NFL Week 9 was a quiet week for injuries, but the biggest hits came in the same game.
Nick Foles left the Eagles’ Week 9 matchup with the Texans on the last play of the first quarter with a shoulder injury. He was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game, and reportedly has a broken collarbone that will likely keep him out for the rest of the season.
Mark Sanchez completed 15-of-22 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions in three-quarters of relief work. He threw an absolute dime to Jordan Matthews for the first touchdown and made a nice throw to Jeremy Maclin for the second. In this offense Sanchez has the opportunity to be a streaming QB1 as long as he is the starter. Sanchez is a must add.
Arian Foster was the second big name to go down in the Eagles-Texans matchup, leaving with a groin injury in the third quarter. Foster slammed his helmet down to the turf after suffering the injury. Foster has a disturbing history with soft tissue injuries, and could find himself sidelined for several weeks. Alfred Blue is a nice pickup if he is available. Luckily for Foster owners, the Texans are on bye this week.
The final big injury of the day was to Lamar Miller, who left the Dolphins’ blowout win over the Chargers with a shoulder injury. Miller was diagnosed with a sprained AC joint on Monday, which is the same injury that has hampered Jordan Cameron at various times this season. An injury to the shoulder is especially tough for a running back, but The Miami Herald’s Adam Beasley is “hearing” Miller will be able to play against the Lions Week 10. If Miller cannot go, the Dolphins would likely turn to Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams as an ineffective RBBC.
A week after splitting both snaps and touches almost evenly with Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, Tre Mason staked his claim as the undisputed lead-back in St. Louis. Mason saw 19 of the 23 running back carries against the 49ers, and Zac Stacy did not even see the field in the Rams’ surprising win.
More importantly, Mason was involved in the passing game, even showing well on a blitz pickup early in the game. It is unlikely he ever becomes a three-down back, but Mason would be considerably less game-flow dependent if he can at last prove himself mediocre in pass protection. He took great steps in that direction on Sunday.
St. Louis has burned us once before with Mason, but it feels like the Rams have settled on him as their starting running back. If that is the case, he would likely be in line for 15-20 touches a game and would be a very interesting RB2 the rest of the season.
One of the more interesting storylines coming into Week 9 was the performance of Alfred Morris. With Robert Griffin III sidelined for most of the year Morris was having by far the worst season of his career. He was averaging 64 yards a game and 3.9 yards per carry heading into Week 9 after averaging 90 yards a game and 4.7 yards per carry over the first two years of his career.
His struggles should not have been surprising, though, as Morris has always struggled without Griffin on the field. Morris owns a 3.69 yards per carry average without Griffin on the field in his career, but averages a whopping 4.82 yards per tote with Griffin in the lineup. It is like night and day.
Luckily for Morris owners, Griffin was back in the lineup Week 9 against the Vikings, and like magic Morris was once again very good. Morris rushed 19 times for 82 yards (4.8 YPC) and scored two touchdowns against Minnesota. It was only the second time Morris cracked the 90 yard barrier this season. The first was with a healthy Griffin Week 1.
It is fairly clear Morris is a much better player with Griffin on the field, and barring injury Griffin should be on the field the rest of the season. That puts Morris right back into the low-end RB1 conversation.
Ben Roethlisberger is officially out of his mind. He threw for 340 yards and six touchdowns against the Ravens Sunday night a week after dropping 522 and six touchdowns on the Colts. He set the record for the most fantasy points in consecutive games by a quarterback, and his 12 touchdowns were the most over any two-game span in league history. It was an amazing run to say the least.
The question now turns to projecting Roethlisberger forward. I was not particularly bullish on Big Ben following his demolition of the Colts because he had thrown 10 touchdown passes total in the first seven games of the season, and the Colts’ defense was without Vontae Davis for most of the game.
It will be very hard to continue fading Roethlisberger after this performance, especially with the schedule he has down the stretch. Ben gets the terrible Jets next, then has the Titans, BYE, Saints, Bengals, Falcons, Chiefs and Bengals to close out the year. The Chiefs are the only team on that list defending the pass well right now, and the rest are all arguably bottom-ten pass defenses.
Ben’s history suggests he will be an up-and-down QB1 even with that schedule, but with a suddenly weapon-laden offense, the ups could be week-winning. I am holding Big Ben unless I can use him to land one of the top four guys.
Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins
I have grouped Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins together because they are essentially in the same position. Both are on teams with aging No. 1 receivers, and both are beginning to garner a larger share of their team’s targets. Evans has seen 25 percent of the Bucs’ targets over the last three games, and Hopkins has seen 33 percent of the Texans’ targets over his last three.
Both players could be fantasy monsters if they continue to see that kind of workload, and it would make sense for the struggling Texans and Bucs to target their young playmakers as often as possible. Both are high-upside WR3s with the potential for much more this season and beyond.
