Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 8
Our Week 7 predictions didn't quite hit the mark, but I think our heads were in the right place.
Corey Davis finished as a top 10 wide receiver in fantasy after the Tennessee Titans switched to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, but A.J. Brown placed just outside the top 24 wideouts with his solid 9.2 fantasy points. Kyler Murray simply wasn't needed in a game in which Chase Edmonds managed to punish the New York Giants for each of their missteps. The Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks did put on an exciting show, but the upside was limited somewhat by the weather. Michael Gallup wasn't utilized in a blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles, especially with Amari Cooper's miraculous recovery. The only prediction that looks silly after the week was that the New York Jets would beat the New England Patriots. That definitely did not happen.
We'll bounce back in Week 8 with a fresh new set of predictions.
Le'Veon Bell Will Be the RB1
You have to hand it to Le'Veon Bell. After holding out for a year -- and dealing with the media backlash of his holdout -- he hasn't looked like he's missed a step. For most of the 2019 NFL season, he's been the lone bright spot on the Jets. And despite the team's horrendous start to the season, he's kept his head down and played his heart out.
Of course, right when the Jets looked like they had turned the corner -- they upset the Dallas Cowboys just over a week ago -- they had to face the Pats and their lights-out defense. They didn't even score a point, but Bell still managed to put together an impressive performance. His 70 rushing yards nearly matched Sam Darnold's 86 passing yards, and he still managed to add positive expected points, per our numbers, to the Jets' expected points total on an impressive 46.67% of his rush attempts.
This week, all of Bell's hard work is going to pay off. He's going to finish as the overall RB1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jags have allowed 4.8 yards per carry to opposing teams, the eighth-highest mark in the league. And on top of that, they've given up at least 30 receiving yards to each competent receiving back they've faced all year. Also, the Jags just lost Marcell Dareus last week to an abdominal injury. His status for this week is uncertain, but given that he was unable to return after suffering the injury in the third quarter, it seems unlikely that he'll play this week. Dareus is one of the league's best run-defenders -- the Buffalo Bills gave up multiple 200-yard rushing games after trading him to the Jags in 2017 -- and the Jags could really struggle to stop the run without him.
Plus, the Jags are now without Jalen Ramsey. Darnold should be able to quiet the ghosts he saw in the shutout loss on Monday Night Football enough to keep the Jets' offense on the field. With a hopefully-competent offense around him and a weakened defensive front on the other side of the field, Bell is going to feast in Week 8.
Austin Ekeler Will Send Melvin Gordon to the Bench
I wrote about how Melvin Gordon's return has hampered the Los Angeles Chargers' offense on Monday, but the long and short of it is that Austin Ekeler is just straight up a better running back than Gordon right now. And that's not even including Gordon's last-second, goal-line fumble that cost the Chargers a victory in Week 7.
By just about every metric we have available to us, Ekeler has outperformed Gordon. The Chargers have apparently had a tough time noticing this, considering Gordon has out-carried Ekeler 36-13 since Gordon's return, but Gordon's costly fumble should finally be enough for the team to shorten his leash.
This week, the Chargers take on a struggling Chicago Bears team. The Bears' defense has not quite lived up to the lofty expectations we had for them entering the season, but they still have some top-tier players. They've been shutting down the run in 2019, allowing the fourth-fewest yards per carry to opposing backs. They should have little to no trouble shutting down Gordon, who is averaging just 2.3 yards per carry with a long run of 7 yards.
Meanwhile, the Bears have allowed the most targets (61) and the fifth-most receiving yards (348) to opposing running backs. That sets up perfectly for Ekeler to shine, as Ekeler leads all running backs in receiving yardage in 2019 with 488.
Even with Gordon back in the lineup and cutting drives short with unsuccessful rush attempts, Ekeler has managed to shine in the passing game. In Week 8, the Chargers will finally realize that Ekeler makes their team better and will send Gordon back to the bench.
The Panthers Will Upset the 49ers
I can't say I came away impressed with the San Francisco 49ers after their 9-0 victory over Washington in Week 7. Sure, their defense blanked a Washington team that has beaten only the Miami Dolphins this year and one that attempted just 12 passes, but far more concerning was that the 49ers couldn't muster up more than 9 points against one of the worst defenses in the league. Sure, weather played a role, but it's not like Jimmy Garoppolo has impressed this year, either.
