Week 8 in the NFL could be referred to as “D-Day” for a lot of Fantasy owners with the overwhelming number of injuries that occurred in this week’s games. Fantasy stars Le’Veon Bell and Matt Forte went down with knee injuries, while receivers Keenan Allen and Steve Smith are now also on the shelf as well. While these players going down will hurt their owners, the ability to hit the waiver wire for the players filling these roles could make or break your season.
Le’Veon Bell-DeAngelo Williams
It was horrible news for Fantasy owners that spent their first round draft pick for Bell, who is now gone for the remainder of the 2015 season with a MCL tear. You were already taking a huge risk with Bell’s two game suspension, but now after only six games you have lost your RB1 for the season. He was well on his way to finishing the year as a Top 5 back with three 100-yard games and three TDs, along with 24 receptions. Bell was looking like the complete back that has garnered him such high praise. Already with 13 carries of over 10-yards, Bell was in mid-season form with no ill effects from the early season suspension. The fact that he was performing so well without Ben Roethlisberger under center makes his numbers even more eye-popping, and also somewhat depressing with the “what could have been” aspect now that Roethlisberger is back.
With Bell’s injury, comes an opportunity for DeAngelo Williams to take the reins of this rushing attack. If available, he will be the top waiver pickup of Week 9, without a doubt. Hopefully, you have an early waiver priority, or if your league uses blind bidding, Williams will garner most of your remaining bankroll. If you’re lucky enough to have stashed him on your bench, and have needs elsewhere, you should be able to name your price to the eager owner in dire need of running back help.
During Bell’s suspension, Williams proved worthy of RB1 status, as he led the NFL in rushing as play began in Week 3. With a contract to play for in the offseason, he will be looking to build off the early season success and build his name up for potential suitors next year. Something that many savvy Fantasy owners covet in a player, is someone with a chip on their shoulder and something to play for. The Steelers’ schedule against rushing defenses will be up and down for the remainder of the year as they currently will be facing teams allowing an average of 18.7 FPPG to opposing backs, which is 18th in the league.
Khiry Robinson-Mark Ingram/CJ Spiller
While Khiry Robinson may not be a big name in Fantasy circles, his season-ending injury will make ripples in the New Orleans rushing attack. Robinson was a thorn in many owners’ sides’ as he gained the dreaded “touchdown vulture” moniker with his four touchdowns, all coming from inside the 10-yard line. His 73 touches bit into the opportunities for Mark Ingram, and the upside possibilities of CJ Spiller. Even when on the field, Robinson has been mediocre at best, as his 3.2 YPC would suggest. Which makes the fact that he has seen the field as much as he has even more confounding. Granted, his running style is the complement to that of Ingram’s, but the purpose of a multi-back system is usually to play the hot hand, which has overwhelmingly been Ingram in 2015.
Now with Robinson out of the picture, Ingram will see a majority of the rushing game load. With 530 yards rushing and five TDs on the year, Ingram is already scratching the surface of a Top 5 back. Add in the 33 receptions, a surprisingly new facet to his game, and you have the makings of a complete back that may stick in the Tier 1 group of runners by season’s end. The player that greatly benefits from Robinson’s injury is CJ Spiller. Signed in the offseason by the Saints, many owners saw big things from Spiller, presumably filling the old Darren Sproles role. Meanwhile, Spiller’s snap count as been up and down each week, leaving owners frustrated about whether or not to throw him into the FLEX spot in their lineups. With only 43 total touches on the year, things can only go up from here for Spiller now, as you could expect to see him in more on third downs while also getting a major increase in carries. Spiller could be the ultimate buy low candidate in PPR leagues, and with the workload increase could be a weekly staple in your lineups.
The good news for this Saints’ rushing attack is that they face the sixth-easiest schedule in terms of points allowed to opposing rushers (19.7). The Saints’ offense is in a groove right now, which keeps the running game alive with the team continuing to play close games. This team has leaned more on the running game this season than in previous years due to the early injury to Drew Brees, limiting him in plays down the field. The dink and dunk play calling has helped both Ingram and Spiller, as they have both benefited in passes out of the backfield when Brees decides to check down. Look for this trend to continue, while the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality takes hold with this offense. Now down to the two primary backs, my feeling is that the workload will be split in a 3-1 ratio in favor of Ingram, while Spiller’s value will be primarily predicated on receptions.
