WATCH: Todd Gurley’s monster Week 15 game
Week 15 of the NFL season featured its fair share of player injuries, including a major blow to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ll examine the impact these injuries will have on fantasy football owners and the teams themselves.
Here are the six biggest injuries from Sunday’s DraftKings main slate, ranked from the biggest to the smallest.
Steelers WR Antonio Brown (calf)
Brown had to be helped off the field during the second quarter of the Steelers’ gut-punch loss to the Patriots, as he couldn’t put any weight on his left leg. Brown, who was ruled out of the game, was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported a partially torn calf muscle likely will sideline the receiver next week, but he’s expected to return for the playoffs.
Needless to say, Brown’s injury is a massive blow to the Steelers’ offense, and it will bring significant changes in the team’s lineup and game plan. After all, Brown entered Sunday’s game with an NFL-high 99 catches on 160 targets for a league-most 1,509 yards.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant led the Steelers with six targets apiece Sunday, combining for 10 receptions for 173 yards and one touchdown (by Bryant). They’ll be lined up for a massive spot in Week 16 against the Texans, who own one of the worst defenses against opposing receivers. They’ve allowed 23.9 DKFP and 168 receiving yards per game, along with 15 total touchdowns.
This could be a smash spot for Smith-Schuster and Bryant, since the Steelers must make up for Brown’s 12 targets per game somehow.
Packers WR Davante Adams (concussion)
The Packers just can’t stay healthy this season.
Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis hit Adams in the helmet with an illegal peel-back block after an Aaron Rodgers pass was intercepted, knocking the receiver out of the game. Adams already had a history of concussions, so this undoubtedly is a concerning spot.
Geronimo Allison seemed to benefit from the extra snaps, as he drew eight targets, making five receptions for 33 yards and 7.3 DKFP. His snap count undoubtedly would increase in Adams’ absence, as he came into Sunday averaging just 20 per game. Week 16 brings a matchup against the Vikings, who allow 18.6 DKFP per game.
Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson also could see more action with Adams sidelined. Cobb operated out of the slot Sunday and drew a season-high 14 targets, making seven receptions for 84 yards and one TD for 21.4 DKFP. If Cobb keeps getting these type of looks, he could be a pivotal point of Green Bay’s offense. And there’s no reason to believe that won’t happen: Cobb averages nine targets per game with Rodgers under center, and has scored two TDs.
Nelson continues to baffle the masses, as Rodgers targeted his go-to guy just six times, which turned into three catches for 28 yards and 5.8 DKFP. I’ve given up all hope on Nelson, who has fallen into the fantasy football pit of misery — and that entails never rostering him again. That might be a bit extreme, but Nelson has burned me and many other fantasy football owners too many times this season.
Patriots RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
Burkhead’s injury will be significant if it turns into a long-term issue. He was ruled out in the third quarter against the Steelers, thus opening opportunities for Dion Lewis and James White, who would pick up more snaps if their teammate can’t go.
Lewis took the game-winning goal-line carry in the fourth quarter, but both backs were forced into action with Burkhead out. It’s worth noting, however, for upcoming weeks that Lewis ended the game with 13 carries for 67 yards and one TD, and caught one of his two targets for 13 yards, totaling 15 DKFP. White didn’t register a carry and was targeted three times, catching two for 8 yards for 2.8 DKFP.
The wild card in Burkhead’s injury could be the Patriots’ awkward conversation with Mike Gillislee, who has been a healthy inactive since Week 9 after he operated as the goal-line back earlier in the season. Next week’s opponent is Gillislee’s former team, the Bills, who allow 21.6 DKFP and 107 rushing yards per game and 15 total TDs to running backs. While it’s an appealing matchup for many reasons, I just can’t imagine Gillislee handling more than a handful of carries outside the goal line.
Ravens WR Jeremy Maclin (knee)
Maclin’s list of injuries could stretch a mile long, but to be fair, he hasn’t missed much time. He managed to catch his only Sunday target for 22 yards, which led to a low hit by Browns safety Jabrill Peppers. Maclin returned for one play after the hit, then was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Mike Wallace ate targets in Maclin’s stead, drawing 10 and catching six for 89 yards and 14.9 DKFP. He essentially was the only receiver whom Ravens QB Joe Flacco turned to, as Michael Campanaro, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore combined for six total targets.
Wallace could have a tasty Week 16 matchup against the Colts, whom I’m sure you’ve heard are generous to opposing receivers, allowing 22.6 DKFP and 172 receiving yards per game. While Wallace isn’t looked upon as a pivotal fantasy football play, he does have big-game ability and, at his salary, potentially will be a value. Wallace has exceeded double-digit DKFP six times this season and could do it again as the Ravens’ potential WR1.
Jaguars WR Marqise Lee (ankle)
Lee exited in the first quarter of the Jaguars’ rout of the Texans and, after the game, was diagnosed with a sprained ankle, as X-rays showed no break, although he’s set for an MRI on Monday. His injury certainly helped push his fellow Jags receivers to post some big numbers Sunday.
Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens — household names, right? — were the talk of Jacksonville after the game. Cole posted 34.6 DKFP after drawing nine targets and making seven catches for 186 yards and one TD. Cole accounted for 57 percent of Blake Bortles’ passing yards Sunday, and he quietly has become a go-to receiver, averaging 5.4 targets in five games before this week. You’ll hear his name a lot soon.
Mickens was the big surprise, however. At a salary of just $3K, he scored 22.1 DKFP, catching four of his five targets for 61 yards with two TDs. To be fair, you’d be hard-pressed to find Mickens on many fantasy football rosters, but his emergence should continue if Lee can’t go next week. Before Sunday, Mickens had played 41 total snaps on the season.
49ers WR Aldrick Robinson (concussion)
Robinson isn’t a big playmaker for the 49ers, and he only was able to manage one catch on two targets for 3 yards before his exit from Sunday’s win over the Titans.
Robinson’s absence won’t send shockwaves through the offense, but it could open some opportunities for Kendrick Bourne. Before Sunday, Bourne had been used sparingly, averaging just 2.2 targets in seven games this season. He had a huge play late in Sunday’s game, though, with a 54-yard reception that moved the 49ers down the field late in the fourth quarter, and finished with a career-high 85 yards on four catches off six targets.
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