Jets TE Dustin Keller is emerging as a top tight end play every week. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
It's fitting that this past week's slate of games happened around Halloween because fantasy owners were scared – scared of Hurricane Sandy's effects and scared of Trent Richardson's rib injury and Jimmy Graham's ankle injury.
The fears proved unfounded for the most part, as both Richardson and Graham had big games and Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger both threw for three touchdowns despite wet and windy conditions.
Of course, owners of guys like Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Jeremy Maclin and Robert Griffin III will complain that the weather did, in fact, slow down their players.
As with many things in fantasy football, there's no definitive lesson here. Professional football players can handle a little bit of wind and rain, and if you followed the forecasts closely, you would've known that things in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh weren't expected to get too bad during the games. The fact that White, Maclin, Griffin and others had subpar performances isn't necessarily because of the weather. The weather likely didn't help, but it's possible that it was just a bad week for them.
Injured players are much tougher to deal with. Sitting Richardson after his Week 7 debacle and benching Graham because he was in a prime-time game were probably the right moves, depending on your alternatives. But elite players can produce at 75 percent, so sticking with them isn't a terrible option either.
Unfortunately, there's not much more to say. In general, fantasy owners shouldn't be so scared of the weather and should continue to be cautious with injuries, but recognize that each individual situation is different. The good news is that there's probably a lot of candy floating around your office or house right now, so drown your sorrows in a few fun-size Snickers and get ready for Week 9. And while you do that, let's look back at the players who improved or hurt their stock at each offensive position in Week 8.
It was a subpar week for several starters or borderline starters, with Griffin III (13.88), Cam Newton (12.26), Jay Cutler (7.84), Philip Rivers (6.16) and Eli Manning (5.98) all scoring below 14 fantasy points. Even Drew Brees (18.72) and Aaron Rodgers (17.84) disappointed in favorable matchups.
Of those seven quarterbacks, there's little to worry about with Griffin, Manning, Brees and Rodgers. They're all elite options who will get back on track quickly. Cutler, Rivers and Newton are much more worrisome. At this point, Cutler and Rivers are barely hanging on as backups because of their inconsistency. Newton still has as much upside as any quarterback, but with fewer than 18.5 fantasy points in five of seven games, he's certainly not a must-start right now.
Notable Riser: Matthew Stafford, Lions. Stafford led all fantasy performers with 37.28 points last week, and for the first time this season, he looked like he did last year. Stafford spread the ball around (seven receivers had at least three catches), made all the throws, and guided the Lions offense with confidence against a tough defense, so this is certainly a good sign going forward.
Notable Faller: Michael Vick, Eagles. There's been more chatter about the Eagles benching Vick in favor of Nick Foles for next week's Monday night matchup with New Orleans. Ironically, Vick didn't have a horrible game last Sunday, failing to turn it over for only the second time all season. Vick currently ranks 14th in fantasy points among QBs, which would make him a borderline starter in all formats. If he still has a job next week, he's worth starting against the Saints' porous defense, but he's not someone you can count on for the long-term.
There were four big touchdown poachings last week, with Andre Brown (Ahmad Bradshaw), Daniel Thomas (Reggie Bush), Delone Carter (Vick Ballard/Donald Brown) and Shane Vereen (Stevan Ridley) all stealing scores. Losing out on the those short touchdowns really cost Bradshaw and Bush, both of whom failed to score and lost fumbles. The good news is that neither Bush nor Bradshaw aggravated their respective injuries, so don't read too much into these lost scoring chances. Both will remain their teams' feature backs.
Notable Riser: Doug Martin, Buccaneers. Not only did Martin finally look like the “Ray Rice clone” he was described as in the preseason, but he also stayed on the field for six of Tampa's seven plays inside the Vikings' 10-yard line. LeGarrette Blount was an afterthought again, which will likely continue to be the case given his general ineffectiveness. The only concern with Martin is if he can hold up over the rest of the season, but he looks like a top-10 fantasy back right now.
