NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Takeaways: Implications of injuries to Jameis Winston, James Robinson, others

Week 8 isn't over until we understand its fantasy football implications. Let's dive into Sunday's top storylines as we prepare for Week 9.

Jameis Winston is potentially out for a while. Derrick Henry is injured and scuffling. Mike Williams is hitting rock bottom with his third bust in the last four games. What were Week 8’s biggest fantasy football storylines, and how should we react as fantasy managers heading into Week 9?

NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Takeaways | Early slate

Major storylines in the early slate of games include Derrick Henry’s second consecutive fantasy letdown, Michael Carter’s breakout, and the predicted rise of Pat Freiermuth.

There was no shortage of fantasy football implications during Sunday’s early slate. What happened yesterday that shapes how we’ll manage our teams in Week 9?

Falcons vs. Panthers

With Calvin Ridley out for personal reasons for the second time in three games, Tajae Sharpe stepped up with 3 catches and 42 yards in the final three minutes, making him Atlanta’s best fantasy wideout with a 5-58 line. If Ridley continues to miss time, Sharpe — not Russell Gage — is the best streaming bet for a hurting WR corps.

And credit Carolina for sticking with Chuba Hubbard even after his opening-drive fumble. Interestingly, Ameer Abdullah (11 touches) and Royce Freeman (6 touches) earned enough looks to stymie Hubbard’s day. But Christian McCaffrey’s backup amassed an incredible 25 touches, 91 yards, and a touchdown to give fantasy managers a sigh of relief. With McCaffrey expected to return next week (or so we think), Hubbard will be a top-10 fantasy handcuff unless/until called upon again.

Bears vs. 49ers

With head coach Matt Nagy out of the picture this week, Justin Fields played as well as many managers hoped he’d play when they drafted him in deeper leagues. 103 rushing yards and 1 TD on 10 attempts is the difference between a QB2/3 and a QB1. He’ll face a tougher task next week in Pittsburgh, but it’s helpful to see how good he can be (and, of course, he can only get better).

Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo did his best Trey Lance impression, running for 2 scores in a big victory. Deebo Samuel had another huge game, while Brandon Aiyuk made small strides with a season-high 7 targets. One would hope Aiyuk will continue to get more run in a passing attack that is literally one-dimensional with George Kittle sidelined.

Bills vs. Dolphins

Not the blowout many of us anticipated, but a divisional win is a divisional win for the talented Bills. Interestingly, Cole Beasley had 13 targets for the third time in seven games. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, his targets and yardage have been on pace with last year’s. The difference is a lack of touchdowns. He had 1 score last week and had a good shot at another yesterday. He’ll remain an undervalued streamer most weeks.

It was DeVante Parker’s turn for Miami, producing an impressive 8-85 receiving line on 11 targets. He now has back-to-back 16-plus-point fantasy games, although they came four weeks apart due to Parker’s injury woes. His presence will be concerning for those rostering Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki — this offense isn’t built to consistently feed more than two receivers per week.

Browns vs. Steelers

Wow. Heading into Week 5, the Browns were 3-1, and the Steelers were 1-3. Now, Pittsburgh has the better record. For Cleveland, D’Ernest Johnson’s touchdown is the most notable fantasy story. Many managers hoped Nick Chubb would feast with Kareem Hunt out. But Johnson found the end zone on 5 touches, while Chubb scored only 7.9 fantasy points. When Cleveland’s offense was clicking, Chubb’s lack of receptions wasn’t a deal-breaker. But if he’s not getting scoring opportunities, he becomes a TD-dependent RB2/3.

Meanwhile, no player was pushed more on PFN’s many platforms this week than rookie TE Pat Freiermuth. Tommy Garrett and I hyped him up on our fantasy podcast. I pushed him in our bi-weekly newsletter. He was featured on the website. Freiermuth is the real deal and will continue to help fantasy managers if Eric Ebron remains sidelined — and perhaps even when Ebron returns.

Lions vs. Eagles

If we remove T.J. Hockenson from the equation, Detroit’s best fantasy performer was rookie RB Jermar Jefferson, who played the first offensive snaps of his NFL career. That’s how dire things are for this franchise. D’Andre Swift (most weeks) and Hockenson (some weeks) remain the most reliable fantasy contributors.

As for Philadelphia, it turns out Kenneth Gainwell would be the odd man out of this three-headed backfield, as Boston Scott and Jordan Howard each scored twice. The game script led Jalen Hurts to throw only 14 passes. DeVonta Smith is too good not to rebound, so buy low if you can.

Colts vs. Titans

T.Y. Hilton didn’t steal the show this time. Instead, Michael Pittman Jr. reasserted himself as the team’s unquestionable No. 1 receiver, compiling a 10-86-2 receiving line on 15 targets. Carson Wentz has thrown 2+ TD passes in five straight contests. Pittman is now on pace for roughly 1,250 receiving yards on the season.

Derrick Henry scuffled for the second straight game, possibly due in part to injuring his right leg early on. With Darrynton Evans back on injured reserve, Jeremy McNichols is one of the most important RB handcuffs to roster, and he’s available in nearly every league. Make sure you stash him.

