We knew Week 7 was going to be a frustrating one for Fantasy players, but it turned out the most frustrating situation Sunday was one we never could have seen coming.
Bijan Robinson had just one carry Sunday, and it came with just seconds left in the game as the Falcons were looking to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. He played just 10 snaps total, and ended up with just 3 yards on his lone offensive touch, while Tyler Allgeier took on the lead role for the Falcons and Cordarrelle Patterson saw his first extended action of the season.
At halftime, Arthur Smith told the broadcast that Robinson was "just not feeling all that great," and after the game, we learned that Robinson woke up with a bad headache and the team didn't want to push him. Which is understandable and commendable, though it raises questions about why they used him at all, and why they gave him his lone carry in a situation where they weren't actually actually trying to gain yards, but I digress. It was a frustrating situation for Fantasy players, but one of those frustrating situations where there wasn't anything anyone could have done, since news about Robinson's status didn't come out before the games started.
Robinson should be fine moving forward, and thankfully, Week 7 saw fewer significant injuries otherwise than Week 6 did. Before we move on to the top early waiver-wire targets for Week 8 and my biggest winners and losers from Sunday's action, here's a quick rundown of the injuries we'll be keeping an eye on from Sunday:
Deshaun Watson (shoulder) – I'll have more thoughts on Watson shortly, but his shoulder was clearly limiting him Sunday even before he was knocked out of the game to be checked for a concussion. He wouldn't return despite being cleared, and at this point, who knows what the Browns can even expect from him moving forward. Fantasy players should probably be at the point where they don't expect anything from him.
Jaylen Waddle (back) – Waddle played through a back issue Sunday, but it was clearly causing him issues throughout the game. At one point, he was shown walking very gingerly to the locker room, and clearly wasn't moving at full speed when he returned. Hopefully it won't end up being a nagging issue, but backs are tricky, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Waddle limited at practice this week.
Jerome Ford (ankle) – Ford picked up 8 yards on his first carry of the game, and then followed that up with a 69-yard touchdown on the very next play. He would end up losing 3 yards on his next nine carries combined (with two catches for 20 yards) before leaving with an ankle injury. Kareem Hunt and Pierre Strong filled in for Ford, and I would expect Hunt to be the lead back for Week 8 against the Seahawks if Ford is out.
D'Onta Foreman, Christian Watson, and Jerry Jeudy all left their games briefly late, though as of Sunday evening, I haven't seen any indication any of the three are serious concerns. And I'll also add that Jalen Hurts put a brace on his knee during Sunday's game, though he also told reporters he'll be fine moving forward and doesn't expect it to limit him moving forward, so hopefully he'll be fine.
Of course, we'll learn more about those issues and other injuries we might have missed Sunday in the next few days, and we'll have updates on everything you need to know about in tomorrow's newsletter. For now, here's our look back at Sunday's action and what it means for Week 8 and beyond.
Sunday morning reports indicated the Rams were going to lean on Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson in Week 7, and that's exactly what they did, as rookie Zach Evans didn't even play a snap in the loss to the Steelers. And, coming out of Sunday's action, Henderson looks like arguably the top waiver-wire target after serving as the Rams lead back and rushing for 61 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for 5 yards.
Okay, so those numbers aren't exactly eye-popping, and Freeman still had a significant role, rushing 12 times for 66 yards himself. But Henderson did that like five days after signing off the streets, while Freeman has been with the Rams since training camp, so if anyone is going to build on this performance, Henderson seems like the better bet, right? Add in that he got the goal-line touchdown and touched the ball on all three snaps inside the 10-yard line for the Rams, and I think it's clear which back to go with here.
Of course, Henderson is also on the team's practice squad, which means they have no commitment to him; they could simply choose not to elevate him for next week's game and that would be it for him. I don't think that's going to happen after what we saw Sunday, but it's a possibility we have to account for. Which makes it tough to know how, exactly, to approach him on waivers this week. If you don't need a running back for Week 8 or 9, I might just avoid bidding on him, or only put in a low-dollar bid I'd be comfortable losing. If I'm in desperate need of a running back, Henderson is clearly who I'd be targeting, but I wouldn't feel great about needing him.
