You usually don't want to assume you are smarter than an NFL coach. There's a reason they have the jobs they have and we have the ones we have, after all. They know a thing or two about this game, and besides, it doesn't really matter whether you are smarter than them, because they're the ones calling the plays.
But sometimes they make decisions that are hard to understand, even from a layman's perspective. What you want to see from our side when that happens is an acknowledgement of the mistake, and a promise to do better. If they follow it up with action, well that's the best-case scenario.
We saw what we wanted to see from the Bears on Sunday. Coach Matt Nagy told reporters, "I'm not an idiot" when asked about the fact that the team only ran the ball seven times in Week 7, and he reportedly promised his players he would call more runs this week. He did, and the players backed up their end of the bargain, leading to the best game of David Montgomery's career, a true breakout performance we've been waiting for.
Montgomery, who entered Week 8 eight with 71 carries in six games, ran the ball a whopping 27 times Sunday for 135 yards, more than double his previous career best. He scored, caught a career-best four passes, and even showed off some big-play ability for the first time, ripping off a career-long 55-yard run. That's a lot of career-bests for Montgomery, even if it ended up with a similar outcome to the Bears previous few games — a lackluster overall offensive performance and a loss.
For Fantasy, all we care about is that Nagy recognized a limitation in his playcalling, promised to fix it, and then actually followed up on it. Nagy had a plan and followed through on it, and now we can start Montgomery with conviction moving forward, right?
Well, that's the hope. The Bears offense didn't exactly blow the doors off, and you'd feel better about the chances of them going back to this plan next week if they had actually won. Plus, Montgomery still needs to prove he's worth this kind of workload moving forward, something he hasn't done as often as we'd have wanted to see so far in his rookie season.
Still, it's hard to find a player who saw his Fantasy value rise as much as Montgomery's did in Week 8. There's no guarantee this was the start of his breakout, but it's the best sign we've gotten so far. Hopefully Nagy sticks with the plan.
Winners and Losers
NO New Orleans • #13
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
In a season when the wide receiver position has been a massive disappointment, Michael Thomas has been one of the few outliers, and he did it without Drew Brees for most of the first half of the season. It doesn't matter who is throwing the ball to Thomas. He proved that already, by averaging 8.4 catches for 110.2 yards with three touchdowns in the five full games he played without Brees. But still, it was nice to see Brees back out there Sunday, earlier than expected coming off a thumb injury. Thomas hauled in all 11 passes thrown his way for 112 yards and a touchdown in Brees' return, and heads into the bye leading the NFL with 73 receptions and 875 yards, to go along with four touchdowns. He is the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Fantasy.
Cooper Kupp WR
LAR L.A. Rams • #10
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Kupp isn't far behind Thomas, though. Coming off two subpar games, you might have been concerned that Kupp couldn't keep up his hot start. After all, while he'd been good in 2018 before his injury, Kupp had been playing at a whole other level through the first five games. So, maybe Weeks 6 and 7 represented some regression to the mean. Or, maybe not. Kupp was simply unstoppable Sunday, hauling in seven of 10 passes for 220 yards – 59.2% of the Rams' total passing yards. Once a team that made it a point to spread the ball around, Kupp has had true No. 1 receiver usage this season, with 87 targets through eight game, compared to just 60 for Robert Woods, who is second on the team. The Rams are on a bye in Week 9, but with how they've continued to use Kupp so far, he should head into the second-half of the season as a top-five Fantasy wide receiver overall.
Mike Evans WR
TB Tampa Bay • #13
Age: 27 • Experience: 8 yrs.
The Buccaneers might have two top-five Fantasy wide receivers of their own, actually. Those of you with Evans on your team have been frustrated by a few duds, but were reminded yet again Sunday that there aren't many wide receivers with more week-to-week upside than Evans. You would think Chris Godwin's presence might take something away from Evans in that regard, but once you look at the game logs, you'll see there has been plenty of room for both to be superstars, and there's no reason to think that will change. Evans and Godwin have combined for at least 17 targets in five of seven games, with at least 31.5 Fantasy points in six of seven in PPR scoring — and at least 36.2 in five of seven. Some weeks might be Evans games. Some might be Godwin games. At the end of the day, however, there just aren't many receivers you should feel better about in Fantasy than either of these guys.
