Gary Barnidge Cleveland Browns
As of Wednesday, Browns TE Gary Barnidge has been listed as questionable with an ankle sprain and was a limited participant in the team’s practice. While Barnidge only caught 3 passes for 39 yards last Sunday facing the Broncos, two of them were for touchdowns. Despite the injury, Barnidge shows all signs and intentions of playing in the Browns’ Week 7 game against St. Louis Rams.
Suffice it to say, Barnidge has been an essential component in Cleveland’s offense this year – QB Josh McCown has connected with Barnidge for 5 of his 8 TDs thrown this year – moreover, of all TEs in 2015, Barnidge ranks third in receiving yards with 413 – 3 receiving yards behind second-place Travis Kelce’s 416 for the Chiefs, and 12 behind the indestructible Rob Gronkowski’s 425 for the Patriots.
While 2015’s breakout story, WR Travis Benjamin, leads Barnidge in both receptions (Benjamin has 31 receptions to Barnidge’s 27) and receiving yards (Benjamin’s 528 yards to Barnidge’s 413), Barnidge does indeed have more receiving touchdowns than his teammate – Barnidge brought in 5 receiving TDs (including one incredible floored ankle/leg-secured effort in Week 5) to Benjamin’s 4 through the air.
Though Barnidge, himself, emerged from relative obscurity to significant league (or at least fantasy football) recognition, his recent play has given no indication of happenstance – none of Barnidge’s last four outings can be deemed statistical outliers – he’s the real deal. From a fantasy-football standpoint, he’s the top PPR-style scorer of all TEs this year, and as such, should increasingly be regarded as a high-end TE1 – at this point, Barnidge having a bad game would be more a fluke than for him to repeat any of his past few performances. If it becomes the case wherein Barnidge’s ankle becomes severe enough to excuse himself from the Browns’ away-game Week 7 matchup, the only other consistently-reliable targets have been the aforementioned Benjamin, who has earned mid-to-high WR1 prestige, and the backup/situation-back, RB Duke Johnson Jr., who fulfills more of a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 than a high RB3. The Rams have boasted a fairly-competent secondary this year, and rank 10th in passing yards allowed per game – the Browns under McCown will have to execute their passing plays more precisely than usual in order to ensure their passing offense.
Chris Thompson Washington Redskins
Redskins RB Chris Thompson was unable to practice due to a back injury – possibly a slipped disk – after a rough tackle in the first quarter against the Jets. Thompson has been unable to practice with his Redskins teammates this week due to the severity of the injury, and is listed as questionable for participation in Washington’s next matchup at home against the Buccaneers this Sunday.
It is at this point very unclear as to how the Redskins select their runners, other than by committee – whether by situation, by fatigue, or by possession; likely a little of each – though it seems that neither of the three RBs, Chris Thompson, Matt Jones, and Alfred Morris, are ever effective enough to justify the committee. While Morris and Jones have had noted success as the majority shareholder of touches in respective weeks, Week 1 (Morris rushed for 121 yards) and Week 2 (Jones rushed for 123 yards), none of the three committee-backs have had much impact thereafter.
While Morris still gets most of the carries, with 85, he is the least effective of the three by average – he only gained 297 yards, good enough for only 3.5 yards-per-carry – moreover, Morris is almost non-existent in the Redskins’ passing offense, netting 27 receiving yards off the entire year thus far. Jones is definitely the backup, albeit more effective than Morris, with 220 rushing yards from 54 attempts – a stronger 4.1 yards-per-carry – Jones is also a non-factor in the passing game, totaling a paltry 40 receiving yards for all his efforts. Thompson, while getting an underwhelming 19 carries through six games (a little over 3 carries per game), he has accrued 120 rushing yards in as many – that’s 6.3 yards-per-carry. As a passing-down threat, however, Thompson has carved his niche – Thompson has accumulated 150 receiving yards out of the backfield being targeted by QB Kirk Cousins – invariably, Thompson has gained 30 more yards receiving than has he rushing. In those regards, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay should be credited with an ingenious rushing philosophy – rotating three unique styles-of-play out of the backfield, in addition to keeping the runners full of energy, would have plenty of upside in virtually any offense – unfortunately for the Redskins, it hasn’t really worked.
