As we do each week, we recap the week's best and worst from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He keeps on rolling in Le'Veon Bell's absence, setting a new career high with 38.2 PPR fantasy points on Sunday. That's the third-best individual score by any running back this season (through the 1 p.m. ET games) behind only Alvin Kamara's 43.1 (Week 1) and 41.1 (Week 4), and it gave Conner a third performance this season worth at least 30 points. Conner now has 179.2 points for the season, which places him third, pending Kamara's and James White's later games, and that's 32.4 more points than Bell had through seven team games of any of his first five NFL seasons. Bell's best total through seven was 146.8, last season. Could it be any clearer that Conner deserves to continue starting for the Steelers, even after a potential Bell return from his holdout? The league's trade deadline arrives at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, so these next 48 hours or so could be pivotal.
Todd Gurley II, RB, Los Angeles Rams: The superlatives keep rolling in for Gurley this season. On Sunday, he scored 33.5 PPR fantasy points, second-most among running backs through the 4 p.m. ET games, giving him a fourth consecutive week with at least 30 points. He's the first player at any position with a streak of that length since Devonta Freeman (2015 Weeks 3-6). Gurley pushed his season total for PPR fantasy points to 240.1 through eight games, which is an astonishing amount through a half-season's time, considering only seven running backs scored that many in the full 2017 campaign. It's the third-most points by any player at any position through eight team games since at least 1950 -- and to note, only seven players before 1950 scored as many as 240 in a season -- behind only Priest Holmes' 268.7 (2002) and Marshall Faulk's 268.6 (2000). Gurley isn't simply in the midst of a historic season, either, having scored an NFL-best 383.3 points in 2017. He's this era's best running back, and there's no reason to fear his Week 9 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, despite the Saints' strong defensive performance against the run to date.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: For the fourth time in his career but first since 2015 Week 12, Watkins scored more than 30 PPR fantasy points, with his 30.7 points tying for the largest total among wide receivers from the 1 p.m. ET games. It served as a reminder that when he's at his best, he can post massive fantasy-point totals, though he's still typically the third read for Patrick Mahomes most weeks and therefore unlikely to repeat quite the lofty score. Watkins was started in 49.5 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday, 25th-highest among wide receivers for Week 8.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: His historic season continued Sunday, as Mahomes' 26.0 fantasy points represented the sixth time in his eight games this season that he scored at least 25 points. He has 216.9 points for the season, easily most among quarterbacks and, in fact, fourth-most by any quarterback through his team's first eight games of any season since at least 1950 (see the chart to the right). Mahomes is a bona fide fantasy superstar, he's matchup-proof, and he should continue his strong play in Week 9, despite having to face a Cleveland Browns defense that will enter having afforded a total of 121.3 points to opposing quarterbacks in eight games.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: One of the many fantasy stars from a high-scoring Bengals-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, Mixon's 28.8 PPR fantasy points represented a career high for the second-year running back, and they were the second-best total at the position from the 1 p.m. ET games. With that performance, Mixon has three games worth at least 20 points this season, which has helped him inflate his start percentage in ESPN leagues to 97.5, his highest in more than a calendar year. Mixon's Bengals are now on their bye, and he faces tough run defenses in the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens in the first two games back (Weeks 10-11), but he's a borderline RB1 in all formats at this point.
Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Detroit Lions: For the first time in more than two years, Jones reached the 30-point PPR fantasy plateau, his 30.7 points matching the aforementioned Watkins for the position's lead from the 1 p.m. ET games. He was the Lions' offensive star on a day in which the rest of the receiving game was relatively quiet, as Kerryon Johnson's 15.1 points -- fueled by a six-catches-on-eight-targets line -- and Golden Tate's 12.3 points on 12 targets were the only scores even remotely close. Jones, who was started in 41.9 percent of ESPN leagues (27th-highest among wide receivers), hadn't topped 17 points in a game all season before this. He does still possess big-play potential, however, and could put forth another solid score in Week 9 against an underperforming Minnesota Vikings defense.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Star in Week 7, star again in Week 8. Newton's matchup Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens was arguably his toughest on his 2018 schedule, but he rose above it in scoring 28.0 fantasy points, most among quarterbacks from the 1 p.m. ET games. That represented the highest single-week total the Ravens defense has afforded an opposing quarterback in eight games this season. Newton continues to offer clutch performances with an elevated weekly statistical floor thanks to his mobility, and he gets the most favorable matchup a quarterback could ask for in Week 9, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He'll be a must-start and arguably the week's QB1 entering that game.