From a scheduling standpoint, Week 8 is an absolute brute for fantasy owners. The first of back to back weeks with six teams on bye weeks, fantasy owners are left scrambling for options to fill in key spots on their rosters. With only 13 games to choose from this week, and a somewhat lackluster week from an entertainment standpoint, there were fewer fantasy standouts to choose from this week. While the usual suspects had decent weeks, (i.e. Carson Wentz, Ezekiel Elliott, etc.) there were a few who surprised us. So without further ado, onto this week’s nominees…
RISER OF THE WEEK:
Ravens D/ST, Baltimore
Baltimore absolutely demolished Miami on Thursday night, and the defensive performance earns them top honors for the week. After leading the Dolphins to a comeback win over the Jets last week, Matt Moore looked to be in prime position to show why he belongs in the discussion to start in Miami’s backfield. The Ravens’ defense made short work of those hopes as they harassed Moore all night long, holding Miami to 196 total yards on the night and forcing three turnovers, all of which resulted in touchdowns. The Ravens’ three score performance earned fantasy owners a 30 plus point night in standard leagues. Baltimore faces a Tennessee offense in Week 9 that has struggled to move the ball and put points on the board. This could be another huge week for the Ravens’ D.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
While Wilson has failed to impress for much of the 2017 season, Sunday was an incredible performance for him against Houston. In what was easily the most entertaining of Sunday’s matchups, Wilson and Deshaun Watson went head to head for the entire afternoon. The two teams went back and forth with Seattle ultimately coming out on top, 41-38. Wilson finished the day 26-41 with 452 yards and four touchdowns, pushing him to the top of Sunday’s quarterback leaderboard. While Wilson hasn’t been a huge contributor from a scoring standpoint, those owners who started him for either an injury replacement or bye week fill in, were rewarded handsomely. Wilson and the Seahawks are home next week against a Washington defense that can be tough on opposing quarterbacks but has seen some holes as well.
Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle
Who? Most fantasy owners have yet to even hear Richardson’s name thus far into the 2017 season, myself included. Richardson’s blowout performance on Sunday against the Texans stamped his place in owners’ minds going forward. Active in less than ten percent of fantasy leagues across the board, Richardson paid huge dividends for those who took the chance. Richardson was targeted seven times on Sunday, hauling in six passes for 105 yards and two scores. Richardson’s 20-plus point performance looks to lock him in as a clear option for Week 9 against Washington. With Seattle’s number one receiver, Doug Baldwin, matching up with Josh Norman, it should create several open looks for other receivers, including Richardson.
Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota
With Stefan Diggs’ unexplainable decline, Thielen has stepped into the lead role and has provided a nice target for Case Keenum. Thielen has been a huge part in the Vikings’ early season success and is a major reason they sit atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record. Thielen was the Vikings’ leading receiver once again Sunday morning with five catches for 98 yards and a score. Thielen tied for the team lead in targets with ten, while Diggs only saw six targets in Minnesota’s 33-16 win over Cleveland in London. The shift in power leads owners to believe that the trend will continue and that Thielen looks to be the new number one receiver in Minnesota. Minnesota has a bye in Week 9 before facing the aforementioned Washington Redskins in Week 10.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo
While McCoy has been up and down in terms of fantasy value in 2017, Week 8 against the Raiders, saw a return to the form that owners have longed for when they drafted him. McCoy carried 27 times for 151 yards and added a touchdown in Buffalo’s 34-14 thrashing of Oakland. McCoy was also Buffalo’s most targeted receiver on Sunday, catching six of seven targets for another 22 yards. Fantasy owners may want to count on “Shady” again next week as the Bills take on the New York Jets in a Thursday night battle.
Deandre Hopkins, WR, Houston
While much of the spotlight in Houston has been on Watson and Will Fuller, Hopkins burst back onto the scene Sunday in the offensive showdown with the Seahawks. Hopkins hauled in eight passes for a whopping 224 yards and added a touchdown. With Deshaun Watson at the helm in Houston, the future is bright for Fuller and Hopkins, going forward. Houston is home in Week 9 against a Colts’ team that has struggled defending the pass all season long. Look for another week for Houston’s high powered offense.
Panthers D/ST, Carolina
Carolina got back to its winning ways on Sunday against what many expected to be a very formidable Tampa Bay squad. The Panthers’ defense was the biggest part of the team’s 17-3 win over the Bucs. Keeping Jameis Winston and Doug Martin out of the end zone is a huge achievement in itself, and the Panthers also added three turnovers to nearly keep Tampa off the scoreboard completely. Carolina sits at 5-3, a half-game behind New Orleans for the division lead and the defense has been almost solely responsible for the team’s success. Carolina faces an NFC south matchup against the Falcons in Week 9 and appear to be reaching this matchup at the right time as Atlanta has struggled offensively in recent weeks.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington
Crowder has turned into the primary target for Kirk Cousins in Washington’s offense. Crowder was targeted 13 times on Sunday during the Redskins’ 33-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Crowder hauled in nine of those passes for a game high 123 yards. Moving forward, if Crowder continues to see the majority of the targets, he could be considered a legitimate starting receiver in all formats. Washington faces Seattle in Week 9 and Crowder will see a defense that was torched for over 400 yards against Houston, including a 200 yard performance from Deandre Hopkins.
