Fantasy Losers of the 2008 NFL Draft

My apartment management decided that I was so excited about the NFL draft this weekend that they needed to shut off the hot water this morning to calm me down. That’s okay though. I’m not bitter. I’ll just take those lemons and…

…and who am I kidding? I’m going to throw them at the door of the office in protest tomorrow.

In retrospect, there’s nothing like a cold shower to make you think about who really got the shaft in this year’s draft. For these players, the 2008 draft cooled off their fantasy value:

Willie Parker. Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers didn’t desperately need a running back, but when Rashard Mendenhall fell to them, they had to take him. Parker immediately enters into the twilight of his career. Returning from injury and with a much less Steeler-smash style of play, Parker will probably shift towards a supporting role to Mendenhall’s “I break ‘em, I bought ‘em” running. Something tells me Parker will not get a lot of chances for TDs now — he only sealed the deal twice last season — and begins his decline out of fantasy popularity.

Tatum Bell. Detroit Lions.
“You are what we thought you were,” Tatum. Just when it seemed like Tatum Bell was going to get his shot, Detroit grabbed Kevin Smith. Now Bell will end up being the compliment back in another RBBC alongside the yardage monster in Detroit. Considering the number of yards Smith ran up last season, he warrants being a big part of this offense next year and looks to be the better fantasy play.

Vince Young. Tennessee Titans.
The Titans have a great need at wide receiver. While Chris Johnson might be able to split out occasionally and be a playmaker, the Titans weren’t concerned with bringing in any new weapons. While it’s possible they were hoping that Limas Sweed, Young’s big target at Texas, would fall to them in the second round before the Steelers snagged him one pick too soon, no drastic moves were made to get that receiver help. Young will have to work with what the Titans grabbed in the fourth round in Lavelle Hawkins. He’s got talent but will likely be another project just like the mix of young WRs and older veterans that VY has now. It’s not looking very good again for Young in 2008.

Cedric Benson. Chicago Bears.
Coming off injury and a very weak showing in 2007, Benson’s likely to share carries with Matt Forte in 2008 and could even lose his starting role. The weak fantasy projections for Benson in 2008 just got weaker.

DeAngelo Williams. Carolina Panthers.
This year was supposed to be Williams’ time to shine with DeShaun Foster finally booted. When Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart in the first, that all got thrown into doubt. Stewart is a big, power runner with a bruising style. Williams may start the season, but he is likely to lose carries to Stewart — especially in short yardage situations. That means less TDs for Williams and a knock to his fantasy value for 2008. Both RBs could have some fantasy impact this season, but Williams big chance is no more.

Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Washington Redskins.
Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly are now breathing down the necks of the two current WRs in Washington. Moss had a bad 2008, and Randle El wouldn’t be too upset to move to a slot role. The WR pool is not going to be friendly to a Moss bounce back in 2008 if one of these rookies breaks out. Pre-season will show how these rookies take to the game, but Moss might be one to avoid.

Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay Packers.
Oh yeah, Aaron, you just have to fill the shoes of this guy named Brett Favre. He didn’t break any big records or get much media attention with his retirement. Hey, he never even made the cover of Madden. Go ahead and take over his job in front of thousands of Favre-missing fans, Rodgers. If that shadow’s not big enough for you to overcome, we’ll put this guy Brian Brohm — possibly the most NFL-ready QB in this draft — behind you. That cool? Great. Oh, and this Matt Flynn kid from LSU is just hanging out here for a bit. He’ll keep your seat warm while your trying to win some games. Just don’t let those first-year jitters get to you. I don’t think Rodgers fantasy value is over and done, but it’s definitely on thin ice heading into his first season under center. The pressure is on, and pressure might not be what this young QB needs to get you fantasy points.

Amani Toomer. New York Giants.
With Mario Manningham under his wings and last year’s rookie WR Steve Smith already biting at his heels, Toomer’s days at the two spot in New York are numbered. Chances are he sees this one coming though, and I think he’s probably okay spending less time on the field. He’ll still start in 2008, but he won’t have much fantasy value once these guys get going and take his catches.

