In this Halloween edition of the Fantasy Monday morning quarterback, we'll discuss all the tricks and treats from Week 8.
For the first time this regular season, a number of the players drafted in the first few rounds produced solid totals. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joseph Addai, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Peyton Manning and Antonio Gates were all in the top 10 based on NFL.com's standard scoring system, while the Cleveland duo of Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards continued to shine.
One of the biggest stories of the weekend was the continued success of Brady, who is on pace to finish the season with 60-plus total touchdowns and has become as unstoppable as Michael Myers on Halloween. He'll be the consensus No. 1 overall selection in all 2008 drafts, but Brady will never duplicate this rampant pace again. Owners need to realize that this sort of magical performance is almost never achieved the next season. Just look at Peyton Manning in 2005, Shaun Alexander in 2006 and LaDainian Tomlinson this season. Still, owners who do have Brady, like the Patriots, are the favorites to win a title.
Another major trend is the continued failures of Frank Gore, who rushed for 41 yards on 12 carries and was forced to miss time due to an injured ankle. Whether or not he misses former offensive coordinator Norv Turner, Gore is on pace to record close to 700 fewer rushing yards than he had last season. A top-five pick in most drafts, Gore has been one of the scariest disappointments in fantasy football. If you own Gore, be sure to add Michael Robinson now as insurance.
Aside from Brady (41 points), Brees (37 points), Anderson (27 points), Philip Rivers (23 points) and Peyton Manning (22 points) rounded out the top five at the quarterback position. Brees started the season slow, but he threw for 336 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-10 win over San Francisco and has now thrown for an impressive 801 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in his past three starts. He's once again a must-start option regardless of the opponent.
Anderson, who has been this season's top sleeper, threw three more touchdown passes in Week 8 and is on pace to throw 40 based on his current production. Donovan McNabb (20 points), Ben Roethlisberger (19 points) and even Marc Bulger (16 points) also recorded solid numbers in their respective contests.
The biggest bust at the quarterback position had to be Vince Young, who totaled two points in a win over Oakland. He missed his first start ever in Week 7, returned to face the Raiders and threw for 42 yards and no touchdowns. Young also completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes and has failed to find the end zone in each of his past three starts. Madden curse or not, Young has failed to meet statistical expectations in his sophomore season.
The weekend also include several injuries, as Trent Edwards, Kelly Holcomb and Vinny Testaverde all went down. Edwards hurt his wrist, so J.P. Losman could return to his role as a starter in Week 9 against Cincinnati. He'd be a solid sleeper based on the matchup. Testaverde hurt his right Achilles' tendon and was replaced by David Carr, who was ineffective against Indianapolis. Holcomb is not expected to be active this week, so Minnesota will have to turn to Brooks Bollinger if Tarvaris Jackson can't start due to a broken finger.
Another quarterback, Chad Pennington, wasn't injured but did get pulled due to another nightmarish performance. Kellen Clemens will take over the Jets' new starter, so he'll be a hot name on the waiver wire in leagues with 12-plus teams. I also wouldn't be shocked to see Josh McCown or JaMarcus Russell start ahead of Daunte Culpepper, who has been plain awful the past two weeks for Oakland.
Addai (28 points) had a monster performance with 100 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, and he didn't lose carries to Kenton Keith, which had been reported. Brian Westbrook (20 points) had a solid start in Minnesota, and Willie Parker (18 points) was impressive against a weak Bengals defense. Kevin Jones, who has re-emerged into a solid No. 2 fantasy back, rushed for 105 yards and one touchdown and scored 15 points. LenDale White, who has developed into a touchdown machine in Tennessee, and Brandon Jacobs, rounded out the top five at the position with 13 points. Jacobs has been on fire since his return from an injured knee and has become a must start for fantasy owners.
The return of Steven Jackson was major news, but he left the Cleveland-St. Louis contest in the first half due to back spasms. He did total 41 rushing yards and one score before he was hurt, and indications are that he'll be back in time for Week 10. Rookie Chris Henry scored a touchdown for the second consecutive week and will be a hot name on the waiver wire. Adimchinobe Echemandu will also see a spike in his ownership percentage on NFL.com after he saw added work for Houston in the absence of Ahman Green.
A number of running backs also failed to meet expectations. Aside from the aforementioned Gore, LaMont Jordan (1 point), Maurice Jones-Drew (5 points), Cedric Benson (6 points), Clinton Portis (7 points) and Adrian Peterson (7 points) all had porous stat lines. Jordan has been a serious bust after a fast start, and now it's almost impossible to trade him. Rookie Marshawn Lynch hurt his hip, which limited his numbers against the Jets, but he's still expected to start in Week 9 against Cincinnati.
Injuries also made headlines at the position, as Gore, Green, Jackson, Lynch, Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson either missed or left Week 8 contests. There's been talk that Johnson could miss extended time, and Watson's excellent level of production could mean a switch in the Cincinnati backfield. Watson suffered a concussion in Week 8, however, so he should be monitored throughout the week.
