1. The Buccaneers placed starting left guard Carl Nicks on injured reserve this week, ending his season and robbing the team of their best offensive lineman. Signed during the offseason to shore up Tampa Bay’s offensive line, Nicks was once again playing at a Pro Bowl level before suffering a torn plantar plate in his left toe. With Nicks out, the team has now lost both of their starting guards with Davin Joseph also out for the season. Tampa Bay will turn to either converted right tackle Jeremy Trueblood or undersized interior lineman Ted Larsen to take Nicks’ place and both players represent a huge downgrade at the position. That doesn’t bode well for the fantasy prospects of rookie running back Doug Martin, who is coming off the best game of his young career, a 214 total yard, two-touchdown performance against the Vikings.
2. Despite playing well early in the season, Dolphins running back Lamar Miller has fallen out of favor with the team’s coaching staff. Miller hasn’t touched the ball since Week 4 and there are no indications that the team is ready to demote second-year player Daniel Thomas behind Miller. Taken in the 4th round of this year’s draft, Miller played well in a Week 2 win over the Raiders, gaining 65 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. While the Dolphins remain high on Miller, Thomas has taken hold of the backup job to Reggie Bush and it appears that he will hold onto it for the balance of the season barring injury.
3. After getting blown out by the Chargers 31-13 on Thursday night, the Chiefs have now gone eight straight games without holding a lead. Their lone win of the season came during an overtime game against the Saints in Week 3 when they managed to tie the game late in the 4th quarter before kicking a game winning field goal in overtime.
4. In Atlanta, tight end Tony Gonzalez has slowed down over the team’s last two games (71 receiving yards) after a solid start to the season (39 receptions for 388 yards and four touchdown over his first five games). The Falcons plays the Cowboys this week and with 46 receptions, Gonzalez needs to notch just four receptions to reach the 50-reception mark for the 15th consecutive season. That is a remarkable feat particularly considering the atrocious play at the quarterback position during much of his time in Kansas City.
5. For the truly desperate, you could do worse than take a flyer on Packers running back James Starks this week. With the Arizona Cardinals fading and Alex Green struggling as Green Bay’s starting running back, Starks is in line for an increased workload. The word out of Green Bay is that Starks was in the game plan last week but taken out due to a stomach virus that kept him off the practice field. One thing is for certain, with playoff and Super Bowl aspirations, Green Bay’s coaching staff isn’t going to keep trotting Green out there if he fails to produce for the fourth consecutive game.
6. Sticking with the desperation theme, Justin Forsett could get some carries this week as the Texans figure to have their way with Buffalo’s 31st ranked run defense and Ben Tate out again with a hamstring injury. In Detroit, the immortal Joique Bell could split time with Mikel Leshoure due to Leshoure’s leg injury which landed him on the injury report. The Jaguars 25th ranked run defense is on tap for the Detroit backs, a situation that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan may take advantage of due to injury concerns with standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
7. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. With that, I once again present wide receiver Danario Alexander. Released by the Rams after being unable to perform in the preseason due to injuries, Alexander resurfaced with the Chargers a week ago and promptly made his presence felt during the Chargers win over Kansas City. Alexander looked explosive, catching all three of his targets for 61 yards. At 6’5 and 217 pounds and with solid deep speed, Alexander fits the mold of the wide receivers that general manager A.J. Smith typically acquires and with free agent acquisition Robert Meachem struggling during his first year in San Diego, Alexandeer could carve out a solid role over the last half of the season. That makes him worthy of a flyer in deep (maybe extremely deep?) leagues. The kid is talented but injury prone and with a degenerative knee condition.
8. In Oakland, quarterback Carson Palmer is quietly on pace to finish the season with the 6th most passing attempts in the league, a surprising number of attempts given the presence of running back Darren McFadden and the team’s injury issues at the wide receiver position. Unfortunately, although he is on pace to finish the season with just over 4,400 passing yards, Palmer has thrown for just nine touchdown in seven games. With Denarius Moore emerging as a solid leading wide receiver and Darrius Heyward-Bey back from a concussion, Palmer should improve on his current standing as the 16th rated fantasy quarterback on a FPts/G basis by season’s end.
9. Although general manager Marty Hurney was given his walking papers due to his numerous personnel blunders and with a number of teams in need of help at the running back position, the Panthers failed to unload one of their high-priced players at that position prior to the trade deadline. That seemed like an odd decision, particularly considering DeAngelo Williams’ recent lack of use (just 19 carries and no receptions over the last three games) and the likelihood the team will release him due to his high salary prior to the 2013 season.