Fabiano: Injuries make a mess of fantasy rosters

Injuries are a part of the NFL and fantasy football, but this past weekend was a little severe. Two top-notch running backs sustained long-term ailments, and the status of several other players is in doubt for Week 4. Owners must now make moves to ease the absences of their lost options, so let's take a look at the injured players and the possible choices that could be available off the waiver wire.

Quarterbacks

Marc Bulger has two broken ribs but will continue to play regardless of the ailments. He has a favorable matchup this week in Dallas, but his offensive line is shot full of holes due to injuries and he'll be without Steven Jackson (groin). Unless his pass protection improves, Bulger might not survive for a full season. If he puts up solid numbers against the Cowboys, try putting him on the trade block and see what offers are made.

Jake Delhomme has a strained right elbow and is listed as day-to-day, so there's a chance he won't be available to face Tampa Bay. The good news is that an MRI showed no structural damage, but coach John Fox did suggest his quarterback will need some rehab. Delhomme, who has the fourth-most fantasy points after three weeks, would be replaced by David Carr if he is inactive. Carr is a serviceable option in larger formats, but fantasy owners should look to add the likes of Chad Pennington (at Buffalo) or Jeff Garcia (at Carolina).

Steve McNair has a groin injury, but it appears he'll start in Week 4. However, he's at less than 100 percent and a risk even against Cleveland. Josh McCown is dealing with an assortment of injuries, so Daunte Culpepper could make his first start in silver and black. He'd be a nice sleeper against his old team, the Miami Dolphins. J.P. Losman is out at least two weeks with an injured knee, so rookie Trent Edwards will take over the Buffalo offense. He warrants little consideration in most formats.

Running backs

Steven Jackson could miss up to three weeks with a partial tear in his groin, so rookie Brian Leonard will take over the backfield duties in St. Louis. He'll be the hottest name on the waiver wire this week, but Leonard can't replace Jackson's level of production. He'll be a viable flex starter in leagues with 12-plus teams.

Deuce McAllister tore the ACL in his left knee on Monday night and is out for the season, so Reggie Bush will take over as the featured back in New Orleans. The former USC standout has never proven that he can handle 20-plus carries on a week-to-week-basis, however, so look for head coach Sean Payton to also use Aaron Stecker more often. Stecker is now worth a roster spot in larger leagues and for owners who want to insure Bush. Since there is no real option to add from the Saints roster, fantasy owners will be hard pressed to replace McAllister.

Brian Westbrook sustained an abdominal strain against Detroit, so he could be listed as questionable for Week 4. He's too valuable to reserve if active, so keep tabs on his status throughout the week. Correll Buckhalter suffered a sprained ankle against the Lions, but he doesn't expect to miss time and should be added as insurance for Westbrook. Ahman Green hurt his knee in Week 3, and it appears he's questionable to face Atlanta. Owners should add Ron Dayne as insurance, but Dayne was inactive last week with an injured chest. If Green and Dayne are both out, the Texans will have to use Samkon Gado and Jameel Cook.

Shaun Alexander has a broken bone in his wrist but is not expected to miss time. Still, owners would be wise to add Maurice Morris as insurance. Morris is expected to return this week from an injured hip. Rudi Johnson hurt his hamstring in a loss to Seattle, and he could miss Monday night's game against New England. Kenny Watson was impressive in his absence last week, so he's worth a roster spot as insurance for Johnson.

Wide receivers

Hines Ward has a sprained knee and is listed as doubtful for Week 4, according to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Santonio Holmes would be a nice option for fantasy owners if Ward is out. Nate Washington and Cedrick Wilson would see more work in Ward's absence, but neither has much value. Jacoby Jones, who was starting in the absence of the injured Andre Johnson, sustained a separated shoulder in Week 3 and will miss at least two weeks. Kevin Walter will continue to start, but Kevin Mathis and Andre' Davis will now see more time on the field as well. Neither warrants serious fantasy consideration. With Johnson and Jones out, Matt Schaub becomes a serious risk.

Rookie phenom Calvin Johnson bruised his back against Philadelphia, but he's expected to be fine for Week 4. The same holds true for Isaac Bruce, who sustained a blow to the head in a loss to Tampa Bay but should be fine to face Dallas.

Tight ends

Vernon Davis is out at least two games with a partial tear of the MCL in his right knee. San Francisco has a bye in Week 6, so Davis won't return until at least Week 7 (Oct. 21). Billy Bajema and Delanie Walker will see more work with Davis out, but neither has fantasy value. Owners who need a tight end should look to add Jeff King or Bo Scaife.

Defenses

Chicago will likely be without DT Tommie Harris, who could miss significant time with a sprained knee. The Bears could also miss LB Lance Briggs (groin) and DB Nathan Vasher (groin) when they face the Lions at Ford Field. Buffalo lost LB Paul Posluszny for the season with a broken forearm and are riddled with defensive injuries, so owners should target them in their week-to-week matchups.

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