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One week after a jet-lagged Christian McCaffrey was limited to 10 touches in his 49ers debut, CMC saw that number explode to 26 against the Rams, a total he reached “only” 17 times in 65 games as a Panther.
Although quite literally everyone knew such an increase was coming, it was still jarring to see for fantasy teams riding Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle's recent hot streaks. Aiyuk and Kittle went “just” 6/81/1 and 3/39/1, respectively.
Those were good fantasy days because of the touchdowns, but efforts rife with McCaffrey meaning. For Aiyuk, his six targets were his fewest in four weeks. His biggest play was a … 34-yard touchdown pass from McCaffrey. For elite blocker Kittle, it was a reminder of San Francisco's recommitment to the run game.
For both, it was a preview of just how fierce the competition for high-value touches is going to be in this offense, especially once CMC and Deebo Samuel are both healthy and starting at the same time. Although this attack will only be getting better, Aiyuk and Kittle may have already reached their 2022 high-water marks.
Five Week 8 Storylines
DeAndre Hopkins confirms he's a WR1 again. In case the 10/103 against the Saints didn't give it away, the 12/159/1 in Minnesota confirmed it. Through two games without Marquise Brown, Hopkins hasn't been a part of the plan, but the entire plan. Almost never healthy as he battled through rib and hamstring issues last season, Hopkins finds himself at the right place at the right time as a fully healthy alpha wideout in an offense with zero other high-end weapons. He also has a coach and quarterback long proven to be willing to give him the keys to the car. Hopkins can be counted on to continue producing at his 2020 levels as long as he stays off the injury report.
Someone named Ronnie Rivers out-touches Darrell Henderson 12-6. The Rams were coming off their bye week. That meant they had two weeks to plan how they wanted to attack the 49ers. The answer was undrafted rookie Rivers out-touching Henderson 10-2 in the first half. Neither back made a second half impact as the Rams faded and the 49ers rampaged, but the message couldn't have been clearer: Coach Sean McVay wants to feature literally anyone other than former fantasy darling Henderson. Although it was Rivers on Sunday, it figures to be fifth-round rookie Kyren Williams as soon as Week 9. Williams is almost ready to return from his ankle injury, and the Bucs' run defense has fallen off a cliff. Rivers is worth a flier if you're truly desperate at running back, but Williams should remain the post-Cam Akers focus.
Cooper Kupp injures ankle in the deepest recesses of garbage time. How desperate has Sean McVay become? He was still targeting Kupp, his only reliable pass catcher, down 31-14 with 1:02 remaining. The result was the reigning offensive player of the year getting his leg rolled up underneath him. Kupp remained down on the ground for several moments before eventually making it to the sideline unassisted, where he spent the game's final moments talking with the training staff. Although he was spotted in a wrap and “noticeably limping,” Kupp believes he's “dodged a bullet.” A potential sigh of relief, but the Monday swelling figures to be significant. Already second guessing himself for the patently idiotic decision to keep Kupp in the game, McVay will not be able to take Kupp's Week 9 status for granted. Fantasy managers' first official clue will come with Wednesday's injury report, where Kupp will likely be DNP. He can play without practicing but will probably need to get in at least one “limited” session.
D'Onta Foreman looks to put a stranglehold on Panthers' backfield with second straight 118-yard day. There were three key differences between Foreman's Week 7 and Week 8 118-yard rushing efforts. 1. Sunday's featured three touchdowns. This, for a back who entered the proceedings with seven career scores. 2. It came on 11 more carries. Foreman was less efficient than Week 7, but he was hardly inefficient. The carry count = trust from the Panthers' interim coaching staff. 3. It came without Chuba Hubbard. This, of course, is the most important detail. But just as that could be an expectations dampener for Foreman's future performance, it's also a warning for Hubbard: Foreman is quite capable of carrying this backfield without him. Less than 100 percent healthy with a record of wearing down last season, Hubbard has likely fallen behind Foreman until further notice. Week 9 opponent Cincinnati is softer on the ground than through the air.
The status quo holds in the Cowboys' backfield. It might not have seemed like it as Tony Pollard rushed 14 times for 131 yards and a ridiculous three touchdowns, but you don't have to dig too deep into the fine print to see this wasn't a takeover. For the 54th time in 54 career games, Pollard did not reach 20 touches. The 15-handle effort was just his eighth. The Cowboys view Pollard as a true change-of-pace, someone who enters the game and gives the defense a different look. Speaking afterward, Mike McCarthy generously said he has two starting running backs, but owner Jerry Jones was more truthful. “We're going to go as Zeke goes” Jones said as he explained that Elliott's usual role will be waiting for him when he returns from his knee injury. Fantasy managers know by now this isn't coachspeak. With Elliott likely back after the Cowboys' Week 9 bye, Pollard will be returning to his RB24-30 ancestral home.
Five More Week 8 Storylines
Jets' offense immediately crumbles without Breece Hall. Hall hadn't been the only thing buoying the Jets' four-game winning streak. Gang Green also had an unusually soft slate of opposing quarterbacks to thank. Mac Jones wasn't much of an upgrade on Kenny Pickett/Mitch Trubisky, Skylar Thompson, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Rypien, but Michael Carter and James Robinson proved to be quite the downgrade on Hall. Six days after the Patriots allowed the Bears to rush for 243 yards in New England, Carter and Robinson combined for just 12/43 at home. Dismal, especially since Zach Wilson predictably came out the other end of the Bill Belichick meat grinder with three brutal interceptions. It was all the more incentive for the Jets to double down on their Hall-ian approach, but that won't even be an option for Week 9 against the Bills. Carter and Robinson will be FLEXes in danger of 5.8-point days if they don't find the end zone.
