Week 8 Review: Calvin Johnson Has An Historic Day
All season, the NFL has been dealing with injury after injury. Through seven weeks, it quickly became the norm for a half dozen or more key players from around the league to be lost to serious injury. Luckily (for the most part), Week 8 was an exception. The lone scare came when Robert Griffin III had a knee injury late against the Broncos. It’s still early, but it appears he escaped without serious injury.
There were a ton of story lines across the NFL this week so let’s get right into it.
1. Calvin Johnson catches 14 passes on his way to an all-time great performance.
Normally I like to start by talking about quarterbacks, but normally wide receivers don’t have 329 receiving yards in one game either. Megatron’s 329 yard total is the second-highest single game mark in the Super Bowl Era and the most in a regulation-length game. There’s not much else to say. He was phenomenal and he showed why he is still the best receiver in the NFL. After saying that he was as good as Calvin earlier in the week, Dez Bryant managed just three catches for 72 yards. Two of those three catches went for scores and both were great plays by Bryant, so saying he just caught three passes isn’t really fair.
The other major story was Cincinnati wide receiver Marvin Jones finding the end zone four times against a usually rock solid Jets defense. He caught eight balls for 122 yards while the Bengals absolutely obliterated the Jets, 49-9. Harry Douglas has gone from the third receiver in Atlanta to the de facto number one and he hasn’t disappointed. He caught 12 passes Sunday, and now has 23 receptions over the Falcons last two games. Grabbing someone like Douglas off the waiver wire can change the course of a fantasy owner’s season.
After having a quiet week against Green Bay, Josh Gordon caught five balls for 132 yards and a score this week with Jason Campbell under center. Gordon’s touchdown came on a 39-yard flea-flicker in the first half. A pair of rookie wideouts impressed Sunday on limited targets. Kenny Stills found the end zone twice on just four targets and went for 129 yards. Terrance Williams caught just two passes for 64 yards, but one of those catches was a long 60-yard touchdown. Stills plays in New Orleans, the Bermuda Triangle of fantasy football. Unless you’re Darren Sproles or Jimmy Graham, you’re likely unreliable from week-to-week. Keep an eye on him, but he’ll likely continue to be up and down as the Saints like to spread the wealth. Williams has now scored in four consecutive games, breaking the Cowboys rookie record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception. Moving forward he’s a WR3 with big-play potential, of course we’d like to see him draw more targets though.
2. Drew Brees and Andy Dalton both go for over 300 yards and five scores.
Brees and Dalton had almost identical days with Dalton’s lone interception being the major difference between the two. Brees has been excellent all season, but the offense really seems to be clicking now. With Lance Moore back healthy and Jimmy Graham powering through a foot injury, the Saints will make a serious push for the top seed in the NFC this season. Dalton had a pair of rough outings in Weeks 4 and 5, but those are squarely in the rear view now as he’s been one of the best quarterbacks over the last three weeks. Cincinnati is the real deal. As long as Dalton continues his solid play, the Bengals should continue racking up wins.
Peyton Manning’s record-setting season continued Sunday against a soft Redskins secondary. After scoring early on, the Broncos were shut out for the remainder of the first half. They came flying out of the gate in the second half and Peyton threw three more touchdown passes as they added 38 points in the second half. Even with all the yards and the touchdowns, Manning still managed to turn the ball over four times on the day. Luckily for the Broncos though, every time he gave it up the Redskins gave it right back. He now heads into his bye next week, which will give him time to rest his ailing ankles.
Matthew Stafford had just one passing touchdown in the Lions dramatic come-from-behind victory against the Cowboys, but someone had to be on the other end of all of Megatron’s receiving yards. Stafford threw for 488 yards and added a rushing touchdown to seal the win.
Colin Kaepernick threw for only 164 yards in London, but it was enough as the 49ers trounced the lowly Jaguars 42-10. Kaepernick did most of his damage on the ground where he added 54 yards and a pair of scores.
Alex Smith (225/2/0) managed the game well on his way to a nice fantasy day. Jason Campbell stepped in for the Browns this week and put up 293/2/0 against a solid Kansas City defense. Finally, I can’t close this out without talking about Terrelle Pryor and his 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Unfortunately it was pretty much all he did all day, but it was still the longest run in Raiders franchise history and the longest by a quarterback in league history. All three are potential bye-week fill-ins. Pryor has the highest upside, Smith is the safest, and Campbell proved to be slippery when pressured this week and has some weapons at his disposal.
3. Bye, bye Rashard Mendenhall. Andre Ellington goes for 154 on 15 carries.
Hopefully now the Cardinals realize that they need to get Ellington the ball as often as possible. He is electric with the ball in his hands and showed off his speed as he outran the Falcons defense on his way to an 80-yard score in the second quarter. The Cardinals are heading into a Week 9 bye, but this guy shouldn’t be available on anyone’s waiver wire after this week.
Darren McFadden carried the ball 24 times on the day, but wasn’t able to find much running room. He still managed 78 total yards and added two scores. Frank Gore had a similar day as he managed 71 yards and two scores. Gore lost touches to Kendall Hunter late in the game, but it was just because the game was already out of hand. He continues to be a solid RB1 on a weekly basis.
Maurice Jones-Drew had a solid day. He had 122 total yards and added five catches. MoJo has had a disappointing season to this point, but even without finding the end zone Sunday, this was arguably his best game of the season. Jamaal Charles didn’t score for the first time all season, but continued his solid play as he had 120 total yards and five catches. Charles is on pace for 2,036 total yards.
4. Even with a bum foot, Jimmy Graham is the best at what he does.
Graham was a game-time decision and played on a limited basis, but he was able to bounce back from his goose egg two weeks ago to score twice (on three catches). Graham clearly wasn’t at 100 percent, but it didn’t seem to matter. He’s the number one fantasy tight end moving forward, and it isn’t really very close.
Rob Gronkowski had a disappointing week as he caught just two passes for 27 yards. The Patriots got off to a slow start before pulling away from Miami and they did so by relying heavily on the running game. Tom Brady had just 116 passing yards on the day. Gronk had a 40-yard touchdown pass called back on a holding penalty that was a heart breaker for fantasy owners (myself included).
If you didn’t think Jordan Reed was for real after last week, there can be no doubt after his performance on Sunday. He caught eight passes for 90 yards, most of which came in garbage time. He’ll be a TE1 from here on out.
Tight ends continued to score this week but they had a relatively quiet week overall.
As the NFL continues its transition to a pass-first league, 100-yard rushers are seemingly a thing of the past. Besides Pryor, Andre Ellington was the only player to break the century mark Sunday. Mobile quarterbacks and increased pass attempts will continue to be a constant source of frustration for fantasy owners and their running backs. We all just need to be thankful that the injury imp decided to take the week off.
As more bye weeks continue to roll around, you need to stay on top of the waiver wire. Every week, new players emerge and leagues are won and lost with waiver wire pickups at this point in the season.