There are so many twists and turns to an NFL Sunday that it's hard for fantasy football managers to keep up with everything. This column is designed to help, providing you with all of the storylines you need to know from Sunday's action in order to kick-start your research for the Week 9 games that lie ahead.
Of course, this week, the No. 1 story is far and away the news out of Nashville. Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has suffered what reportedly could end up being a season-ending foot injury. Today, the star running back will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of his injury. If the MRI shows he has a Jones fracture, it is estimated that Henry will need an eight-week recovery. This news has created ripple effects for fantasy managers with Henry on their rosters or perhaps for RB-needy teams looking to acquire whomever the Titans end up replacing Henry with in their backfield.
The Titans could consider trading for a running back from a large candidate list that includes Tevin Coleman, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Ty'Son Williams, Ronald Jones II or Mike Davis. Also this week, the Titans are expected to work out veteran running back Adrian Peterson. Of course, Tennessee could always decide to fill the void in house by simply making Jeremy McNichols their starter.
Henry has averaged 24.9 opportunities per game since the start of the 2019 season. Whoever gets the chance to take over those touches will have huge shoes to fill -- and it won't be easy. The Titans face two tough run defenses over the next two weeks, with matchups against the Rams and Saints.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, except where noted.
New Orleans Saints 36, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
Chris Godwin dominated the Saints over the middle of the field. Of course, he had the most favorable matchup of any Buccaneers wide receiver, as CB Marshon Lattimore was busy shadowing receiver Mike Evans. Godwin, who also benefited from Antonio Brown's absence, ended up catching 8 of 12 targets for 140 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Over the past two weeks, he has caught 16 of 23 targets for 251 receiving yards and two scores. Going forward, the success of Godwin will ultimately be determined by the availability of both Brown and Rob Gronkowski, who was questionable coming into the game, did play on a few snaps but was eventually ruled out due to back spasms. Fantasy managers should consider dealing him now while his value is high.
Over the past four games, Alvin Kamara has averaged 27.5 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets), 134.8 total yards, and 24.0 fantasy points per game as a traditional, between-the-tackles runner. After signing Mark Ingram II late last week, the Saints will be able to move Kamara around the field a whole lot more. Due to Jameis Winston's devastating knee injury, that vision was never fully realized in Week 8. Kamara rushed 19 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, adding 15 more yards on three receptions. Kamara's usage trend should continue, with Ingram averaging 8-10 opportunities as a change-of-pace option. Next week, this dynamic duo faces a Falcons defense that has allowed the seventh-most RB points per game (26.7).
Winston's injury thrust QB Trevor Siemian back into the spotlight. Siemian completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown. However, Taysom Hill, with whom Winston fought all summer for the starting job, should be out of the league's concussion protocol by the end of this week. In the four games Hill started last season, he averaged 208.5 passing yards and 52.8 rushing yards. He averaged 28.5 passing attempts per game, with a 72% completion rate. Furthermore, he averaged nearly 10 rushing attempts per game during that period. Quarterbacks have scored 21.3 points per game against the Falcons, fifth-most in the league.
New England Patriots 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24
The Chargers defense had allowed great rushing performances to Tony Pollard, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Josh Jacobs, Kareem Hunt and Latavius Murray over their previous five games. Those backs averaged 12.8 rushing attempts, 70.8 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game. While playing on a season-high 41 snaps in Week 8, Damien Harris rushed 23 times for 80 yards and a touchdown. On pace for over 1,200 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, he is excelling at creating yards after contact. In addition, Harris has caught 22 of 26 targets for 150 yards this season. Not too shabby.
As soon as Austin Ekeler confirmed to ESPN he would play -- despite coming into the weekend listed as questionable due to a hip injury -- you knew great things were going to happen. The running back ran 11 times for 64 yards and a touchdown while catching 6 of 10 targets for another 60 yards. It was his first double-digit target game of 2021. Ekeler has now scored five rushing touchdowns (including four in the past four games), which is more than he had over the past two seasons combined. Ekeler is an elite RB1 next week against an Eagles defense allowing the second-most RB points per game (30.5).
