How devastating was Week 7 in the NFL? Bears quarterback Jay Cutler tore a muscle in his groin (that hurts just to type) and he got off lucky, as he’ll only miss at least four weeks.
Not so lucky amid a week of serious injuries to big names were the Colts’ Reggie Wayne, the Rams’ Sam Bradford, the Bucs’ Doug Martin and the Packers’ Jermichael Finley. Wayne and Bradford sustained season-ending ACL tears, Martin’s season is likely done, too, with a torn labrum, and Finley’s career is in jeopardy in the wake of a stay in intensive care with a bruised spinal cord.
The fallout from those injuries:
• The last time Cutler missed significant time, the Bears’ offense fell apart. It’s not as dire this year because Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte are still around (Marshall wasn’t with Chicago in 2011, and Forte sustained a season-ending injury of his own shortly after Cutler was lost), but Josh McCown is not going to consistently perform the way he did in relief of Cutler last week against a terrible Redskins defense. McCown running Marc Trestman’s offense is an upgrade over Caleb Hanie running Lovie Smith’s offense, and with the defense struggling, he’ll have opportunities to put up big numbers at times. But he won’t replace Cutler, who had finally become a dependable fantasy play.
Without Cutler, Marshall’s numbers will take a hit. He won’t catch as many passes, but he’s still talented enough to be an every-week starter. Forte is going to make people pull their hair out. If the Bears stay close in games, he’ll be a fantasy force; if they fall behind early, he will disappear for long stretches. His overall value in PPR leagues might increase, though, because McCown is almost certain to rely on short passes and dump-offs as he gets comfortable in a new system.
• None of the players injured last week will be missed as much as Wayne. Not even taking fantasy into account, the Colts cannot replace the veteran wide receiver’s leadership. An argument can be made that Wayne is the primary reason for the Colts’ resurrection in the post-Peyton Manning era. Andrew Luck could not have taken the league by storm and become the new face of the franchise as a rookie without Wayne’s contributions on and off the field. This year, the Colts already had beaten the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos. They had the look of Super Bowl contenders. That’s no longer the case.
There is no one to replace Wayne’s production. Second-year WR T.Y. Hilton has been inconsistent and often invisible, and Darius Heyward-Bey can’t catch. This would be the perfect time for the Colts to rely more on the run game, but Trent Richardson looks like a bust. The numbers for Luck and his remaining skill players will dip, and they could nosedive.
• I bet you didn’t know Bradford had thrown 14 TDs before going down last week. The fourth-year QB was quietly having his best season. But unless he was your starter, his loss will not have much fantasy impact. Bradford didn’t have a favorite target, which meant none of the Rams receivers had established themselves as valid fantasy options. Tight end Jared Cook should continue to be inconsistent, and rookie WR Tavon Austin is unlikely to benefit from the presence of whichever journeyman the Rams trot out as their starter on a given week.
• Amid the Bucs’ winless season (they were 0-6 heading into Thursday’s game against the Panthers), Martin was mired in a sophomore slump. He had surpassed 100 yards in only one game and had scored just once. He was headed for the fantasy bench before his injury. His replacement, Mike James, is an unknown. There’s still a chance Martin returns this season, but it hardly matters. Rookie QB Mike Glennon and WR Vincent Jackson have found a rapport the past two weeks, and their numbers could even improve if James doesn’t provide enough balance.
• Finley’s absence will have the least impact, but his injury was the scariest. A recent history of traumatic injuries makes it almost certain the TE will not return this year, and it was reported Wednesday that at least one doctors has said a return to the game is not possible without spinal surgery. QB Aaron Rodgers previously lost WR Randall Cobb to a broken leg, and WR James Jones is likely to miss his second straight game this week with a sprained knee. If Jones returns soon, he could be the beneficiary — along with WR Jordy Nelson — of the receiving corps’ lack of depth. Regardless, Rodgers will continue to throw plenty of TDs.
Week 7 Lineup Crime: I thought I had started the Panthers defense, which is why I felt so smart when I saw on the first update last Sunday that the unit scored on an interception return. It turns out I didn’t start the Panthers defense. Dumb move. I lost by 11 instead of winning by 2.
Week 8 Lineup Time: I may regret this, but I’m taking TE Jordan Cameron out of multiple lineups. The Browns TE has a terrible matchup against the Chiefs defense with Jason Campbell attempting to throw him the ball. Remember the Cowboys-Lions matchup from 2011? I expect a similar shootout Sunday. If QB Geno Smith can string together two consecutive good games, I like WR Jeremy Kerley as a solid bye-week fill-in. The Redskins will find themselves playing from behind, and I like WR Pierre Garcon’s chances of being the prime beneficiary against a bad Broncos secondary.