Week 10 treated quarterbacks like Chris Brown does Rihanna.
Jay Cutler, Alex Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick were forced to exit their games early because of injuries (and another, Eli Manning, didn’t show up at all, but that’s a different story), sending some fantasy owners scrambling.
In one-quarterback leagues, the ramifications are most likely limited to Big Ben owners and the few guys who were clinging on to Vick. But the carnage from Week 10 will be felt heavily in two-quarterback leagues. And when a quarterback goes down, it impacts the value of his offensive weapons, as well.
Some of these quarterbacks aren’t expected to be out long while others — Big Ben and Vick in particular — may miss significant time.
Here’s a look at the each injury and how fantasy owners need to react.
For my money, this is the biggest injury of them all — both in real football and fake football.
Big Ben suffered a sprain to his SC (sternoclavicular) joint and a rib injury when Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston sacked him early in the third quarter last Monday night. Exit Roethlisberger, enter Byron Leftwich.
As of Thursday afternoon, Big Ben had been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game against Baltimore. It’s a shame, too, because the Steelers were playing their best ball of the season prior to Roethlisberger’s injury.
Big Ben being out has a direct impact on the Steelers’ entire offense. It could be good for the running game as Pittsburgh may opt to focus more on pounding the rock, but it definitely hurts the value of the wide receivers.
Pittsburgh’s backfield is a cluster. With Rashard Mendenhall absent for the past four weeks, both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman did an admirable job picking up the slack, each showing flashes of being a solid runners. Mendenhall practiced fully on Wednesday and is expected to start on Sunday.
Baltimore is yielding 124.2 rushing yards and 19.1 fantasy points per week to running backs, so Mendenhall would be a decent play right away, especially since Pittsburgh figures to lean heavily on the run game. However, Baltimore is no fool and will attempt to make Leftwich win the game with his arm. Plus, no one knows for sure exactly how much of the load Mike Tomlin will give Mendenhall right away. If you’re desperate, insert Mendenhall into the lineup, but a wait-and-see approach is probably the better call.
The guy whose value takes the biggest hit, to me, is tight end Heath Miller, who had become a red-zone favorite of Big Ben’s. Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown (who’s questionable anyway) are likely to see a dip in production. If there’s one thing Leftwich has — beside a long delivery — it’s a big arm. He’s not afraid to chuck one deep, either, so a speedster like Wallace still retains his big-play promise.
Smith left last week’s game against St. Louis with a concussion. Head injuries are always a touchy subject, but this concussion appears to be a mild one. There could be a last-minute change, but Smith practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, and is expected to suit up for Monday’s game against Chicago.
So there isn’t much change to the value of the Niners’ receivers or run game. Regardless of who is under center, Jim Harbaugh is going to feed Frank Gore and rely on a short, quick aerial attack supplemented with play-action passing.
Even if Smith does play, Chicago is a terrible matchup, and I wouldn’t recommend starting him. In a one-quarterback league, you should have another viable option. In a two-quarterback league, you can roll the dice with him or bench him in favor of a signal caller with a better matchup
Colin Kaepernick would be the starter in the unlikely event of Smith not being able to go. Kaepernick is a very, very intriguing option. Filling in against the Rams, he totaled 17 fantasy points in less than a full game, and Kaepernick has three rushing touchdowns on the season while subbing in as mostly a change-of-pace guy.
He’s worth a pickup if you have an expendable roster spot. If Smith would get another concussion (hopefully not, of course), Kaepernick would immediately turn into a very valuable guy.
Against Houston, Cutler exited after the first half due to a concussion, but his is more serious than Smith’s. Cutler was officially ruled out on Thursday.
Much like Smith, Cutler has a brutal matchup this week, so he wasn’t going to be starting in a large majority of one-quarterback leagues. Some owners in two-quarterback leagues will need to scramble for a replacement.
As for the Bears’ weapons, all two of them, Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte are must-start guys week in and week out. Jason Campbell is taking the reins. Campbell isn’t fantasy relevant, but he’s a serviceable backup quarterback.
Marshall, the No. 2 fantasy wideout (behind A.J. Green), certainly sees a slight dip in value, but not anywhere near enough to bench him. It’s not like Cutler was setting the world on fire in the first place.
You can say a lot of things about Cutler, but the strong-armed gunslinger knows who his top wideout is and gets him the ball. Marshall sees 11.4 targets per game with Cutler calling the shots, and the duo obviously has a great rapport. I believe Marshall will still see double-digit targets from Campbell. In just a half a week ago, Campbell targeted Marshall 10 times, resulting in seven catches for 101 yards.
Matt Forte is Matt Forte, meaning he’s a No. 1 running back at all times. There’s no debating he has his work cut out for him against San Francisco. In all likelihood, the Niners will try to make the Bears offense one-dimensional, with that dimension being through the air. But Forte is such a skillful pass catcher that he’ll still get plenty of touches.
With what Eagles coach Andy Reid labeled a “significant” concussion, Vick may be staring at a multi-week absence, forcing rookie quarterback Nick Foles in to action this week against Washington.
Foles didn’t look too shabby filling in last week against Dallas, completing 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception. There’s been some buzz about Foles, and it looks like the Eagles are going to get to see what they have in their third-round draft pick.
When you look at it from the Philly’s perspective, there’s no reason to rush Vick back. He wasn’t playing well, and the team’s playoff odds are minimal. You might as well find out what the rookie can do, right?
There’s a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL who would love to have LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Desean Jackson around them. Well, that’s what Foles will have at his disposal for however long he’s running the show. You could do worse than Foles as a bye-week replacement, although it’s probably somewhat of a reach until he’s proven himself. The Redskins, however, are a nice matchup.
Maclin and Jackson remain low-end No. 2 wide receivers. Maclin actually had one of his best games of the season last week, hooking up with Foles to post a line of 8-93-1 on a team-best 12 targets. McCoy is clearly a No. 1 running back while Celek is a bottom-tier No. 1 tight end.
Gabbert tweaked a shoulder injury in last Thursday night’s game against the Colts, but he is going to start Sunday at Houston. This news is completely irrelevant for one-quarterback leagues, but it’s worth nothing for those in leagues where you can play two quarterbacks.
Since Maurice Jones-Drew went down with a foot injury, Jacksonville’s passing game has gone from pitiful to respectable, and the Jags actually have a fantasy-relevant wideout in Cecil Shorts (a No. 3 WR). Hey, it’s progress!
Heading in to the game versus Indianapolis, Gabbert had thrown for 523 yards and scored 30 fantasy points the previous two weeks, making him a decent No. 2 quarterback. Even against the Colts, Gabbert racked up 209 yards before hurting his shoulder in the fourth quarter.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him as my No. 2 quarterback, but Gabbert’s a fine bye-week fill-in. The matchup is dreadful this week, though, as the Jaguars travel to Houston.