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Depth Chart Watch: A Cluttered Saints Backfield

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.

BILLS WR: Lee Evans, one of the most frustrating fantasy players of the last several years, may be done for the season with an ankle injury he suffered in the second quarter of Sunday’s zero-catch performance. David Nelson, who has caught touchdowns in both of the last two games, figures to join the starting lineup; but even with Evans out for most of Sunday’s game, Nelson’s touchdown was his only target. Donald Jones could be an option as well.

CARDINALS QB: The numbers weren’t pretty, but John Skelton’s first career start couldn’t have gone better. He can thank his defense (and/or the inept Denver offense) for the big 43-13 win, because Skelton completed just 15-of-37 passes for 146 yards and zero touchdowns. Skelton and the Cardinals held onto the ball however, something his predecessors struggled to do, so he has probably earned another start. Max Hall is done for the year with a separated shoulder and Derek Anderson offers no real upside.

CHARGERS RB: Preseason darling Ryan Mathews started Sunday and had one of his best games as a pro, running 16 times for 65 yards and one score. However, Mike Tolbert’s numbers were nearly identical. It looks like the two will continue to split carries as long as they stay healthy - no easy feat for Mathews.

CHARGERS WR: Legedu Naanee’s hamstring injury coincided perfectly with Vincent Jackson’s return to the starting lineup. The Chargers didn’t really need their wide receivers much Sunday, but Malcom Floyd, Jackson, and the surprising Kelley Washington still totaled nine catches 130 yards and two scores (both by Floyd). Jackson should stay in the starting lineup going forward.

CHIEFS QB: An emergency appendectomy was the only thing that could stop Matt Cassel, who did not even travel to San Diego to watch the Chargers give the Chiefs a 31-0 beatdown. With Brodie Croyle “leading” the way, the Chiefs managed just 67 yards of total offense against the Chargers. Croyle was making the tenth start of his career, but it’s doubtful any were worse than this one, in which he completed just seven passes in 17 attempts and was sacked four times. Cassel is not guaranteet to play in Week 15, so take a look at the Rams’ defense if it is available in your league.

COWBOYS WR: Roy Williams, who played with quarterback Jon Kitna in Detroit, assumed the starting role Sunday after Dez Bryant’s season season-ending ankle injury a week ago, but Kitna continued to lean more on his tight ends and running backs rather than his wide receivers. Both Williams and Miles Austin caught just two passes Sunday, and neither found the end zone. Meanwhile, Jason Witten scored twice, and Martellus Bennett caught four passes for 30 yards. Kevin Ogletree and Sam Hurd moved up the depth chart with Bryant out, but right now it doesn’t look like Kita will throw to his receivers enough to make them fantasy factors.

DOLPHINS WR: Brandon Marshall may have returned, and he may have scored a touchdown, but as long as Chad Henne is plying his talents to South Beach, the Dolphins’ pass offense is going to be terrible. Henne completed just five passes on the day - only three were to wide receivers - so perhaps the excuse is that the Dolphins got used to not using their wide receivers during Marshall’s two-game absence? Brian Hartline, who filled in for Marshall, was placed on IR Saturday with a broken finger.

49ERS QB: One Smith replaced another when Alex Smith regained the starting job from Troy Smith last week. The move appeared to work, considering the Niners destroyed the Seahawks 40-21. Alex threw for three touchdowns and posted a 130.9 QB Rating, and with San Francisco suddenly only one game out of the division lead, he may be on the verge of saving a season (and head coach Mike Singletary’s job) that started 0-5.

JAGUARS WR: Mike Sims-Walker returned after a one-game absence; and though he only caught two passes, one was a 10-yard score. So, fortunately anyone who rolled the dice with him at least got a few points. Fellow starter Mike Thomas was held without a catch while fill-in Kassim Osgood went back to the bench and was not targeted. Though the Jaguars put up 38 points Sunday, wide receivers were targeted just eight times all game.

PACKERS QB: In one of the biggest fantasy moments of the season, Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a concussion; and he could be out a week or more. Rodgers led plenty of teams to the playoffs, but his short-lived outing Sunday killed the chances of many, including this fantasy owner, in the first round of the postseason. Rodgers’ backup, Matt Flynn, really struggled Sunday against a bad Detroit defense and produced just three points. However, since Sunday’s concussion was Rodgers’ second of the season, the Packers may have no choice but to use Flynn in Week 15 on the road against New England. Fantasy owners should avoid doing the same.

RAVENS TE: Todd Heap has already been ruled out of Monday’s game due to a pulled hamstring. He recently had a six-game run in which he scored five touchdowns, so it is clear the Ravens look to get the ball to their tight ends close to the goalline. The athletic Ed Dixon will take Heap’s place against a soft Houston defense, so don’t be surprised to see him get a look in the red zone.

REDSKINS RB: We’re not sure where that came from, but Ryan Torain appeared to put the running back dilemma in the nation’s capital to rest with his unexpected 172-yard performance Sunday. The only bad news about the effort was Torain probably did not help many fantasy teams since he just returned to the lineup and the Redskins did not reveal his workload beforehand. Keiland Williams, for what it’s worth, had a respectable 76 yards on the day, including 60 through the air, but Torain should be the lone rushing threat for Washington the rest of the way. Our apologies to anyone who invested in James Davis after his nine-carry effort last week. He didn’t touch the ball Sunday.

SAINTS RB: Well, look who’s back! Pierre Thomas, who missed the previous nine games, returned Sunday and was involved early as a receiver, but he didn’t really carry the ball much until Chris Ivory left the game the game with a hamstring injury. Ivory has been nicked up a lot lately; and though his production hasn’t suffered much, the Saints might consider holding him out a week now that both Thomas and Reggie Bush are healthy. The Saints have yet to announce who will start, but expect them to split the running back work amongst the trio, or duo, in Week 15.

SEAHAWKS WR: The Seattle receiving corps is a mess right now. Deon Butler started Sunday with both Mike Williams (ankle) and Ben Obomanu (hand) already out, but he broke his leg and is done for the season. Brandon Stokley saw a little action…until he left the game with a hamstring injury. The last guy standing, Ruvell Martin, had a nice game (four catches – including an 11-yard touchdown – for 73 yards), but he is not much of a long-term option. Golden Tate is next in line, but the Seahawks are hopeful that Williams and Obomanu will be ready to play this week. They better be.

STEELERS TE: With Heath Miller out Sunday with a concussion, David Spaeth (who missed the last two games himself), was in the starting lineup. However, with a banged up offensive line struggling to protect Ben Roethlisberger, Spaeth and David Johnson had to do a bit more blocking than receiving. Neither is much of a fantasy prospect even when Miller doesn’t play.

TITANS WR: Kenny Britt returned to the lineup Thursday, catching four passes for 39 yards and tying Chris Johnson with a team-high seven targets. Britt’s return marginalized Justin Gage (two targets) and Randy Moss (zero targets) even further. Nate Washington, who caught three passes for 48 yards, should take advantage of Britt’s presence, and it’s no surprise that Johnson had his best game running in weeks. Though the Titans lost, Britt seems to be a key presence in their offense.