By James Reagan
If you’re reading this as an owner with multiple Texans and Seahawks on your roster, congratulations on your likely victory. Entering the week, this 4:05 pm ET game was viewed as one of the more compelling games, but only because of the matchup between electrifying quarterback Deshaun Watson and the elite Seahawks defense. The common line of thinking was that Watson would struggle and the Seahawks defense would power them to a low-scoring victory, like they seem to always do when playing in Seattle.
Oh, how wrong we were. The Seahawks did get the close win, but it was more of a Madden score complete with two quarterbacks that topped 30 standard fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring), three receivers with over 20 fantasy points and three more offensive skill players that had over 10. Four of the top five fantasy players on the Week 8 leader board played in Seahawks-Texans. The lone exception was Ezekiel Elliott, who somehow delivered an encore from his other-worldly Week 7 performance.
This article could really focus entirely on Seahawks-Texans, a game which makes a strong case for being the most exciting game of 2017 so far. Watson has not only laid claim to the Texans’ franchise QB job, but he’s also delivered a rookie season that’s on the level of what we saw from Cam Newton in 2011 and Robert Griffin III’s stunning, but unrepeated 2012 season. Any key Texan offensive skill player is going to be valued in fantasy, even players like starting tight end Ryan Griffin, who have yet to make a huge impact with Watson under center, but should still get plenty of opportunities.
The Seahawks are a harder team to figure out, since their offense had been struggling a lot prior to this week. In three of their seven games this season, they’ve finished with below 20 points. Even with the 38 points given up this week, their defense is still one of the better units in the NFL. Their offense should be able to build upon Sunday’s performance, though it’s baffling that Russell Wilson has to continually put it all on his throwing arm with basically zero help from the running game.
Note: Points in this article are based on ESPN standard scoring.
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Surprise of the Week: Deshaun Watson, HOU QB.
Just because it’s obvious, doesn’t make it the wrong choice. Watson continued his torrid start to the season, even in the harsh confines of Seattle’s Century Link Field. He put up 30+ points for the third time in four weeks and in the greatest test yet of his young career, he solidified his position as a dependable QB1.
The big surprise was Watson’s dominant passing day. He went 19-of-30 for 402 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. The interceptions hurt his bottom line and ultimately cost the Texans the win, dropping them to 3-4. Still, Watson finished with 32 points in standard leagues, good for second place prior to Monday Night Football.
Watson also added eight rushing attempts for 68 yards, putting him at 202 rushing yards on the year. This places him second among quarterbacks in rushing yards, behind only Newton, and solidifies his position as one of the only real dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL this season. Though he really needs to cut down on the interceptions, Watson still remains a dependable every week starter. With a juicy matchup on deck against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9 and a possible shootout against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10, Watson owners can continue to start him with confidence.
Jack Doyle, IND TE — The Indianapolis Colts have been a massive disappointment in 2017, both from a win-loss perspective and from a fantasy perspective. Both of their wins this season came against 0-8 teams and all of their losses to winning teams have come by 15 or more points. Even though their Week 8 opponent — the Cincinnati Bengals — was not a good team, they still have a solid defense and were considered hefty favorites at home against the Colts.
The Colts kept the game surprisingly competitive though and Jack Doyle was a major reason why. Back in August, Doyle was supposed to be a sleeper who could potentially finish as a top 10 tight end in fantasy. His season has not been that impressive yet, but he took a big step towards turning things around in Week 8. Doyle finished with 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, good for 18 points and first place among tight ends this week.
Doyle flat out dominated the targets from Jacoby Brissett this week. He had 14, exactly double what T.Y. Hilton had. This marks his second consecutive week as the team leader in receptions and it’s the fifth time in six weeks that he’s caught at least five passes. Brissett is a limited starter and the Colts are a limited team who are often forced into pass-heavy situations due to large deficits on the scoreboard. But thanks to his consistency and volume of targets, Doyle looks to be the Colts’ top fantasy player and should be a definite add off the waiver wire if he is still unclaimed in your league.
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU WR — I’m going back to Seahawks-Texans to bring some more attention to the other Texan that is hugely responsible for the team’s offensive resurgence. DeAndre Hopkins is now playing like the first rounder fantasy owners had hoped for when he was hyped up before the 2016 season. That season was disappointing, but this one could be his best so far as a pro.
This week, Hopkins had his best game of the season with eight catches for 224 yards and one touchdown. He now has five touchdowns in seven games this season. His 11 targets led the team, though second year receiver Will Fuller V. is making an ascent of his own with eight targets against the Seahawks. Fuller also has an astounding seven touchdowns in just four games played this season.
Hopkins owners do not need to worry too much about Fuller overtaking him anytime soon. Fuller’s seven touchdowns have come on 13 receptions, so regression is bound to occur for him at some point. Fuller still has plenty of value as long as Watson doesn’t hit a slump and he’s still looking like he could be a player that is worth starting most weeks. But Hopkins is still clear and away Watson’s top target and should be a lock in starting lineups every week the rest of the season.
Cam Newton, CAR QB — He may be leading quarterbacks in rushing yards, but Cam Newton still has fantasy owners feeling nervous. This week’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was supposed to be a favorable one, thanks to the Bucs’ terrible defense that ranks dead last in sacks this season. Newton had put up a major dud last week when the Carolina Panthers were unable to score a touchdown against the Chicago Bears, so the hope was that he could put that horrible performance behind him.
Now, Newton’s stats were not awful like his seven points were in Week 7. But it was still a disappointment to see him only go 18-of-32 for 154 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Like the Seahawks, the Panthers are getting next to nothing from the run game and that is hurting their offense. Newton was the leading rusher for the team this week with 44 yards on 11 carries.
These past two weeks have been tough, but I think that fantasy owners can be rewarded for expressing patience with Newton. For one thing, he is still great at rushing the ball when need be. Also from Week’s 4-6, he put up 20+ points every week in ESPN standard leagues. It may not be pretty or anything near his MVP season in 2015, but Newton is still looking like a QB2 that still be trusted as a starter in 10 team or higher leagues.
Terrelle Pryor, WAS WR — Terrelle Pryor’s disappointing start to the 2017 season remains a cautionary tale to those who would assume that a big free agent signing is guaranteed to automatically pay dividends. There’s been a lot of different starting wide receivers that have disappointed in 2017, but it’s possible that Pryor might be the most disappointing of them all.
He hit rock bottom with a fantasy donut in Week 8. As the world prepares to celebrate Halloween on Tuesday, Pryor’s stat line reads like a terrifying ghost story to the few fantasy starters that were brave enough to start him against the Dallas Cowboys. Zero receptions on one target.
Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson were ahead of him on the depth chart and target list last week. Now it looks like Ryan Grant might even be ahead of him and the Washington Redskins’ coaching staff has lost patience with him. Pryor’s complete disappearance is even more noteworthy in a week where two Redskins’ tight ends were lost to injury and Kirk Cousins was desperately looking for anyone healthy to throw to and any healthy offensive linemen to protect him.
Pryor is not worth starting until he shows at least the tiniest sign of life. Really, unless you are in a deep league, it would make a lot of sense to cut him off the roster entirely. It’s sad because Pryor is such a physical specimen and his season as a Cleveland Brown last year had many NFL fans optimistic that he could become an elite wide receiver. Instead, he’s mired in a slump and with so much negativity surrounding his on the field performance, he’s got to find a way to turn things around if he’s going to make any impact whatsoever with the Redskins.
Fantasy points referenced above are for ESPN standard leagues