The depth chart upheaval in Week 8 this year is perhaps unparalleled by any other week of the season thus far, thanks to a number of fantasy-team-crippling injuries suffered by top players. Even while the likes of Dez Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger returned to action, owners of Le'Veon Bell, Matt Forte, Steve Smith and other key players will be groping desperately for answers on their waiver wires this week. Now let us take a moment of silence to remember that these are real people feeling real pain Ė particularly the emotional pain of not contributing to our fantasy rosters. Alright, I feel good about that. Letís get into it.
Arizona WR: Michael Floyd is making a strong push for the title of fantasyís most frustrating receiver, as the draft-day bust struggled through the whole first half, got cut loose in a lot of leagues, and then, with John Brown (hamstring) unavailable despite being active Sunday, he made it worse by breaking out with four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Carson Palmer didnít much look at anyone not named Floyd or Larry Fitzgerald, but Brownís expected back after Arizonaís Week 9 bye.
Atlanta WR: With no Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) again, Matt Ryan just locked in on Julio Jones (13 targets) and tight end Jacob Tamme (a dozen) in Week 8. Roddy White had only three targets and Justin Hardy had four; both had two-catch, 20-some-yard days.
Baltimore WR: Well, Iíve been talking Steve Smith down because of his back fractures, but it turned out to be a torn Achilles suffered Sunday that ended the 36-year-oldís season and perhaps ultimately his career. Smith owners were rewarded with stunning competence in the aftermath of the back injury, but he hurt his knee during practice last week and then saw things come crashing down with the major injury in game action. Weíre still waiting for Breshad Perriman (knee) to return, so Kamar Aiken is set to head up this corps, with Marlon Brown and Chris Givens also in the mix. There arenít a lot of quarterbacks around the league who envy Joe Flacco right now.
Buffalo QB: Tyrod Taylor should return to starting duties in Week 9 after recovering from his knee injury. EJ Manuel certainly didnít do anything to take the job from him.
Buffalo WR: Sammy Watkins (ankle) should be back in Week 9 too, but Percy Harvinís career may be finished due to nagging hip issues.
Chicago RB: Matt Forte owners took a painful blow Sunday, as the 29-year-old rusher suffered a knee injury that currently seems to be an MCL sprain. The good news is itís not an ACL tear, but the bad news is that even an MCL will keep him out multiple weeks. Jeremy Langford was competent, but not terribly intriguing after Forte went down, and heíll probably end up splitting work off to both Ka'Deem Carey and ex-Falcon Antone Smith moving forward.
Chicago WR: Eddie Royal hurt his knee Sunday too, but Iíd hope you werenít playing him anyway. That means more Marquess Wilson action to come opposite Alshon Jeffery.
Cincinnati RB: After seeing pretty regular touches all year long, Giovani Bernard bizarrely was handed the ball just once to go with a couple catches in Week 8. Jeremy Hill, meanwhile, carried 15 times, but didnít reward those who deployed him much, totaling just 60 rushing yards and an eight-yard reception. This was a bizarre turn, but no level of inconsistent usage should surprise us with these Bengals.
Cleveland QB: Josh McCown managed to play in Week 8, but his shoulder or otherwise upper-body sort of injury ended up getting him pulled late Ė not before he rewarded trusting fantasy owners with three touchdowns, though. Itís unclear whether itíll be McCown or Johnny Manziel under center next week on the road in Pittsburgh.
Cleveland RB: Itís past time for the Browns to give a legitimate shot at some carries to Duke Johnson; Isaiah Crowell muddled his way through yet another game Sunday, rushing 10 times for 14 yards, and I use the term ďrushingĒ loosely.
Dallas QB: Matt Cassel was under center again in Week 8 against Seattle, and it really didnít go well. He passed for all of 97 yards, but hey, he rushed four times for another 43! Tony Romoís probably back in Week 11; Cowboys fans surely canít wait, but itís probably too late already.
Dallas RB: Darren McFadden was the only Cowboy to deliver a credible fantasy effort Sunday even though he didnít run terribly efficiently (3.2 YPC), as he led the team in both rushing and receiving en route to a total of 113 yards. As usual, Christine Michael was used sparingly (five carries to DMCís 20). Joseph Randle didnít play due to a personal issue, but heís also got an oblique injury and may be facing a suspension, so everything about his situation is a disaster right now.
