Injuries are a part of the NFL and fantasy football, but the past few weeks have been a little ridiculous. It's bad enough that most of the first-round studs have not lived up to statistical expectations, but this season has also seen more than its share of serious injuries to some of the most prominent players in the NFL. With almost half of the fantasy regular season in the books and six teams on a bye in two of the next three weeks, it's more important than ever to utilize trades and the waiver wire to improve what could be an injury-riddled roster. With that in mind, here's our look at 20 important injured players and how fantasy football owners can make up for their absences.
Marc Bulger, QB, St. Louis: Bulger suffered two broken ribs and was a sitting duck behind a patchwork offensive line, so head coach Scott Linehan decided to pull him in favor of Gus Frerotte for a few weeks. Frerotte posted solid numbers against Arizona with 262 yards and three touchdowns, but all signs point to Bulger's return once he's at least closer to 100 percent. In the meantime, the veteran Frerotte should be considered a viable option for fantasy owners in leagues with 12-plus teams.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina: Delhomme will miss the remainder of the season and will require Tommy John surgery to repair his injured right elbow. David Carr will be the top quarterback for the remainder of the season, but reports indicate he could miss Week 6 with an injured back. If that's the case, undrafted rookie Matt Moore would have to start in Arizona. Neither Carr nor Moore has value in most formats. All of this is bad news for Steve Smith, whose value takes a significant fall with Delhomme out.
Damon Huard, QB, Kansas City: Reports out of Kansas City indicate that Huard is out for Week 6 with an injured shoulder, so Brodie Croyle will take over the offense against Cincinnati. While the matchup is favorable, Croyle still isn't worth a roster spot in most formats. What's more, his presence under center and behind what is a less formidable offensive line will mean countless stacked fronts for Larry Johnson. That's bad news for a back who is on pace for fewer than 1,000 yards and hasn't scored in 2007.
Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona: Leinart fractured his collarbone against St. Louis and is out at least six to eight weeks, so Kurt Warner will take over the reins of the offense. The former Super Bowl MVP should be added in all leagues and be considered a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy quarterback. His presence under center improves the value of both Anquan Boldin (once he returns from an injured hip and Larry Fitzgerald, so expect both wideouts to produce much better numbers with the "Warner machine" at the helm.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco: Smith seemed to make strides under Norv Turner last season, but he looked mediocre at best before an injured shoulder landed him on the sidelines. He did throw passes from around 10 feet before Sunday's contest against Baltimore, but chances are he won't be available in Week 7. Trent Dilfer and the entire offense looked dreadful without Smith, and Frank Gore will continue to see an extra man in the box until the Niners build some semblance of a pass attack.
Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis:Colts head coach Tony Dungy said that Addai would have been available for Week 5 had it been a postseason contest, so his injured shoulder can't be too serious. The team has a bye in Week 6, so Addai should be fine when the Colts re-open their schedule in Week 7 at Jacksonville. Kenton Keith had a monster stat line in Addai's absence, so owners who landed him should look to trade him now while his value is high. I'd target the owner who has Addai on his/her team.
Ahman Green, RB, Houston:Fantasy owners who drafted Green did so with the knowledge that he isn't the most durable runner in the world. He has missed two weeks with an injured knee, and his status for Week 6 is uncertain. He did practice on a limited basis last week, however, so it seems he is closer to 100 percent. Ron Dayne is a nice handcuff and should be a viable option if Green is out again, but beware that neither back has a favorable matchup next week against a hardened Jacksonville defense.
Trent Green, QB, Miami: It was confirmed on Monday that Green suffered a Grade 3 concussion against Houston -- that's the worst form of concussion a person can sustain. That will bring speculation that Green's season (and his career) could be over. Cleo Lemon will top the depth chart until rookie John Beck can take over the reins of the offense, but neither has much value now. Without a consistent quarterback on the roster, look for the numbers of Chris Chambers to flame out the rest of the season.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis: Jackson has a 40 percent tear of his groin and is expected to miss another week or two due to the ailment. When all is said and done, he could miss four to five weeks. Brian Leonard will continue to start in Jackson's absence, and he's a viable flex starter in most formats. The rookie out of Rutgers was solid in Week 5 with five catches and 135 all-purpose yards against Arizona, but owners shouldn't expect the same sort of statistical success this week in Baltimore.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston: Johnson started the season on fire with 14 catches, 262 yards and three touchdowns in his first three starts. However, and injured knee has cost him the past three weeks and he's questionable at best for Week 6. His absence has been a positive for the value of André Davis and Owen Daniels, but it has hurt the stock of Matt Schaub. Johnson's value won't be lower than it is now, so owners who need a wideout and can afford to make a move might want to take the risk.
Rudi Johnson, RB, Cincinnati: Johnson missed one start with an injured hamstring, but he should benefit from the fact that the Bengals had a bye in Week 5. That allowed the veteran runner extra time to heal and come back at 100 percent. Unless he is limited or misses practice later in the week, Johnson should be considered closer to a return to the field. However, owners who have him should still be sure to add Kenny Watson as insurance should Johnson suffer some sort of setback.
LaMont Jordan, RB, Oakland: Jordan had an extra week for his injured back to heal (the Raiders had a bye in Week 5), but he missed at least a portion of Monday's practice and is questionable at best for Week 6. The offensive line has been much more effective with the new zone-blocking scheme, which is part of Jordan's success, but now he'll have to contend with the return of Dominic Rhodes in the backfield. Even if he is active in San Diego, Jordan has gone from stud back to risk in a two-week period.
