Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football Injury Implications – Week 3

Drew Brees New Orleans Saints

Backup QB Luke McCown got his wish: “I bet if they just had the chance, some of those backups would really shine…” Albeit from a Verizon commercial, the fact remains that starter Drew Brees has been declared “out” after bruising his rotator cuff against the Buccaneers last Sunday. McCown is expected to be the starter against the 2-0 Carolina Panthers defense.

As it stands, here’s some important things to know about McCown: in his 11-year career, he’s started 9 games – there are reasons why this is so. For one, his career stats read of pure mediocrity: 184 complete of 317 passing attempts (58.0%), 9 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 68.3 passer rating (Brees’ career rating is 95.3). Additionally, Brees completed more passes in his sophomore year (Brees only threw 27 passes in the solitary game of his rookie year) – 320 passes – than did McCown attempt in his entire career. But, McCown is good enough to earn a backup role in New Orleans, so he does have some redeeming qualities about him – we just don’t know what they are, as yet.

Of course, fantasy-wise, there are more proficient QBs to choose from than Luke McCown; keep this in mind, though: the Saints’ offensive philosophy isn’t necessarily going to change during the 2-3 weeks of Brees’ injury, so if you’re looking for high pass-volume, McCown might be where it’s at for at least this upcoming week – still a big risk, nevertheless – as things are, McCown is going to be a wildcard QB2 for Week 3, with a very short-term utility.

Jay Cutler Chicago Bears

Bears fans will come to find out just how much they enjoyed (or resented) the play of Jay Cutler in the past few years, as his hamstring injury against the Cardinals will now bring backup Jimmy Clausen to the forefront against Seattle in Week 3.

Clausen has been a backup for 6 years in his NFL career, boasting a scant 53.2% pass accuracy (197 of 370 attempts) with 1,902 yards, 5 passing TDs, and 11 interceptions. Clausen has not been in a starting capacity for more than 11 games of his career. For Chicago fans who believe that Clausen will undoubtedly prove a better starting option than Cutler, who has, nonetheless, had a poor-ish start to the season (26 passes, 45 completions (57.8%), 345 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), as a career QB, Cutler has maintained an 85.1 passer rating through 10 NFL seasons; Clausen’s rating through 6: 60.0.

Even if head-turner WR Alshon Jeffery were to play, it is unwise to expect anything extraordinary from Clausen, given his track record. Unfortunately for the Bears in this instance, replacing Cutler is still a step down – avoid Clausen in fantasy football lineups – he’s the lowest of QB3s, even for a two-game stretch.

Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys

Big news out of Dallas – even bigger than the less-recent Dez Bryant injury – Tony Romo, 13-year franchise QB for the Cowboys, has been placed on the IR list with a fractured collarbone, and should miss no less than 8 weeks this season. Romo’s injury even further cripples the Cowboys offensive efforts, who, despite their shortcomings, has managed to remain undefeated at 2-0 – hopefully, either replacement Brandon Weeden or until-recently signed Matt Cassel will be able to stay the course until Romo’s return.

Weeden, a 4-year veteran, once held a starting job for 15 games in 2012 with the Cleveland Browns, managed a 5-11 record, posting 297 completions from 517 attempts (57.4%), 3,385 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, and 17 INTs – that’s more or less what to expect from Weeden, who has managed a steadily-improving 73.4 career passer rating. In his field time relieving Romo last Sunday, Weeden went a perfect 7-for-7 on passes, with 73 yards and a TD.

On the other hand, in 4 years, Matt Cassel had no problems as the starter for 15 games of the 2008 season while playing in the stead of the imcomparable Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who went down with a season-ending knee injury – Cassel’s record during his tenure there stood at 11-5 (Cassel played from the middle of the first quarter of Week 1 onward – we’ll credit him with the win). During the year in question, Cassel posted 63.4% passing accuracy with 327 completions on 516 attempts, 3,693 passing yards, 21 passing TDs, and 11 INTs. He also went on to start one game short of 3 full seasons (47) 4 years under the helmet with the Kansas City Chiefs (from 2009-2012) – there, his numbers were also notable: for instance, in 2010, despite having one of his lower accuracy years (58.2%), Cassel threw for 27 TDs with only 7 interceptions off the year; he achieved his highest career passer rating of 93.0 that year. Also, consider that Cassel’s NFL career is more than twice as long as that of Weeden’s, and has still maintained a higher career passer rating (80.1) than Weeden (73.4).

