Drew Magyar
What Did We Learn - Week 8

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Each August, we look at depth charts, past performance, and projections in an effort to predict the future. Sometimes, a free agent signing or incoming rookie can dampen the outlook for a given player, as it did with Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis in Cincinnati. Or it could be a change at a corresponding position, such as Carson Palmer's signing with Arizona affecting Larry Fitzgerald . And it could be that a player’s injury history impacts our thoughts, as it did with Michael Vick , Maurice Jones-Drew or Danny Amendola this season.

It’s that last one that always bites you.

When we put projections together, we assume 16 games for most guys. Drew Brees isn’t going to miss time. Neither will Peyton Manning . Or Tom Brady . But for guys like Vick, I only forecasted 12 games played. Now 12 games with Vick and four of a plug-in can still be pretty good, but it has to be considered in the preseason. We didn’t know how Jones-Drew would respond from offseason foot surgery, and that had to be factored in. Danny Amendola would put up insane numbers, except he’s only suited up twice this season and has had to leave both games early with an injury.

But, as Week 7 demonstrated, there are also cases where injuries aren’t so easy to predict:

Arian Foster. Foster experienced a hamstring pull, although he claimed it “doesn’t seem too severe right now.” On the plus side, the Houston Texans have a bye this week. The problem is you can’t trust players on injuries. He has a history of hamstring issues, and I really don’t like how he added “right now” at the end of that. Let’s use something we all may be more familiar with: a buddy says, “I’m not that drunk right now.” That means two things 1) he’s clearly been drinking, and 2) he plans on getting ripped. In any case, the Texans wouldn’t really lose all that much with Ben Tate taking all the reps, although Tate sustained four fractured ribs on Sunday - something to track over the bye week.

Doug Martin. Martin left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, which has since been revealed to be a torn labrum. There have been several reports indicating that his season may be done, but lame duck Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano claims that the team doesn’t believe his injury to be season-ending. A couple things here: the word “torn” is usually not good, and the Buccaneers gain nothing by trotting out their franchise back this season when they’re already sitting at 0-6. Mike James came on the other day and ran well enough to be a top pickup this week.

Reggie Wayne. On Sunday night, Wayne tried to adjust awkwardly to a poorly thrown Andrew Luck pass, and in the process tore his ACL. It’s possible that the aging veteran never suits up again, which is actually really sad. In his absence, the Indianapolis Colts will lean more heavily on a young, but talented, receiving corps. Darrius Heyward-Bey looks like a decent player since getting away from Oakland (go figure), and T.Y. Hilton is an emerging playmaker in his own right. Coby Fleener will need to stop dropping passes and LaVon Brazill will need to play a role in three wide sets. With Wayne’s 2014 salary non-guaranteed, put a pin in Wayne getting cut and then signed by New England next season.

Jermichael Finley. Finley seems to be one of those guys who is always lost, and just when he finds his way, karma smites him. After a 2012 campaign that was underwhelming, Finley was doing all the right things this offseason, and he’d re-developed his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers . In Week 6, he caught three balls for 75 yards. This week, he was off to a great start, catching five balls for 72 yards and a touchdown. Then, he made a catch in the fourth quarter and took a big hit, eventually being taken off the field on a stretcher. On Monday, it was reported that he’s regained movement, but a neck injury is serious business. Expect to be without Finley for several weeks with Andrew Quarless getting first team reps. Jarrett Boykin should see even more targets, especially after an impressive Week 7 performance. Jordy Nelson and James Jones , once he’s healthy, will also see more balls.

Jay Cutler. Cutler suffered a torn groin in the second quarter on Sunday, and he’s expected to miss at least four weeks. Again, “torn” is never good, especially in that general area. Josh McCown came in and played reasonably well, albeit against a poor Washington defense. The Bears offensive scheme is supposedly really friendly to quarterbacks, but I’m still not betting on McCown. I feel like Brandon Marshall , Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett will see a drop in production, while Matt Forte gets a boost.

Sam Bradford. Say what you want about Bradford, but he’d actually been a pretty good fantasy quarterback this season. But that’s all over now that he suffered a torn ACL on Sunday. Kellen Clemens came on and was about what you’d expect. Zac Stacy should get more touches, but he won’t be able to do anything with it, because Clemens doesn’t scare anyone. Owners of Tavon Austin , Jared Cook , Chris Givens , and any other Rams pass catcher should sell for a corn dog if you can get it.

Now let’s look at whose fantasy stock is on the rise, and whose is going to take a hit.

Whose Stock is on the Rise?

Ryan Mathews. I’m not big on Mathews, but he’s been shockingly good over the past two weeks. Even with the San Diego Chargers featuring Philip Rivers and the passing game, he’s run 43 times for 212 yards and a score in the last two games. If the Chargers are going to make any noise, they’ll need Mathews to continue his strong running. He’ll be used throughout games, but he’ll also serve as a closer late in games if the Chargers can get leads.

Chris Ivory. Last week, there was a report that indicated that Ivory would see an expanded role following Mike Goodson's season ending knee injury. That seemed like common sense, so I dismissed it. But apparently, there may have been something to it, as he ran 34 times for 104 yards on Sunday. Ivory is healthy again, and he was pretty good when healthy in New Orleans. On a team that will run the ball to keep pressure off their rookie quarterback, Ivory may be someone to target. Just keep his injury history in mind.

Roy Helu. Not sure where this came from. Despite being the clear backup to Alfred Morris until now, Helu racked up 41 yards rushing and three scores on Sunday. Remember, Helu was solid in 2011, and he’s still a better receiving option than Morris. He won’t score three touchdowns again, but he will continue to earn more and more carries. And with games against Denver and San Diego coming up, the Washington Redskins just may need a better pass-catching running back in the game.

Harry Douglas. With Julio Jones and Roddy White inactive, Matt Ryan didn’t have many other options. Tony Gonzalez was blanketed all day long, leaving Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers as his go-to guys. Douglas stepped up, catching seven passes for 149 yards and a touchdown on the day. He’s got decent talent and plenty of opportunity, and I like his chances of continuing to make an impact.

Jordan Reed. Reed is another former basketball player, in the mold of Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates . On Sunday, Reed reeled in nine balls for 134 yards and a touchdown. He’s fast, he’s athletic, and he’ll create matchup headaches for Redskins' opponents for the rest of the year. With Robert Griffin III regaining his 2012 form, Reed will become even more dangerous.



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