Week 9 promises to be a big news week around the NFL, and Wednesday has been one of the busiest news days of the year so far. We learned Aaron Rodgers won't play in Sunday's game against the Chiefs after a COVID-19 positive test, Odell Beckham has been excused from Browns practice, and Michael Thomas' season is over. That comes on the heels of Derrick Henry's potentially regular season-ending foot surgery and Jameis Wionston's torn ACL. It's been a busy week, and it's only Wednesday, Lemon.
Let's sort through those three big news items and try to figure out what it means for Week 9 and beyond in Fantasy Football:
So, apparently, Rodgers has been unvaccinated the whole season, which means his positive test will require him to miss Week 9 -- and Week 10 may be in doubt as well. The NFL's protocol regarding positive COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated personnel requires a minimum 10-day absence from the team, plus two negative tests at least 24 hours apart after the 10-day period. Vaccinated players also have to return two negative tests at least 24 hours apart before being allowed to return, but they don't have the 10-day waiting period to deal with.
This means we're going to see Jordan Love make his first NFL start this week, and it's a relatively soft landing spot against a very vulnerable Chiefs defense. Of course, expectations still need to be muted for the Packers offense -- their implied total at Caesars Sportsbook dropped from 27.5 points with Rodgers to 20 now. Whether Davante Adams will be cleared from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for the game will obviously play a big part in how we view Love as well, though the good news is that both Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are expected to practice this week, so Love could have a full complement of weapons available.
Still, expectations would have to be pretty low for Love and the Packers offense in his first-ever start. Love was viewed as a project when the Packers selected him in the first round of the 2020 draft, he has just seven pass attempts in regular NFL action, and has thrown just 42 passes when you include the preseason. That doesn't mean he can't be good, of course, and the Chiefs defense has done their part to make quarterbacks look pretty good this season, but it's asking a lot in a player's first real NFL action.
Love has some relevance in 2QB and SuperFlex leagues, of course, and he has enough athleticism that he could be a factor in the running game. If Adams is healthy, I could see Love being a low-end QB2 if you're looking for upside, though he obviously isn't a safe play.
I would still use Aaron Jones and Adams as top-12 options at their respective positions no matter who the quarterback is, but I probably wouldn't want to use anyone else in this offense -- maybe A.J. Dillon as an RB3 or Flex, but that's it.
As for Week 10, Rodgers can't be cleared until the Saturday before that week's game, which means he really doesn't have much margin for error here. If he doesn't get a negative test returned on the first day eligible, he probably won't be playing. That'll be something to keep an eye on.
We're not entirely sure what happened, but Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters Beckham was excused from practice Wednesday and a report from CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora indicates the team may tell Beckham to stay away for the remainder of the 2021 season. That comes on the heels of reports the Browns tried to move Beckham before Tuesday's trade deadline.
It's not clear whether a specific incident precipitated the breakdown, but it sure sounds like Beckham's disappointing time in Cleveland may be at an end -- something Stefanski apparently told the team Wednesday morning. So, should you drop him from your Fantasy rosters?
I think it's probably time if you haven't already. It's possible the Browns will buy out or release Beckham and he'll latch on somewhere else, but he's also dealing with injuries in both of his shoulders that have obviously limited his effectiveness. He is playing through those injuries and is reportedly not considering surgery to repair them during the season, but it's just an additional hurdle he would have to overcome to have Fantasy value even if the Browns do release him. Between that and how difficult it often is for wide receivers to make an impact when switching teams mid-season, there probably isn't much reason to stash Beckham at this point, barring a quick and unexpected turnaround in his relationship with the Browns.
Thomas has suffered a setback with his surgically repaired ankle and won't be able to return this season. The Saints reached out to numerous teams before Tuesday's trade deadline to try to acquire another receiver, a sign that this was coming. Thomas hasn't played this season after undergoing the surgery in June, a move that drew some criticism from head coach Sean Payton that Thomas could have had the surgery earlier.
I've grown concerned about Thomas' status over the last few weeks after he never made his return to practice despite the initial timetable for his returning passing. For those of you who have been stashing Thomas, you can go ahead and drop him in redraft leagues, and now he's going to be 29 heading into next offseason with just 40 catches for 438 yards in seven games over his previous two seasons. Thomas has a $24.7 million cap hit for next season and the Saints would be on the hook for $22.7 million in dead cap if they let him go, so they'll have some tough decisions to make this offseason.
As for what it means for the Saints this season, well, this isn't even their biggest question right now. With Winston out for the season, they're hoping Taysom Hill can return from his concussion in Week 9 and step in as the team's starting quarterback, which means we're probably going to continue to see them lean heavily on the run. Alvin Kamara is a must-start Fantasy option, and Hill could also be one thanks to his rushing abilities, but I don't think anyone else on the roster needs to be on your Fantasy roster at this point.
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