Dominic Rhodes. Oakland Raiders (until Monday).
It was hard not to see this one coming, but with Darren McFadden going to Oakland, someone had to get out of that backfield. The Raiders cut Rhodes Monday after he did a whole lot of nothing last year. They still have LaMont Jordan who seemed more likely to get bumped after the draft, but he might still be in danger of losing his job considering the Raiders now have McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Rhodes gets to go stand in line with Shaun Alexander and wait to be picked up by a team lacking in the veteran RB department.

Josh McCown and John Beck. Miami Dolphins.
Not that he thought he was a long-term solution in Miami — no one else did — but McCown became even more short-term with Bill Parcells snagging Chad Henne. Parcells obviously can’t trust his current developing QB John Beck. The starting job is likely to go to Henne before too long. McCown is just going to be a stand in until one of the younger guys is ready to go, and that’s never a good feeling. McCown and the loser will be left to battle for the backup role. Let the QB struggle begin.

Tarvaris Jackson. Minnesota Vikings.
You got some Booty behind you, Tarvaris. John David Booty has the potential to really threaten Jackson for the starting job if Jackson doesn’t show significant improvement this season. There’s no security in his fantasy value.

Chris Simms. Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With no spleen and no playing time last year, Simms is now on the cut list with Josh Johnson drafted into the pack of QBs already in Tampa Bay. Johnson is no sure thing — especially if you ask Jon Gruden — but he has some good stats even if it was just at San Diego. He’ll make the team, and at least one of Tampa Bay’s current QB collection will have to find a new place.

Off-season Update: Running backs take focus this week, QBs and WRs stink it up [NFL News]

Everyone took pity on quarterbacks this week. Atlanta saw fit to bring back Joey Harrington after releasing him–even though we all know they will probably pick a QB up in the draft *cough* Matt Ryan *cough*. The Rams chose Trent Green to be the back up to Marc Bulger, but is it good practice to pick a concussion-prone quarterback as the best back up for an oft-injured Bulger? Me thinks the Rams will need a solid third quarterback on the roster if they plan to make it through the season.

Sadly, the New York Giants, not to be seen as uncharitable, decided they had enough money leftover from the Super Bowl blow parties to bring back the white-gloved wonder David Carr. I really thought we were going to get rid of him this year. Apparently, my gut feeling doubted the power of the gloves.

But enough about that. The real meat of this week’s free agent moves was in the running backs.

While the hot buzz item is Shaun Alexander‘s likely boot from Seattle after the signing of Julius Jones, Detroit made the big cut in axing Kevin Jones. Due to Jones’ brittle nature, Tatum Bell will finally get more carries in Detroit. Maybe Tatum can finally escape his “journeyman” label in a Detroit offense re-making the run game–Hashmarks sees his potential–but Detroit still has a long way to go. In short, Bell may be fantasy relevant this season, but he won’t be at the top of any lists.

With draft implications, Jesse Chatman of the one-win Miami of 2007 moved over to the New York Jets to act as a back up and potential change of pace back for Thomas Jones. Behind the offensive line that the Jets built this offseason, both RBs could see fantasy relevance, but it could be Darren McFadden replacing Jesse Chatman as the second man in that rotation after the draft.

Note: I don’t believe that the Jets will pass on McFadden if he falls to them. Jones is no astonishing talent, and McFadden could work miracles behind the O-line the Jets have put together.

The Houston Texans–who everyone thinks will also not be passing on any RBs in this year’s draft–seem to be set on taking free agent running backs from now on. Even though they are “really high” on this Chris Taylor kid who didn’t see a down due to injury in 2007, the Houston Texans went out and signed Chris Brown, formerly of the Titans. Depth charts are definitely uncertain in Houston now as they could still take one more RB left in the draft and then, hopefully, release a lot of their broken has-beens like Ahman Green and Ron Dayne. In addition, we now know that Chris Brown never likes to be the only Chris in his position on any team [see: Chris Henry of Titans].

Warrick Dunn found new life in Tampa Bay with their oodles of extra money this offseason. Even with rumors of Cadillac Williams not being able to return though, I can’t see Dunn being more than a back up or lightly used back behind Earnest Graham to start 2008.

The Bucs also saw fit to invest in Antonio Bryant, the troubled receiver that hasn’t found a place to call home since being shipped out of Dallas. He is likely to not be much of an impact.

Non-impact seemed to be a theme in any area besides running backs this week. Drew Carter signed with the Raiders after posting a fantasy footnote in Carolina last year. I expect him to be third behind Javon Walker and Ronald Curry, but he could surprise me if he ever lives up to his “burner” status. I just haven’t seen it.

One receiver that could be of use is Justin McCareins, back in Tennessee after his stint with the Jets last season. The Titans know how to use him, and he has to catch better than the core group of slippery-fingered banana-handlers they have now. I might actually look to snag Vince Young as my QB2 this year in a later round if they can rebuild the receiving game this offseason. A rookie WR in the draft could give it some edge.

With free agency winding down, look for a newly updated mock draft and more fantasy offseason list making than you could ever desire from a fantasy site coming in the next several days.

Bloodletting of veterans starts free agency with a bang [NFL News]

The days preceding free agency were full of contract re-negotiations, but the veterans who didn’t want to let their value be tossed aside found themselves tossed aside instead. Just before the opening bell of free agency, the blood flowed freely across the NFL’s older locker rooms. The most tragic loss, of course, being the one-glove wonder. David Carr might never even have a back up job again. Tragic.

I feel tears coming, so let’s move on.

With so many player released, the stage was set for a hot and fast free agency season. We had been tracking the rumors, but when the clock started this weekend, some teams came out strong to sign players early. Football Jabber broke down free agency aftermath from this weekend for each individual team, but we can shoot through a few quick notes with fantasy implications right here.

First, the big moves.

As expected, the big drama surrounding Randy Moss‘s free agency ended when he signed a three-year deal with the Patriots. Did anyone expect him to move? I certainly didn’t want to guess who would get custody of the love child between Moss, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady if Moss left town.

Also as expected, Oakland is still insane. I am more convinced everyday that the front office for the Raiders is run by helper monkeys.

Bernard Berrian settled down with Minnesota, so the pressure is on Tarvaris Jackson now to learn how to make good decisions on when to throw the long ball and, hopefully, not mature into the next Rex Grossman. If he fits in this offense, Minnesota could legitimately open the field up for both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson in 2008.

The highest bidder in the Asante Samuel lottery ended up being the Eagles. Samuel will now make sure the Eagles secondary is locked down for 2008.

Alge Crumpler officially signed on with the Titans to make Vince Young as productive a member of a quarterback-to-tight-end tandem as Michael Vick was in Atlanta.

Derek Anderson decided to stay with the Browns–as long as they paid him more than Brady Quinn. Donte’ Stallworth also signed with the Browns. Obviously prepping for a big Super Bowl run the same way as the Patriots, the Browns now officially have two receivers worth mentioning besides tight end Kellen Winslow.

Michael Turner, touted for years as an incredible beast of a running back but with doubters, took the check from the Atlanta Falcons–almost makes it a lock that Atlanta will take Matt Ryan of Boston College as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Warrick Dunn was released, so Turner will likely be spelled by the break out running of Jerious Norwood through the ghostly shadow that Michael Vick left in Atlanta. Dunn might end up in Houston, but that’s exactly what the Texans need, another veteran running back.

Muhsin Muhammad is back in Carolina after being cut by the Bears. Note: Once again, Carr is gone. The people rejoice.

The consistent foot of Josh Brown will serve the Rams next year since Jeff Wilkins decided to retire.

Teams with large amounts of money to spend are gobbling up veterans.

The San Francisco 49ers may be planning on opening a museum in 2008. They started snapping up veterans as they were released from other teams. DeShaun Foster found a home with the 49ers–likely as Frank Gore‘s backup next year. Isaac Bruce, after being tossed aside by the Rams, got his own two-year deal with the 49ers, but Bruce only has a few more good routes in him to add to an already shallow wide receiver group in San Francisco–even if he already knows Martz’s ways.

