Hillis out, Burress questionable in Week 9 injury report
New York's Plaxico Burress is the only injury threat for the Jets vs. the Bills
Peyton Hillis reinjured his hamstring and will be out this week for Cleveland
James Harrision will be a game-time decision for the Steelers against the Ravens
You wouldn't think you'd learn much about fantasy football in a book entitled The Nature of War in the Information Age: Clausewitzian Future (Strategy and History) ... but you'd be wrong. All the principles of information warfare apply directly to fantasy football. We're not out there on the field and our physical skills don't matter. Wins and loses are our ability to collect and assess information. Football is just the game we enjoy that generates the data necessary to keep score. Face it, a lot of us would play Fantasy Monkeys Throwing Poo if there was a good scoring system.
What we're all looking for is what is called an "assymetric advantage" by info-warriors, an "I know something you don't know" by seven-year-olds. Injuries can be that, though with early week practice reports and swarming hordes of media, it's tougher to find something that your opponent doesn't. By nature of putting things in this column, it's removing an advantage (though I'm not egotistic enough to believe that enough people read me to make this an efficient media marketplace.)
Take your advantages where you find them and I'll keep trying to dig some up for you. Let's look around the league:
NYJ: Early word is that Plaxico Burress will play, but that he might not get normal targets. He's still a great red zone target and worth a play in most formats.
NE: Usually I say that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a safe play if he's starting. Today, I'm not so sure. The reports on the toe injury and how he's moving don't have me very positive. Let's wait and see what Bill Belichick and company say.
DET: News out of Detroit this morning that Jahvid Best feels he'll be back once he's clear of symptoms from his concussion. That's not a very solid timeline, but it's more positive than we've heard previously.
PHI: LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek don't play until Monday but both should play, if you're making those tough roster decisions today.
WAS: TE Fred Davis will start, as expected, and play normally.
NE: Wes Welker is ready to go despite his designation as "questionable." His neck is sore as it has been all season, but the worry there is that he's having a harder time to turn and look for the ball than anything that would keep him out.
NYG: With Hakeem Nicks out and Mario Manningham missing some practice time, many saw the move to bring WR Ramses Barden off the PUP as a possible fantasy play. Don't. Barden's not likely to see much action with Manningham, Victor Cruz, and Devin Thomas ahead of him.
STL: Early reports aren't very positive on Sam Bradford, but the coaching staff will watch him in warmups. I'll keep watching this one, but he's not going to be a solid fantasy play if he is in the lineup.
UPGRADE: Donald Jones
The Jets come in relatively healthy, with only Plaxico Burress as a FRG that could miss the game. He's a GTD+ and while his back issue is likely to cost him plays and targets, his size still makes him a red-zone beast. He could end up in the same situation as Calvin Johnson or Antonio Gates, where a couple of catches come with big points attached. Buffalo will be getting Donald Jones back after an ankle sprain. He probably won't be fully back in the mix but with Stevie Johnson heading for Revis Island, the third WR and TE could get a bit more action than normal. Jones is worth a look as a flex play in deeper leagues. Ryan Fitzpatrick is fine and will play normally.
UPGRADE: Tarvaris Jackson
DOWNGRADE: Cowboys D/ST
The Cowboys come in without Felix Jones for at least another week. The more pressing injuries are on defense where Sean Lee is a GTD- and Mike Jenkins is out with a hamstring strain. Lee's lateral mobility is huge for this defense so his absence would be a major issue for Rob Ryan, but he has had a week to adjust his scheme. The Seahawks should have all their major players, including a fully healthy Tarvaris Jackson and his favorite target, Sidney Rice.
UPGRADE: Chris Ogbannaya, Josh Cribbs
DOWNGRADE: Arian Foster
The intervention didn't matter for Peyton Hillis. He reinjured his hamstring and is out this week. Sources tell me it's "not a little aggravation," but a full-on setback that could cost him more than this week. With Montario Hardesty out with a calf strain, Ben Ogbannaya will get the carries with the Browns looking to create a short passing game as well. The Texans will be without Andre Johnson, likely pushing him out through the bye week (Week 11) to let his hamstring heal up fully ... they hope. There's some O-line issues, so Arian Foster is a bit of a downgrade, though not too much.
