Fantasy Football Week 8: Matt Camp's Weekly BS Meter
Even though half of the fantasy regular season is behind us, major changes continue to have rippling effects around the league. You should be prepared for more to come in the second half.
Mike Gillislee opened the season with four touchdowns in his first two games as a member of the Patriots and looked like a potential league-winner. He had an attractive role on a good team with plenty of chances to score.
Less than two months later, Gillislee appears to have fallen out of favor as the lead back, which has opened the door for Dion Lewis to take on that role.
When the Vikings lost Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL, most tried to replace him with Latavius Murray off the waiver wire. Instead, Jerick McKinnon wound up as the far better option in the two games following Cook’s injury. Just when it looked like McKinnon had become a strong fantasy option, Murray outplayed him in Week 7. That could turn Minnesota’s backfield into a fantasy headache.
More of these fluid situations are covered here, as well as some that demand your immediate attention.
The B.S. Meter breaks down 10 situations covering the most pressing issues in fantasy football. The statements will be rated from one to 10, with one being completely true or 10 being total B.S.
All fantasy stats used to calculate finishes are from FantasyPros. All advanced stats are calculated using data from Pro Football Reference. Snap counts are also from Pro Football Reference. All stats are based on a points-per-reception (PPR) format.
The Cardinals Are in Deep Trouble Without Carson Palmer
Last week's B.S. Meter covered the immediate impact Adrian Peterson had in his first game with the Cardinals. Everything from game flow to usage went right, so with another beatable matchup on tap for Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams, Peterson looked to be in line for another productive performance.
That all went out the window when Carson Palmer broke his arm in the second quarter. On the next play, Todd Gurley ran in an 18-yard TD, which gave the Rams a 13-0 lead with 5:25 remaining in the first half. Arizona would go on to lose the game 33-0, with Drew Stanton completing just five of 14 pass attempts for 62 yards and an INT in relief of Palmer.
After the game, head coach Bruce Arians told Paul Calvisi of 98.7 FM that Palmer needed surgery and would "miss eight weeks," according to Craig Grialou of 98.7 FM. On Monday, Arians said Palmer believes he might return in four to six weeks, but it's up to the doctors, per Darren Urban of the team website. Arians added the team would "definitely" save a return spot for Palmer if he went on injured reserve.
Stanton will now take over for Palmer for a month and potentially more, which is a major downgrade. Since entering the league in 2008, Stanton has a 52.7 career completion percentage, with 14 TDs to 20 INTs. He appeared in 12 games over the previous two seasons with one start, but he started eight games (nine appearances) in place of the injured Palmer in 2014. He completed just 55.0 percent of his attempts that season, with seven TDs and five INTs.
In the blowout loss, Peterson played just 53.1 percent of the snaps, tallying 11 carries for 21 yards and a reception for 12 yards on four targets without any TDs. After taking advantage of a perfect situation for his debut with the Cardinals, Peterson was a non-factor just a week later. Andre Ellington (calf) was inactive, but considering the score, he likely would have played a big role after failing to register a touch in Week 6.
The entire Arizona offense takes a big hit without Palmer in the lineup. Whether the team sticks with Stanton or makes a move to Blaine Gabbert, you can't have the same confidence in Larry Fitzgerald or whichever Cardinals WR you were taking a blind shot on each week. Any rise in Peterson's value after his big game in Week 7 is already gone, as defenses will likely focus on stopping him while letting the Cardinals attempt to win through the air with Stanton or Gabbert. This team is a sinking ship.
B.S. Meter on the Cardinals being in deep trouble without Palmer: 1/10
Amari Cooper Saved His Season in Week 7
If you left Amari Cooper on your bench last Thursday night, you weren't alone. You'll also never make that mistake again following the third-year receiver's much-needed breakout game in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cooper set season highs in targets (19), receptions (11), yards (210) and touchdowns (two). Coming into the game, he had 18 receptions for 146 yards and a TD on 39 targets through the first six weeks of the season. While Cooper showed signs of life in Week 6 with five receptions for 28 yards on six targets—which didn't include a 31-yard gain negated by a penalty—he put his playmaking talent on full display in Week 7.
Cooper's issues with drops have plagued him this season, but Oakland's entire offense has struggled due to a lack of creativity and injuries to Michael Crabtree and Derek Carr. With Crabtree and Carr both healthy, the full power of the Raiders offense was evident against the Chiefs. In an effort to get Cooper more involved and keep him away from CB Marcus Peters, the Raiders used him in the slot more, which worked like a charm.
