Fantasy Football Booms and Busts, Week 8: For Kamara, Pollard, Foreman, three is a magic number

For almost two months, Alvin Kamara was a source of fantasy frustration, the one player locked out of the New Orleans touchdown party. But all is forgiven after he posted a signature game Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Kamara exploded for 158 total yards and three touchdowns, his first three spikes of the year, in the shutout over the hapless Raiders. Kamara was somewhat contained on the ground (18 carries, 62 yards), but his receiving chops were on display, as he secured 9-of-10 targets for 96 yards. Two of his scores were catches from distance (16 yards, 36 yards); he also had a 3-yard scoring plunge.

Kamara finished with 38.3 points in Yahoo half-point PPR leagues, the best running back game of the year. And more fun could be on the way, if the Saints settle on Andy Dalton as their starting quarterback.

It’s not hard to see — Jameis Winston struggles with the shorter touch throws, and he doesn’t have a great feel for the screen game. Kamara’s receiving work has been blunted in the Winston starts. Dalton doesn’t remind anyone of Drew Brees, but his presence elevates Kamara’s fantasy stock.

Alvin Kamara posted the best fantasy game by a running back this season in Sunday's win over the Raiders. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Alvin Kamara posted the best fantasy game by a running back this season in Sunday's win over the Raiders. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)

Three was a magic number for several early-window running backs — Tony Pollard and D’Onta Foreman matched Kamara’s three touchdowns. Pollard could be a league-winner if the Cowboys would accept what the rest of the world already knows.

Ezekiel Elliott isn’t a bad player, but Pollard’s per-touch efficiency is out of this world. Predictably, Pollard went wild with Elliott unavailable against Chicago. Pollard’s 14 rushes went for 131 yards and three scores — one of them a 54-yard breakaway. He also had one catch for 16 yards.

Dallas is probably the second-best team in the NFC right now, and there might be a sense that the team shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. But Pollard has become more involved in recent weeks — this was his third straight game with double-digit carries. And despite the early injury to left tackle Tyron Smith, the Dallas offensive line has been just fine.

The Cowboys are one of six teams that rest in Week 9 — good luck navigating this hellish bye week. After that, it’s road trips to Green Bay and Minnesota. It’s doubtful Pollard is going to start this year when Elliott is available, but maybe the team is ready to consider something close to a 60-40 or even 50-50 split. Pollard’s upside shouldn’t be denied.

Foreman’s three-touchdown game was more of a working-class hero type of thing — he needed 26 carries to get 118 yards. He also tacked on a two-point conversion. It’s a sweet revenge game for Foreman, who was cut before the season by the Falcons last year. The teams meet again in Week 10.

Chuba Hubbard’s absence pushed Foreman to a heavy workload, something that likely won’t continue when Hubbard is ready to play again. This is probably a timeshare, with Foreman at the front but Hubbard playing plenty. But at least the Panthers look like a professional team again, shocking the Buccaneers last week and almost upsetting the Falcons in Sunday’s bizarre overtime loss. We welcome DJ Moore back into our fantasy lives. And we’re willing to consider Carolina’s backfield as a proactive option in most weeks.

The hat-trick kids had company through the Week 8 slate — A.J. Brown had a three-touchdown clinic against Pittsburgh, while Christian McCaffrey threw a party against the Rams (touchdown run, touchdown catch, touchdown throw).

Fantasy managers aren’t going to quibble. It’s been a season dominated by low scoring through the opening seven weeks. It was refreshing to see offenses take control Sunday.

Speed Round

Travis Etienne was excellent in the feature role, but the Jaguars passing game has no easy button. Trevor Lawrence’s problems are varied — sometimes it’s the wrong read, sometimes it’s a late throw, sometimes it’s accuracy. Christian Kirk lost Circle of Trust privileges, and it’s not really his fault.

• No one will miss the Broncos in Week 9. Russell Wilson still looks like someone playing hurt, but he did enough to get past the metric-tease Jaguars. We’re probably at the point where Jerry Jeudy is ahead of Courtland Sutton for fantasy purposes. Greg Dulcich has popped every week since he debuted.

• Say this for the Falcons, they do run the ball well against just about everyone. And Arthur Smith’s team is in first place, and Kyle Pitts actually had a 5-80-1 return on nine targets. Marcus Mariota is difficult to trust on a per-snap basis, but his YPA is over 8.0 — they’re getting some explosive plays. The big problem with Mariota is he takes way too many sacks.

• Speaking of too many sacks, that’s been a Justin Fields problem from the moment he turned pro. But he continues to run proactively and at least he’s started to connect with Darnell Mooney. Fields isn’t just a Superflex filler these days, he’s someone you have to consider inside the QB1 cutline. The Konami Code is alive and well.

Dalton Schultz finally had the type of game we expected two months ago, and he should be close to 100 percent after the Week 9 bye. He’s not exactly a needle-mover at tight end, but you’d slot him in the Top 10 going forward, and that’s enough. Dak Prescott was excellent against Chicago.

Tyreek Hill’s touchdown count is a little bit unlucky, but the Dolphins come off the bus peppering Hill and Jaylen Waddle with targets. And remember, these guys found a way to produce even with the team’s two backup quarterbacks. Hill was a screaming value all draft season, and one of my biggest regrets from the first round. He’s not just the fastest guy on the field most days, but he’s an underrated technician and someone who can run the entire route tree.

• No Detroit Lions lead is ever safe, no matter the margin. But at least the carnival was back in town Sunday after a brief hiatus.

• The only problem with the Eagles is that the opponents rarely fight back, so we can't enjoy 60 minutes of goodness. Here's a perfect illustration from Davis Mattek:

Josh Jacobs has been a fantasy smash — you can’t fault him for Sunday — but everything else in the Las Vegas offense has been a mild or major disappointment. Josh McDaniels is probably a year or so away from the Nick Saban reputation rehabilitation fellowship. The AFC West has been a monumental disappointment, too — the Chiefs get a par, the Chargers a bogey, while the Broncos and Raiders are taking on water.

Rhamondre Stevenson is getting all the catches he can handle, and it’s come the last two weeks in contrasting game script — the Patriots were thumped by the Bears, then controlled the Jets on Sunday. Damien Harris is not a bad player, but he’s clearly the secondary runner here. Jakobi Meyers has similarly separated from the other New England receivers, though Meyers caps out as a WR3 because of Mac Jones’s limitations.

Brian Robinson Jr. is the most inspiring story in the Washington offense, but Antonio Gibson has the more attractive and playable role. It helps both of them that J.D. McKissic has been, justifiably, marginalized the last two weeks.

• If Brandin Cooks is still in Houston in 72 hours, something’s gone horribly wrong. There are plenty of contending teams who need a field-stretching target. Houston was frisky for a few weeks, but its gone back to what we more or less expected — this is the worst team in football.

Darius Slayton doesn’t have a lofty ceiling, but he’s been deep-league playable in three of four weeks, and he’s earning the trust of Daniel Jones and the coaching staff. If you have to roster any of their targets, he’s the guy.