Every single injury and suspension matters when playing NFL daily fantasy sports (DFS). They cause the DFS landscape to change on a weekly basis. … Staying on top of them all means staying ahead of the game. Injuries and suspensions to lesser teammates or defensive players can cause studs to become a must play in any given week. Furthermore, fitting a lineup under the required salary cap on Fantasy Aces can be difficult, but injuries and suspensions often create opportunities for players with low salaries to outperform their price. DFS websites, Fantasy Aces included, don’t generally adjust a player’s salary until after they have performed on the field. Thus, being proactive about injuries and predicting a breakout player before it happens not only provides legit bragging rights, but also plenty of chances to be successful in DFS.
Whereas you might not’t have been able to before, taking advantage of those cheap players benefiting from the absence of others can allow you the ability to fit multiple studs into your lineups. Every single player that benefits from an injured/suspended teammate or opponent should always be considered. That’s why I’ll be bringing this column to you weekly breaking down the most relevant injuries and suspensions each week in DFS. So let’s get to it:
Suspensions of Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant + Injury to Ladarius Green + Heath Miller’s Retirement
Antonio Brown ($6,450) was the consensus #1 overall draft pick in fantasy all offseason. You don’t need me to tell you he’s a top play in DFS every single week. However, without Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, and Ladarius Green in Week 1, he’s about as close to a must play as you can get. Pittsburgh at Washington is my favorite fantasy game of the week and Brown gets a Washington secondary that gave up the eighth-most passing yards and ninth-most passing TDs last season.
Yes, Josh Norman was brought over to Washington in the offseason, but Brown is completely matchup proof. Back in Week 15 of last season, Brown saw a lot of Chris Harris, who hadn’t allowed a TD in coverage in more than two calendar years. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only did Brown snap Harris’ streak (because of course he did), but he ended the day with 16 catches for 189 yards and two TDs. Lost in the whole Odell Beckham/Josh Norman nonsense last year was the fact Beckham burnt Norman repeatedly. Brown will do the same on Monday night and is a candidate for 15+ targets in a contest sure to have favorable game-flow. Volume = $ in DFS. Fade Brown at your own risk.
Jamaal Charles Torn ACL Recovery + Joey Bosa’s Holdout + Offseason Loss of Eric Weddle
"I think it's a stretch for him to play on Sunday."
~ Andy Reid on RB Jamaal Charles.
— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) September 5, 2016
If Reid’s words end up coming to fruition and Charles is inactive on Sunday, Spencer Ware ($4,000) becomes one of my favorite DFS plays of the week. San Diego’s defense already gave up the sixth-most rushing yards and third-most rushing TDs last season and that was before they lost safety Eric Weddle in free agency. It’s not hard to see why the Chargers selected Joey Bosa with the third overall pick in this past April’s NFL Draft. However, help might have to wait because after a lengthy holdout, Bosa might not even play in this game and even if he does there’s little-to-no chance he makes an impact.
Ware checks all the boxes. He plays for a home favorite, should see plenty of touches, and has a great matchup. Charcandrick West is sure to see some run as well but reading Joe Holka’s phenomenal Rushing Expectation article on Ware and West, it’s not hard to see why Ware seems to have distanced himself from the timeshare the two had last season. Ware outplayed West last season, which is likely a big reason why he has operated as the Chiefs’ clear lead back during the preseason. In fact, Ware stayed in on plenty of passing situations, catching eight balls on only 94 preseason snaps. Monitor reports on Sunday morning and if the news is not favorable for Charles, fire up Ware.
Injury To Tony Romo
Dak Prescott ($4,500) gets the start and his $4,500 salary is very cheap and very enticing. Of course, there is downside in his first regular season NFL start, but there is plenty of upside as well. Prescott ran for 41 TDs in the SEC during his collegiate career and we all know rushing production is fantasy football gold when it comes to the QB position. He also benefits from his first start being at home against a good matchup. The Giants spent all offseason trying to improve their defense and for good reason. They finished dead last in pass yards allowed, gave up the fifth-most passing TDs, the ninth-most rushing yards, and fifth-most rushing TDs last season. Prescott is a dual-threat QB who should be able to take advantage through the air and on the ground.
