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What Did We Learn – Week 8 Edition

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I don’t know what to think about Chris Johnson.
I give up. I’ve made excuses for him. Blamed it on the holdout, his late start, getting his legs under him. But rushing 14 times for 34 yards against the Indianapolis Colts? I honestly don’t know what to do. Last week I was trying to trade for him, and his owners were saying “No way! He’s got the Colts this week.” Those same guys are now offering him in exchange for a comfortable chair at next year’s draft. It is truly baffling.

A healthy Steven Jackson is scary good.
The New Orleans Saints’ run defense isn’t that great, but Jackson is a man. Playing host to the Saints without Sam Bradford, the Rams turned to Jackson and asked him to carry them. He responded with a 25-carry, 159-yard effort. He scored twice. He added 32 yards through the air. And he displayed the leadership that would make you want him on your real football team. Now that he’s healthy, he is a dangerous fantasy back.

Eli Manning is, in fact, an elite (fantasy) quarterback.
In the preseason, Manning claimed that he was on the same level as Tom Brady. Silly, right? Well, after seven games, it doesn’t seem so silly anymore. After falling behind the Miami Dolphins early, the Giants’ signal caller completed 31-of-45 passes for 349 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He now has more than 2,100 yards, 13 scores, and just five interceptions. He’s got a rating better than 100, with the only quarterbacks in front of him being Aaron Rodgers, who is the best football player in the universe right now, and … um … Brady. Speaking of Brady, he (along with that horrendous New England pass defense) faces Manning and the Giants in Week 9.

Cam Newton is the No. 2 fantasy quarterback.
Name a quarterback you’d rather start. The list should look like this: Aaron Rodgers. That’s it. Newton’s skill set is terrifying. He has a cannon for an arm, and has the speed, elusiveness and power to burn defenses that drop too far back in coverage. He put up a modest (for him) 290 yards and three scores, and added six rushes for 53 yards. And he’s still apparently the Panthers’ goal line back.

Beanie Wells is a Top 15 running back (assuming he’s playing).
There were health questions going into this week, but there always are with Wells. But Wells has slowly, and sneakily, become a reliable fantasy back. On 22 carries, Wells ran for 83 yards and a touchdown. Only Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy have scored more than his seven touchdowns, and with 506 yards in six games, he’s quietly turned in a very productive season. If he can just stay healthy, he can be valuable down the stretch.

The Washington Redskins offense has very little to be excited about.
If I weren’t a Philadelphia Eagles fan, it would be depressing. But the Redskins have nothing to lean on. Their running game has been in trouble lately, and the loss of Tim Hightower for the remainder of the season certainly won’t help. Their quarterback situation is a lose-lose situation, with Rex Grossman throwing questionable passes into coverage and John Beck taking sacks constantly. Chris Cooley is now out for the season, and Santana Moss will miss a few games. Ryan Torain and Roy Helu are the only possible bright spots, but good luck picking the running back that will perform on a weekly basis. And to further cloud the picture, the Redskins signed former Dallas Cowboys’ running back Tashard Choice. Ugh.

Tim Tebow is really, really bad.
A few weeks ago, I threw Tebow out there as a potential fantasy stud. I am now backing off that. He is really not that good. He can’t complete 50 percent of his passes, let alone the usual 60 percent benchmark. He scrapes together enough yards on the ground to make him good enough to be a backup or spot starter against weaker defenses, but he is a mess. If you do decide to roll the dice with him, I would advise not watching the game. Or highlights. Or reading anything about it.

Frank Gore has returned to his Pro Bowl form.
For a few years there, Gore was a beast of a running back. But mired in backfield purgatory behind Alex Smith, he got dinged up and struggled. With coach Jim Harbaugh’s arrival and a resurgent Smith under center, Gore has regained his old form. The 49ers gave him 31 carries, and he put up 134 yards and a score. He’s still got some attractive matchups coming up, and he should continue to be the focal point for an effective offense.

LeSean McCoy is the top fantasy running back.
McCoy is the only running back to score in every game he’s played this season. With the exception of a tough nine-rush, 18-yard day against San Francisco back on Oct. 2, he’s put up at least 80 yards on the ground in every game. The Philadelphia Eagles have discovered the value of an effective running game, and McCoy has rewarded both his team and his fantasy owners. He should be a top selection in next year’s draft.

Jonathan Baldwin is worth a look.
The super-talented rookie wideout can play. He was a fantastic receiver at the University of Pittsburgh, and fell in the draft due to some character concerns. Rookie receivers are typically not worth investing in, but at this point in the season, with injuries and bye weeks mounting, he’s becoming a little more interesting. Baldwin made a great catch on a long touchdown catch in the first half, and would finish with five catches for 82 yards and the touchdown. If you can afford the roster spot, Baldwin is a big, strong receiver that could provide value in deeper leagues at some point down the stretch.

Week 9 byes: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota.

Good luck.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at

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