There has always been a tendency to focus on the negative with Kirk Cousins. A cursory Twitter search will show you that I have happily obliged. The ill-timed interceptions. The immaculate box scores that precipitate a loss. The failure to be perfect on one imperfect team after another. The general goofiness you just don’t expect out of a franchise quarterback.
Well let me tell you something: We are going to miss him when he’s gone. Because those box scores? They are immaculate for what we need in fantasy. Cousins started eight games this season. He attempted fewer than 31 passes in one of them. He was averaging 39 throws per game even when you include Sunday’s injury-shortened affair.
He was keeping half the free world afloat with his metronome targets. One All-Pro in Justin Jefferson goes down and Cousins immediately does his best to conjure another in Jordan Addison. T.J. Hockenson? Not a great player. T.J. Hockenson on Kirk Cousins? A top-three tight end. K.J. Osborn is someone whose name you should barely even know. Under Kirk Cousins? A perfectly fine emergency WR4.
The man works fantasy miracles. Now that he’s gone we are going to need help from the divine to replace all the lost production. 25-year-old rookie dual-threat “Jaren Hall” or soon-to-be I.R. returnee Nick Mullens won’t provide even half of it. We have always taken Cousins for granted when he’s there, which is always. His 88 starts lead the league since he signed with the Vikings in 2018. Without him? We aren’t laughing now.
Five Week 8 Storylines
Brock Purdy’s crucible intensifies. The Discourse Man was flying high after the 49ers’ Week 5 demolition of the Cowboys. Perhaps he really would “keep getting away with it” for all time. You never do, of course. Purdy hasn’t won a game since and he’s produced more turnovers than touchdowns in back-to-back starts. That includes three giveaways to just one score against the Bengals. Purdy tossed two brutal picks, had another called back by penalty, and “compensated” by losing a fumble the very next snap. Returning from a concussion, Purdy also smashed his head on the turf. Grim stuff. The struggles are at least perfectly timed, as Purdy now has the natural reset of the 49ers’ Week 9 bye. Just as Purdy was not the next Joe Montana he appeared to be in Weeks 1-5, he’s also not the next Jordan Love. Week 10 in Jacksonville will nevertheless presage which way the wind will blow for the most important games of the year. Hopefully Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Trent Williams (ankle) are both back in the saddle to help their quarterback get back on track.
Sam Howell has best game yet vs. Eagles. Howell ran layup lines against Philly’s struggling defense, taking advantage of Eric Bieniemy’s pass-happy ways to complete a franchise record 24 throws before halftime. When the dust settled he was 39-of-52 for 397 yards, four scores and one pick. That doesn’t include the most important stat: Only one sack taken. Howell doesn’t suddenly have elite awareness, but one way to make your pocket cleaner is to make the defense fear you down the field. Playing more good football than bad over the past month, Howell has stabilized the fantasy value of Terry McLaurin, kept Jahan Dotson relevant, and proven he can be an option for stretch-run streamer desperados.
Javonte Williams makes the Broncos' backfield a one-man band. Williams handled 27-of-32 running back carries in Denver’s upset of the Chiefs and reached 30 touches for the first time in his career. With everything on the line and the Broncos truly desperate for a win over their division nemesis, Payton admitted Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine should be strict breather options. We can’t guarantee that will remain the case going forward, as the Broncos could be sellers ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. The priorities could quickly shift down the stretch. But in a part of the rankings board that only ever grows more confusing in the RB20-32 range, Williams has finally re-established himself as an RB2 heading into Week 9 against the Bills.
Kendrick Bourne suffers torn ACL vs. Dolphins. As with all things late-career Bill Belichick, it took long enough, but the Pats had finally acknowledged Bourne as their No. 1 receiver. Enter the season-ending injury. It’s the most brutal of blows for an offense whose Week 7 pop up against the Bills immediately proved to be an aberration in Miami. Now there is almost literally no one for a struggling Mac Jones to lean on for play-making ability or red-zone presence. Demario “Pop” Douglas should see the biggest targets increase after commanding seven looks for the first time since Week 1, but there is probably only so far his petite frame can take you in fantasy. Don’t bother with JuJu Smith-Schuster, whose legs appear completely gone.
Miles Sanders put on ice vs. Texans. Coming out of their bye against a struggling defense, the Panthers reached a backfield verdict: Sanders will remain in a timeshare… with Raheem Blackshear for No. 2 duties. Chuba Hubbard played 45 snaps to Sanders’ 12 and Blackshear’s 10. There is no way to sugarcoat that. Frank Reich and company have officially become the latest coaching staff to give up on former second-rounder Sanders. Might they also eventually give up on an unimpressive Hubbard? Yes, but the Sanders damage is done. He isn’t going to get enough work to remain fantasy relevant in this bottom-five offense. Drop away.
