Fantasy football Roundtable: What to make of Aaron Rodgers injury?
A day after Nick Foles stunned the fantasy universe with his seven-touchdown performance, leagues everywhere were shocked by Aaron Rodgers injuring his non-throwing shoulder early in a loss to the Bears. How would Rodgers' absence affect the likes of Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy? Can Foles be counted on for the remainder of the year? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller, Brian Flood and Alessandro Miglio discuss that and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. We learned Monday night that the Bears can win without Jay Cutler, but what's the prognosis for the Packers' fantasy contingent if Aaron Rodgers is out for an extended period?
Beller: You saw what happened to the Green Bay offense after Rodgers left the game, right? If this is a serious injury, we have to seriously downgrade all Packers receivers. Jordy Nelson would no longer be a slam-dunk WR1, James Jones would be a WR3 and Jarrett Boykin would fall all the way to the fringes. Even though Eddie Lacy looked great last night, his stock, too, would take a hit. Remember, he was playing a Bears defense that has been gashed by Reggie Bush, Alfred Morris and the immortal Brandon Jacobs. And at least those guys did it when Lance Briggs was healthy. The Bears also clamped down on him after the 56-yard run early in the second half. If Rodgers has to miss significant time, it would be a nightmare for the Packers and any fantasy owner invested in this offense.
Miglio: Hopefully the fact Rodgers wasn't in a sling on the sideline means he won't be out for any extended period of time, but woe be to fantasy owners of any Packers players. The biggest detriment might be to Eddie Lacy when he doesn't face a sieve like that Bears defense. Opposing defenses will choke up and make Seneca Wallace beat them, and Wallace is apparently no Josh McCown. Or Case Keenum. Or Jason Campbell.
Flood: If Seneca Wallace is at the helm, all Packers receivers should be downgraded significantly for fantasy purposes. Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin all take hits. Boykin probably takes the biggest hit, as Aaron Rodgers is a wizard at spreading the ball around to everyone. Eddie Lacy should be fine for the most part, but opponents could stack the box if Wallace really struggles. Look for rumors of ex-Packer Matt Flynn, who was released by the Bills on Monday, rejoining his former club. If Flynn lands back in Green Bay he would probably be an upgrade over Wallace. At least in terms of maintaining the value of the fantasy contingent.
2. Nick Foles put up a fantasy game for the ages against Oakland, throwing for 406 yards and seven touchdowns, while likely locking up the starting quarterback job in Philadelphia in the process. What's his outlook for the rest of the season?
Beller: I am grabbing a seat on the Nick Foles bandwagon and anticipating a great ride for the remainder of 2013. Of course his season numbers are inflated by his domination of the Raiders, but it's hard to ignore 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's also throwing for a cool 8.7 yards per attempt this season and has been particularly effective on deep balls. If that weren't enough, the Eagles still have some of the league's worst pass defenses on their schedule. They play Green Bay and Washington before their Week 12 bye, then get the NFC North trio of Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago in the fantasy playoffs. Foles could very well be the key to many championships this year.
Miglio: In astronomy, the Malmquist bias is an effect where astronomers preferentially detect the brighter objects in the sky. In the case of Foles, it's easy to see why his Sunday supernova would blot out the memory of his previous outing, the horrific dud against a mediocre Cowboys defense a few weeks back.
The truth lies somewhere in between for Foles, who has some nice weapons at his disposal. He won't be playing a poor defense featuring defensive backs who have a propensity to fall down every week, but he can and should have a top-15 finish the rest of the way if he can stay healthy.
Flood: It appears that Foles is the perfect fit for Chip Kelly's dynamic offense. Someone had better tell Chip Kelly, as he has yet to declare who'll be his starting QB once Michael Vick returns from injury. Foles will keep his job upon Vick's return if Kelly is interested in winning games. Foles had arguably the greatest performance in the history of fantasy football in Week 9. He should be a very serviceable fantasy option going forward but temper your expectations a tad bit. He's had concussion issues and there is always a chance Vick will get another shot. Foles has been great when healthy and has the weapons and offense to lead fantasy owners to the championship. Now coach Kelly has to agree.
3. What's your take on the running back situations for the Texans, Panthers and Jets?
Beller: Houston is a headache because of Arian Foster's injury situation. That also makes it the easiest to diagnose. Foster was iffy all week because of a hamstring injury, but then left Sunday's game early after his back flared up. If he plays this week, it'll be a risk to roll with him. If he doesn't, Ben Tate, who was able to shoulder the load against the Colts despite cracked ribs, would be a decent play.
