The Packers-49ers game on Thursday night was ugly (except for Davante Adams owners) thanks to rampant injuries couple with COVID-19 defections stripping the 49ers of all recognizable starters. The Packers let them have 17 pity points, but the cold weather is just starting and already teams are having issues with fielding a full team. What is it going to be like in two months?
This is a year we won’t forget, no matter how hard we try. Onto six thinks worth watching heading into Week 9.
- Cardinals backfield – Kenyan Drake is out with an ankle injury and Chase Edmonds moves up to the primary role. So far, only Drake and Edmonds have been used for the Cardinals backfield. Edmonds wavers between 20% to 40% of the touches, and this offense has never given 100% to the primary. Edmonds is a solid play this week at the Panthers facing the No. 31 defense against running backs.The No. 2 back this week is expected to be the 7.08 pick in the 2020 NFL draft of Eno Benjamin out of Arizona State. The 5-9, 207-pounder ran for over 1,000 yards the last two season and caught 82 passes in his three-year career. Edmonds won’t take every touch, so it’s always interesting to see the “next guy up.” Jonathan Ward may also see some work, but he’s only been a practice squad guy that works on special teams. Benjamin gets a chance to keep the team from looking elsewhere in 2021.
Notable too is that Edmonds gets to be the No. 1 against a soft defense. He is in his final contract year in 2021 while Drake will be a free agent next year unless re-signed. Edmonds could look like an option for 2021.
- Lions Wide receivers – The passing lags the 2019 version when Matt Stafford played but showed life recently that could be promising. Stafford was stuck at moderate production but then passed for 340 yards and a score at the Jaguars and 336 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts for his best showing of the year. And that happened with Kenny Golladay on the sideline with a hip injury. Fourth-year player Marvin Hall came in and posted four catches for 113 yards in the second half of the loss to the Colts.Marvin Jones failed to make any difference this year until posting five catches for 80 yards in Week 7 and then three receptions for 39 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday. The Lions play at the Vikings this week and Golladay has not practiced on Wednesday and Thursday. He hasn’t been ruled out but isn’t trending well so far. Stafford has two straight games where the passing looked better and that was even without Golladay last week. Jones and Hall are worth watching and if Hall can again show up with the same impact, he can carve a bigger role for himself.
- RB Christian McCaffrey (CAR) – He returned to practice a few days ago and looks likely to be activated to play against the Chiefs this week. That sends Mike Davis to the bench after richly rewarding his fantasy owners for the last six weeks. It will be good to see the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts but just as notable will be his effect on how the rest of the offense plays. Remember, the Panthers are installing a new offense this year with HC Matt Rhule in his first season. And Teddy Bridgewater was also in his first games as a Panther when McCaffrey was gone for Week 3.Robby Anderson opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard games while McCaffrey was there while D.J. Moore turned in eight catches for 120 yards in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. McCaffrey’s return is great for fantasy owners, but it could also help Bridgewater, Moore and Anderson as well.
- QB Jake Luton (JAC) – Gardner Minshew is out with fractures and ligament damage to his thumb and the Jags are turning to their 6.10 pick this year in Luton. The 6-6, 224-pounder from Oregon State threw 28 scores as a senior last year and he rushed for a net loss of 204 yards on 72 runs in college, so he’s not going to be stealing much from James Robinson as a runner. But he’s very tall and can throw very deep. The hope is that the Jaguars passing offense can connect farther downfield.Starting a rookie is rarely profitable at least for a few games. But Luton will at least bring a new element to an offense that has lost their last six games. D.J. Chark fell from 13.8 yards per catch in 2019 to only 11.2 this year. The rookie Laviska Shenault also averages 11.2 yards. That’s also lower than the 13.6 yards he averaged at Colorado last year. The schedule hits a few tough matchups in upcoming weeks, but Luton is worth watching this week to see if he can do anything with the underperforming Jaguars offense.
- Miami Backfield – Myles Gaskin is on injured reserve because of his MCL sprain and Matt Breida would be positioned to become the new No. 1 running back but a bad hamstring has him missing Wednesday and Thursday practices. The Dolphins look like they have to rely on Jordan Howard and Patrick Laird. The Fins just traded to get DeAndre Washington for depth.Laird only totals three catches for 11 yards and no rushes. Howard scored three times over the four games he played, but only gained 14 yards on 18 carries which is why he only played four games. His one catch was a three-yard loss. All this while a rookie quarterback takes his second start. Gaskin is gone for at least a few weeks, so the Fins have to figure out whatever works the best. The matchup with the Cardinals this week is where they determine what they have to use.
- WR Antonio Brown (
PIT OAK NETB) – The Buccaneers signed Brown and he is on the active roster. That’s worth watching for so many reasons. Tom Brady wanted him and Tom Brady got him since his 20 passing touchdowns are No. 4 in the NFL and the Buccaneers are looking really improved. He hasn’t had any time to learn the playbook and his uniform still has creases. But he is expected to play this week. Chris Godwin has been limited in practices and his status isn’t certain.Brown already served his eight-game suspension and is clear to play. His only game of 2019 was Week 2 with the Patriots – and Brady – when he turned eight targets into four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown. If this works out, the Buccaneers are going to be scary good on offense. But… it’s never worked out for Brown the last few years.