Fantasy Fast Forward: A resurgent Brady elevating Patriots offense
It’s safe to say that the second quarter of Tom Brady’s season was just a tad better than his first. His first four games of the season launched 1,000 columns pontificating on the end of the Brady era. He threw for just 791 yards, 5.7 yards per attempt and four touchdowns against two interceptions as the Patriots limped to a 2-2 start. The entire New England offense has turned it around in the last four weeks, and Brady has been right at the center of it all. He has thrown for 1,268 yards, 8.8 yards per attempt, 14 touchdowns and zero interceptions, most recently dominating the Bears. The Patriots have won those four games by a combined score of 158-87, and are once again a favorite in the AFC.
Brady was at his very best on Sunday, going 30-for-35 for 354 yards, 10.1 yards per attempt and five touchdowns in New England’s 51-23 thrashing of Chicago. Four of Brady’s five scores came in the first half, as the Patriots took a 38-7 lead into the locker room. He hooked up with Rob Gronkowski nine times for 149 yards and three scores and Gronk needs to be considered the top fantasy tight end in the league for the rest of the season. Brandon LaFell caught all 11 of his targets for 124 yards and a touchdown. He has been the San Francisco Giants of the fantasy world in the last five weeks, alternating good games with bad. In the three good ones, he has 21 grabs for 340 yards and four scores. In the two bad ones, he has just five catches for 75 yards. With the way Brady’s elevating everyone in the New England offense, LaFell should be a WR2/3 for the rest of the year.
Ben Roethlisberger looked at Brady’s huge game, thought to himself, "Huh, that’s cute," then went out and destroyed the Colts. Roethlisberger had the best game of his 11-year career, completing 40 of his 49 pass attempts for 522 yards, 10.7 yards per attempt, and six touchdowns. We’ve seen a few huge first halves this season -- Joe Flacco’s five touchdown game stands out -- but Roethlisberger had one thing some of those other quarterbacks didn’t. Andrew Luck kept the Colts in the game, forcing Roethlisberger to keep on putting the ball in the air in the second half.
Big Ben threw one touchdown in the first quarter, three in the second and one more apiece in the third and fourth. Chances are if you started Roethlisberger, you put a bow on a win in Week 8.
In a cruel twist of fate, there’s a very good chance that Roethlisberger’s performance was wasted on many fantasy benches. Roethlisberger had great matchups with the Browns and Jaguars in recent weeks, throwing for a combined 493 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in those two games. The Colts didn’t necessarily loom as the most challenging matchup, but after Roethlisberger came up short against pass-friendly opponents, fantasy owners could be forgiven for benching him this week. Unfortunately, the vagaries of fantasy football may have robbed those owners of a win.
Let’s get to the rest of the immediate reactions from Week 8 in the SI.com Fast Forward.
• Golden Tate once again took advantage of Calvin Johnson’s absence, catching seven of his 15 targets for 151 yards and a touchdown. Megatron’s ankle has cost him all or most of the last five games. In those contests, Tate has 60 targets, 39 receptions, 599 yards and three touchdowns. He has four 100-yard games in that span, scoring at least 11 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues in every game but one. The Lions have a bye next week and Johnson could very well return in Week 10, but Tate has already paid huge dividends for his fantasy owners. Even if Johnson is back after the bye, Tate will be a solid WR2 for the rest of the season.
• Theo Riddick had himself a nice game for PPR owners, catching eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. However, Reggie Bush could very well return from his ankle injury after the bye. If he does, he’ll probably siphon off much of Riddick’s value, even though he really hasn’t played that well this season.
• All things considered, the Falcons offense, as a whole, played about as well as could be expected with their decimated offensive line against the Lions. Matt Ryan threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns, but nearly all of that production came in the first half. Roddy White and Julio Jones each disappointed their fantasy owners, with White catching five passes for 66 yards and Jones hauling in four passes for 58 yards. With the line in shambles, this offense doesn’t have nearly the ceiling it did at the start of the season.
