We've reached the point in the season when roster depth becomes vital. Relying solely on your starters to get you to the playoffs is as risky as sending your kids to summer camp at Neverland.
It's hard to imagine a roster that wasn't compromised this weekend by a combination of the rough bye week and assorted injuries to such key starters as Michael Vick, Cadillac Williams, Ahman Green, Darrell Jackson and Joe Horn. While most of these players are expected to return soon — Jackson being the exception — a new batch of fantasy stars is now seeking medical attention.
Joining the walking wounded are such notables as Julius Jones (ankle), Deuce McAllister (knee), Kevin Jones (concussion), Corey Dillon (leg), Thomas Jones (knee), Mike Williams (back) and Roy Williams (quad). It's too early to know if any of them will miss more playing time; but by the initial looks of things, Roy Williams' injury could be the most significant.
Houston's Andre Johnson (calf) left Sunday's game before halftime without a catch, but the goose egg hardly put a dent in his weekly fantasy average.
Green Bay's running back corps got thinner when Najeh Davenport broke his ankle against the Saints. Keep an eye on the Packers, who were already without Ahman Green's services this week. If Green's not ready after the Packers' Week 6 bye, Tony Fisher's value skyrockets. But it wouldn't be a surprise if the team brings in a new face, since Davenport may be lost for the year.
The Jets will also move on without their top back-up after Derrick Blaylock broke his foot.
And you have to be concerned if you're relying on Donovan McNabb for your playoff run. He wasn't sharp against Dallas, so his multiple ailments may be affecting him more than he wants to admit. The clock is ticking on his next sideline contretemps with Terrell Owens.
At least the players were wearing pads. I saw four refs get plowed over in Sunday's games, too.
Hey, it's rough all over. Your job is to make sure you're ready to play through the pain.
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, you need to start with a good draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is equally important. Here's a look at a few players worth grabbing, and others who would look better in someone else's line-up.
Catch 'em while you can
Tatum Bell, RB, Broncos: Round and round they go, and where the Denver RB carousel stops, only Mike Shanahan knows. Bell has worked his way back into the rotation, but the ride is still moving.
Eric Moulds, WR, Bills: Now that they've inserted a quarterback that can pass, Buffalo's receivers are back on the fantasy map. Moulds and cohort Lee Evans may have been waived after their pathetic start. Pick 'em up now.
Brian Finneran, WR, Falcons: Regardless of which QB is under center, Finneran has established himself as the most reliable wideout in Atlanta. Less heralded than Michael Jenkins, he'll have more big games this season, including next week vs. New Orleans.
Joe Jurevicius, WR, Seahawks: If nobody grabbed him before Sunday's breakout game, go get him. He filled in ably for Seattle's injured starters with a 137-yard, 1-TD afternoon against the Rams, and should keep rolling against Houston next week.
Don't be fooled
Curtis Martin, RB, Jets: Two short TD runs masked yet another mediocre rushing performance for the aging Jets star. Now's an excellent time to trade him, as the road ahead isn't pretty for New York and its struggling offense.
Az-Zahir Hakim, WR, Saints: Hakim had a nice game while Joe Horn rested his injured hamstring, but don't expect a repeat performance soon. He hasn't been a serious fantasy threat since Kurt Warner's glory days. Talk about ancient history.
49ers receivers: Women and children are supposed to be the first off a sinking ship, but San Francisco's wide-outs apparently got a jump on them. With Alex Smith at quarterback, it's time for you to bail out, too.
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