In a space where sadness and elation are usually greeted equally with a warm embrace, it’s mostly depth options and key defensive players among the notable early-game inactives/actives.
You know the drill: I write, you read, I write some more and update this post with more inactives/actives, and you read some more. It’s quite the innovative system.
Dre Kirkpatrick (knee): While he’s making process and was recently cleared to practice, it’s still likely that the Bengals’ first-round pick will miss at least half the season after a training camp injury, returning following Cincy’s Week 8 bye. Terrence Newman will continue to fill in opposite Leon Hall, giving Brandon Weeden an opportunity to stretch the field deep today and keep hooking up with Josh Gordon.
Travis Benjamin (hamstring), Mohamed Massaquoi (hamstring), and Jordan Norwood (foot): Yeah, about that Josh Gordon guy. After redefining scoring efficiency last week with two deep touchdowns on two deep receptions while finishing with 82 receiving yards (which included a 62-yard score), Gordon will start again opposite Greg Little due to the consistently crumbling bodies on Cleveland’s WR depth chart. Gordon is a great flex play, and he’s set up nicely to be your Ogletree/Hartline/Amendola of the day again.
Robert Mathis (knee): No surprise here, as Mathis is expected to be out two-to-three weeks due to an MCL sprain, and now the Colts’ pass rush — and therefore also the Jets’ protection against said pass rush — is focused almost solely on Dwight Freeney. Mathis’ absence is great news for anyone in a position where they’re forced to put themselves through the worst form of self mutilation, and start any member of the Jets offense. Desperate Mark Sanchez owners in two QB leagues can now hate themselves just a little less, but Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill owners should have the widest shit-eating grin, as Sanchez will now have more time to target and locate his deep options.
Scott Fujita (shoulder): Fujita was eligible to play while appealing his suspension, but his absence now means a little more running room for Doug Martin/Legarrette Blount up the middle.
Peyton Hillis (ankle): Hillis is still expected to be out until after the Chiefs’ Week 7 bye, which is both awesome and awesomely frightening for Jamaal Charles owners. Sure, it’s been fun watching Charles run often and far while leading the league in rushing. But with Hillis out a running back who’s starting his sixth meaningful game today following an ACL tear has had 92 touches over KC’s last three games. That’s a recipe for more breakage, fast.
Jonathan Babineaux (Knee): Playing for the first time since suffering a partially torn MCL during the Falcons’ season opener, Babineaux’s presence immediately provides a significant upgrade for a struggling interior pass rush. Those in two QB leagues who are forced to start Carson Palmer can now expect even more mental anguish.
Cliff Avril (back): The Lions’ Week 5 bye fell at the right time for Avril, the defensive end who left Detroit’s loss to the Vikings two weeks ago. An MRI didn’t reveal significant damage to his back, and the week of rest was surely a fine tonic for a tender injury. Avril has 1.5 sacks through four games, and his presence alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley should worry Michael Vick owners this afternoon due to the Philly QB’s new-found hobby of putting the ball on the ground as pressure mounts.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion): Also benefiting from a well-timed Week 5 bye, Heyward-Bey returns quickly after missing just one game following a scary hit two weeks ago. Unfortunately, he’s only a flex play or maybe a low-end WR3 since his matchup against the Falcons and their cornerback combo of Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson is the opposite of ideal. Atlanta is allowing only 203 passing yards per game.
Jon Baldwin (hamstring): It would take a serious bye or injury problem to consider starting Baldwin, especially with Brady Quinn becoming the newest awful Chiefs quarterback. But those in such a situation can slow their breathing slightly knowing that he’s active after sitting out Thursday’s practice and being listed as questionable.
Nick Mangold (ankle): Oh happy day. There’s even more good news in the land where such news goes to whither and die, with Mangold — Sanchez’s main protector — active as expected. Maybe Shonn Greene can run for more than one yard per carry behind Mangold if he actually sees the holes that are created. But no, probably not.