Jamal Lewis :: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The news came down yesterday that the Cleveland Browns placed Jamal Lewis on injured reserve jeopardizing any chance he may have had of continuing his once-illustrious career. This season's Lewis was a far cry from the back who once gained 2,066 yards in a season, or who held the league's single-game rushing record with 295 in a contest against the Browns in 2003. The 2009 version gained a career-low 500 yards with no touchdowns in the nine games he played.
Even with those paltry numbers Lewis is the fifth-best fantasy player to see his season end with an injury, placing behind only Ronnie Brown, Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley and Leon Washington, so fantasy owners in general have to thank their lucky stars for getting off so this season. (Of course, now that I've said that, there's going to be a rash of season-ending calamities.)
Here's a list of all potentially fantasy-worthy players who've been put on the IR this season compared to last year and the much bigger names who were lost last season.
2009 Injured Reserve
QB - Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich
RB - Ronnie Brown, Leon Washington, Jamal Lewis, Ladell Betts, Heath Evans
WR - Chris Henry, Keenan Burton, Troy Williamson
TE - Owen Daniels, Chris Cooley, Steve Heiden
K - None
2008 Injured Reserve
QB - Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Brady Quinn, Jon Kitna, Derek Anderson, Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard
RB - Reggie Bush, Laurence Maroney, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Fred Taylor, Michael Pittman, Ahman Green, Earnest Graham, Selvin Young, Peyton Hillis, Chris Brown, Andre Hall, Kolby Smith
WR - Nate Burleson, Greg Camarillo, Javon Walker, Joe Jurevicius, Arnaz Battle, Laurent Robinson, Sam Hurd, Drew Bennett, Demetrius Williams
TE - Randy McMichael, Mark Campbell
K - Martin Gramatica
Another fantasy constant hit the end of the road this week when the Falcons released longtime kicker Jason Elam, co-holder of the league's distance record. A 17-year veteran with a career accuracy rate of 80.7%, Elam bowed out after making just eight of 15 field goal tries from 30-yards or beyond, likely snapping his NFL-record streak of consecutive 100-point seasons from the start of his career at 16. He currently ranks sixth alltime in the league in points scored with 1,985 but will be replaced by Matt Bryant who has missed just one field goal under 40-yards since 2006. Should you find yourself in need of a kicker he's a sneaky good pickup on a team that will be attempting more field goals than usual with Matt Ryan and Michael Turner on the sidelines.
The time has come to pull out all of the stops. Although the playoffs don't start in most leagues for a week or two, for the teams still in contention every game is a must win and therefore you should treat it as such. One of the easiest ways to improve your team this late in the season is by playing defensive matchups. Defense and special teams are an afterthought at the draft, but as teams like the Saints and Eagles have shown this season, having a good defense can mean the difference between an average or elite team. But the best defense for the season isn't necessarily the best defense this week. This year the parity that the NFL has worked so hard to cultivate for all of these seasons has been tossed out the window, leaving a whole host of have-nots to schedule your fantasy team against. But it also makes clashes of the titans like least week's Saints-Patriots matchup avoidable.
Case in point for Week 13 when the Vikings play the Cardinals with Kurt Warner likely to start at home after missing last week's game with blurry vision. These two defenses have been among the best this year and worthy of starting nearly every week, however facing each others' powerful offenses makes you take a good long look at what your alternatives might be.
The ideal defenses this week are the Chargers who travel to Cleveland to take on an offense that's suffered a power Brown-out all season long, or the Bengals who have the tools to contain Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford with one of the league's top cornerback tandems. But there's little chance that the Bolts or Cats are hanging out on your wire. However the slumping Bears, who host Kyle Boller's Rams with Steven Jackson ailing with a bad back, are available in a quarter of all leagues. The Bills rank second to the Saints in interceptions and feature the individual co-leader, Jarius Byrd. Available in nearly two-thirds of leagues, they're licking their chops at the prospect of facing pick machine Mark Sanchez tonight at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Widely available players to pick up in a pinch:
QB - Alex Smith, 49ers, Chad Henne, Dolphins, Josh Freeman, Buccaneers, Vince Young, Titans
RB - Fred Jackson, Bills, Jamaal Charles, Chiefs, Darren McFadden, Raiders, Rock Cartwright, Redskins
WR - Chaz Schilens, Raiders, Devery Henderson, Saints, Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers, Pierre Garçon, Colts, Mike Wallace, Steelers, Kenny Britt, Titans, Brandon Gibson, Rams
TE - Kevin Boss, Giants, Fred Davis, Redskins, Tony Scheffler, Broncos
K- Rob Bironas, Titans, Matt Stover, Colts, Matt Bryant, Falcons, Rian Lindell, Bills
Remember to check into SI Fantasy Football Extra Podcast which makes it's triumphant return this week after a two week holiday hiatus. My recently validated co-host, Richard Deitsch, and I discuss all of the hot button fantasy topics of the day and help you prepare for the upcoming games.
Send your fantasy football questions to me on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino. As usual I'll be taking questions all week, but especially on Sunday AM, leading up to the kickoffs of the early kickoffs.