November 14, 2011
Before we get started here, someone really needs to check in with that dude who got the "Houston Texans Super Bowl XLVI champions" tattoo. We need to know how he's dealing with Monday's news. This has definitely not been a good day for his team, and thus for his left arm.
On Monday afternoon, Texans coach Gary Kubiak revealed that quarterback Matt Schaub(notes) had suffered a "significant foot injury," a problem that's likely to sideline him for a protracted period of time. The injury is believed to be a Lisfranc issue. According to the Houston Chronicle, Schaub will visit specialists in Charlotte and Indianapolis next week "to determine whether he can play again this season." Adam Schefter is already reporting that he will not.
So that's awful. Schaub's backup, you'll recall, is Matt Leinart(notes). He took a few garbage-time snaps in Sunday's win at Tampa, but he didn't attempt a pass. Houston obviously has a dominant running game and it'll soon get Andre Johnson(notes) back from injury, so it's not as if this team lacks weapons. In the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 15-16), the Texans will face Carolina and Indy, two of the best possible matchups. Even a Leinart-led offense should be plenty productive against those teams.
But can Leinart himself be a fantasy asset? Well, again, you like the team context. He's surrounded by exceptional talent, the end-of-year schedule is friendly, and, well ... um ... oh, c'mon.
In previous NFL auditions, Leinart has been hesitant, inaccurate, unwilling to challenge coverage, unable to stretch the field. Unless he's been secretly improving (a lot), you won't love what you see from Leinart. Of course, you'll hear nothing but sunshine out of Houston's coaches in the days ahead, because Kubiak is no fool.
The actual good news, if you're a Texans fan, is that your team still has the NFL's top-ranked defense and a pair of excellent running backs in Arian Foster(notes) and Ben Tate(notes). In all likelihood, Houston won't need the QB to single-handedly win a game before January. This team is still well-positioned for a division title.
I won't go so far as to suggest that Schaub's injury helps Foster and Tate's fantasy value, because a downgrade at quarterback rarely helps anyone. The Texans are already running more often than any team in the league. (This tends to happen when a team races out to massive first-half leads; it does not represent a philosophical shift). At its best, Houston's offense is unpredictable and multi-dimensional. Going forward, you have to imagine that opposing defenses will beg Leinart to beat them downfield until he proves he can do it.
Among the widely available fantasy QB options, I'd prefer either the 37 percent-owned Carson Palmer(notes) or the 38 percent-owned Andy Dalton(notes) to Leinart. Palmer's next four opponents (Min, Chi, Mia, GB) all rank among the bottom-eight in the NFL against the pass; Dalton has a trickier schedule in the near-term, but he'll face St. Louis and Arizona in Weeks 15 and 16.
In the best-case scenario, maybe Leinart can deliver a decent impression of this year's Alex Smith, a low-volume passer who hasn't completely destroyed the fantasy value of the players around him. And to his credit, Smith has made very few negative plays. As we saw in Week 10 — on this catch in particular — Houston has stars who can turn short throws into long, game-changing scores. So there's a path for Leinart to have modest fantasy value, in an end-of-bench sort of way.
I'm not actually placing any claims on Leinart, despite owning Schaub in three leagues. (I've got Palmer as a backup in one, Cam starting in another, Big Ben in the third. Like you care). But I'm willing to look the other way if you're tempted to make this terrifying add. If you're in a sharing mood, please spread some Leinart propaganda in comments.
Note: Schaub's foot issue is just the biggest of the Monday injury notes, but it's not the only bad news. Matt Cassel's(notes) hand injury could end his season (Tyler Palko(notes) takes over; tough break, Bowe), Michael Vick(notes) has broken ribs (which explains his messy Week 10), Knowshon Moreno(notes) is done for the year with an ACL tear, and Matthew Stafford(notes) has a broken finger (and it clearly affected him Sunday, no matter what he says). So this is a messy week, as bad as any we've seen all year.
Photo via US Presswire
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