Well, we all got a little shook up by NFL Week 7, didn't we? A formerly unstoppable team (the Broncos) got stopped. A formerly winless team (the Giants) got its first W. The Patriots were undone by a weird quirk in the rule book (kinda how they benefitted from a weird quirk in the rule book in the 2001 playoffs). An NFC East team actually got above .500 again. The Bears can now play offense but have forgotten how to play defense. As Bill Murray would say, "Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!" At least the winless Jaguars (clowning it for Clowney?) are the one beacon of consistency in this chaotic age.
So as we look ahead to Week 8, we're in the heart of bye weeks, so you'll have to be extra crafty in your decision-making, and perhaps make some hard decisions (do you give up that decent-scoring DL to fill your WR slot with a body who may or may not be productive this week?). Following on some of our observations from last week, here's some recommendations:
1. RBs are still gold: Sure you might stumble upon a fluke like Dallas RB Joseph Randle, who put up a very credible 93 yards last week versus Philly, but we haven't seen many young, unheralded RBs step in and contribute this year (unless you count an old, too washed-up to be heralded RB like the Giants' Peyton Hillis, who literally bumbled his way to 80 yards and a TD Monday night). This means that if you have a RB who provides unspectacular production, go with the bird in the hand rather than the two in the bush.
2. On the other hand… receivers galore! How about Washington's Jordan Reed? Atlanta's Harry Douglas? Green Bay's Jarrett Boykin? None of them were on anyone's radar two weeks ago, and all of a sudden they're all proud owners of 100+ yard receiving games last week. We won't go so far to say that it's a plug-and-play league, but it's clear that you can find good bargain fill-in WRs for one or two weeks at a time.
3. QBs under siege: Struggling with your QB and looking for a buy-low candidate to help through the next few weeks? How about St. Louis Kellen Clemens, subbing for the IR-ed Sam Bradford? Going against the Seahawks in your first start is not a sure-fire set-up for success. A better bet is new starting Bear QB Josh McCown, who can make enough plays with his arm and feet to get you some points. Keep a close eye on Arizona, where the beleaguered Carson Palmer may be running out of chances, and Drew Stanton waits in the wings.
4. Don't forget the returning wounded. Players like Seattle WR Percy Harvin, Giants RB Andre Brown and San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree will soon return from the temporary IR list -- they're worth risking a flyer on if you're high up on waiver priority. Just look what happened with New England TE Rob Gronkowski, who went back to his high-volume receiving ways immediately upon his return last week.
Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease: Week 8
As we've documented earlier this season, we can usually expect an uptick in a star player's performance if his number of touches gets a strange drop the week before -- and he complains loudly and publicly about it. But does the resurgence last long? Results are mixed. San Francisco RB Frank Gore is back among the league's leaders with 20+ touches per game after seething about lack of touches during an early-season loss to Indy, while Baltimore RB Ray Rice had a 33-touch outburst after his temper tantrum, but has failed to crack 20 touches (or gain much yardage) since.
And this week our wistful eyes turn to none other than Viking RB Adrian Peterson, the #1 pick of many fantasy players' drafts. Peterson is dealing with the tragic death of his son and a dysfunctional Minnesota offense, so maybe it's no surprise that he's had a paltry 28 touches for a very mortal 139 yards the past two weeks. But is there really any excuse for why new starting QB Josh Freeman was allowed to put up the ball 50+ times against the Giants last week (very ineffectually, we might add) while Peterson got a measly 13 carries? Against a Packer defense that has a history of getting gashed by the run, there's nowhere to go but up, but we sadly suspect Peterson's output will more likely mirror Rice's from here on out.
RB Doug Martin? Shelved for a while, at least. TE Jermichael Finley? Scary injury, it's great he's OK, but he'll be out of commission for the year. WR Reggie Wayne? Love you guy, but your season (and possibly your Colts career) is over. Week 7 certainly saw its share of crippling injuries. The question is, should you buy low or high on these replacements?
Tampa Bay RB Mike James: A bowling ball of a runner at 5'10" and 220 pounds, James certainly looks the part, but his numbers last week (14 carries, 45 yards) are very similar to what Martin was averaging prior to his injury. In other words, Tampa Bay's offensive line woes aren't likely to improve anytime soon, and with defenses sneering "prove it" to rookie QB Mike Glennon, you can't expect much production out of James. Verdict: Strictly a bye-week flex guy.
Green Bay TEs Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick: With the Packers' receiving core an injury-riddled shambles and Finley gone for the year, you couldn't ask for a better situation if you're a young Green Bay TE. The question is, can Quarless and Bostick take advantage? Quarless is the presumptive starter but he's more of a blocker than a receiver, while Bostick could be more of a stretch-the-seam type like Finley but is as green as Lambeau grass in September. Keep in mind too that the Packers have shifted their attack to a more ground-oriented approach with RB Eddie Lacey, which means Quarless will be on the field mostly to block. Verdict: If you're dying for a TE, hold your breath and jump in; otherwise, avoid.
Indianapolis WR Darrius Heyward-Bey: With Wayne out and deep threat T.Y. Hilton on the other side to draw coverage, it's time for Heyward-Bey to finally live up to his high draft status. He certainly has the tools to do it, although we should note that his best game as a Colt so far was a 59-yard effort in Week 3. Still, given the frequency at which QB Andrew Luck puts it up, if Heyward-Bey can tame his sometimes unreliable hands, he'll provide good value moving forward. Verdict: A good addition to your WR corps.
Week 8 Waiver Pick-ups:
New York Jet RB Chris Ivory: The Jet backfield has been a revolving door this season, and the latest one through is Ivory, who compiled 104 yards on 34 carries last week. Given his injury history and the possibility that Bilal Powell may step up again, Ivory is not a long-term solution, but who cares about next week? He's a good play for this Sunday.
New England RB Shane Vereen: Speaking of people coming off short-term IR, Vereen is still a few weeks away from reentering the lineup, but when he does he immediately becomes New England's best pass-catching back. And let's not forget that the Patriot offense (and Bill Belichick) had big plans for Vereen before he got hurt.
Indianapolis WR Lavon Brazill: So what to do if the Heyward-Bey experiment doesn't work out in Indy? The fall-back position might be Brazill, who has deep speed to spare and is coming off a four-game suspension. Obviously this is a gamble, though, given that he's caught exactly zero passes this season.
Atlanta WR Drew Davis: Here's another calculated gamble. Harry Douglas stepped in ably for IR-ed Julio Jones last week, and this week it looks like Davis will again get the nod over hobbled Roddy White. With an easier matchup against Arizona this time around (compared to Revis Island last week), Davis should have more opportunities to excel.
TE Coby Fleener: He's had his ups and downs, but Andrew Luck's erstwhile Stanford teammate Fleener may be the guy to step in as the reliable possession guy now that Wayne is out.
Defense: Carolina Panthers. Don't look now but the Panthers are clawing their way back to respectability, thanks to a D that has surrendered only seven TDs in six games. They get another break this week against the undermanned Bucs.