One Big Thing – AFC – Week 8

Updated: November 7th 2020

Every week we learn a little bit more about how a team sees each player as a part of their offense allowing fantasy footballers to react (positively or negatively) to those actions. Each week I will look to capture the “One Big Thing” that should have an impact on each team going forward and how you, the savvy fantasy player, can use that to your advantage.

AFC EAST

 Miami

Week 8 did not give a true understanding of what the Dolphins offense will look like with new quarterback Tua Tagovailoa under center. The defense gave numerous short field opportunities off of turnovers and therefore the offense needed only 145 total yards to score 28 points. Both Dolphins running backs, Myles Gaskins and Matt Breida, will miss their week 9 matchup so there could be a rare Jordan Howard sighting against the Cardinals this week. We should expect more from Tua this week if they want their winning streak to continue.

 NY Jets

It was another tough day for the Jets who hung around for some of the first half against the defending Super Bowl Champs but it was always going to be difficult to expect much when they were 20.5 point underdogs. The trend of starting Braxton Berrios when Jamison Crowder is out of the lineup continued as he had eight (8) receptions last week. In the three (3) games without Crowder, Berrios has averaged 8/6/52/0.67 and 15 PPR points meaning that if Crowder’s injuries continue to keep him out of game throughout this season Berrios may have flex appeal.

 New England

It was a better performance for Cam Newton and the offense than it had been in the previous two games but the result was still the same and the team finds itself in unfamiliar territory at 2-5. Newton still has not returned to his pre-COVID play and the team is 32nd in passing touchdowns with only three (3) in seven (7) games. The Patriots’ running game has at least been a top unit, 4th in yards and 5th in touchdowns, but in the 2020 NFL, the way to win games is through a top passing attack. Still having two games against the winless Jets on their schedule will likely decide whether the team finished inside, or outside, of a top 10 draft pick next year.

 Buffalo

The pass-heavy offense the Bills were implementing at the beginning of the season seems like so long ago as Josh Allen continues to slip down the passing yards and touchdown rankings. With both Devin Singletary and Zach Moss available and healthy, Allen attempted only 18 passes and threw for 154 yards. He did carry the ball ten (10) times and had another rushing touchdown to help his fantasy value. The hope is that the offense will be able to take advantage of the Seahawks secondary and Allen can throw for over 300 yards like he did in four (4) of the first seven (7) games as opposed to the sub-160 yards he has had in two (2) of the last three (3).

AFC NORTH

 Pittsburgh

It was a solid win for Steelers as their defense, much like Miami’s, force two fumbles and two inceptions to push their unbeaten streak to seven (7) games. Their offense was held relatively in check as they had their lowest total yards of the season, 221 yards, but managed to score three (3) touchdowns which boosted the fantasy output of Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool into the double-digits. As mentioned last week it would be difficult for all receivers to be fantasy relevant each week consistently and this week it was Dionte Johnson who only had a single catch on three (3) targets.

 Baltimore

It has been apparent to the fantasy community that Mark Ingram should not be receiving as much playing time as he had been in the first half of the season and hopefully, after the showing of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards in week 8, their coaching staff can agree. Against a tough Steelers defense Edwards and Dobbins averaged 5.4 and 7.5 yards per carry respectively and should be the focus of the backfield from here on. Dobbins especially who had not produced much since his week 1, two (2) touchdown performance, finally played on over 60 percent of the snaps and had 113 rushing yards compared to the 154 yards he had combined in the previous six (6) weeks. His ceiling will be capped as long as Gus Edwards continues to be successful as well but Dobbins is the kind of running back who’s primed for a 2021 breakout once the team clears some of the hurdles around him.

 Cleveland

A game played in a windstorm that many thought played right into the script of Cleveland being a run-first team did not play out the way that people would have hoped for as Kareem Hunt only had 66 rushing yards and the offense scored just six (6) points. After taking full control of the backfield in week 5, Hunt has not produced in a way that many had hoped with Nick Chubb unavailable. His splits with and without Chubb, 17.2 PPR points playing 41 percent of the snaps versus 13.6 PPR points with 75 percent snaps played, shows that he functions much better in Cleveland as the 1B rather than the bell-cow back. A bye week this week and the possibility of Chubb being able to return in week 10 may help both of their fantasy value heading down the stretch.

