How long is Matt Forte out? Should he be dropped or just benched in case he comes back? -- ReenzPeed (via Twitter)
Michael Fabiano:Bears coach Lovie Smith said in his Monday press conference that he expects Forte to return this season. That doesn't mean he'll be back in time for the fantasy postseason (Week 14-16), but the fact that he hasn't been ruled out would make me err on the side of caution. With that said, I would hold on to Forte for now. Who knows, he could make a miraculous return from his Grade 2 MCL sprain and miss just two weeks. I'm not saying that's a likely scenario, but again Forte hasn't been ruled out altogether. In the interim, I would add Marion Barber if you haven't done so already. He is clearly a downgrade from Forte, but the former Cowboy is a surefire flex option with an increased workload ahead. While he could lose some carries to Kahlil Bell, the fact that Barber will see the goal-line touches makes him the better option in fantasy land.
Is it time to bench Laurent Robinson with Miles Austin expected to return this week? -- D. Cordoba (via Facebook)
M.F.: Robinson's outlook will be far less attractive if Austin returns, but that doesn't mean he should be banished to the bench either. In the last two games that both Austin and Robinson were active together, the latter posted a combined 10 catches for 135 yards and scored a touchdown in both contests. He would become more of a No. 3 fantasy wideout or flex starter in most leagues, but Robinson won't be irrelevant. The Cowboys also go up against the Giants and Buccaneers over the next two weeks -- both teams are in the top 12 in terms of allowing the most fantasy points to wide receivers -- so Austin and Robinson have some nice matchups upcoming.
Any word on when Darren McFadden will be back? I need him for the fantasy postseason? -- XandraBe (via Twitter)
M.F.: A report in the Oakland Tribune suggests that McFadden will be a "long shot" to be active against the Packers, and that the "smart money" is on him returning to face the Detroit Lions in Week 15. Of course, that assumes that he's able to plant and cut on his foot without issues. Regardless, Michael Bush looks like a lock to start and see most of the carries for at least one more week. Once McFadden does get back on the field, we could see a backfield committee that would really hurt the value of both runners.
M.F.: With depth like that at the wide receiver position, I would put Jackson on the bench and not think twice. Honestly, the veteran out of California hasn't been a very good fantasy option over the last few years outside a few scattered huge stat lines. Jackson has averaged an awful 4.71 fantasy points in his last six games, and that doesn't include Week 10 when he was deactivated from missing a team meeting. He's been benched due to his lack of effort also, and some believe he's quit on the Eagles because the organization refused to give him a big contract. Want more reason to bench him? Well, consider that Jackson is just 35th in fantasy points at his position. He's also posted 100-plus yards just twice since the middle of November ... of 2010! A lot of fantasy owners have no choice but to start Jackson. Luckily, you're not one of them. Keep him on the sidelines.
M.F.: Sanchez has been far to inconsistent to trust in the fantasy postseason if you have another legitimate option at quarterback with a better matchup. That's the case this week, as Palmer faces a Packers defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. Take a look at the numbers -- the lone quarterback to face Green Bay since Week 6 that hasn't thrown for at least 275 yards is rookie Christian Ponder. The rest of the signal-callers (five total), including Sam Bradford and Josh Freeman, have averaged 335.6 passing yards and thrown for a combined 10 touchdown passes in that time frame. When you consider that Palmer has failed to score 15-plus fantasy points just once in his five starts as a member of the Oakland Raiders, well, it's clear that he should get the call ahead of the "Sanchize" in Week 14.
M.F.: I would start Ingram over both Grant and Tate this week. Sure, Grant will have more value if Starks is out of action, but the Packers don't run the football enough to make him better than a desperation flex option -- even against a vulnerable Raiders run defense. So far this season, Green Bay has run a total of 749 plays -- a mere 41.1 percent of those were running plays. And when the team gets near the goal line, fullback John Kuhn sees opportunities. The Packers have even used NT B.J. Raji as a goal-line runner. What's more, rookie Brandon Saine will also see some work if Starks can't suit up. On the flip side, Ingram has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games, and the Titans have allowed an average of close to 19 fantasy points to opposing runners in 2011. The rookie out of Alabama is a nice flex option, and a better one than either Grant or Tate.
M.F.: Greene put up a huge stat line against the Redskins, posted 88 yards on the ground and a trio of touchdown runs. However, one huge performance doesn't make him a fantasy star. In fact, he's clearly the runner to bench of the three you've mentioned. Lynch is on a ridiculous touchdown tear, scoring at least once in his last eight games and twice last Thursday night against the Eagles. That includes a contest versus this week's opponent, the Rams, where he scored 14.90 fantasy points. St. Louis has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs overall, so Lynch is a no-brainer. The same holds true for Jones-Drew, who has a great matchup of his own against the Buccaneers -- their defense has been awful for most of the season against running backs. In fact, they have surrendered 15 total touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to the position.
M.F.:Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at his Monday press conference that Johnson's hamstring ailment was "mild," and the team considers him "day to day." So while he's no lock to be active for this week's game in Cincinnati, I wouldn't release him back into the free-agent pool. If A.J. is out, Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones would see more snaps against the Bengals. However, I'm not starting either of those wideouts with T.J. Yates under center. If you do need help at wideout, consider Santana Moss (owned in 54.7 percent of NFL.com leagues), Michael Crabtree (56.0 percent) or Torrey Smith (64.0 percent) off the waiver wire. If those players aren't still available, keep tabs on the status of Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. If either is active, this week's matchup against the Packers is a favorable one.
Michael Vick is expected to come back this week, but do I dare sit Tim Tebow? He hasn't failed me! -- grandceltic (via Twitter)
M.F.: Tebow has been too good to bench, even for someone like Vick. The Broncos quarterback has averaged close to 19 fantasy points in his last five games, and he's done it against all comers. While I do think Vick remains a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, he wasn't exactly burning up the stat sheets before going down with injured ribs. In fact, he had failed to score double-digit fantasy points in back-to-back contests before getting hurt. When you also consider that the Dolphins defense has been extremely tough on quarterbacks for most of the last five weeks, and it's hard for me to recommend starting Vick ahead of a consistent quarterback like Tebow.
M.F.: Trying to predict what Fitzpatrick will do each week is like trying to prognosticate Mike Shanahan's backfields -- it's difficult. And with a matchup against a Chargers defense that's ranked sixth against the pass, well, he could struggle to produce. On the other side of the equation, to say that Flacco has been a major disappointment for fantasy owners would be an understatement. He's scored 15 or more fantasy points just once in his last nine games and ranks an unimpressive 19th among quarterbacks. But this week he faces a Colts defense that has surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2011. In fact, rookie Blaine Gabbert is the lone player at the position not to score at least 19 fantasy points against them in their last four games. While it's a roll of the dice either way, I'd add Flacco and start him over Fitzpatrick this week.