If you ask the average football fan what happened in Week 8, they'll tell you about Calvin Johnson going nuts in the box score, Dez Bryant going nuts on the sideline, Michael Vick getting hurt, Jimmy Graham playing hurt, Drew Brees being Drew Brees and, unfortunately, Chad Henne being Chad Henne.
But if you ask the hardcore fantasy football owner, they'll tell you about the Jags finally using Maurice Jones-Drew in the receiving game (“He's an RB2 now!”), Harry Douglas getting 17 targets (“He's a WR2 until Roddy comes back!”) and Peyton Hillis plodding his way to 85 total yards (“Not bad for a last-minute bye-week fill-in!”).
The first group of observations is important, too, but fantasy owners should always be looking a little deeper. And that's, of course, why we're here -- to dig out some of the stats that might have fallen between the cracks as you rehashed the week. Let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 8.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for Friday's Fantasy Mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Cam Newton (31.84 fantasy points) and Colin Kaepernick (29.96) seemed to get their mo-jos back last week (though Kaepernick's performance was against Jacksonville, so take it with a grain of salt), but fellow dual-threat QB Robert Griffin III (5.98) struggled in a great matchup and, even worse, hurt his knee.
Griffin's knee injury isn't believed to be serious, but we've already seen how limited his value is if his running ability is limited. This is a major concern for his owners, and they should be trying to acquire a viable backup right now. Both Tom Brady (9.14 points) and Matt Ryan (11.34) struggled last week, and even though both have issues (Brady frequently struggling, Ryan with injured receivers), both make for decent buy-low candidates -- Brady because of the talent around him, Ryan because of his remaining schedule.
Notable Riser: Andy Dalton is as hot as any quarterback in the league right now. After throwing for 325 yards and five touchdowns last week against the Jets, Dalton has 11 TDs in his past three games. He's doing it against decent competition, too. Dalton finished last season as the No. 12 fantasy QB, so this isn't out of nowhere, but after a slow start, this is a surprise. The Bengals have a receiving corps similar to Detroit (one stud, one good receiving back, decent TEs and a bunch of “no-name” WRs), but if Marvin Jones continues to step up opposite A.J. Green, Dalton has staying power. Jones is a must-add WR this week, and Dalton is a must-add QB if he happens to still be on your waiver wire.
Notable Faller: Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger are traditionally among the first backup QBs selected every season, but both continued their disappointing campaigns last week, scoring 9.74 and 13.1 fantasy points, respectively. Both rank 19th or worse among QBs, and even though some big games are likely in both of their futures, there's really no need for fantasy owners to keep them around, especially if your regular starter has already had his bye. Both Manning and Roethlisberger are dealing with offensive line issues, but neither is helping themselves, repeatedly making bad throws. Roethlisberger is especially uninspiring given his lack of big-play receivers.
Once again, coaches clearly didn't have fantasy owners in mind when coming up with their game plans last week. Both the Dolphins and Jets reversed their respective courses from Week 7, with the Dolphins giving Lamar Miller (18) the bulk of the carries over Daniel Thomas (9) and the Jets giving Bilal Powell (10) more rushes than Chris Ivory (6). New England also featured LeGarrette Blount (11) more than recent weeks, but Stevan Ridley (14) still led the team in carries.
What's going to happen next week? We'd be lying if we said we'd knew. Ridley is definitely the leader in the clubhouse for the Pats, but both he and Blount -- and Brandon Bolden -- received goal-line carries at various points last week, so don't think he's “back” just because he's scored three weeks in a row. Right now, Miller, Ridley and Ivory have the most upside for their respective teams, but these situations will be fluid.
Notable Riser: Fantasy owners have been clamoring for Andre Ellington to get more playing time for the past couple weeks, and it finally happened last week when a toe injury kept Rashard Mendenhall from suiting up. Ellington responded with 154 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. Obviously, his 80-yard touchdown did a lot to help his bottom line, but it seems likely that Ellington will continue to have a big role going forward. Unfortunately, fellow rookie Giovani Bernard isn't quite there yet in Cincinnati. He had just five carries and one catch last week and remains nothing more than a flex -- an unreliable one at that.