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #26
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Things won't always be this good, but we saw the upside of Coleman's usage in this 49ers offense Sunday. Yes, he splits carries with Matt Breida, but it's Coleman who tends to get those all important carries inside of the 10-yard line — the Green Zone, as our Ben Gretch calls it in his weekly Stealing Signals column. Coleman had all six of the team's Green Zone carries in the previous two weeks, but he was only able to turn them into one touchdown. Breida did get one Green Zone touch in Week 8, but Coleman dominated that work otherwise, getting four, leading to a 10-yard touchdown catch and a 1-yard touchdown run. Coleman and Breida typically split work in the passing game, which means most of the high-value touches at running back in San Francisco tend to go Coleman's way. Given how much they use their running backs and how effective this rushing game has been, that should continue to lead to big things for Coleman, who has touchdowns in three of four games since returning from his injury.
CLE Cleveland • #13
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
It would be one thing if the Browns were peppering Beckham with targets but he was just struggling a bit to get loose against what has been an unusually tough schedule. Then, you could just say things will turn around for Beckham once the schedule does — a Week 9 matchup against a Broncos team that ranks fourth in the NFL in defensive DVOA may not be the one, but eventually. Unfortunately, the Browns just aren't treating Beckham like the kind of No. 1 option we expected. He was targeted just seven times Sunday, bringing his total to 61 through seven games, or 8.7 per game. Beckham has never averaged fewer than 10 targets per game in any season, so this is a pretty significant dropoff. Beckham is actually averaging a decent 8.0 yards per target — not elite, but not a disaster — so the biggest issue really has been the lack of targets. Until we get a good reason to think that is going to change, it's going to be hard to view Beckham as the No. 1 wide receiver you drafted him as.
Sam Darnold QB
CAR Carolina • #14
Age: 23 • Experience: 4 yrs.
It's fair to wonder if Darnold is at full strength after missing time earlier this season with Mono. He was solid in his return in Week 6 against the Cowboys, but has been a disaster over the last two, as his three interceptions against the Jaguars Sunday give him seven over the last two games. Sure, those matchups against the Jaguars and Patriots are among the tougher ones he will face for the rest of the season, but this has still been a tough showing for the second-year passer. He gets the Dolphins and Giants over the next two weeks, but given how much he has struggled, could you really trust Darnold in Week 9? Even against Miami?
Zach Ertz TE
PHI Philadelphia • #86
Age: 30 • Experience: 9 yrs.
Ertz was never going to replicate his historic 2018 season, but he's now on pace for his worst season since 2014 after a two-catch, 20-yard showing against the Bills in Week 9. Ertz is now averaging 53.0 yards per game and is on pace for 74 catches in 16 games, his lowest total since 2014. If you're looking for a silver lining on this cloud, his nine targets over the last two games make up an 18% target share — not elite, but better than the overall numbers indicate because the Eagles just haven't thrown the ball much. The Eagles have much bigger issues to solve, but if they can figure them out, Ertz could be in for a bigger second half, so hopefully this is just the low point
Marvin Jones WR
JAC Jacksonville • #11
Age: 31 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Well, I hope you weren't planning on Jones carrying you to a win two weeks in a row. The Lions' receiving corps is kind of like the Buccaneers', in that it really has two co-No. 1 options. However, while Evans and Goodwin had combined for 110 targets coming into Week 7, Jones and Kenny Golladay had just 89 between them, despite a similar overall number of passes thrown. The presence of Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockesnon is a complicating factor the Buccaneeers just don't have to deal with, which means that when it is one of Golladay or Jones' turn to stand out, the other has a pretty good chance of being left in the shadows. In Week 7, it was Golladay who was hidden; with Golladay going for 6-123-2 Sunday, it was Jones who was left to pick up the scraps. That's going to be the case moving forward, with Golladay likely to be a bit more reliable, but neither belonging above the No. 2 tier at wide receiver.
Corey Davis WR
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #84
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Ah, so it turns out maybe Ryan Tannehill didn't magically fix everything that was wrong with the Titans. I love Davis and A.J. Browns' skill sets, and think in a different context, this could be one of the most exciting young wide receiver corps in the league. Unfortunately, in this context, they are catching passing from either Tannehill or Marcus Mariota, in an offense that wants to run the ball and avoid taking risks. There will be weeks when Davis or Brown makes an impact — Davis, in particular, appears to be higher on the hierarchy — but neither is likely to be consistent enough at any point to be worth relying on. You're chasing upside, but in an offense that just isn't likely to lead to enough opportunities.