There are few things that can take the air out of a stadium like a quarterback being taken off the field with an injury. It can even take the air out of the remainder of the season. Jets fans know that. The Vikings’ faithful may be finding it out.
No way to mince words. Week 8 was a brutal one for quarterbacks. On a day when a quartet of quarterbacks passed for four touchdowns each, a quintet of passers — Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett and Tyrod Taylor — suffered varying degrees of injuries. The injury for Cousins is the most serious, as an Achilles tear will end his season.
With the quarterback position being the most important in all of sports, this is going to have a great impact on the offenses of the four teams if their respective signal-callers are forced to miss time. From a fantasy standpoint, only Cousins at QB6 was a regular in starting lineups. Stafford at QB16 was likely a fill-in starter in single-QB leagues. But each team has significant skill players who are going to be impacted by these injuries. And we’re not just talking about the pass catchers.
Here’s a quick team-by-team rundown of how these offenses may be affected by the loss of their signal-callers for any period of time.
Just when it looked like Jordan Addison was breaking out, Cousins’ injury throws a major wrench into that plan. Add to it: if the Vikings feel like their season is circling the drain, they might slow play the return of Justin Jefferson. Fantasy managers who took the All-Pro wide receiver first overall in drafts are at least thinking of this as a possibility.
Before Tuesday, it looked like the Vikings' backup QB — rookie Jaren Hall, the 6-foot, 207-pounder out of BYU — would be the next man up for the Vikings. The four pass attempts Hall made in the 24-10 Minnesota victory over the Packers were the first regular-season passes of his NFL career. But the Vikings have since traded for Joshua Dobbs — the same Joshua Dobbs who has kept the Cardinals offense afloat in Kyler Murray's absence. Will he do the same for the Vikings?
Jefferson, whenever he returns, will come back to the alpha role he had when he went on IR after Week 5 with a hamstring injury. Look at how players like Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins have been targeted heavily by backup quarterbacks. Jefferson is such a good route runner with great separation ability that he’ll get open, so Dobbs should feed him.
Hockenson is the large target at tight end, and Dobbs has enjoyed throwing to tight ends in Arizona. Hockenson will likely see a fair amount of short-to-intermediate looks from Minnesota's new expected QB1.
The rushing attack for the Vikings was already problematic, as Alexander Mattison and Cam Akers were sharing touches. On Sunday, against the Packers’ defense that was 27th in the league with 132 yards rushing allowed per game, the Vikings’ running backs combined for 50 yards on the ground. Mattison and Akers will face a lot of stacked boxes even with Dobbs in tow.
At least the schedule helps the Vikings, as a pair of road games at Denver and Cincinnati are the only matchups being played outdoors through Week 17. So at least Dobbs won't have to battle the elements in the cold-weather months as he tries to involve Addison, Hockenson and eventually (potentially?) Jefferson.
Los Angeles Rams
Stafford’s thumb injury may or may not have resulted from his scoring on a Philly Special redux two-point conversion reception. Stafford's injury is of utmost importance to Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua, in particular. The length of time he’ll miss, if any, is up in the air until we know more about whether he needs surgery or not on his injured thumb.
As an example, Justin Fields has already missed two games with a broken thumb.
Rams' backup Brett Rypien has played in just eight games and started three in his first three years with Denver, with two of those starts being last year. He has yet to pass for more than 242 yards in a game in his career.
If Stafford is forced to miss time, Rypien is set to take over an offense that has Kupp healthy after coming back from a preseason hamstring injury and the phenom Nacua, third in the NFL with 752 receiving yards coming into Week 8. If either is going to get fed more, it’s going to be Kupp, the slot receiver who should get plenty of short looks from Rypien. That could hurt Nacua early on, depending on how long Stafford is out.
A trip to Green Bay is coming up next week before the Rams’ bye in Week 10, and the Packers have a banged-up secondary. As mentioned above, the Packers are susceptible to the run. With Darrell Henderson Jr. (12-31-0) and Royce Freeman (9-44-1) still splitting carries against Dallas, it’s going to be hard to pick which running back to start, if any. Anyone rostering Kupp or Nacua is starting them, but expectations are to be tempered for each of these star pass catchers with the potential downgrade at QB if Stafford is sidelined.
When Pickett went out with a ribs injury, fantasy managers didn’t have far to look at what could be expected of Mitch Trubisky coming into the game. Trubisky started the first four games of last season before relinquishing the QB job to Pickett. Trubisky also made two late-season appearances in 2022 for Pickett, who went out with a concussion.
The performance was uneven, with 276 passing yards being Trubisky’s 2022 high. Diontae Johnson is likely going to get the most targets. In the last two games when Trubisky played, Johnson was targeted 18 times, catching 16 for 180 yards. George Pickens caught five balls for 131 total yards in those games. Pickens had just one catch on five targets Sunday, though it went for a 22-yard touchdown.
A road game against the Titans, who came into Week 8 20th in the NFL allowing 255.1 passing yards per game, is up next for the Steelers. Pickett reportedly has chance to play, but if it's Trubisky getting the nod, Johnson is the receiver to trust. Pickens is only an emergency play in case of injury or as a bye-week replacement (four teams will be out next week).
The fantasy community has collectively been clamoring for Taylor Heinicke to start for the Falcons, as Ridder has six touchdown passes but 11 turnovers (six interceptions included in there). After Ridder was kept out of the back half of the game while being evaluated for a concussion, Heinicke led four scoring drives totaling 20 points for the Falcons in a 28-23 loss.
With Drake London picking up a groin injury, this passing tree could be narrowed to focus on Kyle Pitts, who saw five targets, catching three for 35 yards. It should be noted that Scott Miller caught an eight-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter from Heinicke.
The player who may need to become a bigger part of the passing game is Bijan Robinson, who scored a rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter to the roaring approval of fantasy managers. He also drew five targets, but zero receptions. The Falcons’ next opponent is Minnesota, which came into the game 13th in the NFL allowing 101.6 rushing yards per game. Robinson could see more targets if Heinicke were to start and London is limited or misses time.
New York Giants
After Tommy DeVito took over for Tyrod Taylor, who was hospitalized after a rib injury in the second quarter, the Illinois product led nine drives. Seven ended in punts, with one resulting in a six-yard rushing touchdown. He attempted seven passes for -1 yards.
Daniel Jones seems to be trending toward a return in Week 9, which would give this offense hope, even as bad as the offense has been with him at the helm this season. If DeVito had to start, the only player you could rely on in fantasy for the Giants would have been Saquon Barkley, who saw 36 carries for 128 yards. Hopefully, Barkley gets plenty of opportunity to rest and recuperate before taking on a Raiders defense that allowed 120 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns to D’Onta Foreman last week. We're sending Taylor a speedy recovery after a scary injury.
Get well soon, Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes had his worst fantasy performance in a game he finished in his career with just 7.64 points on Sunday. But the guy has more than earned a mulligan, plus he was sick. Here's hoping Mahomes gets plenty of chicken soup and whatever cold-and-flu remedies he needs to get fit and ready for the Chiefs’ early-morning slugfest with the Dolphins in Germany. Hope you kick that bug soon, Patrick, we want to see fireworks overseas.