the 10 TDs the Dolphins have coughed up to RBs. For next week, this means I’m willing to start Isaiah Crowell, and I’m not opposed to Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, or LeSean McCoy in the weeks after.
3. David Moore is Actually a Thing
When Seahawks wide receiver David Moore caught a pair of touchdowns in Week 5, we all chuckled at the flukiness of fantasy. When he scored again in Week 6, we stopped chuckling and produced a collective “dismissive horse sound” (you know, the one where we blow through flappy lips as if to say “yeah, right”). But then he did it again this week coming off the bye and added 97 receiving yards to boot.
Then the Seahawks released Brandon Marshall. Listen people, Russell Wilson is entering second-half Russell Wilson form, a magnificent spectacle only outshone by Ryan Fitzpatrick in post-game press conferences. Doug Baldwin is strangely nonexistent, Tyler Lockett is what he is, and David Moore is currently the most prolific fantasy receiver in Seattle. While you shouldn’t expect WR1 numbers rest of season, he is a must own commodity at this point, and I’d consider flexing him in just about every matchup on the Seahawks slate, especially in non-PPR.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick is Real Magic
Dynasty owners of former No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston probably cried themselves to sleep on Sunday night (and by probably, I mean that I did it) after the 24-year-old threw four horrific interceptions and was summarily benched. Everyone else enjoyed a wonderful night’s sleep filled with dreams of Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing touchdown passes to players on the moon while riding an armored bear.
Seriously, after Winston dug the Bucs into an 18-point hole late in the 3rd quarter, Fitzpatrick came roaring in, threw a pair of touchdowns to Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, and managed to tie the game before the defense gave up a last-second field goal. Fitzpatrick is now the bonafide starter moving forward, which I believe is good news for all Tampa Bay pass-catchers. He is a maniacal, gunslinging tornado of a man, and I for one will enjoy watching him work his Fitzmagic all over the field and the fantasy landscape in the coming weeks.
5. Sammy Watkins Can Still Play Football
We few, we happy few. We band of Sammy Watkins truthers. (If you got that reference, props to you for knowing your Shakespeare). It took a groin injury to Tyreek Hill, but we finally saw what Sammy Watkins can do with a proper WR1 target share in Week 8. Namely, 8 catches on 9 targets for 107 yards and 2 touchdowns.
We’re not 100% sure at this point what to expect with regard to Hill’s injury. But if the Chiefs are smart, they’ll take it slow with Tyreek and coax him back to 110%, rather than forcing the issue and worsening the injury. That could give Sammy another couple weeks to showcase his stuff, and potentially earn a more legitimate role in this offense. Hill and Travis Kelce will still get theirs when healthy, but if Watkins can become the 1C he’s capable of being, it will mean reliable startability for fantasy purposes.
6. R.I.P. Jordan Reed
It’s still Halloween while I’m writing this, so I feel the morbid theme is slightly appropriate for Mr. Reed. Sadly, it appears that when Jordan lost his toes, he also lost several steps. Coincidence? I think not.
But seriously, we saw a target-splosion for Reed in Week 6, as Alex Smith peppered him to the tune of 12 targets for 7 receptions … and 38 yards. Reed’s best game this season was a doozy of a 65-yarder back in Week 3. All the risk-takers who drafted Reed in hopes he could stay healthy have been rewarded with exactly that, and just about nothing else. Unless you’re in a full PPR league, Reed is outside the top 12 looking in, and even in PPR, he’s capped as a low-upside whoop-dee-doo option.
7. Baby Hands are Back in Vogue
For those of you who don’t get this odd reference, I am speaking of the one and only Jack “Baby Hands” Doyle, who’s undersized grabbers snagged 6 receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown in his return from a hip injury.
Interestingly enough, Eric Ebron still hauled in another TD, and the Colts third tight end, Mo Alie-Cox, made it a three-peat. Consider that had never happened since the 1970 NFL merger, I think it’s safe to assume this is mostly a 1A/1B situation with Doyle and Ebron. The Colts have used two tight ends to great success before, so don’t be surprised to see a decent split moving forward. That said, Doyle was the clear leader in snaps last week, and will be the more reliable and productive option most weeks, especially in PPR scoring.
8. Doug Martin and Jalen Richard Are Who We Thought They Were
But don’t let them off the hook. Both can be usable fantasy assets if played correctly. In Sunday’s game against the Colts, Martin led the team (by a mile) with 13 carries, and looked like the Muscle Hamster of old, totaling 72 rushing yards and adding 17 receiving yards on 2 catches. Meanwhile, Richard only saw 2 carries (for 14 yards) but caught all 8 of his targets for 50 receiving yards.
Until proven otherwise, Martin is a decent start in any game we expect the Raiders to compete in (namely, today’s Thursday Night Football matchup against the 49ers, Week 11 vs the Cardinals, and Week 16 vs the Broncos). Richard, on the other hand, should be a PPR stud in the vein of recent-years Duke Johnson, especially in games we expect the Raiders to lose handily (namely, every other game on their schedule).
9. Byron Leftwich is Good for DJ and Fitzy
In his first game as OC after the firing of Mike McCoy, Byron Leftwich got 100 scrimmage yards from David Johnson and 102 yards and a touchdown from Larry Fitzgerald. It still wasn’t the 30-point breakout we’re longing to see from DJ, but it was encouraging to see him snag 4 receptions for 41 yards.
Meanwhile, Larry Fitz saw a season-high in targets (12) and turned them into season highs in receptions and yards. We heard whispers from Leftwich that Fitz would get more involved, so seeing it materialize in a single week was a great sign. Keep your eyes on the production moving forward, but I’m willing to buy low on both these players if I’m making a playoff push.
10. It’s Aaron Jones SZN
After muddling about with the less-explosive Jamaal Williams for weeks, Mike McCarthy finally gave the load to Aaron Jones in Week 8. Jones shouldered 12 of the team’s 19 rush attempts, his first foray above 60% of the carries this season. Crucially, he turned those carries into 86 yards and a touchdown.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Packers immediately went and traded Ty Montgomery for a 2-day-old ham sandwich. With Aaron Rodgers on his side and the tape on his side, Aaron Jones is finally shaping up into the Packers RB1 many had projected him to be. Now the question is whether he can turn that role into fantasy goodness. My expectation is that he can, starting in Week 9 against the Patriots.