Khalil Herbert remains in David Montgomery's left lane. Herbert has out-rushed Montgomery two of the past three weeks. The third? They tied. Herbert's Week 6 victory was the product of one big run, but the past two have seen Herbert taking similar or equal workloads and simply turning them into greater production. That amounted to 16/99/1 against the Cowboys compared to Montgomery's 15/53/0. The good news is, there are not necessarily any losers here. Although Montgomery should probably drop out of the top 20 at running back, he will remain usable in fantasy because the ground will continue to be the Bears' offensive focus. Chicago lost by 20 points in Dallas — and was trailing 28-7 in the second quarter — and still saw to it that it rushed 43 times for 240 yards. This backfield will be big enough for the two of Herbert and Montgomery, with Herbert providing big-play upside alongside Montgomery's bankable touch floor.
Raiders forget how to play offense in single worst performance by any team all year. The Saints entered Week 8 allowing 28.6 points per game, the second worst mark in the NFL. They had allowed at least 30 to three straight opponents, one of whom started Geno Smith. The Raiders proceeded to get shut out for the first time since 2014, failing to cross midfield until the 2:00 minute of the fourth quarter, when Derek Carr had long since given way to Jarrett Stidham. The failure was genuinely difficult to comprehend, with Davante Adams combining for two yards on two touches and Josh Jacobs' thundering semi truck getting thrown in reverse by a formerly vaunted run defense that had seemed to lose its bite. Now the only one who is biting is Raiders owner Mark Davis, who once again summoned Josh McDaniels to a closed-door, post-game meeting. We'll consider it a fluke for a team whose first first four losses came by a combined 14 points. You can go back to the well in Week 9 against Jacksonville.
P.J. Walker sparks D.J. Moore's best game since 2018. Yes, it required a 62-yard Hail Mary, but this was no conventional Hail Mary. It was a seed, one that Moore did not have to go up and get in the end zone. It came to him. Writing off Moore's 6/152/1 day as “just” a Hail Mary would also overlook the fact that the duo came agonizingly close to an 81-yard touchdown earlier in the affair. Up to 13/221/1 over Walker's past two starts, Moore has to be amongst the growing legions who hope Baker Mayfield doesn't make another start this season. Although he's headed into a tough Week 9 matchup with the Bengals, Moore is again knocking on the top 30's door.
Malik Willis is barely there for his first NFL start. To win a game attempting 10 or fewer passes, you basically need your running back to supply more rushing yards than any player has all season. Enter Derrick Henry, whose 219 yards on the ground bettered Austin Ekeler's previous 2022-best mark by 46. Henry was facing the Texans' league-worst run defense, enabling Willis to get away with just six completions for 55 yards. Although passing expectations for Willis' first start should have always been low, this exceeded even the worst fears. It might have been survivable for desperation streamers had Willis provided anything on the ground. Instead, it was 5/12 as he put the ball in Henry's gut one time after another. The hard-fought win was a reality check for fantasy managers: Ryan Tannehill won't be going anywhere this season so long as he has functional limbs.
1. Did the Jets ever consider not letting the worst Patriots team of the 21st century easily stop their winning streak?
2. By the same token, has Aaron Rodgers ever considered that maybe he should just stop sulking and start completing passes to all the wide receivers he hates, like he did on late Sunday evening?
3. Has Josh Allen ever considered not exposing his throwing shoulder to massive hits on every mid-season third down?
Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Justin Fields (vs. MIA), Andy Dalton (vs. BAL), P.J. Walker (@CIN), Sam Ehlinger (@NE), Zach Wilson (vs. BUF), Taylor Heinicke (vs. MIN), Malik Willis (@KC)
RB: Kyren Williams, Latavius Murray, Isiah Pacheco, Rachaad White, Kenyan Drake, Jaylen Warren, Caleb Huntley, Ronnie Rivers
WR: Romeo Doubs, Garrett Wilson, Alec Pierce, Rondale Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Darius Slayton, Terrace Marshall
TE: Greg Dulcich, Evan Engram, Cade Otton, Isaiah Likely, Tyler Conklin, Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau
DEF: Chiefs (vs. TEN), Packers (@DET), Jaguars (vs. LV), Chargers (@ATL)
Stats of the Week
The Raiders' 24-0 shutout loss was their first since … they lost 52-0 to Jeff Fisher's St. Louis Rams in 2014.
P.J. Walker's Hail Mary strike to D.J. Moore had an “air distance” of 67.6 yards per Next Gen Stats, the longest air distance completion of the Next Gen era.
Via Michael David Smith on the Big Dog: “Derrick Henry now has six career 200-yard rushing games, tying O.J. Simpson and Adrian Peterson for the most in NFL history. Four of Henry's six 200-yard games have come in his last four games against the Texans.”
The Relitigating The War of 1812 Award: The United States sending the Broncos and Jaguars to London.
The I Hate To Be That Guy, But Award: Maybe D.J. Moore just shouldn't have taken off his helmet after his stunning 62-yard touchdown, leading to a missed extra point and eventual loss?
The What Would You Say You Do Here Award: The Houston Texans.