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Week 8 Fantasy Football Studs, Duds, and Thuds: Goodbye, Le'Veon Bell and Steve Smith

Every Monday, we review the fantasy impacts of the week's NFL performances and injuries through Sunday through of what to do with players in coming weeks.

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Le'Veon Bell reportedly has a severe MCL tear and will be out the remainder of the season. Matt Forte also exited Sunday's game with a knee injury; his status is unknown. Deangelo Williams and Jeremy Langford are must-adds in waivers this week, along with Jacquizz Rodgers in PPR formats.

This is getting sick. Before Week 5, my top-5 running backs, rest of season were:

  1. Le'Veon Bell (torn MCL, expected to go on season-ending IR)
  2. Adrian Peterson (getting stuffed more than any other RB in the NFL)
  3. Jamaal Charles (torn ACL, out for season)
  4. Arian Foster (torn Achilles, out for season)
  5. Matt Forte (unknown right knee injury)

The fantasy season is now leaning on the likes of Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman, Chris Ivory, and Latavius Murray. It is an understatement to say that the RB position is the most scarce as it has ever been. There is no better way to lead off the Week 8 recap by noting that we should not be selling RB1s for what may seem to be equal value.

Without a huge overpay from our opponent, the variance of possibilities in giving up one of these four or Marshawn Lynch or even Chris Johnson (30/109/0) is so high that we are almost just clicking buttons to give up one of these guys without getting one of these guys in return. Even when a top-5 wide receiver is offered, there is are so few options to play at RB that we need a replacement in return, no matter what is on our bench.

Every time an RB1 goes down, the field shrinks to make these five or six RBs rarely priceless.

Steve Smith is likely out of forever

Steve Smith, Sr. tore his Achilles to likely end his career. Bravo, tough guy! Bravo!

Kamar Aiken (6/62/0) is a good waiver add, but Crockett Gillmore (2/8/1) can become a low-end TE1, given the volatility of Jimmy Graham (7/75/0) and Julius Thomas with the funeral of Jason Witten (2/16/0). Where we are streaming TEs, grab Gillmore as a free agent on Thursday morning. The Ravens defense is terrible and should force the offense to keep throwing, as Joe Flacco is on pace for a career-high 648 pass attempts this season. Ball's gotta go somewhere.

The Saints-Giants game was ridiculous

Takeaways from this game are difficult, but we can definitively conclude that:

  • The Giants defense is a fraud.
  • Odell Beckham, Jr. (8/130/3) is full healthy and safe to trust as a top-3 WR again.
  • Benjamin Watson (9/147/1) is the focal point of this passing game with a 23/233/2 slash over the last three games in 27 targets.
  • Khiry Robinson was nothing more than a handcuff, and now he is injured as Mark Ingram dominated the snap count (64%), carries (16 of the team's 25) and is the most active option in the passing game, already passing his career-high in targets (37) through half the season. C.J. Spiller is worth a waiver add in PPR leagues where he was dropped.
  • Orleans Darkwa is irrelevant. Sorry.
  • Drew Brees (40/50, 511 yds, 7 TDs, 1 INT) is still ridiculous at home. He has a 75.6% completion% and almost 360 yards per game (YPG) at home versus 62% and 315 on the road. Even with four road games remaining, he is not a sell high because the booms are too huge and his playoff schedule (Weeks 14 through 17) is second-weakest to the Chiefs, facing the Buccaneers, Lions, and Jaguars in Weeks 14 through 16.
  • Eli Manning (30/41, 350/60) proves the rule for DFS that the losing QB in a shootout against a bad defense is going to be among the week's top performers.

Don't overblow the role of Dwayne Harris (3/37/2) in the Giants offense and be careful with Willie Snead (7/76/2) and Brandon Cooks (6/88/2) on the road because you cannot be sure of their volumes as you would with actual top-20 WRs.

Stud of the week: The Broncos defense

As awe-inspiring as Drew Brees was, and as fun as that game was to watch, the Broncos D was actually more special.

They held Aaron Rodgers (14/22, 77/0/0) to under 142 yards for the first time in his career where he was started a game and didn't leave due to injury. It was also only Rodgers eighth of 108 starts where he did not throw a TD pass. Bear in mind that only six players in history of the game have thrown more yards per game and none have thrown more TDs per game than Rodgers and this we have to raise our levels of extreme caution when starting players against Denver.

The Broncos are allowing the least fantasy points per week to QBs (10.01) and WRs (13.38), while allowing the second-fewest YPG (81.2) to RBs. This is a huge win for Ronnie Hillman (19/60/2 on 57% of snaps) who should continue to get volume with this. C.J. Anderson (14/101/1) is a risky start, as his 28-yard TD was a play where Clay Matthews was sidelined to get his ankle taped and his replacement was a bum.

