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.
Your fantasy playoffs either begin this week or are entering Round 2. If you are still reading this article then you're probably still alive. Good job!
Every year the Colts clinch their division early and coast the rest of the regular season. Fantasy owners then tear their hair out trying to figure out how much Peyton Manning and Co. will play. Last week's victory not only clinched the AFC South for Indianapolis but home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I would still start my Colts, however. Week 15 is too early for coach Jim Caldwell to rest his starters -- They would have a month to rust before the divisional round of the playoffs. The Colts are also pursuing a perfect season. They don't seem to care as much about it as the Saints do, but it is still a matter of professional pride and integrity. Play your Colts.
The Eagles might get RB Brian Westbrook (concussion) and WR Jeremy Maclin (foot) back by week 17 -- when your fantasy playoffs are over. They have only the slimmest of chances of seeing action against the 49ers on Sunday. You can cut the Eagles' duo if you need help off the waiver wire.
The prospects of Falcons QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner are not quite as bleak as that of the Eagles' pair. Ryan's toe and Turner's ankle kept them out of practice. One or both could be a game-time decision against the Jets on Sunday. Don't go anywhere near them, even if they are active. They would be at less than 100 percent against the league's top-rated defense.
The Lions placed RB Kevin Smith on Injured Reserve Tuesday. Smith's disappointing sophomore season ends with knee surgery. He had only a 3.4-yard rushing average and scored only 5 TD. As a rookie he averaged 4.1 yards and scored 8 times in a full 16-game season.
Both Denver running backs are slowed by ankle injuries. Knowshon Moreno was limited in practice and Correll Buckhalter could not practice at all on Wednesday. Expect Moreno to play, and Buckhalter to watch against the Raiders 28th-ranked run defense. Moreno had 90 yards and a TD in Week 3 against the Raiders and should do even better this week, bum ankle or not, with Buckhalter out of the picture.
Oakland's only fantasy play, TE Zach Miller, suffered a concussion in the closing minutes of last week's loss to Washington. Given the scrutiny on head injuries, don't expect Miller to play against the Broncos on Sunday. Forget about Patriots TE Ben Watson as a replacement for Miller -- He has a knee injury and could miss the Bills game.
Who is Joe Flacco going to throw to on Sunday? Baltimore WR Derrick Mason (finger), WR Mark Clayton (knee), WR Kelley Washington (ankle) and TE Todd Heap (ankle) were limited in practice or didn't practice at all on Wednesday. They better hope that RB Ray Rice carries them when they play the Bears.
Seattle WR Nate Burleson will miss Sunday's Tampa Bay game with an ankle injury. You can go ahead and cut him since he is unlikely to return before your fantasy playoffs complete. Burleson finishes the season with 63 receptions for 812 yards and 3 TD in 13 games.
Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald's knee injury is improving. He should be well enough to play and terrorize the league's worst pass defense in Detroit.
Normally I don't pay much attention to kickers. They don't get injured that much, the match-ups don't matter as much and the difference between the best and the worst is not as great as in other positions. Generally any kicker on a high-scoring team will do, like a Neil Rackers, for instance. However, the Arizona kicker is a very risky play this week. Rackers has a groin injury that kept him out of practice. The Cardinals signed former Tampa Bay PK Mike Nugent in case Rackers can't go against the Lions on Sunday.
Saints PK Garrett Hartley missed practice Wednesday with a hip injury. It's very possible that John Carney will kick for them when they face the Cowboys on Saturday.
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.
Last week Atlanta WR Roddy White caught only two Chris Redman passes. It makes a big difference if Ryan plays or not. It also makes a big difference when Jets CB Darrelle Revis is covering you. It sounds crazy to do this at fantasy playoff time, but don't start White against the Jets.
Pittsburgh did nothing offensively against a terrible Cleveland defense last week. Now they face the league's 2nd-ranked unit this week, Green Bay's. Don't start QB Ben Roethlisberger or his best buddy, WR Hines Ward. Even RB Rashard Mendenhall is a risky play against Green Bay. Last week he had 53 rushing yards against the Browns.
I would love to pick just about any running back versus Tampa Bay's run defense. But I can't bring myself to recommend either Julius Jones or Justin Forsett of the Seahawks against even the lowly Buccaneers.
Patriots RB Laurence Maroney has emerged from deep within Bill Belichick's doghouse and from fantasy oblivion. Maroney is a reasonable flex option most weeks with 8 TDs in his last 10 games. This week he is a solid RB2 against Buffalo's bottom-ranked run defense.
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles' charmed run continues. He had his best game as a pro last week with 143 yards against the Bills. Charles has 5 TDs in his last five games and has another patsy on the schedule: Cleveland has the next-to-worst defense in the NFL.
Versatile Browns WR Josh Cribbs got some playing time at running back last week. He rushed for 87 yards out of a wildcat formation in Cleveland's upset of the Steelers. Cribbs also returns punts and kicks, so he can get a cheap score on special teams. Expect to see a lot of Cribbs versus the Chiefs 30th-ranked defense.
Arizona RB Chris Wells has more carries and more yards than starter Tim Hightower. Wells is the better play against the league's worst defense, Detroit.