Chris Johnson was in the midst of a bounce-back season that has him in consideration for the Comeback Player of the Year award. He’d fallen off a bit in recent weeks, as we’d expect from a 30-year-old running back, but Johnson really brought a sense of stability to a running game that couldn’t seem to find anyone to carry the load last season. He averaged a healthy 4.2 YPC and was on pace for a five-year-high 285 carries as the Cardinals’ early-down workhorse.
Johnson took a helmet-to-knee hit in the third quarter of the Cardinals’ Week 12 win over the 49ers. GM Steve Keim initially said Johnson suffered a bone bruise in his knee. Since, it’s been revealed that CJ2K suffered a fractured tibia and was handed a 6-8 week recovery timetable. On Tuesday, the Cardinals placed Johnson on I.R.-designated for return. His season is over unless Arizona makes it to the Super Bowl, as the soonest Johnson can be activated is three days after the NFC Championship game. Signed to a one-year, veteran-minimum deal in August, Johnson is an impending free agent.
With Johnson now done for the rest of the fantasy season and Andre Ellington battling a case of turf toe, rookie RB David Johnson is “more than ready” and “the lead guy now,” according to coach Bruce Arians. In limited action as the No. 2/3 running back this season, David has averaged 4.0 YPC and produced multiple big plays as a pass catcher and return man. Despite his 6’1/229 size, David doesn’t project as an inside, pile-moving runner. He’s a space back with off-the-chart measurables and athleticism. In the Cardinals’ No. 1 offense, David has immediate RB2 appeal and should see 15-plus touches against the Rams on Sunday. The St. Louis defense started out the season red-hot, but has been worn down in recent weeks due to the offense not staying on the field.
In Other News…
Rob Gronkowski went down Sunday night against the Broncos with what had the appearance of a potentially-serious knee injury. He avoided significant structural damage, but the Patriots confirmed on Tuesday that Gronkowski is week-to-week with a bruised and sprained knee. He’s certain to miss Week 13 against the Eagles and will probably be no better than 50-50 to play Week 14. Danny Amendola will shoulder a heavy load in Gronkowski’s absence, while Scott Chandler handles No. 1 tight end duties. The Patriots could focus more on LeGarrette Blount and the run game.
Josh McCown took yet another big hit on Monday night against the Ravens. Attempting a deep shot to Travis Benjamin, McCown was planted by two defenders onto his right shoulder. He tried to play through it one series, but had to pull himself from the game. On Tuesday, it was revealed McCown suffered a broken collarbone and will miss the rest of the season. Coach Mike Pettine is expected to announce a decision between Austin Davis and Johnny Manziel for his Week 13 starter.
Ben Roethlisberger exited Sunday’s shootout loss to the Seahawks late in the fourth quarter with a head injury. The Steelers put him through the concussion check, but Big Ben said afterward that he didn’t suffer a concussion. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, said Tuesday that Roethlisberger is indeed in the league’s protocol. It didn’t appear to be a severe concussion, but they can be tricky to overcome. For now, look for Big Ben to play against the Colts, but check back later in the week.
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Quarterback & Running Back Slants
The Cowboys are holding off on placing Tony Romo (collarbone) on I.R. in case they make a run at the division title in the weak NFC East. With a loss Monday night, they’d be done. … Patriots claimed RB Trey Williams off waivers from the Cowboys. He has some pass-game skills. … Sam Bradford (shoulder) did “pretty much everything” at Tuesday’s practice. He’s tentatively expected to return Week 13 against the Patriots. … Peyton Manning (foot) will have his cast removed this week. Most expect Manning to miss the rest of the season. … The Titans wanted to get rookie RB David Cobb more carries in Week 12. He remains a deep bench stash. … Ryan Mathews (concussion) remained sidelined at Tuesday’s practice. … Case Keenum (concussion) will remain the Rams’ starter when healthy. … Karlos Williams (shoulder) was in a sling Tuesday. … Devonta Freeman (concussion) is expected back this week against the Bucs.
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Wide Receiver & Tight End Slants
Seahawks signed TE Chase Coffman, taking the roster spot of Jimmy Graham (torn patellar tendon), who was placed on I.R. Monday. … Free agent TEs Rob Housler and Nick Kasa worked out for the Bears on Tuesday. … Heath Miller (ribs) will need “monitoring all week.” … Golden Tate (calf) practiced in full Tuesday. … Jared Abbrederis (ribs) is practicing in full. He could push Davante Adams for snaps in three-wide sets. Adams remains “pissed off” about his Thanksgiving drops. … Patriots signed WR/KR Damaris Johnson. … The Titans are challenging Dorial Green-Beckham to make more plays. … Coach Mike Tomlin threw cold water on Markus Wheaton’s Week 12 breakout game against the Seahawks. … Zach Ertz (concussion) practiced on Tuesday. … Corey Brown (shoulder) returned to practice Tuesday. … Browns signed WR Terrelle Pryor. … Josh Huff (concussion) is expected to resume practicing this week. … Calvin Johnson (ankle) didn’t practice Tuesday, but should be fine for Thursday night against the Packers. … Coach Mike McCarthy said Ty Montgomery (ankle) hasn’t made much progress in his recovery. … Hakeem Nicks is expected to be more involved on offense this week. … Stedman Bailey (head) remains in the ICU.