Fantasy Football: 10 Surprises from Week 8
Week 8 provided feast or famine for fantasy owners, as many games were very low-scoring and involved a lot of great defensive play.
Some big-time players tripped up this week and didn't have great days, and some unknowns rose to the occasion and made plenty of great plays to help their squads. We saw rookies steal the spotlight and superb games from players coming off injuries.
As fantasy owners, you know exactly how it feels when you look over at your opposing team's roster and he has eighth-string running back John Doe starting, and for some reason he has the only great game of his career and it costs you the week.
You yell about how lucky he got and why Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne combined for zero points this week—which would probably never happen in real life, but for all intents and purposes we will just say it did.
So here are my 10 biggest fantasy football surprises this week, and maybe I'll even add an 11 to the list if something out of whack happens in the Monday night game.
Note that these slides aren't in any particular order; they are simply numbered to make things easier.
10. Zach Miller's Rough Day
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Even the most consistent threats have off games sometimes, but this performance was particularly odd.
In a 33-3 thrashing of the Seahawks, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, but Miller only managed to register one catch for eight yards and was only targeted two times the entire game.
He is the Raiders' biggest receiving threat, and normally this formula wouldn't spell a blowout victory for Oakland, but yesterday it did.
Miller has 34 catches for 461 yards and four touchdowns this season and has been a gem for owners who snagged him in the middle rounds.
I'm sure a performance like this won't be repeated, but it was a little weird to look at the score and Campbell's stat line and not find Miller's name next to bigger numbers.
9. Jason Campbell's Big Day
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This goes hand in hand with the last slide, but Jason Campbell had a heck of a day.
Seattle's pass defense is ranked towards the bottom of the league, and Campbell does have a big arm, but like I said, Miller was bottled up all game, and it's shocking to see numbers like that from Campbell, especially when he hasn't even been starting games on a consistent basis.
His 310 yards and two touchdowns led Oakland to their blowout victory, and you will hear more about this game when I mention their unexpected star later in the slideshow.
8. Where Is Randy Moss?
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When Randy Moss returned to the Minnesota Vikings via trade last month, it was all the buzz around the NFL that he was just who Brett Favre needed to help lead the Purple and Gold back to the top of the NFC North.
So far this season—and especially yesterday—Moss has been a non-factor and hasn't really done much to help the team, besides maybe freeing up Percy Harvin and widening the defense for Adrian Peterson.
He resorted to his old lackadaisical ways in the past two losses, seeming to just give minimal effort on certain plays, even when he is targeted and the game is on the line.
Yesterday, Randy hauled in one pass for eight yards and was only targeted two times the entire game. He had that vintage puss on his face and was not creating any space.
In his defense, he was being double covered over the top, and the Patriots obviously know how to handle their former player better than most teams.
But the Patriots secondary is their weakness, and if Moss couldn't have at least a decent performance against them, it's worrisome to see what will happen against a better secondary.
To make matters worse, Favre is struggling, and the team isn't winning games, which is why Randy wanted to come here in the first place. He wanted to make a statement—reclaiming his stomping grounds and lead Minny back to the playoffs—but things aren't going as planned.
After that press conference when he said he isn't answering any more media questions, it looks like "The Freak" is going to have a long season ahead of him.
7. The Lions Roar on Defense
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Who dat said they gon' beat them...Lions?
Led by rookie Ndamukong Suh, who had two sacks and a fumble recovery touchdown, the Detroit Lions came from behind late in the game to finish off the Washington Redskins 37-25 to earn their second victory of the year.
The defense was a pleasant surprise, and although it looks like they gave up a lot of points, six of those were off a kickoff return for a touchdown. They sacked Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman a combined seven times, hitting them 12 times, and forced a crucial fumble taken back for a score on Grossman's first play from scrimmage to seal the game for good.
The defense picked off McNabb once, had 11 tackles for loss and really showed some discipline in the fourth quarter to calm down and weather the storm at home. It was a surprising, yet refreshing performance by a young defense that has been having a rough go of it lately.
6. LeGarrette Blount Force Trauma
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When Carnell Williams went down because of injury, Raheem Morris needed a guy to step up and take the reins at running back.
LeGarrette Blount answered those calls in more than impressive fashion, rushing for 120 yards on 22 carries with two scores in front of a hostile crowd in Arizona.
He ran with great burst and showed off his power, which seemed to get better as the game went on. He really wore the defense down, and his second touchdown proved to be the knockout punch Tampa needed to win the game.
