It's week 2 of the 2014 NFL season, and unfortunately, the injuries and ailments are beginning to pile up across the board throughout the league. The treatment tables in the training rooms have been put to good use over the last few days, with a long season still ahead.
The NFC South kicked off week 1 with a pair of intradivisional matchups as the Falcons defeated the Saints in overtime, and the Panthers held on to dispatch of the Buccaneers in Tampa. All four teams will venture outside of the division in week 2, as New Orleans travels to Cleveland, Atlanta heads to Cincinnati, Tampa hosts St. Louis, and Carolina welcomes Detroit.
With today's theme resembling an episode of M*A*S*H, let's take a look at the latest injury news and resulting fantasy impact throughout the NFC South:
After withstanding a 4th quarter Tampa bay run, the Panthers got off to a winning start in 2014, even without the services of injured quarterback Cam Newton. Derek Anderson stood in and delivered, and the team got some good news as they are expected to have Newton available for week 2.
Unfortunately, Newton's timely return comes with the untimely news that RB DeAngelo Williams' status appears to be in significant doubt ahead of Sunday's tilt with the Lions. Williams, 31, missed practice on both Thursday and Friday as he battles a thigh injury. Coach Ron Rivera admitted concern, saying "He’s a running back and he’s got to rely on that burst. And based on the way he ran today, we’re going to have to see how he is tomorrow morning. If he’s just the slightest bit hampered by it ... We’ll have to see. It’s the burst that you’re always worried about." DeAngelo Williams' status is in doubt heading into week 2.
Williams is officially listed as 'Questionable,'which gives him a 50-50 chance of playing Sunday. If he can not go, Jonathan Stewart's workload will increase, and the likes of Mike Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker will see increased action. The Lions boast a strong interior with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley up front, so yards inside on the ground may be tough to come by with or without Williams' services.
If one or both of Williams and Stewart are on your roster, consider your options heading into week 2. Perhaps an Isaiah Crowell or an Ahmad Bradshaw will be available as streaming week 2 options.
New Orleans Saints
WR Kenny Stills continues to make his way back from a quadriceps injury which has lingered since the end of July. Stills has practiced sparingly since training camp, and made a brief cameo appearance in the team's third preseason game last month.
After missing week 1, the Oklahoma alum has ramped up his workload in practice this week, having been upgraded to a limited participant as of Friday. Stills is expected to make the trip to Cleveland, but it is still yet to be determined whether or not he will take the field or find himself inactive. Brandin Cooks should be a fine week 2 play at Cleveland.
It stands to reason that New Orleans could look to keep Stills on the shelf for another week, and look to week 3 as a possible season debut as they head back to Louisiana for their home-opener against Minnesota next weekend. This would allow Stills a further week of practice and several extra days to get himself right, as soft tissue and muscle injuries, such as the quad ailment he has dealt with for almost two months, have strong tendencies to linger for weeks.
Even if he does dress, Stills is not a recommended week 2 fantasy option. Instead, teammate Brandin Cooks, who had a stout debut in Atlanta last week, looks like a good play against a Cleveland secondary that will be keyed up on stopping, or slowing down, Jimmy Graham. Marques Colston should be a fine play, as well, and we like the Saints' chances of bouncing back across the board in week 2.
The Falcons got the result they craved against their arch rivals in week 1, but it came with a price. Already missing Sam Baker up front, Atlanta will now be without the services of impressive rookie Jake Matthews for week 2. Matthews looked strong against the Saints before leaving with an ankle injury late in the first half of that game.
Matthews did not practice this week, and the nature of his injury is believed to be that of a classic, dreaded high ankle sprain, which are known to linger for weeks. The team is being prudent with their promising, talented rookie, who was expected to man the right side of the Falcons' offensive line before Baker was lost last month. That injury forced Matthews over to Matt Ryan's blind side, where he turned in just about a half of productive blocking against a New Orleans front that was bull-rushing at both ends. Matt Ryan hopes to build off a phenomenal week 1 performance.
Veteran Gabe Carimi and Lamar Holmes stood in well last weekend, but the sooner Matthews returns, the better for Atlanta. Steven Jackson had a nice run or two Sunday, but the Falcons made their hay in the passing game. They face a tough test in a very talented Cincinnati defense this Sunday, with the added element of playing on the road. If Holmes and Carimi can reciprocate their fine performances from last weekend, Ryan should have enough time to make the necessary throws, though it will be hard for him to replicate the career-high 448 yards he put up on New Orleans last week.
Expect Julio Jones to be more of a downfield threat in this game, as Atlanta mainly utilized him on short, designed patterns and bubble screens in week 1. Roddy White, who is expected to play in spite of a knee injury, should also be a steady week 2 play. The key will be Ryan's protection, as Cincinnati is known for their ability to get after the quarterback, having sacked Ravens' QB Joe Flacco three times last week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have had a mixed week on the injury front, with the good news of Doug Martin and Logan Mankins' respective returns to the practice field, though rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and defensive end Michael Johnson have both been ruled out for week 2.
That news was capitulated on Friday with the announcement that another defensive standout, Adrian Clayborn, has been placed on the season-ending injured reserve list with a biceps injury. Clayborn had not been named on the team's injury report earlier this week, so it is likely that he was hurt in practice. This marks the second time in the last three years that Clayborn has landed on IR, and the 26-year-old's loss further weakens a Bucs pass rush that was already lacking in depth. With Johnson also out for at least week 2, the Bucs will have to throw everything they have in an attempt to get into the Rams' backfield. William Gholston, former second-rounder Da'Quan Bowers and free agent signing Larry English will be among those who will now step into the fray on the Buccaneers' defensive line. Can Da'Quan Bowers finally live up to his potential?
Even without the services of Johnson and Clayborn, the Bucs' D/ST should still be a strong defensive fantasy play in week 2. The Rams will either be starting an injured Shaun Hill or a relatively inexperienced Austin Davis, which should allow the Bucs' somewhat-patchwork defensive front to pin the ears back and get after it. The Rams will hope to get something out of their stable of running backs to help support whomever is under center. Tampa Bay struggled at times against Derek Anderson a week ago, but St. Louis seems like a much friendlier opponent from a pure matchup standpoint.
Play Tampa's D/ST with confidence in week 2. However, moving forward, the lack of available and effective edge rushers will be something to keep an eye on as the Bucs look to emerge as a surprise team out of the NFC South.