- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I wouldn't say the 3-2 Green Bay Packers are in trouble, from either a real-life or fantasy sense, but let's just say it's time to start looking at them a bit differently. In Week 6, for example, there's a very real possibility that Matt Flynn is the one throwing the passes, Brandon Jackson is back to his disappointing self and the team's starting tight end is rookie Andrew Quarless.
Sunday's surprising loss to the Washington Redskins likely will have far-reaching effects because the following occurred:
• All-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a first-round pick in many leagues, suffered a concussion on the team's final offensive play. While it's too early to determine his Week 6 status, let me remind you of the Jay Cutler tale from the previous week. Cutler was supposed to play, and it didn't happen. With quarterbacks and head injuries, everyone is cautious. Concussions are taken very seriously these days, and in light of the Cutler and Kevin Kolb concussions costing them playing time, I expect Flynn to be the team's quarterback this week against the Miami Dolphins. Luckily for fantasy owners, none of the teams on bye this coming week features a proven fantasy starter at the position (Carson Palmer, Max Hall, Jimmy Clausen and Ryan Fitzpatrick), so at least you can reasonably replace Rodgers in the short term. However, I wouldn't trade for him assuming he finishes as fantasy's top quarterback again, because it's not looking likely.
• Tight end Jermichael Finley needs arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss at least three weeks. Considering Finley is one of only five tight ends owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, and has been Rodgers' top weapon, I'd say this is a bigger concern to fantasy owners than Rodgers missing a game or two. Yes, the tight end depth for 10- or even 12-team leagues is there, but Finley seemed on the verge of utter greatness. Maybe this will help the team's other receiving weapons, or maybe Quarless, a very good athlete, becomes this season's version of Fred Davis. If you need to sign a tight end, look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' Marcedes Lewis, who now has five touchdowns in as many weeks. I'm not sure why he continues to be overlooked in nearly half of ESPN standard leagues. As for Finley, don't drop him, because three weeks isn't a real long time, but don't assume he goes back to being a top-five tight end in November, either.
• Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver will not be helped by anyone other than Rodgers slingin' the passes, but is it possible we've been viewing these fellows wrong in the first place? Watching the Packers somehow get into the end zone just once in D.C., I checked just how popular the starting wide receivers were. Only five wide receivers were active in more ESPN leagues than Jennings, while Driver was 14th. Meanwhile, in a combined 10 games between them, including Sunday, each has managed to break into double digits in fantasy points just once. Jennings has hauled in precisely two catches each of the past three games, and I wouldn't say the Packers have played a challenging schedule. Three fantasy points against the Buffalo Bills? Two against the Lions? This isn't what we signed up for. I would no longer trade for Jennings on the premise that things will get a lot better, because it looks as though Rodgers, who is already one interception shy of last season's total, is spreading the wealth like never before.
• I downplayed the overall loss of running back Ryan Grant for the Packers in the opening week, but Jackson continues to prove he's nowhere close in terms of production, and I think it has affected Rodgers and the passing game. The threat just isn't there. Oh sure, Jackson exploded for a 71-yard jaunt early in Sunday's game, making his owners feel confident and probably upping his ownership for future weeks, but then he followed it up with 44 rushing yards on nine totes. He catches the ball effectively, but he's not going to approach 1,000 rushing yards the way he's been going. Meanwhile, fullback John Kuhn looks as though he could do a bit of damage with double-digit carries, but the Packers apparently don't want to find out; Kuhn carried the ball three times Sunday for 12 yards. As for goal-line carries, flip a coin. Jackson got the goal-line carry in the first quarter and lost 4 yards. In the second quarter, Kuhn was stuffed on his own goal-line rush, and Rodgers tried a sneak on third down to no success. I have little confidence in Jackson and Kuhn with the Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets pending in the next three weeks, so don't push yourself to start either one on the notion that the loss of a quarterback and tight end means a new game plan.
Eric Karabell examines the fantasy upside of the Green Bay Packers' offense following injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley.