Aaron Rodgers isn’t a tough fantasy football start ’em or sit ’em decision most weeks, but there are lot of questions about whether he’s a worthy QB1 play on Thursday Night Football in Week 8.
Rodgers is QB10 on the season, about where he was drafted in most leagues. That makes him a borderline “must-start” in 10- and 12-team leagues, but for the Thursday night matchup against the Cardinals, he will be without top wide receiver Davante Adams (COVID list) and emerging No. 2 Allen Lazard (COVID list).
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Should you play Aaron Rodgers in fantasy in Week 8?
For the 2021 season so far, Rodgers has averaged 244 yards passing per game and racked up 15 passing TDs. He has also run in two scores in those seven games. In leagues that award four points per passing TD, he averages 19.8 fantasy points per game. In six-point passing TD leagues, that’s up to a solid 24 points per game. That also factors in the absolute clunker against the Saints in Week 1.
Since Week 2, Rodgers has delivered multiple TDs in every start, re-establishing himself as one of the most consistent, reliable fantasy producers at the position. With the natural TD regression from his 2020 MVP season, he’s been right there with his preseason ranking and ADP. He’s still on pace for 36 TDs in 17 games after putting up 48 scores in 16 games last season.
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For Week 8, it might seem smart to pivot away from Rodgers. On top of no Adams and no Lazard, the Cardinals by the numbers are a tricky matchup. Only the Bills have allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
But digging deeper, Arizona gave up multiple TDs to Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield while thoroughly thwarting Ryan Tannehill, Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, and Davis Mills. The other factor is counterpart Kyler Murray, who, with help from his running game, should light up the Packers’ middle-of-the road defense that’s missing some key pieces, most notably edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Rodgers still has weapons with which to put up good passing production given his volume could increase from his average of 34 dropbacks per game. Aaron Jones can be a huge asset receiving out of the backfield, and he still has two reliable familiar targets in wide receiver Randall Cobb and tight end Robert Tonyan. Rodgers could be further boosted by the return of big-play threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling from a hamstring injury.
Here’s the kicker for sticking with Rodgers: He has been very productive when Adams has missed time in recent seasons. In the past six games without Adams, Rodgers has averaged 34 attempts, completing 70 percent of his passes for a total of 1,865 yards and17 TDs (with one INT). That’s per-game averages of 311 yards and 2.8 TD passes.
In some ways, the Packers are harder to defend in the passing game when Adams isn’t dominating the targets and production because Rodgers excels at spreading the ball around to the players with the most favorable matchups. Robert Alford and Byron Murphy Jr. have overachieved as the Cardinals’ top cornerbacks. Rodgers will find something to exploit often in Arizona’s secondary.
Rodgers should be in line for a floor of 275 yards and two TDs. He should be started in 10- and 12-team leagues and profiles as a “safer” play than someone such as the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins (at home against Dallas) or the Colts’ Carson Wentz (at home against Tennessee) in Week 8.