For important game-time decisions, here are exclusive thoughts on all things fantasy football. Make informed choices about all your last-minute start and sit lineup options. Make sure to check on the status of all players before locking your final roster.
Carson Palmer is still battling a tricky nerve issue, and Bruce Arians declared Drew Stanton the starter again. The head coach told reporters Wednesday, “It hasn’t changed today, so we’ll be status quo. Drew is the starter, Logan’s the backup, and we’ll still be waiting on Carson.” Elaborating about the injury Tuesday, Arians explained, “It takes some time. Could be a day, could be a month.” Palmer, meanwhile, has undergone acupuncture, electrical stimulation, and dry needling, among other attempts to wake a dead nerve. “I wish I had a concrete answer or somebody knew exactly what to do to wake it up,” the quarterback told the Arizona Republic. “The only answer is time, and I’m hoping it doesn’t take any more time.”
Jonathan Dwyer has been deactivated to the non-football-injury reserve list, in wake of domestic abuse accusations. The backup running back was arrested on Wednesday for two charges of assaulting his wife in July. Arians added, “Until he is exonerated, he will not be a member of this football team. If and when he is exonerated, I will gladly take him back.” Jalen Parmele will handle short yardage carries in the weeks to come.
Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett carried the load for Baltimore last week, combining for 152 yards on the ground. Pierce rushed 22 times for 96 yards (4.4 yards per carry), while Forsett spelled him with eight carries for 56 yards (7.0 yards per attempt). Pierce is listed as questionable, but has yet to miss a game in his three-year NFL career.
Sammy Watkins has yet to miss a game in his career, but that’s a little different. The Buffalo rookie is headed for his third start, and had quite a showing last week. After catching just three passes for 31 yards in his debut, Watkins made eight receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown in his second career game. Inconsistency is to be expected for any rookie receiver, but forward-thinking owners should definitely make an effort to roster the former Clemson standout.
Cam Newton (ribs) will be playing through pain, and this should become a familiar refrain for Panthers fans. When asked when the pain would subside for his young quarterback, head coach Ron Rivera answered, “Probably sometime in February, in all honesty. Because it’s going to go with the position and the way he plays. He plays hard and he plays where he cuts it loose. It’s going to be like that. He’ll have the nagging soreness constantly.” Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin had a huge first week, with six catches for 96 yards and a score. He was a little quieter during Newton’s return, making only two grabs for 46 yards.
DeAngelo Williams practiced Friday, and may return to the lineup alongside Jonathan Stewart. When both are on the field, Williams produces 14.5 touches for 75.3 total yards and 0.6 scores, while Stewart averages 11.5 touches, 57.5 yards, and 0.4 touchdowns. Since Stewart joined the team in 2008, the two have played together for 66 of 100 possible career games.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery both seemed like potential scratches for last week’s Sunday Night Football. To the surprise of many, they both suited up, and no one was happier than Jay Cutler (other than a few lucky high-risk fantasy owners). The quarterback targeted the dynamic duo 14 times, connecting for eight completions and 95 yards. More impressive, though, was Marshall’s lights-out play in the red zone. The ninth year veteran caught touchdowns from 17, five, and three yards out. Bet the writer wishes he could go back and change his lineup.
A.J. Green (toe) is listed as probable and said he feels good enough to play Sunday. “We expect him to play and he feels good about it,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “If it’s feeling good, then I’m going to go,” the receiver said. “If it’s not, then we’ll go from there.”
Jordan Cameron (shoulder) is still uncertain for Sunday’s 1:00 kickoff against Baltimore. Head coach Mike Pettine said he was “cautiously optimistic,” while offensive coordinator elaborated, “I think it can go either way. For my mind, it’s the same as last week. I’m definitely hoping he can be ready, and you’ve got to have some stuff available for him, but when a guy is limited on a Thursday and stuff, you know there are no guarantees. You can’t gameplan all around him. It’s usually something I don’t know until Sunday.” Definitely be prepared with a backup plan as you did a week ago. Andrew Hawkins will likely remain a heavy factor in Brian Hoyer‘s passing game. Hawkins has nearly twice as many targets (23) as the next receiver on the team (Miles Austin, 12). Ben Tate (knee) will miss another game, leaving more time for Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West to share carries. Last week, West rushed 19 times for 68 yards a score, and Crowell carried 11 times for 54 yards. There are better fantasy options while waiting for this gelatinous offense to congeal.
Wes Welker returned to Broncos activities this week, after being reinstated by the new NFLPA and NFL agreement. Orlando Scandrick and Stedman Bailey were also eligible to return to their teams this week. That means a little less attention for Julius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but with Peyton Manning, there are still plenty of targets, yards, and touchdowns to go around.
