Fantasy Football Week 8 Workload Watch

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterOctober 27, 2017

Fantasy Football Week 8 Workload Watch

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    The Broncos aren't doing C.J. Anderson any favors.
    The Broncos aren't doing C.J. Anderson any favors.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    If you want an idea of how bad Week 7 was, the eight backfields covered in this week's edition of the Workload Watch accounted for one total TD. 

    What we want to happen and what actually happens in fantasy football can be different things. We want Joe Mixon to be a featured, reliable fantasy back. The Cincinnati Bengals should want the same, but they continue to push back against a logical idea.

    The Denver Broncos win when C.J. Anderson carries the offense. They lose when he doesn't. Is it that hard to figure out he should be busy every week to keep the pressure off a mediocre QB such as Trevor Siemian? Until they make such an obvious adjustment, you can't assume Anderson is a reliable fantasy starter, even though he unquestionably should be.

    The best teams figure out how to get the most out of the talent they have, and those are the situations you want a piece of on your fantasy squad. Sometimes, it takes a few extra weeks to work things out, like with the New Orleans Saints, but when that happens, the production usually follows.

    To learn more about what's going on in the backfields for the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers, check out the Week 8 BS Meter. This Workload Watch covers eight other RB situations that have the most fantasy implications.

Chicago Bears

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    Is it time to trade Jordan Howard?
    Is it time to trade Jordan Howard?Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Jordan Howard: 89.5% snaps, 21 carries, 65 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Tarik Cohen: 18.4% snaps, 0 carries, 0 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, 70 yards, 0 TD

    Howard is coming off two busy weeks. In the last two games, he has 57 carries for 232 yards on 68 percent of the snaps in Week 6 and 90 percent of the snaps in Week 7. Those are his highest snap percentages of the season. Unfortunately, all that work works out to 4.1 yards per carry without a TD and just one reception for nine yards on one target. The volume is good, but the production is lackluster. 

    Howard hasn't had a TD since Week 4. It's hard to expect many scoring opportunities when he's part of one of the weakest offenses in football led by a rookie QB in Mitchell Trubisky with arguably the worst WR corps in the league. Howard's 12 red-zone carries put him in a tie for 14th with Mark Ingram and Jonathan Stewart. All four of his TDs came in the red zone, but he failed to score in his last four trips to the red zone. 

    Cohen's fantasy production was tied to his role in the passing game, but that's been tough to rely on in the last three weeks. During than span he has seven targets with three receptions for 83 yards, including his 70-yard reception in Week 7. Last week's snap share was his lowest of the season.

    Clearly, Howard needs plenty of volume to have a shot at being a decent fantasy option since he's not getting many scoring chances or targets. Over the last four weeks, he's averaging 11.8 fantasy points per game, which makes him the No. 18 RB in PPR formats of backs who played at least three games during that span.

    Howard is a good player, but he needs a lot to go right to be a top-12 RB for the rest of the season. He's a prime candidate to sell high on before it's too late.    

Cincinnati Bengals

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    If the Bengals had a clue, they'd feature Joe Mixon.
    If the Bengals had a clue, they'd feature Joe Mixon.Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Joe Mixon: 43.1% snaps, 7 carries, 48 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD
    • Giovani Bernard: 45.1% snaps, 3 carries, 8 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 1 reception, -1 yard, 0 TD
    • Jeremy Hill: 15.7% snaps, 4 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    For the sixth straight game, Hill was the first Bengals RB to touch the ball. He doesn't have more than seven carries in any contest and has just four in each of the last two games with a 3.2-yards-per-carry average on the season, yet the team feels the need to put him out there in the first series. 

    Even though Mixon has been disappointing, Week 7 was his most efficient performance. However, the Bengals went away from him in the second half in the 29-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Head coach Marvin Lewis explained by saying, "Whatever plays are called are called," per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. 

    Mixon wasn't happy, according to Dehner, with the rookie commenting, "I only got seven carries. I can't showcase nothing if I don't get the ball. There ain't nothing else I can say." Lewis responded by saying Mixon needed to "show a little maturity."

    Was Mixon out of line for venting his frustrations? Maybe he could have had that conversation with Lewis or offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in private, but the frustrations were justified. The Bengals sit at 2-4, so whatever plan they have isn't working, which is even more frustrating because they have the talent to be better than that in a division that has seen both the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens struggle in the first half of the year.

    If the Bengals are smart, they'll feature Mixon in a prime matchup with the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. That's enough reason to consider him an RB2, although the coaching staff's usage of him remains a concern.