While expectations shouldn't yet rise to WR1 levels for Cooper, confidence should be on the rise. Unless you're stacked at WR, it might be better to stick with Cooper instead of selling him high. When this offense is clicking, it can be a fantasy goldmine, as we saw in Week 7.
B.S. Meter on Cooper saving his season in Week 7: 2/10
Aaron Jones Is the Top Fantasy RB in Green Bay
The split backfield in Green Bay lasted one week, much to chagrin of Ty Montgomery owners, but will it continue?
In Week 7, Aaron Jones led the way as the lone bright spot for the Green Bay Packers in a loss to the New Orleans Saints. On the opening drive, Jones carried four times for 70 yards, including a 46-yard TD run. He wound up with another 61 yards over his next 13 carries to finish with 131 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Jones added three receptions for seven yards on five targets.
Meanwhile, Montgomery was almost completely absent from the offense. He caught one of his two targets for nine yards and had just four carries for six yards. Other than the 9.1 percent of snaps he played when he got hurt in Week 4, Montgomery's 12.7 percent snap share in Week 7 was his lowest of the season, which came a week after he played just 30.3 percent of the snaps in Minnesota. He didn't have a game with less than 85.5 percent of the snaps in the first three weeks.
Jones posted an 80.0 percent snap share in Week 7 and has been on the field for at least 65 percent of the snaps in each of the last three games. During that span, he has 49 carries for 297 yards and a TD along with five receptions for 17 yards on 10 targets. Although Montgomery has been back on the field the last two weeks, Green Bay's commitment to Jones is clear, which makes him the top fantasy back in this offense.
However, after Brett Hundley completed just 12 of 25 pass attempts for 87 yards and an INT in the Week 7 loss to the Saints, the Packers would be wise to get Montgomery back involved as a receiver since he's had just two receptions for five targets on 12 yards over the past two weeks. Even though Jones is clearly a better runner, Montgomery should still be an active part of the passing game, as it might help Hundley to have a reliable option out of the backfield.
B.S. Meter on Jones being the top fantasy back in Green Bay: 3/10
Dion Lewis Has More Fantasy Value Than Mike Gillislee
If you've ever dealt with the Patriots backfield in your fantasy past, what's happened over the last two weeks shouldn't surprise you. If this is your first foray into owning a Patriots RB, you should know that change can be constant if no one is consistent.
Following a quiet and mostly disappointing preseason, Mike Gillislee came out strong with four TDs in his first two games. That made it easy to overlook how he had just 114 yards on 33 carries (3.5 yards per carry) in those first two weeks. The lack of yards since then has been far more problematic, as Gillislee hasn't found the end zone since Week 2. In the last five games, he has 54 carries for 207 yards (3.8 yards per carry), and he doesn't have a target in 2017.
The tipping point for Gillislee in fantasy and reality came in Week 6, when he fumbled on his fourth carry of the game in the first quarter. After that, head coach Bill Belichick put Dion Lewis into the game as New England's lead back. Gillislee would get another touch, but not until the third quarter. Since that fumble, he has 14 carries, including a season-low eight for 31 yards against the Falcons. He played a season-low 17.6 percent of the snaps against Atlanta, which is alarming since the Patriots controlled the game yet didn't feel the need to go with Gillislee.
With Gillislee seemingly in the doghouse, Dion Lewis was the prime beneficiary. Over the last two weeks, he has 24 carries for 128 yards and a TD along with a reception for six yards on one target. Lewis led the backfield in snaps over the last two weeks with 42.6 percent in Week 6 and 35.1 in Week 7. That isn't a major share compared to other backs leading their respective team in carries, but it's still noteworthy since Lewis' snaps have been on the rise of late.
James White continues to lead the Patriots RBs in the passing game, which is likely the safest role in this backfield if such a thing exists. For now, Lewis does have more value than Gillislee based on the last two weeks. Consider Lewis a low-end RB2 for as long as he's taking on the majority of the carries, but be aware he's far from a lock to keep that role throughout the rest of the season.
B.S. Meter on Lewis having more fantasy value than Gillislee: 4/10
The Vikings Will Stick with Latavius Murray
The Minnesota Vikings decided not to make it easy on us.
