As anyone who started a Minnesota Vikings player in their fantasy football lineup knows, one injury can have devastating consequences for a whole team — real or fantasy.
It may not be fair to pin the Vikings’ offensive futility Thursday night solely on backup quarterback Christian Ponder — because who knows how rookie Teddy Bridgewater would’ve have fared had he been healthy — but that’s likely the perception among fantasy fans.
Before Thursday, the Green Bay Packers defense was an automatic start for opposing players. That all ended in a 42-10 haze, as neither Matt Asiata, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson or Jerick McKinnon could find the end zone, and only Asiata produced more than 70 yards from scrimmage.
Now heading into the lion’s share of Week 5 games, there’s one Lion whose uncharacteristic health struggles could have a ripple effect on fantasy football.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions vs. Bills
Lions coach Jim Caldwell sounded pessimistic about Johnson’s readiness to play on Sunday. Maybe it would just be better if Johnson sat out and at least give fantasy owners the option of designating him "injured" for leagues that allow it. Johnson played through the pain last week and only caught two passes for 12 yards.
If the 29-year-old is starting to wear down, he would represent another first-round stutter start from a season already rife with them, including Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy and Adrian Peterson. At least Charles and Lacy appear to have gotten back on track in their last starts.
Johnson’s situation is different, however. When you spend a first-round choice on a wide receiver, arguably the deepest position in fantasy football, you can’t afford a whiff. Those drafters likely accepted lesser talents at running back and quarterback because Johnson had been a safe bet to score each week. Now many of them may be scrambling to make up the deficit in three positions.
However, like Charles, Johnson could bounce back. If you have enough depth on your roster to swing a two-for-one deal, now would be the time to approach Johnson owners about a trade.
Brandon McManus, K, Broncos vs. Cardinals
The Broncos cut K Matt Prater after his four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy ended on Friday, according to reports. Now Brandon McManus keeps the job.
On average, Prater was the sixth kicker drafted on espn.com, which means those owners passed on kickers such as Nick Novak and Adam Vinatieri. If you didn’t get McManus, check waivers for the following kickers:
— Cody Parkey, Eagles
— Chandler Catanzaro, Cardinals
— Randy Bullock, Texans
— Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins
— Patrick Murray, Buccaneers (deep sleeper)
Carson Palmer/Drew Stanton, QB, Cardinals at Broncos
Despite Palmer’s proclamation that he "definitely" will be ready to play against the Broncos, it turns out the veteran was too optimistic about the progress of his neck injury. But is anyone complaining? Drew Stanton has done surprisingly well in relief.
I don’t hold high expectations for Stanton in Denver, but he should find the end zone at least once, either passing to dynamic rookie slot receiver John Brown or versatile running back Andre Ellington.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears at Panthers
I’ll make this quick: If Marshall’s on the field, start him. Even in limited action, your odds of salvaging some points out of Marshall are as good as starting a healthier receiver who plays the whole game. On Friday, he said his ankle has healed to the point he feels "more explosive."
Arian Foster, RB, Texans at Cowboys
Foster (hamstring) didn’t practice Thursday, but he’s probable to play Dallas on Sunday, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Cowboys have a middling run defense, giving up 5 yards per attempt.
BONUS: FANTASY MAILBAG
— Q. Standard scoring. Which is the better stash Lorenzo Taliaferro or Isaiah Crowell? — Shelby M., from Google+
— A. I’m a big fan of Crowell. I think he’s clearly the most explosive of the backs in Cleveland and has a better chance to permanently supplant brittle Ben Tate than the slightly overrated Terrance West.
It’s not as clear-cut with Taliaferro, whose backfield future gets much murkier as Justin Forsett continues to improve and Bernard Pierce gets healthier.
— Q. I’ve got Roddy White, Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Greg Jennings and Eddie Royal (picked up today).
Markus Wheaton and Rueben Randle are free agents now. Should I drop someone for one if these guys? I can only play 3. — Nicholas N., from Google+
— A. I like Wheaton’s upside but right now I’m not sure he’s better than anything you already have. All deserve spots on your roster but each one (ranked in order below) has at least one drawback.
— Eddie Royal produces in big chunks but can completely disappear at times (at least based on last season). Still, he looks no worse than your second-best option and could be your top producer in that recamped San Diego offense.
— Roddy White has an established role in a high-powered offense but injuries and age sap his potency.
— Eric Decker doesn’t have the speed to be an all-around WR1, and he has Geno Smith throwing to him.
— You’d think a player as fast and talented as DeSean Jackson would be ranked higher, but he’s one-dimensional in my opinion. And the Redskins have yet to show they can use him creatively. I’d hope for a splash game and trade him.
— No matter what some coaches are saying about a rejuvenated Greg Jennings, he still puts up numbers like the Jennings of the past two seasons. At least he gets the majority of targets, which puts him ahead of Wheaton.
— Markus Wheaton has made some big plays to keep drives alive, so Ben Roethlisberger really trusts him in critical situations. But as a second-year man he’s still raw and not high enough in the Steelers’ pecking order to leapfrog others on this list right now. That could change later in the season, so watch this situation.
— Perhaps I’m harder on Rueben Randle than other third-year receivers but it’s because I think he underachieves. It’s too early to write him off but the truth is he’s less of an impact player than Larry Donnell, Rashad Jennings and Victor Cruz.