Don't get too down if your studs mostly have been stumped this season. All the research and skilled drafting in the world can't change the fact that fantasy football is a land mine filled with injuries, suspensions, politics and other unpredictable factors.
That nugget of wisdom is small consolation if your season's quickly slipping away. You already may be feeling the onset of a panic attack, which unfortunately isn't nearly as effective as the rushing or passing attack. You know that feeling when Marshall Faulk or Priest Holmes gets hurt right before the fantasy playoffs? Yeah, that.
It also kind of feels like drafting Barry Sanders or Terrell Davis during those seasons when they fell of a cliff and broke your heart.
Let's not sugarcoat this: Some of you have planted your hooves on a big ol' land mine. Your would-be stars aren't going to get much better, but only time will reveal for certain who will bounce back and who is destined to be a drain on your team. There may be some hints, however.
Once you separate the slumpers from the slackers, you can make plans to trade away the dead weight or replace it with some gems from the waiver wire. Dawdling will cost you, however. Each week of limp performances saps your leverage in trade talks. And at this point in the season, it may be rough going on the free-agent market.
Pushing the panic button
Several players have underachieved, but not it's necessarily time to fret. Use the panic indicators below to see where your player stands.
PUSH PANIC: Insert fingers in hair ... and pull. FINGER ON THE BUTTON: Not quite a bum, but he's on the brink. HANDS OFF: Patience people.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles
Comment: After two brutal first games, McNabb still is completing just half of his passes, and his rating is just a point higher than Kordell Stewart's. But McNabb is using his feet again to make plays, and the Eagles have rediscovered the run.
Outlook: The running game, along with some long completions, will keep defenses honest. Also, the Eagles' schedule will continue to get lighter.
Emmitt Smith, RB, Cardinals and Eddie George, RB, Titans
Comment: Given that you had no business picking either of them early in drafts, serves you right. Ancient Emmitt already was making a case to get benched when he broke his shoulder. And Fast Eddie has been slowing down for years (15 carries for 35 yards Sunday!).
Outlook: Smith is out indefinitely, and Marcel Shipp has a lock on No. 1. As for Fast Eddie, if he can't get it done against Houston, he is done.
Tommy Maddox, QB, Steelers
Comment: If you're a QB and the words "Charlie Batch" are uttered in your locker room, this is not good. Batch filled in to share in Maddox's shellacking at home against Cleveland. After a three-TD opener, Maddox has scored twice. Neither of them happened in the last two games, although he was picked off in each game twice.
Outlook: Maddox appeared to be the victim of some tough pass defenses, but he was abused by a Browns team that had been giving away TDs. There are some spots (Arizona, San Diego) where he could shine, but the Steelers are falling back on the run, and Maddox is too erratic to count on anyway.
Donte Stallworth, WR, Saints
FINGER ON THE BUTTON
Comment: Stallworth has one TD and 199 yards-for the season. Arizona rookie Anquan Boldin gained more in Week 1 (217)! Stallworth posted just one catch apiece in the last two games.
Outlook: If Stalled Worth can't get right in the next two games-the Bears and Falcons-it's time to spring into full panic mode.
Travis Henry, RB, Bills
Comment: Henry is a TD machine, but his attempts average just 2.7 yards. That's very disturbing with Willis McGahee around. What's worse, doctors cleared McGahee's repaired knee, and he could begin practicing next week.
Outlook: Henry's cohorts on the offensive line have been campaigning to get him more carries. In Henry's last game, he got the ball 25 times and gained 85 yards. If he can continue to improve, Buffalo won't rush McGahee back.
LaDainian Tomlinson RB, Chargers
Comment: Everyone wants to blame the passing game for Tomlinson's problems, but he's partly at fault. His rushing average is actually lower (4.6 YPC) when San Diego leads than when the team' behind (5.7 at its highest).
Outlook: LT has two 100-yard games and three scores-hardly anything to cry about. He needs carries. He scored twice, and averaged 5.6 yards from scrimmage when he got at least 30 touches.