Dwight Howard

Fantasy Football Week 8: Halloween Monsters and Masquerades

Arizona will entertain the San Francisco 49ers this week in what could be a scary Thursday Night Football Halloween matchup.

Carolina fans saw just how monstrous the Niners can be. Will San Francisco put fear into the hearts of their desert hosts? Can the Cardinals masquerade their college game plan as a bonafide NFL attack?

It should be fun to watch, but some NFL players and teams have been playing Halloween since Week 1. Now that the official day is upon us, let’s give kudos for the best costumes to come out of the first half of this NFL Fantasy season.

Best Superhero: Run CMC as Superman

Superman, Iron man, Batman… whatever. Christian McCaffrey seems to have all sorts of superpowers through eight games.

McCaffrey arguably saved the season for Carolina by stepping up his game to fill the talent gap between Kyle Allen and Cam Newton.

Even though CMC couldn’t save everyone against the Monsters of the Bay Area, his RB-6 performance against the 49ers proves he is impervious to most weapons and enemies.

Honorable mention goes to Deshaun Watson’s Iron Man impersonation. No matter how banged up he gets, he continues to come through even as defenders bounce off him or pile up around him.

Week 8’s one-eyed touchdown pass, delivered seconds after receiving a cleat through the facemask, almost stole the top prize for him.

Best “Flash” costume: Matt Breida

Everyone wants to be Flash. Even the fattest offensive lineman dreams of scooping up a fumble and racing down the sideline for a long touchdown.

Matt Breida did it better than anybody in the first half when he hit 22.3 miles per hour during an 83-yard touchdown run in Week 5.

Honorable mention to Philadelphia rookie Miles Sanders who topped 22 miles per hour on his way to pay dirt Sunday, joining Cordarelle Patterson (22.2 MPH) and Brandon Wilson (22.0) as the closest challengers to Breida.

Best Invisible Man: Leonard Fournette

Most fantasy football players would correctly identify Dalvin Cook as the leading rusher by yardage through the first half. They would be forgiven if they erroneously thought Christian McCaffrey was the top dog, but McCaffrey only has the third-most rushing yards.

If we asked which running back led the league in receptions, the names Ekeler, White, and McCaffrey would come up. But how many would guess Leonard Fournette has more catches than Kamara, Johnson, or Bell?

But there is Leonard Fournette with the second most rushing yardage and fourth-most receptions. It is enough to make him the overall RB-5 in PPR leagues, slightly ahead of Nick Chubb and Ezekiel Elliot, but off the pace of Austin Ekeler, the RB-4.

The problem is touchdowns and the Gardner Minshew Show. If Fournette can cross the goal line at a normal pace in the second half, maybe he’ll be the most popular player in Jacksonville instead of his mustachioed teammate.

Honorable mention goes to the current overall QB-5, Dak Prescott. Despite a fourth-straight top-12 fantasy football quarterback rating in the bag, managers continue to debate Prescott’s value.

Best Clown: Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown managed to squander one of the biggest paydays in NFL history for a decidedly less, yet impressive contract before squandering that deal for a persona-non-grata status and collection lawsuits from caterers and landlords.

Unfortunately, Brown’s Twitter posts and rejection by even the XFL make this more of a tragic clown outfit as opposed to the comical initial perception.

There is no honorable mention as no one else comes close to Brown’s clown act.

Scariest Costume: New England Patriots’ DST

San Francisco has a scary defense. New England makes them look like cupcakes.

When Lawrence Guy blew through the Browns’ offensive line and beat Jarvis Landry to a shuffle pass in Sunday’s game, he became the latest Patriots defender to blow up Twitter with an incredible and superhuman effort.

New England calls their defense “The Boogeymen”, a title validated by Jets’ quarterback Sam Darnold who told coaches he was “seeing ghosts” while facing the Patriots.

Not only have Patriots defenders scored more touchdowns than their offense, but Tom Brady’s unit has also given up as many touchdowns to opposing defenses as the Pats’ DST allowed to offenses in the first half.

Honorable mention would have gone to the Niners, but they were too afraid to approach the stage with the Boogeymen up there.

Best Vintage Costume: Aaron Rodgers

Better late than never as Aaron Rodgers took his time getting his costume together. But the Packers’ great followed up his classic 6-touchdown performance in Week 7 with a vintage 3-touchdown victory against a top opponent on national television.

It was Rodgers’ fourth top-12 fantasy football ranking in the last five weeks after a rough start. As the Green Bay offense settles on an identity, and Rodgers recognizes his receivers’ faces, more vintage play from Rodgers seems inevitable.

Honorable mentions go to Tom Brady and Drew Brees who continue to portray younger versions of themselves.

