Editor’s note: The players listed below were drafted in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is not an endorsement to bench them in Week 8. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some of the NFL’s biggest stars. Aside from examining this week’s matchups, this can also serve as a reminder not to overreact if one of your big names disappoints in Week 8.
Jones is coming off one of his best fantasy performances of the season, but he’s averaged just 8.5 carries for 21.0 rush yards over the last two games and has eclipsed three catches once all season. He’ll likely see increased targets again Sunday night with Allen Lazard banged up and Aaron Rodgers a double-digit underdog for the first time in his career, but it’s a tough matchup. Buffalo has the No. 1 ranked run defense in DVOA and has allowed just 3.5 YPC and the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, including an NFL-low 52.8 rush yards per game (nearly 20 yards fewer than the next team). Jones has managed just 4.3 YPC on the road this year, and Green Bay continues to badly miss a healthy David Bakhtiari. Rodgers is dealing with a thumb injury, and the Packers have one of the lowest implied team totals. Jones will struggle to be a top-20 fantasy back this week.
Trevor Lawrence vs. Denver Broncos (London)
Lawrence’s fantasy value has been boosted by three short rushing scores over the last two weeks, but he has a 1:2 TD:INT ratio over three games since losing an NFL-record four fumbles. That despite a relatively easy schedule too, and this week the Jags get a Broncos defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and the least EPA/pass this season. This game is tied for the lowest over/under (39.5 points) of the week in a matchup with a hobbled Russell Wilson leading a Denver offense with the second-worst EPA/play. Lawrence historically performs better against zone (the Broncos have used that coverage the third-most among defenses), but he also struggles mightily when pressured; Denver ranks top-five in pressure rate. Expect Travis Etienne to carry Jacksonville’s offense in London, with Lawrence failing to produce top-12 QB fantasy stats this week.
Samuel missed Wednesday’s practice after pulling his hamstring last week. He seemingly played through the injury, but with his history and San Francisco’s upcoming bye in Week 9, it makes sense to rest him Sunday (albeit in an important divisional matchup with the Rams). Samuel was already losing expected carries thanks to Trey Lance going down earlier this season and Christian McCaffrey joining the 49ers, and now there’s an injury likely to limit him this week at best. With Brandon Aiyuk emerging, George Kittle currently healthy and CMC now in town, Samuel isn’t needed quite as much as usual either. You’re starting Samuel in fantasy leagues if he's active, but another tricky aspect is the late afternoon kickoff should he be a game-time call. Moreover, the run-heavy 49ers are facing a Rams defense with the fourth-lowest pass rate against them over the last three weeks.
Prescott was either impressive or he struggled during his return to action last week, depending on which stats you prefer. More play action would help, but Prescott is clearly working his way back to full strength. He’s getting just 6.3 YPA despite playing both games at home this season, and while it’s safe to expect a better performance during his second game back from a thumb injury, Sunday’s matchup may not be as favorable as the point spread suggests (Dallas is double-digit home favorites). Volume could be an issue, as the Bears defense has the lowest pass rate against in the NFL. Chicago’s offense showed major signs of life Monday night, but the Bears are traveling during a short week to face a Cowboys defense that’s lapping the league in pressure rate.
In other words, even with Ezekiel Elliott likely out, Sunday’s game script is unlikely to require Prescott to throw a ton (QBs are averaging just 188.3 passing yards versus Chicago this season).