The biggest story of week seven was off the field, on the sidelines and in the locker rooms. Sunday’s airwaves were littered with a bevy of cart-offs and season-ending catastrophes. Some, like those to Champ Bailey (foot), Nick Foles (concussion), Jay Cutler (torn groin), and Arian Foster (hamstring), may affect playing time for only the next few weeks or less.
Meanwhile, other on-field injuries were devastating in nature, and may have career implications or even worse. Sam Bradford tore his left ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. It’s worth mentioning this is the final guaranteed year of his rookie six-year $78 million contract. But Jeff Fisher reiterated that “he’ll be back and he’s our quarterback.” That’s an interesting decision about a quarterback with a career 58.6 completion percentage and an average of 12.3 starts per season. But someone else probably gets paid handsomely to make those decisions.
On September 23, Jermichael Finley’s five-year-old son said, “Daddy, I want you to stop playing football.” Before the week six game in Baltimore, Finley said his grandmother calls him all the time to say, “Boy, you need to quit this dang game.” Call it foreshadowing. But it’s a sad story — a life story above football — as the Green Bay tight end may not play again. It’s pure speculation still, but his agent said, “football doesn’t matter right now,” while he was resting in intensive care. For some, echoes of Anquan Boldin’s frightening 2008 injury ring today. It was after that game that Kurt Warner considered retirement, though he stood by his teammates through two more playoff runs.
Additionally, Doug Martin (torn shoulder labrum), Leon Hall (achilles), and Brian Cushing (broken leg, torn LCL) all lost their seasons this weekend. It can certainly bring football and life back to perspective, and remind one where to place their priorities when the day is done. The game will go on, though, despite the outlying spike in hurt players. And in homes around the world, fantasy teams and championship runs will be impacted, for better or worse.
Buy Jacquizz Rodgers
Since Steven Jackson left the field in week two, Jacquizz Rodgers has continually outperformed backup Jason Snelling. Since that time, Rodgers has rushed for more yards in every single game. And he remains an important focal point of the Falcons passing game, having earned 25 receptions this season for 155 yards and two scores. Snelling has caught 16 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Those receiving numbers may seem close. But since the week five contest when Julio Jones was injured, Rodgers has outpaced the backup with 34 touches for 120 yards and four touchdowns, to Snelling’s 19 touches for 37 yards and one score.
Jackson may return to practice this week, which is certainly welcome news for anyone within a 90 mile radius of Atlanta. But the starting back suffered a setback last week, which has to cause at least skepticism if not pessimism over his outlook. And why haven’t the Falcons re-signed Michael Turner? He started 16 games in four of five seasons with the team, including a streak of 51 consecutive starts that ended with his release. Surely he’s more valuable in cleats than Jackson is in sweats? Excuse the guy who has no idea what he’s talking about.
Regardless, Rodgers seems to be carving a Sproles-like niche in this evolving offense. Even with the possible impending return of Jackson, Rodgers may remain critically involved in the passing game. That value cannot be ignored for a running back, who can still be integral when a losing team chooses to abandon the run. Rodgers owners may be looking to cut bait, and it could be a great time to buy the next Darren Sproles.
Sell Brandon Marshall
Through six games, Brandon Marshall is on pace for 1,234 yards, 105 catches, and 11 touchdowns. Last year, in his first campaign with the Bears, he earned 118 receptions for 1,508 yards and 11 scores. All of those were career bests for the receiver. Certainly the reunion with quarterback Jay Cutler has been a positive step for both their careers.
But Cutler’s torn groin on Sunday will sideline him for at least four weeks, and possibly longer. Cutler is not under contract after this season, and it is unknown what direction Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery will go for their 2014 signal-caller. It seems more than likely someone will offer Cutler the kind of $100 to $120 million contract that Tony Romo and Joe Flacco each received this year. Will the Bears make that kind of bid? Certainly the lack of clarity is enough to consider the effect on the wideout’s value moving forward. It’s very possible he’s caught his last pass from Cutler. Marshall’s value may never rebound to its recent spike, but logic would suggest a continual downward slide with new, unproven passers at the helm.
Hold Eddie Lacy
During Eddie Lacy’s final year at Alabama in 2012, he rushed 204 times for 1,322 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry during three seasons with the Tide, including two years behind Trent Richardson. As the starter last year, Lacy also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and two scores.
As a Packer, Lacy has rushed 83 times for 352 yards (4.24 yards per attempt) and two touchdowns, and made eight receptions for 60 yards and another two trips to pay dirt. But Mike McCarthy has really taken the training wheels off in the past three weeks. Since returning from his week two concussion against Washington, Lacy has averaged 22.7 rushes for 100.3 yards per game. And with recent injuries to James Jones and Randall Cobb, the running back has become more involved in the passing game. Last week, in the first game without the two receivers, Lacy caught five passes for 26 yards and a touchdown.
It would certainly appear that Lacy is going to be a rare feature back in the NFL. Over these last three games, Rodgers has handed the ball off to other players only ten times. That’s the total for three weeks. Johnathan Franklin, the team’s backup rusher, got six of those rushes for four yards. Since Lacy’s return, that’s a per-game average of two rushes for 1.3 yards for the team’s number two running back.
And outside of week three in Cincinnati — the only game Lacy has missed — no one else has rushed the ball within the 5-yard-line. Goal line duties, feature back workload, and passing game involvement. What more could you ask for? That’s as good as it gets in the fantasy landscape, and Lacy even has some dude named Aaron Rodgers to stretch the field. Adrian Peterson owners — heck, Adrian Peterson himself — would salivate this situation, especially following the revival of the Josh Freeman Experiment in week seven. Build your franchise around Lacy. The best is yet to come.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, footballguys.com, and spotrac.com.
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