• The Chiefs hung 34 points on the Rams on Sunday, but Alex Smith had little to do with it from a statistical perspective. He was very efficient, completing 24 of his 28 pass attempts for 8.1 yards per attempt, but that resulted in a slightly disappointing 226 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, with all three of the offensive scores coming on the ground. Jamaal Charles got two of those scores, and racked up 117 yards on 17 touches. Charles has a couple tough assignments upcoming with the Jets and Bills the next two weeks, but you’re going to rightly trust him as an RB1 in each of those games.
• Tre Mason fell flat for owners who trusted him after his breakout game against the Seahawks last week, running just seven times for 32 yards. He should earn a pass from you, though, given the context of this game. The Rams were trailing for nearly the entire game, and fell behind by 13 points less than halfway through the third quarter. Zac Stacy had 17 yards on four carries, good for a robust 3.4 yards per carry. The most important takeaway for Mason owners is that he got a plurality of the carries, and was more productive with his touches than was Stacy.
• Arian Foster continued his monster season on Sunday, running for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He added another 22 yards and another touchdown through the air, and now has nine total scores on the year. DeMarco Murray is hogging all the headlines, but Foster is up to 766 rushing yards, and has surpassed the century mark in six of his seven games this year. If not for one missed game, he could really be competing with Murray for the rushing title.
• Zach Mettenberger played well enough from a statistical standpoint in his first career start, throwing for 299 yards, 7.3 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and one interception. He played a very shaky first half, though, and nearly all of his production came in garbage time. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt is more tied to Mettenberger than Jake Locker since he was part of the regime that drafted him, but there’s no guarantee that Mettenberger holds down the starting job. Even if he does, he’s a low-end QB2, at best.
• The Vikings-Buccaneers game didn’t really provide all that much in the way of fantasy fireworks, but it did confirm one thing: Doug Martin cannot be trusted. He picked up 27 yards on 10 carries, and now has a paltry 139 rushing yards this season. Charles Sims will soon be making his return from injured reserve, and the Buccaneers are going to want to see what they have in the rookie out of West Virginia. If you can make a speculative claim on Sims, do so now. You’ll likely have a lot more competition for his services next week.
• Justin Forsett had 68 yards on 17 carries, but lost a pair of would-be scores to Lorenzo Taliaferro. Take the latter’s production with a grain of salt. He had an increased role in the offense this week with Bernard Pierce inactive, and he very well could hold down the backup job. However, Forsett got 20 total touches while Taliaferro had just nine. No back will be able to sustain that sort of production on so few touches.
• Andy Dalton put up 23.04 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, which doesn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise. That he did so by running for two touchdowns, however, was a shocker. It’s very hard to trust Dalton without A.J. Green on the field. He threw for 266 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception against the Ravens in Week 8. In the four games that Green has missed all or most of, Dalton has 967 yards, 7.3 yards per attempt, three touchdowns and three interceptions.
• Giovani Bernard left Sunday’s game with a hip injury. He was a mild disappointment for his fantasy owners before exiting, running for 45 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He’ll be re-evaluated during the week, but Jeremy Hill would get a huge boost in value if Bernard missed any time. He had 14 touches for 53 total yards on Sunday.
• Denard Robinson had another big game, running for 108 yards on 18 carries in a tough matchup with the Dolphins. In two starts, he has 235 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries. Toby Gerhart returned from a foot injury, but had just four carries for 10 yards. Robinson is definitely in charge of the Jacksonville backfield.
• Allen Robinson has now scored in two straight games, going for a total of nine catches on 17 targets for 142 yards in those contests. With six teams on bye next week, Robinson will be a solid WR3 going up against the Bengals.
• Ryan Tannehill once again showed off the dangers in trusting a non-elite quarterback or in putting too much weight into a small sample. After a strong three-game run, Tannehill was a fantasy flop against the Jaguars on Sunday. He threw for just 196 yards, 6.8 yards per attempt, one touchdown and one interception. He added some value by running for 48 yards, but he still came up short of expectations. He’ll once again be a borderline starter when the Dolphins host the Chargers next week.
