Everyone is slowly dying in the NFL. Melvin Gordon is out for the forseeable future, Andy Dalton's thumb fell off, and, unsurprisingly, two viable tight ends hit the IR. Instead of mourning these losses, we're going to look at who can step up in their absences, as well as other guys who are banged up and how their injuries impact others around them. Let's get this show on the road, folks, starting with the Red Rocket.
ANDY DALTON - CINCINNATI BENGALS
RIP Cincy. If I'm being honest, I don't think Dalton going down is the nail in the coffin, but it sure doesn't help their hopes. With A.J. Green already out, and now, without their starting QB, the Bengals must resort to Jeff Driskel, who has Tyler Boyd as his WR1, to lead the pack. Their defense is absolutely terrible, so they're going to need to throw, but can we trust mynameisjeff to put up big numbers? Who knows. Because of the uncertainty here, I'd have to say that Tyler Boyd will be nothing more than a back-end WR2 from here on out as long as Green sits, and if he returns, it's hard to say where he'd rank. My best guess is, since it looks like the Bengals have lost all hope, they'll just hold Green out for the rest of the year, keeping Boyd as their de facto WR1. As for Joe Mixon, he's finished as a top 20 RB in 6/9 games, but now, in an offense that's going to have to throw, he'll need to bank on his receiving upside to bring fantasy value. Now, he did receive 7 targets last game, catching all of them, so he certainly still has RB1 upside. Also, Driskel did run a 4.54 40-yard dash, so maybe his legs will pose a threat to opposing defenses, opening holes for Mixon. As I've said before, though, this team is a mess and likely won't be playing with a lead very often, making him more of a high-end RB2 from here on out. As for their other options, such as C.J. Uzomah, John Ross, and whoever else they have, just stay far, far, FAR, away.
MITCHELL TRUBISKY - CHICAGO BEARS
ALEX SMITH - WASHINGTON REDSKINS
I'm combining these two since they didn't play last week either, but since I didn't write an article about this last week, I'll add my 2 cents, no matter how badly you don't care to hear it.
Firstly, Trubisky. Chase Daniel didn't look awful, but he also didn't look great. Their only receiver to surpass 8 PPR points was Taylor Gabriel, as he totaled 11.9. Without Trubisky playing, against a fraudulent team with an awful run defense, I don't have any confidence playing any of their receiving options. Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller are no more than FLEX options, but I wouldn't feel great about either since they likely won't have the volume needed to produce any relevant value. Taylor Gabriel always has the ability to make a big play, so he, as well, could provide FLEX appeal, but I'm still not feeling great about that. This could be a decent game for Jordan Howard, as, since the Giants traded away Damon Harrison, have given up the following rushing lines (rushes/yards/touchdown(s)): Adrian Peterson - 26/149/1, Matt Breida - 17/101/1, Peyton Barber - 18/106/1, Josh Adams - 22/84/1. I still don't have much trust in him, but in a game where the Chiraq D should dominate, he could see upwards of 15 rushes, which is all he needs to provide value. If you own him, fire him up with confidence.
Now, for Alex Smith. Colt McCoy looked kinda shitty, but for fantasy, he looks to be loving Jordan Reed. He's topped 13 fantasy points over the past 2 weeks and has seen 19 targets over that span. He's a must start TE1 this week, despite the Eagles being extremely solid against the position. Similar to Jared Cook, the tight end in Washington is their #1, so I wouldn't be concerned about him getting phased out, as he'll get looks regardless. As for the receiving game, Josh Doctson has seen a combined 17 looks over the past 2 weeks, and since Trey Quinn has been implemented into the offense, he's seen 4.5 targets per game. Both are viable FLEX plays against a shitty Eagles secondary this week, with Quinn being the safer options and JD having the TD upside.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
JAMEIS WINSTON - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
MATCHUP: CAROLINA PANTHERS
The fact that Winston is owned in <60% of Yahoo leagues is insane. He throws the ball a million times per game, and their defense blows, so that trend won't stop any time soon. In games where he's attempted more than 20 passes, he's finished as the QB1, QB4, QB22, and QB6. He pretty much has a 75% hit rate of being an elite play, and against a Panthers' defense that gave up 4 passing touchdowns to Ryan Fitzmagic the last time they played. Winston is a must-own player, no matter how shitty he is in real life, and this week, is an easy top 8 play at the position.
