This is not the obituary for Jay Ajayi’s fantasy football season, although the outlook for some fantasy players in Week 8 of the 2017 NFL season are just as bleak.
While Ajayi’s issues with the Miami Dolphins may not be resolved by the end of the season, your fantasy lineup problems could be fixed before this weekend’s slate of games.
It’s time for another edition of “Boom or Bust” as we take a look at this week’s must-start and must-bench prospects.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The rookie tailback out of Oklahoma has had his ups and downs as a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. Plain and simple, Mixon is the second-most talented offensive weapon on the Bengals, behind All-Pro receiver A.J. Green.
The only thing that appears to be preventing Mixon from realizing his true potential has been head coach Marvin Lewis, who seems to be holding Mixon back on touches. In Week 7, Mixon had 10 touches for 68 yards, including seven carries for 48 yards.
Today was Joe Mixon's breakout game.— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) October 23, 2017
The Bengals coaching staff denied us/him of that.
He out-performed Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, who combined for 14 yards on eight carries, yet still isn’t getting the bell-cow duties he deserves. Having said that, Week 8 could be the opportunity Mixon has been waiting for as he goes up an Indianapolis Colts defense that has surrendered the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
The Colts allow the most points per game (31.7) and surrender 425.4 yards per game to opposing offenses, which is second-worst in the NFL.
Projected to score 9.42 points in standard Yahoo leagues against the Colts, Mixon could run rampant this weekend and assert himself as the main man in Cincinnati’s backfield.
Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
New strategy: Pick offensive players going up against the Colts defense.
We just talked about Mixon’s ability to produce against the Colts, so why not quarterback Andy Dalton? With the exception of cornerback Vontae Davis, the Colts secondary is Swiss cheese, particularly with rookie starting safety Malik Hooker out for the season after going down in Week 7.
To be fair, Dalton has not been at his best this season as the Bengals started off slow this season, very slow. But in recent weeks, there have been signs of life in Cincinnati, apart from a rough finish to last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And similarly to Mixon, Dalton has an opportunity to silence his critics at least for one week on Sunday against the Colts.
The Colts defense has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Dalton could have a field day with A.J. Green on deep routes with Hooker out injured.
If you’re desperate for a quarterback because of injuries and bye weeks, look for Dalton to make an impact in Week 8, as he’s currently projected to score 17.89 points.
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
Robby Anderson is more of a sleeper pick in Week 8, but it’s nice to talk about a not-so obvious player’s impact in fantasy, rather than recycle players such as Antonio Brown or Julio Jones.
Anderson is an intriguing combination of speed and pass-catching ability that has been on display in flashes this season for the New York Jets. Through seven games, Anderson has hauled in 331 yards on 21 receptions.
While those numbers don’t scream fantasy gold, the potential is there in Week 8 for Anderson to breakout. In his past two games, Anderson has seen 17 passes come his way, accumulating 111 yards and a touchdown seven receptions. He’s currently projected to score 6.32 points in Week 8.
He gets more looks downfield than Jermaine Kearse does and in a game against the Atlanta Falcons that has the potential to be a high-scoring game (if the Falcons offense shows up that is), Anderson could be a smart play this week.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
The story of Alex Smith’s NFL journey continues to get better and better.
Alex Smith: 15 pass TD this season (currently playing in his 7th game)— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 20, 2017
He had 15 pass TD last season in 15 games
From first round bust to game manager, to starting quarterback, to franchise player and now MVP candidate, it’s hard not to root for Smith. Unfortunately for him, he won’t have much success against the Denver Broncos and their stingy defense.
The Broncos surrender the 13th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and allow just 6.4 yards on passing plays. While Smith has had some great games this season, racking up 1,979 passing yards, 15 touchdowns to zero interceptions, he won’t carry that momentum into Monday night’s game.
Smith won’t be a No. 1 option in Week 8 and it’s unlikely that he hits his projected mark of 17.46 points against the Broncos.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Rookie of the Year candidate Deshaun Watson has played remarkably since taking over duties under center for the Houston Texans earlier this season, but he’s running into a buzzsaw in Week 8 in the form of the Legion of Boom.
While the Seattle Seahawks defense might not have the intimidation factor it once had a couple of years ago, they’re still one of the premier defensive units in the NFL.
Seattle’s defense allows the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season and is currently the league's top-ranked scoring defense in addition to being the eighth-ranked pass defense in all of football.
Projected to score 17.22 points in Week 8, its’ almost a foregone conclusion that Watson will have difficulty finding passing lanes in Seattle’s secondaries without taking some chances downfield. A rookie passing the ball into Seattle’s secondary? It’s almost a guarantee that he’ll turnover the ball at some point in the game.
I’d let the rookie ride the bench this week, even though I do believe he is a must-play quarterback in most weeks.
Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings
The running back situation in Minnesota is as tricky as it gets.
When rookie tailback Dalvin Cook went down for the season with a torn ACL, a time share between Jerick McKinnon and Latavius murray began.
Things started off well for McKinnon fantasy owners as he produced highlight play after highlight play, but then the big plays began to dry up. This allowed Latavius Murray the chance to steal some carries.
Murray is coming off his best performance of the season in Week 7 where he recorded 113 rushing yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. McKinnon, on the other hand, had 14 carries for 47 yards.
Murray is projected to 6.84 points in Week 8 against a surprisingly stout Cleveland Browns defense that allows only three yards per carry. In fact, no running back has topped 66 yards against them.
The former Oakland Raider is locked in a timeshare with McKinnon and going up against a tough run defense. All signs are pointing towards Murray sitting on the bench this weekend.
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