Colts try to get all hands on deck vs. Pats; Harvin, AP are upgrades
Ever feel like your fantasy football team is like a country song? I was at the Jamey Johnson concert last night and prior to him coming on, the DJ played "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight." Most of America knows that as the song that was turned into the Monday Night Football song, but it reminded me that football and heartache are linked. It seems every country song is about heartbreak, loss, or missing out on something by just that much. Judging by some of the emails and tweets I get from fantasy owners, those songs might be less about women and more about fantasy football. Maybe if we could just play the song backwards, we'd have Ryan Grant back on the field, Sidney Rice would have never hurt his hip, and Brett Favre would be sitting on his porch in Mississippi. Okay, that last part of the song is the same either way I guess, but like a good country song, you can make something out of your pain in fantasy football. Yeah, my draft day included both Grant and Rice, but that doesn't mean everything since hasn't kept me in playoff contention. With a couple good weeks, I'll be in the playoffs. With a couple bad ones, I'll be on the outside looking in. At the end of the day, like the song says, things aren't easy, but a little hard work should go along way.
Be sure to join me for my video chat from 11 a.m. to noon ET on Sunday.
The Colts have a lot of injuries, as they have all season, but this is a focus game for them, so they were pushing all week to get all hands on deck. Joseph Addai practiced on Thursday, but had soreness in his shoulder again after just limited work and he's out again this week, with some inside the team worried that he won't be able to return at all. Seeing Reggie Wayne listed as "questionable" had to set some fantasy hearts racing, especially considering that's the same designation the Colts gave to Austin Collie. Wayne will play, while Collie looks to be headed that way as well. They'll pair up with Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme to give Peyton Manning plenty of targets. On the defensive side, the Colts have bigger issues. Gary Brackett (toe) and Clint Session (arm) are unlikely to return this week. Aaron Francisco and Kelvin Hayden -- both questionable -- should play, but Francisco iss likely to be matched up tight against Wes Welker to try and combat screens, so any limitation he might have is going to be tested early. The Pats don't have any major injuries, though Fred Taylor is looking more likely to play this week. He had a good week of practice, but even if available, he's only going to split carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The Ravens are used to Todd Heap being banged up, but with so many TEs down around the league, pickings are getting very slim. Heap is a GTD, but it's likely that he'll play. It's less likely that he'll be a major part of the offense. The Panthers will likely be without Jonathan Stewart again this week as he recovers from a concussion, leaving the touches to Richard Goodson. Expect more running as the offense tries to take some heat off Brian St. Pierre. There are some worried about the Ravens stacking the box and testing St. Pierre and that St. Pierre will have lots of garbage time throws, which are valid concerns if you're playing the Ravens DST this week. I still like the takeaway potentials there. This is a real mismatch on paper, but those don't always end up the same in fantasy.
Both teams have pretty extensive OIR lists, but neither is going to be too bothered by what they're missing. Yes, CJ Spiller is a nice RB, but they have depth there and it helps to know that Fred Jackson is the guy this week rather than a split. He can handle that load for a week or two before it wears on him. The Bengals have depth issues on both lines and that's going to be more of an issue, but not so much that it changes the game plan. With Antwan Odom out again, the interior play is key again, which makes Tank Johnson's GTD the big one to watch for whether you have the Bengals DST or Jackson. Cedric Benson will play and shouldn't be bothered too much by his foot, but don't expect full touches.
Jahvid Best is the question mark this week for more than just his lingering toe problem. Matched up against the Cowboys, he should have a solid week, but he was awful against a Bills defense that he should have feasted on. Some of that might be the toe or the lack of a passing game, but neither of those things is going to change as the Lions head into Cowboys Stadium. Best should play, but he doesn't have back up this week, with Kevin Smith out, leaving the attack as Calvin Johnson and hope. Johnson appears to be past his shoulder issues, but just because it's not listed this week -- he is on the list with a minor knee issue -- don't think it's gone. A team isn't required to list every injury, remember, just to update the playing status. The Cowboys have some issues in the defensive backfield with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins both on the list, but Jason Garrett's got most of his weapons in his second week as head coach.
Cleveland has been getting progressively more healthy as the season's gone along. That doesn't often happen, but a team that can minimize injuries and get people back has a chance. The big worry for the Browns in Week 11 is Josh Cribbs, who dislocated four toes and is unlikely to play. For the Jags, the big injury is to Mike Sims-Walker. Mike Thomas is a guy people picked up last week based off one lucky play, but if he's the WR1 for David Garrard this week, we're going to learn quickly whether he deserves the attentions and the pick-ups.
At this stage, we know not to believe any of the reports about Chris Wells. His reports of being "in the best shape of the season" only have him questionable on the OIR and there's a fair chance he doesn't play, according to several sources. Wells will split carries with Tim Hightower at best, so we're really back to the Week 1 situation where Wells was an overdraft based on playing-time expectations. Aside from Wells, most of the issues for the Cards are on the defensive side, which should open things up for the Chiefs. The Chiefs will likely be without Dexter McCluster again this week as he continues to deal with his ankle sprain. More concerning is the loss of Tony Moeaki this week. Moeaki suffered a concussion during an onside kick attempt last week and hasn't been back to practice. In theory, the Chiefs should be able to adjust, but Moeaki has been a real find for many fantasy players in a year where TE is very thin.