LAMAR JACKSON - BALTIMORE RAVENS
MATCHUP: @ ATLANTA FALCONS
Lamar hasn't done much through the air thus far, only tossing one TD in his 2 starts, but what he provides on the ground outweighs that. 2 weeks ago, he didn't find the end zone at all, yet finished as the QB15 thanks to his 119 yards on the ground. This week, he gets an Atlanta defense that has allowed 3+ passing TDs each week, outside of games where they faced NFC East quarterbacks. Now, I'm not saying he's a lock to score 3 times, but with his rushing upside, and against a soft defense, I don't see how he could be anything less than a back-end QB1 this week.
At this point, there aren't any real "deep stashes". I doubt the Bucs go back to Fitzpatrick now, but if you have the space and own Jameis, it doesn't hurt to scoop him up. Winston is always viable to throw 8 picks in one quarter, so although I don't think it would happen, it's certainly possible they make the Crab King ride the pine if he puts up another dud.
MELVIN GORDON - LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
And boom goes the dynamite. Melvin BEGGED to suit up this game, and rightfully so, as he looked spry in the first half, rushing for two scores. What he didn't plead for, though, was to run an end-around up 18. Shockingly, he got injured on this play, which has been deemed a Grade 2 MCL Sprain, likely sidelining him for at least 2 weeks. If I were to guess, if all goes well, he'll return week 15 against the divisonal rival Kansas City Chiefs. This is best case scenario, though, and if they win week 13 against the Steelers and whoop that Bengal ass, they'll be sitting pretty at 10-3, which will make them hesitant to rush Melv out there too early. All of this is speculation, though, so let's just talk about this week.
This week, they get the Steelers, who haven't been great against runningbacks recently. The last time they stopped a back from reaching the endzone was against the Browns, 5 games ago. Since then, they've allowed the following fantasy finishes: Alex Collins RB21 (9 rushes, 35 yards, TD), Christian McCaffrey RB2 (14 rushes, 77 yards, TD; 5 receptions, 61 yards, 2 TDs), Leonard Fournette RB6 (28 rushes, 95 yards, TD; 2 receptions, 46 yards), Phillip Lindsay RB14 (14 rushes, 110 yards, TD). Ekeler is set to EAT, and will likely get somewhere in the vicinity of 15 touches. The last time Gordon sat, he had 17 touches (19 opportunities) against one of the best defenses in the league, the Tennessee Titans, and still finished as the RB23. He's easily a top 12 play this week, and with easier matchups than the Steelers in the upcoming weeks, should continue this RB1 status. As far as their receivers, I'm not sure it impacts them much, as Ekeler will command a similar target share to Gordon. The only difference, though, is Justin Jackson won't command the same targets as Ekeler did in the #2 role, so each receiver may have a chance at seeing 1-2 more targets. If anyone gets upgraded, it would likely be Tyrell, as he produces with limited volume, so 1-2 more looks could cement him into a WR3 role for fantasy.
ALEX COLLINS - BALTIMORE RAVENS
Collins has been placed on the IR, and Baltimore has just activated Kenneth Dixon. Not much should change, as I expect Gus Edwards to be their main back, but Dixon is a big-bodied back with pass catching ability, so if he stays healthy, I wouldn't be surprised if he works his way into a somewhat consistent role. If this hurts anyone, I'd say it's Buck Allen/Ty Montgomery, as Dixon provides much of the same value in the passing game while also being able to produce on the ground.