After two weeks of strong fantasy production from Jerick McKinnon following the loss of Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL, it was Latavius Murray who emerged as the top back in Minnesota in Week 7. In his first year with the Vikings, the former Oakland Raider had been quiet for the first six weeks of the season, totaling just 97 yards on 41 carries without a TD. That ended this past Sunday when he ran for 113 yards and a TD on 18 carries, all of which were season highs.
McKinnon was still busy against the Baltimore Ravens with 14 carries, but he managed just 47 yards and added three receptions for 10 yards on three targets. He has 22 receptions for 131 yards and a TD on 27 targets for the year. Murray didn't register a target against the Ravens and has just five receptions for 30 yards on five targets for the season.
Should we have seen this coming? While McKinnon outsnapped Murray for the third straight week, his snap percentage dipped from 67.1 percent in Week 5 to 57.1 percent in Week 6 to 53 percent in Week 7, while Murray's rose from 31.4 percent to 42.9 percent to 47.0 percent. The two are going in different directions, but they're entering what looks to be a 50-50 split.
McKinnon has been the better fantasy option and better player in reality for the majority of the season, which should remain the case, especially since he's more involved as a receiver. This could turn into a hot-hand situation, which is a nightmare for fantasy owners who thought they had clarity with McKinnon as the lead back following Cook's injury. Considering McKinnon a RB2 and Murray a flex as long as this remains an annoying committee.
B.S. Meter on the Vikings sticking with Murray: 5/10
Willie Snead Will Step Back into a Prominent Role When Healthy
When the New Orleans Saints shipped Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots, it created a big void in the passing game. To be more specific, it left 117 targets from 2016 up for grabs. Even though Willie Snead isn't as talented as Cooks, he appeared to have a great chance to handle a good portion of those targets.
However, those plans were derailed when he opened the season with a three-game suspension.
Snead was supposed to return in Week 4, but a hamstring injury kept him sidelined through the team's Week 5 bye. His finally made his season debut in Week 6, although it wasn't a big one, as Snead was limited to just one reception for 11 yards on three targets while playing just 29.6 percent of the snaps. The hamstring issue popped up once again heading into Week 7, and it was bad enough to land him on the inactives list.
Fortunately, the Saints haven't missed Snead thanks to the surprisingly consistent production of Ted Ginn Jr. Even though Ginn has spent most of his career as a deep threat with a catch rate under 60 percent in all but two seasons, he has turned that around with an 81.5 percent catch rate in six games this season. He has 22 receptions on 27 targets for 353 yards and two TDs. Ginn hasn't dropped a pass in his last three games, including catching seven of seven targets for a season-high 141 yards in Week 7.
Between Ginn, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, the Saints have more than enough talent in their receiving corps to be a successful passing attack. They've been able to make up for the loss of Cooks without the help of Snead, so even when he does get healthy, he may not be guaranteed a big role.
B.S. Meter on Snead stepping back into a prominent role when healthy: 6/10
Benching Trevor Siemian Will Fix the Broncos’ Problems
The Denver Broncos have lost their last two games after the bye by scoring just 10 points against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Chargers. They were shut out by the Chargers in Week 7 and have just 42 points in the last four games, three of which were losses.
The pathetic performances by the offense have put quarterback Trevor Siemian on the hot seat, but he isn't going anywhere. When asked if the team was sticking with Siemian as the starter, head coach Vance McDonald said, "Absolutely. He's our quarterback," according to Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post. McDonald added, "He can't play well if he's not being protected."
Siemian has been sacked 22 times this season, including 13 times in the last three games. He has just one game with more than 259 passing yards, which came in the Week 6 loss to the Giants, when Siemian completed 29 of 50 attempts for 376 yards. After throwing for six TDs and two INTs in the first two games, he has just two TDs to five INTs in the last four games.
Siemian's struggles haven't helped the fantasy numbers of Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had two receptions for nine yards on six targets in Week 7, which is a concern since he should have been far busier with Emmanuel Sanders sidelined by an ankle injury. Even though Thomas is having a decent season, it's hard to play him with supreme confidence knowing how badly Siemian is struggling.
Unfortunately, the Broncos may not have an acceptable alternative at QB. If they don't stick with Siemian, it means they'd have to turn to Brock Osweiler, who only rejoined the team after the preseason when Paxton Lynch sprained his shoulder. Lynch had already lost the starting job to Siemian following a poor preseason, so it's hard to imagine a lengthy absence will make him a better option than Siemian.
It will be hard to conjure optimism for the Broncos until they get better play from their QB. That's Siemian for now, and a change may not be in the cards anytime soon.