Considering the circumstances for the Cowboys, Weeden isn’t the worst replacement for Romo, but with Dez out for another 5-6 weeks and TE Jason Witten dealing with his own injury, Weeden has a lot to overcome – if he ends up maintaining the job, and that’s a stretch of a belief, as Dallas basically went “no-huddle” for the Cassel trade. For fantasy purposes, regard Weeden as a low QB3 – if he starts over Cassel for the duration of Romo’s injury, scale him as his play improves/regresses – he may or may not be worth the long-term investment.

Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers

Reportedly, X-rays on RB Eddie Lacy’s ankle came back negative for a fracture – the injury he incurred during a 27-17 win against Seattle has since been regarded by medical staff as “minor”. Whether or not he’ll be ready for Week 3 is still a mystery; Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stated, regarding Lacy’s injury: “If Eddie can go, he’ll go.”

In the meantime, second-stringer James Starks should be activated for those who were fortunate enough to pick him up – in 2013, when Lacy went down with a concussion, Starks made the most of his play time and rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries (6.6 yards-per-carry) and a touchdown in Lacy’s absence – it was the first 100-yard rushing game for the Packers since 2010 (RB Brandon Jackson, in an overtime game, nonetheless).

The fact that Lacy had to be carted off the field and X-rayed does not bode well for the 3-year running-back’s chances of participation in Week 3 against Kansas City, nor does the fact that Packers’ staff are reluctant to release detailed information regarding the injury. Until more information is made known, it would be wise to sit Lacy for the time being, just to be on the safe side. Lacy has been pretty injury-prone throughout his relatively short NFL career – the Packers can operate reasonably well without him starting. Despite Lacy’s tackle-breaking prowess, due to his frequent injuries, he’s a low RB1 – if he could remain healthy for longer stretches, he’d undoubtedly be a high RB1 – he’s one of the few rushers in 2014 that eclipsed 1,000 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Starks isn’t a bad Week 3 pickup – he’s a high RB2 for the coming week, and a high RB3 for the remainder of 2015 – he’ll show on third-down here-and-there but don’t expect any ludicrously high fantasy outputs from Starks during times where Lacy’s healthy. If Lacy doesn’t start, which is likely, Green Bay fans can sigh in relief, knowing Starks is the backup.

Though a thigh injury to a running-back seems fairly concerning, 49ers RB Carlos Hyde is slated to play the upcoming matchup against division-rival Arizona, despite a severe bruising thereto last Sunday night facing Pittsburgh.

Tevin Coleman Atlanta Falcons

Falcons rookie RB Tevin Coleman hasn’t yet displayed any breath-taking feats of agility or speed as the lightning to Devonta Freeman’s thunder in the one-two combo that is Atlanta’s backfield. More concerning, Coleman has since been sidelined with a fractured rib incurred Sunday against the Giants.

While both backs shared a rushing touchdown in their winning effort against New York, the two only combined for 57 yards against the Giants defense. Whereas the two runners were once vying for an outright starting spot, it seems that head coach Dan Quinn has seen fit to settle them into situational/utility roles, with Freeman being the preferred long-yardage and passing-down back (Coleman has yet to catch his first NFL regular-season pass).

With Coleman seemingly missing out on Week 3 against a severely-decommissioned Cowboys team, Freeman should be able to prove way more threatening than previously appeared, being a potential target for QB Matt Ryan out of the backfield for a significantly higher percentage of downs. Pragmatically, this could be the chance Freeman needs to convince offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan that he’s overqualified for his current gig at utility-back – Freeman is definitely a mid RB2 this week, and a low-end RB2 when splitting time with Coleman.

Chris Ivory New York Jets

Looking back at how well the Jets have kicked off the first two weeks of the 2015 season (2-0 thus far), despite controversy that resulted in QB Geno Smith’s jaw being broken, it would be no wonder how much concern an injury to starting RB Chris Ivory would be. Listed as a quadriceps injury, Ivory was forced to miss practice while undergoing medical treatment.

Ivory was instrumental on the ground against Cleveland in their Week 1 opener, rushing for 91 yards and 2 TDs, and catching a pass for 9 yards, bringing his combined total yardage to a round 100 for the game. Reliever RB Bilal Powell also contributed 62 rushing yards of his own, further establishing the Jets’ run game.

While it seems Ivory’s inclusion in Week 3’s game against the Eagles will be a game-time decision, backup Powell seems to possess every bit of playmaking ability as does Ivory. With third-stringer Zac Stacy having yet seen field time, it’s a fairly sure bet Powell will be relied upon heavily to move the ball on the ground, especially with the absence of WR Eric Decker, who is recovering from a knee injury of his own.

For fantasy football-related purposes, Powell isn’t the worst choice this week – he’ll continue to see considerably more playing time while Ivory is being looked at. Powell won’t be solely a third-down option for this upcoming game against Philly – we’d strongly advise keeping Powell on for this week alone as a mid-tier to high-range RB2. While he’ll see the field fairly often, whether or not Ivory can remain healthy, Powell will likely get many opportunities to plead his case for starting job from his play – we’ll see how their head coach, Todd Bowles, takes Powell’s performance into consideration.

Eric Decker New York Jets

WR Eric Decker, too, is injured – this one, a tad more scary than the previously-mentioned (QB Geno Smith, jaw; RB Chris Ivory, quad) – this time around, a serious threat manifested itself into a PCL tear for the Jets receiver. Recent MRIs have confirmed, on the contrary, that Decker’s knee has been afflicted with no more than a sprain.

Decker fought valiantly against the Colts secondary in Week 2, turning in 97 receiving yards and a TD reception from his 8 catches before leaving early in the second half. Since having been deactivated with the injury, Decker has not practiced with the Jets.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven to be worth every penny of his signing, leading the Jets to 2-0 in the AFC East with 423 passing yards, 4 passing TDs, and 2 INTs in his last two efforts – in tandem with Decker, former Bears’ feature-wideout Brandon Marshall is putting in work of his own, averaging 81.5 receiving yards and a touchdown per game since the season’s commencement. Other than the two primary receivers, Fitzpatrick hasn’t found much success elsewhere in receiving targets: third-stringer Chris Owusu, who showed promise in Week 1, has since been inactive  with a more-debilitating knee injury; starting TE Jeff Cumberland has yet to bring in a pass in either game; neither has backup WR Jeremy Kerley; fourth-string rookie Quincy Enunwa has enjoyed all of one (though fairly big) reception for 27 yards in his two outings.

What this could very well translate to is more of these potential targets taking a more active part in New York’s passing offense – due to Decker’s integral role in the Jets’ success so far, chances are Marshall will pick a majority of the slack – and will likely take delight in doing so. Until Decker is cleared to play, put very high value on Marshall for the coming weeks – he’s definitely worth the highest of WR1 considerations; all of the ancillary receiving roles (Cumberland, Enunwa, Kerley) deserve low WR3 statuses until proven otherwise.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Choppy waters in Tampa Bay: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, after a marvelous regular-season debut with 5 catches, 110 receiving yards, and 2 TD receptions, the Buccaneers tight-end is now sidelined with a fairly-major shoulder strain – he should miss at least 4 weeks.

Seferian-Jenkins didn’t follow up his Week 1 performance in spectacular fashion, gathering 29 yards from a scant 2 receptions against the Saints in Week 2. Seferian-Jenkins will be replaced in the meantime by either Brandon Myers or Luke Stocker, neither of which has yet to total a single reception this season.

