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Depth Chart Watch: Welker Makes Owners Woozy

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 - Although the Bears' Week 14 matchup is yet to be played, it is important to keep tabs on the health of Jay Cutler, who is expected to reclaim the starting quarterback job once he is back to full health. His recent ankle injury has held up his return, but after limited participation in practices Thursday and Friday, he remains on track to return for Week 15 against the Browns. Enjoy Josh McCown's Monday night start against Dallas as it could be the last time you use him this year.

Broncos RB -
There was a much more even split of carries in this game as Montee Ball saw 15 carries to Knowshon Moreno's 14, however, it was Moreno who was a bigger part of the passing game, and again, the heavy dose of Ball in the second half was due to the Broncos' 17 unanswered points from the end of the second quarter through the middle of the third and then an even bigger lead extended in the fourth. Ball will see the carries during blowouts like this, but if the game is tighter, expect the Broncos to stick with Moreno for the most part.

Broncos WR -
Wes Welker suffered his second concussion in the last four weeks, and it looks as if he could be out for a game or two at the least, as head injuries this close together often require a multi-week recovery. Should he miss Week 15 and beyond, Andre Caldwell would likely see some extra work, or the Broncos could just increase their use of two-tight end formations as they did during this game, and send Jacob Tamme out there for a few extra snaps. With Welker out, expect to see more red-zone targets go Eric Decker's way, as well as for Tamme and Julius Thomas. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas would also see an increase in targets, but he's already a must-start each week.

Browns QB -
Welcome back, Jason Campbell. Owners of Josh Gordon were very happy to see you under center as opposed to Alex Tanney or Caleb Hanie. Now just stay healthy and everyone will be happy ... unless, of course, you're facing Gordon in your fantasy playoffs.

Browns RB -
Once again, Willis McGahee led the charge from the backfield as he saw a team-high 14 carries that he turned into a whopping 33 yards. Both Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker saw just four carries apiece, but it was Whittaker with seven targets in the passing game with Ogbonnaya's four. It hasn't exactly been stated that Ogbonnaya's role is being decreased, but the fantasy upside he had a few short weeks ago is dwindling with each and every game that passes.

Cardinals RB -
Rashard Mendenhall carried the load from the onset Sunday, but coach Bruce Arians actually mixed Andre Ellington in a little more than usual as he saw some sporadic catches early on and then saw a slightly heavier workload in the second half. The backfield still belongs to Mendenhall, and Ellington really doesn't see the carries he really should, especially when you factor in Ellington's steady yards per carry advantage, but this is the way it's probably going to look over the remaining three weeks of the season. Medenhall is starting to look more like a legitimate flex play with touchdowns in three of his last four weeks, but he's still hardly someone on whom you would want to pin your fantasy hopes.

Chargers TE -
Well, you had to know this was coming after Ladarius Green was one of the hottest waiver pickups last week. Everyone talked about this being the end of Antonio Gates, but it was the incumbent who saw the half-dozen targets while Green saw just one all game. They'll still likely split looks over the course of the next few weeks, but with Green no longer a best-kept-secret, defenses will key on him a little more often.

Chiefs TE -
With Anthony Fasano still suffering from concussion symptoms, Sean McGrath picked up some of the slack, seeing three targets in Sunday's win over the Redskins. He won't see the red-zone work Fasano did while he fills in, so consider him nothing more than a very low-end option. No word on when Fasano will return, but he did not practice at all last week, so even his Week 15 prognosis doesn't look too good.

Colts RB -
There's always concern when the backup sees more touches, and while the Colts handed the ball off just 10 times, Trent Richardson had six carries to Donald Brown's four. But in truth, the Colts had abandoned their ground game early after falling into a 14-0 deficit in the second quarter and then a quick 21-0 hole upon the commencement of the second half. Whether this impacts the carry distribution next week against the Texans is yet to be seen, but unless something is specifically mentioned during the week, assume that the starting job still belongs to Brown.

Colts WR -
Both T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey were shut down from the onset by the Bengals secondary, and the Colts passing game didn't really get going until garbage time as Cincinnati was up by a substantial margin throughout the game. Both Lavon Brazil and Da'Rick Rogers saw increased work, and each found the end zone twice, but neither is really going to supplant the two Colts starters. Heyward-Bey would be the guy who stands to lose the most if the Colts did try to get Brazil and Rogers into the fold more, so that should probably be monitored a little more closely.

Dolphins RB -
On a day when Miami surprisingly had Daniel Thomas active, starting running back Lamar Miller suffered a concussion in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Thomas went on to carry 16 times for 105 yards and a touchdown and would be the starter should Miller not be able to go. Considering the season he's had, Thomas is likely available in most leagues and should be a solid play Sunday against New England's soft run defense if Miller remains out. Even if Miller does play, Thomas should still see an increased workload and, at the least, put the two into an equal time-share yet again.

Lions RB -
Amidst a heavy snowstorm, Reggie Bush slipped during warm-ups, aggravated his calf injury and missed Sunday's game against the Eagles. The team never updated his condition so, expect him to undergo tests and a possible MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Joique Bell took over and, after a rough start that saw him lose two fumbles early in the game, carried 23 times for 69 yards and a touchdown while also hauling in four of his seven targets for an additional 58 yards. Bush's status will be updated throughout the week, but even if he's ready to play against the Ravens on Monday night, Bell should see a little heavier of a workload to supplement.

