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What Did We Learn – Week 8

Last week, I provided updated rankings across the major positions, with mixed results. The most common question was around someone omitted from the running back ranking, Darren McFadden. While I understand that McFadden has great talent, he is playing on a weak offense in a running scheme that has struggled to get him going. Naturally, he went off in Week 8.

Adrian Peterson looks superhuman.

On Thursday night, Peterson put in yet another big-time performance. Running hard throughout the game, Peterson racked up 123 yards on just 15 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown run where he showed off power, quickness and breakaway speed. Peterson looks to be 100 percent recovered from a knee injury late last season. He now has back-to-back 100-yard games, but he’ll get a big test next week in Seattle against a Top 5 defense against opposing fantasy backs.

Doug Martin has arrived.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back up into the first round in April to select Martin, and while he’s been impressive thus far, he hadn’t had that breakout performance. Not anymore. Against an accomplished Minnesota run defense, Martin carried the ball 29 times for 135 yards and a score, and caught three passes for 79 yards and a second score. This kind of production is RB1 territory, but we need to see it from him more consistently. Needless to say, he’ll be a guy to watch the rest of the season. If you can manage to pry him away from his current owner, he’s definitely worth targeting with a series of juicy matchups in the near future.

Jonathan Stewart is now the guy in Carolina.

The Panthers have finally abandoned their running back by committee, and it looks like DeAngelo Williams is on the short end. That means Stewart is getting first crack at taking the job, and the thought is that he’ll “run” with it. In Week 8, Stewart and the Panthers took on a Chicago defense that has been frustrating opposing backs all season. The Bears had allowed more than 60 rushing yards to running backs just twice this season. Stewart wound up with 17 rushes for 42 yards and another 38 yards on four catches. Lackluster, I know, but considering the matchup, I like his odds going forward.

Matthew Stafford finally delivers.
Last season, Stafford put up gaudy numbers. This season, he has struggled, throwing just five touchdowns to six interceptions, so a tough matchup with a competent Seattle defense seemed like piling onto an already tough situation. In fact, Stafford had been benched in a number of leagues. However, he would end up with 352 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing). With Jacksonville’s defense up next, Stafford may be getting on track at just the right time for fantasy owners.

What do we make of Cecil Shorts?

Shorts has really blown up over the past two weeks. In Week 7, he caught four balls for 79 yards and a score, and he followed it up with an eight-catch, 116-yard performance. He’s emerging as the receiver to have in Jacksonville. You know, if you have to own a Jacksonville receiver. As a bye week or injury fill-in, Shorts is a decent option, but I’d keep him stashed on my bench a little longer.

Tom Brady put on a show in London.

The New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams played in London on Sunday, and Brady must have liked the fish and chips, because he put a beating on the Rams’ secondary. Brady had his way with the St. Louis defense to the tune of 304 yards and four touchdown passes. Brady has been very good all season, but as with Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, it’s nice to get one of those massive fantasy days every once in a while.

Michael Vick owners should start making other plans.
As a Philadelphia Eagles’ fan, I’m torn. Vick is a nightmare on the field. As a fantasy owner, I’m nervous, as he’s still productive. Coach Andy Reid’s job is at stake, so he’ll need to decide whether Vick gives him a better chance to win than rookie signal caller Nick Foles. Regardless, fantasy owners need to make other plans. If you don’t have a viable candidate on your roster already, you may end up having to play matchups.

Jonathan Dwyer is making a serious case for a long-term role.
Last week, Dwyer put up 122 yards on 17 carries in Cincinnati. This week, another 17 carries for 107 yards. And now, rumors are flying about Dwyer’s role once Rashard Mendenhall is healthy, some even suggesting that Dwyer may take over the top job, making him the Lou Gehrig to Mendenhall’s Wally Pipp. Whether Dwyer is the feature back or not, he’s certainly earned more playing time, and owners that were fortunate to grab him may end up with a huge sleeper.

Darren McFadden finally showed up.
The aforementioned McFadden must have heard I left him off my updated Top 20 rankings last week. Cue the 100-plus yard performance. Word of caution: it was against the Kansas City Chiefs. I received several emails about him, some asking me if I’d fallen and hurt myself, and others asking how concerned they should be about him. He’s still immensely talented, but I left him off because I don’t believe in the Oakland offense or that running scheme. Next week he gets a Tampa Bay defense that gave up big yardage to Adrian Peterson, so he might just be getting started.

Peyton Manning keeps it rolling on Sunday night.
Manning put up 305 yards and three touchdowns. This was the fifth straight game he’s topped the 300-yard mark, and the fourth straight game with three touchdowns. That is the kind of consistency the old Manning was known for, and it looks like he still has it. He’s made a star out of Demaryius Thomas and turned Eric Decker into a household name, while making Willis McGahee a better runner by opening more running lanes. The preseason questions having been answered, Manning looks like he’s reclaiming his place among the league’s best.

Good luck in Week 9, and to those in the path of the storms, stay safe.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at “What Did We Learn” will be posted each Tuesday morning during the season, and “Rock and a Hard Place” will be posted each Friday morning.

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