Cadillac better watch his back because this guy—for all the problems he's had already in his young career—is quite the talent. Do yourself a favor and scoop him up if he is still available in your fantasy leagues, as he is probably going to be seeing a lot more carries for the rest of the season.
5. One Smith Falls, the Other One Balls
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When it was announced that Troy Smith would be starting in place of Alex Smith, it raised a lot of eyebrows. David Carr was left to rot on the bench, and it was the former Buckeye's turn to show people what he was made of.
For the first three quarters, he didn't really show much, failing to get the ball downfield to his receivers. The offense had only produced a measly three points, and they were down seven at home to the Broncos, another struggling franchise.
Then Troy Smith turned the jets on, throwing and rushing for touchdowns to give the 49ers a lead they wouldn't surrender. He finished with 196 yards and those two touchdowns to get Mike Singletary his second win of the year.
He really looked poised and calm in even the most intense situations, and it will be interesting to see what comes of the quarterback situation in San Fran during the coming weeks.
4. Green Bay Packs a Punch
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It's one thing to shut out an opponent. It's another thing to shut out your opponent in their home building. It's even another thing to shut out an opponent in their house when they have the best record in football.
The Packers accomplished this feat yesterday, defeating the New York Jets 9-0 in the New Meadowlands to improve to 5-3.
They held the Jets' fabled rushing attack to under four yards per carry and totally embarrassed Mark Sanchez and the Jets receivers, ripping balls from Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery that were deemed interceptions by officials. They sacked Sanchez twice and forced three fumbles, recovering one of them.
Now I'm not saying the Jets have an amazing offense, and I'm also not saying it's surprising that Packers defense played well.
But under the circumstances, this was an extremely impressive performance by Mike McCarthy's boys. They dominated the Jets in every facet of the game and reduced their smash-mouth mentality to rubble by game's end.
3. Heyward-Bey, Baby I Got Your Money
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If there is any player in the NFL right now that could be labeled a huge bust, it would be Darrius Heyward-Bey. He has been stuck in the abyss that we call Oakland and hasn't shown us much since arriving there either.
Sunday, he showed us a glimpse of what made him the seventh pick of the 2009 NFL draft.
Heyward-Bey snatched five passes for 105 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown to cap off the Raiders' embarrassment of Seattle. He also took an end-around for 30 yards, showing off his tremendous open-field speed.
He hasn't produced since coming into the NFL, but maybe this is a sign of things to come. He was targeted nine times and had that big run, so maybe Tom Cable is trying to get him the ball more. He has tremendous big-play ability, so it wouldn't hurt to put the ball in his hands more often.
2. Stafford Returns in a Huge Way
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Before the game against Washington this week, there was a lot of speculation on whether Matthew Stafford was fully recovered from injury and, even if he was, whether he would be very rusty.
Early on, he threw an interception in Washington's end zone, and all signs pointed towards that rust. But he bounced back and ended up throwing for 212 yards and four touchdowns—two in the fourth quarter—to lead Detroit over the Skins 37-25.
He showed a lot of guts on some throws, finding Calvin Johnson in between four defenders in the end zone to give the Lions the late lead and staying in the pocket, taking hits in the process. He seems to be fine after a right shoulder injury sidelined him for the past five-and-a-half games.
He has a big arm and a big heart, and if he keeps this up, he could end up being that franchise quarterback Detroit has been so desperate for over the years.
1. The Jets' Engine Sputters
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The New York Jets are a great football team. They have the toughest defense in football and an offense that can beat you in multiple ways.
Mark Sanchez has really looked sharp this season and seems to have eliminated the accuracy and decision-making problems he had last year.
It didn't show on Sunday, as the Jets were shut out on their home field by the Green Bay Packers. Sanchez threw two interceptions, the receivers were dropping balls left and right and the LaDainian Tomlinson-Shonn Greene combo was ineffective the entire game.
The game reminded me of New York's opening day loss to Baltimore, as they seemed to have trouble moving the ball at all, and when they did get going on offense, they gave it away. Three turnovers in Green Bay territory and a missed field goal equaled all the opportunities to score thrown away.
When they are rolling, this Jets team will beat anyone and beat them convincingly, but when things get ugly, Rex Ryan's team looks downright lost, and they repeat mistakes throughout the game if they get flustered.
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Phil Lombardo is a Journalism/Mass Communications major at St. Bonaventure University.
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