2018 Fantasy Football Week 8 Preview: Ursa Major

by Richard Savill
2018 Fantasy Football Week 8 Preview

To this point in the season, Matt Nagy deserves some notice for the job he has done with the Chicago Bears. Right now, I consider him the front runner for coach of the year.

He did get some breaks, but a coach with some good fortune is better than a luckless one. One of the breaks was of course the acquisition of Khalil Mack and bolstering an already sound defense into a force. This is arguably the most impactful change, but the Bears are also excelling on both sides of the ball.

In 2017, the Bears ranked 29th in the league on offense. They currently rank 13th as of Week 8 in 2018. This dramatic rise came about in part with the steady maturity of Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky has three consecutive 300+ passing games and we can see him developing that courage and confidence of a higher level NFL quarterback.

The Bears have lost their last two games, but fans in Chicago should take heart because there's a trend in the bigger picture happening with their team.

2018 Fantasy Football Week 8 Preview

Eagles vs Jaguars (London) 9:30 AM - get your lineups ready early.

Byes: Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Titans

Games to Watch

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Sunday Early
Ravens (4-3) at Panthers (4-2)

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If we look at the River City Relay play of 2003 between the Saints and Jaguars, we see an amazing series of laterals for a thrilling finish - almost. The Saints managed the hardest part of getting the touchdown in heroic fashion, but John Carney missed the extra point to tie the game. Carney at that time was among the most reliable kickers in the NFL. He only missed 10 extra points in 638 attempts during his career.

So 15 years later, the Saints saw it happen to their own opponent in Week 7. Justin Tucker, had never missed a conversion in 222 attempts. If we include that extra points since 2015 have become harder snapped from the 15 yard line, Tucker's achievement has additional merit.

Yet, Justin Tucker missed the extra point after Joe Flacco connected with John Brown in the final minute for a touchdown. The Saints won 24-23.

On to Carolina

The Panthers were down 17-0 well into the fourth quarter and mounted an amazing late rally to defeat the Eagles 21-17 in Week 7. This astounding comeback sent a tremor of wild playoff implications throughout the NFC.

The Ravens and Panthers are an interesting matchup because both teams often utilize gadgetry and freewheeling offensive run-pass option schemes. The Ravens use Lamar Jackson around five or six snaps per game, but I expect they may increase that closer to 10 for this game. The Saints had their own gadget quarterback Taysom Hill in on 26 snaps last week!

The Panthers use a different method for out-of-the-box gadgets with Curtis Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, Jarius Wright and Cam Newton himself. Overall, the Panthers must involve Greg Olsen early and often to confuse the defense enough to keep their trick plays from being too predictable.

Look for the Ravens to use conventional run and pass overall. However, I might expect an extra emphasis of using Javorius Allen to more an even split of carries with Alex Collins. To illustrate how much diverse the Ravens are playing their ground game these days, seven different players had carries, gadget style or otherwise, against the Saints.

Sleeper: Nick Boyle, TE, Ravens

Sunday Late
Packers (3-2-1) at Rams (7-0)

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If Rodgers has any more rabbits in his head, he might need to pull out a couple to defeat the Rams.

The problem for the Packers is that their team does not have the proper backfield structure to force a ball-control scheme to keep the Rams off the field. I'm sure they'll want to try, so expect plenty of Jamal Williams early to check the Rams defensive front.

Aaron Donald is a one-man wrecking ball who creates penetration because of the extra people needed inside to protect Rodgers. The Rams are fast pass rushers and Rodgers will find it difficult to widen the pocket to get the ball downfield.

Rodgers prefers to scramble to the sidelines for first downs than check-downs, but that tactic might be less available considering how speedy the Rams are on defense. Rodgers will have to rely on pass patterns and hope that his mid-range receivers and tight ends execute.

The Rams Do

The Rams simply have to do what they always do. Hand it or pass to Todd Gurley until it hurts. And he will hurt the Packers if they cannot find some reasonable method of containment. Up to this point, no team has prevented Gurley from scoring at least one touchdown.

Whatever the case, if any player can keep up with the Rams and organize a rally, it's Aaron Rodgers. The Packers could certainly use a turnover or two, but the reverse could be lethal.

One scary thing. The Packers came close to losing to the 49ers before the bye. The Rams crushed them last week 39-10.

Sleeper: Geronimo Allison, WR, Packers

Sunday Night
Saints (5-1) at Vikings (4-2-1)

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The last time the Saints came to U.S. Bank Stadium, well, who could forget that playoff game. Stefon Diggs happened.

This time around, the Saints are fortunate that the defense they put on the field are not the same ones that opened 2018. The Saints took a game or two to stiffen up their defending and with each passing week seem stingier and stingier. That's what winning does.

The Saints and Vikings find themselves in a matchup with very similar personnel to that playoff game, with the notable exception of Kirk Cousins.

This should be a quarterback duel between Cousins and Brees, so hang on tight. Brees leads the league in passer rating, but Cousins holds his own well enough at 9th. Both these guys, as you well know, have enough weaponry to overcome the opposition.