Matt Forte-Jeremy Langford
Losing Matt Forte for what is currently being billed as a two or three week injury, is a tough blow for the Chicago Bears. The all-purpose back is the motor that makes the Bears’ offense run, as proven by the weekly amount of touches he receives. Since the Week 1 game in which Forte hung 141 yards on the Green Bay defense, his yards per carry has steadily dropped, which could be an indication of the residual wear and tear from previous seasons, which makes this injury not all that surprising when you factor in age and tread on the tires. While there was not a complete tear to the MCL, the severity of the sprain suggests that there is enough damage that will be week to week. While Forte will not miss the remainder of the season, this injury could be one that lingers for a while, affecting his cutting ability in the run game. Forte could also feel the pressure of finding a new deal, try to come back too early and cause even more damage, which is definitely something to monitor over the next few weeks.
Out goes Matt Forte, in comes rookie Jeremy Langford. No worries of wear and tear here, as Langford has been rarely used so far in the 2015 season. Coming into Week 8, he had only totaled 15 carries, and with the injury to Forte, he doubled that total by game’s end. The question is what is Langford’s value moving forward? He is a little smaller than Forte and runs less aggressively, which you will see with his YPC in the coming weeks. Where you will likely lose more value is in the passing game, as Langford doesn’t have the pass-catching ability of Forte, which could open the door for a player like Ka’Deem Carey to carve out a role on third down. If I am grabbing Langford off the waiver wire, but not with the intent of rostering him for the coming weeks. I will be looking for the Forte owner in the league and offering him Langford in exchange other players to improve my roster.
The remaining schedule for the Bears will be fairly middle of the road in terms of defenses against the run. With more plus matchups than minus, the opportunities could be there for Langford to capitalize on, but I see this offense beginning to lean more towards the passing game and Jay Cutler. Say what you will about Smokin’ Jay, but he has played fairly well this season, which could very well have gained the trust of John Fox and this staff. One could argue that this will only help Langford and the run game, but in the limited time that he will have this starter’s role, I don’t expect to see him set the woods on fire.
Steve Smith Sr.- Kamar Aiken……..and pray for rain
It was brutal news for the veteran wideout, as an Achilles tear has ended his season, if not his career. Smith was having an exceptional season, as he was among the league leaders in targets, receptions, and yardage. Aside from the opening week of the season, Smith has been a highly valuable asset, posting solid WR2 numbers all while missing just one game due to a rib injury. With three games of double-digit receptions and games of at least 137 yards or more, Smith has been defying his age and not slowing down. All this has been hard to imagine, as he is the only threat in a somewhat mediocre passing game led by Joe Flacco. Smith had been doing all of his damage on throws of less than 20 yards, and piling up high yardage after the catch numbers. Now, with his season over, a huge void will need to be filled in this offense.
The first man up to fill this role will be Kamar Aiken, who up to this point had been playing a somewhat solid role as the No. 2 receiver. The targets have been steady for the most part, while the catch/yardage totals have been hit or miss in most weeks. Coincidentally enough, Aiken has performed best in weeks in which Smith was either out or limited. Taking over as the No.1 receiver in this offense, obviously makes him worth a grab off the waiver wire in deeper leagues, but temper expectations early on as double coverage could put a cap on his ceiling. He will be a player who in most weeks will be a WR3/FLEX option. After Aiken, you will be looking at the likes of newly acquired Chris Givens, who at times in St. Louis showed flashes as a vertical threat, and Marlon Brown. Neither of these two players are worth rostering at this time. In the coming weeks, a guy like Crockett Gilmore could be an intriguing upside player at the tight-end position, as it seems like Flacco has started to develop a rapport with him.
Things will continue to get worse for Baltimore, as plenty of minus matchups loom on the horizon. Currently ranked as a schedule in the lower third, only allowing an average of 22.3 PPG to opposing wideouts, Flacco and these receivers will find the going tough over the remainder of the season, which will put more of an emphasis on the running game with Justin Forsett and Buck Allen. Let’s not forget about the pass-catching ability of Forsett and the fact that Marc Trestman does love to utilize the running back in the passing game, leaving fewer opportunities for the receivers. When it comes down to it, this passing attack will take a step back, making owning any of these receivers difficult.
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