One high-profile benching and a pair of injuries to star players in Week 14 will have a big impact on the rest of the fantasy football postseason.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has been abused the last five games, taking 24 sacks behind a brutal offensive line. To spare him some punishment, or so he says, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has benched RGIII for the remainder of the season. That means Kirk Cousins takes over as the starter.
If Griffin was your quarterback, Cousins is a good replacement. He faces an Atlanta defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. In his only career start last season, Cousins went 26 of 37 for 329 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 22 yards — not Griffin-like on the ground but at least a portion of the production fantasy owners of RGIII enjoyed.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Amherst native, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee Sunday after a low hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward. Gronkowski also suffered a concussion on the play. From a fantasy perspective, Gronkowski is irreplaceable. In just seven games, he recorded 39 catches for 592 yards and four touchdowns. The rest of the New England tight ends (along with fullback James Develin) have combined for 192 yards and one touchdown on 16 catches. New England’s Super Bowl hopes have also taken a big hit. With Gronkowski in the lineup, New England averaged 11 more points per game than without him.
If you’re desperate for a replacement for Gronkowski in your lineup, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta made his season debut in Week 14 and had a touchdown reception. He’s got good chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco and is a decent option Sunday at Baltimore.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered a foot injury last Sunday and is unlikely to play in Week 15. In his place, Toby Gerhart rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown. Complicating matters, however, is a hamstring injury he suffered near the end of the game. Gerhart is expected to be questionable for Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. If he’s able to start, he’s a good play as a No. 2 or flex running back, but be aware — the Eagles have allowed just one touchdown by a running back in the last month.
Colts wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers exploded in Week 14 for six catches, 107 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati. Rogers, of course, spent training camp with the Buffalo Bills before his release.
He had not recorded a single catch prior to last Sunday, but in playing 68 percent of the Colts’ offensive snaps, he showed a glimpse of the promise he holds. Indianapolis has a seemingly favorable matchup with Houston this week, making Rogers an intriguing “sleeper” option at receiver. The Texans, however, are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers, so Rogers is a bit of a gamble at a time when it’s not wise to be making many of those.
Analyzing the Bills
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been an inviting fantasy matchup all season, but it’s hard to put any trust in the Buffalo Bills’ skill-position players after watching them bumble their way through a Week 14 loss at Tampa Bay.
The Jaguars have given 18.6 points per game to opposing fantasy quarterbacks, third most in the NFL, but you’re not putting EJ Manuel anywhere near your starting lineup. Jacksonville is also giving up 10 points per game to opposing tight ends, second highest in the league, but Scott Chandler is averaging only 36 receiving yards per game and has just one touchdown catch in Manuel’s nine starts.
The Jaguars’ pass defense has allowed 36 catches for 565 yards and four touchdowns the last two games, so there should be an opportunity for Stevie Johnson to put up respectable numbers, despite the fact he doesn’t have a 100-yard receiving game since Week Two and hasn’t scored since Week Eight.
Bills running back Fred Jackson has failed to produce double-digit fantasy points in four of his last five games and is coming off his worst game of the season — a five-carry, 12-yard effort against the Buccaneers. C.J. Spiller hasn’t been much better, being held to 10 points or less in three of the Bills’ last four games. Jacksonville has allowed 59.8 rushing yards per game (2.8 yards per carry) over its last five games, making Spiller and Jackson low-end No. 2 running backs this week, at best.
The Jacksonville offense is also allowing the third-most points to opposing fantasy defenses, meaning the Bills’ ‘D’ can be considered.
On the Jacksonville side, running back Maurice Jones-Drew is dealing with a hamstring injury. If he can’t play, backup Jordan Todman will start. Keep an eye on this situation and start whoever gets the nod — the Bills have allowed 540 yards and six touchdowns on the ground the last four games.