It's a familiar horror movie trope: a character thinks everything is fine, takes a deep breath, and then — BAM! Something unspeakably terrifying takes place.
That was Week 8 in a nutshell for fantasy owners.
At least eight impact players were hurt, with some returning to action moments later. Now comes the horror movie sigh, and the villian-in-the-mirror-as-we-close-the-medicine-cabinet scare will probably come midweek, as injuries that seemed innocuous turn out to be more serious.
Everyone is injured
Julio Jones, Devontae Booker, the Bucs' Jacquizz Rodgers, T.Y. Hilton, Spencer Ware, DeSean Jackson, and Alex Smith all suffered varying degrees of injuries. And unlike years past, where we'd breathe a sigh of relief if they went back into the game, it seems the unwritten rules of fantasy karma have changed in 2016.
More frequently than in previous seasons, players who we assumed were fine have seen their diagnoses take drastic turns for the worse as the week progresses, moving from X-rays to MRIs to grim rumor tweets to surgery, setting off a waiver wire panic for backups. So even though Booker, for example, returned to the game against the Chargers on Sunday, we could watch his status for Week 9 deteriorate as the days go by. And that means familiarizing yourself with Kapri Bibbs.
Instead of waiting for injury reports and updates, the best thing a fantasy owner can do right now is go after the backups — in an order (for the injured starter replacement category) that is shaping up to look something like: Bibbs, Charcandrick West, Antone Smith, Jamison Crowder, Peyton Barber, Philip Dorsett, and maybe even Nick Foles.
With five weeks left in the regular fantasy season, now is the time to be bold and cut loose underperformers for high-upside backups who could have a major impact in the next few weeks.
You must own Alfred Morris
If this season has taught us anything, it's that your starting running back is going to get hurt. Nobody is safe, including Cowboys stud running back Ezekiel Elliott. And with a top-flight offensive line blocking for him, Alfred Morris could step in for a figuratively-injured Elliott and rattle off a string of big games.
Morris is currently owned in 15.5 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. He should be owned in 100 percent as either an insurance plan for an Elliott owner or a high-upside stash for teams that don't own Elliott.
Welcome back, Tim Hightower! (Maybe)
Mark Ingram fumbled at the beginning of the Saints' win over the Seahawks and may have lost his job to Tim Hightower, who saw 47 snaps (to Ingram's six) and carried the ball 26 times for 102 yards. As far as we know, there was no injury to Ingram, which makes the upcoming Week 9 situation an interesting one: have the Saints run out of patience with Ingram? How do you ignore Hightower's performance (the first 100-yard rushing game from a Saints player in 2016)? And was the big game simply a product of Seattle not having star defensive players Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett?
Expect Hightower, owned in eight percent of CBSSports.com leagues, to be one of the most-added players in fantasy this week. Especially with a matchup against the 49ers on the horizon in Week 9.
— Bucs running back Antone Smith is the player you want if Rodgers is unable to play on Thursday, assuming Doug Martin is still out with injury. Rodgers played for Bucs coach Dirk Koetter when he was offensive coordinator in Atalanta, as did Smith. The familiarity with the system wasn't the only reason Rodgers did well, but it certainly didn't hurt. Smith played under Koetter from 2012 to 2014.
— Theo Riddick has cemented himself as a fantasy force outside of point-per-reception leagues. The pass-catching specialist, in his first game back from injury, had 11 of the team's 14 carries, for 56 yards while leading the receiving corps with eight catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
— Dorial Green-Beckham, traded from Tennessee to Philadelphia at the end of the preseason, had his best game as an Eagle, with five catches off nine targets for 55 yards. With six teams on bye again next week, Green-Beckham — who scored a touchdown in Week 7 — merits flex consideration.
— Two impact players returning from injury who fantasy players might want to search for on their waiver wires: Browns wide receiver Corey Coleman and Patriots running back Dion Lewis.