Laurence Maroney, RB, New England: Maroney has all the talent in the world, but his proneness to injuries as a pro has made him less of an asset for fantasy owners. He has missed two consecutive weeks and his status for Week 6 could be under a cloud until late in the week if secretive head coach Bill Belichick makes the call. Sammy Morris has been solid in Maroney's absence, but owners who didn't handcuff the two backs could continue to have headaches if Maroney is out in Dallas.
Deuce McAllister, RB, New Orleans: McAllister is out for the season with a torn ACL, so Reggie Bush is now the featured back in a Saints offense that is a shell of its former self. He saw 21 carries and totaled nine catches and 119 all-purpose yards against Carolina, but Bush can't run between the tackles well and isn't a bruiser like McAllister. He'll see more opportunities in the offensive attack, which is a positive, but whether Bush can hold up all season in a featured role remains to be seen.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia: Westbrook missed one start with an abdominal tear, but he had a bye week to heal and was able to practice on Monday. Barring setbacks, it appears the versatile back out of Villanova will return to action in Week 6 when the Eagles head to the Meadowlands to face the Jets. Fantasy owners who have Westbrook on their roster should still look to add Correll Buckhalter as insurance, however, as Westbrook has always been prone to injuries at the NFL level.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Tampa Bay:Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden told the media that Michael Pittman has a "pretty good sprain" in his ankle and could miss 6-8 weeks. That's bad news for the offense, which has now lost Williams and Pittman to long-term ailments. Earnest Graham will now see most of the carries and sees a spike in fantasy value, but Kenneth Darby will also be in the mix. The team should look to add another runner -- Mewelde Moore or Ricky Williams could be possibilities.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona: Boldin has what seemed like a mild hip ailment, but it's cost him two weeks and has his status for Week 6 in doubt. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Boldin was "feeling better" at the end of last week, but he'll have to return to practice no later than Friday to have any chance to return against Carolina. If he does come back, Boldin will be a must-start wideout and should post better numbers now that Warner, not Leinart, is at the helm of the Cardinals offensive attack.
Deion Branch, WR, Seattle: Branch sustained a mild foot sprain in a loss to Pittsburgh, and now he's expected to miss two weeks. The Seahawks have a bye in Week 7, so Branch will have sufficient time to heal. His absence will hurt the value of Matt Hasselbeck, who will now be without Branch and D.J. Hackett. However, it helps the value of veteran wideout Bobby Engram, who should be added in all leagues. Nate Burleson will also continue to start and should be added to fantasy rosters as well.
Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis: Like Addai, head coach Tony Dungy said that Harrison would have started against Tampa Bay if it was the postseason. Harrison has always been a durable player (he has missed three regular-season starts since 1999), and the team's bye week will allow his injured knee extra time to recover. Barring setbacks, the future Hall of Fame wideout should be active in Week 7 when the Colts travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars.
Javon Walker, WR, Denver: Inflammation in Walker's knee has caused him to miss two weeks, but he has vowed to return in Week 7 after Denver's bye. Walker did have a nice start to the season with 17 catches for 220 yards in his first two starts, so his return will be welcomed in the world of fantasy football. His return will also be a real positive for the value of Jay Cutler, who has struggled without his top wideout. While Walker has been out, Brandon Marshall showed some serious flashes of brilliance.
Waiver wire focus
Kris Brown, K, Houston: When you connect on three field goals of 50-plus yards and score 23 points in a week, you're going to be worth a roster spot -- even if you're a kicker. He is available in 60 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston: For some reason, Owens is still a free agent in over 30 percent of NFL.com leagues. He had six catches for 96 yards against Miami, and he's on pace to finish the season with 77 receptions for the season.
Bobby Engram, WR, Seattle: With Branch out two weeks and Hackett still on the sidelines, Engram should be added in most leagues. He'll be a top option for Seattle in Week 6 against a vulnerable New Orleans defense.
Dominic Rhodes, RB, Oakland: Rhodes could go from suspended to starter this week if LaMont Jordan is out with an injured back. Surprisingly, Rhodes is still available in close to 40 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona: With Matt Leinart out several weeks, Warner is now the starter in Arizona and a must-add in fantasy football. Believe it or not, Warner is still available in over 80 percent of NFL.com leagues
Jason Wright, RB, Cleveland: X-rays on Jamal Lewis' injured foot were negative, but his status for Week 6 remains uncertain. Wright would see more carries if Lewis is out, and he's a viable handcuff for his veteran teammate.
DeShawn Wynn, RB, Green Bay: It's hard to predict which runner will see the most carries for Green Bay from week to week, but Wynn looked good against the Bears with 78 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
What is the final verdict on Edgerrin James' touchdown (or non-touchdown) run? -- M. Budden, N/A
M.F.: FOX Sports had reported that James was credited with the touchdown, but the final call was that OL Reggie Wells recovered a James fumble in the end zone for the score. It was a bad call, however, because James was down and didn't fumble at all. The miscue cost James a solid stat line.
M.F.: You have the best running back in fantasy football in Brown, so why would you want to make a trade? Unless you feel like Brown will falter down the stretch, I'd keep him and Burress. With the weirdness of the season, Brown and Burress are too much to trade even for LaDainian Tomlinson.