As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into a starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
The Bengals, who are struggling to even have a crack at a Wild Card playoff seed, arguably suffered the worst single week of injuries we’ve seen so far this season.
Things didn’t take long to go down hill, as A.J. Green got injured on the second play of the game and didn’t return with what was feared to be a torn hamstring. As Cincy was already having difficulties moving the ball without its stud, the day got even worse when Giovani Bernard went down with what has been confirmed as a torn ACL.
Bernard’s season is obviously over, but the news on Green is somewhat encouraging. Although he’s confirmed to miss Week 12, it sounds like he has the potential to return late this season, but by that point it might not make sense for the Bengals to put him on the field.
The fallout from these two major injuries is gigantic when it comes to opportunities opening up within Cincinnati’s offense. Keep in mind what needs to be replaced here — Andy Dalton has attempted 360 passes this season … 151 of them have been in the direction of Green or Bernard. That’s 42 percent of Dalton’s targets now up for grabs!
On top of that, Gio was averaging just over nine carries per game for the Bengals. Add those on top of the catches that he and A.J. had been producing and we’re talking about nearly 20 touches per game (19.6) that just opened up for Cincy receivers and backs.
There are five names that should combine to pick up the slack.
Tyler Eifert — TE
I don’t want to waste any time on Eifert because you already know he’s a beast. For as long as Green is out, he’s pretty much elevated to Dalton’s top target ahead of any WR on the roster.
Brandon LaFell — WR
LaFell has actually already played more snaps than Green this season, but saw just about half the workload — 33 receptions on 55 targets. LaFell has produced 419 yards and four TDs so far this year, so he’s been a part of the offense. Although his playing time doesn’t really leave any room for a bump, his opportunities should certainly go up in terms of targets. He’s shown some potential this season with two games of 80+ yards and a two touchdown performance against the Cowboys.
Tyler Boyd — WR
The rookie had seen his playing time increase lately, but not necessarily his targets. We saw first hand after Green was injured that both of those things should improve with Green off the field. Boyd played 22 more snaps in Week 11 than he did in Week 10, and matched season-highs with six catches and eight targets. He also caught his first TD of the season on Sunday. Boyd will be a starting WR alongside LaFell until we see Green again, and it looks like he could even be Dalton’s favorite WR.
Jeremy Hill — RB
Hill already had a clear role in the offense as the primary early-down ball carrier, and had out-snapped Bernard this season 394-278. He averages 13.5 carries per game for 62.3 yards and has found the end zone six times this season. However, Hill should assume a large portion of Bernard’s rushing attempts, meaning those numbers could go up.
Rex Burkhead — RB
Burkhead has essentially been a non-factor with just eight touches so far this season. Although Hill is expected to inherit some of Bernard’s workload on the ground, the Bengals can’t just operate with a single RB. Burkhead will see some carries, but his main production will come as the receiving back. He’s expected to be on the field on passing downs as Bernard was, which is no small role.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.