Devastating is the best word to describe what transpired in the NFL this past week. If you’re still looking for strictly waiver wire advice, check out Themi Michalakis’ article here! In this article, we will go division by division and look to quantify the damage done by injury
Let’s start with the obvious. A terrible blow to fantasy owners and Giants fans alike, it has been confirmed that Saquon Barkley will miss the rest of the year with a torn ACL. If for some strange reason you took the Giants win total over 6, you’re in even more trouble now than you were before. There really isn’t an obvious pickup in this backfield. The Giants are signing Devonta Freeman but still retain Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis. The Giants offense has potential with Daniel Jones at the helm, but his decision-making is still way too shaky and Jason Garrett’s play-call isn’t doing anyone any favors. Not to mention they will be without WR1 Sterling Shepard for multiple weeks.
Cowboys fans are riding high after coming back from down 20-0 to beat the Atlanta Falcons. However, this has to feel like the win only came because the Falcons secondary is one of the only ones worse than the Cowboys. After losing Byron Jones in free agency, the Cowboys will likely be without Chidobe Awuzie as well. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee will be out for over a month. On top of this, Dallas is down three starters on their offensive line, as well as TE Blake Jarwin. It’s hard to believe, but the play here is taking the Eagles to win the division at +250. It’s not too late for the Eagles to turn this season around, as they need to get healthier on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys are not going to get many more 40-39 escape jobs. Take a chance on Philly here.
Similar to the NFC East, the worst injury in this division will have the lowest impact on the standings. Like the Giants, if for some strange reason you took the Panthers win total to go over 5.5, you’re in more trouble. However, star RB Christian McCaffrey’s injury is more short term. He was placed on IR, but if expected to return in 4-6 weeks. Mike Davis is a fantasy pickup, but there is no way he can be as dynamic as CMC. Expect the Panthers to throw the ball a lot more with Teddy Bridgewater. The biggest beneficiaries will likely be DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson.
The battle between the Bucs and the Saints at the top of the division will likely be all year, with the Saints having the edge. The Saints will likely look much better when star WR Michael Thomas returns from his ankle injury. It’s possible the Saints lose in Green Bay this week and the Bucs hosting the Chargers. If you want to take the Saints to win the division, I would wait until after next week. If the odds don’t get better, I’m happy to just sit this one out.
The Packers have not released an update on Davante Adams at the time, as he went down with a hamstring issue in Week 2. Hopefully the #1 receiver can come back strong as OG Lane Taylor is done for the year. The Bears somehow have won two games they easily could have lost and the Lions and Vikings just don’t look right. Both secondaries look very different than in 2019. Perhaps the Lions just need to get healthier? And the Vikings need to come around to Mike Zimmer’s scheme? There are many plausible outcomes to this division so I don’t want to overrate the Packers after two games. They are favorites in the -170 range, which seems fair. Leave this division alone or take a look at the Bears under 8.5 wins.
The Niners have had the worst injury luck of any team in the league. Some players were complaining that the new MetLife turf attributed to many of their injuries. Nick Bosa’s torn ACL easily has the most significant impact across the league. San Francisco also lost Solomon Thomas which suddenly makes them feel very thin up the middle. The Niners are reportedly bringing in former Pro Bowl DE Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah to help fill this gap. On offense, RB Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury and QB Jimmy Garoppolo has an ankle sprain. The next four weeks of their schedule aren’t scaring anyone so they have some time to get healthy on offense. The Niners vaunted defense is certainly questionable without some of its more important players.
The Seahawks feel like the best team to win the division and the entire NFC. Their defense is still questionable and I don’t trust Pete Carroll’s decision-making. Keep in mind, this is not the “Legion of Boom” anymore, this is a Seahawks defense that can play pretty poorly and will now be without LB Bruce Irvin. There could be some value on the Seahawks to win the division at +175 but I would look to fade the Niners if the point spreads are not accounting for the significant amount of injuries they’ve concurred. Give a long look at the Rams Under 9.5 as well. I currently have them at Under 8.5 and I am not willing to buy into any hype surrounding this team. The Rams are very poor on defense other than superstar Aaron Donald. The Cardinals are still the longest shot to win the division and I would agree that we shouldn’t overreact to their hot 2-0 start.
