The fantasy playoffs can spark a wide array of emotions. Todd Gurley has been the No. 1 fantasy running back in most formats this year, and he proved it on Sunday with the best game of his career, propelling many fantasy owners into the championship round. Antonio Brown has been the No. 1 wide receiver in all formats, but an ill-timed injury likely sank many people’s championship hopes. Like it or hate it, the dichotomy between those two events epitomizes fantasy football. If you’re still reading these articles, I hope it’s because you were the person with Gurley on your team, but if you had Brown or another player who got injured, we’re here to help. Here’s everything we know about this week’s injuries, including the fantasy impact:
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown left Sunday’s game against the Patriots with a left calf injury in the second quarter. His leg got awkwardly wedged between two defenders on an end-zone target, and he remained on the ground for a minute after failing to make the catch. He was helped off the field by the medical staff and was listed as questionable to return. Brown later went to the hospital for further tests and was ruled out for the rest of the game. After the game, multiple sources reported that he suffered a partially torn calf muscle and that he is likely out until the postseason.
Brown’s injury came at an unfortunate time for fantasy owners, as they’ll now be without the league’s best wideout for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs (if they’re even still in it). In Brown’s absence, second-round rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and fourth-year receiver Martavis Bryant figure to be Ben Roethlisberger’s primary receiving weapons. Smith-Schuster continued his strong rookie season on Sunday by catching all six of his targets for 114 yards, while Bryant also posted a respectable stat line, catching four of six targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. With Brown sidelined, Smith-Schuster can be trusted as a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 against a soft Houston secondary in Week 16, while Bryant can be considered a low-end WR3 or high-end WR4 with upside.
Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots
Burkhead left Sunday’s game against the Steelers with a knee injury in the third quarter. He was helped off the field by the medical staff, and the Patriots quickly ruled him out for the rest of the game. Toward the end of the game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Burkhead could miss a little time, although he did not tear his ACL and the injury is not believed to be major.
It sounds like Burkhead may miss the rest of the fantasy season, and his absence would increase the stock of every other Patriots running back. Dion Lewis, who has averaged a stellar 5.2 yards per carry this season, will experience the biggest bump since he’s now more likely to see the goal-line opportunities that were previously going to Burkhead. Consider Lewis a high-end RB2 in Week 16. James White, who has lost significant receiving work to Burkhead, may now rediscover his high early-season usage, which puts him on the FLEX radar in PPR leagues. Mike Gillislee, who has been a healthy scratch for six straight weeks, could now get another shot at the short-yardage role. However, Gillislee isn’t worth a pickup this late in the season.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Adams left Sunday’s game against the Panthers with a head injury in the third quarter. After an Aaron Rodgers interception, he took a brutal helmet-to-helmet blindside hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. He remained on the ground for a few minutes but was able to walk off the field under his own power. Adams was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion, and he was later ruled out for the rest of the game.
This was an unfortunate development for Adams, who was victimized by a hard (and illegal) hit to the head for the second time this season. Although the Packers have not officially said that Adams has a concussion, it seems likely that he will need to clear the concussion protocol to be able to play against the Vikings next week. If Adams is unable to clear the protocol in time, then Geronimo Allison would likely start in his place. Allison caught five passes on eight targets for 33 yards against the Panthers, but he also fumbled away Green Bay’s last chance to tie the game on their final drive. Against a tough Vikings secondary in Week 16, Allison would be nothing more than a deep-league dart throw. Jordy Nelson — who had a disappointing three catches for 28 yards against the Panthers — should still warrant WR2 consideration with Rodgers at the helm. Randall Cobb — who had seven catches on a whopping 14 targets for 84 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers — would be worth a look as a high-end WR3 if Adams can’t go.