Every Dallas Cowboys offensive player ready to go off for fantasy managers in Week 8, take a step forward.
Yes, Dak Prescott. Absolutely, CeeDee Lamb. Welcome back, Jake Ferguson.
And not so fast, Tony Pollard.
The Cowboys were sharp in their first game following a bye week, putting a 43-20 romp on the Rams. Dallas rolled up 24 first downs and 387 yards of offense, and had a 30-point lead late in the second period. This outcome was never in doubt.
It was easily Prescott's best game of the year, and his first multiple-touchdown effort in almost two months. He completed 25-of-31 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns, putting him at 29.06 fantasy points for the day. There was one interception and three sacks, but the Dallas passing game pretty much did anything it pleased.
And when you have run of the playbook, why not pepper Lamb? The team's No.1 receiver was unstoppable, securing a career-high 12 catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns (he also had a 12-yard run on a jet sweep). Look at the tape for yourself; to be honest, the Rams coverage was decent on several plays. But when Lamb and Prescott are on the same page, no one is likely to stop them. Lamb went in the first round of many fantasy drafts, and he's lived up to the expectations.
Ferguson's first touchdown since Week 2 was to be expected, as he's been a red-zone and goal-line target earner all season. A 4-47-1 line is solid, not great, but Ferguson belongs in the TE1 cutline bucket for the balance of the year, especially with his bye week out of the way. He has a couple of plus matchups waiting at the end of the season (Miami, Detroit, both lagging in seam coverage).
Pollard's been the most frustrating fantasy angle in this offense, and it's mostly been a case of game script. The Cowboys so rarely play a normal, competitive game. The Dallas wins this year have come by 40, 20, 35, 3 and 23 points. The losses were by 12 and 32 points. That's one close game out of seven. And that partially explains why Pollard has a modest 46 carries in the last four games. He was limited to 12-53 rushing Sunday, and one catch for two yards.
There is some red ink on Pollard's rushing schedule, with both Philadelphia games to come (one of them next week). But he also gets the Giants in Week 10, and the Panthers in Week 11 — two teams that are getting run on liberally. I doubt the Pollard manager in your league is in a state of panic, but you might want to take their temperature, anyway. Perhaps the timing is good for a buy-low.
This still looks like a green light offense to me. And we might see Dallas pinball in the fantasy playoff weeks, as the Cowboys look to keep up with Buffalo, Miami and Detroit. Get your popcorn ready.
No. 2 receivers rebound
The biggest theme from Week 8 was probably the injury carnage at quarterback, something we'll actively discuss and react to all week. The next key takeaway might be the re-emergence of so many No. 2 receivers. Six No. 2 wideouts cracked the Top 14 for receiver scoring this week. Lots of names you know by heart: Jaylen Waddle, Jahan Dotson, DeVonta Smith, Gabe Davis, Tyler Lockett and Chris Godwin (to be fair, Godwin and Mike Evans are pretty much interchangeable as Tampa Bay's signature receiver).
Waddle's touchdown against New England came late in the game and was courtesy of a coverage miscommunication — the play was hardly defended. No matter — it counts, and Waddle was present all day anyway (7-121-1). Smith posting a 7-99-1 line was much appreciated on a day where the amazing A.J. Brown (8-130-2) topped 125 yards for the sixth straight game, an NFL record. Jalen Hurts isn't running as much these days, as he might be playing at less than 100 percent.
The only question on Lockett entering Week 8 was health; he had a questionable tag. When he's in uniform, we're using him.
Dotson was likely benched or even cut in most leagues, but perhaps Sam Howell's breakout game against Philadelphia's defense can make us more proactive with the Washington passing game. Howell has been handing out sacks like Halloween candy all season, but amazingly he was dropped just once by the Eagles. Maybe there's hope here, after all.
• The bye week did wonders for the health of Joe Burrow and the upside of the Bengals offense. Burrow looked willing to run proactively, something we did not see in Cincinnati's opening six games. The upside is open again for this team.
• Baltimore hit the high end of its range in last week's dismantling of the Lions, then was relatively flat in the win over Arizona. This is the emotional ebb-and-flow we see in every NFL season, not to mention efficiency ebb-and-flow. Take no major conclusion from this Ravens performance. The NFL is forever a snow-globe league.
• Benching DeAndre Hopkins was reasonable, but Will Levis was good enough to coax 4-128-3 out of Hopkins. This duo won't sneak up on anyone the rest of the season, but Hopkins is done as a sneaker anyway — he's always been someone who needs to win on contested catches. He can still do that.
• Bryce Young looked better after the bye and Jonathan Mingo looks like a player. If Adam Thielen gets moved at the deadline — not likely, but not impossible either — Mingo would probably step into the heaviest target share on the roster.
• Cleveland still might have the best defense in the league, but Seattle's credible performance against the Browns defense underscores that there's no current defense that should ever force you away from someone who's essentially an every-week starter. The league cares about two things — keeping players as healthy as is reasonable possible (as much as that's even doable), and making offense as easy as possible. A Cleveland draw might push you off a fringe player; it should never make a major change to your primary guys.
• A.J. Brown is open, even when he doesn't look open. Jalen Hurts is fine with this. When Brown has daylight, throw him the ball. When Brown seems shadowed, you still might want to throw him the ball. Brown beat two Washington defenders on one of his two touchdowns.
• I don't know if Minnesota can find a quarterback somewhere to save the strong collection of pass-catchers they have. It's a shame. Cousins was set to have a terrific fantasy season, especially when Justin Jefferson eventually returned. Now, you wouldn't blame the Vikings if they slowed the trajectory of Jefferson's return. This season can't go anywhere now.
• Jordan Love and the Packers offense always looks like they all met about five minutes before the game kicked off.
• The Saints usage tree is a lot wider than anyone expected. Taysom Hill is tight-end eligible in Yahoo, and I'll rank him as a legitimate starter going forward — fully acknowledging that I'm definitely late to this story.
• Diontae Johnson getting 14 targets and no touchdowns is the most Diontae Johnson thing ever. But being saddled with Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky is some kind of cruel joke. The Pittsburgh passing game generally has the same script; DJ gets all the volume, George Pickens makes a splash play on less volume, and everyone walks way shaking their head. I would bet on Jaylen Warren if you forced me to roster a Pittsburgh back, but it's possible nobody in that group is a right answer.
• Zach Ertz was getting tons of volume but had zero juice. Trey McBride picked up the volume baton and can actually run through people. Wheels up, McBride managers. The Cardinals won't finish with a good record, but they play hard every week and always move the ball just enough to be taken seriously for fantasy purposes. James Conner is one of the best stashes you can roster.