Instant Impressions for Week 7
Waiver pickups Douglas, Reed enjoy big days; issues with top RBs continue
The immolation of top running backs just keeps coming.
On Sunday, Arian Foster re-injured the hamstring that bothered him after Week 6's big workload and wound up playing seven offensive snaps. Doug Martin nearly caught a third-quarter TD but took a huge shot from Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore and suffered a serious shoulder injury. C.J. Spiller had only nine touches, presumably because his injured ankle just isn't letting him cut, while Fred Jackson had 15 touches and Tashard Choice had six. Ray Rice got a 19-touch workload and made a few fine plays in the passing game, but he averaged only three yards per carry as there was no room for him to run. And Trent Richardson continued to make the Cleveland Browns look smart -- which is often difficult to do -- by fumbling in a key spot Sunday night after showing meager signs of life.
In the cases of Foster, Rice and Richardson, their respective teams have Week 8 byes. Foster's hammy is reportedly not serious, and the hope is that he'll be able to rest up and maybe play thereafter. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens will spend their time off doing some soul-searching on the offensive line. As for Richardson? It won't be a shock if Donald Brown is the starter when the Indianapolis Colts reconvene in Week 9 against the Houston Texans.
The news is worst for Martin, who suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and will reportedly miss the rest of the season. Mike James is his inheritor in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield Thursday against the Carolina Panthers, at least until and if the Bucs sign some competition.
Finally, in Spiller's case, the Buffalo Bills don't have their bye until Week 12, and it will be tough to predict the exact moment when Spiller's ankle is right and his team is ready to make him its focal point again. As such, he's nothing close to a must-start in the immediate future.
Remember: Be sure to follow me on Twitter @CHarrisESPN for more analysis during the week. For now, let's look at Sunday's other top storylines:
• Owners of another member of the preseason top 10 at running back also had a whiny Sunday, and Alfred Morris didn't even get hurt or do anything particularly wrong. In fact, as the Washington Redskins chewed up the Chicago Bears' alleged "run defense," Morris was the prime weapon. But because the Skins went hurry-up more than they had previously done, Roy Helu played more snaps than usual and wound up stealing three touchdowns from Morris. The totals: Morris had 19 carries for 95 yards, while Helu had 12 touches for 46 yards. These aren't pure, traditional Shanahanigans, because it's not like Morris was benched. But Helu does have 37 touches in the past three contests after having six in the season's first three. Morris will continue to be a must-start, but Helu will continue to be a major nuisance when Washington plays fast.
• After Week 1, I did a Fantasy Underground: Film Room segment about the Bears' improved offensive line, particularly right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills, both rookies. At the end of that segment, I proclaimed that if I could go back a week and re-rank RBs for 2013, I would put Matt Forte well inside my top 10. And that was never truer than on Sunday, despite Chicago's loss. It seems that the new Bears coaching staff doesn't share pre-existing concerns about Forte's short-yardage performance, because the running back got both of his team's carries from inside the Washington 6 and converted both for TDs. But it was his 50-yard score that's my nominee for the run of the week. What an absolute beauty. He found some space up the middle and saw DeAngelo Hall caving in toward him. At top speed, Forte jump-cut around Hall (who, to be fair, may have been blocked from behind), didn't lose an ounce of momentum and took it to the house. You can't count on TDs like this, but Forte is playing spectacularly well.
• However, all bets may be off if Jay Cutler's groin injury causes a lengthy absence. Cutler took a rolling hit from Chris Baker in the second quarter Sunday and had to leave. He was replaced by Josh McCown, and the Bears have already signed Jordan Palmer for QB depth. What will the offense look like if McCown is at the helm? Well, it wouldn't be good news. Brandon Marshall and Cutler have years of experience together, and Alshon Jeffery has eclipsed 100 yards in three of the past four games. I'm not automatically sitting Forte, Marshall or Jeffery in Week 9 against the Green Bay Packers if McCown is the starter, but I'll be watching closely.
