What is tougher to solve, a Rubik's Cube, Rob Gronkowski's status or fantasy football?
This Monday—and seemingly every Monday this season—it has to be the latter. The Cube takes seconds for some. Gronk is so uncertain, it has become predictable.
And fantasy? Well, your guess is as good as anyone's.
It was another NFL week from another planet, and we try to sort through things with Bleacher Report's top 10 takeaways from the weekend.
1. Ridley's Back, Believe It or Not
The New England Patriots have struggled finding consistency on offense, mostly because they can't find someone consistent to hang their hat on. They finally did it with Stevan Ridley against the New Orleans Saints, and he paid dividends.
I knew Stevan Ridley would rebound in Week 6...
Fantasy owners are breathing a sigh of relief—well, at least those who started him (just 19 percent of CBS Sports leagues).
Ridley's 96 yards and two touchdowns trump his timeshare cohorts, Brandon Bolden (five carries for 19 yards and two catches for nine yards) and LeGarrette Blount (seven carries for nine yards), you need to consider Ridley a start in all leagues again—even with the New York Jets' run defense looming (No. 2 in the NFL).
Ridley didn't start the game, coming off a one-week knee issue, but he finished it. After being benched for a fumble, losing snaps to Shane Vereen (wrist—out until at least Week 11), Blount and Bolden and dealing with his injury, Ridley made the most of his circumstantial opportunity. He tells Doug Kyed of NESN:
I can't lie, I'm happy about the outcome of today's game. It's tough to watch your team play and be at home on the couch. It's a sinking feeling, so for me, I had to put myself in a position to come back out here and I'm just thankful they gave me a few plays to go out there and do what we needed to do, and we were able to pull it off.
We should expect the Pats to continue to pound Ridley in the near future, particularly with Tom Brady struggling to find rhythm with his patchwork receiving corps.
2. Gronk Is a Huge Pain for Everyone
It is beyond time to be give up the weekly anticipation for Gronkowski's (arm/back) return. This circus seemingly has no end in sight.
"There's curiosity and resentment, and he's creating it by going out and kicking a$$ during the week and then he doesn't show up on game day and help the team win," a source told ESPN's Ed Werder.
There are various reports on what Gronk is doing in practice and when he will return, but the important thing to note is Gronk was not back Sunday, and he likely won't be back against the Jets, a source told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.
The silver lining is that Gronk owners might be getting a healthy and fresh tight end back when the heaviest of the bye weeks come in Week 8. The best you can do is hope Gronk and Dr. James Andrews decide to end the drama sooner rather than later.
3. Harvin Return Might Not Be Far Off
It is officially a legitimate question to ask whether Percy Harvin (hip) is going to be back in fantasy lineups before Gronk. No one could have anticipated that when the regular season started. Gronk has always seemingly been one week away. Harvin was months.
The tune has changed now.
Carroll said TE Zach Miller will be back next week for sure and WR Percy Harvin is "just around the corner."— Liz Mathews 710 ESPN (@Liz_Mathews) October 14, 2013
Harvin is eligible to return to practice this week, and the Seahawks would have a 21-day window to decide whether to add him to the active roster. Head coach Pete Carroll said a return in Week 7 is highly unlikely, per a report by ESPN.com's Terry Blount:
I don’t think that is realistic. I think that’s too soon, but it’ll happen when he’s ready to go and we get a chance to prepare him so he’s physically capable of being safe.
He’s a full-on, full-speed football player. He’s got to be ready to go. When he comes back, we want him to be able to endure the rigors of the end of the season. It’s not important to rush him back. It’s important to wait it out and be patient and get him out there when he’s ready to go and withstand the load of the game.
While it is time to add Harvin off the waiver wire as a late-season stash, along with the likes of Michael Crabtree (Achilles') and Mario Manningham (knee), you need to have learned a fantasy lesson from the Gronk situation. Contending teams like the Pats and Seattle Seahawks are going to allow their potential stars plenty of time to get ready for a playoff push.
4. Eagles Have a Quarterback Controversy
Nick Foles had an impressive performance against a pretty good Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense on Sunday. That has to have Michael Vick (hamstring) and his fantasy owners worried.
Foles, with 296 yards passing, three touchdown passes and a rushing score, was better than all quarterbacks except Cam Newton on Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles won't name a starting quarterback for Week 7 against Dallas, according to ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan, but you have to figure Foles bought himself and Vick another week: Vick to get healthy and Foles to be an option for fantasy owners.
A big performance against the Cowboys would leave Chip Kelly with a difficult decision thereafter, even if he has said Vick is the starter once healthy. Regardless who starts for the Eagles, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy are must-start options in all leagues.
Riley Cooper, who had four catches for 120 yards and a touchdown, is a sleeper with Foles under center. Bank on that this week as Vick heals.
5. Sub-par Quarterbacks Rule the Week
Speaking of low-end quarterbacks, it was a week to roll the dice on one of the low-end guys. The top 12 scorers at the position, save for a few names, were not the names we were accustomed to:
- Cam Newton
- Nick Foles
- Matthew Stafford
- Andy Dalton
- Thad Lewis (seriously?!)
- Jay Cutler
- Joe Flacco
- Mike Glennon
- Sam Bradford
- Drew Brees
- Brandon Weeden
- Carson Palmer (tied with Colin Kaepernick)
Only Newton, Stafford and Brees are trustworthy weekly starters—as if you needed more proof you can pick your fantasy quarterback(s) late and play roulette with the matchups/starts. Among these, you should consider Foles, Dalton, Flacco and Bradford the best bye-week replacement options when the matchups are right.
6. Rudolph Overcomes Vikings' Inept QB Play
You had to hate Kyle Rudolph as a start going into Week 6. The Carolina Panthers had been tough on opposing tight ends, per FFtoday.com, the Minnesota Vikings were starting the shaky Matt Cassel and Rudolph has gotten off to an awful start this season.
Naturally, you had to expect one of the most dropped tight ends to put up nine catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, good for third-best at the position.
Outside of Rudolph, there wasn't much to like about the Vikings' performance Sunday against the Panthers. It was so bad, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Mark Craig suggests Josh Freeman might be the starting quarterback next week.
Whoever is the quarterback, we probably should be quick to pick Rudolph back up in fantasy. He is available in over 50 percent of CBS Sports leagues.
7. Fauria Is a Red-Zone Beast
We are devoting a lot of real estate to tight ends this week, but we cannot have a top 10 without mentioning the performance of the Detroit Lions' Joseph Fauria. He is the modern-day Cris Carter: All Fauria does is catch touchdowns.
Fauria had three of them Sunday, giving him five on the season to go with seven catches. Brandon Pettigrew gets more targets and Calvin Johnson (knee) is healthy, but the undrafted free agent Fauria has become a legit fantasy threat.
If you miss out on Rudolph and need a fill-in tight end, you might as well roll the dice on Fauria getting a one-yard touchdown grab. Heck, that is what made Rudolph a top-10 pick among tight ends this summer, as shown in analysis by Fantasy Pros.
8. Jacobs a Giant Among Running Backs?
The New York Giants came into the week with the worst rushing offense in football, but Brandon Jacobs filled in well for the long lost David Wilson (neck) admirably. You have to consider him off waivers at least in the short-term before he succumbs to injury.
Jacobs was a top-five fantasy back this week, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson faces a second opinion Monday that might knock him out for a long time—if not the season—and the Giants won't have Andre Brown (leg) back for a few weeks. Da'Rel Scott and Michael Cox are just roster depth.
Even if Jacobs rushes 15 times for 25 yards every week, he could perform like a top-25 fantasy back because of the potential one-yard touchdown plunge.
9. Blackmon is a Giant Among Receivers
With Cecil Shorts potentially lost for an extended period, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson, we probably have to expect huge numbers from burgeoning fantasy star Justin Blackmon, no matter who plays quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Source: There's concern that Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts III could have a fractured rib closer towards the (cont) http://t.co/c9dowYIahN— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) October 14, 2013
Blackmon led all receivers with 14 catches and 190 yards and has entered the must-start category in just two weeks of play after his four-game suspension. Future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey experienced it firsthand Sunday and was effusive with his praise afterward, according to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco:
He's going to be a good receiver for a long time. I really gave him props because he worked hard. He's on a team that's 0-5 and guys can get down, but that shows how special he is. He kept working. He kept grinding and he looks good.
Guard Uche Nwaneri continued:
Justin's a special talent. He plays very aggressively. He plays like a 6-foot-5 guy when he's only 6-foot-1. Plays with confidence and he brings that kind of attitude to our entire receiving corps. Those guys are all out there playing with confidence. He's clearly got a special skill set that he displays when he goes out there every Sunday.
Blackmon is clearly too good to sit in any fantasy league right now. He faces another bonanza against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7.
10. Packers Hold Their Breath on Receivers' Health
Unless you are a Jordy Nelson owner, you have to be watching the news scroll closely Monday with regard to Randall Cobb (knee) and James Jones (leg). ESPN's Rob Demovsky, citing ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter's report, reports early signs are Cobb avoided serious injury.
Packers head coach told Demovsky:
We'll find out [Monday]. I'm hopeful with Randall for good information [Monday] once we get him back. James Jones, I'm hoping for good information there, too. I really don't have anything. We don't have a full diagnosis on either one of those guys.
If fantasy owners get bad news, you might have to consider Jarrett Boykin a potential waiver-wire sleeper. He and Nelson were the only healthy receivers on the roster once Cobb and Jones went down Sunday in Baltimore. The Packers will certainly hit the street for someone, so stay tuned.
Also, in a related note, this Packers offense figures to be in the hands of rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who rushed 23 times for a career-high 123 yards. Lacy is a must-start in all leagues now, even against a solid Cleveland Browns run defense in Week 7.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.