Arian Foster is a former undrafted free agent who led the league in rushing one year after all 32 teams passed on him. He has surpassed 1,200 yards on the ground four times, and scored 68 touchdowns in 76 career games. He is both a great story and a dominant player. He’s also injury prone, and his latest ailment not only effectively ends the Texans’ season, it casts doubt on his NFL future.
Going on 30, Foster has come back from groin surgery, back surgery and a torn hamstring, amongst other things. But a torn Achilles’ tendon is a considerable concern for even the youngest of whipper snappers, let alone a workhorse back who has racked up 1,703 touches in six and a half years. There’s a chance Foster is never the same, and possibly done in Houston.
Foster helped propel the Texans to their best half decade in franchise history, but is due $6.5 million in 2016. That’s a prohibitive sum for an aging back coming off major injury who might not be ready for Week 1. The Texans’ black hole at quarterback could help Foster’s odds of sticking around, but it should be considered no better than 50-50 for a team that will be going back to the drawing board after a(nother) humiliating season.
As for 2015, the Texans are wholly unprepared for their post-Foster landscape. Alfred Blue, Chris Polk and perhaps Jonathan Grimes will divvy up the scraps, with Blue “leading” a committee that could be wildly unpredictable from week to week. As a collective, the trio has 402 career carries for 1,444 yards (3.59 YPC). Defenses were already invited to bear down on the box because of Brian Hoyer’s shaky quarterbacking. Now they’ve been given the green light to outright tee off on it.
For both the Texans and fantasy owners, Foster’s injury has made a bad situation much, much worse.
Five Week 7 Positives
Darren McFadden’s 162-yard afternoon. The Cowboys were (supposedly) already planning to get Christine Michael more involved when Joseph Randle went down after only two carries with an oblique injury. Things were set up perfectly for the annual fantasy tease to finally put his stamp on the season. Instead, it was McFadden, another perennial tease, who stole the show and put the offense on his back. McFadden rushed 29 times for 152 yards and a score, adding another 10 yards through the air. The 100-yard day on the ground was the first by any Cowboy this season, and a potential way out of the wilderness for a team getting nothing from its quarterbacks in the absence of Tony Romo. McFadden was running hard, getting downhill in a hurry and finishing carries with extreme prejudice. Even if Randle is healthy for next week’s matchup with the Seahawks, it should be DMC who leads the backfield.
Charcandrick West settling the top of the Chiefs’ depth chart. One week after getting benched for a late fumble at the end of an uninspiring effort, West rewarded coach Andy Reid’s faith, running away with No. 1 duties. West ground out 110 yards on 22 carries (5.0 YPC), scoring a touchdown and out-touching Knile Davis 24-1. Whatever narrow opening Davis had has been slammed shut. West isn’t going to be a superstar, but anyone with an every-week, every-down role is a legitimate RB2. West gets the Lions in Week 8.
Stefon Diggs’ continued emergence. Diggs earned a starting opportunity on the back of his 13/216 Weeks 4 and 6. Sunday he solidified with another 6/108, which included a highlight-reel 36-yard touchdown where he laid out for full extension on a Teddy Bridgewater overthrow. Already the Vikings’ leading receiver, Diggs can be treated as an every-week WR2. He has a plus Week 8 matchup in the Bears.
The Dolphins’ offensive explosion against the Texans. Under Joe Philbin, the Dolphins could barely tie their shoes. Under Dan Campbell, they can’t stop blowing teams out. Granted, it’s the Titans and Texans that the Dolphins have waxed, but this is a team with losses to the Jaguars and Bills. Beating the teams they’re supposed to couldn’t be assumed under Philbin. Under Campbell, it’s looking like the norm. Which brings us to Thursday night. The Patriots are not someone the Dolphins are supposed to beat. They're barely expected to even compete with them. If they can, it will prove Campbell’s influence is not an adrenaline rush fluke, and signal his squad is ready to make a run at a Wild Card spot. Campbell’s tweaks have put Ryan Tannehill back on the QB1 radar, and made Lamar Miller a top-10 option. Rishard Matthews has become a legitimate WR3.
Mike Evans’ eruption. Evans entered Week 7 as the WR67 by average points. He exits it locked back in as a top-15 option. Evans whipped every defender the Redskins threw at him, and was an offensive pass interference penalty away from adding a second touchdown to his 8/164/1 line. Evans was a one-man highlight reel, earning his yards the hard way in a game that came down to the wire. Finally back to full health and getting up to speed with rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, Evans is ready to “better late than never” for fantasy owners who made him their WR1.
Five Week 7 Negatives
The Giants’ three-man committee becoming a four-man committee. Tom Coughlin was having so much fun dividing up touches between Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams that he decided to add a fourth back to the mix. Orleans Darkwa not only played, he led the Giants in carries, and scored their lone offensive touchdown. He easily earned a role for Week 8, but at whose expense? Even if he wanted to, Coughlin couldn’t keep a four-man rotation going. The easiest candidate for expulsion is Williams, who is averaging 2.85 yards through 49 carries. The owner of a three down-ish skill-set, Darkwa could also cut into Jennings’ workload. He out-snapped Jennings on Sunday. The designated pass catcher, Vereen’s role is probably the safest. Despite the newfound relevance, Darkwa is just an RB4 dart throw for the most desperate of fantasy owners.
Brandon LaFell’s season debut. Last year’s WR22, LaFell offers promise as a midseason replacement, but his 2015 couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. LaFell dropped an unfathomable six passes, muffing 75 percent of the eight targets thrown his way. The performance was so terrible that he was briefly benched for Aaron Dobson. The Pats need LaFell to make an impact, but he can’t be trusted to make one on a short week against the Dolphins on Thursday. Keep LaFell stashed as a WR4 who might be ready to be your WR3 in 2-3 games.
Andrew Luck’s up and down day against the Saints. Luck went 9-of-19 for 79 yards and two interceptions in the first half, playing the worst 30 minutes of his career. Things picked up considerably after the break — thanks in part to CB Delvin Breaux falling down on not one, but two T.Y. Hilton touchdowns — but nothing can hide the fact that not only did Luck’s Colts suffer another unacceptable loss, he again tossed multiple interceptions. Luck was frenetic Sunday, rushing in the pocket and forcing throws that simply shouldn't have been made. It’s possible Luck’s protection woes have finally dented his confidence, or that his shoulder isn’t healthy. NBC’s Rodney Harrison believes the latter is true. Whatever it is, Luck has to snap out of it, for even the AFC South can’t be won with this level of football. Luck has an imposing Week 8 matchup in a Monday Night Football journey to Carolina.
Chris Ivory’s hamstring tweak. Ivory is one of the league’s best runners when healthy. He was healthy in Weeks 4 and 6, rushing 49 times for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Sunday, he injured his hamstring either in pre-game warmups or on his first snap. The result was a 17/41 afternoon against a Patriots run defense that had been silver plattering 4.9 yards per tote. Ivory claims it won’t be an issue for Week 8’s trip to Oakland, but a player who should be a top-five option is once again a boom-or-bust RB1/2 until he proves he’s back to 100 percent.
Matt Jones’ no-show in a great spot. Ticketed for more of a three-down role in the absence of Chris Thompson, Jones could produce only 51 yards on 12 touches. That’s despite the fact that the Redskins spent almost the entire afternoon in comeback mode. Jones’ career upside is through the roof, but he doesn’t appear ready to tap it as a rookie. There should be more big games down the stretch, but they will be tough to see coming with Thompson and Alfred Morris still fighting for touches. Jones is a boom-or-bust FLEX option best left on the end of benches.
1. What could Joe Philbin possibly be thinking when he watches this team?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Via Football Outsiders’ fact wizard Scott Kacsmar: Falcons/Titans was the first NFL game since December 2012 to feature less than 18 total points.
Derek Carr is one of six quarterbacks to own a 100-plus quarterback rating. The sophomore has an 11:3 TD:INT ratio, and is averaging 243 yards per game and 7.57 yards per attempt.
At one point in Sunday’s game, the Dolphins had 35 points and the Texans had zero yards.
Ryan Mathews’ 6.1 yards per carry leads all qualified rushers.
Todd Gurley is 12th in rushing yards, but just 24th in carries.
Even though the Bucs have already had their bye, Doug Martin’s 541 yards rushing are second in the league.
#TooSoon Tweet of the Week, from @JoshNorris: Especially since Jordan Matthews was the target RT @JoshNorris: How would that be catchable?
Tweet of the Week, from @NFLFrance: Andrew Luck has been intercepting a 2nd time. It's an abominable season.
Gary Barnidge Watch
Still the best player in the NFL.