• The other QB injury of consequence Sunday was Sam Bradford, who was shoved out of bounds on a scramble, landed awkwardly on his left knee and had to be carted off. The St. Louis Rams have already reported that it's a torn ACL. Their backup is Kellen Clemens, who played badly in the understudy role for the Rams in 2011. You probably weren't all that enamored with the Rams' receiving weapons anyway, but this clinches it. Tavon Austin did make a big play for a long touchdown that was called back by a questionable tripping penalty Sunday, but he also lost a dumb fumble. Bye-bye.
• The Rams are still the only NFL team not to score a rushing TD. Zac Stacy did catch a short TD from inside the Panthers' 5 and has staked his claim as the lead backfield dog. (Daryl Richardson had four touches, compared to 21 for Stacy.) If Bradford is gone and Clemens is under center, it's hard to say exactly what the effect will be. Does the running game finally take off because it will be central to the team's offense, or does it get stifled because defenses don't respect Clemens? Either way, in the current RB landscape, Stacy will usually be a week-to-week flex, but maybe not next week in an awful matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.
• The return of Rob Gronkowski went fairly well for fantasy owners and less well for the New England Patriots. Gronk was relatively quiet in the first half (though he was tackled on the New York Jets 1) as the Pats limited his snaps. But as the game wore on and Tom Brady struggled to hit his outside weapons, Gronk was out there more and more and wound up with eight grabs for 114 yards. It could have been better, as Brady slightly overthrew him on a seam route that Gronk was able to touch with one hand but couldn't quite bring in for a long, potentially game-winning TD. It wasn't enough for the Pats in a sloppy overtime effort, but for Gronk owners, it's sweet, sweet music.
• You know what's not sweet music? Stevan Ridley not touching the ball for the game's first 22 minutes. The box score doesn't look alarming, as Ridley out-touched Brandon Bolden 13-9, with LeGarrette Blount mercifully uninvolved. But the Patriots came out no-huddle and high-octane, trying to stir the echoes of last season, and Ridley doesn't play in that kind of high-speed attack. Bolden is the guy. So yes, Ridley did wind up with a 17-yard TD scamper to soothe his owners, but Bolden is the guy who scored the 1-yard bunny. This particular drama is far from over.
• Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green showed why they were my top three wide receivers way back in February. Megatron returned from decoy-hood to put up a monster effort in a loss, and it could have been even better. He basically had a 3-yard TD in the first quarter, as he tapped the ball up in the air to himself but dropped it. But that was just a prelude to 155 yards and two scores, the second of which was a stupid throw by Matthew Stafford, a jump ball from 50 yards away into four Cincinnati Bengals defenders, and ho-hum, Megatron went up and got it. Bryant didn't find the end zone Sunday, but he saw 16 targets, caught eight of them, racked up 110 yards and drew an end-zone interference call. He was unstoppable. And Green matched Megatron's 155 yards, 82 of which came on a TD when the Detroit Lions figured, nah, why bother covering No. 18? Noice.
• Speaking of the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles, of course a game with an over/under of 54.5 (the weekend's second-highest) was scoreless until there were three minutes left in the second quarter, was 3-0 at halftime and ended 17-3. It goes to show you: Predicting how individual games are going to go is a losing battle. Anyway, Nick Foles was the chief culprit in this one. I mentioned on last week's Fantasy Underground podcast that I was unimpressed with his first-half play in Week 6 against the Buccaneers; I believe my exact words were that he was "channeling Donovan McNabb" with all his throws that hit receivers' feet. That continued in spades Sunday. It was bad. Foles left the game in the third quarter with concussion symptoms, but he had already played himself completely out of the Eagles' long-term plans. Michael Vick can't come back fast enough.
• Colin Kaepernick actually ran the pistol! I saw it with my own eyes! Predictably, one of the first times Kap ran it, he sprinted for a 20-yard TD. In a blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, Kaepernick had to throw only 21 times, which is becoming a troublesome pattern. But 68 yards rushing is excellent. All is not forgiven: I'm still concerned this could be a game-plan-specific result, but Kap will be back to must-start territory next week in a presumed laugher against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
• Despite my best efforts, Harry Douglas came into the weekend owned in only 37 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Perhaps his performance in the first half against the Bucs on Sunday will finally change that. As the boys ate orange slices in the locker room, Douglas was sitting on six catches for 140 yards and a long TD. Considering Douglas and Tony Gonzalez were Matt Ryan's only viable targets, this was pretty unforgivable on Tampa Bay's part. It took Douglas away in the second half, and Roddy White may return in Week 8 versus the Arizona Cardinals. I'm not suddenly buying Douglas as the new Julio Jones, but he'll stick around as a flex. As I've been saying for two weeks, he should be owned in all leagues.
