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Fantasy football mailbag: QBs, running backs keep falling to injury


The hits just kept in Week 11 as more quarterbacks hit the sidelines in what's been an injury-plagued 2011 NFL campaign, especially in the backfield. No fewer than 10 of the 28 teams in action during Week 11 started or finished their games with a signal-caller who began the year as a second-stringer. And 11 of the 28 were forced by injury or lack of production to employ a different top running back at the end of Week 11 than they did in Week 1. These included popular first-overall selection Adrian Peterson, whose status for the upcoming contest against the Falcons is in question due to an ankle sprain. Likely gone for the season is Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a broken throwing-thumb in a win over the Chargers. Also in question will be Fred Jackson, who left the Bills blowout loss to the Dolphins and was overtaken for the league rushing lead by LeSean McCoy and Maurice Jones-Drew. He's the topic of the first question from a concerned fantasy owner in this week's Fantasy Mailbag.

Note: As trade deadlines pass in fantasy leagues we thought it would be more useful to open up this space to lineup questions as well, so starting next week you'll be able to find the Mailbag in this space on Thursdays. Please submit all of your questions on lineups, free agents/waivers, rules, opinions and any remaining trades to @SI_DavidSabino on Twitter.

What's the word on Fred Jackson's injury?-- @fativerson (Joe)

Jackson left the game in Miami with 67 yards from scrimmage on 12 touches before he suffered an injury to the lower part of his right leg. X-rays were negative and it was determined that he had a bruised calf. The same calf had been bothering Jackson before the latest hit but he and coach Chan Gailey both were confident that he'd be available for Buffalo's next game at MetLife Stadium against the Jets. Since joining the active roster in 2007, Jackson has never missed a game due to injury, a span of 66 games. However ,with the Bills offense scuffling, he would be lucky to duplicate his 15 PPR-point performance two weeks ago at home against Gang Green.

Carson Palmer or Alex Smith for rest of year? I had Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel.-- @AdamJohnB (Adam Burns)

Since his debacle of a debut and subsequent bye week, Palmer has been solid if unspectacular, racking up between 15 and 20 fantasy points in three straight games. Neither Schaub nor Cassel enjoyed such a consistent three-game stretch this season. Smith is just a notch below right now and the specter of an early Niners division win creates the potential for Smith to be rested, whether it's for a quarter, half or game. That would be bad for fantasy owners. Throw in Oakland's matchups against the pass-susceptible Packers, Lions and Chiefs during the fantasy playoff weeks and Palmer's my clear choice.

I need to pickup a wide receiver. Dexter McCluster? Sidney Rice? What do you think?-- @MyOwnEnemy (Rene Garcez)

Rice had a quality game against the Rams with three catches, 35 receiving yards, a touchdown and 55 passing yards, and if still available he should certainly be in the conversation. By attrition, McCluster is becoming a larger part of the Chiefs attack, lining up mostly in the backfield these days. But he's managed just two double-digit fantasy point games this year, and the Chiefs offense is patently worse with Tyler Palko at quarterback in place of Matt Cassel. In other words, McCluster is someone to avoid. Of those available in more leagues than Rice, I would consider the hot-and-cold Jerome Simpson, Laurent Robinson who's done nothing but produce while subbing for Miles Austin, and Damian Williams, who has touchdowns in four of his last seven games and double-figure PPR points in four of his last six.

What D/ST do you like the rest of the season: Jags, Pats, Raiders, Titans, Chargers?-- @pliberatore (Paul Liberatore)

Hands down, the Patriots. They play one of the softest remaining schedules, peppered with turnover-prone and scoring-challenged opponents including the Chiefs Monday, followed by the Eagles, Colts, Redskins, Broncos and Dolphins. Their notoriously poor pass defense is sure to improve as well.

Would you trade Adrian Peterson for Steven Jackson, WR Stevie Johnson and the Pittsburgh D?-- @JayKiser23 (Jay Kiser)

Even with the ankle injury Peterson suffered against the Raiders I would not make that trade. He's one of the league's best players, and barring a surprise MRI result, the injury is not considered serious (and if it is, the trade would be off anyhow). Jackson currently ranks 12th in PPR leagues among running backs (Peterson's sixth) but his hard-running style makes him more of an injury risk the rest of the way. Johnson has been slowed by a bad shoulder and has been another victim of the Ryan Fitzpatrick payday afterglow. And while the Steelers are among the league's better defenses, that isn't true in fantasy terms, ranking in the bottom half in both sacks and interceptions.

Should I trade away A.J. Green and Dwayne Bowe for Steve Smith and Julio Jones?-- @mpelich10 (Mati Pelich)

Yes. Even though Cam Newton has slowed down, Smith is still an explosive receiver and the best among those you mention. Bowe likely will have ups-and-downs with Tyler Palko at QB from here on and isn't someone to count on. Jones has had hamstring issues all year but now A.J. Green is hampered by a bad knee, so in my book the rookies cancel each other out.

Should I pick up Reggie Wayne?-- @mpelich10 (Mati Pelich)

I've been a big Wayne fan since he came out of Miami and served as Marvin Harrison's running mate, so it pains me to see someone so talented struggle so badly without Peyton Manning. However, when you strip everything else away and look at his numbers in a 2011 vacuum, he is averaging a little more than 10 fantasy points per game. He ranks below the likes of DeSean Jackson, Santonio Holmes and Mike Williams in productivity. I'd pick him up but temper expectations. He's not "that" Reggie Wayne but he's a useable WR3.