There are few things that can take as much air out of a stadium as a quarterback being taken off the field with an injury. It can even take the breath away for the rest of the season. Jets fans know this. The Vikings faithful may find out.
No way to mince words. Week 8 was a brutal week for quarterbacks. On a day when a quartet of quarterbacks each scored four touchdowns, a quintet of passers — Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett and Tyrod Taylor — suffered injuries of varying degrees. Cousins’ injury appears to be the most serious, is feared as an Achilles tendon rupture. If confirmed, he will be out for the rest of the season.
Since the quarterback position is the most important in all of sports, this will have a big impact on the four teams’ offenses if their respective signal callers are forced to miss time. From a fantasy perspective, only Cousins was a regular in the starting lineup at QB6. Stafford was likely a backup starter at QB16 in single-QB leagues. But every team has very talented players who will be affected by these injuries. And we’re not just talking about the pass catchers here.
Here’s a quick breakdown by team of how losing their signal callers for any period of time can impact these offenses.
Just when it looked like Jordan Addison was going to break out, Cousins’ injury throws a major wrench into that plan. Additionally, if the Vikings feel like their season is coming to an end, They could slow Justin Jefferson’s return. Fantasy managers who took the All-Pro wide receiver first overall in the drafts believe this is at least a possibility.
The Vikings’ backup QB? Enter 6-foot-2, 207-pound BYU rookie Jaren Hall. The four pass attempts he made in Minnesota’s 24-10 victory over the Packers were the first regular-season passes of his NFL career. The fates of Addison, TJ Hockenson and especially Jefferson rest on his right shoulder. It’s hard to imagine the fifth-round rookie being able to support three pass-catchers per week, so either Addison or Hockenson may be fed in any given week without really knowing which of them is likely More targeted will be harder than the others.
Jefferson’s return will see him revert to the alpha role he had when he went on IR after Week 5 with a hamstring injury. Look at how players like Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins are heavily targeted by backup quarterbacks. Jefferson is such a good route runner with great separation ability that he gets open, so Hall should feed him.
Hockenson is the tight end’s big target and fits the narrative that tight ends are the young quarterback’s best friends. He’ll likely see quite a few short to medium looks as Hall is just trying to get rid of the ball. Addison’s deep ball ability may not be utilized unless Hall has plenty of time to throw. Even if you didn’t get a lot of first-team reps at practice, it’s hard to imagine that the quarterback and his pass-catchers had much time to develop a relationship.
The Vikings’ rushing attack was already problematic, with Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers sharing the ball touches. On Sunday, the Vikings’ running backs combined for 50 yards on the ground against the Packers’ defense, which ranked 27th in the league with 132 rushing yards allowed per game. Unless Hall gives the defense a reason to respect the pass, Mattison and Akers will face a lot of stacked boxes.
At least the schedule helps the Vikings, as two road games in Denver and Cincinnati are the only matchups played outdoors in Week 17. So at least Hall doesn’t have to fight the elements during the cold months as he tries to include Addison, Hockenson and eventually (possibly?) Jefferson.
There’s also a chance the Vikings look to add a veteran before Tuesday’s trade deadline or in free agency, with neither option likely to result in a major improvement.
Stafford’s thumb injury Perhaps this resulted from his scoring on a Redux two-point conversion reception from Philly Special. Stafford’s injury is of utmost concern for Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua in particular. How long, if at all, he will be out is uncertain until we know more about whether or not he will need surgery on his injured thumb.
For example, Justin Fields has already missed two games due to a broken thumb.
Rams backup Brett Rypien has played in just eight games and made three starts in his first three years with Denver, including two last year. He has never passed for more than 242 yards in a game in his career.
If Stafford is forced to miss time, Rypien will take over an offense that has Kupp healthy after returning from a preseason hamstring injury and phenom Nacua, third in the NFL with 752 receiving yards, in Week 8 comes. If both work out to get more feed, it will be Kupp, the slot receiver, who should get plenty of quick looks from Rypien. That could hurt Nacua early, depending on how long Stafford is out.
There’s a trip to Green Bay next week before the Rams’ bye in Week 10, and the Packers have a broken secondary. As mentioned above, the Packers are vulnerable to the run. With Darrell Henderson Jr. (12-31-0) and Royce Freeman (9-44-1) still sharing runs against Dallas, it will be difficult to decide on a running back, if at all. Anyone who uses Kupp or Nacua will start them, but expectations for each of these star pass-catchers will be tempered due to the potential demotion to QB if Stafford is sidelined.
When Pickett left with a rib injury, fantasy managers didn’t have to think twice about what to expect from Mitch Trubisky when he entered the game. Trubisky started the first four games of last season before handing the QB job to Pickett. Trubisky also made two late-season appearances in 2022 in place of Pickett, who left with a concussion.
The performance was uneven, with 276 passing yards being Trubisky’s high in 2022. Diontae Johnson will likely get the most targets. In the last two games Trubisky played in, Johnson was targeted 18 times and caught 16 times for 180 yards. George Pickens caught five balls for a total of 131 yards in those games. Pickens had just one catch on five targets Sunday, although that was a 22-yard touchdown.
Next up for the Steelers is a road game against the Titans, who entered Week 8 ranked 20th in the NFL allowing 255.1 passing yards per game. If either receiver gets the start in fantasy, it’s Johnson. Pickens is only an emergency game in case of injury or as a replacement for next week (four teams are out next week).
The fantasy community has collectively called for Taylor Heinicke to start for the Falcons, as Ridder has six touchdown passes but 11 turnovers (including six interceptions). After Ridder was ruled out of the back half of the game due to a concussion, Heinicke led four scoring drives totaling 20 points for the Falcons in a 28-23 loss.
With Drake London suffering a groin injury, that passing tree was narrowed to focus on Kyle Pitts, who saw five targets and caught three for 35 yards. It should be noted that Scott Miller caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Heinicke in the fourth quarter.
The player who may need to play a larger role in the passing game is Bijan Robinson, who scored a rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter to much approval from fantasy managers. He also drew five targets but received no hits. The Falcons’ next opponent is Minnesota, which came into the game ranked 13th in the NFL averaging 101.6 rushing yards per game. Robinson could see more targets if Heinicke started and London had limited or missing time.
After Tommy DeVito replaced Tyrod Taylor, who was hospitalized after injuring his ribs in the second quarter, the Illinois product led nine drives. Seven ended in punts, one of which led to a six-yard rushing touchdown. He attempted seven passes for -1 yards.
If Taylor can’t go and Daniel Jones stays out, the only starting player in the Giants’ fantasy is Saquon Barkley, who saw 36 carries for 128 yards. Hopefully Barkley gets plenty of opportunity to rest and recover before taking on the Raiders defense that allowed D’Onta Foreman 120 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns last week. We send Taylor a speedy recovery after a horrific injury.
Mahomes had his worst fantasy performance in a game, finishing with just 7.64 points in his career. But the guy more than earned a mulligan, plus he was sick. Here’s hoping Mahomes gets plenty of chicken soup and all the cold and flu remedies he needs to be fit and ready for the Chiefs’ early morning slugfest with the Dolphins in Germany. I hope you get over this bug soon Patrick, we want to see fireworks abroad.