• Matt Forte entered Sunday’s game against the Patriots on pace to become the third player in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. He had another huge game for his fantasy owners, running for 114 yards, catching six passes for 54 yards, and getting in the end zone once. Forte now has 562 rushing yards, 58 receptions, 490 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The slacker in Chicago will have to pick up the pace in the receiving department over the back half of the season, as he’s now on pace for 1,124 rushing yards and 980 receiving yards this season.
• Alshon Jeffery salvaged his day with a late touchdown, but both he and Brandon Marshall have disappointed fantasy owners for most of the season. Jeffery has at least been relatively productive, putting up double-digit fantasy points in five games this year. Marshall, however, has fallen way short of expectations this year. He has topped 100 yards just once, and has had fewer than 50 yards in six of Chicago’s eight games this year. He got 10 targets on Sunday, but caught only three of them for 35 yards. The Bears offense, as a whole, has not been the juggernaut many expected it would be this year, but Marshall still has to be considered a WR1 for the rest of the year. He can turn it on in any given week.
• Since Cam Newton seemingly broke out against the Bengals two weeks ago, he hasn’t exactly performed like an every-week starter. He has 376 passing yards, 7.1 yards per attempt, one touchdown and two interceptions in the last two weeks. Moreover, he hasn’t done a ton on the ground, running for 65 yards on 19 carries. The Panthers are on a short week in Week 9, hosting the Saints on Thursday Night Football. Newton will likely be a borderline starter.
• One Panther you may very well want to get into your lineups next week is Jonathan Stewart. Before getting too deep into it, he would be a flex play in 12-team leagues. Stewart ran well against the Seahawks on Sunday, picking up 79 yards on 16 carries. The Saints have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs this year and entered Week 8 yielding double-digit points to at least one back in five of their six games this season.
• The end of the Geno Smith era may be upon us after his terrible performance against the Bills on Sunday. Smith threw three interceptions in the first quarter and gave way to Michael Vick in the Jets’ 43-23 loss. Vick didn’t do much better, completing 18 of his 36 pass attempts for 153 yards, 4.3 yards per attempt and an interception, but it might be time for the Jets to give him a shot. He ran for 69 yards on eight carries and could bring a new element to the Jets’ offense.
• Percy Harvin didn’t make much of an impact in his first game with the Jets, but he did get nine targets and four carries. In other words, the Jets already appear more committed to him than the Seahawks ever were. He’ll be a WR3 with the Jets visiting the Chiefs next week. The Bills largely shut down Chris Ivory, but he still put up a big fantasy number by hitting paydirt twice. He ran for just 43 yards on 13 carries, but the touchdowns gave him a 16.3-point fantasy day in standard-scoring leagues. The Bills’ defense had been a nightmare matchup for running backs, allowing 3.3 yards per carry on 176 totes.
• Ben Roethlisberger may not be too impressed with Kyle Orton’s day, but the Purdue product absolutely carved up the Jets defense on Sunday. Orton had just 17 pass attempts, but he completed 10 of them for 238 yards, 14.0 yards per attempt and four touchdowns. Sammy Watkins caught three passes for 157 yards and a score, and the rookie would have had another touchdown if not for some premature celebrating that even Leon Lett would have questioned. Again, Orton has stabilized the Buffalo offense to the point that Watkins can be trusted as a regular starter.
• Everyone was ready to hand the lead role in the Buffalo backfield to Bryce Brown, except for the only people who matter. The Bills coaching staff chose to feature Anthony Dixon on Sunday, but he didn’t do much with the opportunity. In his defense, the Jets have a strong run defense, but Dixon ran for just 44 yards on 22 carries. Brown didn’t do much better, running seven times for 15 yards. The Bills have a bye next week, and you won’t want to roll with either Dixon or Brown when they return from bye against the Chiefs in Week 10.
• Carson Palmer took advantage of a great matchup on Sunday, throwing for 329 yards, 7.8 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Cardinals’ 24-20 win over the Eagles. He did nearly all of his damage on two passes, connecting with Larry Fitzgerald on an 80-yard touchdown and John Brown on a 75-yard score for the eventual game-winner. Believe it or not, that 80-yarder was the longest reception of Fitzgerald’s career. Palmer is a strong matchup play and will be a borderline starter in 10- and 12-team leagues when the Cardinals play the Cowboys next week.
• Michael Floyd’s name is rather conspicuous in its absence from the above paragraph. While Fitzgerald and Brown each went north of 100 yards and had a touchdown, Floyd did not catch a pass. He got just four targets while Fitzgerald and Brown both had 10. Floyd did miss some time while being evaluated for a potential shoulder injury, but it’s not likely he’ll miss any time.
• LeSean McCoy has to be considered an RB2 for the rest of the season after once again failing to find the end zone on Sunday. He had 83 yards on 21 carries and also caught three passes for 14 yards. The Eagles ran 88 plays and gained 521 total yards against a good Arizona defense, making it all the more surprising that McCoy wasn’t part of the action. You’re going to want to play him every week, but the hope that he plays like the first overall pick should be gone at this point of the season.
• Nick Foles put the ball in the air 62 times on Sunday, completing 36 of those attempts for 411 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Sixteen of those passes were thrown to Jeremy Maclin, and he caught 12 of his targets for 187 yards and two touchdowns. All those passes for Foles and targets for Maclin is why the latter has been a rock-solid WR1 all season.
• The Browns finally got Jordan Cameron back to 100 percent a couple weeks ago, but they may have lost their big tight end for the second time this season. Cameron left the Browns’ win over the Raiders with a potential concussion. He’ll be re-evaluated this week, but expect him to be limited in practice all week. Cameron has missed a total of three games over the last two seasons due to concussions.
• Cameron’s absence opened the door for Andre Hawkins, who once again led the Browns with nine targets. He caught seven of those balls for 88 yards and a score, putting up 14.8 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Cleveland hosts Tampa Bay next week, and that should be a great matchup for Hawkins. He’ll be a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 next week.
• In addition to Roethlisberger’s career day, the Colts-Steelers game featured a handful of stars playing exactly to role. Andrew Luck threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns, reaching the 370-yard mark for the fifth time this season. Le’Veon Bell ran for 92 yards and caught six passes for 56 yards. Of course, he left his fantasy owners wanting just a bit more as he failed to find the end zone for the sixth time in eight games this season. He now has 1,086 total yards this season, second to just DeMarco Murray. Antonio Brown caught 10 of his 13 targets for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Just more of the same from these three fantasy stars.
• Mark Ingram had quite possibly the best game of his career, running for 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. With Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas both banged up, Ingram should continue to get a major workload for the Saints in the coming weeks. New Orleans travels to Carolina to take on the Panthers, who have been terrible against the run this year, on Thursday night. He’s a strong RB2 for Week 9.
• Drew Brees bounced back from the damaging interception he threw last week, connecting on 27 of his 32 pass attempts for 311 yards, 9.7 yards per attempt and three touchdowns. He hooked up with Brandin Cooks on a 50-yard score and also hit Kenny Stills for a 45-yard reception that nearly went for six, as well. This Saints offense sure looks a whole lot better when Brees and the passing game are making things happen deep down the field. It also looks better when Jimmy Graham is able to make an impact. He likely played this game at less than 100 percent, but he caught five of his six targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Expect him to keep on trending in the right direction health wise as he gets further and further removed from the incidence of his shoulder injury.
• It was a bit of a bizarre game for the Packers, with Aaron Rodgers throwing for 418 yards in a game they were out of for most of the fourth quarter. Rodgers ended up having a nice fantasy performance thanks to the passing yards and a rushing score, but it certainly wasn’t his cleanest game of the season. Jordy Nelson had just three catches for 25 yards, which likely means Nelson will explode against the Bears in Week 10. The Packers are on a bye next week.
• There has never really been any proof that Eddie Lacy can’t catch. He was just always overlooked in the Green Bay passing game. That may not be the case anymore. The Packers finally made a concerted effort to get Lacy involved through the air, and he rewarded the coaching staff by catching eight of his nine targets for 123 yards. He padded those receiving numbers with four catches in garbage time, but he still had 97 receiving yards when the outcome of the game was in doubt. If Lacy ends up being a staple of the passing attack going forward, he could still have a chance to justify his first-round price tag back in draft season.