Dallas WR: Dez Bryant did indeed return in Week 8, but quietly Ė he caught only two of his six targets for 12 yards and looked, well, slow. That shouldnít be a surprise, considering heís coming back from a foot injury. Heís still the only wideout to own here.
Denver RB: Ronnie Hillman pounded a pair of touchdowns home Sunday, but the real story was the wakeup of C.J. Anderson, who turned his 14 carries into 101 yards and a touchdown, finally giving us the effort weíve been looking for all year long. Now turn around and sell him while you can.
Detroit RB: Ameer Abdullahís officially been marginalized, as he only touched the ball one time (one carry, two unsuccessful pass targets) in Week 8. Joique Bell actually looked rather rejuvenated, with a 32-yard scamper highlighting a seven-carry, 56-yard day, but the touches in this running game as a whole remain too low for us to get particularly excited about that.
Detroit WR: Calvin Johnson suffered a late ankle injury Sunday, but thereís optimism that itís not a major issue. If he does miss time, though, Golden Tate would be the obvious beneficiary. Weíre not breaking any new ground here.
Green Bay RB: Eddie Lacy scored a touchdown Sunday, but he wasnít all that good otherwise Ė just 47 total yards. Of course, that did come against the extremely impressive Denver defense, and James Starks had only 18 total yards of his own. The major takeaway here, though, is that Lacy took a clear majority of the carries. Itís still a good time to buy low on him.
Green Bay WR: Davante Adams made it back to the field in Week 8, but quietly Ė he was targeted just twice, catching one pass for nine yards. No dice on the Jeff Janis breakout I was hoping for; he went unused on a terrible day for the Green Bay offense.
Houston RB: The replacements for Arian Foster were predictably bad despite the Texans rolling over Tennessee with little difficulty. Alfred Blue averaged just 2.8 YPC on his 14 carries, and Chris Polk was even worse (2.3) on his eight. Blue did chip in five catches for 33 yards, for what thatís worth.
Houston WR: Nate Washington found paydirt again Sunday, and itís looking like heís emerging as a legit second option here behind DeAndre Hopkins. Just donít forget that heís generally boring veteran Nate Washington and Brian Hoyer is his quarterback.
Kansas City WR: Jeremy Maclin did indeed return in Week 8, scoring a touchdown to make up for an otherwise quiet day. Albert Wilson still saw four targets (good for 12 yards!), but Chris Conley dropped to only one.
New England RB: Dion Lewis (abdomen) got back in there for the Thursday game against Miami and did his thing, rolling up six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown to accompany five rushes for 19 additional yards. LeGarrette Blount didnít find the end zone and thus had a quiet fantasy day despite running fairly efficiently with 17 carries for 72 yards.
New Orleans WR: So, how about that Saints air game? Drew Breesí record-tying seven touchdowns gave him plenty of fantasy value to spread around, but even with that in mind, itís a shock to see Marques Colston go off for eight catches, 114 yards and a score. Donít pick him up looking for a repeat performance, but itís a reminder that heís not totally useless. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead snagged two scores each and remain more interesting than Colston despite being narrowly out-targeted by him Sunday.
New York Giants RB: The Giants went back to Rashad Jennings for majority touches in their backfield committee Sunday, and he was pretty solid en route to 85 total yards on a dozen touches, but didnít score a touchdown in that offensive fiesta. Shane Vereen did, though Ė through the air, naturally. Orleans Darkwa suffered a minor back injury in this one, which shouldnít really change his workload much despite last weekís surprisingly extensive use.
New York Giants WR: Unlike in last weekís issue of this column, Odell Beckhamís hamstring is now clearly ďa hundred,Ē as positive practice reports during the week materialized in a ridiculous 130-yard, three-touchdown day against New Orleans. Rueben Randleís hamstring is clearly still bugging him, as he was impact-free in Sundayís points party, managing a pretty quiet five catches for 55 yards despite nine targets.
New York Jets QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered torn ligaments in his left (non-throwing) thumb Sunday, and Geno Smith picked up shoulder and abdomen injuries while playing in his place. Fitzmagic is likely to miss a period of time here, as even though itís not his throwing hand, he still needs both to take snaps. Rookie Bryce Pettyís the third chair at the moment, but the Jets are actively making inquiries into available passers.