For what should be the last of Brett Favre's appearances against his old team, the Vikings have a lot of injury issues. Sidney Rice was activated, but it's unclear whether the pressure from the coaching staff forced it ahead of schedule or whether Rice can go out and perform. It's hard to imagine that he'll be a good play this week even with Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin less than 100 percent. Expect him to be spotted in, though what I really want to see is whether the team gameplans him away from contact. Harvin is the much better play this week. For Green Bay, they have a couple issues beyond depth. Clay Matthews could be wearing down slightly as the season wears on. Donald Driver seems to have come back off the bye week much better, running routes in practice and generally looking like a solid option for Aaron Rodgers. He's a GTD, but I expect Driver to play.
Nearly a quarter of the Texans are on the OIR and playing a physical team like the Jets isn't going to help. The skill positions are hit hard, with Matt Schaub's knee unlikely to keep him off the field, but his mobility is a question. Worse, it's easy to imagine a scenario where he's pushed forward and lands on his injured knee. That could aggravate the situation and cause rapid swelling, so you have to factor in a possible early exit. That hurts Andre Johnson, who's played well with his injured ankle over the last two games, and Kevin Walter, who's got some knee issues of his own. The passing game woes might force the Texans to run more, if they can. The Texans defense is also very banged up, but most of the key parts will play, notably Mario Williams. The Jets just have minor injuries, like Mark Sanchez's mild calf strain and the continued watch on Darrelle Revis. Jerricho Cotchery really freed up on Friday and now looks better than 50-50 to play. Call him a GTD, but don't expect him to get full looks, which will help Braylon Edwards.
There might be as many question marks heading into this game as I can remember for any single game this year. The surprising Raiders will have GTDs on Zach Miller, Darius Heyward-Bey, and Nnamdi Asomugha, while the Steelers have some question marks in Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, and Brett Keisel. All of these have major fantasy implications and as of now, all are leaning to play. They're interrelated of course -- if Ward can go, that helps Roethlisberger and takes a few targets away from Mike Wallace. If Asomugha can go, he hurts the Steelers' passing game. Its very tough to say who's where and how it all fits together, so I'll just say watch this space or my Sunday morning video chat so that once we know who's active, we can figure out exactly who's in for solid fantasy days.
By now, we know to not listen to Mike Shanahan when it comes to RBs, but on Friday, he said that Ryan Torain would be out and Clinton Portis would be in. For me, that means that Keiland Williams needs to be paired with either of those and perhaps played above either as well. Portis is going to be a split, at best, and Williams is the only sure thing. Even then, Williams should only be an RB3 or Flex play. The Titans don't have Vince Young on the injury report this week, just one week after he wasn't healthy enough to get the start. He played well once he was forced into the game but I'm still a bit concerned about his mobility. If that's not an issue -- and it hasn't been in practice -- then the Titans offense should open up some, especially if Young can get the ball to Randy Moss early.
The Saints get Reggie Bush back this week, but expecting him to come in and take over the RB1 slot is silly. Bush will get his touches and targets this week, but Sean Payton isn't going to run Bush up the middle or in goal line situations. That's still going to be Chris Ivory and some Ladell Betts. Bush's issue is going to be with hard cuts and acceleration, so I expect to see the Saints try to get him in space and use his speed. The Saints won't have Jeremy Shockey this week, with his rib not healing up enough over the bye to give it a go this week. The team shut him down pretty early in the week, so we have to wonder how long this might keep the injury-prone TE out. For the Seahawks, there's no fantasy-specific injuries aside from the standing issues at WR.
The Bucs' big fantasy issue is Mike Williams' availability, but that's something that falls outside the scope of this column. The Bucs will get Earnest Graham back, but with the play of LaGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams -- a player who's better splitting time throughout his career -- Graham's role is at best a TD vulture. The Niners will be without Joe Staley, who played through a fibula fracture last week. He's likely done for the season with the 4-6 week injury. That will cost Troy Smith some time, but he's mobile, so it's not as much of a worry as it would be with someone like Alex Smith. Frank Gore is on the injury report, but it's a minor issue. He'll play and looks to have a very favorable matchup.
Neither team has any significant fantasy injuries this week.
The Giants offensive line has problems at nearly every position, including Kevin Boss at TE. That will hurt both the running and passing game, especially in a week where they seem to want to try to hold the ball and keep Michael Vick off the field. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy as a GTD on Sunday night. I think he'll play, but the shoulder will cost him some carries. On Monday, the Chargers get Malcolm Floyd back (though he did have a mild setback Friday), but it doesn't look like Antonio Gates will be joining him. The return of some other targets for Philip Rivers has the Chargers being a bit patient with their TE. The Chargers will also be without Ryan Mathews, who had another setback with his ankle.