The Jacksonville Jaguars went after better receivers to give David Garrard some targets (good move), but their choices were an aging Jerry Porter and the Vikings’ Troy Williamson, a burner with quick feet and slow, slippery hands (not so good move). Garrard still won’t have a big “sure thing” receiver in Jacksonville to make something happen unless Williamson starts catching and/or Porter returns to form as a number one or a valuable possession receiver. With Quinn Gray not re-signed, Jacksonville signed Cleo Lemon from Miami, who might forever be known for his game-winning pass in Miami’s 1-15 season.

The Buccaneers started spending hard and heavy by signing a couple of guys to strengthen their offensive line in Jeff Faine and John Gilmore. Devery Henderson might also find some of their money in his pocket. He is much younger than most of the Tampa Bay wide receiver corps. Not to be out-done by the 49ers after competing for Foster, the Bucs traded a draft pick for Brian Griese–the safest option the Bears had at QB. He will likely serve as a more legitimate backup for Jeff Garcia in 2008.

Bill Parcells is building a team of contributors to Miami with the signing of Ernest Wilford and Josh McCown along with his moves on the defensive side.

Some players with minor fantasy value in 2007 also chose to stay put.

Justin Gage will try to remain relevant in Tennessee as the Titans look to bring in greater wide receiver talent. D.J. Hackett, who played with the Seahawks last year, should be coming through soon along with a potential visit from Bryant Johnson, subbing in for Arizona’s starting receivers well in 2007. Both have significant upside when compared to the aging Gage, but he could find a place with them.

Andre Davis will return to Houston, and David Patten opted to stay with the Saints and count on Drew Brees to increase his fantasy value. Chris Redman also kept his return to the NFL going strong by re-signing for another year with the Falcons.

Despite all these moves and various trades–in only the FIRST weekend–rumors are still circulating about where more free agents will land.

The Dallas Cowboys might be interested in Tatum Bell as as backup to rest Marion Barber. The Cowboys are also leading the race to land Javon Walker since he was cut from the Denver Broncos. Their main rival for his services is the Philadelphia Eagles.

To track all the top players down to their height and weight, check out the SportingNews’ 99 Free Agent table [via Fantasy Football Librarian].

Combine appearances moving stock for elite players [Combine News]

Darren McFadden cooled worries about his on-the-field game by posting an impressive 40-yard dash.

His official time was recorded as 4.33. (His first run was timed “unofficially” at 4.27). With that show, McFadden proved he was one of the fastest players in Indianapolis. He showed his burst speed, but doubts could still be raised about his ability to run between the tackles. Then, there is always the issue of all his multiple children on the way and off-the-field baggage still to be considered. He still keeps the hype as the first back anyone will take in this year’s draft, but some who don’t desperately need his help might think twice.

The title of fastest running back at the Combine goes to Chris Johnson of East Carolina. Johnson ran a 4.24. Even if a cornerback comes close to those numbers tomorrow, that is one of the top times ever seen at the Combine. His role in an NFL franchise is probably as a returner like Devin Hester or a change up back like Jerious Norwood. He is competing among running backs in the same spot as Jamaal Charles of Texas in my opinion, and his faster time maskes him look more appealing for special teams. His stock definitely rose with that 40-yard time.

QB Joe Flacco was considered by some to be the best quarterback prospect at the Combine. He might end up being a steal in the second round with his powerful arm, but he hasn’t broken into consideration for the first round yet. Flacco didn’t run as fast as he promised in the 40-yard dash, but the hype around him has been rising ever since scouts got a good look at him in the Senior Bowl. He has a pretty nice highlight reel.

As far as strength goes, Vernon Gholston looked like a superhuman beast in the Combine workouts. His stats surpassed Chris Long, his fellow defensive linemen who currently holds the top spot among DL and the possibility of going first overall to Miami. Gholston ran a 4.64–that’s quite the momentum–and tied Jake Long with 37 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

Some predict Gholston’s stock rising from his stats and times today, but Chris Long still showed better technique and quickness in the skill drills. I expect Long to keep the top spot come draft day.