KERRYON JOHNSON - DETROIT LIONS
Johnson was out last week, as well, and in his absence, LeGarrette Blount found the endzone twice. Riddick also stepped up, hauling in an impressive 7 passes. The gameplan should be the same this week against the Rams, with Blount dominating early-down and goal line snaps, while Riddick with see 3rd down and passing down work. Both provide back-end RB2 value, but Riddick , in 1/2 or full PPR, is the better play. In standard leagues, Riddick is basically unusable, while Blount is actually a decent RB2 play since he's 350 pounds and everytime they get down to the 1 or 2 yard line he just tips over and goes for 6. All in all, this is a shit offense, but they have such few options that the few they have, like Golladay, Riddick, Blount, and Ellington are usable due to the volume they'll see.
MARLON MACK - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Mack went down with a concussion late in the game, so I wouldn't be surprised if he sits out this week. Even if he's good to go, the Colts get the Jags, who are a complete shitshow right now, so there's no reason to rush him back. IF he sit, expect Hines and Wilkins to share the load, with Hines dominating passing down work and Wilkins to get the goal line duties. The Colts have been solid running the ball recently, so even in a not so great matchup, I'd feel decent rolling Hines out as a RB3 and Wilkins as a low-end FLEX play. As for their receiving options, I'll get into them later in the article, because there are bigger fish to fry in terms of injuries in Indy.
KENYAN DRAKE - MIAMI DOLPHINS
It's the Dolphins. If Drake sits, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, gets any upgrade, outside of the immortal Frank Gore. They get the Bills this week, who, for all their issues, as extremely tough against quarterbacks and receivers. They've allowed just one quarterback to surpass 200 yards through the air in their last 7 games, and outside of Andrew Luck, no quarterback has thrown for more than one touchdown since week 2. Ryan Tannehill, as well as anyone in their receiving game, is a complete no-go against Bills Mafia. As for Gore, he's averaging 4.5 yards per carry, which if you multiply it by 10, you'll get his age. Joking aside, he won't be a bad play, as the Bills have given up the 3rd most rushing touchdowns (12) this season, and the 10th most points to the position. For the first time in 39 years, Gore will be a RB2 play.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
DOUG MARTIN - OAKLAND RAIDERS
MATCHUP: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Martin has been the only consistent part of this Raiders' offense, and in a matchup against a team that can't stop the run, he's a back end RB2 play. The last time the Chiefs allowed less than 10 fantasy points was to Joe Mixon in week 7, and before that, no runningback, including Kyle Juszczyk, fell below 10 points against them. Obviously it's hard to trust anyone on the Raiders, but with Martin getting ~15 touches/game, he should have enough volume to produce this week.
FRANK GORE - MIAMI DOLPHINS
MATCHUP: BUFFALO BILLS
Frank Gore being a good play is wild. The guys is as old as time, yet produces year in and year out. Obviously he isn't the best option out there, but he's gotten 13 or more touches in his past 4 games, and now, gets a soft Bills' rush defense who have allowed 7 rushing TDs over their past 5 games. With Buffalo shutting down every QB they've faced, Miami should turn to their running game, where Gore will see enough work to give him RB3/FLEX value.
KENNETH DIXON - BALTIMORE RAVENS
I already touched on him a bit in the Alex Collins section, so I'll keep it short. Dixon should step into the RB2 role in Baltimore, and for a team that runs the most offensive plays per game (71.2), has a strong defense, and have a QB who isn't going to throw 30 times a game, he could actually see enough work to produce FLEX value. He's a good pass catcher and has the build of a workhorse back, so if anything ever happens to Gus Edwards, he could step in as the lead back. Edwards was reportedly dealing with an ankle injury this week, so I'd snag Dixon now before anything serious happens, which would make KD a must pickup.
