Will Carroll
Sunday October 16th, 2011

I'm a big advocate for the oxymoron of realistic fantasy. I hate when there's an imbalance between fantasy and the real game it's based off of. PPR came into being to try and rebalance the game and, while effective, it's not ideal either since it overvalues short passes. But there's no bigger disparity than between the reality of fantasy trades and NFL trades. Not a week goes by that my fantasy chat isn't filled with trade questions or "fairness" tests. There are websites with trade calculators and even dispute settlers for those trades gone awry. In the NFL? Meh.

Sure, Derrick Mason got shipped out and Aaron Curry dumped, but aside from rumors about Reggie Wayne and Brandon Lloyd, there's nothing in the way of fantasy-relevant deals. When is the last time you had a player on your roster get traded, changing his value? The NFL is committed to the current system, where trades are nearly impossible, so it's not going to change. My question is -- should fantasy trades be made more difficult? What if we went with a Warren Buffett rule and limited the sheer number of trades or even moves that could be made? It's something to consider, but for now, let's take our weekly look around the league so you can avoid the zeroes and start the heroes:

10:15 a.m.

WAS: Chris Cooley says his knee drainage was "no big deal" and that he'll play normally. "Normally" appears to mean something different to the Shanahans, so Cooley doesn't look like a great play even as a GTD+.

WAS: DeAngelo Hall came up with a last-minute knee injury. While there's no details on the severity, it's reasonable to give a slight upgrade to Philly's WRs and to Brent Celek.

PIT: Good reports on Rashard Mendenhall this morning. He's healthy, but the line still stinks.

BUF: Sounds like Nick Barnett will play for the Bills, which is big with Shawne Merriman out today.

9:30 a.m.

GB: Greg Jennings is dealing with a sore groin and could lose a couple targets based off that. He is expected to play - GTD+.

NYJ: Nick Mangold is expected to play, which boosts Shonn Greene and Mark Sanchez.

DAL: Felix Jones is correct in saying that his separated shoulder is not fully healed. It is, however, stable, which is the key thing for function.

IND: Anthony Castonzo is out for the Colts, but a picture he tweeted Saturday night shows that he is still in a boot.

UPGRADE: Roddy White DOWNGRADE: none • With Julio Jones out, the already sputtering Falcon attack is expected to spread the ball around, but I don't buy it. Roddy White is relatively healthy and I think they'll go back to last year, when he got almost all the targets. Tony Gonzalez will get his share, especially in the red zone. The defense also has a lot of dings, but most, including John Abraham, are expected to play. The Panthers are healthy, as they have been all year.

UPGRADE: Cedric Benson, A.J. Green DOWNGRADE: Dallas Clark • There was a point when people looked at this as a lull in the Colts schedule. Now, it's one of few chances still left to get a win. Joseph Addai is out, leaving the carries to Delone Carter and Donald Brown. The Colts lines -- both sides -- are also very thin and should cause all sorts of issues the staff will need to gameplan around. Dallas Clark was held in a lot to help and lost some plays to Brody Eldredge. Reggie Wayne missed practice all week, but it was not an injury situation. He will lose some practice time with Curtis Painter, for what that's worth. The Bengals issues are all on defense, where Rey Maualuga is out with an ankle sprain and the defensive backfield is thin.

UPGRADE: Vernon Davis DOWNGRADE: Frank Gore • Anyone expect this one to be a key matchups when the schedules came out? The Niners have known issues at WR, but even the healthy ones aren't as Michael Crabtree is running on a bad foot and Ted Ginn injured his finger. There are some issues on the offensive line, but they gameplan around it with power runs from Frank Gore and quick passes from Smith. Detroit is also relatively healthy despite a long OIR and that health has been the clear reason for their hot start. Getting Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best out on the field raises the talent level. Most of the issues are in the defensive backfield, which makes Vernon Davis an even tougher matchup. Nick Fairley isn't even on the OIR, so look to see if he and Ndamakong Suh can be the run-stuffers everyone expected.

UPGRADE: Steven Jackson DOWNGRADE: James Starks, Ryan Grant • There's a point where the OIR is deceptive. The Rams have lost so many players that seeing a short list doesn't really tell us that much. We don't see Steven Jackson, which is a plus, and his power running could be the Rams' best weapon. With both Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga out, they'll adjust blocking and TEs to help cover Aaron Rodgers. That will hold the RBs in more and force them to stay in between the tackles. The defense is less injured this week, though the Rams seem ready to test Tramon Williams' shoulder again. The WRs are all healthy, which could cost Jordy Nelson just a bit, with Donald Driver not pushed out of the way just yet.

UPGRADE: Naaman Roosevelt DOWNGRADE: Ahmad Bradshaw • Injuries could play a large role in this intrastate battle, but the teams at least should have time to plan. The Giants will be without Brandon Jacobs, Justin Tuck, and Chris Snee, with Prince Amukamara still out. Only Osi Umenyiora is a GTD+ and he's very likely to play. With Snee and Henry Hynoski out, there's some question about the blocking for Ahmad Bradshaw, so he's a mild downgrade. On the other side, Donald Jones is out for a month, opening up targets for hot sleeper Naaman Roosevelt. Shawne Merriman is unlikely to play with Achilles issues.

