5 Burning Questions: Week 8 (2019 Fantasy Football)
Patrick Mahomes hurt his knee last week but might return, Drew Brees may return after missing the last five games, and Aaron Rodgers finally blew up last week. Many of the storylines this week will be made clearer once we know who’s playing, but here are my five burning questions going into Week 8.
Is six-touchdown Aaron Rodgers here to stay?
Aaron Rodgers has led his Packers to an impressive 6-1 record to start the season, but until last week, he’s looked like an average game manager on a team that prefers to run the football. He hadn’t had a passer rating under 85.2, but he also hadn’t thrown more than two touchdowns in any game. Then last week, he lit the Raiders on fire. He threw for 429 yards and five touchdowns (plus a rushing touchdown), en route to a perfect passer rating. He also completed 80.7% of his passes, while his previous high on the season had been 64.7%.
This is closer to the Aaron Rodgers that I expected to see going into the season, but given their desire to run the ball and their effective backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, I don’t think these “boom” games are about to become a regular thing again, especially when the defense is also clicking. The Packers’ defense ranks ninth in points allowed this season and has made things easier on Rodgers than what he’s dealt with in the past. From 2016-18 the Packers’ defense has ranked 22nd, 26th, and 21st in points allowed, and they weren’t able to generate much of a run game, so a lot fell on Rodgers’ shoulders. Last week showed us he can still turn it on whenever he wants. The real question is how often will he need to?
Will Drew Brees play on Sunday?
Drew Brees threw three passes in Week 2 against the Rams before injuring his thumb and missing an addition five games while it healed from surgery. Teddy Bridgewater entered the game against the Rams and lost, but hasn’t lost since, and he has done a remarkable job keeping the Saints competitive without their franchise quarterback.
Brees is getting a week of practice before they determine whether or not he’ll play, but do they think he should he play? The Saints are playing a very winnable game at home against the Cardinals and then they go into their bye, It wouldn’t make sense to put their 40-year-old quarterback out there unless he was truly 100%. Bridgewater has been a more than adequate backup, and I think they’ll lean on him for one more game unless Brees is fully healthy beyond a shadow of a doubt.
How will Emmanuel Sanders and Mohamed Sanu look on their new teams?
This week saw two wide receivers make moves from teams in the basement of their divisions to teams that are undefeated. Emmanuel Sanders is now with the 49ers and Mohamed Sanu is now with the Patriots. Both teams were in clear need of wide receiver help despite having won all of their games this season.
The Patriots began the season thinking they’d have a receiving corps of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, and N’Keal Harry, and now they’re so depleted they had to trade a second-round pick to acquire Sanu. While this is a good move for the Patriots, I’m not sure you can rely on Sanu any more now than you could in Atlanta. Edelman and James White will still be the guys Brady looks for first. Sanders, on the other hand, has a chance to jump right in as Jimmy Garappolo’s first option. Tight end George Kittle has almost 200 more receiving yards than anyone on the team, and no 49ers’ receiver has more than 181 yards through six games. With Sanders as the lead dog in that group, the other receivers (Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, and Kendrick Bourne) take a fantasy hit, but they should fit more comfortably into their more natural roles.
Can Patrick Mahomes return this Sunday before missing even a single full game?
On Thursday night last week, we watched Patrick Mahomes dislocate his knee cap, and then we watched his trainers put it back in place. The immediate rumors were that he’d miss at least three weeks depending on how much bone and ligament damage was done, and as there was almost none, Mahomes returned to practice on Wednesday and is going to fight for the right to start on Sunday.
If he can actually play Sunday, we’ll be treated to prime time matchup between him and Aaron Rodgers. I mentioned before that Rodgers doesn’t need to throw quite as much as he used to, but when going up against the reigning MVP who’s the new most exciting player in the game? I think Rodgers will want to show what he can still do for a second week in a row. Despite that potential shootout, I think it would be wise for the Chiefs to give Mahomes a bit more time to recover and not risk reinjury. He hurt his knee in a game where he was already playing on a bad ankle, so I think Mahomes will have to campaign really hard if he wants to see the field this Sunday.
Is the Bills’ defense enough to keep them winning?
It’s about time we took a closer look at the Bills. After six weeks, they find themselves at 5-1, and their only loss came at the hands of the Patriots (a game which they only lost by a couple of field goals). Their defense is what’s winning their games. The Bills are third in the league in both points and yards allowed, however, they’ve played a relatively easy schedule, and they’ve scored fewer points than any other team in the league with a record above .500. Is their defense enough to carry their offense into the playoffs?
After their game against the Eagles this Sunday (which is certainly winnable), the Bills’ next four opponents are the Redskins, Browns, Dolphins, and Broncos, who have a combined record of 5-21. They should easily make the playoffs based on the strength of their schedule, but having success there will be increasingly difficult. After the Broncos, they have a four-game stretch which includes the Cowboys, Ravens, and Patriots. I think we’ll have to wait until then to truly see what the Bills are made of and if their offense can take a leap forward.