Hernandez loss bodes well for Welker's return to prominence
Aaron Hernandez had taken much of Wes Welker's work in Patriots' offense
Matt Forte is jogging after spraining ankle but will not return for Week 3
Shonn Greene treatment an example of how head hits should be handled
I had one of those weeks. Worse, one of my fantasy teams had one of those worst-case days -- you know the type -- when Larry Fitzgerald gets shut down, your running backs together score in the single digits, and your defense puts up a negative number? Yeah, heading into the Monday game, that team had scored 15 points. Fifteen. There's nothing you can do about those days. Good teams get beat sometimes, as the Pats showed last week against the Cardinals. What good teams don't do is panic. It's a perfect time to step back, assess whether or not this was a one time thing or whether it's time to fix big issues. For me, it could have been worse -- at least I didn't start Jay Cutler. Of course, injuries can make any week bad, so let's take a look around the league:
UPGRADE: Steve Smith
DOWNGRADE: Ahmad Bradshaw, Jonathan Stewart
Bradshaw doesn't have enough time to heal up his neck sprain (really, a stinger) on a short week, meaning Andre Brown and (maybe) David Wilson will get the touches. Hakeem Nicks did not practice Wednesday and while thought to be a GTD, he didn't even travel with the team and is out. Domenik Hixon is out with a concussion, which should provide more targets to Martellus Bennett, who's become the third look for Eli Manning. David Diehl is also out with his knee sprain. The Panthers have Steve Smith ready to go. His probable designation is formality. Jonathan Stewart is also expected to play, but a new injury -- a sore toe -- makes him a GTD+. The workload split could tip back to DeAngelo Williams, though Cam Newton's running was key to last week's game.
Hernandez is a listed tight end, but he had, in fact, been playing the slot more during the first two weeks. He essentially had replaced Wes Welker. But in being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Hernandez got rolled from the outside and suffered a significant high ankle sprain. For a player who needs to cut and to push in blocking schemes, this is a bad injury. Until he gets near-full function back, Hernandez will be nothing more than a decoy. He's likely out a month, which should put Wes Welker back on the field for more plays. Then again, the Pats brought Deion Branch back this week.
Forte isn't back at practice, but reports out of Chicago are that Forte isn't wearing any sort of protection on his injured ankle either. He's jogging, not running, but there are some positive signs. It's unlikely that he'll be able to get back enough function to start in Week 3, but it has not been completely ruled out yet. The low ankle sprain is not better than having a high ankle sprain; in this case, it's merely that Forte's sprain is a relative low Grade II. This changes the timeline, down significantly from the four-to-six weeks initially speculated. Information now signals that even the extra time off won't be enough to get him back until Week 4, and even that depends on the rehab and healing continuing at the current pace.
The Rams continue to insist that Jackson came out of last week's game due to a strained groin and not disciplinary reasons. That said, the Rams haven't exactly gone out of their way to talk up the severity of the injury. "Tight" is how they continue to describe it, but seldom following up with any sort of precautionary talk. The solid play of Daryl Richardson in Jackson's place raises additional questions. Until Jackson is back in practice fully and the clear RB1, be careful putting him in the lineup.
Greene took a huge hit to the head, triggering the proper response from both the "eye in the sky" and the Jets medical staff. Greene was taken off the field, evaluated by a member of the medical staff while several others observed, and then he was returned to the field. I'm told that one of the medical staff was assigned to watch Greene once he did return, in order to monitor if he took another hit to the head. Greene had no noticeable deficits, making this an example of exactly how the system is supposed to work -- reactive, noticeable and quick. If we're going to knock teams when they get it wrong, teams that get it right deserve some credit as well. Greene will play normally this week.