By Matt Vensel
3:15 PM EDT, September 21, 2011
When Jamaal Charles tore his ACL on Sunday, any hopes the Kansas City Chiefs had of making it back to the NFL playoffs were shredded. The season-ending injury to Charles, a top-five pick in most fantasy leagues, is also a devastating blow to fantasy owners who were banking on a monster season from the dual-threat back.
I’m writing Fantasy Fodder a day late again -- blame it on the Capitals this week -- and since it is waiver-claim Wednesday, you have probably already seen that interest in Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster is up.
Neither figures to be a straight-up fantasy replacement for your Week 3 lineup. It’s likely that Jones, who actually had more carries than Charles last year, will share the backfield with McCluster and maybe Le’Ron McClain, who probably started campaigning for carries shortly after Charles was carted down the tunnel.
Hopefully you have enough depth to survive losing your top-five pick, but if you picked up one of his teammates, hopefully it was McCluster. Jones is 33, which makes him a Methuselah among NFL running backs. He should get more carries than McCluster at first. But if any of these guys produces enough to warrant a starting spot, it will be McCluster, a second-year back/receiver who has more big-play ability.
Is the Vick Experience out of service?: Michael Vick practiced on Wednesday, three days after he suffered a concussion in Sunday night’s loss to the Falcons. The good news is that it’s not the kind of injury -- like a wonky hammy -- that will limit his production if he is in the lineup Sunday. If Vick starts, you should be safe to play him. And if he’s out, play DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy anyway.
So far, so good for Matthew Stafford: In my fantasy football preview, I ranked the Lions quarterback ninth at his position. “A risky pick, but if he plays 16 games, he will be a top-five fantasy quarterback,” I wrote. Through two games -- I know, small sample size -- he has been just that. I own Stafford in four of my five fantasy leagues, so here’s hoping he stays healthy and makes me look brilliant in December.
Fantasy penthouse: Tom Brady (423 yards and three TDs) was the top QB for a second straight week. Adrian Peterson had 120 and two touchdowns. Miles Austin had three scores. Tony Gonzalez had two.
Fantasy doghouse: Joe Flacco’s two interceptions hurt fantasy owners. Marshawn Lynch rushed for just 11 yards. Plaxico Burress and Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams got shut out, as did Antonio Gates.
The wire: 1. Ben Tate (we know how hamstring injuries can linger, so if Arian Foster’s backfield mate is available, go get him). … 2. With another big week or two, Cam Newton will be a must-start. … 3. Devery Henderson is establishing himself as one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets with Marques Colston out. … 4. McCluster (if not, Jones, but definitely not McClain). … 5. Dustin Keller has a TD in back-to-back weeks. ... 6. Willis McGahee got his opportunity in Week 2 and rushed for 101 yards and a score.
Five guys I really like this week: 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick (if he avoids turnovers, he should put up points in a shootout with the Patriots). … 2. Chris Johnson (he finally gets on track against Denver). … 3. Rashard Mendenhall (ditto for him against the Colts). … 4. Marcedes Lewis (in his first NFL start, Blaine Gabbert will looking his way often). … 5. Brandon Marshall (his size presents challenges for the Browns).
Reader question: @pappass42 on Twitter writes, “I had jamaal charles and my other RB is Forte, so do I start Fred Jackson or Moreno?” My take: Believe it or not, Jackson leads the NFL in rushing with 229 yards through two games, and he is a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s a must-start until otherwise noted. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno is losing ground to McGahee in Denver.
Extra point: Denver wide receiver Eric Decker has eight catches for 166 yards and two scores in 2011. Is he the real deal? I’m doubt it. If he has another big week, try to deal him while his stock is soaring.
Matt Vensel is a blogger and community coordinator for The Baltimore Sun. Send your fantasy questions and comments to Matt.Vensel@baltsun.com, @mattvensel on Twitter or leave them in the comments section below.
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