Cleveland Browns

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    Isaiah Crowell in the open field is a rare sight.
    Isaiah Crowell in the open field is a rare sight.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Duke Johnson: 49.3% snaps, 7 carries, 26 yards, 0 TD, 7 targets, 6 receptions, 45 yards, 0 TD
    • Isaiah Crowell: 53.4% snaps, 17 carries, 35 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 36 yards, 0 TD

    The Browns almost won a game last week! An inept Tennessee Titans offense couldn't muster a TD, so the unit needed almost all of the overtime period to hit a field goal for a 12-9 victory. That's right: The teams combined for 21 points on seven field goals, which is a fantasy nightmare, but the game flow finally worked in Crowell's favor. 

    He tied his season high with 17 carries—his most season since Week 1—but he managed just 35 yards and was held out of the end zone for the seventh straight game. His role in the passing attack saw its busiest night all season, although it shouldn't give you any more hope that his fantasy value will bounce back anytime soon. Crowell is the No. 34 RB through seven games with 54.5 fantasy points, so more than 20 percent of his fantasy output came in Week 7.

    Johnson continues to survive mostly because of his active role as a receiver. He has at least 45 receiving yards in five games this year and leads the team in targets (43), receptions (32) and total yards (457), and is tied for the team lead with three TDs. That makes him the No. 12 RB in total fantasy points, so he remains the only reliable option in Cleveland's offense.

Denver Broncos

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    The Broncos win when they make C.J. Anderson the focal point of the offense.
    The Broncos win when they make C.J. Anderson the focal point of the offense.Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • C.J. Anderson: 59.4% snaps, 10 carries, 44 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 1 reception 17 yards, 0 TD
    • Devontae Booker: 17.2% snaps, 2 carries, 6 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, 0 TD
    • Jamaal Charles: 23.4% snaps, 4 carries, 2 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 4 receptions, 20 yards, 0 TD 

    In 2017, the Broncos are 3-0 when Anderson carries the ball at least 20 times and 0-3 in games where he tops out at 10 carries. It might be obvious to say running the ball a lot means you aren't playing from behind and therefore should be in a position to win, but that can also mean that running helps build and keep a lead.

    The Broncos are not in a position to lean on Siemian to carry the offense. He's an average QB at best, but he's decent enough to start for a team that should be able to rely on its rushing attack and outstanding defense to win games. It may not always go that way, but it's the logical plan of attack.

    In games the Broncos have thrown 35 or more times, they are 0-3. Their first defeat was a 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. That game was tied at the half, and the Bills led 20-16 at the end of the third quarter. Anderson and Charles combined for 17 carries, 92 yards and a TD, so when they ran it was successful, but they didn't do so enough. In Week 6, they trailed the New York Giants 17-3 at the half and 20-3 after three quarters, so getting away from the run was justified, as Anderson had just nine carries.

    Last week, the Broncos trailed 14-0 at the half to the Los Angeles Chargers with one of the scores coming via special teams. The score was the same heading into the fourth quarter before they eventually lost 21-0. Siemian completed 25 of 35 attempts for 207 yards and an interception. Anderson was running well at 4.4 yards per carry, but he had just 10 carries for 44 yards while the team had just 19 rush attempts, including two from Siemian.

    If the Broncos want to right the ship, Anderson should be the captain, not Siemian. That doesn't mean they'll follow logic, so any hope of an Anderson rebound depends on whether the Broncos figure out the clear changes they need to make. Either way, Anderson still has value as the No. 23 RB in PPR formats, but he could be better if the Broncos wise up.    

Indianapolis Colts

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    Are the Colts finally figuring out what they have in Marlon Mack?
    Are the Colts finally figuring out what they have in Marlon Mack?Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Frank Gore: 32.8% snaps, 9 carries, 34 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Marlon Mack: 47.8% snaps, 5 carries, 26 yards, 0 TD, 6 targets, 4 receptions, 40 yards, 0 TD
    • Josh Ferguson: 19.4% snaps, 1 carry, 5 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The Colts didn't put up much of a fight in their 27-0 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 7, so any positives to take from this game are minor.

    For the first time this season, Mack led the team in snaps and was tied with Gore in touches, although nine isn't a big number. The Colts gave Mack a chance to play a bigger role, and he responded with 5.2 yards per carry and by being a productive part of a passing attack that was led by Jack Doyle's six receptions for 44 yards.

    Obviously, the Colts are a bad team that's wasting potential fantasy contributors such as T.Y. Hilton, Doyle and Mack because they get average QB play from Jacoby Brissett, almost no help from the offensive line and can't rely on the defense to keep them in games. Any excitement for Mack has to be tempered by the fact that Andrew Luck's return is unknown—if he even comes back at all. Sometimes it's best to avoid bad situations, and this is one of the worst in the league.

    You're begging for production if you start any Colts. We know enough about them after seven weeks to expect little, even when the matchup looks beatable.

