No one knows how to play the injury report game like Bill Belichick. Throughout his coaching career, players that are perfectly healthy pop up on the league-mandated injury report, and fantasy owners have learned to take his designations with a grain of salt. Why is that important to point out this week? Because two key pieces of the Patriots offense — and two high fantasy draft picks or auction buys — are getting close to returning to the field in Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski.
Amendola practiced Wednesday and, although we’re not going to any hint from Belichick, it appears the PPR beast is likely to return to the field in Week 5 against the Bengals. As we discussed on the Cafe Pod, Amendola’s return could mean a fantasy drop-off for Julian Edelman, as they fill a similar role for Tom Brady. For this reason, it would make sense for the Patriots to be a little less clandestine about Amendola’s status, as opposing defenses (in this case, the Bengals) would have to do the same type of preparation regardless of which reliable receiver is starting.
However, one massively important chess piece that the Patriots will refuse to tip their hand about is Gronkowski. No one has stepped up to fill Gronkowski’s void in the offense, and when he does return, defenses are going to have to gameplan around stopping the unique weapon. This week, it’s been reported that Gronkowski is targeting Week 6 for his return. Considering he’s been able to practice for the past few weeks and the team’s history with injury-report gamesmanship, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Gronkowski back on the field in Week 5 and playing his regular complement of snaps.
Luckily, Gronkowski owners don’t have to make an educated guess about his status before Sunday kickoff, as the team plays an early game this week, giving owners the opportunity to find a secondary option if the New England tight end is ruled inactive. But I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll be back on the field for the Pats and for your fantasy team.
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Start/Sit Week 5
Start: Terrelle Pryor vs. SD
While there’s only one fantasy starter at QB on a bye this week (Robert Griffin III), I end up owning him in multiple leagues. Imagine my surprise when I saw Pryor was still available on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues. He’s symptom-free after sitting out last week with a concussion, and he’ll be taking on a team that allows loads of points to fantasy QBs. He also may be without his top two running backs, with Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece nursing injuries. Pryor is completing 65 percent of his passes and rushing for 65 yards per game. Against the Chargers, he’s a borderline QB1.
Sit: Russell Wilson at IND
I named Wilson as a “sit” and Week 3, and all he did was throw four TDs and make me look like an idiot. However, he has just two TDs in his other three games, and he’s averaged about 158 passing yards per game over the last three weeks. That’s simply not going to get it done in fantasy leagues. Despite having to engineer a comeback victory against the Texans in Week 4, Wilson still threw for just 123 yards while completing 52 percent of his passes. At this point, I can’t trust him in fantasy leagues until I see a big step forward.
Start: David Wilson vs. PHI
Wilson’s fantasy stock has been on a roller coaster unlike any other this season. When Andre Brown suffered an injury in the team’s last preseason game, teams started drafting Wilson in the middle of the second round in some mock drafts. He was the hot name ready to leap to RB1 status, but unfortunately, his fumbling issues got in the way for a second straight season. He lost two fumbles in Week 1 while rushing for just 19 yards on seven carries, and his stock plummeted. He’s been working to rehabilitate his value over the past few weeks, managing to avoid fumbling for three straight weeks while gradually taking on more of a workload and performing better on a per-carry basis. Now the Giants have released Da’Rel Scott, which is a huge endorsement of the progress Wilson has made to this point. With only Brandon Jacobs and Michael Cox around to back him up, Wilson could be ready to start getting 18-20 carries per game. This week he faces the atrocious Eagles defense, and the buy-low window is nearly shut.
Sit: Daryl Richardson vs. JAC
The matchup is right for Richardson, but he Tweeted earlier in the week that his starter status isn’t guaranteed in this game. The Rams are playing it close to the vest, and it seems like any of their four running backs could be active or inactive, and any of them could be called upon to lead the rushing offense. For that reason, Richardson is hands-off in a game where you figure some RB will emerge with a quality performance. Unless we get more information on the Rams’ plans, don’t start Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy or Benny Cunningham either, but all three make for nice FA pickups if you have room to spare for any.
Start: Jeremy Kerley at ATL
The Jets are likely going to be down two receivers this week, with Santonio Holmes expected to miss multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury and Stephen Hill dealing with a concussion suffered in Week 4. Considering Hill’s injury happened very early in the team’s Week 4 game and he couldn’t return, it would be surprising to see him cleared to play in Week 5, and the lack of positive news so far this week would seem to back that up. He hasn’t been ruled out yet, but even if he does play, Kerley could wind up as the team’s top option with Hill recovering from his injury. Kerley caught four passes for 65 yards last week and now gets to face a Falcons defense that has had trouble stopping the pass. Kerley is a clear start in PPR leagues and a very good option in standard leagues.
Sit: Julian Edelman at CIN
We discussed Danny Amedola’s potential return above, and if Amendola is active come Sunday, that leaves Edelman as a questionable starting option in most fantasy leagues. The two wide receivers rotated in Week 1 before Amendola suffered a groin injury, leaving Edelman to get more work than expected. He’s been an excellent fantasy option since then, but he could see his snaps and targets start to deteriorate if Amendola does return. He’s not a definite “sit” depending on your options, but he’s far from being a “must-start,” which he’s been over the last three weeks.
Bye Week Plug-and-Plays
TE: Dallas Clark at MIA; Kellen Winslow at ATL; Coby Fleener vs. SEA
PK: Nick Novak at OAK; Steven Hauschka at IND; Adam Vinatieri vs. SEA
DF: Cleveland Browns vs. BUF; Carolina Panthers at ARI; Buffalo Bills at CLE
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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