• Jermichael Finley took a big hit from Tashaun Gipson, one I didn't believe deserved the penalty it drew; Finley caught the ball and took a few steps as a runner then got clocked but not helmet-to-helmet, as Gipson's shoulder hit Finley's head. Finley was a ball carrier and thus not defenseless. Either way, Finley needed to be carted off, and his teammates said he was having problems moving his extremities. I did think I saw him giving a thumbs-up on his way out of the stadium, and I hope that's not just wishful thinking. As for Week 8 against the Bears, while James Jones could return from his knee injury, Jarrett Boykin will be a factor. On Sunday, he had eight grabs for 103 yards and a garbage-time TD. He's an add in all leagues, though his startability is related to the futures of Jones and Finley.
• Reggie Wayne suffered a right knee injury Sunday night, on a play where if Andrew Luck had made a more accurate pass or Wayne hadn't twisted awkwardly, No. 87 probably would have scored a long fourth-quarter TD. It was encouraging to see Wayne walk off the field under his own power while putting weight on the knee, but we've since learned it's a torn ACL, ending his season. This development means T.Y. Hilton will become an every-down player and a focal point. The Colts are off in Week 8.
• I locked Jordan Reed in as a must-add in deeper leagues last week, and he may have graduated to 10-teamers with a big performance versus the Bears. Reed was all over the place in a shootout, with nine grabs -- many of the athletic variety -- for 134 yards and a red zone score (from Chicago's 3). Fred Davis was a healthy scratch for this game, which tells you how far out of favor he's fallen. Reed probably had his best game of 2013, he has great talent, and presumably the Skins' eyes are now open. He'll be inside my top-15 TEs once again for next week's tilt against the Denver Broncos.
• The Jets shook things up in their backfield, promoting the more talented Chris Ivory to the starting lineup and leaving the more pedestrian Bilal Powell on the sideline. The result? Ivory had a whopping 35 touches for 102 total yards, while Powell had three touches for six yards. Don't drop Powell just yet, but realize this was always the plan when the Jets traded a fourth-rounder to the New Orleans Saints for Ivory. He won't hold up to that kind of workload, but he's now the guy to consider starting.
• The Miami Dolphins came out of their bye with the belief that Daniel Thomas is a better player than Lamar Miller, which is curious. But there you have it: Thomas played way more snaps than Miller did and out-touched the faster man 13-10. Thomas was the one who played when the Fins needed a pass-blocker, and he also got the red zone snaps. Miller really busted only one play during his limited action, while Thomas busted zero. At the moment, I guess this has to be a situation to avoid.
• Ryan Mathews had his second straight 100-yard game, except this time he even scored a short TD. Of course, he also lost a short TD to Danny Woodhead earlier in the game. The San Diego Chargers are off next Sunday, so we can all forget this headache for the moment. Coming back in Week 9, they'll face the Redskins, and it's possible both Mathews and Woodhead will be flex-worthy in that one.
• Why shouldn't we overreact to a good week or two from young wideouts in less-than-ideal situations? Exhibit A: Keenan Allen. He was close to a bigger day, as he saw two targets from the Jaguars 1 and drew a penalty on both of them. But in the end, he got you three catches for 67 yards while missing time with what appeared to be some kind of leg injury. Exhibit B: Justin Blackmon. He drew tons of defensive attention from the Chargers and had six catches for 58 yards. He lost 13 targets to Cecil Shorts and eight to Mike Brown, who caught five for 120 yards. This isn't to say Allen and Blackmon aren't rosterable and often startable, because they are. But as I wrote in last week's Hard Count, this is the problem with young wideouts. They haven't dealt with all the things defenses can throw at them, and they can disappear. Continue to love them, just don't get carried away.
FANTASY FOOTBALL: WEEK 8
Robert Griffin III is beginning to look like his dynamic self again. How will he fare against the Broncos this week? Rankings »