Two weeks ago, it was a dazzling rookie. Last Sunday, it was a special wideout in the prime of his play-making career. Yesterday, it was the best player in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers has joined Dalvin Cook and Odell Beckham on the shelf, depriving football fans everywhere of an artist at work and fantasy owners of one of the few every-week starters at quarterback. Rodgers was crunched on a pile-driving, boundary-blurring hit from Vikings SLB Anthony Barr. Helped up off the turf, Rodgers was loaded onto a cart for a slow ride to the U.S. Bank Stadium locker room.
The news was quick and ominous. Fractured right clavicle. 2017 season in doubt. Like Tony Romo before him, this isn’t Rodgers’ first ride at the broken collarbone rodeo. Rodgers went down in Week 9, 2013, and ended up missing seven games. One major difference between then and now? That was Rodgers’ left collarbone. This year’s ailment is to his right, throwing side. Notoriously cautious with injuries, it’s possible bordering on probable the Packers keep Rodgers on the shelf for longer than he was four years ago. Even were Rodgers to match his 2013 timeline, he wouldn’t be back until Week 14 in Cleveland.
The best combination of hopeful/within reason would probably be Rodgers returning in Week 16. That would have him on the field for what will surely be critical division games with the Vikings and Lions to close out the season. The reality is, it’s quite possible his age-34 campaign is over. That leaves the Packers with Brett Hundley, a 2015 fifth-rounder who entered Week 6 with 11 career pass attempts. Understandably, he laid an egg against the Vikings, tossing three picks on 33 pass attempts.
Hundley’s implications for the rest of the offense are obvious. Ageless, touchdown-scoring wonder though he is, Jordy Nelson is now more of a lower-end WR1. Think Doug Baldwin. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb will either engage in a Hunger Games-eque competition for No. 2 duties or alternate secondary status behind Nelson. Hundley will not be supporting three fantasy receivers. Martellus Bennett? Off the TE1 radar. Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones? Likely to form a legitimate two-man committee as the Pack lean more on their ground game.
As for Hundley himself, he can run, boosting his fantasy floor and ceiling while providing real-life cover for what’s going to be severe growing pains under center. Hundley didn’t have a great feel for the pocket at UCLA. Learning on the fly in the NFC North will be a considerable challenge. An optimistic scenario has him performing as a Jacoby Brissett or turbo-charged Case Keenum-type streamer in fantasy.
The blanket takeaway is that everything has changed, in both real life and roto.
Five Week 6 Storylines
Adrian Peterson rising from the dead in the desert. It took Peterson one game as a Cardinal to match his four-week workload with the Saints (27 carries). It took him four plays to equal the yardage. Once again reborn, Peterson posted gains of eight, eight, 11 and 27 on Arizona’s opening possession, with the final tote being a score. By the end of series two, he was already at 76 yards, matching in seven runs what he did in four weeks as a Saint. The reasons for the revival are surely many, but pride likely played a part. Wounded by his complementary status in the Saints’ backfield, Peterson sulked. Sunday, he was once again the only show in town, and he made sure the fans got their money’s worth. There’s a good chance Peterson has already had his best game as a Cardinal. The offensive line is a problem, and Peterson’s post-2015 film hasn’t disappeared with just one performance. But you better believe he’s back in the RB2 mix. The Rams are an attackable Week 7 matchup.
Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both shining in the Saints’ post-Peterson backfield. Peterson’s trade had the immediate looks of a win-win, with Ingram and Kamara carrying the Saints past the Lions in a wild 52-38 victory. Ingram’s 25 carries were his most since Nov. 2014, while his 114 yards rushing were his most since last Thanksgiving weekend. Kamara’s 75 yards on the ground doubled his previous rookie high from Week 3. Together, the duo combined for 237 of the Saints’ 379 yards from scrimmage. To put that into Week 6 perspective, Drew Brees had only 186. There’s no point in pretending this is how it will be every week — we’re talking about Sean Payton after all — but Ingram is firmly affixed in the RB1 conversation. Kamara is taking up residence in Tevin Coleman-ville.
Jameis Winston injuring his throwing shoulder. On most any other Sunday, this would have been the biggest news of the day. Aaron Rodgers takes second billing to no one, however, while Winston’s departure against the Cardinals came against the backdrop of his recent struggles. Thankfully, the initial news is positive. Winston wanted to re-enter in the desert, and X-rays came back negative. A Monday MRI will provide final word, but there’s a chance Winston ends up missing zero games. If that’s the case, the focus can shift back to Winston’s play, which, aside from a three-score day against the Giants in Week 4, has not been good. Coming off their bye week, the Bills won’t be a fun road matchup for Winston if he suits up for Week 7.
