1. Big news coming out of Miami this week with word that quarterback Chad Henne will miss the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered during the Dolphins loss to the Chargers. Henne’s injury likely spells doom both for his future as the team’s starting quarterback as well the future of head coach Tony Sparano. The Dolphins needed to contend for a playoff spot this season in order for Sparano to earn a contract extension but the chances of that happening with Miami sitting at 0-4 and Henne out for the season are remote at best. Sparano got the kiss of death this week when the team’s majority owner Steven Ross gave him a vote of confidence. As for Henne, he is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and has done little to suggest that the Dolphins will re-sign him, having compiled a 13-18 record as the team’s starting quarterback.
2. With Henne out of the picture, the Dolphins will turn to veteran journeyman Matt Moore to take his spot in the starting line up. The team also signed Sage Rosenfels this week to bolster the depth chart and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he takes over at some point. Moore started for the Panthers at the end of the 2009 season, compiling a 4-1 record with eight touchdowns and just a pair of interceptions. However, he bombed in the starting role in 2010, winning just one of six starts before suffering a season-ending injury.
3. Dolphin central this week. If you’re wondering what the impact of Miami replacing Henne with Moore for the team’s wide receivers, more specifically Brandon Marshall, here is what you need to know. Despite having Steve Smith at his disposal in Carolina, Moore has averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt, making him more of a checkdown artist than Henne. Moore clearly does not possess Henne’s arm strength so there is little reason to suggest that Marshall will be able to deliver the big plays that were missing from the Dolphins offense for most of the 2010 season. From a fantasy perspective, that makes running back Reggie Bush the player most likely to benefit with Moore in the starting line up.
4. The Rams placed wide receiver Danny Amendola on injured reserve this week. Amendola was the team’s top receiver in 2010, catching 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams attempted to upgrade their receivers this year, signing former Jaguar Mike Sims-Walker and using three draft picks on tight end Lance Kendricks (2nd round), Austin Pettis (3rd) and Greg Salas (4th). Unfortunately for the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford, that hasn’t worked out as planned. That quartet has combined to catch just 30 of 68 targets for 329 yards and no touchdowns while dropping a several passes, including some in key situations. St. Louis has turned to Danario Alexander over the last three weeks (23 targets) while reducing the role of Brandon Gibson this past week (one target). However, the receiver who may ultimately provide a boost to the Rams passing attack is Mark Clayton. Clayton is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list after Week 6 and was Bradford’s main target during the early part of the 2010 season. Despite being acquired from the Ravens at the end of the preseason, Clayton caught 22 passes for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his first four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.
5. Thus far in 2011, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has not been able to replicate his 2010 production but he has a chance to reach a league milestone during this week’s road game against Buffalo. Vick needs just 71 yards to surpass Randall Cunningham to become the league’s all-time leading rusher amongst quarterbacks. Considering Vick is just 31 years old and does not appear to have lost any of the speed he entered the league with, the only obstacle to him making this record virtually untouchable is remaining injury free. If only he could start scoring some touchdowns for his fantasy owners (none so far in 2011 after scoring nine in just 12 games last season).
6. Last week, I told you that there was little chance of the Broncos handing over the leading running back role to Willis McGahee, mainly due to his age, lack of explosiveness and because it made sense for them to figure out what they had in former 1st round pick Knowshon Moreno. Denver head coach John Fox thought otherwise, stating this week that McGahee had earned the right to be the team’s starter after a pair of 100-yard rushing efforts over the last three weeks. I guess what I was missing was that McGahee was brought in by Fox and Moreno was acquired by the previous regime. That means I forgot the golden rule that all NFL head coaches prefer to provide the solution rather than have the solution be on the roster when they arrive. Nonetheless, McGahee is averaging a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry and just 4.5 yards per reception so there is a decent chance Moreno ends up in the lead role soon enough.
7. The scuttlebutt surrounding the Redskins running back situation is that it’s best to avoid the teams’ three running backs altogether for fantasy purposes. Tim Hightower looked solid in the preseason, claiming the starting role on opening day from an injured Ryan Torain with rookie 4th round pick Roy Helu set as the team’s main backup. Sure enough, head coach Mike Shanahan seems to have changed that rotation with the emergence of Torain this week against the Rams (19 carries, 135 yards and a touchdown). All you had to do was watch that game to realize the talent differential between Torain and Hightower. The competition for the lead back role isn’t between Torain and Hightower (as most pundits have it), it’s between Torain and Helu. While Torain clearly is the more powerful of the two runners, Helu has the breakaway speed and upside that Shanahan craves in his running backs. Look for Torain to be given every chance to keep the job but history says that either injury or performance will provide Helu with an opportunity to start, probably sooner rather than later.
8. On initial glance, the news that Bengals running back Cedric Benson was facing a three game suspension for his off the field indiscretions couldn’t have come at a worse time for his fantasy owners with the bye weeks beginning this week. However, it appears that Benson’s appeal of his suspension could take a few, if not several, weeks to be resolved as his legal team is challenging the league’s right to suspend players for their off the field actions when they were locked out. Benson owners should hold off on hitting the panic button until this situation is resolved.
9. And on a somewhat football related note, I’m going to miss Hank Williams Jr. doing the introduction to Monday Night Football. It used to send shivers up my spine when I was younger, as it heightened the anticipation of what was generally a key game, often between division rivals. Not that I’m condoning his actions.