The Dark Knight was released on DVD this week, but for many of you Monday may have been the dark night that ended your fantasy seasons. That is, if you were "Antonio Bryanted" the way I was on Monday. The worst part was that it came down to the bitter end, as Bryant's incredible one-handed touchdown grab was the official nail in my fantasy coffin. Sure was a great catch, though. Now if I see the highlight one more time, I will officially ban all Bucs from my future fantasy rosters.
That play probably won as many matchups as it lost, and it's one of those things that make the fantasy playoffs so exciting and frustrating at the same time. The other is injuries. But with injuries we can at least make some reasonable assumptions and educated guesses that help stem the tide of unpredictability. This week the list includes a lot of big-time performers you've been relying on since Day 1. Sadly, some of them may have to ride your bench this week. Let's get to the injuries:
If it's not an injury, it's a shouting match. Portis sarcastically applied the "genius" label to head coach Jim Zorn during a radio appearance earlier this week. Portis let it be known he was clearly frustrated about being yanked from Sunday night's game against Baltimore. He's missed most of the team's practices in recent weeks with knee, ribs, and neck injuries, and Zorn claimed on Sunday the lack of practice finally caught up with Portis. Regardless of which side you take in the argument, Portis did get through his limited playing time without suffering further damage. He essentially got a week of rest. Now he has a great matchup with the Bengals. A Washington team that can't afford another loss knows it needs him to win. Portis says he'll be good to go, and Zorn says he's an every down back. Plug him in, cross your fingers, and close your eyes.
OK, so centers don't normally get a lot of attention in the fantasy world. We'll make an exception for the Colts Pro Bowler. Saturday is expected to return Sunday when the Colts send the Lions to 0-14. If the combination of Saturday's return and the Lions doesn't get the Colts ground game on track, it may be another quick January exit. Saturday missed the first two games of the season, and Addai then missed three shortly thereafter. When the two have been together, the Colts' running game has been fairly productive.
Addai suffered a minor shoulder injury last unday but returned to the game. However, he missed practice Wednesday and the team brought in veteran Najeh Davenport. (Third string RB Chad Simpson is expected to miss the game with an ankle injury, so the Colts needed the depth). The Colts may decide it's in their best interest to rest Addai against Detroit. Regardless, expect to see plenty of Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes is already getting in on one in every three series, and more often than not he's been the back Tony Dungy prefers at the end of tight games. Not saying this will be a tight one, but it's worth noting for both Addai and Rhodes owners.
Did the QB of an 0-13 team heading to Indy just make this column? Here's why. Calvin Johnson has lived up to his "Megatron" billing. He's been good for 9 TDs and at least one catch of 29 yards or longer in 9 of his 13 games this year. He's pretty consistent. Culpepper strained his shoulder at the end of Sunday's loss to the Vikings and word out of Detroit is that it's doubtful he'll play Sunday. Dan Orlovsky, who had some success with Johnson earlier this year, is hoping to be available after missing five games with a broken right thumb. He was limited in practice on Wednesday. Drew Stanton has spent the last two weeks dealing with the lingering issues of a concussion, but would likely get his first career start if the other two can't go. Then there's Drew Henson. ... That sound you just heard was Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney laughing all the way to the Pro Bowl. Plus, the Colts have given up just 4 TD passes all year.
Jeff George lives in Indy, where he throws the football and works out just about every day. Funny, the Lions are playing in Indy. The Lions have worked George out in recent years. Need an arm to sling it down field to Megatron? George may be the best option. Check that, he is the best option. I am not kidding. What do the Lions have to lose?
Gore sprained his left ankle in the second half of Sunday's win over the Jets and did not return. X-rays on the ankle reveled no breaks, but Gore's status for Sunday is in doubt. DeShaun Foster is the pickup if Gore can't go, but deep-leaguers shouldn't forget about Michael Robinson and the goal-line prowess he's displayed in the past. Even if Gore is able to get on the practice field by Friday, this one has game-time decision written all over it. On the positive side, Gore has played through similar injuries in the past and the 49ers are in Miami -- where Gore went to high school and college and will likely have a entire section of friends and family. Things like that tend to help injuries heal a little quicker.
Jacobs has a history of nagging injuries in his short career. However, this season (his best yet), the Giants have smartly split his carries up 50/50 between him and the duo of Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Right now, it appears the biggest issue is pain and not actual damage to the left knee, yet Jacobs is a tall back and his tough running style makes his legs very susceptible to hard hits. He already missed one game due to sprained ligament in his right knee, and this issue with his left one is nothing new. Jacobs claims the left knee has been bothering him since Week 5. With quality backups and the Giants a virtual lock to win their division, it seems unlikely that Jacobs will play against Dallas this week -- especially if the Giants can get him healthy for a matchup with Carolina the following week that may determine the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Despite the fact the Cowboy's medical staff on Friday ruled Barber out for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh, owner Jerry Jones questioned the toughness of his team's running back. Barber missed the game with a dislocated pinkie toe. No doubt it's a painful injury, but it's not one that should linger like the turf toe that has plagued LaDainian Tomlinson most of the year. In fact, Barber developed a sore right calf after he ran and compensated for the toe injury throughout last week. According to Wade Phillips, the calf injury played as big a role in Barber sitting as the toe did. Regardless of who thinks what injury is how bad, expect Barber to give it a go this week in a huge game against the Giants. However, a tough matchup, coupled with the injuries, and Tashard Choice's 166 total yards against the league's best defense in Pittsburgh make it unreasonable to expect big things from Barber this week.
"Fragile Fred" may be back. While Taylor has been a disappointment from a numbers standpoint this season, he has at least stayed healthy. Now, word comes that he may be placed on Injured Reserve and miss the remainder of the season with torn ligaments in his left thumb. Taylor feels he can play through the pain if he finds the right brace in time for Sunday's game against Green Bay, but two doctors have already told him to shut it down and have surgery. Taylor says he won't make his decisions until injury czar Dr. James Andrews looks at his MRI. Can't blame him there. However, Taylor really wasn't giving fantasy owners much, so the big news from this injury is the possibility of a late season surge by Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jags have basically given up on the season, but match-ups against Green Bay and Indianapolis the next two weeks could yield some nice returns for MJD. It may be too little too late, but just one solid game could be a difference maker at this point in a lot of leagues.
Chiefs WR Mark Bradley missed the team's loss to Denver with a calf injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. He's a nice sleeper against San Diego if he plays, but he likely means more to Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez owners if he doesn't ... Cadillac Williams is showing his knee is strong enough to plow through defenders at the goal line, and the inconsistent play of Warrick Dunn could mean more time for Williams ... Peyton Hillis is the latest Denver RB to suffer a season ending injury. Tatum Bell is the pick up, but he's not a great play at Carolina. At this rate, Terrell Davis may be on fantasy radars in a week ... Bears RB Matt Forte will likely reach 300 carries for the season this week against New Orleans. He has as high a percentage of his team's total carries as anyone in the league, but really hasn't showed signs of breaking down. Keep an eye on him, but matchups with the Saints, Packers and Texans to close out the season are too good to ignore.