It was not a terrible week for injuries, but the Bills took two massive hits to their running game. Fred Jackson left the team’s Week 7 win against Minnesota in the first quarter with a groin injury. He has already been ruled out for Week 8, and will miss at least the next three weeks. Jackson’s injury would have been bad enough, but it was compounded by the season-ending collarbone injury to C.J. Spiller just a few drives later.
Both injuries are tough pills for the Bills to swallow, but at least they prepared for the occasion by acquiring Bryce Brown for a fourth-round pick this offseason. Brown has yet to be active this year because he carries almost zero special teams value, but he is a great receiving back with the running talent to take it to the house anytime. Anthony Dixon, who had 13 carries for 51 yards after Spiller and Jackson exited, will also be involved, but Brown is the back to own in Buffalo. He is the No. 1 waiver add this week.
Trent Richardson suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Colts’ demolition of the Bengals and did not return. Richardson shrugged off the injury on Monday, implying he could have gotten back into the game if it were necessary. He should be good to go for Week 8, but Ahmad Bradshaw would become a solid RB1 if Richardson were forced to miss any time.
It was the same story for James Starks, who did not return after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter of the Packers’ blowout of the Panthers. Starks was on the sidelines with his helmet, indicating he could have reentered had the game not been a blowout. He should be fine for Week 8 as well.
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Denard Robinson had one of the most surprising performances of Week 7. Despite playing behind a line that could not get anything going for Toby Gerhart or Storm Johnson to start the season, Robinson racked up 127 yards on 22 carries against the Browns on Sunday. He had more yards against the Browns than Toby Gerhart has this entire season, and he had more yards in the first quarter, 62, than any Jaguars running back managed in a full game up to that point.
Despite the success, there are a few reasons to doubt Robinson can keep it going the rest of the season. Chief among those is the matchup. The Browns are one of the worst teams against the run in the league and have suffered several injuries along their defensive front. The defense was moved around early in the game, giving Robinson huge holes to run through. A lot of his big plays were plays you would expect any NFL back to make.
That said his was very quick to the hole, and made the right decision more often than not. He also displayed some surprising power in the open field, running through some arm tackles and falling forward for extra yards once he got to the second level. Robinson was not a pile mover by any stretch, but it is pretty clear it will take more than a tap to bring him down.
I am not sure Robinson can stand up to 22 touches a game the rest of the season, and I am very doubtful he will put in that position. I do think this performance gives him a shot to be in the 15-touch range on a week to week basis, and that much work should make him an interesting low-end RB2. He is a must add in all leagues.
Tre Mason entered the national consciousness with a bang on Sunday, ripping off 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Rams’ surprising victory of the defending champion Seahawks. Mason showed off the impressive skills that had scouts drooling this draft season. After this impressive a performance, it would be easy to proclaim Mason the next big thing, but it is important to pump the brakes a bit on his Canton enshrinement.
Earlier in the week OC Brian Schottenheimer made it clear the team would employ a “hot hand” approach at the running back position. In this game Mason had the hot hand, but that may not always be the case. Benny Cunningham started and was as involved as Mason early on. If the “hot hand” philosophy continues, we could see a situation next week where Cunningham dominates the carries.
There is also the issue of Mason’s pass blocking. He was on the field for six passing downs against the Seahawks, and was not asked to pass block once according to Pro Football Focus. If the Rams get down big, it is safe to predict Mason’s inability to pass block would relegate him to the sidelines.
With Zac Stacy only given one snap, it is clear Mason has a role moving forward. The real question will be how much the coaching staff trusts the rookie – especially following a potentially costly late fumble – and how much of the field he will see if the Rams get down big. I would imagine not a lot, which will make him a risky play week to week. He is easily behind Bryce Brown as a waiver add, and may be behind Denard Robinson depending on needs.
Baldwin hauled in seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. His longest play of the day was a 49-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter in which he bounced off a defender and raced down to the St. Louis 11. His nine-yard touchdown brought the Seahawks to within two late in the fourth quarter.
Baldwin did most of his damage out of the slot on Sunday after being miscast as an outside receiver for most of the year. With Percy Harvin gone, Baldwin should continue to get work in the slot, and he should continue to be very successful doing it. The big plays will not be there unless he breaks a tackle and runs like he did on Sunday, but he should be a very solid option in PPR formats moving forward.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham’s stat line was buoyed by the two touchdowns, but the real reason for optimism was his opportunities. Despite being as green as they come, Beckham played every offensive snap for the Giants and was looked to in big situations by Eli Manning.
