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Depth Chart Watch: Battle of New Orleans

Howard Bender

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog RotobuzzGuy.com or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

What a difference a week makes, right? After a complete upheaval across the NFL that followed an injury-riddled Week 7, things calmed down for the most part in Week 8 thanks to a lack of serious injuries and six teams on a bye. Still, there are plenty of situations that require monitoring, so let's just get to it. As for those teams that did not play this week but still may have some personnel issues to watch, please refer to last week's column as those situations have not changed during the time off.

Bengals WR -
Holy Marvin Jones! As was written last week, Jones was pushing past Mohamed Sanu as the Bengals' No. 2 receiver, and we got the answer to any questions we may have had regarding that this week as Jones saw a team-leading eight targets, which he turned into eight catches for 122 yards and four, count 'em, four touchdowns. Should Jones continue down this path, coverage might have to lighten up on A.J. Green, which would certainly help return his value to the treetops where it belongs.

Bills RB -
With C.J. Spiller out for Sunday's game everything went as expected with Fred Jackson garnering the majority of carries and Tashard Choice filling in every so often. It is safe to assume a healthy Spiller goes back to splitting carries evenly with Jackson, but should Choice continue to run well, he could start getting a few extra carries. He probably won't see enough to make him fantasy relevant, but he could see just enough to frustrate Spiller and Jackson owners.

Broncos RB -
A steady case of the fumbles finally landed Ronnie Hillman on the inactive list this week, and good ol' Montee Ball finally saw an expanded role in the Broncos rushing attack. Knowshon Moreno remains the lead back, but Ball should start seeing more of the garbage-time work in the second half after Peyton Manning torches whichever team he is facing at the moment. Rookie C.J. Anderson saw his first game action this week as the team's new No. 3 back, but he's simply not ready to be used in fantasy, given the limited back-up role he will play.

Broncos TE -
Julius Thomas went down early in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return to the game. No one seems to believe that it's of the more serious high-ankle sprain variety as he was seen putting weight on both feet on the sideline, but considering Thomas has a history of ankle problems, this should be monitored closely. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday, and the team will evaluate him thereafter to ascertain the extent of the injury. Joel Dreessen seems to be the guy who would benefit most from this, so should Thomas be out for any length, he should be picked up.

Browns QB -
Although the Browns lost to the Chiefs, Jason Campbell actually played a nice game, completing 22-of-36 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. More important, he threw no interceptions nor did he have a fumble. His performance certainly warrants another start, so expect him under center again Sunday with Brandon Weeden remaining in the primary back-up role.

Buccaneers RB -
We knew Mike James was taking over for Doug Martin with Brian Leonard working in as the complementary back, and the Bucs didn't play any games to contradict that. The backfield should remain as such while we wait to hear more on Martin, who is anywhere from two weeks to two months away from returning. It all depends on his recovery process, but what we do know is that the Bucs will shut him down for the season if he has any setbacks within the next two weeks.

Cardinals RB -
It just might be safe to finally say goodbye to Rashard Mendenhall as Andre Ellington put on a clinic against the Falcons on Sunday while the former was sidelined with a toe injury that kept him out of practice all week. The change has long been rumored, and Ellington's 15-carry, 154-yard, one-touchdown performance should give the Cardinals all the reason they need to finally make the switch official. Stepfan Taylor also saw a significant number of carries, and while his YPC average of 2.7 wasn't the greatest, he still could leapfrog Mendenhall on the depth chart soon enough.

Chiefs WR -
While Dwayne Bowe has been banged up lately Dexter McCluster has led the team in receptions the last two weeks and has become the primary possession receiver for Alex Smith with Donnie Avery seeing close to half a dozen targets each game as well. Given that Bowe is still probably the guy with the highest ceiling of the three, one would expect him to return to the primary role once healthy, but if McCluster has truly become a highly trusted target, then he could remain in a prominent role in the passing game, pushing Avery down the depth chart. Week 9's matchup with a soft Buffalo defense should tell us a lot about the target distribution.

Cowboys RB -
Although DeMarco Murray practiced on a limited basis all week, trainers decided he needed one more week to let his sprained MCL heal and held him out Sunday. Joseph Randle filled in with Lance Dunbar acting as the primary backup and neither did much to impress against a usually soft Lions run defense. After the game and obviously frustrated by the loss, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Murray could have played in this one but the trainers were being overly cautious with him. You can bet that with comments like that from Jones, Murray will be back on the field in Week 9 with Randle and Dunbar pulling backup duty.

Dolphins RB -
After two weeks of close-to-even touches for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, Miller broke away Sunday with twice as many carries. Thomas remained an important part of the offense and was even targeted for a touchdown grab in the second quarter, but you still have to consider Miller the primary.

Eagles QB -
Michael Vick is headed for an MRI on Monday to see just how badly he aggravated his hamstring injury Sunday, so your quarterback decisions may just have to wait until then. While he said the pull didn't feel as bad as it did when he originally suffered the injury, he also said that he felt a pop when he re-injured it, which is rarely a good sign. A pop usually suggests a more serious injury, but again, we'll wait for the official diagnosis. With Nick Foles still concussed, should Vick's injury be serious, one would have to assume the Eagles will look to a more experienced veteran free agent rather than go with an overmatched Matt Barkley again.

Giants RB -
Once again, it was Peyton Hillis leading the charge out of the backfield with Michael Cox working as the change-of-pace back and Brandon Jacobs sitting on the sidelines still nursing a hamstring injury. With the Giants on a bye in Week 9, the position will continue to remain in flux as Andre Brown is actually expected back in Week 10 and should see a fair amount of work right from the onset. Based on recent performances, Hillis should stay on as a backup with Cox third on the depth chart and Jacobs sitting as the odd man out. If you can grab and stash Brown now, you probably should if he's still available.

Jets QB -
There is simply no reason to think that Geno Smith is in any danger of losing his job after being benched in Week 8. Sure, he looked atrocious in this game, but there was also no reason to leave him in as the Jets had zero hope of coming back against the Bengals. Matt Simms is certainly not an upgrade.

Jets RB -
Even though Bilal Powell saw more carries than Chris Ivory this week, the belief remains that Ivory is still the lead back. The problem here was that Cincinnati jumped out to such a huge lead that the Jets were forced into passing the entire time, which put Powell on the field more. In Week 9, the Jets play the Saints, so if the defense fails again we could be looking at the same work distribution. However, if the defense remains strong and the game stays close, then Ivory will see plenty of chances to show up his former team.

Jets WR -
Although the target distribution Sunday against the Bengals would say otherwise, Stephen Hill is probably still considered the Jets' No. 1 wide receiver with Jeremy Kerley as the No. 2 and David Nelson in the slot. It just so happened that Kerley's matchup was a little more favorable in this one, and the Jets tried to exploit that. Hill should prove to be the most valuable and could be used as a possible bye-week fill-in at either your second or third receiver positions.

Packers TE -
As expected, with Jermichael Finley out, Andrew Quarless handled the tight-end duties this week and should continue to hold down the position while Finley remains out. The matchup against Minnesota was good but not great, so the two-catch performance was still disappointing, but he could see improvements with a better matchup.

Packers WR - Jordy Nelson is the man; we all know that. But with Randall Cobb out and James Jones still sidelined, Jarrett Boykin had another successful start as the team's No. 2 and has really impressed these last two games. So much so that there's a good chance he still sees significant snaps even when Jones does eventually return. In addition to Boykin, Myles White also saw a strong number of targets (seven) this week and should continue to get looks until Jones and eventually Cobb return.

Panthers RB -
As mentioned last week, Mike Tolbert's increasing role in the offense has put the backfield split with DeAngelo Williams just as it has been set up the last two years with Williams and Jonathan Stewart. This week's relatively even split in the workload only confirmed that statement. It would appear as if both could be viable flex plays depending on the matchup, but that will soon change once Stewart comes off short-term IR and the Panthers have to decide how they want to restructure things.

Patriots RB -
As expected, Stevan Ridley was the primary ball-carrier again this week with LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden mixing in fairly evenly as change-of-pace backs. Blount's fill-in work seemed to come in the early downs while Bolden was in on most passing situations. Ridley can be used as a second running back in most leagues while Bolden is probably a modest flex play in leagues of 14 teams or more. Using Blount in any starting capacity should prove the most risky and will usually result in you wishing you started anyone else but him.

Patriots WR -
With Danny Amendola back on the field, Julian Edelman saw his role as Tom Brady's favorite target take a significant decrease. But we did see Aaron Dobson get more work as the deep threat over Kenbrell Thompkins, who has seen his targets drop steadily the last four weeks. Assuming all four receivers are healthy, it would seem that Amendola will be the primary receiver, but the target distribution for the remaining three will be determined on a week-to-week basis and likely be based on matchups. Unfortunately, that devalues all three in the grand scheme of things, but each could have some short-term value.

Redskins QB -
While Robert Griffin III left Sunday's game with an apparent knee injury, reports came in that his removal was more precautionary than anything else and had the game not been a blowout, he probably would have gone back in. That means you can probably put your Kirk Cousins jerseys back in the closet and save them for another time.

Redskins RB -
How did starting Roy Helu work out for you this week? Exactly. As expected, Alfred Morris is still the lead back and will continue to see the majority of the work and the greater opportunities to put up more fantasy points. Helu still may vulture a touchdown here and there, but his workload is so unpredictable that he should only be used in the most dire of fantasy circumstances.

Saints RB -
It would appear that Khiry Robinson's place as a complementary back to Pierre Thomas has put the kibosh on Darren Sproles seeing actual carries out of the backfield. The matchup with the Bills was actually a poor one for Sproles, so his disappointing day shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise, but you can probably expect him to fare better as the passing-down back. He still won't see as much work as he did two seasons ago, so continue downgrading him in both standard and PPR leagues.

Saints WR -
Well, this one should be fun to watch the next couple weeks. Marques Colston saw the majority of targets and still seems to be locked in as the No. 1 receiver despite the weak performance in what should have been a very favorable matchup against Buffalo. But the real battle should be for the No. 2 spot as both Kenny Stills and Lance Moore shared snaps and saw the same number of targets. Both found the endzone, but Stills put on a show with 129 yards and a second touchdown. Moore has the longer history with Drew Brees, but Stills has really developed a solid rapport with the quarterback during Moore's absence this year. It's possible they share the role, but if you put a gun to my head, I'm picking up Stills for the higher upside.