NFL fantasy football: Another bad turn for Darren McFadden

Whether you're a fantasy beginner or don't have as much time to devote to your fantasy team during the week, I'm here for you with the newest edition of Fantasy 101 - all your fantasy needs in 15 minutes or less. That's how long you'll need to digest this column and make your appropriate moves. Remember, teams on a bye this week are the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins. There's just one more week of byes after this one. If you're unsure of what kind of chance you have at the playoffs, if your record is at least 3-6 after this week, you still have a shot to get there. So keep paying attention and going after players.

Big injuries to watch


Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Brown suffered an ankle injury Sunday against the Giants, and it's possible he'll be able to play this coming Monday night against Kansas City. But Brown has been disappointing this season so regardless, you might want to play someone else in his spot.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Both McFadden and backup Mike Goodson left the game against Tampa Bay with what are being called high ankle sprains. For McFadden, it's another bad turn in a down season for him. The load will fall to Goodson unless he can't go, in which case Taiwan Jones or Marcel Reece would become hot waiver wire pickups because they're the only healthy ones. But it's hard for me to recommend picking either of them up because there's so much uncertainty.

Santana Moss, WR, Washington Redskins: Moss was diagnosed with a concussion late in the Redskins loss to Carolina. Washington is on a bye this week, so he has some extra time to be cleared for his next game in Week 11.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers: He tried to make a go on Sunday but left early after aggravating his knee. Luckily, the Packers have a bye this week as well. So we'll check back in with him in a few days to see how things are going.

Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills: The Bills' WR may be limited in practice this week after getting hurt against the Texans, but he's expected to face the Patriots. Monitor him the rest of the week.

Free agents to pick up


Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams: We told you to pick him up last week, but if you couldn't, grab him now as he'll return to the field in Week 10 for the Rams and immediately become their No. 1 WR.

Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts: He was hugely involved in both the running and passing games against the Dolphins Sunday. The Colts' other RB, Donald Brown, returned from injury but barely played. Ballard is going to keep getting the chances as long as he produces. So nab him if you can, as his present is OK and his future for the rest of the season looks bright.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills: The only way out for the Bills is through the air, so you know Fitzpatrick is going to throw. And he'll do it this week against a Patriots defense that is terrible against the pass. Go get him and start him if you have QB issues.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Cincinnati Bengals: He's now had two pretty good weeks out of the last three, and hey, the tight end position has seen a dearth of production this year. Gresham is worth picking up and starting, since he's become the number two option in the passing game behind A.J. Green. If you can't get Gresham, then try to nab Joel Dreessen, who's become Manning's favorite TE target, especially in the red zone. And if that fails, then Brandon Myers of the Raiders is also a good option - don't expect 13 catches a week -- but he's been solid all season long.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Apparently Starks is going to be trusted to carry the running game for Green Bay going forward. Yes, the Packers are on a bye, but just like Amendola last week, get ahead of everyone and snatch him up.

Other notes of note


1) I know, the Steelers' running back situation is a mess. When they're all healthy (Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman), they're all going to be involved in the game, so their values will all diminish. It's going to be hard to start any of them until we get a clear sense of the pecking order.

2) Carson Palmer could turn into a fantasy savior. With all the Raiders' running backs banged up, Palmer will continue to throw the football a ton. OK, maybe not 61 times like he did Sunday, but enough to make him a weekly starter for your team. He's averaging more than 315 yards passing per game in the last four weeks with eight total touchdowns. They have a good schedule going forward that could mean consistently big numbers.

3) Eli Manning is struggling in a big way right now. Hakeem Nicks still doesn't look like himself, and Manning has only thrown two touchdowns in the last four games. Time to sit him until things get better (or Nicks gets healthier).

4) Time to start playing Andrew Luck every week, and not just at home. True, in Lucas Oil Stadium he's averaging more than 20 fantasy points per game. But now he has games coming up at Jacksonville and at New England, who are ranked in the bottom third of the league against the pass. Keep him in your lineup.

5) Defenses that are getting better each week that you should be starting if you need help are the Denver Broncos, New York Jets and New England Patriots. Yes, the Patriots' D is vulnerable through the air but they, like the other teams I mentioned, get turnovers and have special teams threats that get into the end zone on occasion.

Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for nfl.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on NFL.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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