If I don't need Henderson, Week 8 actually has some pretty cool pass-catching options who are widely available in CBS Fantasy leagues., but these are my top priorities after Henderson right now:
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Seahawks (56% rostered)
- Josh Downs, WR, Colts (44%)
- Emari Demercado, RB, Cardinals (38%)
- Dalton Kincaid, TE, Bills (50%)
- Kendrick Bourne, WR, Patriots (46%)
Biggest Winners and Losers
Here's who has the arrow pointing up or down coming out of Sunday's action:
D'Onta Foreman, RB, Bears
Every time Foreman gets the opportunity to play a significant role, he shines. Which is why it was so weird that he ended up getting buried on the Bears depth chart this season. Sure, Khalil Herbert has been explosive in this offense, and Roschon Johnnson is an exciting young talent. But this is now three seasons in a row where Foreman has had to scrape and claw for an opportunity, only to look like a really impactful player once he got it. He rushed for 89 yards on 16 carries Sunday, while adding three catches for 31 yards, with three touchdowns total, and it probably could have been an even bigger game if the Raiders had been a little more competitive; Darrynton Evans had seven of his 14 carries in the fourth quarter as the Bears were icing the game. In our stream Sunday morning on YouTube, I said I wasn't convinced Johnson was going to return to a starter's role like some have been hoping; after seeing Foreman Sunday, it's even harder to see. The bigger question is whether Foreman has done enough to have a role when both Johnson and Herbert are healthy. I think he has to after Sunday.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
Taylor is still in a timeshare in the Colts backfield, but you have to wonder after Sunday how long that's going to last. Zack Moss has been very good, but a healthy, fully engaged Taylor is just a different kind of playmaker, and we saw flashes of that Sunday against a very good Colts defense. Taylor racked up 120 yards from scrimmage, with 75 yards on 18 carries and three catches for 45 yards. The playing time is still being split more or less evenly here, but Taylor reminded us Sunday that he can still be a very good Fantasy option. What happens when he gets back to 60% of the snaps or more? Well, you'd have a must-start Fantasy option. That's how I'm viewing Taylor moving forward.
George Pickens, WR, Steelers
And now, we get to the mea culpa portion of today's newsletter. I doubted Pickens' ability to be a high-volume target earner this offseason, and I was skeptical about his strong start to the season – after all, Diontae Johnson's absence is a pretty significant one, given how many targets he historically earns. But Pickens was still a huge part of the Steelers game plan Sunday, catching five passes for 107 yards, while earning a team-high eight targets. That came out to a 32% target share, and he's sporting a 29.9% target share since Week 1. Pickens might just be a must-start wide receiver moving forward.
Here's another guy I've been quite skeptical of who might just be proving me wrong. Last week, Palmer had four catches for 60 yards, but if you watched the game, you know he had a ton of points wiped away by penalties, including a 27-yard touchdown on an ineligible man downfield penalty that was, if not incorrect by the letter of the law, at least kind of dubious by the spirit of the law. He followed that up with another strong showing Sunday against what has been a very good Chiefs defense, catching five of seven passes for 133 yards. Palmer is making plays down the field, with his Average Depth of Target jumping to a career-high 13.6 yards down the field – it was just 8.7 yards last season, the second-largest jump for any receiver who averaged five targets per game in each of the past two seasons. I didn't think Palmer had this kind of jump in him – he didn't really produce in college and tested as an average-at-best athlete at the combine – but he's really stepped up in Mike Williams' absence, and seems like a decent WR3 with upside in this offense.
Rashee Rice, WR, Chiefs
Uh oh, is the breakout happening? Rice entered Sunday's game with a season-high snap share of 51%, but that jumped up to 59% Sunday; he also ran a route on a season-high 64% of the Chiefs pass plays, too. Rice has been a strong per-route producer through his rookie season, sitting 17th in yards per route run at 2.58, but his limited role has been holding him back. The hope was that, as he got more experience, the Chiefs would increase his role. That's what we started to see Sunday, and the fact that Rice responded by catching five of six passes for 60 yards and a touchdown surely helps his case. He's been the only Chiefs receiver besides Travis Kelce to produce much this season, and if the role continues to grow, he could break out in a big way. Rice should be rostered in all leagues at this point.
It had been a frustrating start to the season for Waller, but we saw signs of him starting to figure it out in recent weeks. He had 13.6 PPR points in Week 5, and while he only had 6.6 in Week 6, you probably saw the seeming missed pass interference in the end zone at the end of the game that could have led to another strong Fantasy outing. He finally had the breakout game Sunday, catching seven of eight passes for 98 yards, with his first touchdown of the season. All of a sudden, Waller's on pace for 900-plus yards in what anyone would agree has been a very disappointing season. Sunday was a reminder that the ceiling outcomes are still there for the 31-year-old, even with a backup quarterback in. That should make you feel a lot better about him.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Browns
It became very clear very early on Sunday that Watson should not have been out there. He was picked off early while throwing on the run where it looked like he just didn't have the arm strength to make the throw, and he narrowly avoided another pick in a very similar spot on the play that ultimately forced him from the game. What was strange was, that he came out of the game after a big hit to be checked for a concussion, but was ultimately cleared to return … except he didn't. Coach Kevin Stefanski said he "wanted to protect our franchise quarterback" after the game, but that he looked as bad as he did at the start of this game raises the question of whether he'll be able to play at a high level at any point this season. This injury has lingered for weeks now and isn't showing signs of getting any better. I don't see any reason to be optimistic about this passing game at this point, and even Amari Cooper (two catches for 22 yards Sunday) is just a fringe starter at this point.