Notable Faller: Steven Jackson's return from a hamstring injury didn't go well. He ran 11 times for just six yards and caught three passes for seven yards. The good news is that it doesn't appear that Jackson aggravated the injury, but his owners will get worried if he struggles again this week -- much like the owners of Darren Sproles. New Orleans' pass-catching dynamo delivered his third-straight subpar performance, catching four passes for zero yards and failing to record a carry. Sproles has been more consistent the past few years since joining the Saints, but clearly that's not the case this year. He'll have a big performance soon, but chances are it will come while he's on his owners' benches. It's tough to justify starting him in standard leagues right now.
Every week, a few under-the-radar WRs have good games. And every week, fantasy owners have to decide if the performances are just flukes or for real. Most of the time they're flukes, but this week, a few of the receivers might have staying power.
Cincinnati's Marvin Jones stands out the most, putting up 36.2 fantasy points thanks to four TDs. Obviously, that's a fluky number, but Jones' growing role in the Bengals' offense isn't. He's worth a pickup. The same goes for Atlanta's Drew Davis (13.7). By no means is he a great play, but until Roddy White comes back, he's the No. 2 receiver. That will yield some decent results. In New Orleans, Kenny Stills (25.3) and the recently activated Lance Moore (9.4) both caught touchdowns. Stills is more of a big-play guy, but Moore is the more proven player. Both should be added for depth. Dexter McCluster (13.2 points) and Mike Brown (10.3) fall into the “fluky category” and can be left as free agents.
Notable Riser: Despite a poor Week 7 and another Browns' change at quarterback, Josh Gordon stepped up and had another big game. His 39-yard TD came on a flea-flicker, so perhaps that gets a bit of an asterisk, but Gordon is proving he's a must-start with any QB. Seattle's Golden Tate (21.3 fantasy points), Pittsburgh's Emmanuel Sanders (16.8), Arizona's Michael Floyd (9.0) and Green Bay's Jarrett Boykin (8.9) are getting closer to earning “must-start” statuses, too.
Notable Faller: Several big-name wide receivers seem to be disappointing week after week, but Greg Jennings is probably the biggest offender. It's tough to advocate dropping him, especially since the Vikings will likely turn back to Josh Freeman once he's healthy, but it's almost impossible to play him right now. Other disappointing receivers, like Anquan Boldin, Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace and Steve Smith, at least produce something and/or have big weeks every once and a while, but Jennings has really only had one worthwhile game. If you do drop him, he might not be claimed by another owner.
Two borderline starters were once again helped by some cheap points in garbage time. According to the Sporting News Fantasy Source garbage-time tracker, Tampa's Tim Wright (4 catches, 38 yards, TD) and Washington's Jordan Reed (4 catches, 58 yards) both did some substantial stat padding against prevent defenses. It all counts the same for fantasy owners, but it's something to keep in mind when making roster decisions next week. Don't just assume these players are automatic starts now.
On the flip side, Buffalo's Scott Chandler only had one catch for 13 yards in garbage time against New Orleans. His seven-catch, 72-yard performance (11 targets) was pretty legit, and he's someone to watch as he continues to get stronger after last season's ACL surgery.
Notable Riser: Carolina's Greg Olsen didn't have a huge game (3 catches, 21 yards, TD), but he had a play specifically run for him around the goal line, and he was open downfield several times. Carolina's offense continues to be a work-in-progress, but Olsen remains a big part of it. It's been an up-and-down year, but he's set up for a good second half.
Notable Faller: A lot of big-name TE1s disappointed last week, including Jason Witten (2 catches, 15 yards), Tony Gonzalez (3-26), Rob Gronkowski (2-27) and Julius Thomas (3-29). Thomas hurt his ankle and didn't return, so we'll excuse him, but the first three simply had bad games. At least Gonzalez (8 targets) and Gronk (5) had a decent number of targets, but Witten (2) was mostly a non-factor in the Cowboys offense -- again. Targets haven't been a big issue for Witten despite a relative lack of production this year, but clearly it was a problem on Sunday. Slot receiver Cole Beasely wasn't even stealing looks. Witten will have some big games in the future, but he's no longer a must-start.
Bengals at Dolphins
Stat to know: Miami continues to get killed on the ground, allowing at least one rushing touchdown in every game since Week 1. Both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard should be started this week.
Sleeper: TE Jermaine Gresham (Miami allowing second-most fantasy points per game to TEs.)