The Hurt Locker empties out a bit in Week 12

It's with a bit of sadness I write The Hurt Locker this week. This is because a mainstay in this column for much of this season looks like he's about to sprout wings and fly away back to the field. It's so emotional to watch kids grow up and get out on their own. Sigh. And speaking of returns, we have a slew of them this week - great news because that means the Hurt Locker may not be as stuffed in the future as it has been. Everyone needs room to breathe, and to have their sweat socks air out comfortably.

Joseph Addai: This is not a joke. He's back at practice and is looking like he'll actually play this week! Hooray! Seriously, I think we should have him in The Hurt Locker every week even when he's healthy just because I'm so used to him I'd feel like I'd be missing a friend. But seriously, he's a great flex play this week against a porous Panthers' run defense, which has given up the most TDs on the ground in the NFL so far.

A.J. Green: A quicker than expected return to practice this week for Cincinnati, so it looks like he's going to go. If he does put him back into your starting lineup. Even though Cleveland is tremendous against the pass, Green is a stud and needs to be out there. If he doesn't go, then pick from Jerome Simpson, Torrey Smith or if they're gone, then Doug Baldwin, Michael Jenkins or Greg Little.

Matt Hasselbeck: He says he's starting Sunday against Tampa Bay and there's no reason to think otherwise at this point. While Tennessee has a better matchup on the ground than through the air against Tampa Bay, he's safe to play if he's on your roster.

Fred Jackson: Out for the season, which is such a shame considering the year he was having. Yes, the smart play is to go get C.J. Spiller as a handcuff, but I wouldn't expect Jackson-like production from him. Bottom line in the NFL is that if you have talent as a RB, you see it right away, and the fact that Spiller's never really gotten a chance tells me he's not ready for heavy production. But you're desperate now because losing Jackson is a huge blow, so why not? Put him in your flex and hope for the best.

Andre Johnson: An FPP this week, he's back for the Texans, which means he's back in your lineup. You didn't hold onto him or trade for him to have him sit when he was healthy, did you? There's only one guy Matt Leinart is going to look for in the passing game, and it ain't Jacoby Jones.

Julio Jones: Is he trying to become the new Joe Addai, being on this report every week? After a Thursday return to practice, he'll play Sunday barring a setback. If he starts for them, then he starts for you. If not, keep riding with Harry Douglas as a handcuff. Douglas has had 18 fantasy points the last two weeks so don't be afraid. But if Jones is back, Douglas has little to no value.

Jeremy Maclin: He was back at practice this week and his case is simple (I love the simple ones). If he plays, you start him. If he doesn't, you pick up and start Jason Avant, and you also think about picking up Brent Celek for a flex play since his involvement in the offense is getting back to 2009 levels.

Darren McFadden: He's out again for the Raiders, meaning Michael Bush is again a great No. 2 RB for you. And when McFadden comes back, expect a little lighter workload thanks to Bush's success.

Santana Moss: He'll return for the Redskins this week after missing the last four games with a broken hand. He's a good flex option this week, considering Washington has a bad matchup on the ground against the Seahawks, and it looks like the streaky Rex Grossman is back on the good side of things. He used Jabar Gaffney almost exclusively last week, but Moss will get his share through the air Sunday.

Adrian Peterson: Likely sidelined for at least Sunday's matchup with the Falcons, this means Toby Gerhart will inherit the majority of the carries. Atlanta is really stout against the run, so that's working against him. I also don't see Gerhart getting more than a dozen touches at most. This is the time to let Christian Ponder continue to develop and throw the football - especially if they fall behind. Don't count on Gerhart for more than six or seven fantasy points. Conversely, I like Ponder a ton this week.

Michael Vick: Limited in practice, this is a pretty simple situation. If he plays, you play him. If he doesn't, then go with Vince Young, who was much better than I thought he'd be last week (just 13 fantasy points, but I thought he'd be in single digits). If Young is gone, then go after either Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder to fill your void.

Other hurts

>> If Montario Hardesty plays this weekend, he'll start, according to the Browns. But don't let that deter you from Chris Ogbannaya if that happens. He's producing more than Hardesty ever did, and he's still a decent flex play...

>> It's easier to list the healthy Raiders' WRs than the injured ones: Chaz Schillens, Louis Murphy and Eddie McGee. It doesn't look good for Jacoby Ford or Darrius Heyward-Bey to make it back this week, but the team is optimistic they'll have Denarius Moore in the lineup. If they do, you play Moore. Carson Palmer has to throw it to someone...

>> Kevin Kolb is optimistic about returning this week to face the Rams, but I'll say the same thing about him I have the last three weeks: come back, show me you're good, and then I can recommend picking you up as a backup...

See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET/9 p.m. PT. He writes Fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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