JUSTIN JACKSON - LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
MALCOLM BROWN - LOS ANGELES RAMS
Both guys are just handcuffs in elite offenses. I'd prefer Brown, as he has the build of a workhorse back, while Jackson is a smaller guy, and if Ekeler ever goes down, he wouldn't just become a 20-touch guy. Also, Melvin Gordon has a chance to return this year, so it's not like he's the 2nd option as of now (if Gordon returns he'd be relegated to the #3). Either way, both should be picked up at this point of the year, especially if you're a Gurley/Melvin Gordon/Ekeler owner.
MARVIN JONES JR. - DETROIT LIONS
I'll be quick with this one since we've seen what the Lions have done without Jones. Golladay has seen 11.66 targets/game over the past 3 weeks, where Jones was limited/injured, and has been a WR1 twice in that span (finished as WR26 last week). Now, with Marv out for the reaminder of the year, Golladay will see enough volume to produce high-end WR2 numbers, despite having tough matchups from here on out. Everything else is pretty set in stone, when Kerryon is healthy, he's a RB2, and no other receiver, other than maybe Bruce Elington in PPR, is a viable weekly play. Stafford has no help, either, so I'd avoid him from here on out.
DESEAN JACKSON - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Adam Humphries time, folks. Jackson is sitting out this Sunday with some sort of hand injury, which opens up about 6.5 targets. The Bucs already pass a shit ton, ranking 4th in attempts over the past 3 weeks, and now, playing the Panthers in the highest over/under of the week, there will certainly be enough volume to go around. Chris Godwin, after starting off the year super hot, hasn't been all too involved in this offense, but will likely be needed come this Sunday. He's only seen more than 4 targets once over their past 4 games, but without DJax, he should get a ton of work on the outside against a not-too-great Panthers' secondary. I'd be comfortable putting him out there as a FLEX play, and as far as Adam Humphries goes, he's a top 5 play this week. Ok, ok, maybe not that high, but he's certainly a top 36 play this week in PPR leagues. He's provided WR2 or better value in 4 of his last 5 games, so in a game where points will be scored, and the ball will be thrown, he should replicate his recent success.
Mike Evans is always a must start, so this injury isn't going to sway your opinion of starting him. Consider him a back-end WR1 this week. Lastly, Cameron Brate is a top 8 tight end from here on out, and in a matchup against a defense who can't stop tight ends, there are only a handful of guys I'd prefer over him at the position.
Overall, it's wheels up for all receiving options in Tampa. Don't get me started with Peyton Barber. He'll only do well when he's on your bench, so leave him there and hope he isn't a dick and doesn't go off.
SAMMY WATKINS - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Watkins sitting out has become a regularity, and we've seen what the team does when he's gone. Mahomes is fine, Travis Kelce is fine, Kareem Hunt WAS fine (Ware should slot into his role), and even last game, when Watkins barely played against the Rams, Chris Conley stepped up and scored twice. Watkins missing this week against the Raiders really impacts nobody, as Hill, Mahomes, and Kelce are all top 3 plays at their respective positions and Ware is a top 10 back. As for Chris Conley, he has the athleticism to break a big play, and against the Raiders, who are possibly the worst team my two eyes have ever seen, he could provide low-end FLEX appeal. Overall, if you have a Chief, start him.
STEFON DIGGS - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Whenever Diggs enters a game under 100%, he puts up a dud. He says he's fine for Sunday's face-off against the Pats, but I'm not sure he's the top 15 play he's solidified himself as this year. He'll likely be lined up across from Stephon Gilmore, which already is a tough scene, and if he's not fully healthy, he may not provide the same value he would have if 100% in a strong matchup. You're obviously not benching him, but I'd temper expectations. As for how this impacts other weapons, Thielen will be a top 5 play, as he typically is, and Kyle Rudolph may actually provide back-end TE1 value. He caught 7 balls last week after saying he wanted to get more involved, so if Diggs acts as a decoy, it could open up looks for Rudolph.
