This article is part of our Injury Analysis series.
James Conner (ankle) and Justin Herbert (ribs) look like the big game-time decisions heading into Sunday, but the most impactful injury situation for both real life and fantasy might be the mess going on with Buffalo's defense. Three starters and a key sub have already been ruled out, with a fourth starter and another key guy listed as questionable. All the injuries are to defensive tackles or defensive backs, while the linebackers and edge rushers remain healthy.
It creates a nice opportunity for Buffalo's opponent, which just so happens to be the Dolphins, coming off a 42-38 win in which QB Tua Tagovailoa threw for six passing touchdowns. A few weeks back, Tagovailoa and Co. appeared to have a brutal schedule early in the season, drawing New England, Baltimore, Buffalo and Cincinnati over the first four weeks. None of those teams looks especially fearsome on defense at the moment, though in Buffalo's case that's solely due to a ridiculous run of injuries.
There's a lot to sort through again this week, but also some good news with Michael Pittman and George Kittle cleared to return. Mostly, though, we're looking at a whole lot of questionables, same as last week. Hopefully this article can get you better prepared for what should be an interesting Sunday morning.
Good to Go
- WRs Michael Pittman (quad) + Alec Pierce (concussion)
- WRs Devin Duvernay (concussion) + Rashod Bateman (personal)
- RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle)
- TE George Kittle (groin)
- WR Allen Lazard (ankle)
- WRs Chris Godwin (hamstring) + Mike Evans (suspension)
- WR Hunter Renfrow (concussion)
Tyron Johnson appeared to beat out Keenan Cole on the depth chart this summer, but Cole's experience manning the slot could make him the pick here to replace Renfrow. Also expect more two-TE formations with Darren Waller and Foster Moreau, the latter of whom cut into the former's route/snap share last week (something to keep a close eye on going forward... I mentioned Waller as a 'sell' candidate in my Week 2 Target Breakdown article).
- RBs Elijah Mitchell (IR - knee) + Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle)
TBD if the 49ers roll with Jordan Mason as their backup or go with recently signed veteran Marlon Mack. Either way, Jeff Wilson is the fantasy play, and possibly the only back Kyle Shanahan trusts right now (apart from FB Kyle Juszczyk in obvious passing situations).
- WR Rondale Moore (hamstring)
- WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring)
- TE Brevin Jordan (ankle)
Pharaoh Brown (Q - shoulder) is expected to play and likely will form a timeshare with O.J. Howard, who should replace Jordan as the TE for obvious passing situations. Not a situation I'm super interested in, but someone who made the mistake of adding Howard after Week 1 might get mad at me if I didn't say something (Hint: Howard isn't good at running routes or catching passes, that's the problem, not his coaches).
- WR Van Jefferson (knee)
- TE Ryan Griffin (knee)
- TE Drew Sample (knee, likely OFS)
Griffin and Sample obviously aren't fantasy relevant, but their absences could leave a few more snaps/routes for Cole Kmet and Hayden Hurst, respectively. If you read my other articles, you probably know that I'm a fan of Hurst (or at least his role in the Cincy offense) and not a fan of anything involving Kmet. Fire up Hurst as a streamer or cheap DFS play.
Key Defensive Players + Offensive Linemen
- LB Shaquille Leonard (back)
- S Micah Hyde (neck) + CB Dane Jackson (neck) + DT Ed Oliver (ankle) + DT Jordan Phillips (hamstring)
- S Harrison Smith (concussion)
- DT Akiem Hicks (foot) + LT Donovan Smith (D - elbow)
- LT Taylor Lewan (knee) + OLB Bud Dupree (hip)
- CB David Long (groin)
Listed as Questionable - Should Play
- QB Jameis Winston (back/ankle)
- WR Gabe Davis (quad) + TE Dawson Knox (foot)
- RB Leonard Fournette (hamstring) + WR Breshad Perriman (knee)
- WR Corey Davis (knee)
- WR Jerry Jeudy (shoulder) + CB Patrick Surtain (shoulder)
- RB D'Andre Swift (ankle) + TE T.J. Hockenson (hip) + DE Aidan Hutchinson (thigh)
- TE Hayden Hurst (groin)
- WR KJ Hamler (knee/hip)
- CB Donte Jackson (hamstring)
- LB Eric Kendricks (toe)
- [LOGO S Quandre Diggs (knee)
- CB Marlon Humphrey (groin)
- S Marcus Maye (ribs)
- DT Quinnen Williams (foot) + S Jordan Whitehead (calf)
- DE/LB Micah Parsons (illness)
- RB Alvin Kamara (ribs) - 1 ET
Last week, Mark Ingram and Tony Jones split snaps about 50/50, but with Ingram holding a 12-4 advantage in touches despite playing a few less snaps. Jones saw more of his work in the fourth quarter with New Orleans trailing, and he may play less this week now that Ingram is off the injury report (he was questionable with an ankle injury last week). Of course, there's also the possibility of Kamara playing, in which case Jones wouldn't have any role on offense. Ingram still would, but he's only a reasonable fantasy starter if Kamara misses another game here. (Saints beat writers don't expect that to happen.)