Eddie Lacy will play again this week. He was able to avoid missing a start from his concussion last week, though the stout Jets defense held the running back to just 43 yards on 11 carries (3.3 yards per attempt). After playing the Jets’ top-ranked run defense a week ago, Lacy will now face the second-ranked Lions’ run defense. Opposing runners are averaging just 2.5 yards per carry against Detroit’s front seven. Head coach Mike McCarthy Andy Mulumba felt regretful for his lack of commitment to the team’s running game.
Marqise Lee has ruled himself out for Sunday’s game against the Colts. Undrafted rookie Allen Hurns was upgraded to probable, as was starting wideout Cecil Shorts. Hurns had a great first week, catching four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Week two was a disappointment, however, as the former Miami Hurricane made only two receptions for 13 yards. Shorts will make his first start of the year, reclaiming the position that earned him 777 yards and three scores in 2013. Toby Gerhart (ankle) may start, but how excited are you about a guy who’s amassed just 50 yards on 25 carries after two games?
Jamaal Charles surprised most fans on Thursday when he showed up and practiced. The star running back practiced again on Friday. On Monday, Andy Reid offered, “It doesn’t look to be a real severe one, but it does have the component of a high ankle sprain.” Fans in Kansas City and around the country will be glued to their devices until kickoff. Have Knile Davis ready to go as a high volume replacement. After Charles left last week, Davis was trusted with 28 touches for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie De’Anthony Thomas made a splash this Summer, saying, “For my rookie season [my goal is] to be the rookie of the year, lead my team in catching, rushing, lead my team in touchdowns, get to the Pro Bowl and also get to the Super Bowl.” That all may begin this week, if he can make it onto the field for the first time. First things first.
Matt Asiata will make his second consecutive start for the Vikings, after all-pro Adrian Peterson was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list, along with Greg Hardy of the Panthers. Jerick McKinnon is a freak athlete in the wings, as analyzed by Nike’s SPARQ athleticism metrics. Of over 1000 running backs in this study by Zach Whitman, only 56 recorded a 40-yard-dash time below 4.4 (McKinnon’s was 4.37). Of those 56 backs, the top six scores on the SPARQ rating were Willis McGahee, Chris Johnson, Edgerrin James, Jamal Lewis, Reggie Bush, and Jerick McKinnon. If you have the space to look forward beyond the next couple games, it may be worth rostering this special rookie. Asiata has a career average of 3.6 yards per carry, and is currently running 3.1 yards per attempt this season.
Mark Ingram had surgery on his hand this week, and should miss at least a month. Khiry Robinson will assume a bigger role Sunday, and has received a vote of confidence from the head coach. Sean Payton said, “Khiry’s a guy, shoot, he’s another back we feel like is young [but] is someone that’ll be ready for the workload.” The second-year runner played great as a rookie during last year’s playoff loss in Seattle, creating 70 yards and a touchdown on 14 touches. Look for Pierre Thomas to remain heavily in the mix as usual.
Odell Beckham was declared out for Sunday, and has yet to suit up for a professional game. Like David Wilson last year, coaches are beginning to see anything from Beckham in 2014 as as bonus. Increased opportunities will continue for Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz, though the two have little to show for it after two weeks. The starting receivers have accounted for 13 receptions, 124 yards, and a touchdown after two games. The 0-2 Giants have faced Detroit and Arizona, who ranked 23rd and 14th against the pass a year ago. Enter Larry Donnell, who has now made himself relevant in real football as well as fantasy circles. The third-year veteran came into the year with only three career catches. But after two weeks, the 6-foot-5 tight end leads all Giants in targets (17), receptions (12), and yards (137).
Ryan Mathews (sprained MCL) will likely miss at least a month. Expect Donald Brown to take over the majority of the work, with Danny Woodhead sprinkled in as normal. San Diego called the sixth most run plays in 2013, and currently sits at tenth. Brown could be a valuable substitute for the time being. Of all 2013 running backs, only Pierre Thomas (77) caught more passes than Danny Woodhead (76). Keep that under your hat, but don’t let it sit for too long. Woodhead is the new Darren Sproles on the team who brought you the real Darren Sproles.
DeSean Jackson (shoulder) is questionable, Jordan Reed (hamstring) is out again, and Robert Griffin III (ankle) will be out indefinitely. Is there any good news left in Washington? Kirk Cousins looked strong last week, completing 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, en route to a 41-10 victory over Jacksonville. Don’t leave Niles Paul off your radar. The former wide receiver is leading the team in receptions (12) and yards (185) while playing tight end for the injured Reed. Paul led the team last week with eight catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com and espn.com.
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