Best Jekyll and Hyde Portrayal: Darren Fells

This award could have gone to the NFL tight ends group as a whole. No one knows week-to-week who will show up as a stud and who will fade to oblivion.

But Darren Fells brought the tight end Jekyll and Hyde dilemma to a whole new level in the first half, alternating four top-ten performances with an average ranking of TE-42 in the other four games.

Honorable mention to the Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones. He owns a QB-1 and QB-2 finish, as well as four weeks of QB-19 or lower.

Best Football Costume: Jacobi Brissett’s Andrew Luck

Indianapolis was a popular preseason pick to compete for a Super Bowl berth. Then Andrew Luck retired before the season started and Jacobi Brissett lined up behind center.

Fans and pundits immediately re-evaluated the division, dropping the Colts from playoff position.

But after 8 weeks, Brissett has the Colts in first place of the AFC North with a 5-2 record. To be sure, Brissett has some impressive fantasy games under his belt, but this week’s victory-clinching last-minute drive on a day he wasn’t very good clinched the prize.

Honorable mention to Daniel Jones’ Eli Manning costume, complete with all the turnovers and facial expressions. Jones even has Eli’s knack of keeping things just interesting enough to force suffering Giants fans to watch well into the fourth quarter.

We’ll give a second honorable mention to Brett Perriman’s linebacker costume. People are still talking about Perriman’s Week 8 tackle for a loss against his own team. Perriman was a second late crossing the backfield in motion. Jameis Winston and Dare Ogunbowale were on time. Dare never saw Perriman coming.

Scariest Monster: (tie) Bill Belichick & Kyle Shanahan

How many of you are ready to name Mark Walton a better running back option than Matt Breida or Sony Michel?  

Not many, I’m sure. But there is a good argument that Walton has a safer floor than any running back from San Francisco or New England. This is because of the dreaded running back by committees their evil coaches deploy.

Three times this season, Belichick put three running backs into a week’s top-24 fantasy football ranking. Shanahan did that once, too, although he usually “features” two running backs each week.

Committees are not uncommon, but these two take it to a new level, alternating starters and feature backs among four candidates. Between these two teams, five rushers have top-10 weeks. Three others have at least one top-20 performance.

If they would just decide on a pecking order, maybe we can set our lineups with a little more confidence and leave the Dolphins’ rookie out of the conversation.

Goriest accessory: Drew Brees’ rubber thumb

Drew Brees’ dislocated thumb flopping around made every New Orleans Saints fan queasy. It was flat-out gross. But you know you have a winning accessory when it takes a highly paid specialist to set it up and a highly-paid team to remove the issue.

That was the case after the Los Angeles Rams Aaron Donald helped Brees’ awful-looking thumb take shape and the medical team at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute used some fancy trickery to get Brees back onto the field earlier than most predictions.

Honorable mention to Pat Mahomes and his floating kneecap. Mahomes was kind enough to share the repair of his dislocated kneecap on national television at the hands of the Chiefs’ trainers. He is reportedly on track to beat his return timetable, too.

Best ghost: Damien Williams

One minute, he is here. The next minute, you can’t find him anywhere!

Damien Williams was the subject of much preseason conjecture as to the presumed RB-1 in the prolific Kansas City offense. Was he worth a top-ten draft choice? Would he hold up for a full season? Would rookie Darrell Williams be a 1-A?

Damien came out of the gate with a non-descript, but acceptable, RB-12 Week 1 performance. And we haven’t seen him since. The addition of LeSean McCoy and an injury to Williams played a role but doesn’t fully explain the utter disappearance of the heir-apparent to Kansas City’s crown rusher.

Who knows when he will make another top-24 appearance?

Honorable mention goes to Desean Jackson. Even though Jackson used the same costume last year, disappearing after Week 2, he outdid himself by teasing Eagles fans with a 35-point opening-day explosion only to find himself a weekly injury report statistic since.

Best Pairs Costume: Godwin & Evans’ Stud & Dud

What makes this costume so endearing is not only its relevance to fantasy football but the cute way these two take turns being either a stud or a dud.

Godwin and Evans each have 4 top-ten fantasy wide receiver performances and 3 weeks of lineup-busting mediocrity or worse.

Since Week 1, which was a washout for both, at least one of these players has been a top-ten receiver. In two weeks, they forgot who was supposed to be who, resulting in a pair of top-ten finishes and the overall WR-3 (Godwin)  and WR-6 (Evans) rankings through the first half.

Nicest Couple: Deshaun Watson & Deandre Hopkins

Watson (QB-2) and Hopkins (WR-7) have connected for 60 receptions through 7 games, putting Hopkins on pace for another 120+ reception season.

That might surprise some folks lamenting the diminished fantasy point production from Hopkins. But it is not because Watson and Hopkins don’t have the same connection. It’s just that Watson wants his friend closer… like a few yards per catch closer.  

Honorable mention to Aaron Rodgers (QB-4) and Aaron Jones (RB-4). Things are nice now, but we suspect when Davante Adams pops back into the picture, Rodgers’ attention might be diverted.

Cutest Couple: Gardner Minshew & DJ Chark

Of course, the newest couples tend to be the cutest and this pair of youngsters has stolen the show in Jacksonville. They even have their own song, even if it is annoying and no one really wants to sing it.

They better be careful, though. We understand Nick Foles and Dede Westbrook are a tad jealous of all the attention Minshew and Chark are getting.

Best Trick: Buccaneers DBs’ disappearing heads

The judges were completely bewildered by this trick pulled consistently throughout the first half by the defensive backs in Tampa Bay.

But there is always one guy who can’t keep a secret. In this case, it was head coach Bruce Arians who let the cat out of the bag while talking to reporters. “My defensive backs better get their heads out of their asses if they want to keep playing here,” said Arians.

Mystery solved. (As reported by ESPN.)

Best Overall Costume: Miami Dolphins “football team”

When you can pull off a costume so effectively, it fools more than a few folks around you, you have a winner.

That’s what’s happening in Miami where the Dolphins continue to fool people into paying for tickets and NFL TV packages as they wander lost around the field in legit-looking NFL uniforms.

The Miami group was a lock for the best fish costume as they are firmly in a tank. But as Kenyon Drake gleefully left the stadium Monday, the Dolphins were awarded the overall best costume instead.

Meanwhile… there was fantasy football in Week 8

Can you imagine going off for 220 yards and a touchdown only to be told you were the fifth-best fantasy football PPR performer of the week?

That is Cooper Kupp’s plight after his monster game in London Sunday. Mike Evans wouldn’t even let Kupp take top wide receiver honors. Evans added a second touchdown and needed a few more catches to gain 198 yards for 42.8 points and the top overall fantasy performance.

Aaron Jones wasn’t so happy with Evans, either. Green Bay’s running back saw his 41.60 points fail to win the top prize. Tevin Coleman (37.80) and Latavius Murray (36.70) finished ahead of Kupp’s 35-point total, too.

Daniel Jones was the top-ranked quarterback, throwing for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. Deshaun Watson (27.76) and Aaron Rodgers (27.10) rounded out the top three passers.

When we were making our draft selections, no one imagined a week when Ryan Griffin (24.60), Darren Fells (23.80), and Jonnu Smith (19.80) would take the top three tight end scoring positions. Austin Hooper’s streak of 20-plus point games ended, but his 19.40 points put him in the top ten for the league-best 7th time in 8 weeks.

New England’s DST topped 20 points for the third week in a row and the fifth time this season. Their 169 points rank them ninth in overall scoring, just ahead of Kupp and Rodgers.

Spooky things to know

If your IDP league awarded a point to Brett Perriman for his highlight-reel TFL on teammate Dare Ogunbowale, expect that score to be adjusted downward. The general consensus is, as great of a tackle as it was, Perriman’s takedown amounts to accidental tripping as far as defensive points go.

Joe Flacco was supposed to save John Elway’s job by providing a safe, trustworthy veteran presence at the quarterback position, traditionally manned by over-matched youngsters.

Flacco, one of the most mild-mannered football players you’ll ever meet, used his post-game podium time to question why head coach Vic Fangio would call for a 3rd-and-five rush into the middle of the line followed by a punt from inside midfield with a 2-point lead late in the game.

Indianapolis was able to get within range of a game-losing (for the Broncos) field goal as time expired after that decision.

If you thought Flacco’s rant might provoke Denver to open things up a little more next week, Fangio slammed that door shut when he announced Flacco is out with a disc injury “or something” for at least the next week or so.

Any doubt that Cam Newton will be the starting quarterback when he returns from his foot injury should have been laid to rest by Kyle Allen’s 3-interception effort against the 49ers.

Granted, the Niners’ defense would be the talk of the league if the Patriots weren’t setting records, but Newton would not have been as defenseless as Allen looked, even on a bad foot.

Ryan Tannehill (19.64) expressed disappointment about some missed opportunities in a 3-touchdown, QB-10 effort. Don’t expect to see Mariota back under center this season and make Tannehill a solid member of the streaming group.

Matt Schaub threw for 460 yards in a failed comeback bid against Seattle. It begs the question; would Matt Ryan have gotten even more yards than Schaub? Or is Ryan simply a system quarterback?

