All you really need to know about Calvin Johnson? He was nicknamed Megatron before he set the regulation record with 329 receiving yards in a game. This is a player who has been so good for so long, we stopped believing he was human years ago.
The knee injury that sidelined Johnson for Week 5 and limited him in Week 6 had the football playing universe’s top wideout in an unfamiliar position: Not in the driver’s seat to be fantasy’s No. 1 overall receiver. Johnson entered Week 8 just 20th in raw yards (492), and sixth in raw fantasy points. He exits it No. 1 in both, and 87 yards and 11.9 points ahead of his closest competitors. That’s a leap normal human beings don’t make in one week. Johnson is averaging 117.3 yards per game, which puts him on pace for 1,760 despite missing a game. That would be fourth most all time, behind only his 2012, Jerry Rice’s 1995 and Isaac Bruce’s 1995.
Matchups? They don’t matter for Calvin Johnson. Double coverage? See here. What should and shouldn’t be possible? That matters least of all. In an era of unprecedented film study and opponent game planning — and for a team whose No. 2 receiver is Kris Durham — Johnson continues to give life to the cliché “video-game numbers.” Whatever he does next — "goes down as history’s No. 1 overall wide receiver," "breaks his own single-season receiving record in only 15 games," "scores 20 touchdowns" are just a few possibilities — his opponents might see it coming. But just as we learned in 2012 and then again on Sunday, that doesn’t mean they will be able to stop it. We suspected Johnson was more machine than man when he came into the NFL. Now we know.
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1. Andy Dalton
Coming off the best two-game stretch of his career, the odds were long that Dalton was going to extend it to the best three-game stretch of his career against a Jets defense allowing 6.4 yards per attempt, 225 passing yards per game and a 58.8 completion percentage. Only the Chiefs and Ravens entered Week 8 with more sacks than Gang Green. Alas, here we are with Dalton coming off not only the best three-game stretch of his career, but the best one-game stretch. Dalton’s five touchdown passes were a new personal best, and give him 11 over his past three starts. Dalton has averaged 345 yards per game since breaking out in Week 6 after entering it averaging just 243. Consistency has long been one of Dalton’s most elusive traits, but maybe, just maybe, he’s finally discovering it. How he fares against the Dolphins’ stingy defense on a short week will be another great measuring stick.
2. Marvin Jones
One of the main reasons Dalton kept rolling Sunday? Jones’ four touchdowns. Not that the end zone has been an unfamiliar place for the Bengals’ emerging No. 2 wideout, who had already found pay dirt three times on just 26 targets heading into Week 8. Now the owner of a 15/250/6 line over his past three games, Jones has left Mohamed Sanu in the dust, and raced to WR3/4 value. How Jones adjusts to the increased defensive attention he’s certain to begin seeing will be key, but he’s a player who needs to be 100 percent owned in competitive fantasy leagues.
3. Andre Ellington
Put this in your snap count and smoke it. Or something like that. Starting in the absence of Rashard Mendenhall (toe), Ellington still wasn’t used like an every-down hammer — he played only 35 snaps — but he sure produced like one, rolling up a preposterous 154 yards on just 15 carries. The highlight was an 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Now averaging a mind-blowing 7.74 yards through his first 43 totes, Ellington has erased any doubt that he’s by far Arizona’s best back, but still hasn’t convinced coach Bruce Arians he can handle an every-down pounding. Either way, he’s officially an every-week FLEX option, with room to grow.
1. Matt Ryan
In Week 7, reality set in for Tom Brady (some would argue it did much earlier). In Week 8, it happened to Matt Ryan. Going into the desert without Julio Jones and Roddy White, Ryan got dominated by the Arizona Cardinals for the second time in as many years. With Atlanta having no running game and Arizona bracketing Tony Gonzalez, Ryan averaged a woeful 4.9 yards on his 61 attempts, and generally found life miserable for a team that’s gone in the tank. Unlike Brady, Ryan’s physical attributes haven’t dropped off in any way, shape or form. Also unlike Brady, however, the cavalry isn’t coming. Jones isn’t coming back, and what does come back of White could be a shell of its former self. Ryan is still going to have big games. He’s too talented not to. But they’ll be fewer and farther between, leaving him on the QB1 borderline. Fantasy owners shouldn’t be expecting any miracles in Week 9 (Carolina) or 10 (Seattle).
2. Marques Colston
Colston was already down, but is there a chance he’s out? Expected to see a bump in productivity with the Saints coming off their bye and Jimmy Graham playing through a painful foot injury, Colston instead caught just three passes for 18 yards, leaving his season line at 27/342/1 through seven games. Drawing less separation than ever, it’s fair to wonder if Colston is starting to wind down. Colston’s been resilient before, but he’s beginning to shape up as a Dwayne Bowe-esque WR4 for fantasy purposes.
3. Ryan Tannehill
Miami’s issues — league-worst pass protection, incoherent game-planning, Tannehill’s turnovers — came to a head Sunday, resulting in both the team and player’s worst game of the year, and a whole lot of questions going forward. Making matters worse is the likely loss of chain moving No. 3 receiver Brandon Gibson. The owner of an 11:14 touchdown:turnover ratio, and on pace to absorb 74 sacks, Tannehill’s season is in the gutter, and it’s unclear if either he or OC Mike Sherman have any idea how to salvage it.