Notable Faller: Jonathan Stewart, Panthers. Sure, guys like Jamaal Charles and Michael Turner had worse weeks, but we're going to call out Stewart here because so much was made during the week about his new “feature back” role in Carolina. He did lead the team in carries (17), but DeAngelo Williams (11) wasn't that far behind, and Mike Tolbert was spotted in the game on some goal-to-go situations. Really, not much has changed for Stewart. His 80 total yards against a tough Bears' defense indicates that he's a borderline RB2/flex, but don't go overboard in your evaluation of him, even if DeAngelo Williams is traded.
It was an interesting weekend for Lions' wide receivers. Titus Young had a breakout game, topping all WRs in fantasy points this week (22); rookie Ryan Broyles scored for the second straight game; and consensus best-receiver-in-the-NFL Calvin Johnson … had his second straight game with fewer than 4.7 fantasy points.
Johnson has been a disappointment this year, especially lately, but keep in mind that he's had two huge drops in the past couple games, including what should have been a touchdown last week. With Stafford playing better, Johnson is still a must-start. He'll get back in a groove shortly. As for Young and Broyles, both look like potential fantasy starters. Consistency could be an issue, but the Lions throw more than any other team (46.6 attempts per game), so there are plenty of passes to go around.
Notable Riser: Denarius Moore, Raiders. After catching five passes for 96 yards and a score against the Chiefs, Moore now has a touchdown in three straight games. Perhaps even more noteworthy is that he's had at least eight targets in every game this year. Moore gets plenty of chances, and with his big-play ability, he should continue to star. Receivers like Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts all have potential value despite being on relatively mediocre offenses.
Notable Faller: Hakeem Nicks, Giants. Since returning from a knee injury in Week 6, Nicks has 12 catches for 143 yards in three games. That's not going to cut it, especially for owners who paid a third-round price for him. It doesn't seem like the knee is an issue, so Nicks is probably just going through a cold spell right now. It's important to note that two of his past three games have come against tough pass defenses (San Francisco and Dallas), so there's really no reason to get overly concerned. He's a prime buy-low candidate.
Some order was restored to the TE world, as it was a big week for Jason Witten (18-167), Rob Gronkowski (8-146, two TDs) and Graham (5-63, TD). Unfortunately, Aaron Hernandez (ankle) was inactive, Gonzalez and Gates combined for just nine targets and 43 yards, and Jermichael Finley (2-24) couldn't take advantage of both Greg Jennings (groin) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring) being out. Vernon Davis (2-34) also struggled again. Gates and Finley are the biggest concerns, as both have only really had one good game apiece. Some might view them as buy-low candidates, but at best, it looks like you'll get inconsistent production.
Notable Riser: Dustin Keller, Jets. For the second straight week, Keller caught seven passes and topped 65 yards. His 18 targets over the past two games rank third among all TEs. The Jets' offense has some serious questions, but it seems likely that Keller will continue to get plenty of looks regardless of any changes that are made in the future.
Notable Faller: Jacob Tamme, Broncos. A couple weeks ago, we noted Tamme's frequent targets and predicted he was about to break out. In two games since, he's caught five-of-six passes for 50 yards and no scores. Clearly, the breakout didn't happen, and after watching fellow TE Virgil Green (3-44) be more involved in the Broncos' offense on Sunday night, it seems less likely that the breakout will occur for Tamme. He's droppable in 12-team leagues.
Chiefs at Chargers
Stat to know: Jamaal Charles had just five carries last week, but no reason has been given for the lack of touches. A similar thing happened in Week 2, when he had six carries. The following week, he ran 33 times for 233 yards. With Peyton Hillis back, it's unlikely that Charles will get that many touches, but he's still a safe bet for 15-plus carries against a Chargers defense that was just gashed by Trent Richardson.
Sleeper: WR Robert Meachem (Chiefs have given up 20 pass plays of 25-plus yards, second most).
Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage.