When it rains, it pours. Fantasy owners are learning just how tough of a game this is, particularly with regard to injuries during the dog days of the fall.
Having six teams on bye next week is bad enough, but some legit fantasy starters went down Sunday with long-term implications. With all of the injuries, it is no wonder the NFL has stacked half of its byes in the middle of the season (Weeks 8, 9 and 10).
We help you sort through the carnage and prepare for the struggles and roster stress ahead with our top takeaways from the weekend.
Note: It had to be expanded with so much going on.
1. Ivory coast: Jets move away from Powell
Bilal Powell appears to have lost the Jets' feature-back role to the now-healthy Chris Ivory, who added an attitude to the Jets' running game against the Pats. Ivory rushed 34 times for 104 yards, and Powell was limited to just three carries for six yards.
Newsday's Greg Logan reports "Ivory was uncertain if Powell was hurt, but he just ran with the rock when the Jets gave it to him." You have to assume it is a signal the Jets just prefer Ivory's running style over Powell's. Ivory told Logan about his surprising workload and style:
It helps get in a rhythm and get more of a feel for the scheme and the running lanes. ... A lot of guys have a lot of wiggle. I'm a one-cutter. Running inside the tackles, you shouldn't be doing too much wiggling, in my opinion, unless you have five yards between you and the defender. That's just my style—I see it and hit it.
Ivory is available in 65 percent of CBS Sports leagues. He is a must-add, even if the Jets just rode him out of nowhere.
I look down, Powell only carried it three times, but Ivory had the hot hand and we just kind of rode it. Those guys are great complements as running backs back there, but we rode Ivory a little more than normal, obviously.
2. Bradford's promising season comes to an end
For now, St. Louis will turn to backup quarterback Kellen Clemens. That is really bad news heading into a division game next Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Ouch!
You will have to plan on finding starters for all of the Rams receivers in the near term, including Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick. Running back Zac Stacy, who was solid Sunday with 87 combined yards and a receiving touchdown, is now the only Rams player who has to be owned going into the bye week.
At least you have some players to cut to handle all of those who will be unavailable to you with so many on bye.
3. Wayne done with torn ACL
Andrew Luck is going to need a new No. 1 target. Reggie Wayne is done for the year with a torn ACL, Schefter tweeted Monday.
T.Y. Hilton is coming off a disappointing performance (two catches for 27 yards), but he, Coby Fleener (five catches for 38 yards and a touchdown) and even Darrius Heyward-Bey (four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown) are a whole lot more important to fantasy owners. Fleener and DHB go from waiver fodder to must-have, if not must-start, options.
Even erstwhile second-year receiver LaVon Brazill will have to finally get involved. He is worth picking up as a stopgap once the Colts are through their Week 8 bye.
Luck outdueled Peyton Manning and certainly has juice no matter who is at the other end of his targets. So, consider any of the Colts receivers mentioned here as top waiver pickups.
4. Cutler has groin tear
Like the Rams, the Bears are also heading into a bye week, but Jay Cutler left with a groin injury that was diagnosed as a tear and will knock him out for at least four weeks, according to NFL insider Jay Glazer. The Bears rushed to sign quarterback Jordan Palmer off the street Sunday afternoon, and Josh McCown should be expected to serve as the starter after the bye.
McCown was solid in relief (204 yards and a touchdown), but you have to be wary of Martellus Bennett and Alshon Jeffery as key cogs to a fantasy stretch run now. Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall would remain must-starts with anyone at quarterback, but Cutler's strong arm made Bennett and Jeffery more than mere fantasy reserves.
You might even consider cutting Bennett to free up roster space for bye-week replacements as needed.
5. Torn labrum for Bucs' Martin
It is bad enough Doug Martin has been ruined by offensive inconsistency. Now, he reportedly is out for the season, according to NFL insider Albert Breer.
Rookie Mike James, who rushed 14 times for 45 yards Sunday, is likely to serve as Tampa Bay's starting running back going forward. He warrants a roster spot on that status alone, even if the Bucs lack juice in their running game even before Martin went down. Veteran Brian Leonard will be the James handcuff and the Bucs figure to look around at free agents for fill-ins.
None of the Bucs backs will be starter-worthy Thursday night against the Panthers and their tough defense. Ugh! It is going to be hard filling out fantasy lineup this week.
6. Finley hospitalized, in intensive care
The already-thin Packers had another injury scare Sunday when tight end Jermichael Finley left on a stretcher.
Finley is in intensive care with a neck issue, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. This stands to knock out one of the best fantasy tight ends on the board—especially after his five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. The injuries to Randall Cobb (leg, out until at least Week 15) and James Jones (PCL sprain), who was inactive Sunday, have already left the Packers thin for receiving targets.
7. Oh boy, oh Boykin!
Regardless of Finley's status, practice-squad receiver Jarrett Boykin (eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown) will arguably be the most-added player off waivers this week—justifiably so. Aaron Rodgers turns everyone he works with into a fantasy option, even against the Browns and shutdown corner Joe Haden.
Jordy Nelson was limited to five catches for 42 yards, but he did catch a slant in front of Haden for a touchdown. Nelson is going to be a statistical monster next week against the Vikings defense. They don't have anyone on Haden's level, and Nelson is the Packers' only veteran target healthy right now.
Boykin is not only a must-add if Jones is out again; he will be a must-start amid the heavy bye weeks.
8. Arian Foster owners sigh relief
As frustrating as Foster's performance was against the Chiefs—four carries for 11 yards—his fantasy owners at least can breathe a little easier. First, the injury is not "severe right now," ESPN's Tania Ganguli reports, and Foster will have that bye week to heal up.
Regardless, you will want to consider handcuff Ben Tate a must-have commodity as a Foster owner if you have reserve space through the bye. Tate briefly left the game after a blow to the ribs, but the Houston Chronicle's Dale Robertson reports Tate returned to the game and played through it.
We have seen seemingly insignificant hamstring issues turn into multiple-week injuries (read: Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons). If you are one of the teams with more Week 9 byes than those hit hard in Week 8 (Houston, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Chicago, San Diego and Tennessee), you should try to find a spot for Tate—especially if you are in need of running back depth.
The Texans will face the Colts in Week 9, and their quarterback issues will keep them run-oriented.
9. Randle solid but not great
Joseph Randle did a lot of good things, but the Cowboys ruined him in fantasy, bringing in Phillip Tanner to vulture a touchdown at the goal line. Dallas is not sold on DeMarco Murray (knee), according to Rapoport, but apparently it is not sold on Randle or Tanner either.
Murray (knee) might be back for Week 8 at Detroit, according to the Dallas Morning News' Joe Machota, along with Lance Dunbar (hamstring). It makes Randle far less intriguing for fantasy owners. Tanner will be worthless as well.
Owner Jerry Jones told Machota of Murray's Week 8 status:
I think there's a good chance—it's a good chance—I don't know, but you could see Murray back next week. Murray's a dominant back out there. It takes its toll on the defense when he's out there. I think we're in great shape at running back. We should have him possibly at a point in time. I don't know if it will be next week. You could have all three of these guys back at the same time. I mean, have Dunbar and Murray back and then have Randle play good.
10. Well, Helu there!
Alfred Morris owners have to be hating (fantasy) life right now. Despite a solid performance on the ground—his 95 yards rushing were good for third-most among backs this week—Roy Helu Jr. stole three touchdowns from him. Helu is not necessarily a goal-line back, but he is the third-down and hurry-up offense back.
Helu's scores came because of a quick-strike offense against the Bears, not because he is considered the Redskins' short-yardage runner. Helu has fantasy value, especially during the heavy bye season, but he cannot be counted on for touchdowns.
"Helu is a great change of pace with Morris," coach Mike Shanahan, renowned fantasy frustrater, told the Washington Post's Mike Jones.
"Helu got the ball and he has speed to not only break through tackles, but to get the ball in the end zone quickly."
That is a signal Helu might not be entirely a drain on Morris' value going forward, but Helu is worthy of a roster spot, if not a starting spot, in fantasy for the next couple of weeks. They are at Denver in Week 8, and that game figures to necessitate more hurry-up offense.
11. Redskins' Reed is a beast
Robert Griffin III appears to have found the answer to his seemingly weak supporting cast: tight end Jordan Reed. Reed led all tight ends with nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown Sunday.
The Washington Post's Mike Jones reports Reed has shown flashes this season, but he proved to be RG3's go-to guy Sunday. Shanahan told Jones:
I think any time you get a tight end that has a game like that, it's very easy to see what type of ability he has—the ability to break off linebackers and defensive backs and get open and run the ball after he catches.
Redskins left tackle Trent Williams gushed further to the Post:
You're watching a huge NFL talent. He's going to be a star in this league for a long time. We're blessed to get him. You can see what he's able to do. Whenever the ball's in his hands, it's a real threat.
Reed, available in 60 percent of CBS Sports leagues, is a must-add and must-start tight end now, particularly through the heaviest part of the bye season.
12. We told you Ryan would overcome injuries
Jacquizz Rodgers received an expanded role in the screen game, and Harry Douglas proved to be a fantasy monster against what was supposed to be a solid Bucs defense. Rodgers reeled in two touchdown passes and Douglas received one among his seven catches for 149 yards.
Ryan remains a must-start quarterback in all leagues. Douglas is too, regardless of whether White returns against the Falcons next Sunday. Pick up Douglas in all leagues.
13. Some fringe fantasy defenses lose key guys
Chalk this up as a lost season for the Houston Texans—another team on bye in Week 8. The Bengals also apparently suffered a significant blow to a secondary that has been banged up for much of the first half.
Brian Cushing (knee) will be lost for the season again, according to Breer.
Cushing's injury alone isn't enough to change your opinion on the Texans defense, but the fact that unit has been disappointing and the Texans are headed into a bye, you can cut and forget about owning the Houston defense/special teams in any leagues right now.
The Bengals still can be owned, especially with the inconsistent Jets on the schedule in Week 8, but starting cornerback Leon Hall is now out for the season, according to multiple reports.
The Bengals will remain a viable fantasy defense down the stretch, perhaps even one of the starting options at home against the Jets in Week 8, but Hall's loss is significant enough to drop the Bengals from the potential elite fantasy units for the stretch run. The Bengals are a matchup play now, if they haven't already proven that before this.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.
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