The one thing that can cripple any fantasy squad: injuries. In this week's installment of FantasyInsiderOnline.com's Fantasy Football Report, we focus on how to deal with injuries to some of your key fantasy players. At such a crucial time in the fantasy season, you want to give yourself every opportunity to maximize your fantasy points on a weekly basis. The way to do that is to prepare yourself for the worst case scenario because you don't want to find yourself scrambling to find a fill-in for an injured player come playoff time in your league.
Of course fantasy drafts are a thing of the past, however (in anticipation for next year), the one way to solve any injury problems with your fantasy players is to "handcuff" your starters with their back-ups. The concept of "handcuffing" means drafting or acquiring the back-ups of some of your key players. Think of it almost as an insurance policy knowing that if one of your guys goes down, you have another player sitting on your fantasy bench that can step right in. However, handcuffing players isn't necessarily limited to fantasy drafts alone. Recall the FIO.com article from two weeks ago, in which we discussed the trade deadline. If you've gotten rid of some value in order to upgrade at another position, then at the very least, you should consider handcuffing your starters with their back-ups.
As we near the end of the fantasy regular season and head towards the playoffs, you may want to consider picking up any back-ups instead of having just a bunch of random players on your fantasy bench. For example, say you were lucky enough to draft Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson this year would you rather have Jets RB Leon Washington (who would most likely never see your starting lineup) or Tomlinson's back-up RB Michael Turner sitting on your roster? With San Diego's potent run offense, there is no reason to steer away by looking to Washington if Tomlinson goes down. The point here is that if you have players in good run or pass offenses on your roster, there really is no point in going to a sub-par player if an injury occurs to one of your studs. Therefore, the handcuffing concept can be applied here while trying to make a playoff run.
Nevertheless, looking to a player's back-up may not be the answer to solve any injury problems. Yes QB Jeff Garcia's girlfriend is hot. No Garcia is not a fantasy quarterback. Now that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has been placed on the injured reserve after tearing his ACL, the veteran Garcia will take over duties under center in Philadelphia. However, he will not lead your fantasy team on a tear thru the playoffs. The same goes for the situation in Oakland RB Justin Fargas will most likely not post #1 or #2 RB type fantasy numbers as he takes the place of injured RB LaMont Jordan as the starter for the Raiders (especially considering the way Oakland's offense has been playing in 2006). In these cases, you may have to go with a "playing match-ups" strategy meaning playing the guy with the most favorable match-up in your starting lineup for that given week. This isn't limited to looking at your bench players alone instead, you may want to play the waiver wire and see if you can pick someone up to fill-in for that week. Weigh your options, and search for the guy with the "hot-hand" that may have flown under the radar. This sort of strategy is tough to implement when used at the running back position, but can be useful when your receiving corps is plagued by injury.
Make sure you keep up on teams' injury reports. There's nothing worse than gambling on one of your players who is being considered a game-time decision, and then seeing zero fantasy points at his position come Tuesday morning because he didn't play. These last few weeks of the fantasy regular season is such a crucial period in time, especially if you're on the cusp of making your league's playoffs. And once the playoffs roll around, there shouldn't be any questions concerning your fantasy starting lineup. You want to give yourself every opportunity to maximize your fantasy points and obtain that coveted title in your fantasy league.
PATRIOTS FANTASY REPORT
In Week 12, the New England Patriots host the Chicago Bears and their first-ranked overall defense. Led by MLB Brian Urlacher, the Bears defense has been unmerciful against opponents in 2006 sitting atop the league in points per game allowed (12.0) and total yards per game allowed (251.8). This defense is the true catalyst to why the Bears are 7-0 in the NFC North with an overall record of 9-1. Nevertheless, we need to focus in on Chicago's only loss this season, coming in Week 9 at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. How did the Dolphins (who were 1-6 at the time) take down Goliath? The answer: Miami pressured QB Rex Grossman early and often. The Dolphins caused Grossman, who is in his first true year as a starter, to turn the ball over four times (three INT's and a fumble). They focused on taking Grossman out of the game by sending DE Jason Taylor & Co. after him, resulting in poor throws and three sacks. Playing off of Chicago's performance in Week 9, the Patriots fantasy focus this week will be on the New England DEF/ST.
Coach Bill Belichick knows how to scheme look at what happened in Week 8 when the Patriots exploited the weak Minnesota Vikings secondary. So, there is no doubt that Belichick has studied the Chicago/Miami game (as well as Chicago's contests against Minnesota and Arizona, in addition to the first half of the Chicago/NY Giants game), to see how these teams pressured Grossman and the Chicago offense. It needs to be noted that Belichick is a defensive-minded head coach he spent time under Bill Parcells as defensive coordinator for the Giants in the 1980's. He obviously has the background to know what it takes to shutdown an opposing offense and we have all seen what happens when Belichick and the Patriots stick to the game plan.
Don't forget, the New England defense isn't a bunch of slouches either. Currently, they rank in the top 10 of the NFL in a number of team defensive categories including: 2nd in points per game allowed (13.1), 4th in total yards per game allowed (283.1), and t-9th in total sacks (26.0). DT Richard Seymour and the rest of the New England front seven will have to get lots of pressure on Grossman up the middle. Grossman doesn't tend to throw many interceptions to the corners of the field instead, Grossman likes to throw off his back foot, and when pressure is in his face, his balls tend to sail. So, look for safeties Chad Scott and Artrell Hawkins to have a lot of opportunities to make big plays.
On a side note, also look for RB Laurence Maroney to have a big day. The Bears have a stingy defense, but they still allow almost 100 rushing yards per game (99.3). Couple this with the new field turf just installed at Gillette Stadium, and Maroney should put up some good fantasy numbers. Maroney is a speed back, and this new turf will take him back to his days as a Golden Gopher playing in the Metrodome. He has all the ability to break a big one, and the new running surface can only benefit the rookie running back.
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