I thought it would take Percy Harvin a few weeks to get settled in with the Jets after being traded mid-season. I was wrong. In his two games with New York, Harvin already has 21 targets and has touched the ball 19 times. He only had 26 targets and 33 touches with the Seahawks in five games.
More importantly for his fantasy outlook, the Jets seem intent on using him down the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Harvin was targeted three times 20-plus yards down the field against Buffalo Week 8 and had a 42-yard leaping grab against the Chiefs Week 9. He was not targeted more than 20-yards downfield by Seattle in any of his five games with the team this season.
Michael Vick was actually pretty good against the Chiefs, and Harvin is getting the targets. That is a recipe for fantasy success. He is back in the WR3 conversation.
Stash and See
These players may not be worthy of a start Week 10, but they are certainly worthy of a roster spot.
Kyle Rudolph should be back following the Vikings’ Week 10 bye. If Chase Ford can put up decent numbers, Rudolph should eat. … Jarvis Landry out-snapped Brian Hartline and continues to make explosive plays. … Theo Riddick has already earned a bigger role in the Lions’ offense, and Reggie Bush is not exactly a bastion of health. … Tyler Eifert is nearing a return and was a big part of OC Hue Jackson’s game plan before injuring his elbow Week 1.
I love Jerick McKinnon. He is a special player with the ball in his hands and has an athletic profile rarely seen in a running back. If I were coaching the Vikings he would touch the ball on every play. Unfortunately, it does not appear the current Vikings staff feels the same way.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer commented last week he did not want to get McKinnon “beat up”, and then preceded to give McKinnon only three more touches than Matt Asiata against the Redskins Week 9. Asiata actually out-snapped McKinnon 38-to-37, and got the touches that matter the most around the goal line. It was a maddening day for McKinnon owners.
The most concerning part is this usage is unlikely to change. McKinnon will find touchdowns hard to come by this season, and may be staring at the return of Adrian Peterson sometime during the fantasy playoffs. He is still an RB2, but the upside is harder to see.
After having perhaps the greatest statistical game ever by a quarterback against the Rams Week 7, Russell Wilson has been downright terrible the last two weeks. He has completed just 55 percent of his throws over the last two games and has 378 yards passing, 66 yards rushing, one touchdown and one interception total over that span. It has been brutal.
Wilson carries some of the blame for the poor performances, missing open receivers and making a few questionable decisions, but a lot of the blame falls at the feet of the people around Wilson. The offensive line has struggled to protect him the last two games, and the receivers that were expected to step up following the Percy Harvin trade are simply not getting open. If the receivers are not getting open against Oakland and Carolina, it is very fair to question if they will figure out how to get open against the tougher tests to come.
The good news is help is on the horizon. C Max Unger should be back Week 10, and LT Russell Okung has a good chance to suit up against the Giants as well. The offensive line getting healthy would be a big step in the right direction, but the Seahawks have to figure out how to get their nondescript wide receivers open for Wilson to find any success this season. I believe they can, but Wilson cannot be trusted as anything more than QB1 streaming option until we see it.
Brandon Oliver was bottled up for the second straight game against the Dolphins Week 9. Oliver rushed 13 times for only 19 yards against the Phins after gaining just 36 yards on 13 carries against the Broncos Week 8. He has 16.7 standard fantasy points total over his last three games.
Worse for Oliver, Ryan Mathews is fully expected back after the Chargers’ Week 10 bye. Mathews will take over the early-down work, relegating Oliver to something of a Danny Woodhead-plus role in the San Diego offense. Oliver still needs to be owned as a handcuff for the oft-injured Mathews, but his days as a fantasy starter may have come to a close.
I had serious volume concerns about Vernon Davis heading into the season, and those concerns were being borne out even before Davis hurt his ankle against the Eagles Week 2. A back injury followed for Davis, and the season from that point has basically been lost. Davis has not scored a touchdown since Week 1 and has yet to surpass 44 yards receiving this season. It has been a disaster.
The concerning part for Davis owners is this trend does not appear close to changing. Davis was basically uninvolved against the Rams Week 9 and has 14 targets total in the three games since returning from the back injury. Davis will always have the ability to break out for a three-touchdown game, and as such he should still be considered at the bottom of the TE1 barrel. He is just a touchdown-or-bust option, though, and is not worth a start against a Saints team that has been solid against tight ends this season.
These players are unlikely to make any noise this season. They are not must drops, but can be replaced without worry.
Darren Sproles is averaging five standard fantasy points a game since Week 2. … Doug Martin has been horrible and may not get his starting spot back even when he gets healthy. … Jordan Cameron will miss at least one more game and was not lighting up the box score even before the injury. … Who could have guessed the touchdowns would dry up for Eddie Royal? … Zac Stacy had zero snaps against the 49ers. He does not have a role in the offense right now. … Maurice Jones-Drew is terrible and not getting any work. … Danny Amendola set a season high with 35 receiving yards against the Broncos.