New York Giants

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    Wayne Gallman led the Giants in snaps but didn't produce.
    Wayne Gallman led the Giants in snaps but didn't produce.Associated Press

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Orleans Darkwa: 35.6% snaps, 9 carries, 35 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 3 receptions, 13 yards, 0 TD
    • Wayne Gallman: 37.3% snaps, 5 carries, 15 yards, 0 TD, 3 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards, 0 TD
    • Shane Vereen: 27.1% snaps, 2 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 4 targets, 3 receptions, 2 yards, 0 TD

    A week after Darkwa had the best performance and one of the highest snap shares (50 percent) for a Giants RB this season, he barely made a blip on the fantasy radar and finished behind Gallman in snaps.

    The Seattle Seahawks had a 10-7 lead after the third quarter en route to a 24-7 victory, and their defense played well against the run and the pass. Still, it was surprising to see the Giants run just 16 times between Darkwa, Gallman and Vereen when they had no help at WR and just one dangerous weapon in Evan Engram.

    Much like the Colts, this may be a backfield to avoid. As we move into the second half of the fantasy regular season and toward the playoffs, trust will become more important. The Giants are dead in the water at 1-6 and could start to take a longer look at potential pieces of the future such as Gallman. Even if he becomes the featured back, the volume won't necessarily translate into reliable fantasy production.

    The Giants are on a bye in Week 8, but when they come back, ask yourself: Who do you feel comfortable using in this backfield? Between the three backs, not one comes across as anything more than an emergency option. Unless something changes, they are the kind of players who end up as dead weight on your roster.

New York Jets

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    Bilal Powell returned from a calf injury to make the Jets a three-headed backfield headache.
    Bilal Powell returned from a calf injury to make the Jets a three-headed backfield headache.Associated Press

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • Matt Forte: 50% snaps, 7 carries, 41 yards, 0 TD, 5 targets, 5 receptions, 41 yards, 0 TD
    • Bilal Powell: 37.5% snaps, 9 carries, 43 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 40 yards, 0 TD
    • Elijah McGuire: 12.5% snaps, 3 carries, 7 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    With Powell's return in Week 7 after he sat out with a calf injury, the Jets had their top three backs healthy and active on game day, which made for some tough decisions as it pertained to the top fantasy option. By the end of the game, both Powell and Forte played well enough to be in fantasy lineups, although that wasn't easy to predict. 

    Forte was a bit more productive because of the highest snap count of the group and his role as a receiver. He's has a 51 percent snap average in his five games. Powell isn't far behind at 45 percent for the season, although he does have three games at under 40 percent. Not surprisingly, McGuire was the odd man out, as he saw his lowest snap total since Week 1, when he was active but didn't take an offensive snap.

    Unlike the Colts and Giants, the Jets are still in the playoff race at 3-4, even if they weren't expected to be in that position nearing the halfway point of the regular season. That means they'll likely stick with Forte and Powell to lead the backfield until they fall out of contention, at which point McGuire could find himself playing a bigger role. 

    For the season, Powell remains the top Jets fantasy back at 11.1 fantasy points per game with Forte nearly a full point per game behind at 10.3. With the split likely staying in place, both players should be considered decent RB3/flex options regardless of league format, barring another injury.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Don't give up on Wendell Smallwood.
    Don't give up on Wendell Smallwood.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Week 7 Workload Distribution

    • LeGarrette Blount: 38.5% snaps, 14 carries, 29 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets
    • Wendell Smallwood: 36.9% snaps, 8 carries, 25 yards, 0 TD, 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards, 0 TD
    • Corey Clement: 18.5% snaps, 1 carries, 6 yards, 0 TD, 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards, 1 TD
    • Kenjon Barner: 6.2% snaps, 2 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 0 targets

    The Eagles got Smallwood back in Week 7 after the second-year runner missed two games due to a knee injury. The team didn't feel Smallwood's absence in the standings as the Eagles won both games, but after Barner had a poor showing in Week 6, specifically in pass protection, Smallwood's return was a welcomed one. 

    Unfortunately, that didn't translate to much fantasy production for Smallwood or any of the Eagles RBs other than Clement's nine-yard TD reception. After Blount saw a personal season-high 48.4 percent of the snaps in Week 6, he dropped back down to 38.5 percent in Week 7.

    Smallwood had his third-highest snap share of the season, but that still marked a drop from the 44.3 percent he had in Week 4 and 56.6 percent he had in Week 3. The Eagles may have played it safe, considering Smallwood was coming off the injury.

    Blount should keep the lead role on the ground, so depending on the matchup, he's ether a decent RB2 or flex option and will likely be the safest weekly play in this backfield. Smallwood's fantasy value should come primarily as a receiver, and that's something to watch this week in a prime matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. They've given up a league-high 406 receiving yards to RBs in the last four weeks in addition to the most fantasy points over that span. If Smallwood's role and snaps don't increase in Week 8, he's probably not worth keeping.