Fantasy Football: 5 Things We Learned in Week 8
Week 8 was a rainy and windy week for many but brought much better tidings than Week 7. Instead of losing important players, for the most part the major players in fantasy football escaped unscathed. We even got a key player back -- more on that in a moment -- and got some encouraging performances out of teams that lost their starting quarterbacks. All in all, Week 8 was a pretty solid week.
Even without major changes across the fantasy landscape, there was still a lot to take in during the Week 8 games. With that in mind, here are five things we learned in Week 8.
Drew Brees Is Home
Drew Brees shocked many this past week when he hinted he would be returning from the thumb injury that sidelined him since Week 2.
It seemed unlikely that the New Orleans Saints would throw their future Hall of Fame quarterback back onto the field just before their Week 9 bye, especially with how admirably Teddy Bridgewater had filled in for Brees while he was sidelined. Bridgewater had led the Saints to a 5-0 record in his starts. He hadn't been a world-beater in those starts, but he kept the Saints in good position every single week.
However, it seems like the Saints really wanted to dunk on the Arizona Cardinals because they gave Brees back the starting role in Week 8 despite everything we mentioned above. And he definitely rewarded that decision.
Brees led the Saints to an easy 31-9 victory, completing 34 of his 43 pass attempts for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception along the way. He appeared completely unbothered by his thumb, regularly zipping passes into receivers' hands the moment they came free from defenders. In other words, Drew Brees is back.
As we mentioned before, the Saints go on bye in Week 9. But when they return they'll face a very fantasy-friendly upcoming schedule, including two games against the Atlanta Falcons and a matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in three of their next four games. The Saints are looking like one of the true contenders with Brees back -- and so are fantasy teams that held onto Brees while he was hurt.
The Chiefs Are Still a Real Football Team
Things were looking pretty bleak for the Kansas City Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes left Thursday Night Football with a dislocated knee cap. The Mahomes-led Chiefs were one of the most valuable offenses in the league for fantasy purposes, and Mahomes' absence definitely had Chiefs' fans and fantasy managers sweating alike.
But head coach Andy Reid showed us on Sunday Night Football that he doesn't need an elite quarterback to produce a quality NFL offense.
That should come as a relief to those of us relying on players like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or the Chiefs' running backs in fantasy. Hill caught 6 of 9 targets for 76 yards while adding another 5 yards on his lone rushing attempt, Kelce finished as the fifth-highest scoring fantasy tight end, and the backs averaged over 4 yards per carry combined. And kudos to Matt Moore -- who this offseason was apparently starting a new career as a scout -- throwing for 2 touchdowns and 267 yards against Green Bay's solid defense.
Andy Reid kept the Chiefs offense competitive in a game in which Aaron Rodgers was once again on absolute fire. The team may have lost 24-31, but it was just about as reassuring of a loss as there could be.
Obviously we still need to downgrade each component of the Chiefs offense for as long as Mahomes remains sidelined, but Matt Moore and Andy Reid should keep this team relevant in fantasy until Mahomes returns.
Aaron Jones Is an Absolute Stud
Holy moly, that was an impressive performance from Aaron Jones. It was important to note how the Chiefs looked without the best quarterback in the league, but it was downright amazing to watch Aaron Jones pop off once again.
Jones was dominant on Sunday night. He handled 13 carries for 67 yards (5.15 yards per carry), which was nice, but where he really made an impact was in the receiving game. He caught 7 of his team-high 8 targets for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. He even had a third receiving score called back when his heel just barely dipped out of bounds. It was an electric performance from one of the best young backs in the game.
For as many seasons as Jones and teammate Jamaal Williams have been in the league, we've been faced with the question of which back to start. For how efficient Jones has been when he's had the chance, Williams stuck around and provided the Green Bay Packers with another reliable back.
But on Sunday night, we saw an alternative to picking one or the other -- both backs could be relevant in the same game. The team repeatedly lined up with both backs on the field, and not always in the backfield -- Jones and Williams were routinely lined up out wide over the course of the game.
Cam Newton Doesn't Have to Worry About His Job
There were rumblings heading into Week 8 that Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Kyle Allen was making a case for himself to remain the starting quarterback when Cam Newton returned from injury. I don't think we -- or Cam -- have to worry about those rumors anymore.
The San Francisco 49ers' defense completely dismantled Allen in the Panthers' massive 13-51 loss. Allen completed just 19 of his 37 attempts for 158 yards -- an abysmal average of 4.27 yards per attempt -- while also tossing 3 interceptions and taking 7 sacks for a loss of 58 yards. At least he didn't lose a fumble. But it was about as convincing an argument you could make for Newton to take back his rightful role as the team's starting quarterback when he finally does return from injury.
Newton did not practice last week but was spotted warming up with the team on Sunday before being declared inactive. Allen's devastating performance on Sunday could force the Panthers to take a proactive approach heading into Week 9. Expect to see Cam Newton back on the field before too long. If Newton does return, you can expect at least a slight bump in fantasy relevance for all Panthers players not named Christian McCaffrey because you can't really improve on what McCaffrey has done this season.
Calvin Ridley Is the Big Winner From Last Week's Trades
There was quite a bit of trade activity going on in the league last week and particularly for wide receivers. The Denver Broncos sent Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers, and the Falcons sent Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots. Two trades don't seem like all that much activity, but relative to previous years, it really is.
Many spent the days leading up to Week 8 wondering which players were the biggest winners or losers of those trades, and now we have an answer -- Calvin Ridley is the big winner of last week's sweepstakes.
Sanu was on the field a lot for the Falcons. While he only caught 33 passes for 313 yards through Atlanta's first seven games, he typically led all Falcons receivers in snaps played. His departure opened up a lot of playing time for someone to step up, which led to Ridley playing a team-high 80% of the offensive snaps -- the second-highest mark of his season.
He had some difficulty converting that opportunity into yards without Matt Ryan at quarterback but was still able to catch 4 of his 7 Matt Schaub targets for 70 yards. The Falcons have their bye to hopefully help Ryan recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of this contest, and when he does eventually return, there could be big things in store for Ridley.