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Depth Chart Watch: Battered Ram

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

Bears QB - A little slap in the face with Murphy's Law for Jay Cutler owners this week, huh? He was a highly recommended play this week, facing a weak Redskins pass defense, but a groin injury suffered in the second quarter put him on the shelf for the duration of the game, and Josh McCown took over at quarterback the rest of the way. Cutler will have an MRI done Monday and will be officially diagnosed and evaluated then. Should Cutler's injury be deemed serious and keep him out for an extended period, McCown will likely take over with Jordan Palmer as the backup, but expect the Bears to check into the availability of a few veteran free agents as well. We hear Vince Young is knocking on all doors in the NFL still.

Bengals RB -
As mentioned last week, there has been absolutely no change in the split time for BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard, and the Week 7 split in workload only reiterated that point. Green-Ellis has solid value in standard leagues in his role as the bruising power-back while Bernard sees almost all the third-down and passing work. I believe it was the Talking Heads who said, "same as it ever was."

Bengals TE -
The work continues to be a fairly even split between Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert as both are seeing similar targets. Gresham may see a slight tilt his way, but that seems to be only because of his incumbent status with the team. While they are splitting targets, it is difficult to differentiate which would be the better fantasy play as neither has been able to outshine the other to the point where quarterback Andy Dalton is calling his number more. It is likely that Gresham holds onto a slightly larger role this season, but Eifert is the long-term favorite.

Bengals WR -
While A.J. Green continues to shine as the Bengals' top wide receiver, it appears as if Marvin Jones has officially pushed past Mohamed Sanu for the No. 2 job in Cincinnati. Jones has seen 13 targets the last three games to Sanu's 10, he's seeing an edge in total snaps and has also been the one catching passes in the endzone the last two weeks. Jones hasn't picked up more than 71 yards in any game this year, but with a steady increase in targets, the 23-year-old second-year man out of Cal is starting to look like a decent pickup off your waiver wire.

Bills RB -
Similarly to the Bengals' running-back situation, there has been no change in the split in work for Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and that is likely to be the case for the remainder of the season, barring injury, of course. Jackson saw more touches and targets this week while Spiller continues to work his way back to 100-percent health from his ankle injury. But even when he does finally recover, expect the split to remain fairly even between the two.

Buccaneers RB -
Doug Martin was forced from the game during the third quarter after suffering an apparent shoulder injury and was unable to return. He said that initial x-rays showed no separation, but he was spotted wearing a sling after the game and with a short week this week (the Bucs play the Panthers this Thursday), he is unlikely to be ready for game action so soon. Backup Mike James, who carried 14 times for 45 yards in relief of Martin, will start this week with Brian Leonard seeing a small handful of carries as well.

Cardinals RB -
The assumption is that Andre Ellington will eventually supplant Rashard Mendenhall as the team's primary running back, but that was simply not evident by the split in work Week 7. Granted, the game was against Seattle, so the ground attack was fairly limited, but Mendenhall saw 13 carries to just three for Ellington, and the goal-line work went to the veteran who hit pay-dirt late in the second quarter. Ellington did see five targets in the passing attack and is still favored on passing downs and in third-down situations, but it does not appear as if the team is ready to turn over full-time duties to its rookie runner. Unless Mendenhall completely flops, it is possible the two continue to split work this season as they have, but if you're thinking long-term, Ellington should be the one to own.

Chargers RB -
With back-to-back 100-yard efforts from Ryan Mathews, the pecking order seems clear once again in San Diego. Danny Woodhead is falling back into a more complementary, pass-catching role while Mathews is seeing the bulk of the carries out of the backfield. The respective performances over these last two games pushes Mathews back into the RB2 discussion for fantasy owners while Woodhead remains, at best, a flex play in most leagues.

Colts RB -
One thing that was noticed during the Sunday night game broadcast was the split in carries for Trent Richardson and Donald Brown. For a while there it appeared as if Richardson had been relegated more to short-yardage situations with Brown handling the early-down work, though T-Rich logged two more carries than Brown. This is definitely a situation to watch as former fantasy first-round pick Richardson has been a huge disappointment, and if the Colts are scaling back his workload, it could prove even more damaging. The fact that Brown really isn't anything special speaks volumes to the ineffectiveness and lack of faith in Richardson these days. Ooh, those sneaky, sneaky Browns. We knew they were up to something!

Colts WR -
With Reggie Wayne suffering from a sprained knee late in the fourth quarter, there wasn't much change in the personnel on the field for the end of the Colts' upset victory over the Broncos. But should Wayne be out an extended period, you can expect an increase Darrius Heyward-Bey's role while T.Y. Hilton obviously steps into more of a No. 1 capacity. More news will come on Wayne's condition once he is evaluated Monday.

Cowboys RB -
As expected, Joseph Randle took virtually all the carries out of the Dallas backfield in Week 7 and did a yeoman's job, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. Phillip Tanner saw a couple carries for himself but wasn't even remotely a factor. Look for Randle to get another opportunity next week if DeMarco Murray isn't ready to return, and expect stronger results against a softer Detroit run defense.

Cowboys WR -
It looks as if Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley aren't going anywhere just yet as both saw seven targets each to just three for former No. 2 receiver Miles Austin. The distribution of targets will likely change week to week, depending on the matchups, but it looks like all three should remain involved in the passing attack on a regular basis. Dez Bryant is still the No. 1 option, but we'll have to watch the rest a little more closely now the next couple weeks. This is good news for those who picked up Williams, whose long-term value certainly wasn't as strong two or three weeks ago.

Dolphins RB -
It was another blow to Lamar Miller owners this week as Daniel Thomas saw 12 carries to just nine for Miller, and the second-year back posted a higher rushhing average as well. The coaches don't seem to have much faith in Miller to handle a full workload, so Thomas will continue to be a factor in the offensive scheme. Fantasy-wise, it kills the value of both as the split won't really favor one over the other. Miller is supposed to have the higher upside, but he has failed to out-perform Thomas since the two started their competition in training camp.

Eagles QB -
Fantasy owners who bit on the fact that Nick Foles was a great play in Week 7 got that same taste of Murphy's Law that Cutler owners did as he too left with an injury (head) and was unable to return to the game. With Michael Vick inactive due to a hamstring injury, it was third-stringer Matt Barkley at the helm for much of the game against the Cowboys. Both Foles and Vick will continue to be evaluated this week as one likely will start in the team's Week 9 matchup with Oakland. Given the potential lingering effects of a head injury, it is likely that Vick sees the field faster than Foles. Of course, that's probably Vince Young you hear scratching at the door right now.

Eagles TE -
The gradual phase-out of Brent Celek continues as Zach Ertz saw the targets favor him once again. Celek was once a fantastic option at tight end, but has been somewhat of a disappointment the last few seasons. The Eagles brought in Ertz to compete and eventually take over the job and it appears as if that time is coming much sooner than later.

Falcons RB -
With Steven Jackson still on the sidelines, the Falcons are still going with the tandem of Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling out of the backfield. The original assumption was that Rodgers would handle the early-down work with the carries between the tackles while Snelling would handle the third-down and passing plays. However, while both men saw virtually the same number of carries this week, it was Rodgers who saw all the passing work as he was targeted a team-high nine times. Jackson has been slow to recover from his hamstring injury and is becoming less and less a reliable option. Rodgers, on the other hand, seems to be steadily improving with the extra work he's received. While Jackson likely will retain his starting job once he returns, Rodgers should continue to see a fair amount of carries and targets to make him a worthwhile own in deeper leagues.

Falcons WR -
As expected, with both Roddy White and Julio Jones sitting on the sidelines, Harry Douglas saw the bulk of the work Sunday as he caught all seven of his targets for 149 yards and a touchdown. When White returns, Douglas will slot more into a No. 2 role with the supporting cast of Brian Robiskie, Darius Johnson and Drew Davis filling in the blanks on three- and four-receiver sets. Douglas is a must-own in all leagues as his rapport with quarterback Matt Ryan is strong and his expected workload will be massive.

Jets RB -
There was plenty of chatter during preseason that the Jets wanted Chris Ivory to develop into their full-time back with Bilal Powell seeing work only on passing downs. But an ankle injury to Ivory back then tilted the work toward Powell, who did an admirable job as the team's primary. But now Powell has been bothered by a shoulder injury and Ivory is at full health, which puts those old preseason plans into motion finally. Ivory saw 34 carries to Powell's three and there was actually no talk of Powell having re-injured his shoulder. The two could see more of an even split, depending on the matchup, but if the Jets really do favor Ivory, then Powell's workload may not actually improve much.

Jets WR -
It appears as if Jeremy Kerley has taken over the role as the Jets' No. 1 receiver as he continues to see a weekly increase in targets these last four weeks. David Nelson and Stephen Hill will work their way into the mix and likely see an even split in targets as the team's No. 2 and 3 receivers while newly signed Josh Cribbs sticks mostly with the return game. Cribbs could see a target here or there, but special teams has always been his strong suit.

Lions TE -
After Joseph Fauria's three-touchdown performance in Week 6, speculation grew that the phase out of Brandon Pettigrew was nearing completion. But this week, Pettigrew saw seven targets and while he hauled in just three passes for seven yards, he found the endzone on one occasion. Pettigrew still seems like the guy to own for yardage purposes and the occasional touchdown catch, but Fauria and his limited upside are going to continue to poach work.

Packers WR -
There's little or no surprise here as Jarrett Boykin has officially been welcomed into the wide receiver fold in Green Bay. With Randall Cobb and James Jones out, Jordy Nelson is expected to take on more of a lead role in the receiving game, but with a matchup against Joe Haden and the Browns, expectations for him weren't exactly strong for Week 7. Enter Boykin, who saw 10 targets and played the best game of his fledgling career, catching eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Nelson remains the top dog and once Jones comes back, he should slot back into the No. 2 role. Meanwhile, Boykin will continue to see a strong workload as well and offers up a solid value for fantasy owners now. When Cobb eventually returns, well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Panthers RB -
While DeAngelo Williams has been the primary running back this season, Mike Tolbert has seen a steadily increasing role, much in the same form as Jonathan Stewart the last few seasons. The team has never been thrilled with Williams as a full-time back, and his ability to crash through the line is just simply not as good as a bruiser like Tolbert. Expect the carries to be split a little more evenly, and consider Tolbert an improving flex option, especially with the goal-line work headed his way.

Patriots RB -
Although Brandon Bolden still found his way to eight carries and a trip into the endzone, the primary job in New England still seems to favor Stevan Ridley, who had 11 carries this week and a touchdown of his own. It's possible that the two share carries the rest of the way, but Ridley still seems like the more talented runner and should eventually outshine Bolden and start seeing an even heavier workload. And once Shane Vereen comes back, it's possible that Bolden's workload dwindles further, at least on the passing front.

Rams QB -
A tough blow for Sam Bradford owners as an MRI revealed a torn ACL in his left knee, and he's done for the season. Kellen Clemens took over in the fourth quarter after Bradford went down and will really be the Rams' only choice for their Week 8 matchup with Seattle. Expect the Rams to look into the availability of any veteran free agents available as they are going to be in dire need of some depth at the position now. Yes, that's still Vince Young knocking.

Redskins RB -
Alfred Morris is still the team's primary running back, but with backup Roy Helu grabbing three touchdown runs, two of which coming from inside the three-yard line, there is definite cause for concern for Morris owners. Morris hasn't done a bad job, averaging 15 carries and 78.7 rushing yards per game, but he's not a strong pass-catcher and has only three touchdowns all season. Helu has now seen double-digit carries in two of the last three games and has four touchdowns in that span. Should the Redskins continue to split the work this way, he'll have increasing value as a flex play, particularly in PPR leagues while Morris' value will slide to a lower tier than it's already at now.

Redskins TE -
With a team-high nine targets this week after a six-target performance last week, is there any reason to believe that Jordan Reed isn't the top tight end for the Redskins? I didn't think so. Logan Paulsen is still dealing with the lingering effects of a knee injury while Fred Davis remains inactive with an ankle problem, so there is actually very little competition for Reed anyway. The way Robert Griffin is leaning on him, expect him to continue to be a strong play.

Texans QB -
With Matt Schaub out with ankle and foot injuries, coach Gary Kubiak opted for the never-used Case Keenum, who actually didn't look too bad against a tough Chiefs defense. He only completed 15-of-25 passes, but he threw for 277 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Texans have a bye in Week 8, so they'll have time to evaluate their situation and see where Schaub's head (and foot) are for a potential Week 9 matchup against the Colts. If Schaub can't go still, then Keenum likely will get another start. Meanwhile, T.J. Yates will continue to work as the team's primary backup, which really doesn't say much for him. Yup. That incoming call on Kubiak's phone is Vince Young, for sure. He should just let it go to voicemail.