- RB J.K. Dobbins (ACL) - 1 ET
I think Dobbins will play, but I also thought that last week. Based on what we've seen so far, his eventual return is the only hope for usable fantasy production in the Baltimore backfield.
- RB Josh Jacobs (illness) - 1 ET
Jacobs isn't traveling with the team, which doesn't necessarily mean he'll miss the game but does suggest the team is taking his illness seriously. If he ends up inactive, Zamir White likely would take over as the early down back, with Brandon Bolden (and maybe Ameer Abdullah) also candidates for extra snaps. It's not a great situation for fantasy, even if Jacobs ends up playing. Davante Adams should see a lot of targets this week.... even more so than usual.
- WR Jakobi Meyers (knee) - 1 ET
Meyers returned to a limited practice Friday and thus seems likely to play, but I'm not quite confident enough to put him on the 'should play' list. If he's out, the Pats can put Kendrick Bourne in the slot between DeVante Parker and Week 2 hero Nelson Agholor. An absence for Meyers might also encourage more two-TE looks from the Patriots, though neither Hunter Henry nor Jonnu Smith inspires confidence for fantasy purposes.
- QB Justin Herbert (ribs) - 4:05 ET
Ruh Roh. I'd been assuming Herbert would play, until Friday afternoon.
- WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) - 4:05 ET
- RB James Conner (ankle) - 4:25 ET
Darrel Williams only played special teams Week 1 while Eno Benjamin took seven touches for 61 yards on 34 percent of offensive snaps. But then last week with Conner exiting early due to an ankle sprain, Williams finished with three more snaps and only one fewer touch than Benjamin. Williams' 10 touches included a 30-yard run and a goal-line TD, so he should have a role if Conner doesn't play, though I'd lean toward Benjamin as the fantasy start by a hair. Neither is a great choice, really, and Conner himself would just be an RB2 if he's playing on a bad ankle against a good defense. The Cardinals consider him a game-time decision ahead of the late kickoff Sunday afternoon.
- WR Julio Jones (knee) + Russell Gage (hamstring) - 4:25 ET
Gage played through his hamstring injury the first two weeks, but a missed practice Friday makes his status worth watching. With Evans and Godwin already ruled out and Jones a game-time call, Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller are in play as streamers/DFS starts. We'll once again need to keep a close eye out for Tampa's inactives ahead of the 4:25 ET kickoff with Green Bay.
- WRs Randall Cobb (illness) + Christian Watson (hamstring) - 4:25 ET
Allen Lazard (ankle) is in. Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is out. If Cobb and/or Watson also miss Sunday's game in Tampa, we could see Romeo Doubs handling a near-every-down role, albeit in a tough matchup.
- WR Cedrick Wilson (ribs) - 1 ET
- TE Isaiah Likely (groin) - 1 ET
- TE C.J. Uzomah (groin) - 1 ET
- TE Donald Parham (hamstring) - 4:05 ET
- TE Dalton Schultz (knee) - MNF
- WRs Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) + Kadarius Toney (who knows/cares) - MNF
Key Defensive Players + O-Linemen
- CB Jaylon Johnson (quad) + LB Roquan Smith (hip) - 1 ET
- S Jordan Poyer (foot) + DT Tim Settle (calf) - 1 ET
- CB Xavien Howard (groin) + LT Terron Armstead (toe) - 1 ET
- OG Landon Dickerson (foot) - 1 ET
- S Jordan Fuller (hamstring) - 4:25 ET
- DL Arik Armstead (foot) - SNF
- DL Leonard Williams (knee) + OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf) + OLB Kayvon Thobodeaux (knee) - MNF