Sunday was a glorious day. There was enough snow to make a Norman Rockwell painting, a gaggle of improbably close games and touchdowns — lots and lots of touchdowns. A record amount of touchdowns, in fact.
Not so glorious? Fantasy's No. 1 running back and No. 1 tight end both going down in a heap. For Adrian Peterson, the outlook is uncertain, but not altogether gloomy. He doesn’t believe his sprained foot will end his season, and even if it does, it’s not going to cloud his status for 2014. Perhaps AD has lost a battle — a 3-9-1 battle for the Vikings — but not the war.
For Rob Gronkowski, however, the news couldn’t be worse. Gronk had only recently tallied more 2013 games played (seven) than surgeries undergone in the past 13 months (five). Now he’s staring at one of the most serious operations a football player can undergo: ACL reconstruction. It comes at a time when Gronk was near the top of the tight-end leaderboard in nearly every meaningful category despite his limited playing time, and fueling the robust turnaround of the Patriots’ offense.
Now his 2013 is through, his Week 1 2014 status up in the air and his career in question. Because, let’s be real. Gronk is one of the NFL’s ultimate gamers. That cannot be debated. But at what point is it all too much? Gronk is a 24-year-old man who has now suffered serious back, arm and knee injuries, all in one 13-month span. That is not to mention the back issues that cost him his entire junior year at Arizona. We know Gronkowski will be back, but is there any way he will ever be the same? How many serious injuries can one player compensate for as he plays the world’s most violent game at a speed typically unseen for a 6-foot-6, 265-pound pass catcher?
If you own Gronkowski in a Dynasty league, counting him out now won’t do you much good. You’d be selling lower than low when there’s nothing to be gained for 2013. Waiting through the course of Gronk’s rehab is the sensible thing to do. But one must also be sensible. Modern medicine produces a lot of miracles, many of them for football players. But if the next time we see Gronk we’re really seeing Gronk, it will be the best-possible outcome, and not the most likely. That’s because for whatever Gronk has in youth and resilience, it may not be enough to overcome the latest and most serious hit in a series of them that just won’t seem to stop coming. Even in the age of Adrian Peterson, football is a cruel game that can alter or erase careers in an instant. Let’s hope Rob Gronkowski isn’t the latest example.
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1. Da’Rick Rogers/LaVon Brazill
It only took Darrius Heyward-Bey proving time and time and time again that he was the worst playmaker in the NFL, but Rogers and Brazill finally got some serious run on Sunday, putting some life back in the Colts’ passing attack in the process. Rogers stung the Bengals for 6/107/2, while Brazill went 3/53/2. Both players figure to be inconsistent over the season’s final three weeks — both as “real-life” receiving threats and re-draft fantasy options — but should be owned across the board in Dynasty leagues. As for re-draft purposes, Rogers and Brazill could go a long way toward resuscitating Andrew Luck’s flagging QB1 value in Pep Hamilton’s discombobulated offense. Rogers is worth a flier if you’re hurting at receiver.
2. Aaron Rodgers’ Collarbone Scans
Barring truly distressing test results, Sunday’s shocking win over the Falcons should be the final push Green Bay needed to give its franchise quarterback the go ahead for the season’s final three games. In addition to Matt Flynn, Rodgers’ fantasy owners have the Lions’ latest no-show performance to thank. If/when Rodgers is cleared, he’ll be returning to a dream matchup with Dallas’ barely-there secondary on JerryWorld's artificial turf. For most Rodgers owners, it’s probably already too late. For the few that survived and advanced to the fantasy semifinals, Christmas is coming early this year.
3. Dennis Pitta
Pitta was supposed to be on a snap count in his 2013 debut. Instead, he was on the field for every meaningful snap, drawing 11 targets as he posted a 6/48/1 line. Pitta’s touchdown couldn’t have come in more clutch fashion, as he made a diving, contested grab on 4th-and-goal with just 2:05 remaining. A legitimate safety valve and over-the-middle threat for a team that’s lacked one all season, Pitta could be a high-end TE1 for the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. He’s the ideal replacement for Gronk owners left in a lurch.
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