Many of the rules and decisions made around the pro game of football don't have an immediate or measurable effect on Fantasy football owners, but this offseason's change in practice and preseason workouts may be showing its first signs of changing the game. The number of significant injuries seems to be on the rise, and players in skill positions seem to be taking a larger amount than in the past.
Mind you, compiling information to back up this thesis is proving difficult, but the volume of players hitting the Injured Reserve certainly makes for lineup problems during the key stretch of the season for Fantasy teams. While LB Brian Cushing's broken leg doesn't affect game stats immediately, it will show up both in Houston DEF numbers, and the rushing and short passing games of their opponents. Cushing is an impact defender, and the impact will be felt when the Texans return from their Bye week to face Indy. In that particular matchup, the Colts are also on Bye, and lost impact WR Reggie Wayne for the season to an ACL injury.
This week, the focus is on injury replacements, getting through the Bye week of three probable playoff teams (Chicago, Indy, San Diego), the defending Super Bowl champs (Baltimore), and two franchises with top-tier running backs (Tennessee, Houston)...and whom to stash if your team is healthy, and you want to make sure the other teams don't swoop on the good guys still out there. On to the pick-ups...
Grab 'em and/or Start 'em (depending on if you already have these guys)
The Lions are slowly rounding into form offensively, despite the loss of WR Nate Burleson to a broken arm that he received in a car crash...while reaching for his pizzas. Glad to hear he wasn't more seriously hurt (Burleson is due back in Week 10 or so), and good to know that professional athletes like to eat the same food that their slovenly fans do at home. With that said, the need for a second wideout will be filled by WR Kris Durham, who has been getting targeted more and more frequently, and looks to be ready to make actual Fantasy contributions until Burleson returns.
The Bucs losing RB Doug Martin for extended time hurts almost as much as losing their first six games of the season. The good news: they have 6th-round pick RB Mike James to pick up some of the slack. The 22-year old will see his first substantial action this week against a stout Panthers defense, but his size and quickness will at least provide 20 carries and a few catches from the backfield. More important, there's a better-than-average chance that he'll keep the job through the end of the Fantasy season, if not the whole NFL slate.
If QB is your spot of desperation this week (CHI QB Jay Cutler and STL QB Sam Bradford are out for the season, plus SD QB Philip Rivers, BAL QB Joe Flacco and a host of backups in starting roles are on Bye Week...or if you have a Vikings QB on your roster), the answer could lie in Cleveland. The Browns' staff is doing their best Minnesota impersonation by trying out a different QB every two weeks or so...with this week's lottery winner being QB Jason Campbell. A veteran play caller with a full ten weeks with the team, and emerging targets TE Jordan Cameron and a healthy WR Josh Gordon, could make for a surprise day for Campbell. Facing the Kansas City DEF isn't the ideal choice for the Browns, but the league's only undefeated squad might get caught looking past the 3-4 team. Beware, but not the worst choice on the waiver wire to be sure.
Others to Watch (or pick up in a moment of desperation):
PHI QB Matt Barkley played terribly in his first pro action, and QB Michael Vick is slated to start on Sunday, but Vick's hamstring is still a bit tender, meaning Barkley is one play away from seeing time against the 31st-ranked pass defense in football.
If KC WR Donnie Avery is available in your league, now is the time to grab him. Teams have plenty of film to watch on the Chiefs and their average-looking offense, but Jamaal Charles will still get too much attention from opponents. Avery is leading the team in catches and yards, yet is still available in more than three-quarters of leagues surveyed. He's not elevating you to the playoffs, but he might keep you in the hunt.
GB TE Andrew Quarless is on exactly zero people's radar, but he's the active tight end with the most catches on Green Bay's roster. FB John Kuhn will see a few of injured (and possibly retiring) TE Jermichael Finley's touches, but the Packers play a vertical game that relies on safety valves. This one may be a sweet surprise.
