Week 8 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft are here with analysis on the biggest performers -- and duds -- of the week.
Cooper Kupp dominates in London
Kupp produced a monster stat line in the win over the Bengals, catching 7 of 10 targets for a career-high 220 yards and a touchdown. The gadget play was slick. Lot of moving parts there that led to a 65-yard touchdown pass to Kupp after the ball changed hands multiple times. And Kupp also exploited the matchups all day against a poor Cincinnati defense. The Bengals are zone-heavy team, and the windows were there for quarterback Jared Goff.
With a team-high 10 targets Sunday, and 18 in his last two games, Kupp is developing into a consistent high-volume target for Goff, who targeted Kupp on middle-of-the-field throws, isolation routes, play-action concepts and boot schemes that get him the ball in the open field. He should be locked-in as a WR1 when the Rams come back from the bye with a Week 10 matchup versus the Steelers. -- Bowen
Murray's 36.7 PPR fantasy points, driven by career highs in targets (12) and receptions (9), set a new personal best. In games missed by either Dalvin Cook or Kamara during Murray's tenure with the Vikings (2017-18) and Saints (2019), Murray has now averaged 15.8 PPR fantasy points, affirming his status as one of the game's most critical handcuffs. Murray's receiving contributions are what should catch your eye: He's 14-of-18 catching his targets while filling in for the injured Kamara the past two weeks, and now he has a healthy Drew Brees under center.
Consider Murray a plug-and-play RB1 in any future Kamara absences, and make sure to get him rostered if you're in any of the 27.1% of ESPN leagues in which he remains available. -- Cockcroft
I agree, Tristan. It's a combination of Sean Payton's ability to scheme up any coverage look, plus Murray's underrated pass-catching skills. The touchdown catch on Sunday? New Orleans ran off the top of the coverage to create an underneath matchup for Murray on an option route. Sell the break and separate on a high-percentage ball for Drew Brees. Like you said, Murray has the make-up of an RB1 in this system when Kamara is out. -- Bowen
Patriots and 49ers defense/special teams continue to stand out
As the midpoint of the 2019 season approaches, a pair of defense/special teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, in fantasy terms. The Patriots scored 20 fantasy points, tops among D/STs through Sunday's 4 p.m. ET games, and the 49ers scored 18, second-most during that same time span. That gave the Patriots 165 and the 49ers 105 for the season (first and second among D/STs). In fact, the gap between these two and the rest of the pack widened on Sunday, as it's a long drop to the 74 points scored by the Panthers' defense for third place. For the Patriots, their 165 fantasy points are the fifth-most since at least 1950 by any team defense/special teams through their first eight games of any season. The schedule gets considerably tougher for them now, though: They draw the Ravens before their Week 10 bye, then face the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs in their next four games.
Still, with an exceptional secondary led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots have earned that rare "keep them through their bye" nod for a D/ST, and there's enough talent here to perform at a league-average rate at minimum during that tough stretch. Besides, it's not like you'd want to drop the Patriots D/ST, knowing that their Weeks 15-17 schedule (during the thick of the fantasy playoffs) includes the Bengals, Bills and Dolphins.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have massively exceeded preseason expectations, especially a run defense that allowed its first touchdown to an opposing running back on Sunday (Christian McCaffrey). Their bye is in the rearview and although the team does have challenging matchups ahead against the Seahawks (Week 10), Packers (Week 12), Ravens (Week 13) and Saints (Week 14), the 49ers have been sound enough defensively behind a strong defensive front coupled with good secondary play that they should also be locked into your weekly lineups. -- Cockcroft
Time to be worried about Zach Ertz?
As I've said before, the Eagles lack team speed at the wide receiver position without DeSean Jackson on the field. But the answer there -- in addition to using Miles Sanders in the pass game -- is to feature more 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE) with Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Those are your matchup guys with formation flexibility to move around. However, with Goedert grabbing a touchdown for the second straight game, Ertz caught just 2 of 4 targets for 20 yards in Sunday's win over the Bills. And he's only hauled in 4 of 10 targets for 58 yards in his last two games.
Given the recent dip in volume, plus a season resume that includes only one touchdown catch, Ertz is sliding down the board into the lower-tier TE1 discussion for an Eagles team that is still trying to create consistency as a passing offense. -- Bowen
This is the first time since a four-week span from Weeks 5 through 8 of the 2016 season that Ertz has been held beneath 10 PPR fantasy points. Yes, the Bills are a tough matchup for a tight end, but Matt's right about Ertz's volume declining. -- Cockcroft
David Montgomery shoulders the load
After the Bears ran the ball a total of just seven times in Week 7, the rookie out of Iowa State posted season highs with 27 carries for 135 yards and a red zone score in the loss to the Chargers. And I felt that touchdown number could have climbed even higher if Bears head coach Matt Nagy didn't roll out his 7-on-7 playbook inside the 10-yard line on Sunday. Too much window dressing there in critical field position. Bring the big boys on the field and hand the ball off, coach.
However, given the noticeable limitations with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as a pocket thrower, could we have finally reached the point in the season where Montgomery's talent is utilized on a consistent week-to-week basis in Chicago's offense? I have to believe Nagy sees the benefits here of creating run-pass balance to keep his quarterback out of adverse situations, while also boosting the volume for a rook who can handle a heavy-workload as an RB2 in your lineup. -- Bowen
Saquon Barkley: Barkley scored 28.3 PPR fantasy points in his second game since recovering from a high ankle sprain, giving him 479.2 through his first 21 career games. Since 1950, only Edgerrin James (486.6) had more through that many games. It was also Barkley's 14th career game with at least 20 points, which is the most by any running back through the first 21 games of a career. -- Cockcroft
Drew Brees: Brees looked like the Brees of old in his return from thumb surgery, scoring 24.9 fantasy points. That helped him extend his NFL record for 20-point fantasy games, his 108th such performance. -- Cockcroft
Mike Evans: Evans scored 42.8 PPR fantasy points against the Titans, who entered the week as the third-toughest schedule-adjusted matchup for an opposing wide receiver. That gives Evans the two best single-game fantasy scores of his entire career in 2019, joining his 45.0 points in Week 3. He now has a pair of games with 40-plus points, and a pair of games with fewer than five points, in his seven games played to date. It's only the 11th time since 1950 that any wide receiver has had multiple such games of each in a season. -- Cockcroft
Atlanta Falcons defense: This Falcons secondary? I have questions. Where is the presnap communication or the accountability when it comes to alignment and assignment? You simply can't blow coverages in this league with the ball in the red zone. And we saw it happen twice on Russell Wilson touchdown throws to rookie DK Metcalf. Those were layups. Up next for this Falcons unit after the bye week? Brees and the Saints -- in the dome. -- Bowen
Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey scored 27.5 PPR fantasy points -- against a rock-solid 49ers defense, no less -- giving him a league-leading 208.8 for the season. Since 1950, that's the third-most points by any player through his team's first eight games, trailing only Priest Holmes' 238.3 in 2002 and Marshall Faulk's 224.2 in 2000. -- Cockcroft
Tevin Coleman: With four touchdowns and 118 total yards, Coleman looked like a prime fit for Kyle Shanahan's squad on Sunday versus a pretty solid Panthers defense. It's the slashing style in a 49ers run package that is really a step ahead of opposing defenses when I turn on the film. And while we can still anticipate Shanahan utilizing a committee approach in the San Francisco backfield, Coleman has seen 65 carries since returning from an injury in Week 5. That should put him right back in the RB2 mix again this Thursday night in a Week 9 matchup versus the Cardinals defense. -- Bowen