Jets vs. Bengals

True story — a few days ago I traded Christian Kirk for Michael Carter. Kirk was a low-end WR2, and Carter was a mid-range RB3. Timing is everything in trade negotiations. Mike White picked apart the Bengals’ defense through the air, and Carter did the same on the ground (he also had 9 catches for 95 receiving yards on 15 targets). Carter’s usage puts him on the must-start map.

As for Cincinnati, Ja’Marr Chase led the team in targets, but Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd led in WR fantasy production. While Chase remains the alpha, we have to expect talented guys like Higgins and Boyd to step up more often than not in this well-functioning offense.

Texans vs. Rams

Instead of David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay leading Houston’s backfield, Rex Burkhead and Scottie Phillips got the nods. This says less about Burkhead’s and Phillips’ readiness as co-lead backs and more about Johnson’s and Lindsay’s apparent unreadiness. It turns out Mark Ingram’s departure served only to muddy Houston’s already unpredictable RB situation.

For the Rams, Van Jefferson is a terrific sell-high WR in deep leagues. He’s fared well the last two games in large part because he’s faced weak defenses. He remains the fourth or fifth offensive option, which is not someone you’ll want to rely on as a weekly starter.

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NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Takeaways | Late slate

Major storylines in the late slate of games include Mike Williams’ disappearing act, Rob Gronkowski’s back spasms, and James Robinson’s ankle injury. What can we realistically expect from Gronkowski for the rest of the season? Is Carlos Hyde a must-add on waivers?

Week 8’s late Sunday slate did not leave fantasy managers unscathed. What were the top storylines from the matchups heading into Week 9?

Chargers vs. Patriots

Justin Herbert has faced Bill Belichick twice in his young career, and both times he’s been largely shut down. So, let’s not overreact to Mike Williams’ third dismal fantasy performance in his last four games. That said, we should recognize why he was almost destined to take a backseat to Keenan Allen some weeks.

Meanwhile, Rhamondre Stevenson returned to New England’s lineup, while J.J. Taylor — a surprise RB2 last week — was inactive. Damien Harris remains the only Patriots RB to trust in fantasy.

Seahawks vs. Jaguars

Tyler Lockett finally got going, though it helped to be facing Jacksonville. With Russell Wilson returning as soon as Week 10 (after Seattle’s upcoming bye), managers who patiently stashed Lockett instead of selling low are going to reap the rewards (and already reaped some if you started him yesterday).

For the Jaguars, James Robinson’s ankle injury will be a focal point in fantasy circles in the coming hours and days. Carlos Hyde would be an intriguing option even in shallower leagues if his 8 targets Sunday are indicative of how the team might use him. However, their next game is against Buffalo, so even if Robinson sits in Week 9, Hyde would be a low-ceiling RB2/3.

Broncos vs. Washington

Jerry Jeudy’s return somehow resulted in no Denver receivers earning fantasy success, as Tim Patrick led the way with only 9.4 fantasy points. Honestly, I thought Teddy Bridgewater would be a little better against Washington. It might be tough most weeks to figure out which Broncos receiver(s) should be starting in fantasy leagues.

Meanwhile, Antonio Gibson crashed again, while J.D. McKissic was as dominant as ever. If you’ve been reading PFN’s content, listening to our fantasy podcast, or subscribing to our newsletter, you knew this would likely happen weeks ago. Gibson is simply too risky to start in many leagues.

Saints vs. Buccaneers

Jameis Winston’s injury appears to be of the “very serious” variety. If Taysom Hill cannot return, Trevor Siemian would be a huge 2QB waiver pickup this week, at least for one game. They’ll get Atlanta next weekend. Because this is not a high-powered passing attack, there should be no significant regression for Saint receivers, all of whom are already low-floor options.

And Rob Gronkowski exited early with back spasms. There’s not much one can do except stash him and hope he plays in a few more games this year. O.J. Howard would be a top-18 TE with some nice pop, especially if Antonio Brown can’t return after the bye.

NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Takeaways | Sunday Night Football

Major storylines in Sunday Night Football include Cooper Rush starting for the injured Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper finally breaking out, and Dalvin Cook scuffling for the second time in three games.

Will Dallas’ key offensive players remain fantasy-relevant if Prescott misses more time? And is there any reason to be concerned about Cook?

Vikings vs. Cowboys

One interesting stat coming out of this game is Cook going catchless for only the second time in his career. After seeing 16 targets in his first three games of this season, he has received only 4 targets in his last two contests. Catching passes is a big part of Cook’s elite-RB appeal. He already enters each season as a higher-than-normal injury risk. Keep close tabs on his passing-game usage going forward, as it could impact whether he’s an RB1 or (shocking as it sounds) an RB2.

SNF saw an impressive road win for Dallas and their 27-year-old backup QB. Cooper Rush entered the contest having attempted only 3 NFL passes, and that was four years ago. While Minnesota held Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard in check, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb both went over 100 receiving yards. It was easily Cooper’s best fantasy performance since Week 1 and should put to rest any questions about his former hamstring injury.

BJ Rudell is the Fantasy Football and Betting Product Director for Pro Football Network. You can read all of BJ’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @BJRudell.

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