We all know that football is a brutal sport that pits the world’s finest gladiators against one another in an arena filled with cheers, jeers, and ear splitting hits. As fans, we’ve come to expect and accept injuries as part of the game, so much so, that it’s fairly common to see at least one player helped off the field per match.
This week, however, was an injury-riddled maelstrom for the record books as general managers and fantasy owners alike saw their teams go down in flames. Just about every position sustained serious injuries, damaging depth charts and position ranks across the board.
If you haven’t yet grasped the magnitude of who has been injured and for how long, here’s a look at most significant injuries in terms of impact to both the real life team and your fantasy team.
1. Arian Foster, Houston Texans RB
What happened: Foster had to leave the Texans game versus the Chiefs during the opening drive with a hamstring problem. He had only 11 yards on 4 carries before his exit.
What this means for the Texans: This is a big for Houston if Foster is out for a while. The offense has struggled mightily and Foster, the AFC’s rushing leader, was the lone bright spot. With Matt Schaub’s historically bad start, T.J. Yates’ subsequent injury, and Case Keenum unproven, Foster was primed to factor largely into the Texans offense as a rusher and receiver. To add injury to injury, even Foster’s backup, Ben Tate, suffered four broken ribs. Their upcoming bye week couldn’t have happened at a better time.
What this means for your fantasy team: Well, it’s still up in the air. Nothing for the next week, at least, given the bye. This could prove ample time for Foster’s hamstring to recover so the impact could be very minimal. If Foster and Tate are unable to go two weeks from now (and you picked up Tate as a flyer), well, you’re kind of screwed. Check out Jacquizz Rodgers, as long as Steven Jackson’s out, Rodgers will figure to be a solid backup plan. Andre Johnson owners could benefit from this as well. The bye week means Johnson can recover from his own various maladies and have time to develop a working relationship with Keenum. Either way, this bye week is sure to take the sting out a bit.
2. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts WR
What happened: Mixed feelings in Indy right now. Andrew Luck cemented himself as Peyton Manning’s heir to the throne by defeating his predecessor but the Colts lost their best wide receiver for the season with a torn ACL injury.
What it means for the Colts: Wayne was Luck’s number one target, with 38 receptions for 503 yards and 2 TDs. Trent Richardson has mostly been a disappointment (only 228 rushing yards and a 3.0 YPC) and may have lost his job to Donald Brown (5.9 YPC) after his fumble resulted in the Broncos making it a one score game. Regardless, the Colts are still likely to rely on the passing game and Chuck Pagano will want to show defenses that he’s not afraid to throw the ball. That is, of course, unless Brown/Richardson can begin gaining some yardage. As for this season, the Colts play in arguably the worst division in football and following their upcoming bye week, will have games at Houston, vs. St. Louis, at Tennessee, and at Arizona. They could very well be 9-2 or 8-3 by the time December rolls around.
What it means for your fantasy team: T.Y. Hilton is a close second behind Wayne with 27 catches, 412 yards, and also 2 TDs, and you can expect him to be involved in the passing game much more heavily. Coby Fleener (31% own ESPN) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (3.8% own ESPN), if he can hold onto the ball, will also get more looks. Overall, Andrew Luck owners shouldn’t be too nervous, the Colts are a pass-first team and will remain that way.
3. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB
What happened: Falcons safety William Moore delivered a vicious hit to Doug Martin’s right shoulder, resulting in a torn labrum and serious fears he could be lost for the season.
What it means for the Buccaneers: With Martin out, the Bucs will look to rookie Mike James to carry the rock. Don’t expect much from James, though. The Bucs will probably start passing more while giving James his share of 10-15 carries per game unless he proves himself a viable option at RB. Then you could see the Bucs run the ball more, but that’s probably not happening. Mike Glennon, it’s your time to shine!
What it means for your fantasy team: Well, Martin found himself in a bit of a sophomore slump after his stellar rookie campaign. So far this season, he’d rushed for 427 yards, 3.6 YPC, and 1 TD in six games for the winless Bucs, hardly a RB1 or even a RB2 option at this point. There could also be a problem for Vincent Jackson owners, too. James is unproven and defenses will pressure the run game less, which results in a likely heavier coverage of Jackson. Still, Jackson and Glennon have developed a nice rapport and it could continue nicely. Don’t be surprised if Jackson’s overall numbers dwindle, though.
4. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears QB
What happened: A seemingly routine sack by Washington defensive end Sam Baker turned into something much, much worse for the Bears. On the play, Cutler tore a muscle in his groin and is confirmed to be out for at least four weeks.
What it means for the Bears: Not only did the Bears lose Cutler, they lost the game as well. Josh McCown, who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass in two years filled in admirably for Cutler, going 14-20 for 204 yards, 1 TD, and a 119.6 QB rating. The Bears are (mercifully) going into a bye week, which will delay Josh McCown’s regression back to, well, Josh McCown. Following the bye, Chicago will visit the Packers and host the Lions in back-to-back weeks. If they can split those two games, they’ll be in good shape for Cutler’s return. Two very winnable games at St. Louis and Minnesota could have the Bears sitting at 8-4 going into December.
What it means for your fantasy team: Depends on who you have. Matt Forte owners should look to see an increase in both carries and short passes. This can work out either very well or quite poorly. Since defenses obviously respect McCown’s abilities much less than Cutler, they’re inclined to send more pressure at the line. That same argument is relevant if you’re a Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett, or Alshon Jeffrey owner, too. Bringing more pressure can open up the passing game, especially for Marshall, who may see less double coverage. Trouble is, if McCown can’t throw him (or anyone else) the ball, be prepared to see a few down weeks in terms of points for those guys.
5. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams QB
What happened: Rams QB Sam Bradford tore his ACL late in the game versus the Carolina Panthers.
What this means for the Rams: Welp, their season is effectively done. Playing in a division with the 49ers and Seahawks was unlikely to net them any victories regardless, but losing their franchise QB for the rest of the season will hurt both Bradford’s and the team’s development severely. This also means that Rams fans will actually have to watch Kellen Clemens attempt to play quarterback. Seriously. There’s not much else to say about this Rams team, it’s pretty awful from top to bottom. But wait… Tebow Time?!?!
What this means for your fantasy team: Unless you’re in a 16-team, 3 RB and 3 WR league or something, this should have absolutely zero impact on you. You shouldn’t have a single player from the Rams on your team. Especially not the incredibly disappointing Tavon Austin or Chris Givens. Well, I guess Austin Pettis was okay. Until Bradford went down, that is. If Bradford was your starting QB, well, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton are owned in only 53% and 24.5% of ESPN leagues, so, there’s that.
6. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers TE
What happened: Something seriously scary. Tashaun Gipson seemingly paralyzed Finley, as the latter remained motionless on the field for several minutes, stating he couldn’t move his limbs or extremities. He was taken to the ICU and was diagnosed with a bruised spine around the neck region. He’s regained a full range of movement and seems to be doing fine in lieu of the injury and completing daily activities with little issue.
What this means for the Packers: Devastating blow. First Randall Cobb and James Jones, now Finley. The Packers are so depleted right now their starting wide receivers are Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin…and that’s pretty much it. They are likely to rely heavily on the run game now and have a solid contingent of backs of which to do so. A similar injury happened last week to Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and he was back this week, so Finley could return sooner than we think…or not if he heeds the concerns of his son.
What this means for your fantasy team: Depends. Pre-Browns game, Finley owners must have been stoked. Two of Rodgers top targets were out and Finley was looking like a 20+ point option for the next few weeks. Then Tashaun Gipson happened. If you are an Eddie Lacy owner, expect him to get many more carries and be more involved in the passing game. He will likely lose some carries to Jonathan Franklin and James Starks (if healthy), but Lacy has had consistent output and is the unchallenged starter. As for the receiving game, I don’t expect Finley’s replacement, Andrew Quarless, to break out, but Aaron Rodgers is a passing maestro, so there’s a chance. Jordy Nelson will probably see even more targets now, but the loss of the Pack’s entire receiving corps will mean that defenses are apt to double team him more. Jarrett Boykin is worth a waiver wire pickup if you’re thin at the WR position.
7. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles QB
What happened: Foles sustained a concussion against Dallas and is likely out for next week.
What this means for the Eagles: Foles had been performing admirably for the Eagles, better than his hamstrung counterpart, even. But Vick is the $100 million guy and more explosive than Foles. Vick would’ve likely become the starter again when healthy unless Foles put up some staggering numbers in his stead.
What this means for your fantasy team: I know it’s messed up, but this only benefits Vick owners. Now they won’t have to sweat bullets waiting to see if Foles has monster games/when Vick will get the job back. It seems like Philly is in one of those “whoever’s healthy will have the job until they get injured again” situations, which sucks. In any case, LeSean McCoy will continue to do his thing regardless of who’s at the helm, so owners need not worry. If healthy, expect DeSean Jackson to continue putting up solid numbers, though, he can be hit or miss. Beware! Oh, and if ever in the season Foles regains the starting position, Riley Cooper would be worth a shot at WR. He and Foles have a nice working relationship right now.
8. Brian Cushing, Houston Texans LB
What happened: Cushing broke his left leg AND tore his LCL against the Chiefs and is out for the season. The same leg/knee where he tore his ACL nearly exactly a year prior.
What it means for the Texans: Despite having been embarrassed over the past few weeks, the Texans defense had an admirable showing versus the undefeated Chiefs in Kansas City. Losing their defensive captain and signal caller will hurt the Texans. Eight-year pro Tim Dobbins will probably start in Cushing’s place, but don’t expect much.
What it means for your fantasy team: Not a whole lot. The Texans D/ST has been downright terrible. If you’re a current owner, maybe it’s time to drop them for something better. If you don’t have a top defense, I suggest a rolling pick-up from week-to-week, picking up the D/ST going against the Jaguars, Browns, Bucs, and Texans amongst others.
9. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears LB
What happened: Jay Cutler wasn’t the only significant injury the Bears sustained. Perennial pro bowler Lance Briggs, anchor of their defense is out six weeks with a fracture in his shoulder.
What it means for the Bears: This one hurts. Already without linebacker D.J. Williams, losing Briggs will create a void in the middle of the field. The Bears have some passing heavy opponents coming up and the upcoming bye week is sure to help Khaseem Greene and Blake Costanzo acclimate to their starting roles
What it means for your fantasy team: The Bears are consistently good at taking the ball away, but they give up a lot of points. They’re an average D/ST in terms of points scored, but the points allowed may be too much to handle. Same goes with the Bears as it does with the Texans, rolling pick-ups.