Jets fans are probably the biggest losers from this past week and it’s not just because they’re Jets fans (sorry, had to.) The Jets are already without their two best playmakers on offense (Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder), but Brashad Perriman and Chris Hogan both left the game injured. Hogan will liekly be alright but Perriman will miss multiple weeks with a knee injury. The Jets updated season win total is sitting at 4.5 and I’m currently sitting on a Under 6.5 ticket. An even 4 would probably be the line for an overreaction but 4.5 really isn’t half bad. Otherwise, I believe teams are performing as expected so far in 2020. The division is still a top heavy battle between the Patriots and the Bills. I do think the Bills are a little overrated by the market right now, as their win total update is now 9.5. If they can beat another overrated team in the Rams in Week 3, I would look to take their under at 10 or 10.5, if possible.
Also, if N’Keal Harry or Mike Geisicki are still available in your leagues, pick them up. Braxton Berrios is the trendy pick-up at Wide Receiver for the Jets and while the opportunity could be there for him, it feels like there are a ton of other, more viable WR options.
The only major injury in this division is one that went under the radar. The Ravens lost CB Tavon Young to a season ending knee injury. The Steelers and Ravens are both about as good as you would have expected coming into 2020 while the Browns and Bengals are about as tumultuous as expected as well. +275 is an interesting number to get the Steelers at, to win the division, but it is simply not high enough against these Ravens. Take a pass and enjoy the Lamar Jackson show.
In a year of change and confusion, there is one familiar consistency: The AFC South is a crapshoot. The Colts were the most impacted by injury as they lost star Safety Malik Hooker for the year, as well as promising second-year wideout Parris Campbell. Probably even more concerning is that Phillip Rivers doesn’t seem like he can get the ball further than 15 yards down the field. The Texans are 0-2 and the Titans are 2-0, but it’s not time to overreact to either of them. I don’t think anyone is really afraid of this Titans team right now and Houston hasn’t had the opportunity to beat up on this weak division yet. The Titans are -125 to win the division and I would much rather look towards the Texans at +700. The Texans have a very difficult schedule in 2020 but provide a ton of value at +700.
The Gardner Minshew experience has surely been a sight to see in this division but it’s not time to overreact to that either. See how they fair against a lowly Miami defense before you start taking fliers on the Jags to make the playoffs. Throughout all the inconsistency and poor play in this division, perhaps one of the best bets you can make right now is Jonathon Taylor to win the Offensive ROY. Taylor will get a ton of opportunity with injuries to Marlon Mack, Parris Campbell, and Jack Doyle. If the Colts sneak into the playoffs it will be on the back of Taylor not Rivers.
Denver fans look away. After losing star edge-rusher Von Miller at the start of the season, the Broncos also lost #1 Wide Receiver Courtland Sutton to an ACL tear. In Week 2, young QB Drew Lock went down with a shoulder injury. The team did not place him on IR, but you have to get the feeling that they won’t rush him back. Denver has shown that they will stick around in games and battle, but if you happened to take their win total over 7.5, you could be in some trouble with Jeff Driskel and potentially Blake Bortles at the helm.
In one of the weirdest injuries to date, Tyrod Taylor missed Week 2 after a team doctor punctured his lung while giving him treatment for a cracked rib. What??? This whole situation is odd and Taylor is rightfully filing a grievance against the team. This situation thrust first-round Oregon product Justin Herbert under center for his NFL debut. Herbert performed well, other than some obvious rookie mistakes. Chargers fans will be calling for Herbert to start, even if it might be best for his development to continue to watch from the sidelines this year. You have to feel for Tyrod Taylor as it seems he’s once again thrust into a Baker Mayfield situation.
And yes, the Chiefs are still one of the best teams in football. And no, you should not buy into the Raiders hype. They still have one of the worst defenses in the league and will have a difficult time making the playoffs in a deep conference.