Joe Mixon injury gives new life to Giovanni Bernard’s fantasy relevance

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has been a standout in the team’s first two games in 2018, but they will be faced with life without him for a couple of weeks. In his absence, Giovanni Bernard will remind fantasy owners of his value.

A week after picking up a victory over Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals brought the pain to the rival Baltimore Ravens on Thursday Night Football. A.J. Green scored three touchdowns, Andy Dalton looked sharp, Geno Atkins ate the Ravens offensive line alive and Joe Mixon chewed up yardage throughout the night.

Mixon finished Week 2 with 84 yards on 21 carries, which was a nifty encore performance after he owned the Colts with 95 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards in Week 1.

Sadly for the Bengals, Mixon won’t be able to have a follow-up performance in Week 3 against the Carolina Panthers, because ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that he will likely be sidelined for two weeks due to a knee procedure.

Although this is bad news for Mixon and the Bengals, it’s a positive that he won’t be out for long and probably won’t miss any division games. Furthermore, the Bengals have a quality three-down running back behind Mixon in Giovanni Bernard, who was once tabbed as a future star at the position as a second-round pick out of UNC.

Bernard struggled in Week 1 with just one reception and a negative rushing total on his lone carry, and he failed to make an impression against Baltimore despite catching four passes. Even when Mixon plays, Bernard does get solid reps in the passing game, but without Mixon on the field, he can really be a bigger go-to guy on third downs for Andy Dalton when the Bengals offense is in a pinch.

The quickness and big-play ability are still strong in Bernard, who is in his fifth season as a pro. He averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry in 2017, and he’s always been one of those backs who has shown great potential as a rusher and receiver but just has never been able to seize a bigger role.

Now, Bernard’s workload will only be increased for the brief period in which Mixon is off the field, but this is a great opportunity for him to help fantasy owners. Bernard gets the Panthers and Atlanta Falcons next, and both teams were in the middle-of-the-pack in terms of run defense last year.

The Falcons are a particularly good matchup for Bernard in Week 4. Star players Keanu Neal and Deion Jones are currently on injured reserve, and that bodes well for Bernard both in the running game and the passing game. Neal is one of the better strong safeties in the league, while Jones’s speed as a coverage linebacker makes him one of the best three-down inside ‘backers in the NFL. Bernard can pick apart the Falcons defense as a high-upside fantasy play in Week 4.

Bernard has two years left on the four-year deal he signed with the Bengals in 2016, and he remains a key part of this team as a backup running back, even if he’s only good for maybe 100 carries and 40 catches with Mixon’s stock rising.

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Fantasy owners who want to gamble on a running back and don’t have any great options in Week 3 or 4 should consider signing Bernard, who could play an especially key role against an uneven Falcons team in two weeks.

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