Lamar Jackson entered Sunday’s divisional showdown in search of a complete game. His pre-bye performance had veered between inconsistent and downright disappointing as the Ravens rarely encountered normal game flow. Jackson was finally needed for 60 minutes, but the start was far from complete. Jackson doubled his season interception total, inaugurating the scoring with a pick six thrown right to LB Robert Spillane. That was only the beginning of his pain, as his two INTs were accompanied by a pair of lost fumbles. The Ravens only lost 28-24, but Jackson completed a season low 46.4 percent of his passes while matching a season worst by taking four sacks. His QB rating was 65.8 as the Ravens did all they could to avoid passing in the second half. Somehow, Jackson’s 208 yards through the air were his most since Week 1.
Now beclowned and defeated in the Ravens’ two biggest games of the year — Jackson’s Week 3 performance against the Chiefs was one of the worst by any quarterback this season — Jackson finds himself looking more like the limited passer he was as a rookie than MVP he was a sophomore. There aren’t any easy answers. Jackson is the Ravens’ sole means of instant offense, with his skill corps amongst the league’s shallowest. Until Sunday, a three-man backfield had not been carrying its weight behind its dual-threat quarterback. Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins did their best to change that against the Steelers as Mark Ingram sat with a high-ankle sprain.
Jackson has lost LT Ronnie Stanley for the season and No. 1 receiver Marquise Brown is wondering why he never gets the damn ball. Jackson adjusted after his uneven rookie campaign. Now the league has adjusted. At the bare minimum, Jackson needs to get back to his 2019 baseline. He has to scare the living daylights out of defenses with his legs and actually hit Brown and Mark Andrews when they’re running wide open down the field. That’s still not a rare occurrence. “Easy mode” was probably never coming back after last season’s charmed campaign. Jackson needs easier mode, hitting his layups as a passer, taking his bases as a runner and crushing his pitch when the defense “misses its spot.” The Colts and Patriots are two more stiff tests before a more relaxing spot in the Titans.
Five Week 8 Storylines
Jonathan Taylor bottoms out, takes back seat to Jordan Wilkins. This was supposed to be the week. Taylor dominated the Colts’ backfield touches in their Week 6 comeback against the Bengals and seemed primed to finally anoint himself as a true blue RB1. Instead, he had by far his worst performance of the season as Wilkins came in and cleaned up his mess. Wilkins took control of the game in the second half as Taylor grinded to 2.0 yards per carry. Speaking afterward, coach Frank Reich said it was just a matter of riding the hot hand, but that hand has rarely been Taylor. "You guys know how we feel about Jordan,” Reich said. “We have a lot of confidence in Jordan.” Fantasy players desperate for an alibi can point toward Philip Rivers saying Taylor was “nicked up,” but that does not help him with regards to Week 9 against the Ravens. Taylor is now a risky RB2 with Wilkins emerging as a FLEX.
Kenny Golladay tweaks hip, has zero-catch day. Injured late in the first half, Golladay was ruled out in the third quarter. Looking to build off back-to-back 100-yard performances, Golladay was already having a disappointing day vs. a tough defense before departing. Now we don’t know when we might see him again. Golladay missed Weeks 1 and 2 with a hamstring issue and didn’t look like his normal self until Week 4. Another 3-4 game injury cycle would have his 2020 looking lost even if he finishes strong. If Golladay can’t go for this week’s potential eruption spot in the Vikings, an underwhelming Matthew Stafford will suddenly have one of the league’s weaker supporting casts. Marvin Hall had a random Week 8 blowup, but he still wouldn’t be more than a WR5 against Minnesota. Coming off his first 10-target game of the year, T.J. Hockenson would probably be the biggest beneficiary.
Jimmy Garoppolo benched again. Facing the league’s worst defense, Jimmy G looked like the league’s worst quarterback. His ankle is getting blamed again, but Garoppolo has now been unacceptably bad in two of his past four starts. It was against a relaxed defense playing with a big lead, but Nick Mullens came in and easily did what Garoppolo should have: Pile up a bunch of easy yards. Hidden by his coach whenever possible, Garoppolo seems to be reaching the point of no return under center, even if that does not include the remainder of 2020. Mullens and C.J. Beathard both have a history of getting quickly overexposed and performing even worse than Garoppolo. What’s clear is that Shanahan, like his division mate Sean McVay, is reaching the limits of his manipulation of a below-average talent at the QB position. It’s time for the 49ers to think bigger. Whomever is under center for Thursday’s short-week matchup with the Packers will have another plus matchup.
Ravens’ three-man committee seamlessly becomes two in Mark Ingram’s (ankle) absence. Unlike Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins actually took advantage of his Week 8 opportunity, out-snapping Gus Edwards 54-26 as the Ravens spent most of the afternoon playing from behind. It was more even in the touches department — read, exactly even — with both players notching 16 handles. Dobbins is doing excellent work after contact while Edwards plows for yards on early downs. There was just one reception between them, as Lamar Jackson simply does not check down to running backs. With Ingram likely to miss another game, we would like to believe that Dobbins’ role will only become bigger, but the 50-50 split seems likely to continue. Both will be top 24 options for Week 9 vs. the Colts.
AJ Dillon plays with coronavirus against the Vikings. This was unbeknownst to Dillon, of course. He has already been ruled out for Thursday’s short-week tilt with the 49ers while the attention now falls on his close contacts. It goes without saying that includes Week 7-8 fill-in starter Jamaal Williams. It is less clear with Aaron Jones, who has been rehabbing his calf. Dexter Williams is the No. 4 back, though he has presumably also had close contact with Dillon. Every Packers back could ultimately be unavailable for Week 9. Thankfully, we should have greater clarity by the time waiver wires begin running on Tuesday evening. Keep Dexter in mind and be on the lookout for any free agent signings.