As for Ezekiel Elliott ($5,500), the loss of Romo shouldn’t change much. Elliott was already going to see a huge workload this season as the Cowboys try their best to hide their below average defense and keep them off the field. Elliott likely loses some efficiency in this game without Romo, but could easily make up for it with a few more carries. Plus, rushing QBs have helped free up running lanes for backs in the past, just ask Alfred Morris what Robert Griffin III did for him at the beginning of his career. More specifically, Elliott ran out of shotgun and zone-read a ton in college and will likely be afforded the same opportunities numerous times on Sunday playing with Prescott. Elliott is one of my favorite RB plays of the week.
Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls Being Brought Back Slowly After 2015 Injuries + C.J. Prosise Training Camp Injury + Marshawn Lynch’s Retirement + Fred Jackson No Longer On The Team
With Marshawn Lynch injured in the second half of last season, we saw a shift in Seattle’s offense where Russell Wilson ($6,750) didn’t necessary throw a lot more passes, but he threw a lot more crucial ones. Wilson threw more in high leverage and Red Zone situations, which he was able to turn into more TD pass production. I expect that trend to continue in Week 1. Marshawn Lynch retired, Fred Jackson is no longer on the team, Thomas Rawls is being brought back slowly from a broken ankle, Christine Michael is still unproven in the regular season, and C.J. Prosise is playing in his first regular-season game after missing much of training camp and preseason due to a hamstring injury. When Wilson does throw it, I expect him to have plenty of success. All of the WRs could go off but I expect Doug Baldwin ($4,900) to be the biggest beneficiary.
It sounds like Jimmy Graham is going to play, but even if he does I expect him to be a non-factor in his first game action since tearing his patellar tendon last November. With the Seahawks lacking a reliable running game, passing down RB, and TE in this one, Baldwin should see an uptick in targets and should have the middle of the field essentially all to himself. I expect him to eat against a Dolphins secondary that gave up the 12th-most passing yards and fifth-most TD passes last season. Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson are two of my favorite DFS plays of the entire week and Jermaine Kearse ($4,150) and Tyler Lockett ($4,350) make for very interesting GPP plays as well.
Injuries and Suspensions To Basically The Entire Indianapolis Colts’ Defense
The Colts’ best cornerback and arguably their best defensive player, Vontae Davis, will miss this game. Cornerback Darius Butler is questionable with an ankle injury. Safety Clayton Geathers also might miss the game as he recovers from injury. Linebacker Sio Moore looks like he’ll play, but he’s been dealing with a hamstring injury. Defensive lineman Arthur Jones is suspended. Defensive end Henry Anderson is doubtful. Defensive end Kendall Langford will likely play but is returning from knee surgery earlier in training camp. Phew. Our main takeaway from those defensive injuries is to fire up the Detroit Lions’ passing game.
I like Matthew Stafford ($6,250), Golden Tate ($4,700), and Marvin Jones ($4,450) a lot this week. The Colts already gave up the ninth-most passing yards and 12th-most TD passes last season, and that was before all of these injuries and suspensions hit. Plus, the Lions attempted the fourth-most pass attempts last season and utilized a lot of no huddle this preseason as well. Stafford is going to have a great day on Sunday throwing a lot of passes and finding success against a poor and banged up secondary.
Injury To Ian Williams + Suspension of Aaron Lynch
If you’re going to pay up at the RB position, might I interest you in Todd Gurley ($6,250)? The 49ers lost arguably their best defensive lineman Ian Williams this offseason when he landed on IR with an ankle injury. Linebacker Aaron Lynch also won’t play because of a suspension. Plus, even though Arik Armstead likely will play, it’s already being reported he may need shoulder surgery in the offseason, which could affect his quality of play. These are terrible developments for a 49ers’ defense that gave up the fourth-most rushing yards and most rushing TDs in the entire NFL last season. Gurley is going to absolutely eat on Monday night.
Cowboys’ Defensive Front-7 Missing A lot Of Key Pieces
Pro Football Focus has ranked Dallas’ secondary third-worst in the NFL heading into 2016. A secondary that bad usually is forced to rely on a strong front-7 in hopes of not getting exposed. Dallas won’t have that luxury in this game. Greg Hardy is no longer on the team and DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and Rolando McClain will all miss this contest because of suspensions. It looks like Sean Lee is going to play, but he’s been dealing with knee soreness as of late. All of those players were important pieces of the Cowboys’ front-7 last season. I expect Eli Manning ($6,350) to thrive in Ben McAdoo’s first game as head coach of the New York Giants. Manning should at least be given the chance to, as he has set a new career high in pass attempts each of the past two seasons under McAdoo. He and Odell Beckham ($6,200) have a chance to go off in a favorable matchup on Sunday.
