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Depth Chart Watch: Titanic Injury

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: Roy Williams was due to return this week, and he received a nice vote of confidence from coach Lovie Smith. Then he went out Sunday and caught nothing. We're only three weeks into the season, but he looks like a bust. Meanwhile, Dane Sanzenbacher, in for the injured Earl Bennett, caught five passes, including a touchdown. Johnny Knox and Devin Hester were also better than Williams. So was Sam Hurd. Draw your own conclusions.

Cedric Benson is appealing his three-game suspension, so he played Sunday, but if he's forced to sit out a game or two, the Bengals will go with Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard, who have combined for just 10 carries so far this season. Benson had 64 yards on 17 carries Sunday.

With Jordan Shipley out for the season, the Bengals were already a man short. Then Jerome Simpson got into a bit of legal trouble, which prevented him from practicing all week (he played Sunday, but only caught one pass for six yards). New starter Andre Caldwell led the team with six catches for 53 yards Sunday, but the Cincinnati passing game was awful against the 49ers. Assuming Simpson isn't suspended, he should start again next week, rather than Caldwell, but considering that Caldwell was targeted 12 times Sunday, he's expected to be a big part of the offense.

Brandon Lloyd returned to the lineup Sunday, but the surprising Eric Decker may have passed him by as Denver's most valuable wide receiver. With Eddie Royal sidelined with a groin injury, Decker was targeted 12 times, catching seven passes (though for just 48 yards). Meanwhile Lloyd caught just four passes (on seven targets) for 38 yards. Decker is averaging five catches for 71 yards so far this season, and considering that Lloyd came similarly out of nowhere just last year, rush to pick up Decker if he's still available in your league.

Peyton Hillis disappointed his fantasy owners by contracting strep throat and missing Sunday's game against the mediocre Miami defense. Montario Hardesty stepped in and ran for 67 yards on just 14 attempts, but the Cleveland game plan was pass heavy as the Browns threw the ball 39 times while running just 19, and two of those runs were Colt McCoy running out the clock. Assuming the illness doesn't linger, expect Hillis back next week.

LaRod Stephens-Howling and the oft-injured Beanie Wells both sidelined with injuries, the Cardinals were forced to start Chester Taylor. Both Taylor (eight carries for 20 yards) and Alfonso Smith (17 carries for 54 yards) were ineffective, though Smith had his moments. There was some optimism that Wells would be able to go this week, so given another week of rest and the performances of Taylor and Smith, expect Wells to start again next week.

If you're like me, you wasted an early-round pick on Antonio Gates. Never again. Although he has the talent of Kellen Winslow Sr., he has the feet of Greg Oden. Go ahead and pick up Randy McMichael for however long Gates is out. McMichael had four catches for 51 yards Sunday, and given that the Chargers have been a "pass-it-to-the-tight-end" offense the last few years, he should get his number called fairly often.

The Chiefs talked about a running back committee in the wake of Jamaal Charles' season-ending knee injury, but they fed the ball to Thomas Jones early and often Sunday, with the expected results (14 carries for a paltry 31 yards). Dexter McCluster fared much better, gaining 45 yards on just nine totes and also catching five passes. Le'Ron McClain, thought to be a goal-line possibility, only carried the ball twice, and nowhere near the end zone. McCluster is clearly the best healthy back the Chiefs have, but he's not built to be a workhorse, so expect him to get about 10 carries a week the rest of the way, as the Chiefs appear to be content to lose with Jones.

Kerry Collins left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter, so the Colts turned to Curtis Painter. Painter, in case you didn't know, is also not Peyton Manning. The Colts are in trouble.

The Cowboys expect Dez Bryant back Monday night, but Miles Austin is expected to miss a month with a hamstring injury. The Cowboys better hope Bryant will be back, because with Tony Romo, Felix Jones and Austin hurt, they need all the help they can get. Wideouts Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, Dwayne Harris and Laurent Robinson don't strike fear into the hearts of anybody.

After a week of speculation on Michael Vick, he eventually was cleared to play and was in the starting lineup Sunday. Then he broke his right hand. True, he passes with his left hand, but it's tough to be an NFL quarterback with any broken hands. Mike Kafka relieved him Sunday and did not play well, possibly leading to the return of Vince Young next week. Expect the Eagles to rule Vick out earlier in the week, but who will be behind center in Week 4 is anyone's guess.

A strained hamstring knocked Jeremy Maclin out of Sunday's game, but Steven Smith is now in the fold and could probably step in should Maclin require extra time on the shelf. Jason Avant, who caught four passes for 33 yards, could also figure to move up the depth chart, but given that the Eagles could be without Vick, they may not be passing as much in the coming weeks.

The bad news is that Braylon Edwards tore his meniscus on Sept. 18 and will miss several weeks. The good news is the 49ers welcomed back Michael Crabtree on Sunday. The bad news is that he caught just three passes for 24 yards. The good news is the 49ers won. The bad news is that they beat the Bengals, which hardly counts as a victory. Crabtree should do a little a better when the rust comes off - he appeared to have scored a touchdown, but it was ruled he stepped out of bounds before catching it.

With Mario Manningham out with a concussion and Domenik Hixon done for the year, the Giants got desperate and inserted Victor Cruz into the starting lineup Sunday. Cruz, soon to be known as the hottest free agent pick-up of the week, didn't disappoint, as he caught three passes - two for scores - for 110 yards. While Brandon Stokley, Devin Thomas and recently-signed Michael Clayton are expected to see a few more reps while the Giants are banged up, they were non-factors Sunday. Hakeem Nicks is still around, of course, but as long as Manningham is out Cruz looks like the Giant to own.

The Jaguars announced early in the week that rookie Blaine Gabbert would start his first game Sunday against Carolina, rather than Luke McCown, who was awful last week. Gabbert was an improvement, though that's not saying much, as he tossed a 36-yard touchdown to Mike Thomas despite a heavy downpour. Barring injury, Gabbert should hold the job for at least a few years, as the Jaguars have nothing to lose (well, except some football games) by tossing him out there.

Marcedes Lewis returned from a one-week absence but caught just two passes for 15 yards. A new quarterback and the rain are to blame for the lackluster performance, as only five passes were caught by non-running backs. Zach Miller went back to doing what he does best: recording goose eggs.

The two-headed monster at tight end was missing a head Sunday - Aaron Hernandez has a sprained MCL, but the New England offense hardly missed a step with Hernandez sidelined, as Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. While wideout Wes Welker was targeted a whopping 20 times Sunday, Gronkowski looks like the next big threat in Tom Brady's arsenal.

Although Cadillac Williams and Steven Jackson were game-time decisions Sunday, both played. The Rams got behind big early, which makes Williams' 18 carries all the more surprising. Jackson had just four carries, possibly suggesting that he was the more injured of the two and the Rams didn't want to risk it. Williams has been decent so far this year, so when both are truly healthy, they may split things fairly evenly.

There might be a Wally Pipp situation in Charm City. We're not saying that Torrey Smith is Lou Gehrig, but Lee Evans' sore ankle seems like a distant memory in the wake of Smith's performance in Evans' stead Sunday. Smith caught five passes for 152 yards and scored three TDs before departing with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter. The Ravens were up big at that point, so his removal may have been precautionary, but in case both Evans and Smith miss next week's game, Tandon Doss and LaQuan Williams will fight for a spot in the starting lineup.

The Seahawks may have scored only 13 points this week, but the important thing is they won their first game of the season. A big part of the reason they were triumphant was the Seattle debut of Sidney Rice, who caught eight passes for 109 yards. The Seahawks have been limping by without any real receiving threat this season - the quartet of Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu and Mike Williams caught just six passes for 50 yards Sunday - so now that Rice is on board, the offense can be a bit more flexible.

Ben Tate was the undisputed starter this week as Arian Foster and Derrick Ward were both out. While Tate didn't hit the century mark like he did in his first two games, 82 yards on 19 carries isn't too shabby in a game that turned into a shootout. Foster was a fantasy first-round draft pick for a reason this year, and when he gets back, he'll assume the top-dog role, but the Texans have one of those good problems, as the backup Tate is so far good enough to be called a starter.

Kevin Walter returned this week and contributed a touchdown, but he was targeted just three times. Jacoby Jones, last week's starter, was relegated to a reserve role, catching just one pass for zero yards. The two wideouts were still a bit nicked up, so the Texans adjusted their strategy a bit, utilizing their talented tight ends (as well as the usual Andre Johnson), rather than Walter and Jones.

With 271 yards in the first two weeks of the season, Kenny Britt was off to a monster start. However, Sunday's scary knee injury could put an end to things quickly. He has reportedly torn his ACL and MCL and is done for the season, but Monday's MRI will make things a little more clear. Nate Washington, who is already off to a good start of his own, likely will be the primary beneficiary of the Britt-shaped hole in the offense, with Damian Williams being next in line.