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Depth Chart Watch: Chicago's Cupboard is Bear

Kenn Ruby

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.

BEARS WR: Johnny Knox will undergo surgery Monday to stabilize a vertebrae after he suffered a back injury Sunday trying to recover a fumble. It was a scary-looking injury, but it looks like the prognosis for his career and quality of life are good, even if his season is over. With Caleb Hanie slinging the passes, the Chicago passing game probably will not suffer too much from the loss of Knox, but someone will have to fill in. Expect Earl Bennett and/or Dane Sanzenbacher to take his place in the starting lineup.

BILLS WR:
Fortunately for his owners, Stevie Johnson caught five passes for 82 yards before he left the game with a groin injury, so at least he didn't give his fantasy teams a big fat donut this week. Still, his availability for Week 16 is likely in doubt with the Bills just going through the motions at this point. The Bills have lost a few receivers this year already, so a Buffalo offense without Johnson might have to rely on the likes of Ruvell Martin and Derek Hagan - in addition to the usual David Nelson and Brad Smith next week against Denver.

BROWNS QB:
After all the criticism the Browns took concerning Colt McCoy's concussion, it was an easy decision to hold him out Sunday, and it wouldn't surprise if he were held out a bit longer. Seneca Wallace started Sunday and threw for 226 yards and a touchdown, but the Browns blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to the Cardinals in overtime.

CARDINALS QB:
Speaking of concussions, Kevin Kolb had one last week as well, but he seems much farther along than McCoy is, as he passed his tests and practiced a little during the week. However, the Cardinals still did the prudent thing and started John Skelton on Sunday instead. Skelton was on the other side of that 10-point comeback, throwing for 313 yards and a score. Given that Kolb nearly got to play Sunday, expect to hear a lot about the Arizona quarterback situation in the coming days.

CHIEFS QB:
The Kyle Orton era began in Kansas City with a most improbable victory against the Packers. Although Orton, taking over the starting job from Tyler Palko, did not throw a touchdown pass, he had 299 yards in the 19-14 victory over the champs. Safe to say, Orton will be expected to remain the starter for the rest of the season.

COLTS TE:
Well, the Colts got one game out of Dallas Clark last week, but he was out again Sunday due to a pinched nerve in his neck. Jacob Tamme stepped back into the starting lineup, but was targeted just twice, catching one pass for three yards. It's not clear if Clark will return this season, but with the Colts 1-13, there's no need to rush him back.

COWBOYS RB:
DeMarco Murray hit the IR after breaking his ankle last week, so Felix Jones got his starting job back and was impressive against the Bucs, finishing with 108 yards on 22 carries and another 23 yards on three receptions. With third-stringer Phillip Tanner also out, the Cowboys were forced to pick Sammy Morris off the scrap heap, and he played better than expected under the circumstances. Morris had 12 runs for 53 yards, but it's doubtful he'll hit either figure again this year.

GIANTS TE:
Jake Ballard left Sunday's game with a knee injury, and with Travis Beckum already inactive due to a chest injury, the Giants were down to Bear Pascoe at tight end. If the injuries to Ballard and Beckum keep them out again in Week 16, Pascoe could get a rare start.

JAGUARS WR:
With Mike Thomas (concussion) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring) both out this week, the Jaguars were woefully understaffed at wideout. Jarrett Dillard and Chastin West started, and about all they had beyond that pair were Taylor Price and Kassim Osgood. West caught three passes for 38 yards and scored during garbage time, but otherwise this quartet was a non-entity Thursday night, combining for seven catches for 89 yards. There isn't a fantasy gem in the bunch.

LIONS RB:
With Kevin Smith's ankle responding well this week, the Lions had no need for Maurice Morris or Keiland Williams on Sunday. Not that Smith was special, as he had just 43 yards on 15 attempts, but last week's starter Morris didn't receive a single touch, while Williams ran once for zero yards. Smith is clearly atop the depth chart and doesn't appear to have any challengers.

PACKERS WR:
Aaron Rodgers is going to win the MVP this year, but given how much the Packers struggled Sunday with Greg Jennings on the shelf with a knee injury, perhaps the receiver deserves more credit for Rodgers' success than we thought. Donald Driver got into the end zone but only caught one other pass, while Jordy Nelson, perhaps not accustomed to being the top dog, finishing with a disappointing two catches for 29 yards. Jennings should miss one or two more games, but now that the perfect season is no longer a possibility, expect the Packers to not even consider rushing him back.

RAIDERS WR:
The Raiders had been waiting for Denarius Moore to return for a few weeks, and how does he reward their patience? Two catches for 13 yards. Meanwhile Darrius Heyward-Bey, who continues to start alongside Chaz Schilens, exploded for 155 yards on eight catches. Moore should get back into the starting lineup next week probably at Schilens' expense but Heyward-Bey has earned his starting job.

RAMS QB:
Sam Bradford's foot is in a boot and his ankle is "going backward," so it looks like the Rams will do the prudent thing and shut him down for the season. With A.J. Feeley out with a broken thumb, the Rams turned to Kellen Clemens on Sunday. Clemens wasn't bad, throwing for 229 yards and a touchdown near the end of the game, and as the only healthy quarterback in St. Louis, he might be starting the next couple of weeks.

SEAHAWKS WR:
Mike Williams suffered a broken ankle Sunday, effectively ending his season. He was nominally a starter, but Sunday's effort (two catches for 31 yards) was all too familiar. Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu will somehow combine to fill his shoes the rest of the way.

TITANS QB:
Matt Hasselbeck started Sunday, but looked uncomfortable moving around and threw two picks, including one returned for a touchdown. Jake Locker took over in the fourth quarter and led the Titans on a nice scoring drive. Although Hasselbeck was banged up throughout the week, it did not appear that Locker's entrance into the game was due to a Hasselbeck injury. With the season just about over for the Titans, look for them to make the switch to Locker permanently.

VIKINGS RB:
Adrian Peterson, missing down the stretch in fantasy leagues across the nation, returned just when many leagues were wrapping up, giving false hopes to the owners who held onto him. Other than a 39-yard carry, however, he didn't do much, and his replacement the last few weeks, Toby Gerhart, managed to score two touchdowns through the air this week. Peterson should play a bit more in Week 16 (he had just 10 carries Sunday), but with the Vikings 2-12, don't expect them to suddenly give him 35 carries.