To start the season, the 49ers had one of the most impressive run games in the league. They're still second only to the Ravens (204.1) in rushing yards per game (172.7), but things have been trending in the wrong direction since the end of their decisive victory over the Cleveland Browns. Since that time, the 49ers lost fullback Kyle Juszczyk and both of their starting tackles.
Let's get back to Garoppolo, who has been underwhelming to say the least. He's thrown 6 interceptions this season -- tied for ninth-most -- despite having attempted just 167 passes. He's been one of the most intercepted quarterbacks of the season.
On the other side of the ball, the Carolina Panthers have been playing stellar defense to start the year -- not unlike the 49ers themselves. Per numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, the Panthers' defense ranks just behind the 49ers as the third-best defense in the league. Without their starting tackles or their fullback, the 49ers are going to have a hard time getting anything going against the Panthers' strong defensive front.
And that's how this game is going to go down -- it will be a game dominated by the defenses, but the healthier, more-talented offense will come out on top. Garoppolo will turn the ball over without his protection, while Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has thus far done a pretty solid job protecting the football. The 49ers are currently favored by 5.5 points, but don't be surprised if the Panthers pull off the upset.
D.K. Metcalf Will Dunk on the Falcons
Just about everyone has dunked on the Atlanta Falcons defense in 2019. Only the Houston Texans have allowed more passing yards than the Falcons through seven weeks of play, and the Falcons have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks of any team not named the Dolphins. It's Seattle's turn this week, and the charge will be lead by D.K. Metcalf.
Metcalf has been impressive to start his rookie season -- though he's had his share of textbook rookie mistakes, such as last week's costly fumble that resulted in a defensive touchdown for the Ravens. The second-round draft pick out of Ole Miss has posted the second-most receiving yards among rookie wideouts and currently has the 28th-most among all wideouts with 389. That's even more impressive when you consider how run-heavy the Seahawks like to play. He even has more air yards (575) than teammate Tyler Lockett (546). The Seahawks are putting him in position to hit it big every week, and it's all going to come together in Week 8.
Only the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed more fantasy points to opposing wideouts in 2019, and it's not clear if either of those teams have defensive backs rostered. The Falcons have been roasted by speedy receivers like Will Fuller, T.Y. Hilton and Nelson Agholor, made Marcus Mariota look elite for a week, and have forced just four turnovers all year. Russell Wilson will have no problem dismantling this team through the air, and Atlanta will help Metcalf look Randy Moss-like. Metcalf will finish as a top-six wide receiver in Week 8.
LeSean McCoy Will Be an RB1
It's been tough sledding for the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs in 2019. Each of the three main backs -- LeSean McCoy, Damien Williams and Darrel Williams -- have looked impressive when they've been given opportunities, and that's been part of the problem for fantasy. It's been hard for the Chiefs to justify giving any one of them a dominant workload when they've all performed so well.
That could change in Week 8, as the Chiefs will be without Patrick Mahomes. In his stead, Matt Moore will be manning the controls, which is fine but not great. Head coach Andy Reid will no doubt have some shenanigans in store for the Chiefs' Sunday night tilt against the Green Bay Packers, but I think a heavy part of their game plan will revolve around the run.
While no back in Kansas City has taken over the Kareem Hunt role, McCoy has established himself as the best pure runner on the field. He has averaged a whopping 5.4 yards per carry in 2019 -- well ahead of Damien (1.7) or Darrel (4.0). But as McCoy has dominated on the ground, Darrel and Damien have been making it happen through the air -- both backs have been drawing the kind of down-the-field targets we covet for running backs in fantasy football, while Shady's targets have come closer to the line of scrimmage.
That's part of why Shady could end up looking like the workhorse in that backfield this week -- we can't count on Matt Moore to connect with his running backs on those downfield wheel routes Mahomes has made look so easy. Reid will likely take some of the pressure off of Moore to make those downfield throws and instead give the ball to his most talented runner more than he has so far this season.
Shady should have no problem besting a Packers run defense that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. According to numberFire's schedule-adjusted power rankings, the Packers have fielded the league's second-worst run defense. In an important home game against a near-undefeated opponent, Andy Reid will attack Green Bay's weaknesses -- and in Week 8, those weaknesses just happen to align with Shady's strengths. Shady will finish as an RB1 in Week 8.