Snap, Crackle and Pop

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Snap, Crackle & Pop 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.

Commissioner Roger Goodell updated the guidelines for dealing with head injuries on Wednesday. The previous guideline required only that a player could not return to a game in which he lost consciousness -- a standard far too lax. The new rules add additional restrictions to sideline a player with any of several symptoms including memory loss, dizziness or persistent headaches. This rule will be good for the players and also for fantasy owners. Clarity is your friend; ambiguous injury situations complicate your lineup choices.

Cleveland responded to the commissioner's edict by putting veteran RB Jamal Lewis on Injured Reserve. Lewis finishes his season with 588 yards and zero touchdowns. This could be a career-ender for the 30-year old Lewis.

The current list of head injuries includes marquee quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger. Both Warner and Big Ben are back at practice after missing last week's games. Roethlisberger seems like a safe choice against the Raiders on Sunday. As for Warner, check the Friday practice reports before you pencil him in against the Vikings.

One team that knows about head injuries is the Eagles. Philadelphia RB Brian Westbrook will miss his third straight and fifth of his last six games due to concussions. WR DeSean Jackson suffered a concussion last week and almost certainly will miss Sunday's game against Falcons.

Atlanta may play Sunday's game without two of their offensive playmakers. QB Matt Ryan's toe injury could keep him off the field for the rest of the season. RB Michael Turner was less than 100% last week against the Buccaneers and it is still bothering him this week. Jerious Norwood will start if Turner can't go against the Eagles.

One of 2009's few bright spots in Detroit, other than the car company bailout, was TE Brandon Pettigrew. He was improving and having a nice rookie season with 30 receptions for 346 yards and two TD before a torn ACL landed him on IR.

In a move that was unsurprising and overdue, the Redskins put TE Chris Cooley on IR. He went down week 7 with an ankle injury. Protect Cooley in keeper leagues, however.

The fading Giants still have one thing to hang on to: injuries make a convenient excuse for their collapse. QB Eli Manning is limping around on a bad foot, but he will play against the Cowboys. New York will have no depth behind starting RB Brandon Jacobs. Backups Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Danny Ware (concussion) won't play which leaves Gartrell Johnson to relieve Jacobs.

In IDP news, Giants LB Antonio Pierce is on the IR with a neck injury as is Cleveland DL Shaun Rogers with a broken leg. It looks like San Diego LB Shawne Merriman's lingering injuries will cost him a start Sunday in Cleveland. Buffalo FS Jairus Byrd (Questionable-groin) will likely play Thursday night against the Jets.

It's debatable how Jake Delhomme's broken finger will affect the fantasy value of the rest of the Panthers -- Delhomme's own fantasy value bottomed-out long ago. Matt Moore started three games in 2007 and has a lifetime QB rating of 63.5. Tampa Bay's pass defense is ranked higher than you might guess (No. 11) so I don't expect much out of WR Steve Smith with Moore throwing him the ball.

Rebounding from a slow start, Buffalo WR Terrell Owens has put together back-to-back-to-back strong games. Owens has hauled in a bomb in each of the three games and has built a rapport with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. I can't see them doing that kind of damage this Thursday night, however. The Jets defend the pass as well as anyone and Darrelle Revis is the best cover corner in football.

Tim Hightower or Chris Wells? Actually neither Arizona running back is startable this week against the Vikings second-ranked run defense.

Cincinnati RB Cedric Benson will get the start Sunday against the Lions. Benson is ninth in the league in rushing despite missing the last two games with a hip injury. Larry Johnson is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season after relieving an injured Bernard Scott last week against the Browns. Scott's toe injury is still bothering him so Johnson figures to be second on the depth chart behind Benson.

Over the past three weeks Seattle RB Justin Forsett has averaged 123 total yards and has scored 5 TD. I can't believe that he goes to the bench any time soon, even if Julius Jones can play. Forsett faces the 49ers on Sunday.

The Lewis injury means Jerome Harrison is the starting running back in Cleveland. Harrison has some great match-ups on his schedule including San Diego this week, Kansas City in week 15 and Oakland in week 16. Grab him off waivers if he is still there.

Cowboys TE Jason Witten surprised me last week. Witten has not played like a top tight end this season, but he had his best game of the season on Thanksgiving despite a foot injury and short week to heal. Now Witten gets an extra three days of rest and the foot should be that much better against a reeling Giants team.

The Oakland quarterback switch (JaMarcus Russell out, Bruce Gradkowski in) will help all their receivers. Even with the upgrade the only one worth starting is TE Zach Miller. The Raiders face a Steelers team that has lost three in a row.

Denver finally righted the ship against the Giants on Thanksgiving. They will benefit from a long week of rest and relaxation. All the Broncos get a big upgrade against the overmatched Chiefs, including QB Kyle Orton, WR Brandon Marshall and RB Knowshon Moreno. Jabar Gaffney is a sleeper as a third wide receiver against the NFL's 30th-ranked defense.

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.