Adam Levitan

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Welcome Back Weeden

Friday, October 04, 2013


On the Browns’ second drive of Thursday night’s 37-24 win over the Bills, Brian Hoyer made an athletic move to escape the pass rush. He impressively weaved his way for a first down and then went to slide. At that point, he got leveled (legally) by Bills rookie LB Kiko Alonso. Hoyer’s legs were caught underneath him, leading to an ugly knee injury.

Hoyer was quickly ruled out for the game and the Browns reportedly fear he sustained torn ligaments. Enter old friend Brandon Weeden.

Weeden, who lost his job due to a thumb injury and poor play following Week 2, stepped right back in (Jason Campbell was a healthy scratch). He held the ball far too long, stared down receivers and was inaccurate in a muddied pocket again, but we can’t deny that the guy has a big arm – far bigger than Hoyer’s.

Weeden completed a pretty 47-yard bomb to Greg Little and then dropped a 37-yard touchdown over the top to Josh Gordon. When the dust settled, Weeden was 13-of-24 for 197 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. It was by far his best performance of the season.

Weeden looks like he’s back as the starter the rest of the way. His style is better suited to Gordon’s game than Jordan Cameron’s, but both guys are going to take a slight downgrade. Weeden just isn't a good NFL quarterback. The good news for Cameron/Gordon owners is that Willis McGahee is completely washed up (think Michael Turner circa 2012) and the Browns will have to throw to win most weeks. There will also be some comeback opportunities coming up with games against Detroit, at Green Bay and at Kansas City over the next three weeks. Weeden is back on fantasy's low-end QB2 radar.

BILLS at BROWNS QUICK SLANTS
E.J. Manuel left early when he sprained a knee. It did not look nearly as serious as Hoyer’s injury. But if Manuel is out any length of time, the Bills will have to look outside for help (Josh Freeman?). Undrafted rookie back Jeff Tuel is a disaster. … Stevie Johnson’s back tightened up and he left early. … Robert Woods is a serious player. If Manuel is OK, Woods is going to be among the top-40 fantasy wideouts weekly. … When you have a month like Jordan Cameron had, defenses are going to pay attention to you. Cameron had multiple defenders in his face all night, but the Browns still drew up plays for him and gave him a shot in the end zone. He’ll be fine. … C.J. Spiller (ankle) was active, but operated well behind Fred Jackson and looked to be playing at about 60 percent. He still ripped off a 54-yard TD run. The long week should help him. … If Willis McGahee isn’t scoring touchdowns, he’s going to really hurt fantasy teams. The guy can’t move. I’d sell-high on this 26/72/1 line if possible.

Editor’s Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 5. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.       

NEWS OF THE DAY #1
The Patriots made a splash Thursday, signing veteran WR Austin Collie. I didn’t even try to add Collie on any of my teams.

This looks like an insurance move. The Patriots have four receivers on their injury report this week: Danny Amendola (groin), Aaron Dobson (neck), Kenbrell Thompkins (shoulder) and Matt Slater (wrist). Collie is capable of playing both inside and outside, making him an appealing deep backup.

The bigger problem is that I’m not convinced Collie will perform even if given an opportunity. He’s been on the street ever since the receiver-needy 49ers cut him in August. He’s also more injury prone than Amendola – who is tentatively expected to play vs. the Bengals Sunday.

NEWS OF THE DAY #2
It was originally reported that Marcel Reece’s knee injury was more serious than Darren McFadden’s hamstring pull. Well, things have flip-flopped.

McFadden is the one that hasn’t practiced at all this week and appears almost certainly out for Sunday. Reece, meanwhile, has gotten in two straight limited practices after MRIs came back negative. That’s making things very hairy for owners that added Rashad Jennings as a plug-n-play. If Reece is active, expect him and Jennings to share the workload pretty evenly.

Remember that in a four-game stint as a starting tailback last year, Reece totaled 54 carries for 261 yards (4.83 YPC) and caught 20 passes for another 195 yards. He’s certainly capable – and more talented than Jennings.

Things are even more complicated because the Chargers-Raiders game has been changed to an 11:35pm ET kick thanks to the baseball playoffs. Jennings is looking more and more like a flimsy desperation play.

NEWS OF THE DAY #3
Over the last two weeks, Stevan Ridley has played 53 snaps and gotten 25 carries. LeGarrette Blount has played 43 snaps and gotten 23 carries. That was a big enough headache for owners.

Now it’s time to pull more aspirin out. Ridley (knee/thigh) has not practiced at all this week. The Patriots haven’t released any details, but players that don’t practice rarely play for Bill Belichick. So even though Ridley’s injury is not considered too serious, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden need to be owned across the board.

The good news is that Sunday’s Patriots at Bengals game starts at 1pm ET. If Ridley sits, Blount and Bolden figure to share the snaps evenly. Bolden will play on passing downs, making him the preferred PPR play. If Ridley does play, we can’t expect anything more than 10-12 carries in a tough spot.   

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INJURY QUICK SLANTS: QUARTERBACK AND RUNNING BACK
Shonn Greene (knee) is now targeting Week 6 for his return. … Mark Ingram (toe) remains sidelined. Khiry Robinson gives the Saints equal production anyway. … Ahmad Bradshaw may need season-ending neck surgery. Trent Richardson is going to be a volume monster the rest of the way. … Steven Jackson (hamstring) missed another practice. The Falcons are good bets to hold him out through the Week 6 bye.

INJURY QUICK SLANTS: WIDE RECEIVER AND TIGHT END
Cecil Shorts (groin) has missed two straight practices, Blaine Gabbert is starting again and Justin Blackmon is back from suspension. Shorts is a WR4 for me this week. … Danny Amendola (groin) continues to practice and is on track to make his return Sunday. … Marlon Brown (hamstring) has missed two straight practices. It’s bad timing with Jacoby Jones (knee) getting closer. … Lance Moore (wrist) remains sidelined. Kenny Stills and Nick Toon project to share backup duties again. … Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) are almost certainly out Monday night. Jeremy Kerley and Kellen Winslow are the favorites for targets. … Roddy White (ankle) continues to practice on a limited basis. He’s no longer a decoy and he’s getting better, but the real payoff for owners will come after the Week 6 bye. Hang on tight. … Markus Wheaton needed pinkie surgery. He’s no lock to be ready for Week 6. … Miles Austin (hamstring) continues to sit out of practice. Terrance Williams is a desperation option again.  

DEPTH CHART QUICK SLANTS
The Giants are talking up a 1-2 punch between David Wilson and Brandon Jacobs. Considering Jacobs can’t move, Wilson is a great bet to see season-highs across the board Sunday. … Josh Freeman was mercifully cut by the Bucs. The Cardinals and Jags are reportedly not interested. Perhaps he’s a fit as a backup in Oakland, where former Bucs OC Greg Olson now holds that job for the Raiders. … Matt Prater has a right (kicking) calf injury. Owners must monitor closely to see if the Broncos add anyone Saturday. … Zach Sudfeld was cut by the Patriots. Perhaps it’s a sign Rob Gronkowski (back, forearm) will play Week 5. If not, Week 6 appears very likely.  



Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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