Sometimes it is crazy to me how swiftly the NFL season seems to fly by. We are technically almost 1/4th of the way through the season already, and as of this coming Thursday, teams will already be embarking on their bye weeks.
Bye weeks make navigating injuries even more essential for fantasy owners, especially those struggling with roster depth this early on. This week four teams will be on bye, most of which have already performed as fantasy juggernauts through the first handful of games. The Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will get their much-needed rest, but the remainder of the league and fantasy teams everywhere will push on.
Week 4 presented the first (nearly) completed week in which it looks like no major devastating injury occurred (sans CB Tre’Davious White) but there were still numerous ailments to high-profile players. We’ll dive back in this week and see what can be done to overcome some of these injuries now that the season is in full throttle.
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Fantasy Football Injury Outlook: Week 5
The Steelers caught some bad luck with a few different notable players going down to injury, the main one of course being their starting quarterback. Kenny Pickett endured what looked to be a gruesome knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the Texans, but it sounds like he avoided the worst-case scenario.
Reports are that Pickett luckily avoided ACL damage, but it sounds like he will miss some time going forward. The Steelers have their bye in Week 6, so depending on Pickett’s healing status through then, there could be an outside chance he returns without missing excess time. His true timetable for a return, however, should become more clear later this week.
Fantasy Impact: For as long as Pickett remains out, Mitch Trubisky will start under center for Pittsburgh. Truthfully, skill-position players in fantasy terms should not be greatly affected here, as Pickett himself had not been playing exceptionally prior to going down. Trubisky probably will not warrant fantasy starts at QB for however long he remains the starter, but receivers such as George Pickens and Calvin Austin can be started as usual given this near-lateral move under center.
Sticking in the Steel City here as they also lost TE Pat Freiermuth to a hamstring injury on Sunday, and it is reportedly more than “just a tweak.” Freiermuth is expected to receive an MRI on the hamstring on Monday for further diagnosis. It seems unlikely that the third-year tight end will play against Baltimore in Week 5, given the Steelers have their bye in Week 6.
Fantasy Impact: Operating as a low-end TE1 to this point (which speaks to the drastic deficiency at fantasy football tight ends again in 2023), Freiermuth will likely be replaced in the Pittsburgh offense by a combination of rookie TE Darnell Washington and TE Connor Heyward. Neither will be enticing fantasy options for fantasy, especially with Mitch Trubisky likely to be the one slinging the rock for at least Week 5. If anything, the Steelers’ receivers may all see a slight tick in targets for as long as Freiermuth remains out.
One of the most notable injuries of the week was Bengals’ WR Tee Higgins suffering a rib fracture against the Titans on Sunday afternoon. Higgins took a hard hit and was ruled out fairly quickly, and his status for Week 5 and beyond is now certainly at risk.
Fantasy Impact: Ideally, Higgins will not be required to miss extensive time, but rib injuries can linger and are one of the more painful ailments, particularly for receivers who take consistent hits in that area. It would not be surprising if Higgins missed multiple weeks with the injury. In the interim, WRs Trenton Irwin and Andre Iosivas will be tasked with stepping up in Higgins’ absence. Neither profile as exciting fantasy options, especially given the shockingly poor status of the Cincinnati offense at the moment.
In true Mike Evans fashion, the 30-year-old went down with a hamstring injury against the Saints on Sunday and did not return. Luckily for the veteran and company, the Buccaneers enter a Week 5 bye that should provide him extra time to heal up. Evans was noted receiving treatment on the sideline during the game, as he was trying to make a comeback for the second half.
Fantasy Impact: It sounds like Evans should be able to heal up in time for Tampa Bay’s Week 6 bout with Detroit, but his practice status will need monitoring following the bye week. We all know how degenerating hamstring injuries can be (see Cooper Kupp), particularly in regard to setbacks and lingering problems. Evans has also dealt with hamstring injuries in the past that have held him out for extended periods. This will be an important one to watch.
- Denver RB Javonte Williams suffered a hip flexor in a Week 4 win over the Bears but is not expected to miss much time. It sounds like he should be good to go next week against the Jets.
- Chargers’ QB Justin Herbert fractured the middle finger of his non-throwing hand against the Raiders on Sunday but is not expected to miss any time. Los Angeles is on bye in Week 5 which will provide Herbert extra time to heal up.
- Raiders’ WR Davante Adams suffered what looked to be a serious shoulder injury against the Chargers on Sunday. However, he later returned to the contest and ended up with serviceable receiving numbers. It will be worth monitoring his practice status ahead of Week 5, but all signs point to him being able to go.