November 20, 2009

Snap, Crackle and Pop is a weekly column that reviews the major injuries (Snap) and then projects both busts (Crackle) and sleepers (Pop) for the coming week.

Good-bye to the byes -- It's a full 16-game schedule from here on out. That should make things a littler simpler as you make your fantasy playoff push. Now all you have to worry about is injuries, and boy did we have some big ones last week ...

Miami RB Ronnie Brown suffered a severe foot injury on Sunday -- Not only is he out for Thursday night's game, Brown is out for 2009. The Dolphins put him on Injured Reserve Wednesday, ending his season. Ricky Williams becomes the full-time starter with rookie Lex Hilliard as his backup. It remains to be seen how well Miami can run the Wildcat without Brown and if the 32-year old Williams can take the pounding of 25 carries a game. As for Thursday's game, consider Williams a must-start against a bad Carolina run defense -- Williams would have been a must-start even if Brown were healthy.

Last Sunday, Eagles RB Brian Westbrook suffered his second concussion in less than a month. He was quickly ruled out for this week's game against the Bears. Don't expect to see Westbrook play again in 2009. The starting job now belongs to rookie LeSean McCoy. McCoy faces the Bears this week.

The Falcons will field a depleted RB corps against the Giants on Sunday. Starter Michael Turner has a high ankle sprain and was unable to practice on Wednesday. If you are looking to your handcuff, Jerious Norwood is also hurt. Norwood missed practice with a hip injury. Look for third-stringer Jason Snelling to get the carries if Turner can't go. Turner will be a game-time decision.

Bengals RB Cedric Benson missed Wednesday's practice with a hip injury. Cincinnati signed Larry Johnson off the scrap heap in case Benson can't play against the Raiders. Benson is a must-start if he is active, so check the Friday practice reports to see if he improves. Johnson can't be trusted, even against the lowly Raiders. Backup RB Bernard Scott is a better handcuff than Johnson.

Seattle RB Julius Jones has a bruised lung and will definitely miss Sunday's game against Minnesota. Jones has been fading since week 3, so this is a perfect excuse to cut your losses and let him go. Justin Forsett came in for Jones last week and ran for 123 yards against the Cardinals. He is worth a waiver pickup and even a start as a flex against the Vikings.

New England RB Sammy Morris practiced on Wednesday, though he was limited. If Morris practices again on Friday, he will probably suit up against the Jets and be part of a rotation with Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk. That means none of them have any fantasy value.

The NFL suspended Kansas City WR Dwayne Bowe for violating the drug policy. Bowe will miss four games and will return week 15, which is typically the first week of the fantasy playoffs. He's worth keeping because that game will be against the Browns.

Baltimore TE Todd Heap did not practice on Wednesday. Injured ribs kept him on the sidelines. Heap has had a steady, though unspectacular season. Heap has had at least 3 receptions in every game since week 3.

Denver QB Kyle Orton hurt his ankle in last week's embarrassing loss to the Redskins. Orton didn't practice on Wednesday, so there is a good chance that Chris Simms will get the start against the Chargers on Sunday.

The injury news is a moving target. Be sure follow the practice reports on Friday and the up-to-the-minute advice from our super computer, Mighty Max.

The Cowboys missed a chance to take a commanding lead in the NFC East when they lost to Green Bay last week 17-7. They got very little done with a pass-heavy attack. Dallas attempted 39 passes versus only 14 rushes. This was despite running the ball effectively. Expect Dallas to correct that this week against Washington. Look for the Dallas running backs, led by Marion Barber to take a more prominent role this week. Barber will share carries with Tashard Choice and Felix Jones, however, so he is only a modest play against the Redskins. QB Tony Romo and the Dallas wide receivers (Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton) should be knocked down a peg against the good Washington pass defense.

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles made the most of his opportunity last week. Charles ran for 103 yards and a TD after inheriting the job from Larry Johnson. That was against the Raiders, however. This week he faces the Steelers. Pittsburgh, with out without Troy Polamalu, is too much for Charles.

Houston running backs Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton will share the load against the Titans this Sunday. Moats figures to get more touches but he is not a good play against the Titans run defense.

Houston will throw at will against Tennessee's pass defense. Though the Titans have improved lately, expect Matt Schaub to have a field day. WR Andre Johnson will draw Tennessee's better defenders create opportunities for WR Kevin Walter.

It's safe to put Beanie Wells into your lineup the rest of way. Arizona's rookie running back had his best day as a pro last week, running for 85 yards and 2 TD. He is averaging a full yard better per carry that Tim Hightower. Wells has a great match-up this week against the Rams' 28th ranked defense.

The worst team in football? It's not the Lions and they will prove that with a win against Cleveland on Sunday. The 1-8 Browns are bereft of fantasy talent; the 1-8 Lions are not. Detroit RB Kevin Smith and WR Calvin Johnson should have their best days of the season. TE Brandon Pettigrew is a nice sleeper against the NFL's worst defense.

With three losses in a row, Denver is reeling. The defense that was so tough early in the season has surrendered at least 27 points in each of those defeats. San Diego, winners of four straight, are catching the Broncos at the perfect time. Last week RB LaDainian Tomlinson finally looked like the LT of old: running for 96 yards and 2 TD. It sounds weird, listing Tomlinson in with all the sleepers, doesn't it? Expect all the usual Chargers fantasy plays to do well in Denver.

John Rakowski is a senior writer for, a fantasy sports portal. John is a 2007 winner of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for journalistic excellence, for his "Snap, Crackle and Pop" column. Please visit Sports Grumblings for all your fantasy football needs, so you can DOMINATE your league this season!

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