The Packers offense will be fine. Buy low wherever you can. Even Eddie Lacy (11/38/1) looked good on his runs--hitting the holes hard where they existed and was lighter on his feet than ever this season--and played 47 snaps to James Starks' 42. Starks is the play-from-behind back, but other than Week 9 in Carolina and Week 16 in Arizona, the schedule is full of softies whom the Packers should kill.

Dud of the week: Bengals-Steelers

We had no reason to not buy into the smart Vegas people giving this game a near-50 over/under with microscopic spreads. This was supposed to be a high-scoring close game with lots of endgame action.

Instead, Andy Dalton (24/38, 231/1/2) turned into a pumpkin, which can be a Cinderella, Halloween, or hair joke, if you want; Bell made us cry; and Ben Roethlisberger (28/45, 262/1/3) had his standard might-have-returned-too-early stinker to hurt Antonio Brown (6/47/0).

Williams (9/71/0) confirmed our early season optimism to handcuff Bell and Jeremy Hill (15/60/0) was force-fed the ball to safe Dalton from himself. The best part of this game was Dalton's return to Earth because that means he stops pretending he can be unpredictable and forces the ball to A.J. Green (11/118/1).

This all killed Giovani Bernard (34 yards on three touches), Tyler Eifert (4/39/0), and Marvin Jones (2/12/0). The Bengals schedule has tons of ups and downs and we should be re-evaluating from week to week how many fantasy-relevant players this offense can sustain.

This really should have been a big one for Bernard, though I had him as a DFS fade. That he was unused, despite playing 48% of snaps is astonishing. Joe Haden and Donte Whitner will be out Thursday against the Bengals, so Week 9 should be all about Green and the run. Bernard becomes very risky in this scenario, despite the great matchup, as the staff is forcing get-right potential for Hill.

Todd Gurley and Devonta Freeman should top all rest of season RB rankings

Todd Gurley (20/133/1) is dominating the Rams offense, regardless of matchup and gameflow for a record-setting 566 yards in his first four starts with no sign of slowing down. There is no more valuable player to own in any format of fantasy.

Playing from behind did not halt the usage of Devonta Freeman (21/88/0; 6/43/0 in the pass game) who still had a high volume in every facet of the offense. Freeman didn't score a TD, but this was just the bad luck of Matt Ryan playing terribly. As bad as this game was for the Falcons, he and Julio Jones (12/162/1) have no kryptonite and are both still top-2 at their positions.

Be impressed by the Raiders

Latavius Murray (20/113/0) ran through a Jets defense only allowing around 50 YPG and Amari Cooper (5/46/0) was widely avoided with Darrelle Revis on him. Derek Carr forced the ball to Michael Crabtree (7/102/1), who is continuing to have a career year. Whether or not we feel icky trusting Crabtree because of how he has burned us in the past, Carr trusts him and that is all that matters to us.

A+ for Darren McFadden

This game was very difficult to watch. I cannot blame you for overlooking the stellar performance of Darren McFadden and the irrelevance of Christine Michael. McFadden totaled 113 yards in whopping 26 touches, including six catches in eight targets in the passing game. If you bought him cheaply in DFS, he exceeded the value; and he was well above projections in seasonal leagues.

He didn't score a TD and his yards per carry blew, but this was Seattle. He played 47 snaps to Michael's ten and more than exceeded his expected fantasy production. Refer back to RB scarcity and he may have to be treated as top-15, rest of season--definitely top-20.

Dez Bryant has a Matt Cassel problem

We have seen Antonio Brown barely perform as a WR4 with terrible quarterbacking from Michael Vick and expect similar disappointment from Dez Bryant's (2/12/0) fantasy production. Matt Cassel (13/25, 97/0/0) and Vick are not what Josh McCown was with the Bears or Brian Hoyer, past and present. And Matt Cassel is not in a Bill Belichick offense. There has to be at least 25 better options in the NFL to start every week than Bryant until Tony Romo returns, and that will not be until--at least--Week 11, so Bryant is a total fade in DFS until then.

Where we are around .500, we may have to sell Bryant low to a strong opponent just to make the playoffs, despite strengthening a playoff team. Where we are .500 and deep at WR, we are probably losing half of our games because of our weakness at RB, so targeting an RB2 is a necessity for our survival.

Demaryius Thomas does not have a Peyton Manning problem.

Demaryius Thomas (8/168/0) cannot face the small and sleepy Packers secondary every week, but Peyton Manning forced him the ball on 11 of his 29 attempts. Emmanuel Sanders (2/22/0) only saw five targets and we may being to see more volatility in his volume, as the defense continues to give Denver the ability to abandon the pass and Manning treats Thomas as his Marvin Harrison.

