Week 8 was the worst this season in terms of big-name player injuries, no team hurt more than reigning AFC North champion Steelers. Here's a look at some injuries that affect Week 9 NFL odds & picks.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Here's hoping you didn't have Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster and Bell on your fantasy team this season. In Week 1, you probably were feeling great about your running back depth. But now Bell has joined the other two on season-ending injured reserve. Bell tore his MCL Sunday vs. the Bengals but at least it wasn't the ACL so he should be OK in time for the 2016 season. Bell, not Ben Roethlisberger or Antonio Brown, was the team MVP last season when he rushed for 1,361 yards and eight scores while catching 83 balls for 854 yards and three more touchdowns. Bell had been limited to six games this season after missing the first two due to suspension and for the most part had picked up right where he left off with 113 carries for 556 yards and three scores while catching 24 balls for 136 yards. Sadly, the Steelers have had Bell and Big Ben on the field together only 39 snaps this year due to injuries/suspension. So now the job goes to DeAngelo Williams. He was great those first two weeks with Bell out, rushing for 127 yards in Week 1 vs. the Patriots and three TDs in Week 2 vs. San Francisco. He hadn't been used much since until Bell was hurt against the Bengals. Pittsburgh is a 4-point home favorite on NFL odds this Sunday vs. Oakland.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
Forte avoided serious knee damage in a Week 8 home loss to Minnesota but is going to likely miss at least a couple of weeks with what is being called a sprain. Forte might have been traded to a running back needy team (Dallas?) by Tuesday's deadline had he not gotten hurt. Forte remains the centerpiece of that Chicago offense with 548 rushing yards and two scores along with 25 receptions and a TD.
He has missed only six games in his career due to injury, but Forte might not be inclined to rush back because he will be a free agent after this season and not expected back in Chicago, which is rebuilding. The featured back now is rookie Jeremy Langford. The fourth-round pick has played just 73 total snaps, carrying the football 27 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns with two receptions for 31 yards. The Bears think he is Forte's long-term replacement. Now we find out. Chicago is +4 on NFL picks Monday night at equally injury-ravaged San Diego. Speaking of the Chargers ...
Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
One of the few bright spots this season for the 2-6 Bolts, other than the play of quarterback Philip Rivers, has been Allen. He is second in the NFL with 67 catches (third in league history for a player through his team's first eight games) and third in yards with 725 but will miss the rest of the season due to a lacerated kidney. Allen will make a full recovery in approximately six weeks, but with the Chargers in last place in the AFC West the team opted to place him on season-ending IR. Veterans Malcom Floyd and Stevie Johnson will step in to fill the void on the perimeter. Expect running back Danny Woodhead to be more involved on passing downs as well. The Bolts are -4 for Monday game vs. Chicago.
Josh McCown, QB, Browns
I won't go much into McCown for Thursday's game in Cincinnati as I will be doing player props for that game here at SBR. But McCown isn't going to play due to a rib injury, meaning Johnny Manziel will make his second start this season -- he beat the Titans in Week 2 -- and fourth of his young career. The Bengals are -11, the second-biggest favorites on the board for NFL picks.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
Mariota has missed the past two games with an MCL strain but apparently is on track to return for Sunday's game at New Orleans. Mariota will have a new play-caller if so as Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also ran the offense, was fired on Tuesday. Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said he will change the offensive scheme to better fit Mariota's strengths. "We’ll do some things differently offensively, scheme-wise," Mularkey said. "We’re not going to change the whole offense, but we’re going to do some things philosophically different." Tennessee is +8 at the Saints.
Ryan Fitzpatrick & Geno Smith, QBs, Jets
Will the Bryce Petty Era begin Sunday for New York against visiting Jacksonville? That's still up in the air for the rookie fourth-round pick from Baylor. Fitzpatrick suffered ligament damage in his left (non-throwing) thumb in last week's loss to Oakland. He will need surgery eventually but may play out the season with it. Smith hurt his non-throwing shoulder against the Raiders after replacing Fitzpatrick. Both guys did participate in throwing drills Wednesday for what that's worth. The Jets didn't add a free-agent veteran by Wednesday so that could be a hint they think one can play. If not, Petty gets his first career start. The Jets are currently -2.5 vs. the Jags but obviously that line is subject to the quarterback.
Steve Smith, WR, Ravens
A lost season for Baltimore continues as Smith, easily the team's top receiver, is done for the season after tearing his Achilles' tendon in the Week 8 win over the Chargers. Smith, 36, had 46 catches for 670 yards and three scores this season. He had announced he was retiring after this season but now reportedly does plan to return even though the Achilles' tear is a tough one to rehab. Joe Flacco lacks anything close to a No. 1 receiver now with Smith out. Baltimore is off this week.
Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins
Miami thought it was back on track under interim coach Dan Campbell, but the Fins got a rude awakening last Thursday in a blowout loss in New England. To make matters worse, Wake, one of the best pass-rushing ends in the NFL, was lost for the season to a torn left Achilles' tendon. He led the team with seven sacks. The next highest number is Olivier Vernon and Ndamukong Suh, who both have two sacks. Backup defensive ends Derrick Shelby and Terrence Fede are expected to play in Wake's spot on the left side of the line. Neither is even half the player Wake is. Miami is +3 this week at Buffalo.
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
And speaking of the Bills, they come off their bye week and should get several injured players back. That group is led by Taylor, who missed the past two games with a knee sprain. Taylor has been practicing this week. "I'm 100 percent," Taylor said. "I'm feeling confident in going out there and playing on my leg, or on my knee."