I'm avoiding Carolina running backs so long as I can. Jonathan Stewart made his season debut last week and outgained DeAngelo Williams despite getting fewer carries. Mike Tolbert retains some value thanks to his short-yardage prowess. However, it's hard to count on any of them. All of their production feels circumstantial. Give me Stewart first, Tolbert second and Williams third, but only give me any of them if I'm desperate.
As for the Jets, after Chris Ivory ran all over the Saints on Sunday, I think it's safe to say the job now belongs to him. Bilal Powell still has some value in case of an injury, but that's what it'll take to make him a viable option in fantasy leagues. Ivory, on the other hand, is an RB3.
Miglio: Foster has crashed back to earth as the injury bug has struck once again. When he will lift off again is anybody's guess, but the season is quickly spiraling to the point where Houston might want to deploy parachutes and give Foster's body time to heal properly. Tate is a nice fill-in while Foster is out.
Stewart was going to muck things up in Carolina for Williams when he returned, and that proved true last week when the duo essentially split carries. I wouldn't touch that backfield unless I were desperate, which I understand a lot of you are. I'm also wary of that New York backfield -- Rex Ryan said he'd go with the hot hand, and it's hard to say Chris Ivory will be that guy every week.
Flood: All three of the above teams are complete disasters for fantasy purposes. Foster continues to look like someone who picked up an NFL-high 1,115 touches from 2010-2012. He simply can't stay healthy. Tate is dealing with broken ribs and was in serious pain following his Week 9 performance. Dennis Johnson is a sleeper who could emerge as an impact fantasy player down the stretch.
The Panthers have three running backs that would be nice fantasy options if the other two didn't exist. DeAngelo Williams saw 13 carries on Sunday, gaining 42 yards. Stewart only had nine carries in his season debut but he topped Williams with 43 yards. The situation gets even cloudier, considering neither one will ever sniff a goal-line carry with Tolbert and Cam Newton around.
Ivory picked up 139 yards on 18 carries and appears to be ahead of Bilal Powell for the time being. Keep in mind the last time we got excited about Ivory was a result of 34 carries in Week 7. The following week Ivory only saw six carries.
4. We're entering the final third of the fantasy regular season. How should an owner sitting at 3-6 or 4-5 and on the fringe of the playoff race make that final push to get into the postseason? How can someone at 8-1 or 9-0 take advantage of his or her fellow owners' aggressiveness?
Beller: This is no time to play it safe. You need to use every arrow in your quiver if you're going to pull off the 4-0 or 3-1 run it will take to make the dance. If you have a big-name player who still has his bye remaining, perhaps a Dez Bryant, A.J. Green or Marshawn Lynch, now might be the time to consider trading him. After all, he cannot help you when he's on a bye, and you may not be able to afford another loss all season. On the flip side of this equation are the owners sitting in the penthouse. Now could be your time to get a superstar player at 80 or 85 cents on the dollar to have for the playoffs. Poke around the rosters of owners in your league who need every win they can get to make the postseason. See if you can't exploit their position by nabbing a stud from them who still has a bye in the coming weeks. It could end up being the best investment you make all season.
Miglio: Trade away your depth for a stud or two. You might have to overpay to get one, but at this point there is no reason to avoid going for broke. You can also target an undervalued guy like C.J. Spiller, whom I expect will have a nice run as he gets healthier.
As for the flip side, don't trade away any of your studs to bolster your depth. If you feel like you can upgrade at a position without giving away one of your biggest contributors, offer some sort of package deal. And, of course, always try to sell overperforming guys like Foles or Case Keenum if you get an opportunity.
Flood: If you're 3-6 or 4-5, another loss could end your playoff hopes. Look to make a trade if you own any prominent Browns, Chiefs, Patriots or Jets. You simply can't afford to have valuable players on a bye week. If Tom Brady is your starting QB, maybe offer him for Andrew Luck and see what happens. If Jamaal Charles has been your workhorse, perhaps you can trade him for Adrian Peterson. Do whatever it takes to put your team in a position to win Week 10. Then, next week, do it all over again. You can't afford another loss and superstars with a bye aren't going to help.
If you're already bound for the playoffs, make sure you plan ahead. Pick up an available defense that has a nice Week 15 matchup. Pick up the RB handcuff of the best team in your league. Load up your bench with players that would be in a position to make a fantasy impact if given ample playing time. You can never be over prepared for the fantasy postseason.
5. With Gary Kubiak and John Fox away with unexpected absences, what has history told us about teams that lose their head coaches midstream?
Beller: Each team is different, but it's safe to say Jack Del Rio won't mess with what has worked in Denver. So much of what that team does is dictated by Peyton Manning, anyway, so fantasy owners shouldn't expect things to change while Fox recuperates. As for Kubiak, he's an offensive coach while Wade Phillips, who would most likely take over on an interim basis if Kubiak has to miss a lot of time, made his way on the defensive side of the ball. Again, it's hard to speculate on what changes, if any, Phillips would make. Where you'd likely notice the biggest impact, as we did on Sunday night, is in the way of halftime adjustments. After dominating the Colts, the Texans offense couldn't do a thing in the second half. That could be a place where Case Keenum, Andre Johnson and whoever is suited up in the backfield suffer.
Miglio: That is an excellent question that I am wholly unprepared to answer. Normally this involves a coach that gets canned in the middle of a season, but that is not the case here. Certainly not in Denver, which is enjoying great success under John Fox.
Perhaps the best example I can come up with is Sean Payton, whose absence was surely felt last year in New Orleans. The offense was good, but not its usual great self without Payton. But he is the kind of head coach who helps an offense whereas Peyton Manning can pretty much handle things on his own. Kubiak's absence should hopefully be far shorter than Fox's, but it was clear the Texans missed him in the second half. He bucked his conservative reputation in the first half against the Colts, so who knows what he might have in store the rest of the way.
Flood: Last season Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia and missed 12 weeks. All interim coach Bruce Arians did was win NFL Coach of the Year in his absence. Fantasy owners shouldn't think too much while waiting for the healthy recovery of two great head coaches. Texans interim head coach Wade Phillips is a football lifer and won't make any controversial decisions while filling in for Kubiak.
In Denver, Peyton Manning basically runs the offense and Jack Del Rio is an experienced coach in his own right. I had the privilege of being around Del Rio during my time at the league office and he's among the most respected men in the NFL. The bottom line is that both Kubiak and Fox have more important things than fantasy football going on. Luckily, both franchises are capable of winning while the head coaches properly recover.
6. Jason Campbell had another great game last week, but both Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron were noticeably quiet. Should we downgrade their status for the rest of the season?
Beller: I've been selling on Cameron for a few weeks now, and nothing has changed that makes me feel I should stop. He had 30 receptions for 360 yards and five touchdowns the first four weeks of the season. He has 20 catches for 240 yards and one score in the five games since. Moreover, after getting double-digit targets in three of the first four games, he has had more than six targets just once in his next five.
Gordon is a different case, though. He had five catches for 132 yards and a touchdown in the first game with Jason Campbell at the helm. No receiver can have a huge day every week. Just ask Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas, all of whom have put up a stinker or two this year. Gordon will be just fine, no matter who is throwing him the ball.
Miglio: It was a bit concerning to see Campbell performing reasonably well without getting his two main studs involved a huge amount. Josh Gordon had just 44 yards on three catches, though he was targeted a healthy seven times. Jordan Cameron's four-yard output was rather disturbing, though he was also targeted a decent amount.
The biggest beneficiary of Campbell's success was Greg Little, who popped off for 122 yards despite getting a couple of penalties in the game. Whether this is the beginning of a pattern or just an aberration remains to be seen, but it's hard to keep Gordon and Cameron out of your lineups until we know more.
Flood: I wouldn't downgrade Gordon or Cameron because of Campbell. He showed toughness on Sunday, returning to the game with injured ribs and leading Cleveland to a victory. Campbell isn't flashy but he's accurate enough that downgrading elite talent like Gordon and Cameron would be silly. It's not like Drew Brees is the backup in Cleveland. The alternative is Brandon Weeden. I've never heard a fantasy owner clamor for Weeden and I doubt it happens anytime soon. Gordon and Cameron are inconsistent regardless of who is playing quarterback. Campbell should use the Week 10 bye to get on the same page.
MORE WEEK 10 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Jennings poised to make an impact versus the Giants
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- What's the fantasy impact of Rodgers' injury?
MCQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Foles takes on a weak Packers defense next week
BELLER: Early Week 10 Advice -- Stacy could be a top-15 RB for season's remainder