From a fantasy lens, dozens and dozens of players being sidelined is already greatly impacting the depth of your league and roster. Starting stars is as justifiable as ever, but I am still here to dump cold water on your optimism on a weekly basis, highlighting a handful of upcoming fantasy busts for the forthcoming slate of games. Let me be clear — I like fun, I prefer to focus on positives and, most of all, do not hate any of these players. I simply believe they will perform below their normal output.
Saints QB Drew Brees at Bears (+4)
Total: 43.5 | 44% Started
For years we have connected the Saints’ passing game success to Michael Thomas — but even without his record-setting WR, Drew Brees has established himself among the top 12 scorers at the position in three of his last four contests. That is a massive jump when considering Brees is the QB18 in fantasy points per game on the year, a figure tanked by Weeks 1 and 2. The point: Brees’ inclusion on this list is not dependent on Michael Thomas’ status.
Instead, it is rooted in the Bears’ entire identity. First, Chicago has been outstanding defensively. The Bucs and Steelers will draw more attention because their defenses are connected to explosive (and fun) offenses, but no team relies more on their defense to keep the scoreboard manageable in order for their wobbly offense to string together enough successful plays over the course of 60 minutes to steal a win. Bears games are averaging fewer than 40-combined points this season, the lowest in the league, and no game has gone “over” through seven weeks.
I would have more faith in starting Brees as a top 12 option if this game was indoors — but the Bears’ defense has been an unbreakable wall for opposing quarterbacks in fantasy since the start of 2018, highlighted by their sturdiness in the red zone.
Prediction: 19 of 31 for 220 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Chargers QB Justin Herbert at Broncos (+3)
Total: 44.5 | 56% Started
Never, and I mean never, did I expect Justin Herbert to play this well just five games into his NFL career. Yes, his arm and his size are immediately evident, but Herbert is already thriving against disruption, is making downfield plays inside of structure and has a knack of elevating talents around him off-script. As my friend Hayden Winks pointed out, the Chargers let Herbert rip it in Week 7 — On the season, LAC is bottom three in neutral pass rate; in Week 7 that skyrocketed all the way to fourth highest. The result? 347 passing yards and three passing touchdowns, supplemented by 66 rushing yards and another score. Herbert is the QB4 in fantasy points per game (ahead of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady) and can be crowned 2020’s late-round QB jackpot… that absolutely no one predicted.
Considering all of those accolades, I cannot in good faith suggest that you pivot away from Herbert as your starting quarterback in Week 8. However, I absolutely believe his path to scoring his standard 26 points is stacked with questions on Sunday. While the Chiefs posted 43 points last week in miserable conditions, the Broncos Defense produced an admirable effort against Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s offense. A pick six and return touchdown cannot be placed on the defense. In fact, Broncos’ defense has done so all season despite the schedule Gods not being kind to Denver, as they faced the Titans, Steelers, Bucs and Chiefs in four of six games while handling the Jets and Patriots in the other two. Denver’s defense still ranks top 10 in DVOA against the run and pass, all while receiving very little help from their own quarterback in Drew Lock. The prediction is bold, but I think Herbert fails to eclipse the top 12 scorers at the position on Sunday.
Prediction: 27 of 39 for 320 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and 42 rushing yards
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Ravens WR Marquise Brown vs Steelers (+4)
Total: 45.5 | 65% Started
Marquise Brown is unpredictable. He leads the Ravens with 45 percent of the team’s air yards (highest in the NFL) while also possessing a 26 percent target share (10th in the league). Disappointingly, that has resulted in WR46 status in fantasy points per game. How did we get here? Visually, the Ravens’ passing game is off. The off script specialness that Lamar Jackson showcased is simply missing by yards, feet and even inches in situations that clicked in 2019. Despite all of that, Baltimore has operated with incredible gamescript this season, leading on 73 percent of their offensive snaps, which is a league high.
We expected Baltimore to rank last in passing attempts per game (27.5) and near the bottom in offensive plays per game (29th with 60). Volume was always going to be the question with Brown, but predicting Lamar Jackson’s drop to QB12 in fantasy points per game would have brought outrage from the fantasy community. That trickle down in poor passing efficiency paired with the Ravens dominant scripts creates a dilemma with Brown in fantasy lineups. Perhaps we see the Steelers force the Ravens to play from behind — like Kansas City did, which resulted in six targets in Brown’s direction — or the speedster hits on a big play downfield, which Pittsburgh has allowed in spots this season. But as it stands, pivoting to larger opportunity options in offenses with more volume and better efficiency is a sound play.
Prediction: 6 targets, 3 receptions for 59 yards
Dolphins RB Myles Gaskin vs Rams (-4.5)
Total: 45.5 | 48% Started
Tua time will draw every headline, but for fantasy purposes it has been enjoyable to watch Myles Gaskin turn into a feature back. The former seventh-round selection handled 21 and 22 touches against the 49ers and Jets while averaging over four receptions per game, relegating Jordan Howard to the inactive list. The running back position is an absolute nightmare in Week 8, so I am certainly not telling you to bench a back with 15 touches baked into his projection, but do not expect Gaskin to hit the top 10 production he has accumulated over the last two weeks against a Rams defensive line that could overwhelm the Dolphins’ front five. Chan Gailey might have Tua record the shortest time to throw across the league in Week 8.
Prediction: 13 carries for 42 yards and 5 targets, 3 receptions for 22 yards
Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter.