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Depth Chart Watch: McFadden Goes Down, Again

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

Bills QB - While there were moments early in the game where Jeff Tuel looked good, he probably didn't do enough to stir up much of a quarterback controversy in Buffalo. Should Thaddeus Lewis be healthy enough to play in Week 10, he will likely be the starter, but obviously, both men are just keeping the spot warm for EJ Manuel, who was cleared for action this week. There is talk that Manuel could return in Week 10, but Week 11 seems more likely. However, the Bills have a bye in Week 12, so there's also a strong chance they hold him out until then and just roll with him in Week 13 and beyond.

Bills RB -
As expected, C.J. Spiller returned to action and went back to the usual split in carries that he and Fred Jackson have been doing throughout the season. The Bills seem content rolling with this two-headed monster and likely will just ride the hot hand each game. Tashard Choice went back to his reserve role, though he still grabbed five carries. While that's obviously not enough to make him fantasy relevant, it still keeps him in the picture and should either Spiller or Jackson get hurt, the team will continue to have a shared-carry system regardless of the personnel.

Broncos RB -
One thing to look for when the Broncos return from their bye week is the distribution of carries out of the backfield. Knowshon Moreno is still the clear No. 1 back, but if the team continues to sit Ronnie Hillman (remember, he was inactive for Week 8), then Montee Ball and even C.J. Anderson should see an increase in touches. Again, Ball is the favorite for the short-yardage and goal-line work while Anderson should fill the complementary role as the pass-catching back.

Browns QB -
With consecutive games of strong play in which he completed 45-of-71 passes for 555 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions, Jason Campbell has entrenched himself further into the starting quarterback role. He'll enjoy the bye week and get ready to face the Bengals in Week 11 while Brandon Weeden continues to ride the bench. In all likelihood, barring injury, this is how it should stay for the duration of the season.

Cardinals RB -
You'll have to keep a close watch on the practice reports this week as Rashard Mendenhall has been dealing with a toe injury and while Andre Ellington has been outstanding in his absence, coach Bruce Arians said that Mendenhall would resume his role as the early down back if he is healthy. Ellington owners can keep their fingers crossed.

Chargers RB -
After back-to-back 100-yard performances just prior to the team's bye week, Ryan Mathews looked like he finally arrived. However, after six first-half carries that netted 33 yards, Mathews was handed the ball just once more for the rest of the game. Danny Woodhead, meanwhile, saw steady work throughout the game with seven touches of his own out of the backfield and a team-high 12 targets. The split in work could stay pretty close to even, though the matchups the next four weeks seem to favor a more heavily involved passing attack, which tilts the scales towards Woodhead.

Colts RB -
Another disappointing week for Trent Richardson opened the door even wider for Donald Brown, and the two saw nearly an even split in carries this week. Brown actually had the better game, posting more yards (49 to 20) and a higher yards per carry average (8.2 to 2.5) with two fewer carries, and those who own T-Rich are now likely at their wit's end. Richardson doesn't look like he's getting any better, and while the Colts certainly don't want to give up on him, they're going to have to continue giving Brown more work to keep the ground game effective.

Colts WR -
While many fantasy owners expected Darrius Heyward-Bey to step up as the team's new No. 2 receiver now that Reggie Wayne is done for the year, it didn't take long for Andrew Luck to realize that throwing the ball to a man whose hands are obviously made of granite is not the way to win a football game. Heyward-Bey caught just one of the six targets that came his way, and Luck opted to send the ball to Griff Whalen (nine targets) instead. The bye week was supposed to help sort things out, and while maybe it did, it's clear that there is more change coming. At least we can all agree that T.Y. Hilton is the new top dog.

Eagles QB -
While Nick Foles' 406-yard, seven-touchdown performance was extremely impressive, the job still belongs to Michael Vick once he's healthy. Perhaps it affords the team a legitimate reason to play it safe and hold Vick out until he's truly at 100 percent healthy, but it's tough to imagine this turning into some sort of quarterback controversy.