One player flying under the radar is Josh Johnson. Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom, the hosts of The Audible podcast at Footballguys.com, really love this guy. Other sports writers are still skeptical that anyone will give him a chance to play quarterback. He posted the fastest 40-yard time for any QB at 4.55 and the highest vertical at 33.5. Even though he only played at San Diego, he reminds scouts of Vince Young. That guy hasn’t turned out so bad–overlooking some possible taint on this year due a defeat of the Madden curse.

For the complete results of all the Combine athletes thus far, check out FFToolbox’s Combine Results tables.

Free agents, controversial players on the move pre-Combine [NFL Rumors]

What better way to start day 1 of the NFL Combine coverage than with a collection of trade and free agency rumors from around the NFL. There are several key free agents making moves out there that you should keep your eye on for fantasy football in 2008.

After making his rounds around the Patriots and Saints, Zach Thomas signed with the Cowboys. His $3 million salary isn’t as much as his stats, but it’s not about the money. Thomas wanted to return to his hometown team and hopes to be able to be tackling for the Cowboys rather than hitting linemen. Thomas could be a high impact player for the Cowboys defense, a unit that did well for fantasy owners in 2007 already.

Rex Grossman signed for another year with Chicago as “the starter.” He got replaced last year after a poor start, so there’s nothing stopping Lovie Smith from replacing mid-season in 2008. The quarterback situation for the Bears probably won’t be worked out until after the draft and training camp, but there are rumors that Brian Griese may have played his last ball in Chicago.

While the talk has been that Alge Crumpler would be happy in Carolina next season after Atlanta released him, the Tennessee Titans have an interest in him for 2008. With Bo Scaife hurt and possibly not starting immediately in 2007, and Ben Troupe probably on his way out, Vince Young could use another tight end target. The Titans utilized the tight end effectively in 2007 with Scaife being third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, so Crumpler might find a productive situation there like he had with Michael Vick in Atlanta.

Tampa Bay is considering a trade with the Denver Broncos for the unhappy Javon Walker. Although he had a bum knee this season, Walker still have a playmaker ability within him that the Bucs could use. It wouldn’t be a very long-term solution for Tampa Bay though since their receivers are all getting up there in age. They might not be willing to make a good enough deal for Walker and could take a young rookie in the draft instead.

After saying he wanted to stay in Atlanta, DeAngelo Hall didn’t receive the warm welcome he wanted from the new coaching staff, and he went off to reporters that he wants out. According to the latest rumors, both the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins are interested. The Giants are probably more likely to deal for him and could seriously use him with all the poor secondary play they had early in 2007. The Dolphins have expressed interest in Hall and Troy Williamson of the Minnesota Vikings. They likely would only take Hall if they had a good deal for him considering Parcells probably doesn’t want Hall’s off the field drama.

Fullback Lorenzo Neal is on the block with the Chargers. He is 37, but he might still have a good year or two left in him. He spent the last several years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, so it will be interesting to see whether L.T.’s running game is affected if Neal goes.

Now for players who are staying put…

If you think Rudi Johnson‘s 2007 running game for the Cincinnati Bengals had declined, you might find him a changed man in 2008. Rudi plans to put on weight this offseason and return to his power running game. If he achieves his goal, he could surprise in 2008 and might be a steal come fantasy draft day.

Speaking of player with a lull in 2007, Lee Evans may get some help with the Buffalo Bill. Evans, as the only passing threat of the Bills, was horribly double-teamed and shut down this season. To help him out, the Bills are rumored to be taking a big wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly from Oklahoma or possibly DeSean Jackson from Cal. Depending on Trent Edwards’ development, the Buffalo Bills could have a very improved passing game in 2008.

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, are looking for some speed in the running back department. While they love Edgerrin James for his production in 2007, they want a change up back that can hit those homerun drives–like a Ahmad Bradshaw or Adrian Peterson–and they will seek one in the draft ths year.

