The Bengals offense had been weirdly disjointed for the first month of the season, but they'd started to figure things out over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, they'll have to figure out how to thrive without superstar wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for at least a little while, as he has a hip injury that could land him on injured reserve.
The injury is not believed to be a season-ender, nor is it expected to require surgery, but Chase could be out until close to the start of Fantasy playoffs as a result of it. And it comes at an especially bad time for him, as Chase had 15 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns over the past two games; he had just one 100-yard game in his first four, with 25 catches for 293 yards and two scores in the first four games as the Bengals struggled to get the ball down the field.
That wasn't an issue for Chase over the past two weeks, and what makes that especially impressive is that he initially suffered a hip flexor strain in Week 6, suffered an aggravation of the injury just before halftime in Week 7, but returned for the second half. According to The Athletic, Chase has a fracture in his hip, and will need to rest and rehab, rather than undergo surgery. The good news is, that won't end his season, but there is some uncertainty around the recovery timetable as a result -- he'll likely miss matchups against the Browns, Panthers, Steelers, and Titans if placed on IR, but could be out until Week 14 if he hits the longer end of the timetable.
And, of course, there's a risk of a setback that could limit him longer, though there's nothing we can really do about that right now. All we know is, Chase is probably out until late November, at least. His season isn't over, but this might be a case where you have to move forward as if anything you get from him between now and the end of the season is a bonus.
That's unfortunate, and it'll obviously have ripple effects for the entire Bengals offense. Since the start of 2021, 39% of Joe Burrow's touchdowns have gone to Chase -- his 19 are more than double the combined total for Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Higgins is, of course, a pretty tremendous player in his own right -- when he isn't dealing with injury concerns of his own -- while Boyd has been one of the more overqualified No. 3 WRs in the league the past couple of seasons.
The Bengals will need Higgins and Boyd to step up in Chase's absence, and Fantasy players should expect them to produce pretty good numbers moving forward. Higgins was already a borderline WR1 when healthy, and he should remain so; he probably sees a slight uptick in targets, especially near the end zone, but he was already so good that there isn't much room for him to grow.
Boyd, on the other hand, could be much, much better for Fantasy moving forward. He won't be a one-for-one replacement for Chase, because he doesn't have nearly the same big-play ability, but he should step into a large role after having less than 850 yards in the last two seasons. Before that, he put up consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns and should be in line for similar production moving forward. He won't be a WR1, or anything, but a high-end WR3? That's well within the realm of possibility.
Burrow's Fantasy appeal does take an obvious hit, however. While he still has pretty good weapons -- Joe Mixon has been more involved as a pass-catcher, and they like what they've gotten from new tight end Hayden Hurst -- Burrow has leaned heavily on Chase for chunk plays the past two seasons. This Bengals offensive line isn't a great one, and Burrow has a tendency to compound that by holding on to the ball to try to let plays develop down the field. Chase's brilliance helped maximize that, but we saw earlier in the season that this offense can get out of whack when teams were taking Chase away.
The Bengals seem like a candidate to try to trade for another wide receiver, and with the likes of Brandin Cooks and Jerry Jeudy on the market, Burrow could have more help coming. But none of those players, for all their gifts, are as good as Chase. Burrow won't have the luxury of one of the game's best downfield playmakers to lean on, and we should see that in Burrow's production taking a hit. He should still be a top-12 QB, but maybe not a top-six one.
The Bengals have the talent to keep their offense afloat without Chase, but there's no question they're going to miss him. And your Fantasy team is, too. As far as short-term replacement options, you could look into buying low on someone like Amon-Ra St. Brown or Chris Godwin, who could be close to a one-for-one replacement for Chase in your lineup. Or you could aim for upside in the free agent pool with Romeo Doubs or Wan'Dale Robinson -- neither has much chance to be even 70% as good as Chase, but they could be worth starting.
If you aren't in desperate need of Week 8 help, look and see if Elijah Moore or Christian Watson are available on the wire. I'm not sure either is even going to play in Week 8, but they both have significant upside as the potential No. 1 options on their respective teams and could emerge as must-start guys down the road. Kadarius Toney is even more of a long shot, but the trade to the Chiefs could help him unlock his potential if he can ever get healthy.
There's no replacing someone like Chase, though, and the hope here for both the Bengals offense and your Fantasy team is we get lucky, he hits the shorter end of the timetable and is back by Week 12 or so. If you can keep your team in a decent position for the playoffs, Chase can still help you win a championship. However, like with the Bengals, your margin for error just got a lot narrower.