The Justin Herbert-to-Keenan Allen connection is back. Allen caught 6 of 11 targets for 77 yards and a touchdown and led the Chargers in targets with his highest total since Week 4. However, he's more of a WR2 than the WR1 some fantasy managers want him to be. Depending on the depth of your roster, perhaps this is a good time to see what the trade market will bear.
Los Angeles Rams 38, Houston Texans 22
Matthew Stafford completed 21 of 32 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns -- and that was without his having to take the field in the fourth quarter because the game was a blowout. Stafford leads the league in passing yards (2,477), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (118.0). He's only the second Rams quarterback to throw 20-plus touchdowns through eight games. Kurt Warner (24) did it in 1999.
Cooper Kupp had 115 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. So far this season, Kupp has caught nine TD passes in the red zone -- the most that Stafford has thrown to any receiver since Calvin Johnson in 2011. Kupp has 900 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns, making him the first player in the Super Bowl era to reach those milestones after only eight games.
In garbage time, Brandin Cooks caught all six of his targets for 83 yards and a touchdown. He had publicly expressed his displeasure at the Texans' decision to trade Ingram. Since 2015, Cooks is one of only five active receivers to have surpassed 1,000 receiving yards five times. This season, he has averaged 8.8 targets and 73.1 receiving yards per game.
DeSean Jackson has requested a trade from the Rams and Van Jefferson is a big reason why. Jefferson had three receptions for 88 yards against the Texans and, ultimately, he has become the deep threat they envisioned when they signed Jackson. While Jefferson injured his knee in Week 8, Sean McVay told reporters after the game that he's expected to be OK. Keep Jefferson on the WR3/flex radar next week against a Titans defense that has been eviscerated by receivers on a weekly basis.
San Francisco 49ers 33, Chicago Bears 22
Justin Fields is beginning to provide glimpses of what we saw from him at Ohio State. His past two games were his best in terms of total completions. In three of his past four games, Fields also has thrown a touchdown pass. In Week 8, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards. In addition, Fields carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards.
Elijah Mitchell rushed 18 times for 137 yards and a touchdown. That's good. However, JaMycal Hasty still appears to be the 49ers' primary receiving back and Mitchell wasn't targeted at all. That's bad. Nevertheless, he's firmly entrenched as a RB2 going forward and will face a Cardinals defense in Week 9 that surrendered 137 rushing yards to Packers running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
Deebo Samuel is in the middle of a transcendent season. He caught 6 of 9 targets for 171 yards. Samuel leads the NFL in receiving yards per game (117.0) and his 819 total receiving yards are more than what Jerry Rice had through seven games in 1986. Samuel also has three games with over 150 receiving yards, already the most by any 49ers player since Terrell Owens had as many for all of 2002.
During the past two games, Adam Thielen has caught 17 of 22 targets for 204 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He finished with 78 yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys.
Amari Cooper is underrated year in and year out. He caught eight of 13 targets for 122 yards and a touchdown from backup QB Cooper Rush. That was quite unexpected.
Michael Carter's opportunity share makes him intriguing for fantasy purposes. Over the past two weeks, he has accumulated 49 opportunities out of the Jets' backfield.
Michael Pittman Jr. has scored four touchdowns in the past four games after managing just one in his first 17 games as a pro.
Najee Harris' opportunity share continues to impress. He has now managed 13-plus points in six consecutive games. Harris is improving each week, right along with the Steelers' offensive line.
Jaylen Waddle was targeted 12 times and racked up a large number of air yards, but many of the targets were uncatchable. That fact kind of makes him unstartable.
Kenneth Gainwell played on only six snaps out of a possible 51.
J.D. McKissic has seen four-plus targets in five straight games.
Tyler Lockett accounted for over 50% of Geno Smith's completions.