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans: After a pair of awful performances, both of which earned him a place in "The Worst" in this column, Watson wasn't expected to perform anywhere near the 31.0 fantasy point level he exhibited on Thursday Night Football. He was started in just 46.1 percent of ESPN leagues, 12th-highest among quarterbacks and only a 12.4 percent increase over his Week 7 number (31.7). It was a significant rebound for the second-year passer, even if the matchup was clearly more favorable than either of the previous two, and it was an important effort in light of the fact that he'll next face a Denver Broncos defense perceived to be one of the best ones in the league and ranked sixth-best against opposing quarterbacks entering the week (14.7 points per game allowed). Watson, incidentally, has now totaled 321.3 fantasy points in the first 14 starts of his NFL career, the second-most through that many starts behind only Cam Newton's 327.5.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts: On the heels of a career-best 31.9 PPR fantasy-point performance in Week 7, Mack scored another 28.9 on Sunday, establishing himself as the clear leader of the team's backfield now that he's fully healthy. In the process, he became the first Colts running back to have consecutive games worth at least 25 points since Joseph Addai in 2007 (Weeks 8-9), and he had a combined 44 carries and four receptions in those contests. Mack and the Colts next have their bye and will face a challenging matchup in Week 10 against the Jaguars. Still, there are enough plus matchups remaining on the team's schedule -- Miami in Week 12, at Houston in Week 14, New York Giants in Week 16 -- that Mack, if healthy, should be able to contribute midrange RB2 numbers going forward.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders: Fresh off his bye week, Carr dropped 27.8 fantasy points on a struggling Colts defense, marking the third time in the Colts' past six games that they have given up more than 25. What's more, Carr accomplished this on only 28 pass attempts, though he did get some help with a 1-yard rushing score in the third quarter. His season has included many ups and downs, so it's no surprise that he was started in only 3.9 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 8, which ranked outside the top 20 at his position. Assuming the Raiders don't trade him before Tuesday's deadline -- all indications are that they will not -- Carr faces another favorable matchup in Week 9 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Well hello to the Larry Fitzgerald of old! The longtime fantasy star had the huge game everyone expected from him from season's start, scoring 26.2 PPR fantasy points on 12 targets in a come-from-behind, 18-15 victory against the San Francisco 49ers. It was the first time all year that he had scored even 15 points in a game, and it gave him back-to-back weeks with a receiving touchdown. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald's fantasy managers had begun to lose faith in him in the weeks leading up to Sunday's game, as he was started in only 23.3 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 8. He and the Cardinals now have their bye, but after that comes a pair of above-average matchups against the Chiefs (Week 10) and Raiders (Week 11).
Jack Doyle, TE, Colts: In his first game back from a hip injury that cost him five weeks' action, Doyle scored 19.0 PPR fantasy points on seven targets, coming within one point of the positional lead through the 4 p.m. ET games. It was an especially encouraging performance considering he recaptured the role of Andrew Luck's go-to tight end, as Eric Ebron had only three targets and third-stringer Mo Alie-Cox one in the game. Doyle, who was started in only 6.4 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 8, now has his bye. He'll be only a high-end TE2 when the Colts face the Jaguars in Week 10.
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings: For the fourth time this season, both Diggs and Thielen scored 20-plus PPR fantasy points, Diggs totaling 27.9 and Thielen 22.8 on Sunday Night Football. For Thielen, it represented his eighth consecutive game with at least 100 receiving yards, making him the first player in history to record that many yards in each of his team's first eight games of a season as well as only the second player to have eight straight such games at any stage of a season (Calvin Johnson, 2012). While the performances ultimately came in a losing effort, they continued to support both receivers' cases as WR1s, with Thielen a weekly contender for a top-three score.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers: Back-to-back productive weeks inflated Winston's fantasy stock to the point that he was started in 52.5 percent of ESPN leagues (ninth-most among quarterbacks) on Sunday, but he responded with a 8.8 point score that fell considerably short of the top 10 at his position. In fact, after committing his fourth interception of the game, a pick-six late in the third quarter, Winston was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who scored 19.6 fantasy points of his own in a little more than a quarter's action. Winston's struggles controlling the football cannot be overlooked -- he has been intercepted 10 times in his four games this season -- and it's legitimate to ask whether he or Fitzpatrick should start for the team come Week 9. Even if Winston gets the nod against the Panthers, he'll be only a midrange QB2, mainly thanks to his mobility.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: In his Jaguars debut, Hyde could muster only 1.1 PPR fantasy points on six rushing attempts and an 0-for-2 performance catching his targets on Sunday in London. Though early-morning reports had the team granting T.J. Yeldon the start, the league website's game book indicated that Hyde indeed was the team's starter, so this was a somewhat modest workload, even with the team playing from behind for much of the game. Hyde was started in 26.0 percent of ESPN leagues on Sunday, an increase of more than 8 percent from his Week 7 (when he was inactive), but between this performance and the potential return of Leonard Fournette (hamstring) after the Week 9 bye, that rate -- as well as his standing on rosters at all -- is sure to plummet. Hyde might be merely the Jaguars' injury contingency plan for the final eight weeks.
Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns: His miserable season continued on Sunday, as he managed a mere 3.6 PPR fantasy points on two rushing attempts and three targets, the third time this season he has been held to fewer than four points and the sixth time he has been held to fewer than six. Johnson simply hasn't been getting close to the same level of involvement in the receiving game that he did in 2017, his 29 targets through eight games putting him on a pace for 58, which would be 35 fewer than he had in all of 2017 (he totaled 93). Fortunately, Johnson's fantasy managers have caught on to his limited usage and started him in only 16.2 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 8, but there's a good chance this game might finally result in his roster percentage dipping beneath 50 for the first time in 2018.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, New York Jets: For the third consecutive week, Crowell was held to fewer than 10 PPR fantasy points, his 4.8 on Sunday his second-worst score in eight games this season (1.3, Week 4). Though his 13 carries don't look quite so bad considering his Jets trailed for much of Sunday's game, one might've hoped for better from him now that the starting running back job is all his with Bilal Powell (neck) on season-ending IR. Crowell does get a much more favorable matchup in Week 9 against the Miami Dolphins, but even in that case, it's important to note that the Dolphins tend to struggle more against pass-catching backs.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Golladay's loss was the aforementioned Jones' gain, as Golladay took a back seat to the veteran in Sunday's game en route to a quiet 2.2 PPR fantasy points on one target. For the second-year wide receiver, it was a second consecutive poor score coming out of the Lions' Week 6 bye, and he totaled three targets in the process. He was also started in more than 59 percent of ESPN leagues in both weeks. The Lions' distinct shift toward more of a rush-oriented offense this season is starting to have a noticeable effect on members of the team's passing game, and their upcoming schedule might exacerbate that. In Golladay's defense, the Vikings -- the Lions' Week 9 opponent -- have struggled against the pass all season, so perhaps he's due for a mild rebound.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks: A season-best 15.1 PPR fantasy point total in Week 6 coaxed Baldwin's fantasy managers to start him in 41.1 percent of leagues on Sunday, his highest single-game rate since Week 1, but he let them down by scoring only 4.6 points on his three targets against the Lions. In Baldwin's defense, the Seahawks didn't need to rely much on their passing game, attempting only 17 passes, but the receiver's line was disappointing considering quarterback Russell Wilson completed touchdown passes to three different receivers in the game. Things might not improve much in Week 9 against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that is fresh off the bye and has played better pass defense of late.
Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears: After posting three consecutive games with at least 12.3 PPR fantasy points, during which he displayed good chemistry with Mitchell Trubisky, Burton's point total dropped to 4.8 on four targets on Sunday. That Trubisky still managed more than 20 fantasy points while completing two passing scores only made Burton's output more frustrating, but tight end production can be volatile like this. Unfortunately, Burton picked the worst week to stay quiet: He was started in a season-high 61.6 percent of ESPN leagues. He'll face another below-average matchup in Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills.
Matt Breida, RB, 49ers: He scored just 4.2 PPR fantasy points on his 16 rushing attempts on Sunday, which let down his managers in only 16.1 percent of ESPN leagues (that was his Week 8 start percentage). There had been sufficient warning in advance of the game that Breida might have his snaps limited because of an ankle issue that had him on the weekly injury report as questionable, but with 16 carries one would've expected him to fare better, even at less than 100 percent, against a Cardinals defense that entered the week giving up a league-high 34.2 points to opposing running backs. Assuming better health reports between now and then, Breida should be a useful RB2 against a Raiders defense that just surrendered the aforementioned huge game to Mack.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers: He couldn't solve the puzzle of the Rams' defense on Sunday, as Graham posted 3.1 PPR fantasy points on four targets, his second-lowest score of the season. Strangely, tight end has been the one position the Rams have had trouble reining in, so Graham's performance has to be considered one of the week's bigger disappointments. Graham should fare better in Week 9 against a New England Patriots defense that has struggled all season against tight ends (16.1 PPR fantasy points per game allowed, fifth-most entering the week), though his up-and-down performance makes it difficult to trust him as more than a low-end TE1.
C.J. Uzomah, TE, Bengals: After back-to-back strong games -- he totaled 20.7 PPR fantasy points in Weeks 6-7 -- Uzomah went surprisingly silent on Sunday, failing to record a single point on his four targets despite facing an excellent matchup against the Buccaneers. That slot receiver Tyler Boyd had the best matchup from the Bengals' passing game had a lot to do with it, but it served a reminder that in most weeks, Uzomah is at best Andy Dalton's third read. The Bengals now have their bye, and Uzomah can be freely dropped if you need the roster spot in order to navigate through.