Bevy of late games creates roster quagmires with injury questions
Beanie Wells is a game-time decision with a knee issue likely dealing with cartilage
Mark Ingram is out with a heel injury, clearing up the Saints running back situation
With Santana Moss out, the beneficiary in the receiving corps is Jabar Gaffney
Late games are a real problem for fantasy football. It's hard enough even though we watch the inactives closely for the early games, but it's much tougher for late games and the two night games. Most leagues don't lock rosters, which leaves you some room, but then you have to construct a roster with backups. There's no real fantasy mystery in Sunday night's game between the Eagles and Cowboys, but Monday, players like Mike Tolbert and Antonio Gates are going to vex fantasy owners. It's especially hard with a tight end like Gates. All a team can do is handcuff with Randy McMichael as a hedge or hope that Leonard Pope does something, but there's usually better use of a roster spot than that. Sunday's even split of games makes it even tougher, so it's going to take more monitoring than usual when it comes to the game-time decisions. The players that do it most effectively will be easy to identify -- they'll be the ones winning this week. Let's take a look around the league:
NO: Chris Ivory was activated from the PUP, confusing what looked like a two-man committee at RB with Mark Ingram out. Darren Sproles is still the fantasy RB you want, especially in PPR leagues, but the path isn't as clear for Pierre Thomas.
NE: There were a few negative reports regarding BenJarvus Green-Ellis on Saturday, but sources tell me there's no difference in his sore toe this week than the last two weeks. He's still the starter and will get the bulk of the carries. Kevin Faulk's return shouldn't affect him either.
IND: The Colts acknowledged that Joseph Addai will be limited this week, though he may still be the "starter." None of the backs are a good fantasy play.
SEA: There's still some question about whether Tarvaris Jackson will start. The medical staff will take a look at him on Sunday and then Pete Carroll will have to make a judgement call between Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. Everything's leaning Jackson, but if you're forced to go with one, make sure you have the other.
PIT: The Steelers have ruled out both Hines Ward and James Farrior, according to Albert Breer of NFL Network.
ARZ: Reports from Arizona have Beanie Wells playing, but not getting the full load of carries he normally would.
MIN: Percy Harvin is expected to play normally today. Of course "normally" is never normal with Harvin, so beware. The ribs are still a limitation.
CLE: Peyton Hillis is a true GTD today. He's expected on the field shortly to test the hamstring.
DOWNGRADE: Beanie Wells
Another week, another Wells question mark. Wells' knee issue is undefined by the Cards, but as I detailed this week, is likely an issue with cartilage or the lack thereof. In early stages, it's a maintenance issue as the medical staff will work to limit swelling and pain. Wells doesn't have a great track record for playing when he's a GTD-. The Cardinals are also unsure about Todd Heap, another fragile player. Baltimore is relatively healthy, except in the defensive backfield. Ed Reed had a very scary looking injury Monday but looks like he will play. Double check if you're in an IDP league however. Lee Evans is out again, making Torrey Smith a deep option.
UPGRADE: Pierre Thomas
The Saints have to be sending a fruit basket to the schedule makers, following Indy with the Rams. It might have looked tough on paper, but missing both Peyton Manning and Sam Bradford is the kind of luck you need in the NFL. The Saints won't have Mark Ingram this week, as his heel will keep him out. That does clear up the RB committee a bit, making Thomas a better play this week. (Darren Sproles is the must-play of course, especially in PPR.) Jimmy Graham will be ready to go as well. The Rams will be without Sam Bradford and Danario Alexander, leaving A.J. Feeley in a tough situation. Jason Smith is out this week as well, but Roger Saffold will play, so the line shouldn't downgrade too much from last week.
Daniel Thomas was downgraded to out for the Dolphins, which means more carries for Reggie Bush. The rest of their issues are mostly issues of depth. The Giants have more big-name issues, but it looks like they'll have most of their stars on the field. Justin Tuck is likely to play but will be spotted in to protect being overexposed. Prince Amukamara is out but was very close to being ready I'm told.
DOWNGRADE: Visanthe Shiancoe
Don't worry too much about Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin. While Harvin's a normal worry this time every week, he usually plays and is a GTD+ again. Peterson's ankle isn't a big issue for him, either. One player to watch is Shiancoe. After meshing well with Christian Ponder in his first start, Shiancoe's foot caused him to miss practice. He's likely to play, but this could cost him some snaps if not some targets. The Panthers come in healthy, as they have been all season. Cam Newton missed some practice due to an illness but is fine to start.
