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Five Things to Know: Cowboys Staring at Disaster

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Ishmael Butler, James Harrison and David Bowie.

1. The Dallas offense is staring disaster in the face

Tony Romo has shown the ability to put up big fantasy stats so far this year, with or without his ribs intact. Miles Austin continues to prove he's undoubtedly in the elite tier of receivers, and Dez Bryant has shown glimpses of similar potential. Jason Witten is arguably the game's best tight end.

But with Austin (hamstring) expected to be out until Week 6, Bryant (quadriceps) and Felix Jones (shoulder) both hurting and one of the league's most unimpressive offensive lines, it's easy to see this thing falling apart with a little bad luck. It almost did Sunday, after all.

Romo was spectacular after he returned to the game, but before he left (and perhaps before the painkillers kicked in) he was frighteningly inaccurate at several points as he tried to play through the injury. Furthermore, with names like Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora all within the division, not to mention Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake in non-divisional matchups, there's no reason to think his ribs won't be taking some more big hits in the near future.

Jason Witten should be fine regardless of who's throwing passes in Dallas (he may even benefit from Jon Kitna's checkdown tendencies), but Austin, Bryant and Jones will be on shaky ground unless they and Romo are at or near full health. Austin and Bryant are still very valuable due to their upside, but they have lower floors than most fantasy receivers in their tiers.

2. Newton's for real, but can the Carolina offense last?

You have a former 13th-overall pick and standout power runner in Jonathan Stewart, and you just decided to hand over a five-year, $43-million deal to DeAngelo Williams, giving your backfield a nice elusive option at running back, as well. What should you do next?

The answer is obvious: throw the ball 83 times in the first two games. Those pricey running backs should be fine as long as they combine for, say, 30 carries in the same span.

It's true that Cam Newton's averages of 10.3 yards per pass attempt and 3.9 yards per rush are far more appealing than the combined 2.5 yards per carry between Williams and Stewart, but Carolina simply can't stick to this plan forever.

If the Panthers are going to move ahead with an average of just 15 combined carries per game for Williams and Stewart, they might as well not bother. Indeed, it seems as if the team came to that very conclusion from Week 1 to Week 2, with the carry total between the two backs falling from 19 to 11. Not only is that total too small for the opposing defense to take the running game seriously, but it gives the running backs and offensive line little or no chance to establish any rhythm.

Furthermore, the man writing the checks is bound to be a bit displeased with the direction of the offense, at least given the personnel he's paying. Why did the Ron Rivera regime want Stewart, Williams, Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey if the offense was going to throw deep all day? The offense's talent is better suited for the wishbone than the spread-like appearance it has had so far.

Newton should still be expected to be at least a solid fantasy quarterback with occasionally huge upside from week to week, but it's hard to believe that the days of 40-plus pass attempts are not numbered.

3. Dubious decisions in Minnesota

According to reports, Percy Harvin played just 30 snaps against Tampa Bay on Sunday, including just three of 14 red-zone plays.

It wouldn't exactly be gutsy to suggest those numbers were a substantial factor in Minnesota's four-point loss. Harvin is the team's best offensive player outside of Adrian Peterson, yet the team gave more snaps to Michael Jenkins (52) and Bernard Berrian (51), two of the league's worst receivers. Despite his minimal snap count, Harvin still posted numbers far superior to his fellow receivers, with his eight targets, seven receptions and 76 yards all at least doubling all other Minnesota wideouts.

On one hand, it seems impossible for such an absurd arrangement to endure, which might make Harvin a decent buy-low target. On the other hand, such an arrangement could seemingly only surface in an offense with rather incompetent management. It's not as if the team's faith in Jenkins and Berrian does anything to discredit that suggestion.

In short, just because it can't get much worse for Harvin doesn't mean it will get much better, either. Sunday's game alone is a legitimate reason to worry that the people in charge of Harvin just don't know what they're doing.

4. Kenny Britt might be the top fantasy receiver

As long as he can avoid the handcuffs, injury might be the only thing preventing Britt from becoming the league's best fantasy receiver. At the very least, he seems to be approaching untradeable status due to the value he gives his owners.

As his 19.4-yard average (17.8 career) illustrates, he can match the big-play ability of nearly any receiver in the league, and his size (6-foot-3, 215) means he's similarly dangerous in the red zone. He's elite in basically every dimension as a receiver, and he just turned 23 on Monday.

With Matt Hasselbeck throwing 23 passes his way so far, a total that's in a two-way tie for fourth-most in the league (behind a three-way tie at 24), the Tennessee offense looks fully prepared to use him as much as practically possible. It doesn't hurt that the most threatening defense in his division (Houston) just gave up 79 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Marshall on six catches, either.

5. Delone Carter is surprisingly active in Indianapolis

Joseph Addai is doing a nice job on a per-play basis, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per reception, but his already limited value looks further threatened by Delone Carter, a fourth-round pick from Syracuse.

Addai hasn't played a full season since his 2006 rookie year, missing 13 regular-season games, and it seems as if Indianapolis went into this season with an offensive approach designed to limit his workload to keep him healthy all year. This isn't surprising, but Addai's rushing count (22) being just four ahead of Carter's (18) wasn't exactly easy to anticipate.

Given how bad the Indianapolis passing game has been, it seems unlikely that the Colts offense will spend enough time on the field to give much work to either runner. This might be one of those unfortunate situations where both players will have negligible fantasy value outside of deep leagues unless the other gets hurt.