Saints D/ST, New Orleans
Finally, fantasy owners are seeing the New Orleans Saints defense that they have been waiting for all season. Going into the season, this was expected by many to be a turnaround year for the Saints on the defensive side of the ball. Up until this point, it just hasn’t been apparent that it’s the case. In recent weeks, however, the trend seems to be reversing. The Saints held Mitchell Trubisky to only 164 passing yards and intercepted him once. More importantly, they kept the Bears’ offense out of the end zone and held on for the Saints’ fifth straight win and keeps them atop the NFC South.
Ryan Mallett, QB, Baltimore
While it seems very counter-intuitive to have a position player from Baltimore on the Risers’ side of this column, Mallett fits the bill if anyone. While he had a very miniscule role in the Ravens’ offense in the second half on Thursday night, he didn’t need to be any more than he was. With Baltimore on cruise control for much of the game, Mallett only attempted seven passes. He did complete three, including a two-yard score shortly after taking over for the injured Joe Flacco in the second quarter. If Flacco is forced to miss an extended period of time, Mallett will step into the starting role and could see a more production from a fantasy standpoint.
FALLER OF THE WEEK:
Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay
While there weren’t many fantasy standouts in Sunday’s Week 8 contests, there were even fewer that fell flat. Among those, Winston was definitely one. In his return from injury, Winston only managed 21 completions for 210 yards and the Buccaneers’ offense was kept out of the end zone in the 17-3 loss to Carolina. Winston also threw two interceptions and was sacked three times in the loss. Winston and the Bucs face a revitalized Saints’ defense in Week 9 that has been a big reason they’re on a five game winning streak and on top of the division. Owners may want to look elsewhere next week.
Jeremy Hill/Gio Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
The arrival of Joe Mixon in Cincinnati didn’t help Hill or Bernard’s chances of making much noise in the fantasy world this season and their recent performances aren’t helping matters either. The Bengals’ offense looked to be in prime position to make a splash on Sunday against a Colts’ defense that has had problems stopping anyone. But as has been the case for much of the season, it wasn’t to be. Hill and Bernard combined for six carries and only 16 yards on the day, while Mixon saw 11 carries. Mixon only managed 18 yards himself, but the concern is still there for owners of Hill and Bernard. Having a running back that’s part of a committee is the worst for fantasy owners and neither of the two backs have much value left at this point. Cincinnati faces a brutal Jacksonville defense in Week 9 and it would be wise to leave these two on the bench, if not drop them altogether going forward.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
While Ryan didn’t have a horrible week for the Falcons in Week 8 against the Jets, it is worth noting that Josh McCown did have more yards and more completions in the game. Having lost three of their last four, the Falcons are in a funk and the offense hasn’t been near as potent as fantasy owners have come to expect. Things don’t get any easier going forward either. The Falcons head to Carolina to take on a stingy Panthers’ defense that shut down Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers. While Ryan is capable of great things and a big score, if you have another option, it may be wise to look that way.
Stefan Diggs, WR, Minnesota
As mentioned above, Adam Thielen appears to have taken over as the new number one receiver in Minnesota. That, combined with Diggs’ lack of performance lately, lands Diggs on the unfavorable side of this column. Diggs is seeing fewer targets than Thielen and is doing less with the targets he is seeing. Minnesota has a bye in Week 9, so Diggs isn’t an option coming up. Washington awaits the return from the bye week and Diggs may see more of Josh Norman than fantasy owners would like.
Pierre Garcon, WR, San Francisco
With Garcon being pretty much the only bright spot in San Francisco’s dismal season thus far, Sunday was pretty much more of the same for 49ers fans. Garcon only saw four targets on the day, although he was sidelined with a neck injury for most of the second half. Garcon suffered the injury after colliding with a member of the Eagles’ coaching staff and owners will want to monitor his status very closely heading into Week 9. San Francisco faces an Arizona defense next week that has been very tough on the pass.
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore
While Flacco had very little, if any, fantasy value going into Week 8, Kiko Alonso knocked that out of him as well in the Ravens’ Thursday night blowout. Flacco suffered a laceration and a concussion and it’s unclear at this point when he will be able to return. While Flacco hasn’t been a reliable source for fantasy production, owners will want to look elsewhere.
Zach Miller, TE, Chicago
Miller’s gruesome injury in Sunday’s loss to the Saints was killer to Bears’ fans and fantasy owners alike. Almost as bad was the fact that Miller had a touchdown ruled off during the same play. Miller suffered a dislocated knee, at best, and owners will want to keep a close eye on his status going forward. From initial looks of the injury, Miller may miss an extended amount of time and will leave a gaping hole at the tight end slot in fantasy owners’ lineups.
Chris Hogan, WR, New England
While Hogan has stepped very nicely into the number two role in New England, he suffered an arm injury late in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Hogan took a hard shot from a Chargers’ defender in the fourth quarter and didn’t return to the game. Hogan was seen in a sling following the matchup, and it was announced that he will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Owners will want to watch his status closely as injuries have mounted for Hogan so far in 2017.
Mike Gillislee, RB, New England
Hogan wasn’t the only Patriots’ player to suffer a bad week in Week 8. Gillislee has seen his numbers decline steadily over the past few weeks and Sunday marked the sixth straight week that he has scored less than six fantasy points in standard leagues. Even worse, he didn’t see a single touch within ten yards of the end zone, which has been his bread and butter this season. Owners will want to look elsewhere if Gillislee is going to continue to be overlooked near the goal line going forward.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
While Reed has been one of Kirk Cousins’ top targets so far this season, he suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. Reed was officially listed as questionable to return but went back to the locker room shortly after halftime and didn’t return. Reed’s owners will want to watch his status closely in the coming weeks and may look to a replacement if the opportunity arises.