It may be difficult to feel sorry for the 7-3, first-place Houston Texans, but they are snake-bitten.
Houston started the 2011 NFL season missing running back Arian Foster. Then, stud wide receiver Andre Johnson went down in Week 4. In Week 5, the Texans lost Mario Williams for the season to a torn pectoral muscle.
During a Week 10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback Matt Schaub went down with a foot injury. While the Texans are holding out hope for his return, some reports have Schaub out for the season.
All sources agree that Matt Schaub will not play in Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Replacing Schaub will be Matt Leinart, who has had a disappointing career since being drafted 10th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
Leinart’s play will have a significant impact on the Houston Texans' season, but it will also have three major effects on fantasy football leagues.
With Leinart under center, the Texans offense will shrink, as Leinart does not have anywhere near the arm strength of Schaub. Instead of throwing bombs, Houston will be tossing stones.
Since he was drafted in 2006, Leinart has only 52 completions of 20 yards or more and eight completions of 40 yards or more. Compare that to Vince Young, another quarterback drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft—Young has 100 completions of at least 20 yards and 14 completions of 40 plus yards.
To play to Leinart’s strengths, the offense will rely on the short-to-intermediate passing game, which will benefit fantasy owners with tight end Owen Daniels on their roster. Daniels, already a top 10 tight end in Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, will see more receptions as he becomes a more important piece of the Texans’ offensive strategy.
If, for some inexplicable reason, Daniels is available in your fantasy league, pick him up in time for the Texans' Week 12 game against the Jaguars. He could be a difference-maker for the playoff stretch.
It may feel intuitive and natural to think that Arian Foster and Ben Tate will benefit the most from Leinart assuming quarterback responsibilities while Schaub recovers.
Intuitive and natural, but wrong.
While each running back may see more rushes while Leinart replaces Schaub, they will not gain more yards as defenses load the box to force Houston to beat them through the air. No matter who is at quarterback, Houston may have trouble running the football for the rest of the season as they face Jacksonville, Cincinnati and the Atlanta—three of the NFL’s top 15 rushing defenses—in three of their remaining six games.
If you have either Foster or Tate on your roster, don’t fret; all is not lost. Like Owen Daniels, Foster and Tate will make hay in the short passing game, and with their speed, they can break short passes for long gains.
Andre Johnson is one of the NFL’s most exciting wide receivers, and fantasy owners lucky enough to pick him up in the first round of their drafts were looking forward to big numbers from the nine-year pro out of the University of Miami.
Those same owners were sent scrambling to the waiver wire when Johnson went down with a hamstring injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4.
Having survived a two-month panic, fantasy fanatics cannot wait to welcome Andre Johnson back to their squads.
Be warned: If you own Johnson in your league, don’t start engraving your name on the trophy just yet.
Andre Johnson will make Matt Leinart a better fantasy quarterback, but Leinart will not make Johnson a better fantasy wide receiver. In fact, Johnson will not produce the points fantasy owners are accustomed to.
Johnson will help Leinart by running off defenders with deep routes, while opening up shorter routes for other receivers for Leinart to throw to. This is good for everyone on the Houston offense except Johnson.
Even if the Texans attempt to feature Johnson in the short passing game, he will be blanketed by opposing defenses. Leinart is an inaccurate quarterback, having completed just 57.1 percent of his passes for his career, and cannot zing the ball into tight windows.
If you have Andre Johnson on your fantasy team, you are not going to sit him. You can’t; he gives you a better chance to win than most other receivers, even with Matt Leinart throwing him passes. Just do not expect him to rack up the numbers you anticipated when you drafted him.