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Injuries leave Bell as last Broncos back standing

With Week 16 in the books, here's a brief list of the most significant depth chart changes affecting fantasy leagues. Keep in mind that in the last few weeks of the season you see plenty of unusual substitutions and benchings as some teams pack it in and others rest starters for the playoffs.


Rising: Fred Jackson. Falling: Marshawn Lynch. It took all season, but Jackson finally may get a chance to be the feature back in the finale next week. Lynch has been battling shoulder problems over the last couple of weeks and left Sunday's game when he aggravated the injury. He hasn't been bad this year, though a bit more was expected of him after a strong rookie campaign in 2007. Jackson has been excellent in limited duty, and with the possibility of being the sole ballcarrier next week, fantasy leagues still playing in Week 17 would do right to rush to the waiver wire to pick him up.


Rising: Matt Leinart. Falling: Kurt Warner. The Cardinals clearly were not ready for the Patriots Sunday, and consequently Warner had one of the worst games of his career (6-for-18 for 30 yards). Leinart, once the heir apparent in Arizona, took over for Warner in the third quarter and led the Cards to their only score of the game. With a playoff spot clinched, expect Arizona to rest Warner next week and give the backup a chance to beat up on the Seahawks.


Rising: Anthony Gonzalez. Falling: Marvin Harrison. The Colts are notorious for benching their stars late in the season, and Harrison is already battling a sore hamstring that kept him out last week. Gonzalez only caught four passes for 38 yards in Week 16, but he should get another chance next week. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Colts have already locked in the fifth seed and most of their starters won't play much beyond the first quarter.


Rising: Tatum Bell. Falling: P.J. Pope and Selvin Young. There are few jobs in life more dangerous than being a Denver running back in 2008. Seven different running backs have at least 15 carries for the Broncos this year, including Sunday's casualties Pope and Young. Pope got the start, but lasted only six carries before leaving the game with a sore hamstring. Young, who didn't expect to play much, had a team-high seven carries before suffering a pinched nerve in his neck. The injuries leave Bell as the last running back standing. He's not a bad play next week against the Chargers in a game that will decide the last playoff spot in the AFC. You might want to find out the name of his backup, however. You know, just in case.


Rising: Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens. Falling: Ronald Curry and Ashley Lelie. The Raiders were obviously nothing special with Curry and Lelie in the starting lineup this year, but when both went down with injuries a week ago, they were replaced by the most unlikely duo all season: Higgins and Schilens. Entering Sunday's game with Houston, the two had a combined 22 receptions all season. Both caught touchdowns on Sunday, and Higgins added another on a punt return (his third this season). JaMarcus Russell looked comfortable passing to Higgins and Schilens, both of whom could get another shot next week. If you're already planning for your 2009 draft, they might be a couple of names to remember.

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Rising: Andre Caldwell. Falling: Chad Johnson. Johnson sat out last week with a sore hamstring, but it was doubtful he was in too many fantasy lineups over the last few months. Assuming he doesn't play this week, either, Johnson will finish the worst season of his career with 53 catches for 540 yards and four touchdowns. Caldwell replaced him in the starting lineup, but the Bengals abandoned the pass completely Sunday, completing just five passes -- even T.J. Houshmandzadeh was held without a catch. The going might be a little easier against Kansas City next week.


Rising: Bruce Gradkowski. Falling: Ken Dorsey. Dorsey threw three interceptions before leaving against the Bengals during the fourth quarter with a mild concussion and sore ribs. The Browns, who haven't scored an offensive touchdown in over a month, turned to Gradkowski, who threw a fourth interception for good measure. Cleveland already has lost Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn to season-ending injuries this year, and can't do any worse than Dorsey. Expect Gradkowski to get the call this week against Pittsburgh, but keep him far far away from your fantasy squad.

Kenn Ruby is a writer for RotoWire. For more information, check out

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