Injuries to Mike Pouncey and DeVante Parker
If the Seahawks’ defense wasn’t the top option of the week before, they are now. The Dolphins could be without their starting center Mike Pouncey and important receiver in three-wide sets, DeVante Parker. Playing at home in what I expect to be a blowout, the Seahawks defense ($3,500) are absolutely in play despite being priced as the highest D/ST of the week at $3,500.
Suspension of Tom Brady + Injury To Dion Lewis + Injury To Rob Gronkowski
Jimmy Garoppolo faces a tough test in his first regular season NFL start on the road against a Cardinals’ defense that gave up the 25th-fewest passing yards in the league last season. Without first-ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady in the lineup, all Patriots offensive players need to be downgraded. The Patriots you can consider are James White ($4,200) and Martellus Bennett ($4,200). With Dion Lewis out, White looks to benefit from a contest where game-flow should be in his favor. He could rack up 5+ catches.
Patriots have downgraded TE Rob Gronkowski, starting left tackle Nate Solder and right guard Jonathan Cooper to out for Sunday's game.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 10, 2016
With Rob Gronkowski now officially out of this game as well, Bennett becomes an intriguing streaming option in his own right. However, with Garoppolo likely to struggle and the Patriots offense at less than full strength, Arizona defense ($3,250) has quickly become one of the best and most interesting GPP plays of the weekend.
Injury To Tyler Eifert + Offseason Losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu
With Tyler Eifert out of the lineup in this game, A.J. Green ($5,700) is the man in Cincinnati and should be in line for a lot of targets on Sunday. However, he will see plenty of Darrelle Revis in this one. Still, that makes him a very interesting GPP play. On the ground, Jeremy Hill is likely to struggle against a Jets defense that gave up the second-fewest rushing yards last season. If Revis is able to minimize Green, Giovani Bernard ($4,500) could be the Bengals’ best bet of moving the ball. He has a chance to rack up a ton of catches in this one. On the other hand, the Bengals’ lack of weapons could cause them to struggle. Playing at home, the Jets’ defense ($2,900) is one of my favorite D/ST plays of the week.
Chiefs’ Defense Playing At Less Than Full Strength + Injury To Stevie Johnson
I don’t think the Chiefs’ defense is going to be as stout as some think on Sunday. Their best defensive player, defensive end Justin Houston won’t play, cornerback Sean Smith is no longer on the team, linebacker/defensive end Tamba Hali will reportedly only play a limited number of snaps due to injury, and safety Eric Berry just ended his holdout and returned to the team on August 28th. Keenan Allen ($5,200) and Antonio Gates ($4,300) are very intriguing GPP plays this weekend with the majority of the field likely shying away in what they perceive to be a bad matchup. The loss of Stevie Johnson this offseason makes me even more interested in playing Allen and Gates, as both could see an uptick in targets because of it.
Banged Up Bears Secondary
While it looks like all will play, three of the Bears’ cornerbacks have been dealing with injuries lately. Kyle Fuller is returning from a knee injury, Tracy Porter from a concussion, and Bryce Callahan from a groin issue. This is a Bears’ defense that gave up the fifth-most passing TDs last season. Brock Osweiler ($5,850) couldn’t have asked for a better matchup to begin his career with the Houston Texans. Playing at home, Osweiler and Will Fuller ($4,100) both make for very interesting GPP plays this week. Then there’s DeAndre Hopkins ($6,150) who is worth paying up for at WR. He has the potential to post a monster stat line in this game.
Suspension of Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon’s suspension to begin the season opens up playing time and more opportunities for both Terrelle Pryor ($3,950) and Corey Coleman ($4,40). The matchup is there for both to feast, as the Eagles’ defense gave up the fifth-most passing yards and second-most passing TDs last season. Although I’m still not buying a Robert Griffin III resurgence, there’s no denying he can throw a pretty deep ball. Pryor was able to score on a few long bombs in the preseason and he would be my pick to do it again in Week 1 between the two.
Injury To Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater’s injury leaves career journeyman Shaun Hill or “Been in Minnesota for only a week” Sam Bradford in line to start Week 1 for the Vikings. The Titans’ defense was average in terms of rushing yards allowed, giving up the 15th-most in the league last season. They might get off to a slow start in 2016, as Minnesota’s game plan is likely going to be to run Adrian Peterson ($6,250) until he can no longer stand up. Volume is huge in DFS when it comes to RBs, making Peterson a very interesting GPP this weekend, as most DFS players will fade the Vikings’ offense entirely.