Five More Week 8 Storylines
Jared Goff nightmarishly bad as Rams humiliated in Miami. Goff had as big of an impact on the Dolphins’ offense as Tua Tagovailoa did, losing a fumble six and routinely setting Miami up with excellent field position as he committed four turnovers. Goff was only spared a second pick six because of a horrifying Eric Rowe drop. On his side of the ball, Goff needed 61 attempts to generate 355 yards, laughable inefficiency. The Rams have spent all season trying to hide their quarterback — the third highest paid player in the league — and Sunday was a painful reminder why. Coach Sean McVay is the Rams’ offense. Goff can’t do anything without McVay holding his hand. When that isn’t possible against a swarming defense like Miami’s, we get a fifth-year pro that looks like he’s never played football before. With just five scores and a 58.3 completion percentage/5.8 YPA over his past three starts, Goff will be in a do-or-die Week 9 fantasy spot against the Seahawks’ savior defense.
Joe Burrow enters half-way point on pace for rookie passing record. This wasn’t Burrow’s best start, but it was emblematic of his impressive first year. Playing behind an offensive line missing four starters and all five of its Week 1 starters, Burrow somehow took zero sacks, at one point Houdini’ing away after Jadeveon Clowney had him dead to rights in the backfield. Spreading the ball around as well as any quarterback in football, Burrow revived Auden Tate as A.J. Green had a bad game. Yet to have a multi-pick start, Burrow is completing 67 percent of his throws and getting his YPA in position to climb past 7.0, the benchmark for acceptable/needs to be better. On pace for 4,544 yards, Burrow has cleared 300 in 5-of-8 starts. With a bye week to clear his head and get his line healthier, Burrow will return in Week 10 ready to give Justin Herbert a run for his OROY money.
T.Y. Hilton bottoms out vs. Lions, going 2/9 as he injures groin. Hilton entered the Colts’ Week 7 bye on the heels of a performance where he had as many drops (one) as catches. He did not improve on it before departing against the Lions, catching two balls for nine yards. Now Hilton is sitting on 251 yards through seven games, and it’s unclear when he might play again. The Colts still need Hilton, as their leading Sunday receiver was a running back. It’s just increasingly up for debate if he has anything to offer. The 31-year-old has not had a 100-yard game since Week 16 2018. You would be forgiven for entertaining the idea of dropping him if his injury timeline is anything other than day to day.
Damien Harris lone bright spot for drain-circling Pats. The only good part of the product the Patriots put on the field, Harris continued to distance himself from Rex Burkhead and establish himself as the Pats’ lone legitimate early-down runner in Sony Michel’s (quad) absence. Even as the Patriots free fall, Harris has averaged over 5.8 yards per carry on 10-plus totes in 3-of-4 performances. With no passing game to speak of, Harris’ role will continue to grow, and the Pats will probably have to stick with him even if game flow is bad. They simply have no other means of moving the ball. With running back bleak, bleak, bleak right now, Harris will be a top 24 option for Week 9 vs. the Jets.
Tevin Coleman returns, immediately gets injured again. Coleman made it three carries before aggravating his knee issue, reminding of his unreliability and hopefully providing a “never again” moment for fantasy managers. Coleman can’t stay healthy. Even when he does, he can’t produce. It is time for the 49ers to move on from the idea he can lead this backfield, and for fantasy players to make better use of increasingly precious roster spots with the season heading into crunch time. JaMycal Hasty is looking top 24 viable for Thursday night’s game against the Packers.
3. When exactly are the analytics supposed to kick in for the Dallas Cowboys?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Derek Carr (vs. LAC), Kirk Cousins (vs. DET), Kyle Allen (vs. NYG), Philip Rivers (vs. BAL), Drew Lock (@ATL), Nick Foles (@TEN), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. AZ), Jake Luton (vs. HOU), Nick Mullens (vs. GB)
RB: Damien Harris, Jordan Wilkins, Gus Edwards, JaMycal Hasty, Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers, Nyheim Hines, DeeJay Dallas, Brian Hill
WR: Sterling Shepard, Corey Davis, Jalen Reagor, Allen Lazard, Denzel Mims, Curtis Samuel, Marvin Jones, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Jakobi Meyers, Willie Snead
TE: Eric Ebron, Austin Hooper, Logan Thomas, Trey Burton, Dalton Schultz, Harrison Bryant, Gerald Everett, Albert Okwuegbunam
DEF: Washington (vs. NYG), Falcons (vs. DEN), Texans (vs. JAX), Titans (vs. CHI)
Stats of the Week
Via Jim Trotter: Since 2016, three teams have blown 21-plus point leads. The Chargers have been two of them.
By that same token, the Chargers are the first team in NFL history to blow a 16-plus point lead in four straight games. They did rally to win in Week 7.
Manish Mehta lays it out: “Adam Gase has more losses by at least 20 points (8) than total wins (7) as Jets head coach.”
Tweet of the Week, from Denny Carter: Carson Wentz’s arm sleeve looks like a fatal skin condition.
Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln Award, from Daniel Rathman: Packers can't tackle, don't rally to the ball, are mystified by misdirection, take horrendous angles, line up 265-pound EDGE players in coverage out wide, and haven't forced a turnover since 1982. Other than that, the D is splendid.
Revenge Is Best Served by Patrick Mahomes Award: Le’Veon Bell.
On This Day (Nov. 1, 2015) In Football History: 21-year-old Todd Gurley ran 20 times for 133 yards and a touchdown in the St. Louis Rams’ 27-6 victory over the Jim Tomsula-coached 49ers. Things change fast.