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A.J. Brown Injury Update: Can you trust Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or Chester Rogers in his absence?

As the Titans place A.J. Brown on the IR, can you trust Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or Chester Rogers in his absence for Week 12 and beyond?

The Tennessee Titans’ injury struggles continue as WR A.J. Brown becomes the latest member of the offense to land on injured reserve. As fantasy football managers and the Titans attempt to figure out what the passing game will look like moving forward, can Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or Chester Rogers be trusted in Week 12 and beyond?

A.J. Brown (chest) placed on injured reserve ahead of Week 12

On Saturday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the Titans placed Brown on IR head of their Week 12 matchup against the New England Patriots. Brown sustained a chest injury in Week 11, which forced him out of the game. Rapoport also noted Brown’s X-rays came back negative, and this is not deemed to be a season-ending injury.

Due to the Titans’ bye week falling in Week 13, Brown will not be eligible to return until Week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers. NFL protocols state a player must miss a minimum of three games before returning to the 53-man active roster after being placed on IR. Brown appeared in 10 games, playing on 68% of the snaps while catching 46 of 78 targets for 615 yards with 3 touchdowns this year.

Brown joins Derrick Henry and Julio Jones on IR

Tennessee has been decimated by injuries this season but somehow found a way to keep winning. Still, the “next man up” philosophy stops working when that “next man” is a third/fourth-string player — you can’t expect an offense to recover.

The Titans already entered 2021 needing to replace a majority of their receiving volume. They are missing guys who totaled 47.9% of the team’s 2020 targets (second-most in the NFL), 48.3% of the targets inside the 10 (second), and 56.6% of their air yards at 2,143 (second). That means five of the top-six targeted players from 2020 are no longer playing, whether by free agency or injury.

Between Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and Brown, the Titans are out players who accounted for 52.1% of the touches (306), 49.9% of the scrimmage yards (2,052), and 43.3% of the touchdowns (13).

In the backfield, the rushing game falls on Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman. As for the receivers, Rogers, Westbrook-Ikhine, and Dez Fitzpatrick now must step up and take on integral roles for a team that still leads the AFC South at 8-3 and is vying for a playoff berth.

Can fantasy managers rely on Nick Westbrook-Ikhine or Chester Rogers for Week 12 and beyond?

Fantasy matchups mean more and more this time of year, with each win or loss possibly being the difference between landing in the playoffs or watching your season end prematurely. Is it worth the risk to capitalize on the potential increase in volume, or is the floor too low?

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine enters Week 12 with the momentum

If you were giving one player a head start, it would have to be Westbrook-Ikhine. In Week 11, he caught 7 of 8 targets for 107 yards while finishing as the WR18.

But I am not bullish on him this week. The Patriots are a far stiffer team defensively than the Houston Texans. Whereas the Texans were No. 23 vs. WRs (37.12), the Patriots are No. 5 at 30.18.

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In a similar scenario back in Week 4 when the Titans did not have Brown or Jones, head coach Mike Vrabel opted to use his RBs as pass catchers, with Jeremy McNichols leading the team with 12 targets.

I can see a similar situation in Week 12, this time with Hilliard. Westbrook-Ikhine comes into Week 12 as a WR4 who likely ends up disappointing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots get their second straight shutout.

Chester Rogers is a desperation play in deep fantasy leagues

Whereas Westbrook-Ikhine shined, Rogers floundered. He caught his lone target last week and gained 12 yards. Despite playing on 53% of the team’s offensive snaps, he has recorded double-digit fantasy points just twice, with the last time coming in Week 4 when he hauled in 5 of 6 passes for 63 yards against the Jets.

If you are in a 14-to-16 team league and need a flex play, I get it. Rogers might be in consideration based on the projected snap rate, but you are banking on him finding the end zone or seeing 7+ targets to be worth starting. He is in the WR6 range for me this week, but if you’re feeling brave/desperate, he’s assuredly available.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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