We're in the toughest stretch of the season right now. Six teams were on bye in Week 8 and six more take Week 9 off. This coming week has even bigger names on the Fantasy sidelines, which could lead to plenty of panic moves in your Fantasy leagues.
The playoffs are five or six weeks away in most leagues, which is close enough that those teams with a chance need to start consolidating their position. That this coincides with the back-to-back bye weeks from hell seems especially cruel, so good luck navigating that.
Here are the hottest storylines from Week 8's action.
Carson Palmer isn't back
The final numbers are more than solid. Palmer finished Week 8 as the No. 8 quarterback, passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns and 28 Fantasy points. He even earned the top grade on the Cardinals' offense from ProFootballFocus.com. However, this still didn't really look like the Palmer who was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL last season. That's not to say he wasn't good or can't succeed moving forward. It just won't look like what we saw last season. That is because Palmer once again largely eschewed the deep ball in Week 8, attempting just two passes beyond 20 yards from the line of scrimmage. The Cardinals chucked the ball downfield as often as anyone in the NFL last season, as Palmer took advantage of two dynamic deep threats in John Brown and Michael Floyd. Neither has played at a high level this season, and the Cardinals' offensive line has struggled to keep Palmer upright, so it's no surprise Palmer hasn't been the same quarterback. The results were more than good enough in Week 8, but the Cardinals are on a bye this week, and face the Vikings in Week 11, so Week 9's matchup against the 49ers might be the only time you use Palmer over the next three weeks. For a player who was pretty much matchup-proof this time last year, that's a disappointment.
The Packers' offense still hasn't figured things out
As with Palmer, the numbers look great for Rodgers. He tossed four touchdowns in Week 8 and rushed for another 60, ending up with 41 Fantasy points in the loss to the Falcons. That gives him seven touchdowns over the last two games, which is production you'll take from anyone without complaining. However, the underlying issues that have plagued this Packers offense for the last 13 months are still there. They can't run the ball -- and didn't even try to down to their fourth, fifth and sixth-string RBs Sunday -- and still aren't moving the ball efficiently through the air. Rodgers completed 73.7 percent of his passes Sunday, but still averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt, and has topped 7.0 just once this season so far. If Rodgers keeps having to throw the ball 40 times per game, it may not matter, because he is so good at finishing off drives, but there's a chance the issues that have made this Packers' offense such a disappointment since the first month of last season are still there, and a recent run of touchdown luck may just be papering over that.
Derrek Carr is a top-5 fantasy QB
This is one you'll hear a lot right now, coming off Carr's massive performance against the Buccaneers. He hits the halfway point of the season with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while averaging 290 yards per game. He has been among the best quarterbacks in the game, and, with two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers catching his passes, why can't he keep it going? Maybe he can, but this is one you have to be inclined to bet against. For one thing, Carr has to face the Broncos twice every season, and these numbers don't factor in that he has two matchups against them left -- one-quarter of his remaining games. As good as Carr has been so far, you might want to look to sell-high, with the Broncos on the way in Week 9, followed by a bye. We saw him slump in the second half of last season, and there's a chance the same happens this year.
This is the beginning of the end for the Chargers' offense
That the Chargers are still third in scoring is a testament to how good Philip Rivers has been this season, more than anything. The offense fell apart last season without Keenan Allen, who they lost in Week 1 of this season, but they have been able to keep it together by being one of the most efficient teams in the league when it comes to scoring; they rank seventh in rate of drived ending in scores, despite ranking 14th in yards per play for the season. They can't run the ball all that well, but Melvin Gordon has been exceptional at finishing off drives near the goal-line, and Ken Whisenhunt has cobbled together a strong passing game out of Rivers' tremendous ability and makeshift receiving corps. The offense hasn't been quite as strong of late, though two matchups against the Broncos probably help explain why. Still, this is a passing game build around Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams, with a shaky offensive line, so I wouldn't expect them to keep it up.
We overreacted to Marvin Jones' hot start
The takes were flying early in the season! "The Lions don't even miss Calvin Johnson!" "Marvin Jones is a top-15 wide receiver!" "Marvin Jones is a top-10 wide receiver." I even got caught up in itgot caught up in it, saying, "Jones is certainly a top-20 wide receiver moving forward, and I would even bet on him being top-15 through the end of the season," after his performance in Week 3. However, in five games since, he has failed to top 100 yards in each game, failed to top 80 yards in four out of five, and failed to even reach 40 in three out of five. A couple of touchdowns saved him from total Fantasy irrelevance in that span, but Jones is averaging just 49.6 yards per game over the last five, and he ranks just 30th in Fantasy scoring among receivers in that span. His target share has shrunk to just 30 in five games -- he had 29 in the first three games, when he was the No. 1 receiver in Fantasy. Jones should be better than he has been lately, but the huge breakout many thought they were seeing after Week 3 may not materialize.
The Saints have no RB worth starting
Coaches deciding to punish players for fumbling by benching has always been one of my biggest pet peeves. Sometimes, it's inevitable and understandable -- Matt Jones' eight fumbles in 270 NFL touches are clearly hurting the team, for instance --but most of the time it seems like the coaching equivalent of putting a kid in timeout. Maybe they will learn, but doesn't this seem like a lesson most NFL players don't actually need to learn? Mark Ingram was the latest to fall victim to this needless performance of coaching theater this week, earning a permanent seat to the bench for the Saints after fumbling for the second game in a row. Nevermind that it was just his ninth fumble in seven NFL seasons, or that the player who replaced him (Tim Hightower) has fumbled nearly twice as often as Ingram in their respective careers -- once every 107 touches for Ingram, vs. once every 67 for Hightower. Hightower has reportedly earned a longer look, and with Ingram struggling this season anyways, it's hard to get excited about this situation. In a fast-paced, high-scoring offense, there could be enough room for two running backs to succeed, but I would bet against it. It seems like we're headed to a situation where two similarly mediocre running backs are sharing time, which probably leads to no wins for Fantasy players.