Week 12 Injury Report: Give thanks for back ups

football turkey

Someone just told me that you can buy a turkey at the store these days. Who knew? I just spent the last week in a ditch waiting for a gobbler to get caught in my cage full of blown up surgical gloves–finally got one.

Bet you thought I wasn’t going to get you your fantasy update before turkey day…but you were wrong.

It seems no running back will make it to the playoffs unscathed this year. Almost every single one in the league has sat at least one game or had an injury scare. This week, you may be able to snag a back up before your league handcuffs their players, and these backups could save your season.

Give thanks if you don’t own a player on this huge list.

Vince Young, QB Tennessee Titans
Reggie Bush, RB New Orleans Saints

Don’t worry about these two top NFL draft picks. Young will play through his injury even if it still nags him, and Bush is set to play according to the latest news out of New Orleans.

Santana Moss, WR Washington Redskins
Antwaan Randle El, WR Washington Redskins

The Redskins receivers are taking a beating this year, but Moss and Randle El are reportedly still going to start this week. Moss is coming off a big game as the go to receiver, so even though the lightning rod single-game explosion of James Thrash will be missing for another six years or so week 12 the Redskins could have another hot receiving day against Tampa Bay.

Priest Holmes, RB Kansas City Chiefs
Larry Johnson, RB Kansas City Chiefs

LJ is being secretive about his injury, but it seems like he is planning on making it back in time to help you out in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, while he sits again this week, Priest Holmes will also be abandoning them by retiring today. Rookie Kolby Smith will be taking over for this offense and might be worth starting this week against Oakland–the most holy defensive line in the NFL lately.

Javon Walker, WR Denver Broncos

Walker might be back this week since he is practicing. I say *might* because the star WR has been out eight games now. If he is available in your league, for God’s sake man, pick him up. Walker was a beast near the end of the season last year and could return to make Jay Cutler look very good here at the end of the fantasy season.

The still hurt:

Shaun Alexander, RB Seattle Seahawks

The money man will sit again this week and let Maurice Morris make people think paying high-dollar for a RB is always a bad decision. According to Bill Parcels, the position has a four year life span and is not worth signing anyone at high expense. Maybe Alexander just has a second year’s worth of the Madden curse.

Adrian Peterson, RB Minnesota Vikings

You can pray to the purple Jesus of fantasy football, but you won’t see him back this week.

As a side note, Chester Taylor‘s lead blocker Tony Richardson sprained his MCL. Taylor might be missing Richardson’s large, comforting presence blocking Giants tacklers in front of him this week. He has not been named as out for the game this week yet, but Richardson’s status might be worth watching.

Ahman Green, RB Houston Texans

Ahman has one banged up knee that won’t go away, but the Texans want to keep him around. Surely, there are probably better backs available in most leagues, but if not, you can keep holding out for Green–pick up Ron Dayne in the meantime if no one else has him as they play the Browns this week.

Laveranues Coles, WR New York Jets

Coles will probably sit this week against the Cowboys secondary on Thanksgiving because of his sprained ankle. Coles has had a rough season but might still be worth holding onto if you don’t have a mammoth core of receivers. Justin McCareins will likely start in his place with Jerricho Cotchery moving to the number one receiver spot for Kellen Clemens big arm.

Santonio Holmes, WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Holmes is likely to miss the game this week and sit on the sidelines with Troy Palamalu–bad news for Holmes owners but good news for Miami receivers. Wait, does Miami have receivers? or an offense? Scratch that.

Nate Washington will start in Holmes place.

Patrick Crayton, WR Dallas Cowboys

Crayton didn’t want to miss out on the injury party, so he injured his ankle in practice. If he does not play on Thanksgiving, Sam Hurd will get the nod. Hurd is a fast, breaking WR like Terrell Owens, but against the Jets, expect most of the throws to go T.O. and Jason Witten‘s way. Hurd is probably not a good play this week.

Marshawn Lynch, RB Buffalo Bills

The second best rookie RB might still sit this week but wouldn’t be a very good fantasy pick this week anyway against the Jaguars. Anthony Thomas should be starting again–and probably pretty poorly this week.

Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay Packers

Grant hurt his ankle and might not recover in time to play on Thanksgiving. If you have another option, you might not play him or sit your laptop atop the turkey to update your roster before game time. The family won’t mind, just don’t block the turkey legs. Who knows which GB RB will see more time if he is out–Morency or Jackson?

Aaron Moorehead, WR Indianapolis Colts
Marvin Harrison, WR Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are dropping like flies again. Moorehead is out for the season with a back injury, so Anthony Gonzalez should return as the starter with Reggie Wayne. Harrison is still mysteriously not returning–maybe saving him for retirement playoffs?

Brandon Jacobs, RB New York Giants

Jacobs is out as the big bruiser for this week. Reuben Droughns and/or Derrick Ward will make up for his huge absence. Watch the injury reports to see if Ward will make it back in time for the game. Keep in mind that they play the Vikings run defense this week.

Donovan McNabb, QB Philadelphia Eagles

McNabb is banged up this week, but he is not a good play against the Patriots anyway. A.J. Feeley would probably fill in if every other team in your league has a bench full of QBs.

Lesson of the week: make sure you back up your studs.

Teams changing game plans to end the season

Several teams have faced injuries and complete breakdowns thus far this season. Who is beefing up for a strong finish and who should you avoid?I got your answers…bet you thought I was going to leave you hanging on that one.

Green Bay went from being unexpectedly good at throwing the ball to developing a running game–with just one RB too. Now that they have Ryan Grant, they might even pose a threat to the Cowboys in the NFC. A Super Bowl for the NFC like the Colts-Patriots was for the AFC could happen in week 13 when the Packers face the Cowboys on Thursday night. I am sure they are going to lose–Go Cowboys!–but regardless of who wins out, if you can grab any starter off Green Bay, go after them. They will keep throwing the ball even with a good RB. You might even have lucky weeks with some of Favre’s other third and fourth receivers James Jones and Ruvell Martin. Jones is the better pick of the two, but Ruvell had his day last week and could see more action from the veteran arm of the Favre man meat–I just like that word.

The Colts need to switch their locker room out for an intensive care unit. While they may still be able to keep ahead of opponents, the D takes a major blow with Dwight Freeney being put on injured reserve and out for the season. Last year, losing Bob Sanders made them stop tackling, but losing Freeney hurts their pass rushing AND run stopping. Indianapolis is in a rough patch of their schedule right now with injuries plaguing both sides of the ball. Peyton Manning can probably carry them through it, but a little kicker named Vinny needs to get his leg problems straightened out so that they don’t have another letdown like the very end of the Chargers game this week. Fantasy-wise, if you are using the Colts D, you might looks elsewhere to support the rest of your playoff run. Also, there are some subs to be had with WR Aaron Moorehead and TE Bryan Fletcher until Manning’s starting boys return.

Re-working the offense…

Minnesota and Tennessee could be changing their current playing style in week 11. The Titans have focused on a strong running game and given Vince Young plenty of time to sit and do nothing fantasy-wise, but with teams starting to cut off their running attack, two banged up starting RBs (LenDale White and Chris Brown) with one rookie RB (Chris Henry) facing suspension soon, the Titans might have to put it all on Young’s shoulders. He hasn’t shown much this season, but he could break out and put off concerns of the “Madden curse” killing his sophomore season.

In the Vikings’ case, with the loss of rookie sensation Adrian Peterson, they really have to have an air attack to get Chester Taylor out of the box. Kyle Boller is coming in at QB because Steve McNair hurt his pride shoulder in the loss last week. Boller has an arm to open it up for Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason to make plays.

Now take your hand off the silly pick up button for one second, crazy fool. Unless you have an extra spot to give for Vince Young or Brandon Jones (and they’re available), or you just love Mark Clayton after his week 10 performance, WAIT and see how these players do this week and how the game plan changes. I know how much you love instant gratification, but patience makes the heart grow fonder, or some crap. They could start firing off a few touchdowns, or they could lay a stink on you. The Titans face the good corners of Denver, but Boller has a decent chance against the Browns secondary.

Only go after them in desperation–like that ugly one you keep calling.