Brian Robinson, RB, Commanders
If you started Robinson this week, you got bailed out with a short-yardage touchdown, and that's where the good news ends. Robinson's 48% snaps share wasn't his lowest of the season, but the two games lower than that saw the Commanders lose by 34 and 20; Sunday's was a one-score game for more than half the game. And Robinson wasn't just losing opportunities to Antonio Gibson, who typically handles the passing down work; No. 3 RB Chris Rodriguez saw seven carries, to Robinson's eight. I don't necessarily think that means Robinson's job is at risk, but the problem is, his profile doesn't allow for much margin for error because he isn't a great pass-catcher. If Rodriguez is going to have a role moving forward, that is going to make it tough for Robinson to be much more than an RB3 moving forward.
McLaughlin's role just completely disappeared Sunday, and I'm not quite sure what to make of that fact. It's not like McLaughlin was bad – he rushed for 45 yards on five carries! But Javonte Williams dominated the carries, with 15 for 82 yards, while Samaje Perine still got his share of passing snaps; McLaughlin actually played fewer snaps than little-used fullback Michael Burton. I didn't see any signs of an injury, so this game really throws some cold water on the McLaughlin hype. Williams' role doesn't seem likely to shrink moving forward as he gets further removed from his ACL injury, and it's not clear McLaughlin has done enough to earn the coaching staff's trust in passing situations. That leaves him in a three-way quagmire, potentially the third back in that rotation. He might be back to being a bench stash.
DJ Moore, WR, Bears
The Bears made a point of getting Moore involved early and often to help rookie Tyson Bagent in his first start, which was smart. But we saw Bagent's clear limitations on display even as the Bears pulled off a 30-12 win over the Raiders. Bagent's average pass traveled a whopping 2 yards past the line of scrimmage, and he wasn't much more aggressive when targeting Moore, who totaled a whopping 30 air yards on his nine targets; that's 3.3 per target, compared to 12.7 yards entering the week. He still had a decent game in full-PPR scoring, but there's no question Moore's upside is significantly lower if Bagent is playing QB for the Bears. I don't expect there to be any kind of QB controversy here – Bagent's ultra-low pass depth tells me everything I need to know about how the Bears feel about him – so let's just hope Fields is back soon.
Gabe Davis, WR, Bills
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Davis as a sell-high candidate, coming off a stretch of four straight games with a touchdown, and I had this to say: "I just picked out a nickel from the little spare change jar I keep on my desk at home, and I flipped it 10 times. Heads came up seven times. That's kind of what the run Davis is on right now is like." In two games since? He has four catches on nine targets for 27 yards. This is just who he is, and you're going to drive yourself mad trying to figure out when to play the hot hand and when to fade him. There's no rhyme or reason here. Sure, Sunday's game was against a very good Patriots defense, but last week's was against the Giants! I'm no lower on Davis right now than I was two weeks ago, and I might even view him as a buy-low candidate right now. But I also know exactly who he is, and it's not someone you will ever be able to rely on for consistent production.
One of the things that makes writing about the NFL genuinely difficult is how small the sample sizes are. Even a full season only comes out to 17 games and about 1100 plays for most teams, which is just a much, much smaller sample than you ever get in most other sports over the course of a season. And that problem is, obviously, magnified when we're talking about partial-season samples. The Lions defense looked legitimately great through the first six games of the season, ranking ninth in the league in scoring and looking particularly stingy against the run, where they were allowing the fewest yards per game and second-lowest yards per carry in the league. None of that seemed to matter against the Ravens, who rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 38-6 humbling of the Lions. Was it just a bad matchup against a very good offense? Perhaps. But it's worth remembering that this unit was 28th in scoring last season; it's also possible they just ran hot for a month and a half and played over their heads. I'll start the Lions in Week 8 against the Raiders, but I'm not hanging on to them through the bye week with the Chargers on the way in Week 10 when they get back. But this is just a reminder not to totally overreact to every small-sample standout. History didn't start seven weeks ago.