Seferian-Jenkins’ injury doesn’t bode well for rookie-QB Jameis Winston, who has yet to attempt a completion to towering WR Mike Evans due to his pre-season injury. Needless to say, Winston’s down-field target options are becoming severely limited. WR Vincent Jackson is doing his best to keep the Bucs’ offense in stride, pulling in a Week 2 touchdown reception among his 3 for 54 yards; slot-receiver Louis Murphy stepped up big against New Orleans last Sunday, netting 84 yards off of his 3 receptions.

Once again Winston is missing one of his 6’5 targets; hopefully for him, either of the TEs – Myers or Stocker – will also contribute a superlative effort. Even with Winston beginning to get as comfortable as he can with the injury-plagued Buccaneers offense, either TE option, for fantasy purposes, is advised to be valued as a low TE2; Jackson, likely being the outright real-life WR1 in lieu of Evans, should be treated as a low-end to mid-WR1 for the time being; Evans will have a huge upside against the Texans as a higher-tier WR2. Tampa Bay’s offense is far from high-powered, but they should be able to make it a close contest against an even-more troubled Houston team.

Jordan Cameron Miami Dolphins

Dolphins TE Jordan Cameron got banged up losing against in-state opponent Jacksonville (20-23), suffering a groin injury and leaving the field, relinquishing TE duties to barely-sophomore backup Jake Stoneburner, who finished with 2 catches for 18 yards and a receiving TD.

While Cameron did practice with the Dolphins in a limited capacity, it is not assured that he will be 100% come Week 3 against division-rival Buffalo. Cameron has been a central part in Miami’s passing offense – the Dolphins should find greater dilemma moving the ball through the air given his potential exclusion from this Sunday’s contest, especially against a Bills defense in top-form.

Here’s where Stoneburner enters – his two-year NFL career play with the Dolphins has been culminated by last week’s inclusion – QB Ryan Tannehill seems to have favored Stoneburner over second-string Dion Sims (nagged with his own injuries), and it’s more likely Stoneburner will assume the main backup role behind Cameron if he is unable to play.

This is another of those instances wherein not enough information is known about a player in order to make any useful predictions as to his utility. How much of a fluke is his TD reception? Will he continue to be used in that capacity, or was his on-field inclusion more of a one-on-one matchup negotiation? Stoneburner is indeed a bigger target, standing 6’6, 250 lbs., but can he run routes like Cameron? Can he move downfield as quickly as Cameron? There are questions like these that we, unfortunately, cannot readily answer – we simply have to go upon the role of the position in the offense, and hope the player in question – Jake Stoneburner, in this case – can rise to the occasion. With that in mind, treat Stoneburner as a low-end or mid-TE2 – he’s yet another one to keep an eye on – assuredly, he’ll see the field more often than not.

Marshawn Lynch Seattle Seahawks

For those faithful to the 12th Man religion, a discouraging 0-2 start for Seattle isn’t enough to dispel their belief in their team’s prophesied return to the fabled Super Bowl. Perhaps, though, a recent calf-injury to Beast Mode RB Marshawn Lynch will be sufficient to shake the loyalties of some – he has participated in limited reps during Wednesday’s practice.

Lynch rushed for 1,306 yards and a league-lead-tying 13 rushing touchdowns last year, and was snubbed at giving the Seahawks the potential lead against the New England Patriots and Super Bowl XLIX victory with game-winning one-yard TD run.

While the severity of Lynch’s injury has not yet been disclosed, fellow 9-year veteran and former-Bills compatriot Fred Jackson takes place of the running for the Seahawks in his stead. Thus far, neither tailback has enjoyed much success on the ground – through Week 2, the two have cumulatively combined for a total of 129 yards (64.5 yards per week). Jackson, who once split time with C.J. Spiller during his Buffalo years, possibly faces starting duties in Week 3 against a struggling Chicago Bears defense.

Seeing as how Lynch’s injury is more nagging in nature than debilitating, we can expect to see Lynch’s participation against the Bears this Sunday. Jackson, however, will definitely see an increased minority of the reps – Jackson hovers around a high RB3/low RB2 value for Week 3, but not much worth of an investment thereafter – between QB Russell Wilson and Beast Mode, they’ll get all the required running done between the two.