Health is already at a premium early in this season. The wear and tear of weekly contact is sidelining skill players all over the league, and creating new opportunities as well. The Packers, Colts and Cardinals all lost their featured backs this weekend, not long after seeing the return of four other team’s starters return from serious injury. Rashard Mendenhall looked excellent in his season debut, averaging over five yards a carry and catching a 15 yard touchdown. With that in mind, here’s a quick recap on last week’s storylines.

Injuries

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RB Cedric Benson, Packers: Benson went down Sunday with the bane of running backs, a lisfranc injury. The foot ailment will keep him out for a minimum of eight weeks, though it is highly possible the rest of the season is now in jeopardy. Alex Green and James Starks are expected to pick up the slack, and of the two it seems Green will get the first attempt at starting.

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RB Donald Brown, Colts: Brown underwent surgery this week to repair torn cartilage in his knee this week. Though the surgery is relatively minor, he is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Fifth round pick Vick Ballard will start in place of Brown.

RB Ryan Williams, Cardinals: Williams will miss the rest of the season after injuring his shoulder on Sunday. He leaves an uncertain void behind him on the depth chart as backup Beanie Wells is injured this upcoming week as well.  A trio of LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell, and Alfonso Smith will get a chance this week to carry the rock.  The starter’s job is open to whichever back can prove himself most capable.

 

Free Agents

RB Alex Green, Packers: With Cedric Benson out for the majority of the rest of the year, Green is slotted to receive the bulk of the carries. Last week against New Orleans he managed 55 yards on nine carries.
James Starks may steal some carries, but not before Green gets his chance at the top of the depth chart.

WR Devery Henderson, Saints: Lance Moore’s injury allowed Henderson to step up last week, as he caught 8 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. The Saints are on a bye this week but Henderson has shown Drew Brees he can be relied upon when needed and may see his numbers rise in the future. He does come with a warning tag however, as do all Saints receivers. The offense loves to spread the ball around, so consistency may be a significant issue.

WR Rueben Randle, Giants: Randle teamed up with fellow wideout Domenik Hixon last week to fill the void left behind by injuries to Ramses Barden and Hakeem Nicks. With the starting receivers’ health still a concern, Randle will continue to get looks from Eli Manning. Last week he received enough attention to put together 6 receptions for 82 yards.

Matchups

Matt Ryan vs. Oakland: The Oakland defense has been nothing short of atrocious so far, giving up over 300 yards in passing over their last two games and allowing just over 31 points per game. The 28th ranked pass defense has yet to record an interception as well. Red hot Matt Ryan is dominating the league with 13 passing touchdowns over five games and an average of 301 yards per game.

Alex Smith vs. New York Giants: This is not anywhere close to the offensive unit San Francisco put on the field when these two NFC powerhouses squared off. Additions to the receiving corps and running back depth have given Alex Smith a more varied, better equipped tool belt this season. He’s responded well, emphasized by last week’s 303 passing yards and three touchdowns. The Giants defense has been shaken up by injury and is currently ranked 22nd in the league when it comes to pass defense.

Larry Fitzgerald vs. Buffalo: A synced up Larry Fitzgerald and Kevin Kolb mean dangerous things for a weak Buffalo secondary. Fitzgerald has had at least eight receptions in three straight games now, and has scored on two of those occasions. He has continued to improve as the chemistry does; look for him to have a big game this weekend.

Bye weeks and injuries are reshaping fantasy teams everywhere as the season progresses and owners adapt. A significant injury may allow you to snag a backup-turned-starter who can contribute significant fantasy value. The key is to stay informed! Watch the injury reports, review the matchups and substitute smartly for bye week players. Good luck in your week 6 matchups, check back next week for another fantasy update.