Let’s take a moment to mourn the potential loss of the fantasy-friendly Cincinnati Bengals offense.
Andy Dalton’s broken right thumb against Pittsburgh was the weekend’s biggest injury and it’s unclear exactly how long he’ll be out. It comes at the worst possible time for fantasy owners.
Many leagues started their playoffs last week, while plenty more open postseason play in Week 15. And that means the Bengals who helped you get there don’t look quite like the same safe investments with Dalton, a top-10 quarterback, sidelined and AJ McCarron under center.
McCarron directed the Bengals to one touchdown and two field goals on eight drives — skipping a one-play drive to end the first half — before throwing a meaningless late score with 67 seconds left in a 33-20 loss.
Star wideout A.J. Green had five catches for 115 yards and a 66-yard touchdown from McCarron and is still worth starting, but if you’re assessing the risk, note how all the post-Tony Romo quarterback trouble in Dallas has hamstrung Dez Bryant.
There’s also the fact that tight end Tyler Eifert, with a position-best 12 TD catches, left early with a concussion.
If the Bengals go run-heavy to help McCarron, that could mean more chances for Jeremy Hill — who had come on of late but reverted to first-round fantasy bust status with Sunday’s no-show — and Gio Bernard.
The schedule certainly sets up well for that with this week’s trip to San Francisco, which is allowing the most points in the NFL to running backs.
Otherwise, keep your fingers crossed for Dalton’s quick recovery.
THE INJURY WARD
— Seattle running back Thomas Rawls had been terrific in filling in for injured Marshawn Lynch. Now Rawls is out with a broken left ankle. DuJuan Harris got work after Rawls’ injury but lost a fumble.
— Jacksonville running back T.J. Yeldon sustained a left knee injury in the rout of Indianapolis.
— Unbeaten Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart (left foot) and Greg Olsen (left knee) had scares in the rout of Atlanta, but AP Charlotte sports writer Steve Reed reported that coach Ron Rivera said both could’ve returned to the game.
OBSERVATIONS FROM WEEK 14
— Denver’s offense bogged down again. Brock Osweiler had directed three straight wins, but didn’t throw a TD pass and failed to lead a touchdown drive in a 15-12 loss to Oakland. And top wideout Demaryius Thomas had a couple of drops and a fumble to mar a 10-catch day.
— Welcome back, Todd Gurley. After running for 60 yards in two games, the St. Louis running back, and a likely top-five fantasy pick for 2016, broke loose for 140 yards and two touchdowns against Detroit.
— If you stashed Doug Baldwin this year, congrats — you’ve unearthed a sudden WR1. With Russell Wilson on a tear, the Seahawks wideout has eight touchdown catches in three games. Don’t you dare bench a guy that hot.
Hard to find help at this time of year, but take a look for:
— Denard Robinson (6 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) took the lead after Yeldon’s injury and could offer some value as a potential spot starter in Jacksonville if Yeldon misses significant time.
— Tim Hightower — yes, that guy from years ago — ran for 85 yards with a touchdown on 28 carries for New Orleans. And consider, Hightower (41 percent owned in ESPN) ceded just three carries to C.J. Spiller. With Mark Ingram out, workload alone makes Hightower worth a look.
— Ted Ginn Jr. (40 percent owned in Yahoo) had two long TD catches for the Panthers, his second straight two-TD game. He’s a true boom-or-bust guy, but there’s upside considering how sharp Cam Newton and Carolina’s offense has looked.
Aaron Beard is an Associated Press sports writer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s in his 14th season of obsessing over lineup decisions in fantasy football. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s NFL site at http://pro32.ap.org