Martavis Bryant has another quiet day, requests a trade. Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards against the Chiefs, making Week 6 the fifth time in six games he caught three or fewer passes. The fourth-year pro is averaging just 39 yards per game after spending 2016 suspended. After news of Bryant’s trade demand leaked, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported “Bryant’s teammates and coaches are well aware that he’s unhappy." He should be. 25-year-old Bryant hasn’t appeared to have lost a step, and deserves to be a bigger part of the Steelers’ offense. At the very least, he needs to again become a going concern in the red zone. The Steelers aren’t going to deal Bryant. Much more likely is giving the squeaky wheel some grease in Week 7 against the Bengals.
Emmanuel Sanders gets carted off with an ankle issue. It was a strange looking injury for Sanders, but a potentially serious one. Sanders was in agony before being taken to the locker room. The initial news was positive, as Sanders’ X-rays came back negative. The story, as usual, will be incomplete until Sanders’ MRI returns. The 5-foot-11 wideout has missed only one game since 2011. His absence would leave a crater behind Demaryius Thomas for a team that has precious few weapons.
Five More Week 6 Storylines
Leonard Fournette has another huge game, but tweaks ankle again. Fournette’s day literally couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, as he housed the Jags’ first snap from scrimmage for a 75-yard touchdown. Fournette made one cut through a huge hole and was off to the races. The 6-foot-0, 228-pound back left defensive backs in the dust. Things weren’t as charmed thereafter as Blake Bortles once again struggled and Fournette suffered a bizarre ankle injury. His right foot appeared to give out in non-contact fashion. For a few moments, Fournette writhed on the turf like he had suffered a season-ending ailment. Then he made his way up to the sideline and slowly began to realize it wasn’t a serious issue, after all. The Jags announced Fournette could return, but he was absent for the final drive. Fournette will almost certainly play Week 7, but it shouldn’t be assumed until the Jags start issuing practice reports.
The 49ers do the one thing you can with Brian Hoyer — move on. Hoyer made it 205 passes as a 49er before his turf bullets became too much to bear for Kyle Shanahan. Hoyer was yanked in the second quarter against the Redskins, and the decision nearly earned the 49ers a stunning road victory. As it was, third-round rookie C.J. Beathard’s one score got him 25 percent of the way to Hoyer’s 2017 total. Shanahan confirmed afterward the change would be permanent. It’s quite possible Beathard is not only not an improvement on Hoyer, but actively worse. It was still time for the 49ers to move on from Hoyer’s hard ceiling — ask the Bears, Texans, Browns and Cardinals — and explore Beathard’s potential. His insertion under center doesn’t change the outlook for Pierre Garcon or George Kittle.
The Falcons continuing to struggle. The defending NFC Champions went into their bye week with a home loss to the Bills. They came out of it with a home loss to the Dolphins. That’s about as bad as possible. The Falcons looked nothing like their 2016 version on Sunday, struggling to run the ball and appearing discombobulated in the passing game. There was no tempo, no catching the beleaguered Dolphins off guard. Matt Ryan now has only six touchdowns through his first five starts. Julio Jones has yet to visit the end zone. For Week 7, the Patriots aren’t going to make life any easier, but should at least open things up on the fantasy front. The Pats got shredded by Josh McCown in Week 6. Ryan will be able to handle that.
Mike Gillislee playing a season-low 13 snaps. Gillislee entered Week 6 averaging a modest 23 plays, but his Jets total was easily a season low. Dion Lewis got the start, and for the second time in three weeks, some goal-line carries. Lewis did little to put Gillislee away, but Gillislee didn’t make his own case, either. He’s now averaging just 3.67 yards per carry, and has zero touchdowns since Week 2. If Rex Burkhead could ever return from his ribs issue, Gillislee might find himself in real trouble on early downs.
Derek Carr struggling in his return from a broken back. Unlike Fournette, Carr’s day couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. He was picked on his first pass. There wasn’t much to call home about after that, as Carr and the Raiders struggled to make plays. Speaking afterward, Carr was adamant that he was not limited by his back issue. We won’t have to wait long to get another look at him, as the 2-4 Raiders will be hosting the 5-1 Chiefs for Thursday Night Football.
1. I can’t think of one single quarterback better than Blake Bortles. Can you?
2. Who are the Falcons planning for their next home loss, the 2008 Lions?
3. How did Adrian Peterson figure out a way to actually drink the Haterade?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Bills (vs. TB), Titans (@CLE), Colts (vs. JAX), Chargers (vs. DEN), Saints (@GB)
Stats of the Week
54. That was the Bears’ number of carries against the Ravens. That’s tied for the ninth most this century, and the most by anybody since 2013.
Chris Thompson’s 340 receiving yards are 20th in the NFL. That’s extra impressive since the Redskins have already had their bye.
Jared Goff is just 33-of-68 (48.5 percent) over his past two games. His inaccuracy even in clean pockets is once again rearing its ugly head.
The Browns are on pace to improve their -188 2016 score differential to -168.
Image of the Week: From Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo.