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Fantasy Football Today

Bills need more than Sammy Watkins

By Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

Have we seen the last of Sammy Watkins for a little while? (USATSI)
Have we seen the last of Sammy Watkins for a little while? (USATSI)


If you've targeted Sammy Watkins on Draft Day (or if you've already drafted him), hold your breath and cross your fingers.

Watkins, the rookie receiver the Bills traded a 2015 first-round pick to move up in the draft for, took a shot to the ribs from Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (photographic evidence here) on the opening drive of the game and walked off the field. After getting checked on the sideline, Watkins walked to the locker room flanked by trainers and was done for the night.

Head coach Doug Marrone said after the game that Watkins had a rib contusion and didn't know if he had X-rays taken or not. More tests are in the rookie's future. NFL Network reported that Watkins will be "fine."

If so, the Bills dodged a real bullet because without him the offense is in trouble. To put it nicely, Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel was spotty against the Steelers as he completed 17 of 27 passes but averaged a meek 5.48 yards per pass attempt. Surely a player like Watkins would have pushed those numbers higher. Robert Woods replaced Watkins and led the team in receiving in the first half thanks to a nifty 30-yard catch-and-run.

Buffalo's run game wasn't much better. C.J. Spiller actually opened the game with a kick return and didn't get the first handful of snaps. Those went to Fred Jackson, who had 27 yards on six first-half carries. Spiller also had six carries but managed just 16 yards. Spiller didn't have any catches while Jackson had seven receptions for 28 yards. And for whatever it's worth, Spiller didn't play any more than three plays consecutively while Jackson had a few more snaps including those in the two-minute drill and inside the Steelers 10-yard line. One could assume their roles haven't changed from last season.

No one, in good conscience, can call Spiller a reliable pick in the third round of a Fantasy draft. There's just too much Jackson in the Bills game plan -- and justifiably so.

The story's way different on the other sideline as Ben Roethlisberger guided the Steelers on two straight scoring drives before stalling on a third. Roethlisberger and the team's no-huddle approach stole the show.

"I thought it was good," Roethlisberger said of the no-huddle offense. " ... It's about communicating with [offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley]. He's in my ear telling me different thoughts. That's how this thing should work. I thought we did a good job."

Roethlisberger checked out of a play on his second pass attempt, hitting Antonio Brown on a slant across the field. No Bills defender could wrap Brown up and he sped off 76 yards for a touchdown. The second drive lasted longer and ended with a 16-yard pass to Markus Wheaton in tight coverage in the back left corner of the end zone. Wheaton made a nice catch and kept his feet in bounds before falling to ensure the score. On the night Roethlisberger completed 8 of 11 passes for 128 yards (76 on the Brown play) for two scores. He wasn't sacked once.

Recognizing that Roethlisberger not only ran the no-huddle offense well last season but is also on top of it this season, it's probably not a mistake to call Big Ben a capable Fantasy starter who can be had with a late pick. If you draft any quarterback you have some concern over (Colin Kaepernick? Nick Foles? Tony Romo? Robert Griffin III? Jay Cutler?), Roethlisberger is a phenomenal choice as a backup. You could even get gutsy and take him as your starter with someone like Carson Palmer or Russell Wilson as a backup.

Antonio Brown remains a Top 10 Fantasy receiver. Markus Wheaton solidified his status as a late-round sleeper.

As for the Steelers run game, Le'Veon Bell said that the coaches "probably will" take goal-line work away from him and give it to LeGarrette Blount. Mike Tomlin said no decision has been made regarding how the Steelers' backs will split reps.

Additional note: Ryan Shazier is the real deal Holyfield. He had 11 total tackles and an interception for the Steelers, starting in the middle of their defense. He's the reason why the Steelers DST has a real shot to be very good this season (their early-season schedule is another reason).

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