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Starts and Fades: Week 8

Two weeks ago Drew Brees eclipsed Peyton Manning’s all-time passing yards record. This week, Brees became just the fourth QB in NFL history to reach 500 passing touchdowns. He threw an extra one in there for good measure, bringing him to 501 total. He is a mere 3 touchdown passes behind Tom Brady – Brady actually threw his own 500th touchdown two weeks ago against Kansas City but was somewhat overshadowed by Brees setting the yardage record (sorry Tom) – and both QBs are easily on track to surpass Brett Favre this year. The fact that neither appears to be slowing down would imply that these two will both surpass Manning next year as they continue their battle for first. Soak it in folks; we are literally watching the two of them rewrite the history books. A toast to two of history’s greatest QBs who have dominated football in real life and fantasy for the better part of two decades!

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Of course, it’s every fantasy GM’s dream to be as dominant as these two. It’s great to have the long-term records, but – as both legendary QBs will tell you – it all starts by taking everything one week at a time. You have to make sure you’re starting the right players at the right times. That’s where we come in. Before we get to this week’s starts and fades however, let’s take a look at how we did last week.

Last Week’s Starts: Phillip Lindsay, Austin Ekeler, Baker Mayfield, Willie Snead

Lindsay was a worthy inclusion, piling up 90 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. Ekeler was OK in PPR formats, but his 12/42/0 line on the ground and 5/26/0 line through the air were quite underwhelming given the golden opportunity he had with Melvin Gordon out. Mayfield was similarly adequate but underwhelming against a weak Tampa Bay defense. After Tampa’s previous high-scoring affairs, Mayfield’s 215 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air seemed rather pedestrian. Snead, meanwhile, simply did not reach even minimum expectations. Against a Saints defense that has been rather subpar against slot receivers so far this year, Snead posted his worst game of the season at 3/23/0.

Last Week’s Fades: Sony Michel, T. Y. Hilton, Christian McCaffrey

Michel was off to a solid start against the Bears, posting 22 yards on 4 carries along with a catch for 13 yards. His only blemish was a lost fumble. Unfortunately, it’s tough to evaluate him as he injured his knee early on in the contest. Hilton’s 4 catches for 25 yards was what we had in mind when we placed him in this category. The 2 touchdowns were a bit of a surprise though. We were on point with CMC at least. He supplied some PPR value with 6 catches, but his 80 total yards and no touchdowns resulted in one of his lowest fantasy outputs of the year.

Overall, our projections were a bit scattered over the board. Not our worst week, but definitely still some room for improvement. We’ll try to pick up the bottom end this week.

Starts

Lamar Miller

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There’s no question that this has been a disappointing year for Lamar Miller so far. He’s rarely seeing targets in the passing game and has only reached 20 carries in a game twice. Even with the carries he does get, he’s been a bit inconsistent; he’s registered 3 games with at least 4.5 YPC and 3 games with no more than 3.5 YPC. Fortunately for Miller, Miami’s run defense leaves something to be desired. They are fresh off of giving up 158 yards to Kerryon Johnson on just 19 carries. Even LeGarrette Blount put up 50 yards on them at 5.0 YPC, both season-highs for the short-yardage bruiser. Miller, meanwhile, just had a nice confidence booster against Jacksonville with his first 100-yard game of the year. Expect the positive vibes to continue this week.

Phillip Lindsay

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Alright, this one kinda feels like cheating. Obviously Lindsay is going to have a good week with Royce Freeman hobbled/out with a high ankle sprain. Still, we have to put this one in here to make sure nobody sleeps on the situation. With Freeman injured, Lindsay is likely to see something close to a feature-back workload. This is already good news for Lindsay, who is averaging a gaudy 5.8 YPC coming into the week, but what makes it even better is that he’ll be facing a Kansas City defense that has struggled against the run all season. The Chiefs even give up more catches to running backs than the average defense. Lindsay should rack up the yards in this one, and likely a couple touchdowns to go with it. I would consider anything below a borderline RB1/2 week to be a disappointment.

Chris Carson

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On the one hand, it’s logical to be a bit leery seeing as how the Seahawks seem intent on giving Carson, Mike Davis, and Rashaad Penny chances to produce in the running game. After all, three-headed monsters are great in real life but just drain the points out of fantasy. However, for being in a committee attack Carson has had an awful lot of carries (19 and 14 the last two weeks), and he gets a dream matchup against the pitiful Detroit (lack of) run defense this week. Even if the Seattle backfield continues to split carries, Carson should pick up the bulk of them and be very efficient with them this week. His third 100-yard game of the season is not out of the question.

Jordy Nelson

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With Amari Cooper traded to Dallas, Nelson takes over as the de facto WR1 for the Raiders. Oakland does employ a spread-the-wealth offense, but Jordy has proven that he’s still capable as a featured receiver through his week 3 explosion and subsequent 3-game touchdown streak. He now has a clear path to plenty of targets on a team that just sent its bellcow back to IR and figures to be behind frequently. This week’s outlook is looking even sunnier against a Colts defense that has frequently struggled against outside receivers. Jordy is the type of sneaky start who could easily win you the week this week.

Fades

Devin Funchess

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Funchess has been the quintessential WR2 this season, reliably churning out about 5 catches and 60 yards with a 50/50 chance for a touchdown any given week. This week, however, he runs headlong into one of the hottest defenses in the NFL. Baltimore was more than solid against the Saints’ juggernaut offense, limiting top receiver Michael Thomas to a 7/69/1 line despite the Saints playing from behind for most of the game. Given Carolina’s own defensive prowess, this should be a low-scoring game where the passing games should largely be held in check. Funchess should be left on your bench this week.

Mark Ingram

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If not for 2 touchdowns against Washington in Ingram’s first game back, we’d be talking about how much of a bust Ingram is this year compared to last. In his first two games back, Ingram has carried the ball 28 times for a mere 85 yards and has only managed to tack on 4 catches for 30 yards. It’s worth noting that Washington and Baltimore are two of the toughest run defenses in the NFL right now (both well within top 10 for both yards-per-carry and total yards allowed) so his play could very easily just be a matter of circumstance more than any dropoff in Ingram’s play. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get easier this week as the Vikings are at the same level. To make matters worse, the Vikings boast a potent offense that will likely press the Saints to pass more, taking away opportunities from Ingram. Ingram will return to form at some point this season, but it will not be this week.

Josh Gordon

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It’s amazing to watch how quickly the chemistry between Brady and Gordon is growing. At the rate we’re going we’ll be hearing comparisons to Moss’s days in New England by the end of the season. However, in the meantime the Patriots face the Bills. For all the struggles the Bills offense has gone through, the defense has been pretty stout. Sure they just gave up a bunch of points to the Colts, but consider that the Colts started several drives on Buffalo’s side of the field. Makes it a little easier to score then. Even then, star receiver T. Y. Hilton only managed to salvage his fantasy day by being Andrew Luck’s go-to target in the red zone. As talented as Gordon is, he has a ways to go before becoming Brady’s automatic target when in scoring position. That role is filled more frequently by Gronk, James White, and Julian Edelman, in order. Between the low chance of drawing red zone targets and suffocating coverage by the Bills’ underrated secondary, Gordon is unlikely to Flash much in the stat book this week.

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