Thielen

All eyes, in fantasy too, will train on Adam Thielen to see if he can achieve an 8th consecutive 100+ receiving game.

We continue to monitor the timeshare between Alvin Kamara and Mark ingram to see if there are changes in the balance. To this point, nothing dramatic to report as both have a near even split of the snaps.

The key to this game comes down to the Vikings achieving success running the ball. Latavius Murray continues once again to fill in for Dalvin Cook who has been out most of the year.

The Vikings are in a tight divisional race and hold a slender lead atop the NFC North. All four in the group remain in contention.

The Saints and Vikings come in with winning streaks of five and three respectively. The Saints play the Rams in the Superdome next week. If they can get out Minnesota with a revenge win, they'll have a chance at holding the current NFC top seed.

Sleeper: Tre'Quan Smith, WR, Saints

Monday Night
Patriots (5-2) at Bills (2-5)

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Hard times have hit the Bills, but after their 9-7 record in 2017 resulting in a playoff wild-card, what did this team build on?

It seems like not a whole lot. The Bills rank the lowest in scoring. For a game or two, the Bills appeared to have enough on defense to help out the offense. Nope. It turns out that the Bills' D can compete with opposing offenses that come out flat, but on their own, the Bills are just ordinary. Which is a surfeit compliment.

This is the first Monday night game for the Bills at home since 2008 and the crowd will put as much electricity as they can for their underdogs.

Many hoped that Derek Anderson could provide relief for the pathetically futile quarterbacking of Nathan Peterman. Even I had optimism it couldn't get worse with Anderson, but it did. Now with Anderson looking iffy to play we could be back to Peterman, again.

There's not a lot out there among free agents for the Bills to take. Anderson's primary role was for the intention of backup tutelage for Josh Allen, not actual running of the offense full-time. I would strongly suggest the Bills try and sign someone else, perhaps Paxton Lynch?

I've seen stranger things happen, but if the Bills don't get a creaming from the Patriots, then there's more of a problem in New England than Buffalo.

Speaking of the Patriots, whose problems the Bills wish they could trade for, have a few ailments. Gronkowski missed the Chicago game, but the team sailed along well enough without him. He's back.

The Pats shrugged off the loss of Sony Michel and maintain a more than strong enough ground attack with James White and perhaps this guy...

Sleeper: Kenjon Barner, RB, Patriots

Players to Watch

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Doug Martin, RB, Raiders (vs Colts)

Here comes the hamster. Martin takes over the lead back duties in Oakland after the Marshawn Lynch injury. I think people who picked up Martin are hoping for a breakout just to shark trade him high next week. Kinda cynical I know, but when it comes to Doug Martin, you just never know what hamster you bought at the pet shop. Jalen Richard is also a player we should watch on the Raiders.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets (at Bears)

The loss of Bilal Powell propels some extra volume for Crowell who tends to depend on volume. That said, Elijah McGuire is other running back on the Jets to see how his role develops. The Jets remain in contention for the playoffs, so if a hot hand comes into the Jets ideas now, we need to see that.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Raiders (vs Colts)

I'm not sure the Amari Cooper trade brings everyone up on the Raiders' passing game. It probably doesn't because Derek Carr remains at quarterback. But, look at the glass half-full, remember? One thing we do know is that the targets have to go somewhere and that might mean Seth Roberts gains a little. However, Bryant looks like he holds the best seat for increased production based on more positive airyards.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Jaguars (vs Eagles in London)

One might not expect Hyde to immdiately jump into a full time-share with T.J. Yeldon, but whatever he gets, the measure is effectiveness, not volume. Something strange is happening in Jacksonville because we sort of thought Fournette was due to return at least after the bye-week. So why make a trade for another starting running back? Well, that's another story.

Jack Doyle, TE, Colts (at Raiders)

News about Doyle throughout his week on week absence was uncertain and we were even getting used to the idea he might be out longer. He returned to practice this week from his hip injury, but whether they ease him back and just float him in for a few snaps is the next uncertainty. From that, there's the value of Eric Ebron, which now looks slippery.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars (vs Eagles in London)

Not looking great for Bortles these days. They had to bench him for Cody Kessler when the Jags just could not move the ball on offense down 20-0 to the Texans in the 3rd quarter. We talk about a short leash for quarterbacks, I think we are beyond that now with Bortles. If we get another debacle, expect an announcement from Doug Marrone next week.

In The Booth on Sunday

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Al Michaels

NFL Network Sunday, London 9:30 am ET

Eagles vs Jaguars : Rich Eisen, Michael Irvin, Steve Mariucci, Kurt Warner

CBS Early

Jets at Bears: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Browns at Steelers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Ravens at Panthers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Bruce Arians
Broncos at Chiefs: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon

CBS Late

Colts at Raiders: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

Fox Early

Redskins at Giants: Kenny Albert, Charles Davis
Seahawks at Lions: Kevin Kugler, Ronde Barber, Chris Spielman
Buccaneers at Bengals: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

Fox Late

Packers at Rams: Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman
49ers at Cardinals: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth


Check out the rest of our 2018 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

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