UPGRADE: Mike Thomas, Maurice Jones-Drew
DOWNGRADE: Houston D/ST
The Jags rested a lot of people during the short week, making their injury report very misleading. The key ones to watch will be at WR, where Jason Hill (wrist) and Mike Sims-Walker (illness) are likely to play. Houston will be without Andre Johnson again this week, but the defensive injuries are starting to stack up, especially in the backfield. DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing are likely to play but could be slowed by their situations. Kevin Walter and James Casey are also likely to play normally.
UPGRADE: Matt Hasselbeck
DOWNGRADE: Joseph Addai, Curtis Painter.
The Colts O-line shifts again as they lose Joe Reitz for a while after knee surgery, while Ryan Diem and Mike Pollak have other issues. That makes it tough for anyone behind them. It's tougher still for Addai, who's still not nearly past his hamstring strain. While the Colts will push him out there again, don't expect more results than you saw last week. The Colts also have defensive issues, with Dwight Freeney and Pat Angerer likely to play through minor knee injuries. The Titans are relatively healthy. Matt Hasselbeck's sore thumb won't be enough to keep him out, though it could have some effect on accuracy.
4 p.m. Games
UPGRADE: Jabar Gaffney, David Nelson
The only fantasy relevant injury for the Redskins is Santana Moss. He's out a while, so expect John Beck to have already adjusted. The likely beneficiary is Gaffney. Beck isn't his college self, but he's mobile enough to give Gaffney time to get free. Buffalo has line problems, but it's not enough to downgrade Fred Jackson or Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Fitzpatrick doesn't have as much time, it could shift more catches short, which will help David Nelson in the slot.
UPGRADE: Lance Ball
DOWNGRADE: Matthew Stafford
The Broncos will be without Willis McGahee this week after hand surgery. He could be back as early as next week depending on grip strength more than anything. This week, Knowshon Moreno will get more of the carries, but don't think he'll get all of them. Lance Ball got some late-game touches after McGahee went out and could end up with more due to his blocking skills. That sentence may sound strange, but the Broncos know that Tim Tebow's scrambling requires a blocker back there that can adjust. The Lions come in banged up after a hot start, as the story of the team is injuries again. When healthy, the Lions have enough talent to play with anyone, but keeping that talent on the field is just not happening. Stafford will play despite a sore ankle. He's able to move enough to get back, but the Broncos will try and test him. That makes Elvis Dumervil's status a potential game-changer. He's a GTD- right now, but the Broncos hope he can at least rotate in.
UPGRADE: Aaron Hernandez, Emmanuel Sanders
DOWNGRADE: Rashard Mendenhall
The day's big matchup isn't going to be decided by injuries. All the key players should be out there, though there's some depth issues with the Pats, especially in the defensive backfield. That should open things up just a bit for seam routes, where Sanders or Antonio Brown could sneak loose, especially if Jerod Mayo is out again this week. The Steelers won't have Hines Ward, which also helps that pair with targets. James Farrior had an off-week last week, and if he's not full-go, the Pats TEs are a real matchup problem. Troy Polamalu can only cover one of them. This week will also be a test for Mendenhall, who's over his hamstring issue but still hasn't been able to live up to last season.
UPGRADE: Tarvaris Jackson, Sidney Rice
DOWNGRADE: Marshawn Lynch
The Bengals' issues are all on the defensive side aside from Jermaine Gresham, who should play normally. The defensive issues are a bit balanced by Lynch's back problems. Lynch is expected to play, but the surprise from last week has everyone rightly worried and looking at options. It looks like Jackson will be back in, but the pectoral strain might limit his passing. Look for them to stay short and go on routes that won't call for hard throws. Sidney Rice is tall, so look for him to get most of the red-zone looks since Jackson can get air under the ball easier than he can find a small window.
UPGRADE: Greg Little
DOWNGRADE: Michael Crabtree
Cleveland is banged up again, with Mohamed Massaquoi out and Peyton Hillis looking very unlikely to play again this week. That means Colt McCoy is back to last week's situation but against a tougher defense. The Browns should get Scott Fujita back, but Joe Haden is a GTD+. The Niners' only major issue is Braylon Edwards. He looks ready to come back, but the question is will he rotate in or take many targets away from Michael Crabtree.
Sunday Night Football
UPGRADE: Eagles D/ST
Dallas made an intriguing roster move, cutting Tashard Choice to free up a roster spot. It was just a few weeks ago when Choice was nearly traded. Between DeMarco Murray's emergence and Choice's shoulder and hamstring injuries, his value has gone down even further. If healthy, a team like the Lions or Colts could use him. While Felix Jones won't play this week, the Cowboys must have confidence in his quick return from his latest injury. Philly has four listed injuries to offensive tackles, something that has to worry Michael Vick. Coming off the bye, they're as healthy as they've been and hopefully, Vick will get more protection. Trent Cole is a GTD+, which should help the defense, especially against the run.