Redskins and Bengals – Chris Thompson
We may be setting our sights a little too high here, but we personally just burned our latest waiver claim on the emerging Redskins’ running back. Posting over 110 total yards, partly due to his 7 catches, Thompson just missed out on breaking the 20-touch marker. Twenty touches is nothing to sneeze at as even modest yards per carry or receptions still add up to highly productive days. Now mix in the idea that starting running back Matt Jones could see his role diminish as he keeps putting the ball on the turf. Save for the one monster game against the Lions, Jones has been a major disappointment in both aspects of the offense and it seems as though the coaches have finally had their fill.
Thompson is set to get a much larger look on offense this week and he can’t afford a letdown. The backup runner has the chance to become the featured back in this offense. With Jordan Reed still highly questionable to play, Kirk Cousins is going to need a check-down option over the middle and underneath. If Thompson builds on last week’s success he could become a staple in the Washington offense. Rob Kelley is waiting in the wing if Thompson fails to meet expectations.
Cardinals and Panthers – Jonathan Stewart
Tom Petty said that waiting is the hardest part. Maybe he was talking about growing up. But to us at RnF, we’re assuming he was speaking of having Jonathan Stewart in our lineups. We finally got him back from injury for one week and then we run straight into the bye week wall. The silver lining is that he got an additional week to rest up and should be back to 100%. Now that the wait is over, it’s time to fulfill his potential as a low-end RB1. But, wait? What’s this? The Cardinals defense in Week 8? Damn it all! What Stewart does here against a high-end run defense will set the bar for the remainder of the year. If he can’t get it going when he’s coming off the bye against a tough defense, how will he fair against Seattle, Los Angeles, or Kansas City in the approaching weeks? Stewart has to stay highly featured, productive, and most of all healthy to hold onto his current value. Any sort of regression in any of those three aspects will turn Stewart into more of a RB2 based on his opposition instead of a full-fledged, matchup-proof RB1.
Seahawks and Saints – Russell Wilson
What in the world is going on with Wilson? We completely understand the fact that his lower leg injuries are preventing him from scurrying around like he used to. But can we really apply that same reasoning to explain why he’s gone two games in a row without a touchdown pass? This is the same quarterback that people were selecting before Drew Brees was off the board and he’s gone scoreless in back-to-back games? Wilson’s stock is trending in the wrong direction here as he looks to get his head on straight versus the Saints. We said last week, even Alex Smith should be trusted against New Orleans because it’s as consistent as gravity. Smith responded with over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns before the offense went into cruise control. If Brees can keep doing his thing and put up 20+ points on Seattle and force Wilson to air it out, the Seahawks’ signal caller should be in for his best fantasy day of the season. If, for whatever reason, Wilson doesn’t absolutely blow up here, he could drop out of the top ten quarterbacks. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham owners are also holding out hope that Wilson can tear up the weakened Saints’ secondary. The value of the entire Seattle offense lies in the balance, starting with the man under center.
Chiefs and Colts – Spencer Ware
We’ve said for years and years here that if someone proves that they can replace you, you’re simply waiting it out until you’re replaced. Kansas City encapsulates this notion far better than any other team in the league. For over a decade, the Chiefs have replaced one elite fantasy running back with another. From Priest Holmes, to Larry Johnson, to Jamaal Charles, to now potentially Spencer Ware. Jamaal Charles has his days numbered at this point as he continues to struggle to return from his ACL injury. Last week, hopeful owners saw he was active and were more than eager to get him into lineups. He responded with 1-carry for no yards and ends up seeking further treatment for swelling in both of his knees. Ware, on the other hand, ran for 77 yards and took a simply screen pass from Alex Smith all the way to pay dirt for the touchdown, finishing with 54 receiving yards on the day. It’s clear now that Ware is the future of the Chiefs’ backfield and that Charles’ role with the team is in serious jeopardy. Is Andy Reid going to suddenly take reps away from Ware because of some nostalgic debt he feels he owns Charles? Ware needs to keep the pedal to the floor as he can’t afford to let Jamaal Charles open the door for a committee approach or, even worse, a competition. He’ll see plenty of room to run against the Colts as he should distance himself even further from the former Chiefs’ starting back.
Packers and Falcons – Devonta Freeman
While we’re still awaiting the severity and duration of missed time for Tevin Coleman, it’s at the very least looking like he’s going to miss Week 8. That means all systems go for Freeman owners as he should have a vintage 2015 style of game. He should be in for over 20 carries as he’ll face-off against a Packers team that was completely rolled by the Cowboys rushing attack two weeks back. This is perhaps the best opportunity that Freeman has had this season to force coaches to remember how amazing he can be as an unquestioned bellcow back. 20-25 carries for 125 yards would force any coach or offensive coordinator to rethink how often they should call his name. Freeman needs to respond to this extra workload or he’ll have the coaching staff counting down the days until Coleman is back in the fold.