RotoWire Partners

Depth Chart Watch: This Week's Job Battles

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.

BENGALS RB: His suspension served, Cedric Benson returned Sunday and ran for 78 yards on 20 carries in a come-from-behind victory over Tennessee. The Bengals got their scores through the air, and when Benson doesn't get into the end zone he's mediocre, but he's still a significant improvement over last week's starter, Bernard Scott.

Despite breaking his hand just two weeks ago, Willis McGahee returned Sunday and was a real monster, rumbling for 163 yards on 20 carries, including two long second-half touchdowns. Knowshon Moreno, who looked like a can't-miss star a few years ago, went back to invisible Sunday.

Injuries to Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis opened the door for Chris Ogbonnaya to get his first career start Sunday, and if his final numbers (13 carries for 28 yards and a lost fumble) are any indication, he won't get many more opportunities. Hardesty's strained calf could keep him out another game or two, while Hillis, who looked like he was going to return earlier in the week, aggravated his hamstring injury Friday and will be out a couple more weeks. Ogbonnaya may get another start, but new signee, journeyman Thomas Clayton could also get the ball as well.

In Mohamed Massaquoi's first game back after recovering from a concussion, he left the game ... with a head injury. Players like Greg Little and Josh Cribbs have stepped up in his absence, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the absence lasted a little longer this time.

LeGarrette Blount ran for 72 yards on 13 carries in his return from a knee injury, but with the Bucs playing catch-up most of the day, he didn't get as many touches as expected. Earnest Graham is done for the year with a torn Achilles' tendon and Kregg Lumpkin is the only other reasonable option on the roster, so Blount is going to lead the Bucs in touches as long as he remains healthy.

Say what you will about John Skelton, but he kept the Cardinals in the game despite getting sacked not once but twice in the end zone - on back-to-back drives no less. Skelton, starting in place of Kevin Kolb and his turf toe, threw for 222 yards and a score and didn't turn the ball over. Sure, it was against the Rams, but hey, they're an NFL team, right?

The snake-bitten Ryan Mathews missed Sunday's game with a groin injury, but fortunately Mike Tolbert returned to action after missing a game with a hamstring injury. Tolbert played well, running for 83 yards on 19 carries and catching four passes for 59 yards, but the Chargers still couldn't beat the Packers. Curtis Brinkley was active, but after suffering a concussion last Monday night, he didn't touch the ball Sunday. Mathews should return soon, and he and Tolbert likely will share the ball if they're ever both healthy.

Malcom Floyd missed Sunday's game with a hip injury, but the Chargers still put up 38 points on the champs. Mostly that's due to Vincent Jackson and his 141 yards and three touchdowns, but Vincent Brown was no slouch taking Floyd's place, garnering four catches for 79 yards. Patrick Crayton was the only other wideout to touch the ball, but he caught just one pass for five yards.

Just like last week, Joseph Addai was active but didn't play. Delone Carter was the starter, but after an early fumble, he gave way to Donald Brown, who led the Colts with 16 carries for 70 yards. The backfield is plenty unsettled in Indianapolis, but now, at least, it looks like Brown is the top dog.

Miles Austin has dealt with hamstring injuries all season, and in the second quarter of Sunday's tilt with Seattle he suffered another one, though at least this one was to the right hamstring, rather than the pesky left one that sidelined him earlier this season. Laurent Robinson stepped in and played well as usual, finding the end zone in the fourth quarter and catching all five passes thrown to him. If Austin sits out, Dez Bryant becomes the No. 1 wideout (if he isn't considered so already) and Robinson will start opposite him.

Uh, yeah, Julio Jones returned this week. After missing a couple of games with a hamstring injury, he was declared fit for duty early in the week. And he feasted on the awful Indianapolis defense on Sunday, scoring from 50 yards and 80 yards out, the latter coming on a short pass in which he showed off his impressive speed. On his other two targets, he caught just one pass for one yard, but with three 100-yard games in his last four starts (with an injury forcing him to leave the fourth game early), it's safe to say that he should be on your fantasy roster. Harry Douglas, we hardly knew you.

Ahmad Bradshaw and his cracked foot were inactive Sunday, but the Giants, led by Brandon Jacobs (among others) didn't skip a beat, as Jacobs ran for 72 yards on 18 carries, including a 10-yard touchdown. Bradshaw is out indefinitely, though that could mean "just Sunday," but the Giants appear to be in capable hands with Jacobs running the ball. D.J. Ware was the change-of-pack back Sunday, and he should remain in that role until Bradshaw returns.

Hakeem Nicks' hamstring was not initially considered severe, but Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden and tight end Jake Ballard filled in for him nicely Sunday. Manningham and Ballard both scored, while Cruz, getting a team-high 11 targets, caught six passes for 91 yards. Cruz also drew a huge pass interference penalty on the game-winning touchdown drive, so he's been able to help his team in more ways than just catching the ball. He looks like a keeper.

Darren McFadden out with a foot injury, the Raiders turned to Michael Bush, who finished with 96 yards rushing and 33 yards receiving in the start. Not bad, but Run-DMC should return soon, so Bush's place in the starting lineup likely will be short-lived.

Arguably the league's best kicker over the first half of the season, Sebastian Janikowski returned to action Sunday for the first time since Oct. 16. He converted all four of his kicks (three extra-points and a 48-yard field goal), pushing Dave Rayner back to irrelevancy.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Rams decided to throw Sam Bradford back to the wolves (or Cardinals) despite a high ankle sprain. Bradford missed the last two weeks with the sprain, and he may have been a little rusty, as he couldn't get the Rams into the end zone against the woeful Arizona defense. A.J. Feeley quarterbacked St. Louis to its only victory of the season last week but did not play Sunday.

Just when it looked like Greg Salas was getting comfortable enough in the St. Louis offense to leapfrog the other wideouts, he went and broke his leg in Sunday's loss to Arizona, ending the rookie's season. Danario Alexander sat out again Sunday, but he should return soon, and Mark Clayton will be activated any day now. Add Brandon Lloyd and Brandon Gibson and the Rams are theoretically still pretty deep at the position, but the loss of Salas is a blow.

The loss of Lance Kendricks, should it happen, won't be quite the blow, as the tight end has to be considered one of the more disappointing rookies after a very strong summer. He was carted off the field Sunday with a leg injury. Billy Bajema and Michael Hoomanawanui will have to find some way to make up for the two catches for 22 yards that Kendricks averages.

Mike Shanahan gave no hint that Roy Helu would take over as starter Sunday, but he got the nod and rushed for a modest 41 yards on 10 carries, about what you'd expect from a rookie in his first start for a struggling offense. What was unexpected was that the Redskins would target Helu a whopping 17 times in the receiving game. He caught 14 passes for 105 yards, easily career highs. Ryan Torain touched the ball just twice, and it looks like he won't be back in the starting lineup any time soon.

Rookie Leonard Hankerson is now an NFL starter, but considering the state of the Washington offense, that may not have much meaning. He came into Sunday's game with just one catch this season, but he caught four passes for 34 yards in his first start. Anthony Armstrong went back to the bench and was shut out after getting just one target. Santana Moss should be out another month, so the Redskins will try whatever they can get. Perhaps in Week 10 it will be Terrence Austin or Logan Paulsen.

Although he played most of last week's game, Tarvaris Jackson did not start Week 8. He started Week 9, however, throwing for 221 yards and three interceptions against the Cowboys. That those numbers represent an improvement over Charlie Whitehurst indicates just how bad the Seattle offense is.

Mike Williams returned after missing a game with a hamstring injury, but his three catches for 41 yards is indicative of his lackluster season. He has just 12 catches this year after catching 65 a year ago. Ben Obomanu and Doug Baldwin, who have shown signs of life at times this year, reverted back to their holes. Baldwin was targeted six times, catching just three, while Obomanu caught just two for six yards.

The Pittsburgh receiving corps is thinning. Already without Emmanuel Sanders due to knee issues and the death of his mother, the Steelers needed Hines Ward to return Sunday night. Ward was only expected to play about 20 plays against Baltimore, but he didn't even last that long, suffering a stinger on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ray Lewis. Ward may have tweaked his ankle during the hit as well, so he'll probably have to face the "questionable" tag all week, if he's not just ruled out outright. Arnaz Battle also suffered an injury Sunday, so the fifth receiver may be in trouble as well. Fortunately, the Steelers still have Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, and Jerricho Cotchery is around if they get really desperate.