One of the many crimes against fantasy humanity this season has been the egregious underuse of Giovani Bernard. The nation got a look at it on Thursday night in the Bengals' 22-20 overtime loss (that ended on a safety) at Miami.
Bernard was the most electric player on the field, as he almost always is. The 35-yard touchdown run he broke off in the fourth quarter will go down as one of the NFL plays of the year. He also continued to do well with his goal-line chances, punching one in from three yards out in the second quarter. Perhaps he was finally starting to truly separate from plodding power back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
But deep in the fourth quarter, Bernard took a shot to his ribs and went to the locker room. He came back to the sideline with his pads on – suggesting it’s not an overly serious injury – but he never got back into the game. Cedric Peerman was the passing back in overtime.
As long as Bernard’s ribs are OK, he’s going to be a fine flex play weekly. But what we saw Thursday night is an example of why he’s a Dynasty monster and 2014 first-round pick in re-draft. He plays like a young Ray Rice did, and their situations are pretty similar.
As a rookie in 2008, Rice was the underutilized complement to veteran Willis McGahee. Rice got 107 carries while Willis got 170. But in 2009, the tide turned. Rice got 254 carries and McGahee got 109. Expect that same kind of shift in 2014 with Bernard.
MAD MARVIN ROBBED OF TOUCHDOWN
Marvin Jones was among the most talked about people in fantasy this week. He had an 8/122/4 performance against the Jets last week despite playing just 19 snaps. That usage was scary and the usage in Thursday’s loss was frightening again. The Bengals ran an absurd 91 offensive plays, Andy Dalton attempted a career-high 53 passes, but Jones saw just seven targets.
However, I actually saw some encouraging things. Jones’ snap count was definitely up higher. He had a long touchdown catch-and-run called back by a questionable holding call downfield on Jermaine Gresham. And perhaps most importantly, Mohamed Sanu (6/62/0 on nine targets) had a couple really brutal drops. It’s obvious Jones is a better player. I still wouldn’t want to count on Jones as anything more than a bye-week fill-in for now, but his role should be growing.
BENGALS at DOLPHINS QUICK SLANTS
A week after losing top CB Leon Hall to a torn Achilles, the Bengals fear All-World DT Geno Atkins tore his ACL. … The Dolphins used 5-foot-9 Brent Grimes to shadow 6-foot-4 A.J. Green. Grimes actually did well to hold Green to a 11/128/0 line. … Lamar Miller got 20 touches and Daniel Thomas got 13. That kind of ratio will be the norm, but most weeks they won’t get 33 chances. Miller’s juice remains impressive, but complaining about his carries won’t help anyone. It is what it is. … Mike Wallace had 6/82/0 and drew a huge pass interference call in overtime. Selling high here is fine by me if it’s possible. … Andy Dalton was due for a clunker. Short week, on the road, letdown spot off four straight wins, Dolphins desperate. He’s still a fine QB2. … Andrew Hawkins (ankle) had a predictably quiet return with one catch on two targets. There’s just not enough room.
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NEWS OF THE DAY #1
The Packers host the Bears on Monday night this week, so they didn’t resume practicing until Thursday. And James Jones (knee) wasn’t with them. Jones continues to just rehab on the side with the rest of the injured players and coach Mike McCarthy suggested his No. 2 wideout isn’t any closer to playing this week than last.
We all know what that means – fire up Jarrett Boykin. Over the last two weeks, he has 13 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown while playing on 137-of-149 (91.9 percent) of the snaps. Boykin has a dream matchup with the Bears disintegrating defense.
The real question is what will happen to Boykin once Jones returns, likely in a week or two. I think Boykin will still have value. The Packers have been using Jordy Nelson in the slot and we know Boykin can play inside as well. Ideally, McCarthy wants to use three-wide as his base. With Randall Cobb (knee) and Jermichael Finley (neck) out indefinitely, there’s room here for all three and Eddie Lacy to eat.
NEWS OF THE DAY #2
There was some news on Tuesday regarding Percy Harvin (hip surgery) that flew under the radar. According to USA Today’s Mike Garafolo, Harvin had a “flareup” last Thursday. Fast forward to this week, and the ex-Viking has missed two straight days of practice.
Here’s what Pete Carroll had to say on the topic: “Percy won’t play this week. He’s getting close but not close enough.”
Carroll usually isn’t intentionally deceitful regarding injuries, so I don’t think this is a Rob Gronkowski/Patriots situation. Harvin remains a must-hold for me until we get more details. General soreness and discomfort is standard for a player coming off a year-long layoff.
As for this week, look for Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to share time at the “Z” receiver spot. I’d rather gamble on Baldwin as the more experienced, polished player. But both are shaky plays as the Seahawks figure to run all over Tampa at home and sit on a lead in the second half.
NEWS OF THE DAY #3
This Week 9 Texans running back situation is really hairy, and it’s a full-on mullet due to the time of the game. Coach Gary Kubiak has hinted at game-time decisions in a game that won’t kick off until 8:30pm ET on Sunday night. So early-week clues are imperative.
On Thursday, both Arian Foster (hamstring) and Ben Tate (fractured ribs) practiced. Tate sounds far more optimistic about his status, and it’s easier to believe him because he played through his injury in Week 7. Hamstrings are much trickier. Owners can only stalk the situation and make a decision Sunday morning.
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INJURY QUICK SLANTS: QUARTERBACK AND RUNNING BACK
Interesting turn of events in St. Louis. Zac Stacy (ankle) was a full participant in practice and Daryl Richardson (foot/toe) was limited. Fire Stacy up. … Marshawn Lynch (knee) isn’t practicing this week, but no one seems concerned about his status. … DeMarco Murray (knee) is ready to rock. … Both DeAngelo Williams (quad) and Jonathan Stewart (ankle) are expected to play this week. Hard to like either one, especially with Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton taking red-zone chances. … The Bills are optimistic C.J. Spiller (ankle) will return this week. It would be hard for me to sit a guy this talented that should be healthy off a two-week break, even though Fred Jackson (knee) will play. … Doug Martin (shoulder) remains out indefinitely. … Jake Locker (hip, knee) said his mobility is vastly improved as the Titans come out of their bye. He’s a solid QB2.
INJURY QUICK SLANTS: WIDE RECEIVER AND TIGHT END
Miles Austin (hamstring) appears likely to sit out again. I doubt you have a better option than Terrance Williams at WR2 or WR3. … Jimmy Graham (foot) is practicing on a limited basis. I’d consider that a reasonable sign that he can play more than 18 snaps this week. … Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) was downgraded to limited. Keep an eye on it. ... Eddie Royal (toe) isn’t practicing this week, just like he didn’t ahead of Week 7. He did go for 4/69/1 against the Jags, but he’s less than 100 percent and has an inconsistent role. Desperation flex.
DEPTH CHART QUICK SLANTS
Christian Ponder is taking the first-team reps at Vikings practice this week. The Vikings don’t appear ready to turn back to Josh Freeman yet. One more horrific Ponder outing should do it. … Even Giants G/T David Diehl thinks Hakeem Nicks will sign elsewhere after the season. The pair share an agent. … Fred Davis admitted to “nodding off” during meetings. He’s trying to get released because he doesn’t want to play behind Jordan Reed, but it’s not a good look.
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- Marvin Jones
- Giovani Bernard
- Jarrett Boykin
- Percy Harvin