by Ray Kuhn
This is the time of year where depth begins to be very important and it can be tested based on the news regarding if a player practices or not. A player missing a day of practice could just be routine rest, or it could be something more serious. What was thought to be merely a nagging injury could actually turn into something more serious. Teams are also going start being more cautious with their players in practice and the word “limited” is now your worst enemy.
As usual, there is a lot to talk about this week, and things are also changing constantly. If you needed any proof of that, just look at what Calvin Johnson did to his owners last Sunday.
- Let’s start by looking at Johnson. He was a very late inactive last week, and his status for this week still seems to be up in the air. That infamous word “limited” was used to describe Johnson’s activity in practice on Thursday, but in fact the receiver really did not do much. At the same time we still have a few days until Sunday, and whether or not he practices will not be the deciding factor on if he plays. If active he must start for your team, although he might have a tough time against Joe Haden if he is less than 100%. Haden is becoming a top shutdown corner, but that’s not enough to bench an active Megatron. What last week did prove was that if Johnson is absent, the rest of Detroit’s skill position players should be downgraded.
- Ryan Broyles was expected to see a bump in value last week as Detroit compensated for the loss of Johnson, but that didn’t happen. Broyles only played 28 snaps and caught two passes for 27 yards. The word is that for this week is that the wide receiver is good to go without any limits. With Haden shadowing Johnson (should he play), Broyles could potentially have more value with the focus shifted from him.
- Stevan Ridley didn’t practice last week, and he also didn’t play which came as somewhat of a surprise. He was returned to practice on a limited basis this week, so I think his chances of playing are pretty good for Sunday. The most yards Ridley has gained in a game this season are 53, so you should be looking elsewhere, if possible, regardless.
- Could this be the week Rob Gronkowski returns? I know we have been saying this for the last few weeks, but I think it might actually be happening on Sunday. With this being the Patriots, I don’t have much concrete evidence three days before the game, but I am thinking he will be making his season debut. If he does, he needs to be in your lineup unless your backup tight end to start the season was Julius Thomas.
- After missing two games with a hamstring injury, it looks like Miles Austin will be returning on Sunday. Prior to his injury he wasn’t exactly lighting it up, and for the season has 15 catches and 125 yards in three games while not scoring a touchdown. Last week Terrance Williams exploded with 151 yards and a touchdown on four catches. That likely earned Williams playing time going forward, which will likely come at the expense of Austin.
- After not getting much production from Darryl Richardson for the first four weeks of the season, the Rams made the switch to Zac Stacy last week. The rookie did not disappoint by gaining 78 yards on 14 carries before exiting the game with a rib injury. It does not appear to be serious, and all indications are that Stacy will be starting once again this week.
- Running back is just a mess for the Raiders. All three players, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reese, and Rashad Jennings, are battling health issues. Of course, so far this season none of the three have had much success. Jennings and Reese both appear set to play against the Chiefs, but individually I’m not sure either one will have much fantasy value. Of the three, McFadden is the one who is worthy of a FLEX spot, and it looks like he might be making his return. Have a contingency plan in place, as the Raiders have a bye next week and the Chiefs are a tough matchup for McFadden regardless.
- As of now, it is looking like a concussion will sideline Ryan Mathews this week. It is possible we have a game time decision on our hands, but the problem is that the Chargers play Monday night. Regardless of Mathews’ status, Danny Woodhead is the running back to own anyway, especially in PPR leagues. If Mathews doesn’t go, Woodhead will be the main beneficiary as each week he has become a bigger part of the San Diego offense.
- I would not read too much into Arian Foster being limited in practice this week. It appears he is battling thumb and chest issues, but nothing too serious. In the St. Louis defense, Foster has an excellent matchup.
- With Andre Johnson’s status not going to be known until Sunday morning, the Texans are going to have to rely that much more on Foster. The newest issue for Johnson appears to be a shin injury. Johnson has been playing through injuries all season, but last week he had just three catches for 39 yards. I would have an alternative at the ready.