NFL Fantasy: 5 points to take away from Week 8

Drew Brees, he's back!

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Week 8 was a rainy and windy week for many but brought much better tidings than Week 7. Instead of losing important players, major players in fantasy football escaped unscathed for the most part. We even got a key player back — more on that in a moment — and got some encouraging performances out of teams that lost their starting quarterbacks. All in all, Week 8 was a pretty solid week.

Even without major changes across the fantasy landscape, there was still a lot to take in during the Week 8 games. With that in mind, here are five things we learned.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws under pressure against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half of their NFL football game in Atlanta, Georgia November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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Drew Brees Is Home

Drew Brees shocked many this past week when he hinted he would be returning from the thumb injury that sidelined him since Week 2.

It seemed unlikely that the New Orleans Saints would throw their future Hall of Fame quarterback back onto the field just before their Week 9 bye, especially with how admirably Teddy Bridgewater had filled in. The former Viking had led the Saints to a 5-0 record in his starts. He hadn’t been a world-beater, but he kept the Saints in good position every single week.

But it seems the Saints really wanted to dunk on Arizona because they gave Brees back the starting role as soon as they could. And he rewarded that decision.

He led the Saints to an easy 31-9 victory, completing 34 of his 43 pass attempts for 373 yards, three touchdowns and an interception along the way. He appeared unbothered by his thumb, regularly zipping passes into receivers’ hands the moment they came free from defenders. In other words, Drew Brees is back.

New Orleans are on bye in Week 9 and when they return they’ll face a very fantasy-friendly upcoming schedule, including two games against the Atlanta Falcons and a match-up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in three of their next four games. The Saints are looking like one of the true contenders and so are fantasy teams that held onto Brees while he was hurt.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – DECEMBER 13: Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs walks out of the tunnel prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium on December 13, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

The Chiefs Are Still a Real Football Team

Things were looking pretty bleak for the Kansas City Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes left Thursday Night Football with a dislocated knee cap in Week 7. The Mahomes-led Chiefs were one of the most valuable offences in the league for fantasy purposes, and Mahomes’ absence had Chiefs’ fans and fantasy managers sweating.

But head coach Andy Reid showed us on Sunday Night Football that he doesn’t need an elite quarterback to produce a quality NFL offence.

That should come as a relief to those of us relying on players like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce or the Chiefs’ running backs in fantasy. Hill caught 6 of 9 targets for 76 yards while adding another 5 yards on his lone rushing attempt, Kelce finished as the fifth-highest scoring fantasy tight end, and the backs averaged over 4 yards per carry combined. And kudos to Matt Moore — who this offseason was apparently starting a new career as a scout — throwing for two touchdowns and 267 yards against Green Bay’s solid defence.

Andy Reid kept the Chiefs offence competitive in a game in which Aaron Rodgers was once again on absolute fire. The team may have lost 24-31, but it was just about as reassuring of a loss as there could be. Obviously, we still need to temper expectations for the Chiefs offence for as long as Mahomes remains sidelined, but Matt Moore and Andy Reid should keep this team relevant.

Aaron Jones Is an Absolute Stud

Holy moly! That was an impressive performance from Aaron Jones. It was important to note how the Chiefs looked without the best quarterback in the league, but it was downright amazing to watch Aaron Jones pop off once again.

Jones was dominant on Sunday night. He handled 13 carries for 67 yards (5.15 yards per carry), which was nice, but where he really made an impact was in the receiving game. He caught seven of his team-high eight targets for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. He even had a third receiving score called back when his heel just barely dipped out of bounds. It was an electric performance from one of the best young backs in the game.

For as many seasons as Jones and teammate Jamaal Williams have been in the league, we’ve been faced with the question of which back to start. For how efficient Jones has been when he’s had the chance, Williams stuck around and provided the Green Bay Packers with another reliable back.

But on Sunday night, we saw an alternative to picking one or the other — both backs could be relevant in the same game. The team repeatedly lined up with both backs on the field, and not always in the backfield — Jones and Williams were routinely lined up out wide throughout the game.

Jones’ ridiculous performance moved him up to the RB3 overall in points per game on Paddy Power Fantasy, behind only Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey. He’s an absolute stud.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 12: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers runs off the field after their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on September 12, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Cam Newton Doesn’t Have to Worry About His Job

There were rumblings heading into Week 8 that Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Kyle Allen was making a case for himself to remain the starting quarterback when Cam Newton returned from injury. I don’t think we — or Cam — have to worry about those rumours anymore.

The San Francisco 49ers’ defence completely dismantled Allen in the Panthers’ massive 13-51 loss. Allen completed just 19 of his 37 attempts for 158 yards — an abysmal average of 4.27 yards per attempt — while also tossing three interceptions and taking seven sacks for a loss of 58 yards. At least he didn’t lose a fumble. But it was about as convincing an argument you could make for Newton to take back his rightful role as the team’s starting quarterback when he finally does return from injury.

Newton did not practice last week but was spotted warming up with the team on Sunday before being declared inactive. Allen’s devastating performance on Sunday could force the Panthers to take a proactive approach heading into Week 9. Expect to see Cam Newton back on the field before too long. If Newton does return, you can expect at least a slight bump in fantasy relevance for all Panthers players not named Christian McCaffrey because you can’t really improve on what McCaffrey has done this season.

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 02: Atlanta Falcons helmets on the field during the Super Bowl LI practice on February 2, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Calvin Ridley Is the Big Winner From Last Week’s Trades

There was quite a bit of trade activity going on in the league last week and particularly for wide receivers. The Denver Broncos sent Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers, and the Falcons sent Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots. Two trades don’t seem like all that much activity, but relative to previous years, it really is.

Many spent the days leading up to Week 8 wondering which players were the biggest winners or losers of those trades, and now we have an answer — Calvin Ridley is the big winner of last week’s sweepstakes.

Sanu was on the field a lot for the Falcons. While he only caught 33 passes for 313 yards through Atlanta’s first seven games, he typically led all Falcons receivers in snaps played. His departure opened up a lot of playing time for someone to step up, which led to Ridley playing a team-high 80% of the offensive snaps — the second-highest mark of his season.

He had some difficulty converting that opportunity into yards without Matt Ryan at quarterback but was still able to catch 4 of his 7 Matt Schaub targets for 70 yards. The Falcons have their bye to hopefully help Ryan recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of this contest, and when he does eventually return, there could be big things in store for Ridley.

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