UPGRADE: Maurice Jones-Drew DOWNGRADE: Steelers DST • The Jags came with 17 players on the OIR (14 with injuries), which leaves them a bit thin, but most of their key players, even the listed ones, should go. Aaron Kampman looks much more likely to go this week than last. Only Jason Hill is a relevant GTD+ and only in the deepest of flex plays. The Steelers are dinged as well, but the bye week helped. Rashard Mendenhall will get the start and majority of touches, but he's battling both a poor line and a strained hamstring. We'll see Isaac Redman in short-yardage situations and Jonathan Dwyer as the rest back. James Harrison is still out, as are Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith, leaving some room on the edges for the Jags runners.

UPGRADE: Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith DOWNGRADE: Tim Hightower, Chris Cooley • The Eagles are a bit dinged, but should have everyone but Trent Cole on both sides, giving the "Dream Team" a chance to redeem themselves in a key conference battle. The 'Skins aren't in the same situation. Tim Hightower's sore shoulder cost him practice time and confused an already confusing RB situation. Right now, he could be the RB3 ... or start. I can't recommend any of them until we have some more clarity, which won't come until after kickoff. Chris Cooley had his knee drained, shifting targets to Fred Davis, again.

UPGRADE: Joe Flacco, Ed Dickson DOWNGRADE: Owen Daniels • The Texans came out of last week as injured as I've ever seen. I'm not sure if 22 on the OIR is a record, but it has to be close. The last thing the banged up Texans offense wanted to see coming was Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense. It's not as bad in years past where you could watch the OIR expand the week after the Ravens came through, but it's not good either. Arian Foster has a mild quad injury, which should affect him about as much as last week's hip strain, i.e., not at all. Ben Tate should be back in the mix, but not enough to take too many touches or be a FRG. The loss of Mario Williams helps Joe Flacco and could expose some depth issues for the Texans, especially in their dinged secondary. Matt Schaub is sore, but should play normally. The Texans will have to keep people in to keep Schaub upright, so don't look for too much from the TEs. If you are in a return yards league, Jacoby Jones is off punts, so be aware of that. On the Ravens side, Chris Carr and Lee Evans are out. That means Torrey Smith and his speed will be lining up in the WR2 and with the LB injuries, there's going to be a bigger seam for Ed Dickson.

UPGRADE: Jason Campbell DOWNGRADE: Browns DST • Joe Haden is probably the most-noted GTD and he's a GTD-. If he can't go, the passing game opens up for the speedy Raider wideouts, but it's Jason Campbell who is the real upgrade here. I'm putting the Browns DST as a downgrade with the assumption that Haden is out. They come back to a playable state with him in, but they're not a good play against a ready and healthy Raider attack. The Raiders have 15 on the OIR, but no significant player should miss time. It's mostly a depth issue for them.

UPGRADE: Dez Bryant DOWNGRADE: Stevan Ridley • Dallas' offense is finally healthy, or as close as you get in the midst of an NFL season. Felix Jones' shoulder is more stable. There's some recurrence risk with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant is always Dez Bryant-ish. Bryant could actually return punts this week, an upgrade if you get return yards in your league. It was a bit surprising that Tony Romo announced he would need another painkiller injection in order to play, but some are saying that's more about his comfort than his real ability to play. The Pats have 17 on the OIR, but most of those are probable. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a toe problem that showed up early in the week, but he practiced fully on Friday and will get his normal touches. Danny Woodhead is more of a GTD-. His status will also affect Stevan Ridley, but either way, Ridley's a bit overrated by most right now. He's an RB2 or RB3 right now on a passing team. Aaron Hernandez is GTD+, but will probably lose a few targets, making Rob Gronkowski the better play this week. The defensive GTDs help the Cowboys, of course, but the Pats D is looking like a bend-not-break defense in the mold of Dungy-era Colts teams.

UPGRADE: Earnest Graham, Mark Ingram DOWNGRADE: Devery Henderson • The Saints have some line issues, with Olin Kreutz injured and Zach Streif out. Kreutz is a GTD+ who is very likely to play. Devery Henderson is a GTD+ and with Marques Colston healthy, predicting the target splits is hard for everyone but Jimmy Graham, who's fast becoming Drew Brees' first look. The Bucs have LaGarrette Blount out this week, elevating Earnest Graham to a good play in PPR leagues. Kellen Winslow is his normal GTD+. One thing to watch Sunday morning is how well Aqib Talib warms up. His sore knee could be a problem if he gets isolated on double moves. Gerald McCoy's absence should open things up in the middle, which could help Mark Ingram.

UPGRADE: none DOWNGRADE: Julius Peppers, Percy Harvin • No flex scheduling yet? Okay. The Bears have a couple key injuries, with Julius Peppers out this week. That should help Donovan McNabb, assuming McNabb passes much. The Vikings are waiting to see if or how much Percy Harvin will play this week (he's a GTD+) and beyond him, there's not much that McNabb has been able to find. It's hard to say that either Adrian Peterson or Matt Forte will be upgrades since they're both must-play starters, but this could end up a grind-it-out, old-school running game.

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