DEVIN FUNCHESS - CAROLINA PANTHERS
It looks like Funchess will suit up this week, which is something he didn't do last week. If this impacts anyone, it would be Curtis Samuel, as his snap share increased from 33.3% in week 11 to 87.7% last week. As for D.J. Moore, he has solidifed himself as the #1 in Carolina, as he's played in >85% of the snaps each of the past 4 weeks, and even with Funchess active in week 11, Moore commanded 8 targets, turning that into a 7/157/1 line. In a great spot against the Bucs, Moore is a top 20 play, while Funchess is a FLEX option with TD upside. Greg Olsen hasn't done much of anything lately, but he's in for almost every snap and has seen 4 or more targets in all but 1 game thus far (when playing over 25% of snaps), so in a great matchup, is a TE1 play.
KEKE COUTEE - HOUSTON TEXANS
Coutee is a game time decision this Sunday, and because of that, I have no confidence in playing him. Hamstring injuries tend to linger for a while, and if he's not 100% heading into the game, I wouldn't feel great about playing him, hoping he doesn't leave early. In his absence last week, DT found the endzone twice, though he only saw 5 targets. I wouldn't completely hop on the Demaryius train this week, but he should be a decent WR3 with TD upside. I just wouldn't expect what we saw last week, as he had only combined for 4 targets over his previous two games before week 12, but if it's just him and DHop on the outside, he should see closer to the amount of looks (5) he got against the Titans. DHop is a top 3 receiver, as he is every week, without Coutee, and you're starting him no matter what. Deshaun Watson has also proven he can produce no matter who's out there, and with Thomas and Hopkins being a very solid receiving duo, he's a top-10 play at the position this week.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
ADAM HUMPHRIES - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
MATCHUP: CAROLINA PANTHERS
The last time Humphries drew the Panthers, he went for 8/82/2, and now, with DJax out, I'd expect much of the same volume. He's been a WR2 or between in 4 of his last 5 games and dominates the team's slot work. The Panthers will score against the Tampa D, forcing the Bucs to throw, and with Humphries running safe underneath routes, I'd expect somewhere in the realm of 6 targets for him, a mark he has reached/surpassed in 4 of his last 6 games. I'd trust Humphries as a strong WR3 play this week, so get the goat in your lineup.
CHRISTIAN KIRK - ARIZONA CARDINALS
MATCHUP: @ GREEN BAY PACKERS
Kirk has seen 6 or more targets in all but one game since week 6, and in a great spot, I'd expect him to see much of the same volume. The Cardinals are huge underdogs on the road, so they'll likely be throwing a shit ton. Kirk is their #2 receiver, but is probably 3rd on the target totem-pole behind DJ and Fitz, but even if that's the case, Arizona may throw upwards of 30 times, which would allow him to get enough looks to provide back-end WR3/FLEX value. At this point in the year, with all teams past their bye, you're likely not going to need to start Kirk, but in deeper leagues, or if you got screwed over by injuries, lock him in this week.
MICHAEL GALLUP - DALLAS COWBOYS
Gallup already played this week, and he looked really, REALLY, good. Dak missed him on a gimme 55 yard TD, which will actually make him an easier pickup heading into next week, as his stat line wasn't as inflated as it could have been. He's worked his way into being the #2 in Dallas, and from here on out, the Cowboys have a beautiful schedule, drawing the Eagles, Colts, Bucs, and Giants. He's seen 5 or more targets in each of his last 3 games, and with the easy road ahead, he may be able to sneak into your lineup as a FLEX option.
CURTIS SAMUEL - CAROLINA PANTHERS
The Panthers get the Bucs, Browns, Saints, and Falcons from week 13-16; it doesn't get much better than that. As I wrote in the Funchess section, Samuel may stand to lose some snaps, as he hasn't played much with Funchess active, but I think he's just a much better player and fits the Panthers' scheme extremely well. He's an explosive guy who can rush the ball for 50 yards, or turn a screen into a big gain, and last week he proved he can create separation on the outside. He's a true DEEP stash, as it doesn't look like he's earned the #2 spot in the receiving game for Carolina, but if this week he goes out there and dominates snaps while Fuchess is left out, he could be a great pickup, considering the defenses he gets from here on out are completely fraudulent.