Beckham did make some rookie mistakes, most notably running third-down routes short of the marker on a couple occasions, but overall played well. His six targets were not an aberration, and he should continue to grow into the offense all season. He is a definite pickup and borderline starter in the big bye weeks ahead.
Stash and See
These players may not be worthy of a start Week 8, but certainly are worthy of a roster spot.
Stevie Johnson has a touchdown in three of his last four games, and 13 targets over his last two. … Travaris Cadet had nine targets against the Lions. With Pierre Thomas out a couple weeks, he is immediately worth PPR consideration. … Devonta Freeman played the second most snaps and had the second most touches among Falcons’ running backs Week 7. … Corey Fuller saw five targets and caught the game-winning touchdown against the Saints. He will be interesting as long as Calvin Johnson is sidelined. … Darren McFadden is the clear lead back in Oakland and gets a nice matchup with the Browns next week. … The Cowboys are not going to stop handing to DeMarco Murray, which means he will get hurt at some point. That makes Joseph Randle a nice add if you have an open bench spot.
With Jimmy Graham severely limited Week 7, there were hopes Brandin Cooks would steal the show as Drew Brees’ go-to receiver in the middle of the field. Cooks instead caught only 2-of-3 targets for 23 yards as he watched Marques Colston dominate between the hashes.
The two catches move Cooks’ season total to 34 through six games, which puts him on a 90-catch pace. Unfortunately, Cooks is not doing anything with those catches. He has one touchdown so far this season, and his 8.2 yards per reception is the lowest among wide receivers with at least 25 catches. If he continues on this pace, he would have the second-lowest YPR of any wide receiver with at least 70 catches in NFL history.
The Saints will likely keep giving him the ball because of his first-round pedigree, but it is at the very least troubling that Kenny Stills saw five targets and was given an end-around run on a day Cooks was wholly uninvolved. Cooks’ volume makes him a fine play in PPR formats, but he is worth almost nothing is standard leagues right now.
For the second week in a row Andre Williams was utterly disappointing. Williams rushed for 59 yards on 18 carries against a Cowboys’ defense which has given up 5.61 yards per carry to every running back not named Andre Williams this season. That number includes Peyton Hillis, who both is still in the league and rushed for 29 yards on six carries against the Cowboys on Sunday.
Williams’ biggest problem comes down to the offensive line. Williams is not the kind of player that can make space for himself behind or at the line of scrimmage. He needs a decent size hole to be effective, and once he gets one he can burst through with surprising quickness and do damage at the second level. He has not been getting that space the last two weeks, and as a result he has struggled.
The Giants are on bye Week 8, and Rashad Jennings looks poised to return following the break. That means Williams’ days as the starter are probably over. He is still a hold because Jennings had a tendency of getting hurt, but he would not be an exciting play even if he gets starter’s work sometime in the future.
Reggie Wayne – who said he was fine following an injury scare in the first half – had his second down day in a row against the Bengals, catching 4-of-8 targets for only 15 yards in a game the Colts scored 27 points. In the three games following his 7-119-1 breakout, Wayne has caught 51 percent of his 29 targets for 127 yards.
His play the last several weeks have prompted some to claim time is finally catching up with the 35-year-old Wayne, but I just do not see it. He is still getting almost 21 percent of Andrew Luck’s targets, and is still on pace for an 86-992 season despite the recent bad run. More importantly, he still looks like the Reggie Wayne that averaged 12 yards a catch while catching 100 balls a year so many years in a row.
Wayne was never going to be a standard-league All-Star, but he is still getting the targets necessary to be a solid play in PPR leagues. As long as the elbow is fine, he should be a valuable WR3 in PPR formats the rest of the season.
These players are unlikely to make any noise this season. They are not must drops, but can be replaced without worry.
Mike Zimmer kept his promise to get Matt Asiata more than the three touches he saw Week 6 by giving him seven this week. Jerick McKinnon had 21. … Brian Hartline has been out-targeted by Jarvis Landry for two straight weeks. … Zac Stacy was limited to one snap as Tre Mason broke out against the Seahawks. … Maurice Jones-Drew is clearly the second back in Oakland. … Jason Witten had only two targets against the Giants. You can do better streaming. … In spite of the touchdown, please cut Danny Amendola.