Eagles TE -
We've been watching the targets go back and forth between Brent Celek and Zach Ertz for a number of weeks now, and this week, it seemed to favor the rookie. Ertz is obviously the team's preferred choice long term, but he still has plenty to learn about the position in the NFL level, so Celek will continue to see his fair share of targets. It likely will remain this way through the rest of the season, but next year, the lean will go toward Ertz.

49ers WR -
San Francisco should welcome back Mario Manningham this week as they finally get themselves a legitimate No. 2 receiver. While he may be third in line for targets behind Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, Manningham is going to see enough work to draw coverage his way and really open up the passing game. This, of course, pushes Kyle Williams down the depth chart, and he'll likely be limited to his special teams work for the most part.

Giants RB -
Hopefully you were able to stash Andre Brown on your bench as he is about to make his season debut in Week 10. With Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis leading the ground game, it's no wonder the Giants are so eager to get Brown back. He should get the majority of touches in this one with, perhaps, Hillis and Jacobs getting a few carries each to help change things up. But don't expect them to be used as the primary goal-line backs, though, as Brown handled that role for David Wilson last season and should be more than fine to handle it again this year.

Jaguars WR -
With the suspension of Justin Blackmon, the Jaguars will turn to Mike Brown as their new No. 2 wideout with Cecil Shorts moving up to the No. 1 spot. Shorts should be a targets monster as the Jags end up passing the ball incessantly while in catch-up mode, but Brown should see some substantial work as well.

Jets RB -
Buh-bye Bilal? Once again, the split in carries heavily favored Chris Ivory and the former Saints' back was allowed to carve up his former team for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Meanwhile, Powell saw just nine touches and was a non-factor in the passing game. Again, this was the Jets' intention from day one, so for as long as Ivory stays healthy, expect the workload to fall much more heavily on him.

Jets WR -
This situation continues to be an outright disaster. With Santonio Holmes out, Stephen Hill perpetually banged up and now Jeremy Kerley dealing with an elbow issue, Gang Green has been forced to turn to David Nelson and Greg Salas as their top two wideouts. We saw Nelson dominate the targets last week, but that was reined in this week in favor of a stronger ground attack. He and Salas each saw three targets, though neither did much with any of them. The Jets have a bye week coming up, so monitor the practice schedule to see who Geno Smith is starting to favor.

Panthers RB -
With the return of Jonathan Stewart, the Carolina backfield situation just got a whole lot uglier for fantasy owners. With the way the carries were split against the Falcons, it would appear that DeAngelo Williams remains the primary back on the early downs while Stewart and Mike Tolbert start splitting the short-yardage situations and goal-line work. Tolbert saw the touchdown this week, but predicting the way it goes in the future is going to be a huge pain for fantasy owners and a substantial enough reason to start avoiding the situation until we see some more consistency from it.

Patriots WR -
With the return of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots receiving corps is facing some major changes from what it looked like early in the season. Amendola is the unquestioned No. 1 wideout in this team, but it now looks as if Aaron Dobson is the new No. 2. His nine targets were the second on the team, and he's now found the endzone three times in his last two games. Meanwhile, Julian Edelman has seen just six targets the last two weeks and Kenbrell Thompkins was inactive for this week's game. While we've learned to expect the unexpected from coach Bill Belichick over the years, there's a real good chance that this is the way the pecking order goes for the rest of the year.

Raiders RB -
Well, well, well ... look who's back on the shelf with an injury. Just one week after rushing for 73 yards and two touchdowns, Darren McFadden found himself sitting on the sidelines with another hamstring injury after just five carries in Week 9. McFadden said the injury was in the same spot as his Week 4 hamstring issue, so that's actually not a good sign. Rashad Jennings took over and rushed 15 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and is in line for the starting job if McFadden is unable to go.

Rams TE -
Jared Cook remains the top tight end for St. Louis, but the split in targets seems to favor more of a shared role as Lance Kendricks saw four to Cook's six. But while Cook ended up with the touchdown catch in this one, Kendricks still seems to see the majority of his work inside the red zone. Cook remains the guy to own, but in deeper leagues and touchdown-only, Kendricks' work near the goal line keeps him relevant.

Redskins RB -
With 25 carries, it's safe to say that Alfred Morris happily remains the Redskins starting running back. So many fantasy owners were far too quick to abandon him after Roy Helu poached three touchdown carries in Week 7, and now look at what they're left with. Not only has Helu been barely an afterthought these last two games, but this week saw the emergence of Darrel Young who pulled a Helu of his own this week with three poached touchdowns. But before you Morris/Helu owners go nuts and start dropping a legitimate player to grab Young, understand that this was likely a one-time thing. Young is a fullback, and blocking is more his specialty. However, in the spirit of Tecmo Bowl, the Redskins found a play the Chargers couldn't stop - the fullback dive - and they ran with it whenever they could. Will Young see work like this in the future? Maybe on the rare occasion, yes. But he is not someone on whom to rely.

Saints RB -
Because the team simply doesn't have the personnel to replace what Darren Sproles normally does in the offense, you can likely expect to see an increase in work for Mark Ingram to help change things up in the Saints ground attack. Neither he nor Pierre Thomas are the pass-catching backs Sproles is, so it should look like a more traditional ground attack if the concussion keeps the little guy out. Of course, that could also lead to an even heavier lean on the passing game, if that's even possible.

Saints WR -
Marques Colston missed Week 9 with a knee issue and it was Lance Moore who Drew Brees leaned on in his absence. Moore saw 10 targets with just five going to Kenny Stills and five to Robert Meachem. Moore has the longest on-field relationship with Brees, and now that he's 100 percent healthy, you can expect to see him in a more dominant role in the passing game. Even if Colston returns to face the weak Dallas pass defense in Week 10, Moore should still see enough work to make him a worthwhile start. Stills, on the other hand, needs to prove himself more apparently before seeing an increased number of looks on a consistent basis.

Seahawks WR -
With Sidney Rice lost for the season and Percy Harvin not quite ready to return, most fantasy pundits had Golden Tate pegged as a target monster this week. However, with Darrelle Revis paying close attention to Tate, it was Doug Baldwin who saw the highest number of targets (10) this week. Whether that means he'll see most of the work as the team's No. 2 receiver once Harvin returns is not yet known, but given the way things used to look before, Tate seems to still have that edge. He's probably the guy to own, but Baldwin should mix in plenty, so don't write him off.

Texans RB -
Nothing makes a fantasy owner's week better than being told Arian Foster will play, only to see him leave early in the first quarter with a back problem after not even having touched the ball. Not just run it, but touch it. What a nightmare. We all know the pecking order here in the Houston backfield, but, believe it or not, Ben Tate with four cracked ribs seems to be the better bet. We'll have to monitor Foster's progress this week, but he's going to need to put in some full practices before owners will trust him in their lineups again.

Titans RB -
True to his word, Titans coach Mike Munchak had the team running the ball more this week, however he also said the split in carries would show an increased role for Shonn Greene. While Greene was handed the rock inside the five early on for his first touchdown of the season, it was only given to him eight more times while Chris Johnson went on to rush 23 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns. You should probably assume that Greene will continue to see enough work to potentially make him a low-end flex option, but that value could increase game to game should Johnson not produce as well as he did this week with his 20 carries.

Vikings TE -
Was it just the coverage from Dallas that changed things up or is there a potential tight-end battle going on in Minnesota now? While Kyle Rudolph caught himself a sweet-looking 31-yard touchdown grab, he saw just two targets all game to John Carlson's six. Carlson hauled in four of them for just 23 yards, but the difference in looks from Christian Ponder is noticeable enough that we should probably pay closer attention.