Five More Week 8 Storylines
Falcons dabble with benching Desmond Ridder. In true Arthur Smith fashion, he refused to call it a benching. Sure, a concussion evaluation had revealed Ridder was just fine and he did not play again, but it was Not. A. Benching. “We've got a lot of confidence in Des," Smith said with the dead-eyed stare of a career spook. "We didn't take him out for performance issues." Well maybe you should have? Taylor Heinicke immediately proved the thesis that any old quarterback who was not Desmond Ridder could spark this offense. Heinicke more than doubled Ridder’s production even as Drake London tweaked his groin. That is not to oversell Heinicke. Like Ridder, he will commit egregious turnovers and take innumerable sacks. Unlike Ridder, however, he will at least provide big plays and occasionally keep the offense in rhythm. The time to make this change was indeed yesterday. We’ll see which story Smith sticks to later this week.
Will Levis looks like Titans’ best option under center. Yes, it was one game. It was also one game where Levis doubled Ryan Tannehill’s season passing touchdown total. One game where Levis threw actual deep balls, not the Tannehill play-action aided smoke-and-mirrors sideline heaves. Levis produced touchdowns of 47, 16, 61 and 33 yards, with three of them going in the books as genuine long scores. Levis could play 15 more years and never have a down-field performance quite this impressive, but he highlighted everything this offense has been missing. Passing to take the pressure off the running game. Big plays to flip the field. Any hope at all that the game isn’t over the second the Titans fall behind. If Levis is even half as good in Thursday’s daunting short-week road date with the Steelers, there will be zero reason to turn back to Tanne.
Matthew Stafford suffers thumb injury in Dallas. Like Kirk Cousins, this one would have wide-ranging effects beyond the quarterback himself. Stafford has struggled for standalone fantasy value as he tosses nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns, but he’s had little issue keeping both Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua WR1 relevant. The situation would change in an instant if Stafford requires an injured reserve stint, something the Rams are apparently considering with a cold weather Green Bay date on tap before their Week 10 bye. Cooler heads would probably suggest the Rams simply deactivate Stafford for a game or two while keeping him on the 53-man roster. If they don’t, Kupp will plunge to WR10-18 status, with Nacua struggling for WR2 relevance.
Jonathan Taylor’s hot start gives way to continued Zack Moss timeshare. As the Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins points out, Taylor handled his 12th carry on the Colts’ first play of the second half. It would be the last time he took the rock. Indy went 28 straight plays without giving Taylor another tote. Insane, baffling usage for which injury would seem to be the only explanation, but Taylor was never announced as hurt. Perhaps will get further explanation in the form of a Wednesday practice update, but Taylor simply can’t shake loose of Moss’s involvement. Fantasy managers also can’t afford to look away, as Week 9 opponent Carolina has one of the league’s softest run defenses. If Taylor is healthy, he has to be treated as a volatile RB2.
Tyrod Taylor injures ribs, someone named Tommy DeVito sets offensive football back 100 years. In what was literally the worst passing performance of the 21st century, the Giants got even worse news: Darren Waller re-injured his hamstring. That makes it hard to get excited about Daniel Jones’ (neck) impending return for Week 9 against the Raiders. Jones had at least done his part to revive Waller before he landed on the shelf. If Waller sits, Jones has proven incapable of providing fantasy value to any players this season. Taylor almost saved the Giants’ season. At this point, it would appear nothing can.
1. Is Jordan Love going to finish the season as starter?
2. Can these cruel mob bosses please declare Chris Olave’s initiation over and finally let him start catching passes again?
3. One 25-year-old rookie quarterback getting into a game isn't cool. You know what's cool? Two 25-year-old rookie quarterbacks getting into games.
Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Falcons (vs. MIN), Chargers (@NYJ), Bucs (@HOU), Patriots (vs. WAS), Rams (@GB), Raiders (vs. NYG)
Stats of the Week
2,964 days. That’s how long it had been since the Broncos beat the Chiefs.
With Zach Ertz on injured reserve, Trey McBride led the Cardinals in routes and finished as the TE1 overall on the week. Only Travis Kelce is being targeted on a higher percentage of his routes. A TE1 is born.
Via Jared Smola: Sam Howell has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in four of the past five weeks.
Rich Hribar on the Steelers’ offensive “production”: *1.17 points per drive (31st) *Punted on a league-high 49.4% of drives *League-low 18.1% of their drives have reached the red zone or scored prior *Have scored on a league-low 1-of-21 1Q drives *56.0% of set of downs reach 3rd down (31st).
Week 8 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Sam Howell, RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Gus Edwards, WR CeeDee Lamb, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR A.J. Brown, TE Trey McBride
Tweet of the Week, from Kevin Clark regarding Rashid Shaheed’s uniform number: We can’t have a deep threat like this wearing No. 22. Get serious.
Dolphins Fan Heat Check Tweet of the Week, from Chris Kouffman: Since the trade deadline hasn’t passed yet can we get New England to trade J.C. Jackson to like the Cowboys or Ravens? Would like to see him a third time.