Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 8 antic?

2T4AE47 DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 29: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Ja'Quan McMillian (29) in the frist half of a game at Empower Field at Mile High on October 29, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes posts a career-low fantasy week: In one of the most surprising upsets of the season, Mahomes struggled to move the ball and limit turnovers, delivering an even more surprising day for fantasy managers.

Miles Sanders takes a backseat for the Carolina Panthers: Sanders had been managing a shoulder injury but returned in Week 8. Despite a clean bill of health, however, the Panthers leaned on third-year running back Chuba Hubbard.

Despite scoring production for the Dallas Cowboys, running back Tony Pollard goes yet another week without a touchdown: Though Pollard hasn’t quite lived up to his full potential in the 2023 season, there are reasons to believe he’s due for some positive regression as a fantasy scorer.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Well… that was a weird week. Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Will Levis threw for four passing touchdowns in his NFL debut. 30-year-old wide receiver Jamison Crowder scored as a top-12 wide receiver; do you even know what team he plays for? (It’s the Washington Commanders, by the way.) Zack Moss has survived another week to remain a top-five fantasy-scoring running back on the year. Among all of those surprises, however, were a lot of disappointing performances that we’ll need to sift through for our fantasy teams moving forward.

Here are five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 8 and a temperature check; is it time to panic, or just a Week 8 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes scores fewer than six fantasy points for the first time ever.

Reports prior to the Chiefs-Broncos kickoff in Week 9 indicated that Mahomes was dealing with an illness. Nobody could have guessed what was in store for this outing, however, as the Broncos snapped the Chiefs’ 16-game winning streak over them in one of the biggest upsets so far this season. 

Week 8 produced the second-lowest passer rating of Mahomes’ career (59.2), just the second time in his career that he’s thrown two interceptions without throwing a single touchdown in a game. It also marked the first time that Mahomes ever scored fewer than six fantasy points. Though it is clear that this offense may not have quite the same ceiling as it has in previous seasons, Mahomes playing at less than 100% of his overall potential is still better than fantasy than most quarterbacks at their best. To date this year, Mahomes ranks as the overall QB6 in fantasy points per game, having just come off a season-high 34-point outing in Week 7. Consider this an off week for the entire Chiefs offense and move on.

Temperature check: Week 8 antic

Carolina Panthers RB Miles Sanders totals just two rush attempts playing behind Chuba Hubbard.

Sanders totaled two rush attempts for zero rushing yards in his Week 8 return from injury, clearly playing backup to third-year veteran Chuba Hubbard. It wasn’t out of left field, though; this shift has been coming for a good month. Despite having totaled just six more rush attempts than Sanders on the season, Hubbard has amassed 80 more rushing yards, outplaying him in nearly every efficiency metric you can think of, including missed forced tackle rate, first down rate, yards after contact per attempt and stuff percentage. 

Despite handing Sanders a four-year, $25.4 million contract this offseason, the Panthers seem to be rolling with the hot hand, and to date, that hot hand has belonged to Hubbard. Sanders played just two more offensive snaps than third-string RB Raheem Blackshear for crying out loud. Sanders cannot be started in fantasy football lineups until there is a significant shift in his participation.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard goes another week without a touchdown.

If I told you before the season that the Cowboys had scored 30 or more points in four of seven games to start the season and Pollard was the workhorse, you probably would have expected he’d have scored more than two touchdowns heading into Week 9. Pollard hasn’t been overly efficient this season, averaging a career-low 3.9 yards per carry and 2.55 yards after contact per attempt. Though this is purely speculative, it’s worth wondering if some of his lack of explosivity is due in part to the sprained ankle and broken leg that ended Pollard’s 2022 season. Though a broken leg isn’t necessarily a complicated injury, it is one that could affect his lower body conditioning and, therefore, explosive play production.

Regardless, fantasy managers might consider this an opportunity to target Pollard in a trade for their fantasy teams. The Cowboys have totaled 22 goal-line plays to date this season – the fourth-most in the league, with nearly 60% of those being run plays, translating to the seventh-most rush attempts inside the five among NFL teams. That’s translated to plenty of work for Pollard, who ranks second in the league with 10 rush attempts on goal-line drives. It hasn’t produced touchdowns just yet, but considering the valuable goal-line usage and workhorse role, it’s likely we’ll see some positive regression in terms of fantasy upside. 

Temperature check: Week 8 antic

Second-year WR Christian Watson disappears in yet another game for the Green Bay Packers.

Another week, another game with disappointing output from Watson. His initial problems this season started with a hamstring injury suffered in training camp that postponed his season debut until Week 4. Even since his return, however, fantasy managers have largely faced disappointment, as Watson has scored fewer than five points in each of the last two weeks. 

Despite running the second-most routes on the Packers offense since Week 4 and leading the team in receiving yards, much of that production has come on chunk plays. In fact, in every single game this season, more than 50% of Watson’s total yardage has come on a single catch. Watson ranks dead last on the team with a 45.1 passer rating when targeted, averaging the second-lowest EPA per dropback at -0.41. Unfortunately with that performance, Watson isn’t necessarily earning the consistent involvement in the offense that fantasy managers are seeking.

Due to his big-play potential (and propensity for scoring touchdowns as a rookie), fantasy managers have held onto what could be instead of what actually is the reality in terms of Watson’s production. He remains rostered in 88% of leagues on both ESPN and Yahoo! Fantasy Football platforms despite ranking behind teammates Romeo Doubs and rookie Jayden Reed in fantasy points per game. Stop the madness; it is time to move on.

Temperature check: Time to panic

New York Giants TE Darren Waller exits early in Week 8 with a hamstring injury.

There was a massive amount of hype for Waller ahead of the 2023 season considering the rapport that appeared to be developing between him and starting quarterback Daniel Jones. Unfortunately, after bouncing back from a slow start to the season, Waller has dealt with a hamstring injury that seems to have finally come to a head in Week 8. After playing just 17 snaps on the day, Waller exited with a hamstring injury and didn’t return – the most daunting signal of his overall health to date this season. 

Waller leads the team with a 74.6 PFF receiving grade this season, producing 383 receiving yards on 50 targets to date, a clear favorite of Jones, who is set to return from an injury of his own in Week 9. Expect Waller to be productive when he plays, but the true panic lies in the idea that this injury could continue to cause problems moving forward. If there is any opportunity to offload Waller in a trade, even if trading him at a discount, fantasy managers may want to consider it.

Temperature check: Time to panic


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