Week 4: Game Time Decisions - Injury Update
The 2nd round pick (#48 overall) from Michigan State practiced in full on Wednesday for the first time this season and is looking like he'll make his NFL debut when the Steelers face the Vikings this week in London. Bell suffered a foot sprain back in August and the Steeler ground game has been abysmal through the first three weeks. Their O-line his struggled following the loss of their center (Pouncey), so Bell will have his work cut out for him even if he sees 15-20 touches this week. Minnesota's run defense has struggled through three weeks as they are allowing the fourth most fantasy PPG to opposing running backs and have yielded the most catches to running backs (25). Bell (6-foot-1 3/8, 230) amassed 671 carries for 3,346 yards (4.99 YPC) and 33 touchdowns in his three-year Michigan State career and is a solid dual threat as evidenced by his 78 receptions. He lacks breakaway speed (just 4.60 forty time at the combine), but is considered to be solid in pass protection and has the potential to be a true 3-down back in Todd Haley's offense once he proves that he's 100% healthy. Bell ranks just outside the top 30 RBs this week, but is worth considering as a 12-team flex play.
In week 3, Rice missed his first game since his rookie season (2008) as his hip flexor strain kept him in street clothes for the win over Houston. In his absence, Bernard Pierce shouldered the workload and finished with 24 carries for 65 yards and a TD against a very stout Houston run defense. Rice expects to practice Wednesday and has said he'll return for a week 4 dream matchup against an injury riddled Buffalo defense that ranks 30th against the run. The Bills have yet to allow a TD to an opposing RB, but have coughed up 440 yards on the ground through three games to opposing rushers (Pierce will be worth starting as a Flex even if Rice is able to play).
The Bills originally reported Spiller's third quarter injury as a knee injury, but more recent reports suggest it was a quad contusion in his lower thigh. He returned to a limited Wednesday practice and barring a setback is expected to be in uniform for the week four meeting in Baltimore. In the week 3 loss to the Jets, Spiller finished with just 10 carries for nine yards and one catch for one yard. Through three games he's been losing the workload battle to Fred Jackson (45 touches to 52 for F-Jax), but the consensus first round fantasy selection offers an ideal low buying opportunity. The fourth year back from Clemson is averaging just 51 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry - a far cry from his breakout 2012 where he finished with 207 carries for 1,244 yards and an impressive 6.0 YPC. Spiller gets a boost in PPR leagues after totaling 43 catches for 459 yards last season. Fred Jackson could be considered a lower tier RB2 if Spiller takes a turn for the worse, but for now it's looking like CJ will suit up for the difficult matchup with the Ravens' fifth ranked run defense.
After an impressive week 1 performance against the G-men, Miles Austin has struggled in back to back weeks totaling just five catches for 53 yards and suffering yet another hamstring injury in the week 3 win over St Louis, leaving his status for the week 4 matchup with San Diego in jeopardy. The 29-year-old missed six games during 2011 with similar leg problems. He's a week 4 question mark after missing Wednesday's practice. Rookie Terrance Williams would likely get the start if Austin is unable to go against a Charger defense allowing the eighth most points to opposing wide receivers.
The 30-year-old WR suffered a rib injury in the week 3 blowout loss to the Patriots, but the injury is not considered to be serious. He's listed as questionable and could become a game time decision. With today's news that QB Josh Freeman will be replaced by rookie Mike Glennon, the Buc WRs might take a slight hit in value, but the NC State product has ideal size and a big arm to excel once he adapts to the league. The Bucs lack depth at the WR position outside of Jackson and Mike Williams, as former Cowboy Kevin Ogletree is listed as third on the depth chart. Expect a heavier dose of RB Doug Martin if Jackson is unable to play this week. If Jackson can play, he's likely staring at a matchup with Arizona CB Patrick Peterson. It goes without saying that he is matchup proof after Jackson set career highs last season in catches (72), receiving yards (1384), and targets (147), while also leading the league in yards per catch (19.2).