SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 28, 2013

Fantasy Forecast: Will Gronk be a go this week?

Fantasy Forecast
Andy Silva

---- — After assuming that this would be the week which would see the return of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, it appears there is some uncertainty on that front.

According to a report from NBC Sports, the “outlook currently is not optimistic” for Gronkowski to play tomorrow night in Atlanta against the Falcons. Sports Illustrated reported that the Patriots are “not sold” that Gronkowski will be ready, either.

Gronkowski has been a limited participant practice this week and the Falcons have been reportedly preparing themselves under the assumption Gronkowski would play. The Patriots are notorious for being stingy with injury news, so more than likely this will go right down to game time. This is problematic since the Patriots-Falcons are the late game, so you may have to make your best judgment call earlier in the day prior to the 1 p.m. games.

For what it’s worth, Gronkowski is returning from a myriad of injuries and has been off the field for some time. It’s hard to envision him coming back and being a fantasy force in his first game. Despite how much Tom Brady will be relieved to have him back, I think the first game of the season for Gronkowski is one which you won’t kick yourself if you miss out on it. So unless you really have few other options, I would play it safe and keep Gronk on the bench.

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C.J. Spiller has yet to score a touchdown this season. He has been battling a thigh/quad injury. He is facing what has always been a tough go against the Ravens defense.

So it leads to a key question: how much should you expect from the running back taken, on average, with the No. 6 pick overall in Yahoo! leagues?

Spiller is listed as probable for the game, but it was clear last week against the Jets that he was not at 100 percent. He lacked the explosiveness he usually exhibits, and when facing the Ravens defense (even without stalwart Ray Lewis and Ed Reed) you need every tool in the box.

It’s hard to bench a running back of Spiller’s caliber, but it should be noted that the Ravens are ranked fourth in the league against the run yielding just 74.7 yards per game. Still, it’s hard to imagine that if you own Spiller you have better options on your bench or on the waiver wire. If you do have other solid options, feel free to put them in and bench Spiller.

But more than likely, you will be forced roll the dice and hope for the best ­— with tempered expectations.

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While still on the mend from a ‘mild’ concussion (if there is such a thing), Houston’s Andre Johnson suffered more pain last week in the form of a shin bruise.

The good news is that he is expected to play. The bad news is that he is facing Richard Sherman and the Seahawks, who are ranked No. 1 in both total defense and against the pass.

Much like Spiller, it’s hard to bench Johnson. But there more options at receiver than other positions. He did not practice on Wednesday, but at least was a limited participant Thursday. He noted this week that while he suffered a deep bruise there was no bone damage.

In the right circumstance I could see keeping Johnson on the bench this week. The Seahawks have been impressive thus far, and how successful can a hobbled Johnson be against a stout defense like that? He attempted to return in the second half of last week’s game, but could not stay on the field and was removed from the game. Hopefully a week of reduced workload has helped nurse him back to semblance of health.

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Denarius Moore finally came alive last week in a loss to the Broncos, catching six passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. But starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor suffered a concussion and it is still in doubt as to whether he will play this week. If Pryor can’t go, Matt Flynn will be under center against the Redskins.

So what does it mean for Moore? Probably not much, actually.

In the event Pryor can’t go, Flynn has shown some flashes of competence in the past (his 480-yard performance for the Packers against the Lions in the final game of the 2011 season comes to mind). And the Redskins defense is ranked second-to-last in the league in passing defense. All of this conspires to make Moore worthy of a look in your lineup.