JACK DOYLE - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
RIP to the goat. Jack Doyle was put on the IR, quite surprisingly, during the week, which means Eric Ebron is now a top 3 play at the position. I mean, the guy already has 11 touchdowns, and that was with losing out on snaps to Doyle for 6 weeks. Jack Doyle was averaging 5.5 targets per game, and with Mo Alie-Cox also out this Sunday, Ebron should dominate endzone looks. Andrew Luck has thrown 3+ touchdowns since week 3, a streak of 8 games, and it doesn't look like he'll slow down any time soon. As for other options, TY Hilton has proven to be a must-start, no matter the opponent, and this week, is getting a shaky Jags' defense. Jalen Ramsey may sit, but even if he doesn't, I have no problem playing him as a top 15 option. All in all, this injury only hurts Jack Doyle and makes others surrounding him benefit heavily from his absence of targets.
JEFF HEUERMAN - DENVER BRONCOS
With Heuerman dead, it looks like Matt LaCosse is set to lead the position in Denver. In Heuerman's two games following the DT trade, he was averaging 8 targets per game. Now, without him out there, LaCosse should take over his role. Last week, with Heuerman being active for most of the game, LaCosse still saw 4 looks, which is bound to increase this week. He's a sneaky pickup at a thin position, and this week, he gets literally the worst defense against tight ends, allowing 8 touchdowns (most allowed), 71 receptions (most allowed), and 814 yards (2nd most allowed) to the position thus far. I'd be confident using him as a back end TE1 this week. As far as how others are impacted, not much changes, as LaCosse will be in the "Heuerman-role", which won't take much away from Eman, Lindsay, and Courtland Sutton, although I wouldn't feel comfortable starting Courtland, as he has yet to surpass 3 receptions or 80 yards thus far.
EVAN ENGRAM - NEW YORK GIANTS
Again, this is another easy situation to analyze, since last week, Engram was held out. Rhett Ellison stepped up in his absence, providing a near TE1 performance (4/77/0 on 6 targets), but I wouldn't feel great starting him, as he gets the Chicago Bears and the Giants rarely utilize the position. OBJ and Saquon will get theirs, which is about 18.5 targets, and Shepard should see a few additional looks.
He sees about 2 more targets/game without Engram, so he could be a sneaky WR3 play against a middle of the road Chicago secondary this week. Outside of these 3 guys, I'm not excited about any Giants' player, and if you're somehow stuck with playing Eli this week, I'm praying for you.
JORDAN REED - WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Surprise, surprise, Jordan Reed is hurt. He looks like he's good to go this Sunday, though, so maybe he isn't as fragile as he's been in the past. If he suits up, hes a strong TE1 play, not only because the position is depleted, but because he gets a ton of volume and acts as the team's #1 receiving option. If he sits, Vernon Davis would step up in his absence and would provide much of the same value.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
MATT LACOSSE - DENVER BRONCOS
MATCHUP: @ CINCINNATI BENGALS
This is simple: LaCosse is one of 3 receiving options left on this team, and the Bengals suck. I already wrote about why I like him in the Jeff Heuerman section, so if you want to read that, scroll up a bit (unless youre a real one and already read it).
All tight ends with any sort of value are likely already rostered. The only low-owned guys I'd feel good about picking up are Dan Arnold, Tyler Higbee, and Dallas Goedart. If Ertz ever goes down, Goedart is a top 10 option, Dan Arnold looks to have become the team's #1 tight end, and Higbee has seen 14 targets over his past 3 games, playing for a top 3 offense in the NFL. None of these guys are viable starts for the forseeable future, though, but I would recommend snagging Goedart simply because his upside, if an injury to Ertz occurs, is unmatched.
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