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Depth Chart Watch: Done Like Dinner

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 or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Bengals RB - The latest split in carries gives the edge back to BenJarvus Green-Ellis who saw 19 carries to just 13 for Giovani Bernard on Sunday, but it was Bernard who saw the targets in the passing game. Last week, there was more of an even split, but it looks like any increase that Bernard sees is going to depend strictly on the matchup. Figure that Bernard should see more work against the weaker pass defenses, particularly those who seem to have trouble defending against running back screens.

Bengals TE -
The battle continues between Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert as Week 5 saw Eifert get the majority of targets for the first time this season. He probably has a higher ceiling than Gresham overall, but the Bengals are still very comfortable with their incumbent tight end and haven't really been given much reason to make a change at this time. Consider the two to be on the same level.

Bills QB -
It looks like it will be a six-to-eight week timetable for EJ Manuel, who suffered a sprained LCL in his right knee during Thursday's game against the Browns, putting Jeff Tuel back into the spotlight once again. The Bills were prepared to head into the start of the season with Tuel at the helm, and the fact that they haven't signed a veteran free agent yet indicates that their opinion of their backup plan hasn't changed. Unless there is an unexpected turn of events, expect to see Tuel under center for the Bills the next several weeks.

Bills RB -
The fact that C.J. Spiller has been recovering from an ankle injury would be an easy explanation as to why Fred Jackson saw more than twice the carries Thursday, but in actuality, it has as much to do with Jackson looking like the better back this season as it does with Spiller's injury status. Both backs will continue to share the load as the season moves on, especially now that the running game will be leaned on so heavily with starting quarterback EJ Manuel on the shelf with a knee injury. Jackson seems to be the stronger play, but Spiller (when healthy) probably has the better value in PPR leagues.

Browns QB -
Well, that was fun while it lasted, no? It's back to the original plan as a torn ACL in his right knee puts Brian Hoyer out for the remainder of the season and the Browns return to Brandon Weeden. Technically, Weeden was only replaced due to a sprained thumb, but his one touchdown to three interceptions over the first two games weren't exactly helping his cause either. The Browns also have Jason Campbell and could also explore the free-agent market, but for now, it looks like Weeden is the way they'll lean.

Cardinals RB -
Many wondered whether Andre Ellington would soon surpass Rashard Mendenhall as the Cardinals' lead back, but if Week 5 was any indication, then Ellington-hopefuls need to bide their time. Mendenhall saw 17 carries to Ellington's seven Sunday and also found the endzone, but Ellington is a bigger factor in the passing game. Expect the situation to stay as is for the time being, but be wary of Mendenhall's frailty and Ellington's potential explosiveness.

Chargers RB -
Is this the end of Ryan Mathews tenure as the Chargers'lead running back? It sure looks like it. He's been completely ineffective this season, and in Week 5, Danny Woodhead actually saw more carries. Mathews left the game with a concussion, which in actuality just made it easier for the coaches to finally make the switch. Woodhead is already on the field for all passing downs, so the progression to make the change seems logical. He's a great play in PPR leagues and, should he continue to see the majority of carries as well, will be a worthwhile RB2 in standard leagues. Mathews, on the other hand, seems to be done like dinner.

Chiefs WR -
While x-rays came back negative, Donnie Avery still has trouble raising his arm thanks to a bruised shoulder he suffered late in the first half Sunday. He came back for a bit in the third quarter, but was on the bench for much of the second half. He's expected back next week, but if he is still having issues, then expect to see a little more of Chad Hall, who would take his place in the lineup. Hall isn't as strong a possession receiver as Avery, so Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe and tight end Sean McGrath would probably see a bump in targets should Avery be sidelined.

Cowboys WR -
It would seem that Terrance Williams is the guy to own while Miles Austin remains out of action. His numbers from Week 5 look incredible thanks to an 82-yard touchdown catch and he now has 11 catches for 212 yards with one touchdown off 12 targets the last two games. He's probably not worth owning once Austin is back, but for now, he has decent value as a No. 3 wide receiver in your starting lineup with the right match-up.

Eagles QB -
Coach Chip Kelly reiterated in his postgame interview that Michael Vick is the starting quarterback when he is healthy enough to play. But as we now sit and wait for the results from a Monday MRI on Vick's hamstring, we may have to move forward with backup Nick Foles under center. Obviously, he doesn't have Vick's mobility, but he's at least experienced enough to not be a total loss if you are forced into using him. Vick owners should always remain prepared for injuries, so hopefully you already have a viable backup. If not, then Foles becomes a must-add as you have to make a move before we get word on the test results.

49ers WR -
The search for a quality No. 2 wideout continues for the 49ers and the competition remains wide open still. Jon Baldwin got the nod this week, but saw just two targets and failed to record a single catch. The team's other options, Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood and Marlon Moore did not see any targets and played only on a limited basis. It's very possible that this job never gets filled, at least until Mario Manningham or Michael Crabtree returns, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick really only looks downfield for his primary targets, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis.

Giants RB -
David Wilson left Sunday's game in the second quarter with a neck injury and remained on the sidelines for the duration of the contest. The running back later tweeted that he stayed out strictly for precautionary reasons and should be ready to play Week 6 when the Giants take on the Bears this Thursday. The short week brings some concern, so if you need to grab Brandon Jacobs to err on the side of caution, then do so. He'll get the work should Wilson miss the game.

Jaguars QB -
While a hamstring injury was a convenient excuse for the Jaguars to replace Blaine Gabbert with Chad Henne, the fact that he threw for just 181 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions Sunday probably would have sufficed. Coach Gus Bradley insisted afterward that Gabbert is still his starting quarterback, but how long that really lasts seems to be a big question. Figure Gabbert will start Week 6 against the Broncos, but you can probably expect Henne to finish it.

Lions TE -
What ever happened to Brandon Pettigrew? He used to be such a nice option at tight end. Injuries derailed things last year, but even when he was healthy and playing, he still didn not see his usual number of targets. This year, it's more of the same and even with Calvin Johnson out Week 5, Tony Scheffler saw more targets than Pettigrew. But while Scheffler saw more come his way, he also disappointed in usual fashion with a key fourth-down drop. It just sucks the value right out of him each and every time. Neither seems a worthwhile option these days.

Lions WR -
So Calvin Johnson is still the man. We get that. But during times like Week 5, when Megatron needs a rest, it's a big question as to who sees the majority of targets. While many expected Ryan Broyles to see a ton of work once Nate Burleson went down with a broken arm, Kris Durham actually picked up the slack. And now with Johnson out this week, it was Durham again who saw the majority of targets come his way. We expect Johnson to return to the Weekk 6 lineup against Cleveland, but with Joe Haden likely to shadow him, you can expect Durham to be more heavily involved once again.

Patriots RB -
Stevan Ridley missed Week 5 with a thigh/knee injury, and while reports seem to say that the injury isn't considered serious, there's a chance he misses Week 6 as well. As expected, LeGarrette Blount saw the majority of carries in Ridley's absence with Brandon Bolden handling the work on passing downs. Neither back put on much of a display this week, and should Ridley remain out, the split in work should remain the same. While Blount should see more carries, Bolden may actually be the better play getting all the passing work. He had more all-purpose yards in this one and could have a better showing Week 6 when the Patriots face the Saints.

Patriots WR -
Now that Danny Amendola has returned, owners of Patriots receivers need to watch things closely the next couple weeks. Amendola (nine) and Julian Edelman (seven) saw the majority of targets during the Week 5 matchup against the Bengals with Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson each seeing four. But when tight end Rob Gronkowski actually returns, he will pull enough gameplan focus that at least one of the wideouts will be on the short end of the stick. For now it looks like Dobson, but it could end up being Thompkins as well. Stay tuned for more on this one.

Raiders RB -
With Darren McFadden out, Rashad Jennings got the starting nod for Week 5. He did, however, split work with Marcel Reece, and when Jennings went down in the second quarter with a hamstring injury, Reece took over, though he didn't see a whole lot of carries. The situation remains murky for fantasy owners as McFadden has always been slow to heal, Jennings has never been anything special and Reece is, well, nothing more than a glorified reserve. If McFadden plays Week 6, then he'll be worth starting, but if it's either Jennings or Reece, expect less of a ground game with neither really worth being used outside of a flex spot in the deepest leagues.

Rams RB -
While Daryl Richardson spent the early part of last week saying that he probably wouldn't play against the Jaguars in Week 5 due to a foot injury, he backed off those statements Friday and was in the lineup, business as usual. But rookie Zac Stacy saw more carries and produced a better yards-per-carry total in the end. Could this be the end of Richardson's reign as the lead running back? Perhaps. Stacy left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury but later said that he just had the wind knocked out of him. Should that be the case, then you should probably expect Stacy to see the majority of carries next week with Richardson filling in the blanks and Benny Cunningham remaining in his passing-down complementary role.

Rams TE -
Is there a controversy brewing? Week 1 darling Jared Cook has been relatively absent these last few weeks, and in Week 5, Lance Kendricks ended up with six targets to Cook's three. Perhaps the Rams were just trying to shake things up, maybe light a fire under Cook's posterior, but fantasy owners need to know which is the primary pass-catching tight end. One game doesn't exactly tell the story so you'll have to see the target distribution the next week or two. Consider Cook the top dog, but proceed with caution.

Texans QB -
Matt Schaub set quite the dubious record to open Sunday night's action with four consecutive games with a pick-six, and after another two interceptions, giving him nine through five games, was finally benched by coach Gary Kubiak. While this could have been just a wake-up call for Schaub, there's really no guarantee that he starts next week over T.J. Yates. He's expected to play, but you'll have to keep checking the practice reports this week before even thinking about using him, despite the favorable matchup with the Rams.

Vikings QB -
The signing of Josh Freeman really mucks things up in Minnesota as he joins both Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel on the roster. Ponder is dealing with a rib injury and could land on IR if the club wants to make the full change, but that's still unknown. What we do know, at least for now, is that Cassel will be under center Week 6, but with a very short leash. Should he struggle, then we could see Freeman much sooner than anticipated. Freeman could be worth using as a second quarterback in a two-QB league, but only if he lands the starting job. For now, leave him be on the waiver wire.

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