Several wide receivers produced well in Week 8, but no one was better than Colston. He scored three touchdowns in a blowout win over San Francisco, and his 24 points led the position. Edwards, who is on pace for over 20 touchdowns, finished with 23 points after a 117-yard, one-touchdown performance in St. Louis. Wayne (22 points), Hines Ward (20 points) and Lee Evans (19 points) rounded out the top five among wideouts.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who is third at the position in fantasy points on NFL.com, scored his ninth touchdown and is on pace to produce career bests across the board -- and better numbers than teammate Chad Johnson. Torry Holt (17 points), Joey Galloway (17 points) and Wes Welker (14 points) also produced solid numbers. With all the talk about Brady's success, Welker's level of production has been a bit overlooked. Based on his current numbers, Welker will finish the season with 112 receptions, 1,200-plus yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are insane numbers for a player who was on the waiver wire in most leagues to start the season.
Plaxico Burress (1 point), Laveranues Coles (1 point), Steve Smith (1 point), Santana Moss (4 points), Chad Johnson (5 points), and Roy Williams (7 points) were the biggest disappointments. Much of Burress' failures where due to a rainstorm in London, but fantasy owners have to be concerned with Smith. He's the most talented wideout in the NFL, but for some reason Carolina has neglected him in the pass attack since Jake Delhomme was lost for the season. Unless you can deal him, Smith will post inconsistent numbers for your team the rest of the season. Coles suffered what looked to be a concussion against Buffalo, so his status for Week 9 could be in some doubt.
The top tight end in the NFL and fantasy football, Gates scored 21 points on three receptions, two of which went for long touchdowns. Vernon Davis (13 points) also made a tremendous impact with 71 yards and a touchdown, and he's still a free agent in over 30 percent of NFL.com leagues. Greg Olsen (11 points), who has emerged into a viable No. 1 fantasy tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe (11 points) and Chris Cooley (9 points) rounded out the top five. Despite his solid numbers against Philadelphia, I wouldn't rush to add Shiancoe unless you're desperate or in a league with 12-plus teams.
Kellen Winslow (8 points) and Jeff King (8 points) were also solid, but overall a mere four tight ends produced double-digit points in Week 8. Desmond Clark (1 point), Dallas Clark (2 points), Jeremy Shockey (2 points) and Owen Daniels (3 points) were all disappointments. Desmond Clark has lost some opportunities to Olsen in the Chicago pass attack, but Dallas Clark and Shockey should all bounce back in the weeks to come. Daniels, who hurt his ankle against the Chargers, will be examined this week.
There were no Rob Bironas or Kris Brown performances at the kicker position, which was led by Sebastian Janikowski's 14 points. Matt Bryant (13 points), Jason Hanson (12 points), David Akers (11 points) and Ryan Longwell (11 points) were also solid, but only Akers was active in more than 80 percent of NFL.com leagues. Stephen Gostkowski (10 points), Phil Dawson (10 points) and even Jeff Wilkins (9 points) were also productive in Week 8.
The biggest disappointments came from John Kasay (1 point), Robbie Gould (1 point), Kris Brown (4 points), Nate Kaeding (5 points) and Jeff Reed (6 points).
San Diego led all defenses with 29 points on four interceptions and two Antonio Cromartie touchdowns, but New England was close behind with 27 points in a blowout win over Washington. Buffalo (19 points), Tennessee (19 points), and Detroit (18 points) all made statistical noise in their respective contests. The Lions were the biggest surprise in the top five, as they recorded four interceptions, two sacks and held the Chicago offense to a mere seven points. The Titans, who were active in less than 75 percent of NFL.com leagues last week, continued to rise up the fantasy football charts with five sacks in a win over Oakland.
The defenses that failed owners in Week 8 included Carolina (2 points), Washington (3 points), Minnesota (4 points), Houston (7 points) and Tampa Bay (8 points).
News & Notes
» LaDainian Tomlinson did next to nothing in a blowout win over Houston with 90 rushing yards and no touchdowns. This is a perfect example of how unpredictable game situations can be detrimental to a favorable matchup. The Chargers were up big on the Texans in the blink of an eye, so the team didn't need to utilize Tomlinson as much on offense. In fact, L.T.'s 17 carries were his fewest since Week 2. Still, Tomlinson is now the best running back in fantasy football and remains a must-start across the board.
» Matt Schaub, who has been battered and bruised the past two weeks behind a porous Houston offensive line, sustained a concussion in a loss to San Diego. His status for Week 9 is in serious doubt, so Sage Rosenfels could be under center when the Texans host Oakland. Schaub, who now must know what David Carr felt like in his time with the franchise, should be able to return in Week 11 after the team's Week 10 bye. He could be a free agent in a lot of fantasy leagues at the point, so keep tabs on his status.
» Reggie Bush sustained bruised ribs in a win over San Francisco, but Saints head coach Sean Payton didn't seem concerned about the status of his featured back. Bush, who totaled seven passes and 113 all-purpose yards in what was less than a full contest against the Niners, should be fine to start against Jacksonville in Week 9. The Jaguars have allowed a mere 15.7 points per game on the season, but Bush is still too valuable to reserve -- especially in leagues that reward points for receptions.
» Tony Romo, who injured his hamstring in a win over Minnesota, put in a full practice on Monday and will be fine to start in Week 9 when Dallas faces the Eagles in Philadelphia. Although his numbers last season in his lone start against the Eagles were less than impressive (142 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions), Romo has emerged into a must-start fantasy option and should be active across the board. He should look often to Terrell Owens, who will look to dominant one of his former teams.