 Cincinnati

The first surprising upset of Joe Burrow’s career as the one-win Bengals team dominated much of the game against what some thought was an AFC contender coming into week 8. Tee Higgins himself has quickly developed into a consistent fantasy receiver being the PPR WR23 halfway through the season and having seven (7) or more targets in six (6) of his last seven (7) games. An early to mid-second round rookie pick this year, Higgins is already looking like a bargain for RSO fantasy owners and another player to target in the offseason. With the team likely moving on from A.J. Green, Higgins’ target share should only increase moving into 2021.

AFC SOUTH

 Indianapolis

We have to assume it was the game plan for how the Colts thought they could beat Detroit that led to Jordan Wilkins playing over 50 percent of the snaps while Jonathan Taylor played only 34 percent. There was discussion after the game that Taylor was dealing with an ankle injury but full participation at Thursday’s practice this week means they could just be trying to save some face for his poor week 8 performance. His 5 PPR points were the lowest single-game total of his short career. He could have another letdown performance against Baltimore’s elite run defense this week but long term this should not have a bearing on his overall value. Those who drafted him either 1.01 or 1.02 this year are still benefiting greatly from his consistent RB2 numbers most weeks.

 Tennessee

Whether it was an emotional burnout from their week 7 game against Pittsburgh or just taking a one-win Bengals team lightly, the Titans did not look good in this one till midway through the second half. After starting the season with four (4) consecutive double-digit performances, Jonnu Smith has failed to record even ten (10) total points in the last three (3) games and his value has slumped significantly. How much of it is his lingering injury and how much is the offense being primarily focused around Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Corey Davis remains to be decided. For a position that has been slumping at the top outside of Travis Kelce, Smith has been a huge disappointment to fantasy players in the last three (3) weeks.

AFC WEST

 Kansas City

That was exactly what we expected from the high-powered Chiefs against a historically bad Jets team. Patrick Mahomes threw five (5) touchdowns and 400 passing yards with relative ease and spread the ball around enough to have four (4) receivers score over 16 fantasy points. It was not the ideal revenge game for Le’Veon Bell against his old team as he only had 38 total yards but neither he nor Clyde Edwards-Helaire was needed in this game.

 Las Vegas

The Raiders did exactly what we talked about in the Browns’ section by using the wind to their advantage and using their strong running game to control the outcome. Josh Jacobs had his second game of the season with over 30 touches and cleared the 100 yard rushing mark for the first time. Other than the game against the Buccaneers, where many of their problems could be linked to their offensive line missing practices while dealing with COVID, the team has made every game competitive and has leaned on both Jacobs and Darren Waller to succeed. Look for both to continue to be top fantasy options at their respective positions for the remainder of the season.

 LA Chargers

It has been interesting that since Austin Ekeler went down with his injury in week 4 that Joshua Kelley’s role has gone down despite him being the primary secondary option behind Ekeler. Third-year running back Justin Jackson carried the ball 17 times last week and even Troymaine Pope had double-digit carries to Kelley’s seven (7). As this offense develops more and more into Justin Herbert’s team and Austin Ekeler hopefully returns later this season it remains to be seen who of these three running backs will continue to be involved in the game plan. Joshua Kelley’s selling window seems to have peaked weeks ago with the expectation that he might have a major role in this offense. One would be lucky to get more than a third-round pick for him at this point.

 Denver

It was great for Drew Lock and the Broncos last week to come back from over 17 points down but I think more of the discredit should go to the Chargers for letting them come back from such a deficit rather than looking at the great play of Denver.  I have recently seen people suggesting that Drew Lock is portraying the traits of former Denver Broncos quarterback, Jay Cutler, with his big swings in good and bad performances. I see the similarity and wonder whether Jay Cutler-esk play is enough for John Elway and the Denver front office to rally behind and build their franchise with. At 3-5 and currently the 13th pick in the 2021 draft, the team is unlikely to be able to replace him with a rookie quarterback in 2021 but what if a big-name free agent/trade candidate like Jimmy Garoppolo or Matt Ryan becomes available? In Superflex leagues, I would be testing the quarterback-needy teams to see if you could get a second-round pick for Lock right now. There could be plenty of better options six months from now with that pick in your draft.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews