Week 4: Game Time Decisions - Injury Update
In this article we will profile some of the more fantasy relevant injuries that have cropped up and suggest which players are likely to benefit from increased playing time (some of the replacement players might be sitting on your waiver wire). With the onset of the BYE weeks (Pittsburgh and Indianapolis will be resting in week 4), depth on fantasy rosters will be further tested.
Week 3 saw yet another top flight RB going down as the NFL's leading rusher CJ Spiller suffered a sprained shoulder that forced the Bills to rely on 3rd stringer Tashard Choice in the 2nd half of their win over Cleveland. Fred Jackson has made a miraculous recovery and appears likely to get the start against New England and Spiller has also yet to be ruled out as of Thursday's injury report (regardless rostering Choice is advisable if you have the room). Miami's Reggie Bush also suffered a knee injury that kept him out for the 2nd half and with his laundry list of previous ailments, Bush owners would be wise to secure Daniel Thomas and/or Lamar Miller. On a positive note, Ryan Mathews (collarbone) and Mikel Leshoure (suspension, ACL) made their season debuts in week 3 and surprisingly Leshoure was the better of the two.
The WR position has also seen its fair share of injuries as Jeremy Maclin missed the week 3 blowout loss in Arizona with a hip pointer, but has returned to practice and reported feeling close to 100%. TE Aaron Hernandez was one of the bigger week 2 casualties as a severe ankle sprain will keep him sidelined for 4-6 weeks. Pierre Garcon and Hakeem Nicks both missed week 3, but Nicks is all but a lock for the Sunday night showdown in Philly. Garcon on the other hand could miss his 3rd straight game with a foot injury, making Leonard Hankerson a trendy waiver wire addition.
Stafford injured his hip in the 4th quarter of the overtime loss to the Titans and early word is that he will not practice until Friday at the earliest, leaving his status for the week 4 divisional matchup with the Vikings in real doubt. Shaun Hill would get the start if Stafford is unable to go and would prove to be a serviceable BYE week filler against a Minnesota pass defense that has allowed the 14th most fantasy points to opposing QBs through three games. In two games against the Vikings last season, Stafford averaged 302 YPG while tossing 4 TDs and zero INTs.
Ahmad Bradshaw's neck injury kept him sidelined for the Thursday night game in Carolina, which allowed backup Andre Brown to burst onto the fantasy scene. The NC state alum finished with 130 yards and two TDs in a performance that could earn him a split workload if Bradshaw returns for the Sunday night matchup in Philly. Bradshaw was medically cleared by doctors and put in a full Wednesday practice. He has guaranteed that he'll suit up for the week 4 game, but a reduced workload remains a possibility as Tom Coughlin indicated that Brown has earned an increased workload.
Bush suffered a knee injury that forced him to miss the 2nd half of the OT loss to the Jets in week 3 and he is listed as questionable for the week 4 matchup with a solid Arizona defense. An MRI revealed no structural damage, but Bush will have to wait for the swelling to subside before he can return to practice. The 2nd overall pick of the 2006 draft (behind Mario Williams) has been no stranger to the injury bug throughout his career, having missed 21 games over his first six NFL seasons. If Bush is unable to go, Daniel Thomas would likely get the start with rookie Lamar Miller also seeing touches (especially in passing situations). The week 4 matchup in Arizona limits the fantasy upside for Thomas/Miller as the Cardinals are allowing the 6th fewest fantasy PPG to opposing RBs and have yet to allow a rushing TD through three games.
Spiller entered the week 3 game in Cleveland as the NFL's leading rusher, but was forced from the game with a sprained shoulder and is a major question mark for the week 4 game with New England (although Buffalo has yet to rule him out). Teammate Fred Jackson has made a surprising recovery from his LCL injury and all indications are that he'll return for the week 4 game, which might allow Buffalo to play it safe with Spiller (9th overall pick in the 2010 draft). Through three games, Spiller is averaging 140 YPG from scrimmage with four touchdowns. Tashard Choice (20 carries for 91 yards in week 3) would likely see some touches in week 4 if Spiller or Jackson are unable to suit up. The Patriots defense has been rather solid so far this season allowing just 64 YPG to opposing RBs.
In week 2, J-Stew performed admirably in his return from an ankle injury as he finished with 11 carries for 51 yards and a TD in the win over New Orleans. The short week (Thursday game against the Giants) kept him sidelined for the week 3 blowout loss, but all indications are that J-Stew will be back in the lineup when the Panthers face off with division rival Atlanta in week 4. He put in a limited Wednesday practice and should split the workload with Deangelo Williams on Sunday. In two games against Atlanta last season, Stewart amassed just 15 carries for 77 yards and a TD. He's nothing more than a Flex play this week as Stewart is stuck in a dreaded RBBC.