As Thompson is very likely to miss Washington’s contest against Tampa Bay in Week 7, the remainder of the touches are likely split between the remaining healthy backs, Jones and Morris – it won’t be surprising if another RB simply replaces Thompson in the scheme – that’s less likely the case, though. For fantasy purposes, both Jones and Morris are low RB2s while Thompson is out – while Morris will get more touches, Jones will likely get more third-down/long-yardage looks, potentially translating into big-play conversion – otherwise, Jones and Morris are both higher RB3s. When Thompson gets back, he’ll be between a low RB2 and a high RB3 as well – until one of the trio proves themselves head-and-shoulders above the other contenders, expect frequently-disappointing fantasy payouts from any of the three.
Arian Foster Houston Texans
After a marginally-successful return to active duty, RB Arian Foster seemingly cannot permanently rid himself of his lingering groin injury – back in August, Foster underwent surgery to repair disconnected groin muscle tissue – while successful, it seems that Foster hasn’t still fully recovered from the aftermath of the surgery. Though limited in the Texans’ practice, Foster is likely to fully participate in Houston’s Sunday game against the Dolphins in Week 7.
Though not particularly effective on the ground in Week 6 against Jacksonville, only gaining 53 rushing yards from 18 attempts (2.9 yards-per-carry), Foster did look in 5 catches for 59 receiving yards and a touchdown, augmenting the Texans’ passing game. It’s a going trend this year that Foster gains more yards off of catches than does he from carries – in each of the three games played by Foster, his rushing yard/receiving yard totals have, thus far, been: 10/21, 41/77, 53/59.
Needless to say, Foster’s recurring groin injury brings forth serious concern of his long-term health in both real-life and fantasy-football settings – usually, Foster plays through these “minor” injuries. That is to say, Foster’s injury actually is a minor injury, that is, until it somehow gets re-aggravated – that’s really the only worry. Barring re-injury, Foster is a high RB2/low RB1 this week, and a high RB2 for whichever lasts longer between the NFL season and Foster’s health. Despite a formidable front-four, Miami has given up the second-highest rushing-yard total per game, with 141.0 – Foster might break for a big one if he gets going early. Otherwise, keep second-year reliever RB Alfred Blue nearby – while he broke for 139 rushing yards off of 31 carries (4.5 yards-per-carry) and a rushing TD in Week 3 against a weaker Buccaneers rush defense, his second-highest rushing total has been a mere 42 rushing yards – he’s had a sum of 26 carries dispersed among the remaining five games in which he’s participated – for those reasons, Blue is a high RB3 going into Week 7.
Antonio Gates San Diego Chargers
Fresh off a record-breaking effort against the Steelers (topping 100 career receiving TDs) in Week 5, TE Antonio Gates has been sidelined with an undisclosed knee injury – late in the fourth quarter in Week 6 against the Packers was when it seemed that his injury was sustained. Since then, reports have surmised Gates’ injury to be a mild MCL sprain – the injury may be severe enough to preclude him from the field as the Chargers face off at home against the Raiders.
In each of Gates’ two outings, he’s made just-shy of 100 receiving yards (92 and 95 receiving yards, respectively) – QB Philip Rivers is playing on-fire, leading the league in passing yards with 2,116 and somehow maintaining a remarkable 70.0% completion rating – with those numbers, it should be no stretch of the imagination that a tight-end of Gates’ caliber could manage to garner such stats. More so, Gates’ protégé, TE Ladarius Green has seen steady looks throughout the 2015 NFL season – Green has 3 receiving TDs through five games.
Considering Gates’ is now 35 years of age, in his 13th NFL season, it wouldn’t be such an outlandish notion that Gates sits out this game – being that as it is also a knee injury, it is even more advisable that Gates take some time off to recoup – while it is not written in proverbial stone that Gates will miss the Chargers’ Week 7 game hosting the Raiders, it is simply more advisable to insert TE Ladarius Green in a low-to-mid TE1 capacity; if Gates plays, his injury-risk is extremely high, and can be valued, at best, as a low-to-mid TE2 – despite Rivers’ stellar throwing form as of late, it can’t prevent Gates from being tackled after-the-catch – fantasy-wise, it would be wise to avoid a potential heartbreak.