1. Will the last backup quarterback to leave Kansas City turn the lights out?
2. Have the Vikings thought about giving Daunte Culpepper a call?
3. New England, was it worth keeping Stevan Ridley benched for the first quarter?
Stats of the Week
Peyton Manning’s 2,919 passing yards are the most ever through eight games. With 50 percent of the season now in the books, he’s on pace for 5,838 yards. Manning needs to average a weekly 320 to break Drew Brees’ single-season record.
Calvin Johnson’s 200-yard game was the fifth of his career, tying with him Lance Alworth for the most all time.
Calvin Johnson’s Week 8 alone would rank 70th in receiving yards this season. He racked up 27 more yards against the Cowboys than Dwayne Bowe has in all of 2013.
Matthew Stafford surpassed 15,000 career yards passing Sunday, doing so in his 53rd start. That’s faster than anyone in NFL history.
Larry Fitzgerald blew by 800 career receptions against the Falcons, becoming the youngest player to ever reach the mark. Fitz is already 30th all time in receptions.
C.J. Spiller’s absence Sunday snapped a string of 44 consecutive appearances. Per the Buffalo News’ Tim Graham, that was fifth most amongst active running backs. But remember, Spiller has durability issues.
The 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs’ point differential in home games where they faced teams quarterbacked by Case Keenum and Jason Campbell? +4.
By FOX’s count, Robert Griffin III took 18 hits in Sunday’s loss. That’s … not sustainable.
The All Sell High Team: QB Matt Ryan — This may seem like a sell low, but at least among the less informed, Ryan’s name should still carry plenty of weight. A cursory investigation — the kind a casual owner might undertake — would reveal that Ryan has thrown for 574 yards and four touchdowns over his past two starts. The informed know things are only going to get tougher for Ryan in Atlanta’s undermanned offense, however. Sell while you still can. RB Peyton Hillis — Again, this won’t work if you’re dealing with an informed owner. If you’re not, just namedrop Hillis’ Madden cover, and leave out the fact that Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown are both due to return after the Giants’ Week 9 bye. RB Andre Ellington — We’re huge fans of Ellington’s game. But his weekly workloads? Not so much. As we laid out above, Ellington is a legit FLEX option, but Week 8 will almost certainly go down as his high-water mark. If he’s a luxury, and not a necessity, on your bench, he’ll never be more valuable in a potential trade. WR Alshon Jeffery — This one’s admittedly a risk, but the same can be said for assuming Jeffery will keep putting up WR2 numbers with Josh McCown under center. With Jeffery, you’re better off trying to sell a week too early than a week too late. WR Jarrett Boykin — Boykin has done his job during James Jones’ absence, but there’s the key phrase — James Jones’ absence. Perhaps Jones will miss one more game in Week 9, but he’s going to be back soon, and Boykin will be a much dicier weekly proposition, and far less valuable as a trade chip. TE Martellus Bennett — It’s the same logic we applied to Jeffery. There’s no guarantee Bennett will stop producing in the absence of Jay Cutler, but there are many reasons to believe he’ll be more inconsistent, and less valuable as a movable commodity.
The All Buy Low Team: QB Michael Vick — Vick is going to miss time with his hamstring injury, but whenever he finally returns, he will do so as clearly the Eagles’ best option at quarterback. He’ll also do so as someone who hasn’t forgotten how to have a big fantasy day. With Philly’s schedule soft down the stretch, Vick is a low-cost investment that could pay off nicely. RB C.J. Spiller — The Bills are finally starting to realize how much they need Spiller. It’s why they held him out on Sunday to get him healthy. With Fred Jackson averaging just 3.18 yards over his past 53 carries (four games), Spiller isn’t going to be returning to a bit role. His talent remains worth the risk. RB Knowshon Moreno — With the news — and evidence — out that the Broncos want to reduce Moreno’s workload, there will be a predictable panic. He’s still the No. 1 running back for the league’s best offense, however. Moreno could lose all goal-line work to Montee Ball and still remain a strong RB2/3. If a worried owner thinks the jig is up, take advantage and get Moreno for pennies on the dollar. WR James Jones — Jones (PCL) doesn’t have a firm return date, but he does have a firm role — No. 2 receiver for an Aaron Rodgers quarterbacked team. Acquire Jones now and thank yourself later. WR Josh Gordon — Gordon’s owners still don’t seem to grasp how good he is, but the evidence is right there staring you in the face. Gordon won’t come as cheap as some on this list, but whatever the cost is, it’s likely worth it. TE Julius Thomas — Worrywart owners have been looking for reasons to give up on Thomas all season. Take advantage of his ankle injury and Denver’s Week 9 bye, and pounce.
Week 8 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Andy Dalton, RB Andre Ellington, RB Frank Gore, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Jordy Nelson, WR Dez Bryant, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Jordan Reed
Least Valuable Player, Non-Matt Barkley Division: We hope Steven Jackson’s 11-carry, six-yard Week 8 was more about his health than remaining skill level, because if it wasn’t … wow.
The Christian Ponder theme song.