Calvin Johnson has an ankle injury

We do not know the extent of the injury that forced Calvin Johnson (5/85/0) to leave Sunday's game, but this was just starting to look up, as he saw ten targets and has a nice schedule ahead. Great timing for the Lions' Week 9 bye. If he plays, he should be great against the Packers in Week 10. Johnson owners should be begging opponents for Golden Tate as a handcuff, though.

Brandon Marshall and Chris Ivory may have a QB Jets problem

Ryan Fitzpatrick left early with a thumb injury. Brandon Marshall (9/108/0) and Chris Ivory (15/17/0) will have to be treated with caution in DFS if Fitzpatrick misses time. Not sure we can dodge either in our seasonal leagues, but Eric Decker (6/60/1) should be faded where we can. If neither Fitzpatrick nor Geno Smith (shoulder) can start against the Jaguars, these excellent DFS options become scary.

Stefon Diggs is as much a stud as the Vikings can produce at WR

Teddy Bridgewater only threw 30 times in a close game against the Bears, but 12 of those ball went to Stefon Diggs (6/95/1), who made a spectacular run after the catch for a TD against a lowly Bears secondary. The Bears are terrible, but Diggs now has 39 targets in four games without seeing fewer than nine in any game with over 100 YPG.

With nine games remaining, I doubt that we can project more than five more TDs, but--despite the second-worst schedule for WRs, according to yards feels like a floor. A 54/700/5 slash is 100 standard points and 154 in PPR for the remaining nine games. This is high-end WR2 territory.

Mike Evans needs help

Without Vincent Jackson (knee) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder), the passing options were terrible. As a result, the Falcons zeroed in on Mike Evans (3/48/0) and Jameis Winston (16/29, 177/1/0) could not make Evans relevant, despite nine targets. This is the second of four games in which Evans has seen at least eight targets without registering five fantasy points.

Michael Floyd is worth a waiver add

John Brown (hamstring) was unexpectedly active for a great matchup against the Browns, but was merely a decoy. Michael Floyd (4/106/1) is finally connecting with Carson Palmer (23/38, 374/4/1) as a trusted deep threat. As long as Brown is limited in practice, Floyd should be a top-25 WR, and we can re-evaluate when Brown is re-configured into the offense.

Cannot deny Charcandrick West

Charcandrick West (20/97/1) is making a case for RB1-potential. The Lions are terrible, but RBs are terrible. The Chiefs cannot be trusted to force the run because of gameflow, but when West gets the ball, pretty things are happening.

Ignore Danny Amendola

Drop Danny Amendola (1/11/0) in 12-team league. In deeper leagues, sell him to the Julian Edelman owner for whatever you can get, if they want to handcuff him. Keep Brandon Lafell (4/47/0) stashed on your bench, but don't start him, yet, though seven targets is nice.

But this passing game belongs to a healthy Edelman (7/81/2), Rob Gronkowski (6/113/1), and Dion Lewis (6/93/1 in the pass game). And the plodding belongs to LeGarrette Blount (17/72/0), who has multiple-TD upside every week.

Buy the matchup-proof explosiveness of Tom Brady (27/48, 356/4/0) and his league-wide middle finger, but don't go crazy with expectations of the ball being spread around. The confidence is specific weapons is very clear.

Antonio Gates is annoying

Antonio Gates (4/56/0) played through an MCL sprain. He was bad, but Philip RIvers (28/37, 301/3/0) cannot quit him. Gates saw five targets and killed a great matchup for Ladarius Green (1/10/0). Rivers looking for Gates, who couldn't get open, slowed down the offense. Besides Malcolm Floyd (4/92/2) having a fluke great game, the Chargers were another team Vegas billed as fantasy gold that just farted through a game.

Rivers is still great. Buy low on Keenan Allen (5/35/1) as if he is a top-12 WR and on Danny Woodhead (2/36/0 in the pass game) in PPR. This team still sucks at running the ball, only getting 3.1 yards per carry against a porous Ravens D, led by Melvin Gordon (18/54/0; 5/7/0 in the pass game).

Travis Benjamin is not matchup-proof; Gary Barnidge still a relative stud

Travis Benjamin (3/26/0) was collectively shut down by the Cardinals secondary. Josh McCown is risk averse and directed a season-high 11 targets to Gary Barnidge (7/53/1). Duke Johnson, Jr. (2/68/0 in the pass game) was not utilized because of the Cardinals pass rush, but still showed he is a legit flex option in PPR with a big play.

Reggie Bush is hurt and the Vladimir Putin is Russian

Whatever. Not sure if Carlos Hyde will be active in Week 9 against the Falcons, but not entirely sure it matters. This whole Niners squad is a mess. There is not one player we should be owning, other than Hyde on our benches.

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