B.S. Meter on benching Siemian to fix to Broncos' problems: 7/10
Martavis Bryant Can Rebound in the Second Half of the Season
The soap opera of Martavis Bryant remains the most frustrating story in fantasy football this season, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.
In the days leading into Week 6, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Bryant had requested a trade, and his teammates and coaches were reportedly aware he was unhappy. Bryant would go on to deny that claim, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, saying, "I'm good." After Rapoport reported Bryant would have an increased role in Week 7, he had season lows in targets (two), receptions (one) and yards (three) while playing just 52.2 percent of the snaps.
On Tuesday, Bryant told ESPN's Josina Anderson, "If they don't try to include me more and continue to do the same thing, then I want out period." Bryant also told Anderson that if the team refuses to trade him, "then so be it, I'm not going to re-sign. ... I'll just play next year out. I'm not tripping."
According to Bob Labriola of Steelers.com, head coach Mike Tomlin addressed Bryant's situation, saying, "He's not available via a trade. He added, "He was out of bounds with some of his actions in terms of the things he said on social media. It will be dealt with, appropriately so. That ball is in my court."
If the Steelers don't plan to trade Bryant, Tomlin's comments suggest punishment may be coming. That could be as little as a benching or as much as a suspension. JuJu Smith-Schuster outsnapped Bryant in four of the last five games, although Bryant had more snaps than Smith-Schuster in Week 7. For the season, Bryant has more targets (36-26), but just one more reception (18-17) and three more yards (234-231), although Smith-Schuster has more TDs (3-1).
Even though Bryant is supremely talented, he doesn't seem to have a problem burning bridges in Pittsburgh during the middle of a season in which the team is 5-2. He can't be counted on for fantasy purposes, especially if the Steelers further decrease his role.
B.S. Meter on Bryant rebounding in the second half of the season: 8/10
Andrew Luck Will Return to Save the Colts
Any sense of optimism for Andrew Luck's return disappeared last week when Colts general manager Chris Ballard announced Luck was shut down due to soreness in his surgically repaired shoulder, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Keefer added that he wouldn't be surprised if Luck missed the entire season.
Even though Luck didn't practice last week and won't practice this week, he won't be heading to injured reserve, and there are still plans for him to play when healthy, according to Rapoport. The Colts appear to be putting on a brave face when it comes to Luck, but if you're being realistic, nothing should be assumed about Luck's return. There's still no timeline or indication as to when he'll resume practicing.
The Colts sit at 2-5 with an anemic offense, but that isn't the only problem. Their defense allows the most points per game and second-most yards per game. Even though Jacoby Brissett has had his moments, he's a far cry from Luck and can't make up for a poor offensive line or a lack of a consistent rushing attack.
If you're banking on Luck to come back and help any of the Colts players return to consistent fantasy production, you're begging at this point. It might be wise to get whatever you can for someone like T.Y. Hilton and cut bait on Luck, unless someone is foolish enough to trade for him. Get away from the Colts.
B.S. Meter on Luck returning to save the Colts: 9/10
Jonathan Stewart Is Worth Keeping on Fantasy Rosters
Sometimes cutting a player can be just as important to your fantasy team as adding a player. Ridding your team of dead weight might not be so easy to do if he is a 10-year veteran and former fantasy star like Jonathan Stewart.
Through seven games, Stewart leads the Carolina Panthers with 99 carries, which is 50 more than the next-closest player, Cam Newton. Unfortunately, Stewart has managed just 295 rushing yards and has yet to score a rushing TD while averaging just 3.0 yards per carry. His only score came on a receiving TD in Week 1, which was one of just six receptions on 11 targets for the season.
The Panthers haven't given Christian McCaffrey many chances to run the ball, but when they have, he's been even worse than Stewart. The rookie has just 114 yards on 45 carries (2.5 yards per carry). Luckily, McCaffrey has been able to make up for his weak rushing stats with a busy role as a receiver. He leads the team in targets (59) and receptions (44) while totaling 329 yards and two TDs.
Stewart may be getting volume, but it hasn't translated to reliable fantasy production. He's not scoring, he doesn't have a role in the passing game and he's not going far when he does carry the ball. That may explain why he played less than 40 percent of the snaps in the last two weeks.
Volume and opportunity can be good enough reasons to keep a player around, but in Stewart's case, he's useless and should be cut.
B.S. Meter on keeping Stewart on fantasy rosters: 10/10