New York Jets RB: Chris Ivory is clearly limited by his hamstring injury, as he managed only 17 yards on 15 carries (yikes) in Sundayís loss to Oakland. Normal backup Bilal Powell was inactive for that game, but even though Stevan Ridley was activated from the PUP list, he saw no action. Zac Stacy isnít exactly setting hearts racing either. Itís (a healthy) Ivory or bust here.
New York Jets WR: Brandon Marshall injured fully half his limbs in Week 8, suffering an ankle injury on one side and a toe injury on the other. Heíll receive some testing this week, but isnít a lock to play in Week 9. Any absence would create more work for Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley (ugh), with Devin Smithís recovery timeline from an ankle injury of his own currently unclear.
Pittsburgh QB: Indeed, Ben Roethlisberger returned from his knee injury Sunday, and as you might expect, there was some rust, as he threw three picks. Better times will come.
Pittsburgh RB: As Big Ben came back, Le'Veon Bell departed. Bell suffered whatís currently looking like a torn MCL that will most likely end his season and send us all scampering to our waiver wires to bid on DeAngelo Williams. You have my official authorization to blow the vast majority of your remaining FAAB dollars on DeAngelo. Go for the gold.
San Diego WR: Keenan Allen sat out the second half of Sundayís game with back spasms, putting a lid on what was shaping up to be another good game, which left Malcom Floyd to do some impressive work in his absence (four catches, 92 yards, two scores). If Allen misses any time, Floydís the main beneficiary, with Steve Johnson and Dontrelle Inman also figuring to see extra work.
San Diego TE: While Antonio Gates got back out there for Week 8, he wasnít able to replicate his early success, notching four catches for 56 yards. Meanwhile, Ladarius Green left the game with a first-quarter ankle injury.
San Francisco RB: The gradual, injury-related decline of Carlos Hyde (foot) continued with his first game out of the lineup in Week 8, and the replacements did not do very well. Reggie Bush suffered whatís suspected to be a torn ACL early in the game, so heís done for the year, and Hyde may not play again himself. That left Mike Davis and his 10 carries for four yards. It also left Kendall Gaskins (who?) and his five carries for six yards. Curiously, the Niners waived Jarryd Hayne the day before the game; I will shed a single tear for him and hope the Jets pick him up. Still love that guy.
San Francisco WR: Thanks to Anquan Boldinís hamstring injury, the Niners went looking elsewhere for answers at receiver, and they didnít find them in the person of Jerome Simpson despite targeting him 10 times. Simpson caught just three of those balls for a (team-leading and also worthless) 34 yards. Meanwhile, Torrey Smith (two catches, 19 yards) is like 90 percent Hyde (Edward from the story, not Carlos) and 10 percent Jekyll.
Tampa Bay WR: Vincent Jackson (knee) didnít go Sunday, but Mike Evans didnít exactly excel in his absence despite leading the team in targets with nine. Evans caught just three of those balls for 48 yards. In the meantime, Adam Humphries received six targets, but had just a 14-yard day to show for Ďem.
Tennessee QB: Did you think the Titans offense couldnít get worse after they scored just seven points in Week 7? Well, they could. as Zach Mettenberger led them to six points Sunday. Marcus Mariota seems to have made a lot of progress with his knee issue, though, so it sounds like heíll be back for Week 9. Of course, I said that about Week 8 in my last column, but that may have just been excessive optimism. This is realistic optimism.
Tennessee RB: David Cobb (calf) sounds like heíll be ready to come off IR in time for next week, and thatíll further complicate this backfield. On the one hand, there are a lot of mouths to feed here. On the other hand, only Antonio Andrews (who dominated the carries in Week 8, rushing 16 times for 64 yards) has really earned his touches. The talented Cobb could end up giving the Titans stability in the backfield by leapfrogging everyone on the depth chart, but thatís far from a lock right now.
Tennessee WR: Kendall Wright hurt his MCL on Sunday, and he should be out a matter of weeks as a result. Harry Douglas (ribs) isnít expected back in Week 9, so Mariota could be working with a receiver corps of Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham and some fun names youíve never heard of, like Rico Richardson. Yeah, thatís a real person. The pride of Jackson State University!