Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers
Facing a Carolina team that entered undefeated with Kyle Allen at QB and rested coming off its bye, the 49ers put up a 50-burger Sunday, thanks to a familiar formula of dominant defense and running game. San Francisco now sits 7-0, and while it’s included an easy early season schedule, they own the NFL’s second-best point differential and are clearly one of the league’s best teams. While this has so far resulted in producing modest fantasy weapons, George Kittle leads all tight ends in WOPR this year and had yet another touchdown called back by penalty Sunday, a season-long theme for him. Kittle’s second half is likely to look a lot better than his first.
Tevin Coleman, meanwhile, emerged as the team’s feature back even before Matt Breida left Sunday’s contest with an ankle injury. He’d reached 20 touches each of the previous two games and erupted for four touchdowns in Week 8, becoming the first 49ers player ever to rush for three scores and catch another.
Coleman isn’t going to be treated as a true workhorse regardless of Breida’s status, but he’s the clear lead back (including red-zone work) on a team with a strong offensive line (they’ll be getting Joe Staley and eventually Mike McGlinchey back) that easily leads the NFL in rush attempts per game and has Kyle Shanahan scheming gaping holes. San Francisco doesn’t face a run defense that entered this week in the top-19 in DVOA over the next five games, so Coleman is capable of producing RB1-type numbers if he can stay healthy.
Emmanuel Sanders saw the second-most targets (to Kittle) right away and scored during his SF debut, and he’ll only get better the more he learns the playbook. Sanders should be treated as a top-30 WR moving forward, but he’s the only SF wide receiver worth using in most fantasy leagues. The 49ers continue to shut down opposing wideouts, but Christian McCaffrey put up another strong game and got 8.4 YPC against a defense that had previously stymied fantasy backs. It’s remarkable how little CMC leaves the field, and his price tag would be astronomical in auctions held today.
Kyle Allen entered Sunday having never been intercepted during his career, but he left with three picks on his stat sheet, as he was under constant duress from a relentless 49ers pass rush (and windy conditions didn’t help) that saw rookie Nick Bosa record three sacks and an INT before the fourth quarter. His pressure rate is through the roof and few players have ever made a greater immediate impact in the league than Bosa has this season, as he looks special. The three best fantasy assets to have come away with at draft tables this season were arguably McCaffrey and the Patriots and 49ers’ defenses. Hopefully, you don’t roster too many Cardinals, as they have to face SF twice over the next three weeks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Tennessee Titans
Jameis Winston continued to struggle against zone defenses while committing four turnovers, while Ryan Tannehill fell back to earth getting just 5.8 YPA against a Bucs pass defense that entered ranked 25th in DVOA, although he did toss three touchdowns … Tampa Bay had to deal with a brutal call, as errors of commission are always the worst ... Corey Davis and A.J. Brown were massive disappointments in a prime matchup, but at least Jonnu Smith came through for those who needed a tight end flier. Smith owns a SPARQ and College Dominator both in the 92nd percentile or above, and he’ll be an intriguing fantasy option as long as Delanie Walker is sidelined … Chris Godwin took a backseat to Mike Evans, who recorded his second 190-yard, multiple-TD game of the season.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Chicago Bears
Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon both scored, but the Chargers continue to struggle running the ball, while Keenan Allen was clearly playing compromised. Mike Williams had a 50-yard score go through his hands in the end zone, which is par for the course for the NFL’s leading regression candidate at wide receiver. He has the sixth-most air yards in football but has yet to score this season … David Montgomery broke out in a favorable matchup and impressed while doing so, but he’s someone to shop now if possible with upcoming road games against the Eagles and Rams in two of the next three weeks — not to mention, the quarterback problem in Chicago is real … Eddie Pineiro doinked an earlier field goal and later missed another as time expired, as Chicago continues to suffer from a brutal kicking game (and some seriously shaky play-calling).
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Russell Wilson remained hyper-efficient while connecting with DK Metcalf for scores on two of his 20 pass attempts, as the rookie wide receiver has immediately become one of the league’s premier red-zone weapons … The Falcons were down 24-0 at halftime, but Matt Schaub ended up throwing for 460 yards while keeping the fantasy values afloat for all of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley (he gets a nice boost with Mohamed Sanu gone), Austin Hooper and Devonta Freeman (he secured all eight of his targets, but Brian Hill looked noticeably better running the ball) … Rashaad Penny jumped off the screen during his limited carries, and there remains RB1 upside if he were to get traded (a real possibility) or if Chris Carson were to go down.
New York Jets @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sam Darnold is coming off a rough couple of games in which he’s committed eight turnovers and taken nine sacks, but realize he’s dealing with a terrible offensive line, is still 22 years old and just made the 17th start of his career … Tough game for everyone rostering Dede Westbrook, while Gardner Minshew continues to impress. There’s little chance a healthy Nick Foles retakes this job … Leonard Fournette once again saw a massive workload and came close to scoring a couple of times, yet he’s still stuck on just one touchdown this season despite racking up 198 touches through the first half of the season. That said, he’s stayed healthy and has also played far better when on the field than any point in his career. The touchdowns will come, especially with a legit QB on his side … Le’Veon Bell was a bust Sunday, but he’s someone to target in trades, as the Jets’ schedule is about to go from extremely difficult to highly favorable over the next six weeks (@Mia, NYG, @Was, Oak, @Cin, Mia).
Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills
Strong winds greatly affected both passing games, with Philadelphia’s superiority up front the difference … Josh Allen entered with the highest Passer Rating in the fourth quarter this season, but the Bills were held scoreless over the final 25 minutes … Devin Singletary needs more touches, as does Miles Sanders, although he left with a shoulder injury. If it proves serious, Jordan Howard would get a boost, and Boston Scott would suddenly become an intriguing fantasy add in deeper leagues. His 40 time, Burst Score, Agility Score, and SPARQ are all in the 85th percentile or better, and the Eagles don’t go on the road again until December … Dallas Goedert is legit and will continue to get his, but Zach Ertz leads all tight ends in air yards this season, so better days are ahead.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff played well at “home,” while Todd Gurley turned in another modest performance. He scored but finished with just 10 touches (three fewer than Darrell Henderson) against a Bengals defense that entered allowing the most rushing yards per game since 1980 … Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks continue to underperform, while Cooper Kupp has an argument as fantasy’s No. 1 wide receiver. He turned 10 targets into 220 yards, including this double-reverse flea flicker. Josh Reynolds actually led the Rams in air yards and ranked in the top-10 this week, so he’d be worth adding in fantasy leagues should Cooks have to miss time.
New York Giants @ Detroit Lions
I aggressively ranked and recommended starting Ty Johnson to anyone who’d listen, so it was tilting to see newcomer Tra Carson get the start and lead Detroit in carries (shame on me for assuming anything with Matt Patricia). Johnson had two 10+ yard carries called back by penalties, had a long catch slip through his hands and actually led all running backs in the league in air yards during Week 8, but of course, fantasy managers don’t care … Detroit’s coaching staff has done well utilizing Matthew Stafford’s strong arm this season, as he’s among the league leaders in aDOT (after Jim Bob Cooter emphasized the short passing game), resulting in a career-high 8.4 YPA this season and seven touchdown passes over the last two weeks … Daniel Jones had the best game since his debut, highlighted by two first-half TD strikes to Darius Slayton.
Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints
The Saints defense continues to play well, while Drew Brees made a seamless return before New Orleans’ bye … The Cardinals’ backfield situation will be one to watch with David Johnson and now Chase Edmonds injured, but it’s clear whoever the RB is will need to know how to catch to have any fantasy value in Arizona … Latavius Murray will remain a top-five fantasy back as long as Alvin Kamara is sidelined, while Taysom Hill’s three TD catches are the most by a QB since 1996 (Kordell Stewart) … Michael Thomas hauled in all 11 of his targets and is on pace to break the NFL single-season record with 146 catches.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson and Derek Carr combined for a 6:0 TD:INT ratio while taking just three sacks during a high-scoring affair Sunday when the former shook off getting kicked in the eye and produced one of the plays of the week ... All Tyrell Williams does is catch touchdowns, as he’s now grabbed one in all five games he’s played this season despite never seeing more than seven targets. Williams had a big second half Sunday, helping offset a surprisingly quiet game from Darren Waller (who scored but got a paltry 11 yards on eight targets). The Raiders will have gone 49 days between games in Oakland when they return home in Week 9 … Darren Fells is up to five touchdowns on the year, while Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee were massive disappointments in a prime spot. Coutee can be ignored after not seeing a target and being benched for DeAndre Carter, but Stills isn’t someone to give up on with Will Fuller out. His role in this offense will be volatile but will come with some big games.
Denver Broncos @ Indianapolis Colts
A quiet fantasy tilt throughout, with Chris Harris locking down T.Y. Hilton, and Courtland Sutton disappointing during his first game without Emmanuel Sanders (his six targets and three catches were both season lows) … After missing an extra point earlier, Adam Vinatieri nailed a game-winning 51-yarder late.
Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots
The Patriots defense has scored as many touchdowns (four) this season as its allowed, which is fairly remarkable at the season’s midpoint. They did yield a passing score Sunday, leaving them with a still acceptable 2:19 TD:INT ratio on the year. New England’s schedule has been easy, but it’s hard to dominate more than they have. All opponents need to be downgraded accordingly in fantasy, which makes Nick Chubb’s 131 rushing yards (6.6 YPC) all the more impressive, fumbles notwithstanding … Speaking of, the Browns committed a giveaway on three straight plays during the first seven snaps of this game, as weather wasn’t conducive for offense.
Green Bay Packers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday night’s game turned into a high-scoring thriller despite Patrick Mahomes’ absence, as Matt Moore proved plenty capable, while Aaron Rodgers’ hot play from last week carried over into another big game. Rodgers dealt with a consistent pass rush but looks more and more comfortable in Green Bay’s new offense, which will see a big boost once Davante Adams returns, likely soon … Jamaal Williams scored twice, including a TD grab for his third straight game, but it was Aaron Jones who stole the show, racking up 226 YFS (despite leaving to get his shoulder checked in the locker room at one point) and is now up to 11 touchdowns on the season (he nearly had another Sunday night that was overturned by a toenail). Jones and Mecole Hardman (who leads the NFL with four TDs for 20+ yards this season) had touchdown catches that didn’t travel a full yard in the air, but everyone rostering Rodgers (especially) has to absolutely love this trend … LeSean McCoy didn’t see a touch after losing a fumble, while Damien Williams rose from the dead with a couple of nice runs including a score, so he’s now back on the radar.