SEA WR Percy Harvin returned to practice this week, after the Seahawks paid a king's ransom to pry him out of Minnesota...only to have him get hurt in the preseason. He's still available in about a third of leagues surveyed, and if yours is one of them, you should correct that massive oversight, even if he's still an additional week away.
Also, stash SD WR Keenan Allen if he's still available. That situation will not be possible by this time next week, as the Chargers will come off their Bye week.
Sit 'em, Drop 'em...get away from them before their condition spreads
Perhaps the title of this section is a bit harsh, but many of the people listed below would have been emergency-only pickups before now, and there is too little time left in the Fantasy season to waste on maybes...
CHI QB Jay Cutler has had a pretty good start to the season, but he's out for at least four weeks with a torn groin, which I cannot imagine being 100 percent again this year. (I am also cringing at thinking about a torn groin. Allow me a moment to compose myself. Thanks.)
QB Josh McCown will only get snaps until one of the league's cast-offs signs on for the next few weeks. This situation will sort out further after the Bye week. If you wait until then, the scramble for the QB Matt Schaub's of the world will give you headaches.
There's no way MIN QB Josh Freeman is as incredibly horrible as he was Monday night against the Giants. The volume of overthrown passes, by percentage, is unprecedented in recent history...and another week in the Vikings system should help him improve. Or, he proves Tampa Bay Head Coach Greg Schiano right, and he's done like a steak on a grill. Bet on the former long-term, but stay out of the same time zone as this pick for this week. (BTW, they're in the Central time zone this week, against the Packers)
The Denver DEF is horrific, and will give up 24 points to your nephew's Pop Warner squad. Get them out of here...at least until LB Von Miller gets back up to speed and stabilizes that unit.
Also, as a rule of thumb, any team with a platoon of three (or more) players at QB or RB should be avoided as a whole. The list is too long for here right now, but keep it in mind when considering which back in Atlanta or which QB in Philly to pick up.
Matchup to Watch:
Detroit's offense against the Dallas Cowboys DEF
Dallas QB Tony Romo is fourth in the NFL with just over 2,000 yards passing, trailing the white-hot Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers...and DET QB Matthew Stafford. Many have thought Stafford was having an "off-year", but his 15/4 TD-to-INT ratio, along with RB Reggie Bush out of the backfield averaging 13 yards per catch, mean they're set to run over unsuspecting defenses. The Cowboys' D? They rank 30th against the pass. The smell in Ford Field will either be the garlic fries...or smoke coming out of the scoreboard.
Blown Call of Week Seven:
This could easily be a tie from about eight comments, but the outright winner came from the first game of the week:
"RB Andre Ellington (ARI) is finally getting the carries from an overmatched RB Rashard Mendenhall, and is expected to start showing the talent that caused the Cardinals to draft him."
Ellington's three yards in three carries wasn't much worse than Mendenhall's day, but all three runners in the box score against the Seahawks only managed to outrush, by a count of 30-29, Seattle's starting quarterback...averaging 1.7 yards per carry, at that. Man, the 'Hawks are good.
Rumors have begun to circulate that the Vikings are considering trading RB Adrian Peterson. Dismiss them all. No team has the salary cap space, nor the bounty the Vikes would command, to make such a deal. Not to mention the National Guard response necessary in Minnesota if owner Zygi Wilf even considered such a move.
DEN QB Peyton Manning is off to a torrid start, but some in the Fantasy world think it might be the ideal time to make a trade to move the aging star. Not to go all Jim Irsay on you, but giving up on the old and injured QB while you can get max value is not a terrible idea, especially if you are in a keeper league and can get value for him. What kind of value? Think of it like this: if you re-drafter your league today, Manning would go first. The first overall pick's performance should be worth at least another team's 1st and third picks, plus a bona fide starter at a position you lack in. A sample of what might be fair would be Manning for QB Drew Brees, RB Reggie Bush and the Niners' or Panthers' DEF. A deal like that, if you're off to a rough start and are thinking ahead to next year, can be a difference maker...and tough to get past your Commissioner.
Good luck, and good scoring.
By Bill Hudson @nosduhllib