Packers RB -
Eddie Lacy left Sunday's game with an ankle injury but returned later. He managed 20 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown while also catching three passes for 25 yards but didn't run as effectively in the second half after returning with a heavily taped up foot and ankle. When asked about the injury after the game, Lacy acknowledged that he was having trouble pushing off that foot but also indicated that he should be back on the field for Week 15's matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. James Starks filled in with seven carries for just 19 yards but would see increased work if Lacy's ankle is still an issue.

Panthers RB -
Carolina lost Jonathan Stewart to a knee injury during Sunday night's loss to the Saints, which left DeAngelo Williams with a few extra carries on the night. Stewart will undergo tests to determine the extent of the injury, but should he miss Week 15 or beyond, Williams and Mike Tolbert will both see increased touches when they take on a tough, but recently burned, Jets run defense next week. Neither should be expected to have a big game, but the possibility is still there.

Patriots RB -
Stevan Ridley finally emerged from Bill Belichick's doghouse to split carries evenly with LeGarrette Blount. They combined for just 77 yards, so there was really no excitement generated, but it does show that Ridley still has some fantasy value. The workload will probably continue to be split evenly between whichever backs are healthiest for the game, so Ridley, Blount and even Brandon Bolden, who was a healthy inactive Sunday, should see time on the field, but figuring out which will be the most successful is a daunting task. Shane Vereen, who caught 12 passes for more than 150 yards this week, is the Patriots running back with the most fantasy appeal.

Patriots TE -
Fantasy owners took another huge blow when Rob Gronkowski left Sunday's game with a serious knee injury. Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL and MCL and is done for the season. While Matthew Mulligan is the next tight end in line, the receivers likely will pick up the slack in targets. We don't want to slight Mulligan too much, be we already know what Tom Brady is like when he has a receiver with whom he's not fully comfortable. You'll have to fish for a new tight end on the waiver wire this week.

Raiders QB -
Don't be too concerned with Terrelle Pryor's second-quarter appearance on Sunday. Yes, he led a drive that resulted in a field goal, but he was only in there to help offset the lack of running backs currently haunting the Raiders. Matt McGloin remains the starter, though we could see him getting spelled again if the team finds itself shorthanded in the backfield again.

Raiders RB -
With Darren McFadden (ankle), Rashad Jennings (concussion) and Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee) all down and out for Sunday's game, Marcel Reece took over the lead running-back duties against the Jets. The matchup was considered a poor one, but thanks to a 63-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, he managed to spare fantasy owners who started him the embarrassment of jumping the gun with his use. Nothing saves you from a 3.3 yards per carry average like a fluke run when the defense softens up. The running back situation will continue to remain in the air during the week when McFadden and Jennings have more time to heal. It's not that the Raiders don't want to continue with Reece, but in truth, he's really nothing more than an average complementary back.

Ravens TE -
Well, that didn't take long to get Dennis Pitta back involved, did it? In his first game back, Pitta saw a team-high 11 targets and managed six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Fellow tight end Ed Dickson also did a little end-zone dancing himself off five targets, but clearly, the lead tight end job has been handed back to Pitta. Considering his on-field rapport with Joe Flacco and the Ravens' lack of need to ease him back, Pitta should actually be a solid option.

Redskins QB -
Will Robert Griffin III continue to start at quarterback? Will Mike Shanahan continue to coach the team? Will Dan Snyder's continued interference with the day-to-day operations upset the balance of power on the team? Will Kirk Cousins remain caught in the middle of the heated power struggles between quarterback, coach and owner? All these questions, and more, will soon be answered in the next episode of "As the Skins Burn."

Redskins TE -
With Jordan Reed still unable to play, it was again Logan Paulsen who saw the extra looks and the red-zone work during Sunday's game. Fred Davis saw three targets to Paulsen's five, but is hardly considered much of an option, especially considering that it's Paulsen in the end zone again. Reed's status will be updated during the week, so hold onto Paulsen if you're using him as a temporary replacement.

Texans QB -
Although he wasn't exactly playing the most awful game we've seen from him, Case Keenum was again replaced by Matt Schaub in the Thursday night game as the Texans tried to rally from down 14 points. Schaub was relatively successful as he led the team down the field for a touchdown and a field goal to pull within four points. But in the end, he took a couple of sacks and threw a late interception to remind everyone of who he is. The move, along with a loss to the Jaguars, cost coach Gary Kubiak his job. Keenum is expected to start Week 15, and it's unlikely interim coach Wade Phillips will yank him in defiance of Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair, who wants Keenum to play.

Titans RB -
Well, it only took six weeks from the time the Titans originally said they'd be giving more work to Shonn Greene as the backup saw nine carries to Chris Johnson's 12 and got the early goal-line work, as well. The team likely will continue to give him a fair number of carries, but it hardly seems like it is going to deviate from using CJ2K as the primary in the coming weeks. They needed to establish a strong ground attack from the start in an effort to control the game and chew the clock, but once the Broncos got going in the second half, the Titans running game went out the window.

Vikings RB -
That loud gasp you heard was the collective response of all the Adrian Peterson owners out there who took a crushing blow to their playoff dreams when the running back was forced to leave Sunday's game early in the second quarter after suffering what turned out to be a foot sprain. X-rays on Peterson's foot came back negative, and Peterson vows that the injury won't end his season. He'll undergo a CT scan Monday to confirm the diagnosis. Worst-case scenario seems to be the dreaded Lisfranc fracture. Toby Gerhart took over and carried 15 times for 89 yards and a touchdown and would be the obvious starter in Week 15 if Peterson is unable to go. Gerhart, though, suffered a hamstring strain Sunday, though it is considered mild.