Just kidding about the system quarterback, but here is an interesting real-life stat for you. Matt Schaub became the third quarterback in NFL history- and the first since the early 1960s- to throw for 450 or more yards three times in his career.

Rodgers, Brees, Montana, Elway, Favre… nobody most of us ever saw play has anything on Matt Schaub.

It is, however, just as amazing that Schaub needed to convert a 2-point conversion to break 20 fantasy points.

Week 9 Injury Moves

Brandin Cook entered the concussion protocol for the second time this season going into the Rams’ bye. That is not a good sign for the young receiver. The Giants’ Sterling Shepard missed his third game and is not a lock to return in Week 9 after his second concussion.

Los Angeles is full of weapons, but it is interesting to see Josh Reynold’s name among the top 20 wide receivers of Week 8. He had 63 yards and a score on 3 receptions for 16.2 points.

Dede Westbrook’s bid to take back the top wide receiver spot in Jacksonville hit a snag. He finished with zero fantasy points after leaving in the first half with shoulder and neck injuries. Marquise Lee also left the game with a shoulder injury.

If either or both of the Jaguars receivers can’t go, DJ Chark and Chris Conley (this week’s WR-8 and 9 respectively) will be backed up by Keelan Cole.

Adam Thielen’s hamstring has him tentatively listed as questionable for Week 9.

Miles Sanders only had 6 touches before leaving the Eagles game with a shoulder injury. There is no official word, but Sanders told local reporters x-rays were “cool” and he will be fine.

Matt Breida was knocked out of the 49ers rout of Carolina with an ankle injury. Jeff Wilson followed him off the field with a head injury but will not be in the concussion protocol. Wilson has a stinger and is day-to-day.

With Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert healthy, there is no reason for Breida to rush back and play with pain like he did most of last season. Mostert is a must-add until we know the severity of Breida’s injury, even if Wilson is back.

Chase Edmonds left with a hamstring injury and is not likely to be back on a short week. After already announcing David Johnson would also miss another week, the Cardinals traded for Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins.

Drake is worth picking up, especially if we learn Edmonds will miss more than one game. But only a truly desperate owner should put him in their lineup for Week 9.

Remember, Zack Zenner is the only available rusher completely familiar with the Arizona offense. Alfred Morris has a week’s head start on Drake, too.

Case Keenum is in the concussion protocol. No one should start Dwayne Haskins if he starts and I would drop Terry McLaurin in that situation, too.

Other waiver considerations

Kenyan Drake was already a popular waiver target as his pending trade seemed imminent. The Dolphins didn’t even bring him to their game against Pittsburgh lest he hurt himself. Arizona is not a great spot when David Johnson and Chase Edmonds are healthy, so enthusiasm might be subdued.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Mark Walton is still available in some leagues despite being the clear-cut number one in Southern Florida. While I understand the pessimism that goes with any Dolphin, there are two things to consider about Walton. First, he has a floor of about 6 points for an emergency.

More importantly, he faces the Jets, Giants, and Bengals during the fantasy football playoffs. Especially if Miami already locked up the top draft pick, that could win a game for you.

Devin Singletary could provide some short-term help. He didn’t blow anyone away with his first performance back from injury, but at least he got to run and catch the ball. Washington, Cleveland, and Miami are his next three opponents. That’s not a bad emergency pickup.

Derrius Guice is expected back soon for the Redskins. With a coach determined to run first, Guice could provide a late-season boost to your fantasy football roster.

Chris Conley is a must-add if Dede Westbrook will miss some time. Much is made of the Minshew-Chark connection, but Conley has his quarterback’s trust, too.

I’d float Sam Darnold versus Miami or Derek Carr against the Lions team that let Daniel Jones be the QB-1 this week.

If no one has picked up Jonnu Smith or Darren Fells yet, grab them. Ryan Griffin is for real, too- assuming Chris Herndon is out another week for the Jets.

The Jets (Mia), Eagles (Chi), and Broncos (Clev) are my top streaming DSTs for Week 9.

Overtime

Sometimes, there is nothing scarier than fantasy football. But if you stick it out, there is always hope. Well… sometimes.

After a horrendous start across most of my 10 leagues, I walk into Week 9 with 28 wins in my last 30 games and realistic playoff aspirations in at least 7 of them.

Next week, I might lose all ten games. Who knows? But in this Halloween week, I extoll everyone to face their fears. No matter how daunting your prospects are, please update your lineup and try to win.

This has been a public fantasy football announcement.

Happy Halloween everyone!


Pat Opperman NFL Fantasy Analyst, click here for more.

Archive @ Pat Opperman

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