The week kicks off on a sad note after Ex-Raider Henry Ruggs was responsible for the death of a woman in Las Vegas early on Tuesday morning. The conditions surrounding the deadly crash are unimaginable and if this serves any purpose, let it be a warning about making bad decisions to others like him.
Then there was Aaron Rodgers getting COVID while
immunized not vaccinated. He’s the highest-profile player that will miss a game while on the list. Rodgers vs. Mahomes sounded like must-watch TV.
We’ve reached the mid-point of the NFL season, and fantasy teams are starting to fall out of contention. If that’s the case for you, check out the Daily Fantasy site and play a team or two. Some are free and many can be very inexpensive. You already know so much, so give Daily Fantasy a try.
Heading into Week 9, here are six things I am thinking about.)
1.) TE George Kittle (SF) – Left for injured reserve in Week 5 and has returned to practice and is eligible to be activated. If he is active, it would add a lot to an offense that simply lacks any notable receivers outside of the reliable Deebo Samuel. Kittle played four games to start the season but never scored. But he was thrown up to ten targets and would be equal to Samuel when Jimmy Garoppolo looks downfield. He would energize a passing attack that is limited to just one player.
Robbie Gould is expected to play as well. Jeff Wilson returned to the practice field after missing the first eight games with a torn meniscus but is not expected to be activated this week.
2.) WR Tajae Sharpe (ATL) – Calvin Ridley “stepped away from football” last week to attend to his mental health. There’s no set date to return, but he hasn’t been removed from the active roster. He merely appears on the injury report as ‘Did Not Practice.” So he could be back at any time. In the interim, how does that affect the Falcons passing scheme? In Week 8, they opened with Olamide Zaccheaus as the only wideout and Hayden Hurst and Kyle Pitts as both starters. Zaccheaus only caught one pass for 12 yards.
It was a terrible day for the offense anyway, as the Panthers held the Falcons to only 228 yards and one score. But, Tajae Sharpe filled in and led the team with five catches for 58 yards. Cordarrelle Patterson remained one of the busier receivers (5-37, TD) as well. The Falcons meet the Saints this week for a tough matchup again but then play at the Cowboys in Week 10.
3.) QB Taysom Hill / Trevor Siemian (NO) – The Saints haven’t named a starting quarterback in the wake of Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL injury. But he and Taysom Hill had a quarterback competition this summer. Hill had a full practice on Thursday as an encouraging sign that he may be ready. Trevor Siemian completed 16-of-29 for 159 yards and one touchdown last week once Winston left the game in the second quarter.
There are a lot of unknowns. If Hill starts, does that mean Siemian is on the bench? With the Saints mix Hill and Siemian as they did with Winston before Hill was injured. Hill only threw three passes over four games but rushed in three touchdowns in his final two matchups. As a side note to Week 8, had Siemian also leave the game injured, the Saints were ready to use their emergency quarterback – Alvin Kamara.
4.) WR Odell Beckham Jr. (CLE) – Beckham is on the outs with the Browns and that they are trying to figure out the least painful way to part with him. There are reports that he may just be released today. For fantasy purposes, how will his spot be filled and will that net any opportunities? The rookie Anthony Schwartz (3.28) was drafted for his 4.26 40-time speed that could stretch the field for the rest of the receivers. He caught a 44-yard pass in Week 1 but only totals seven receptions for 102 yards and no scores on the season.
Donovan Peoples-Jones is the most likely to benefit from Beckham’s absence. He caught five passes for 70 yards in Week 5 and then posted 101 yards and two scores on four catches in Week 2 versus the Cardinals. He injured his groin in the pregame warmups in Week 7 and has been out. Peoples-Jones is expected to return this week and had limited practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He is on track to return to face the Browns this week. Rashard Higgins is also an option but has done little this year. Peoples-Jones has the best shot at becoming a fantasy option.
5.) Raiders receivers – The sudden release of Henry Ruggs removes the No. 1 receiver, and the Raiders have to fill that void. Their official depth chart places Zay Jones as the new starter despite only catching seven passes on the season and just one game with as many as two catches. Bryan Edwards is already the starting flanker and Hunter Renfrow is the slot receiver. Jones may be the starter for the rest of the season, but he’s not going to assume Ruggs’ workload.
There is speculation that the Raiders might have interest in DeSean Jackson. Barring adding a new player, the expectation is that Darren Waller gets a boost in his targets, something that has declined while Ruggs was breaking out this year. Waller hasn’t fielded more than eight targets in any game since Week 1. More than half of his games in 2020 totaled more than eight targets. Ruggs increased production was the biggest improvement in the passing game this year.
6.) RB Adrian Peterson / Jeremy McNichols (TEN) – There are few, if any, non-quarterbacks that are more central to his offense than Derrick Henry. His impact cannot be completely replaced, and the backfield now shifts to some combination of Adrian Peterson and Jeremy McNichols. While Peterson is in practice and is expected to be active for the Week 9 tilt at the Rams. That doesn’t mean he gets 30 carries. It’s no lock that he gets three. Peterson is new to the offense and hasn’t played a down this year.
Assuming that he is as spry as he was last year, Peterson would do well enough to match his full-time role with the Lions when he totaled 156 carries over 16 games. Peterson is a future Hall-of-Famer, but he is also 36 years old. He rarely offered more than a dozen carries per game in 2020. McNichols totals 56 carries over his four-year career. Henry had 57 carries in just his last two games. McNichols has operated as the third-down back this season with 21 catches against seven carries. He’ll maintain that role which could see more passes.
The Titans signed D’Onta Foreman to their practice squad and could call him up. But the fourth-year back only totaled 107 career runs and isn’t likely to matter. Whatever happens, it will rely on some combination of Peterson and McNichols. Notable too is that they play at the Rams this week and host the Saints in Week 10. Those will be tough opponents to remake the rushing offense, but the Texans show up in Week 11 to make it all look good again.
The Titan – Rams game should be watched. Losing Derrick Henry is one of the rare “this changes everything” sort of events. The expectation that there will be more passing is reasonable, but Henry’s presence heavily influenced the defense, including the pass defense. The Titans offensive line is still one of the best and that cannot be overvalued. The offense may not be worse, it will not be better, and the only certain thing is that it will be different.