UPGRADE: Julio Jones, Matt Ryan
DOWNGRADE: Joseph Addai
With Julio Jones back, the Falcons come back after the bye essentially fully healthy. There's still some O-line issues which have led to inconsistency on offense, but coming up against the Colts will be a good test. They'll face tough DEs, but a weak secondary. Expect the Falcons to try to go deep early to try to build a lead, shifting the Colts D out of their comfort zone. The Colts have a load of players listed as questionable -- and none OIR probable -- but all are expected to play. Joseph Addai is listed as questionable with a knee, not a hamstring, which bears some watching. He's likely the No. 2 RB at best and not a good fantasy option.
UPGRADE: Daniel Thomas
DOWNGRADE: Reggie Bush
Kansas City comes in very healthy, though one must remember that the IR doesn't show up on the OIR. The Dolphins are listing more players, something unusual over the past couple seasons and a major reason why they (and the Colts) are down here on the bottom. Then again, the Dolphins haven't been very successful the past couple seasons, though not this bad. Healthy only gets you so far; talent wins. The major concern is Daniel Thomas, who will be a GTD+ as is usual for him. If he plays, Reggie Bush loses touches even after a solid performance. Mike Pouncey is expected to be back on the field just a week after losing feeling in his extremities, which is equal parts scary and amazing.
The Bucs are listing a lot of people as "probable" on the OIR and all should play, especially the important ones. LaGarrette Blount is going to return and start as the team is reportedly more committed to a power run game. Josh Freeman, Kellen Winslow and Gerald McCoy should all start and play normally. For the Saints, Mark Ingram will be out again, replaced in the RB committee by Chris Ivory. The team also has some defensive depth issues, especially if Jonathan Vilma can't go -- he's a GTD-.
UPGRADE: Jabar Gaffney, Braylon Edwards
DOWNGRADE: Fred Davis
The Redskins have some major injury issues this week. With Santana Moss out (and new addition Tashard Choice out as well) the big GTD+ will be Fred Davis. Davis has been the most consistent weapon for the Redskins passing game no matter who's throwing, and having him out would force the others well down the depth chart. It could force more roll-outs and short slants as a replacement, which feeds more targets to Jabar Gaffney. Injuries to Oshiomogho Atogwe and Philip Buchanon (who was placed on IR) could open things up for Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree. The Niners have some defensive depth issues, but very few other problems. Both Edwards and Crabtree are listed on the OIR but should get their full targets.
4 p.m. games
UPGRADE: Michael Bush
DOWNGRADE: Sebastian Janikowski, Willis McGahee
Oakland will be without Darren McFadden, who didn't make nearly as much progress through the bye week as expected. Michael Bush should get the start and has a nice matchup. Taiwan Jones should get some work, but is a speculative play for deep leagues or desperate players. Sebastian Janikowski didn't practice this week, but the coaching staff watched him Saturday and thought enough of what they saw to send Dave Rayner home. Janikowski is unlikely to get the deep chances regardless. Denver should get Willis McGahee back just two weeks after having a pin inserted in his hand. The Raiders will test that hand early with both hits and with rips. If McGahee can play well early, Knowshon Moreno will be marginalized. McGahee's not a great option for that risk and the likelihood that the Raiders will stack the box to force Tebow to throw.
DOWNGRADE: Jermaine Gresham
The Benagls won't be surprised by Jermaine Gresham's absence this week, though they haven't yet ruled him out. Both Gresham and Rey Maualuga are GTD-. The Bengals get Cedric Benson back this week from suspension, so Bernard Scott shifts back to the No. 2 RB role. The Titans have some minor defensive issues, but are relatively healthy at the relevant positions.
UPGRADE: Chris Wells
DOWNGRADE: Sam Bradford, Kevin Kolb
The big question is Sam Bradford's status after missing two games with his high ankle sprain. He's a GTD- right now since he was very limited at practice and due to the Rams' status. AJ Feeley was effective last week and could provide cover for the Rams to give Bradford one more week to heal up. Danario Alexander and Jason Smith remain out. For the Cards, they also have QB issues. Kevin Kolb is very unlikely to play due to turf toe. Chris Wells is listed as questionable, but his knee problem is one of maintenance and usage. I believe he'll play and the Cards should be able to adjust the playcalling to suit the kinds of things he can do without overtaxing the knee. Todd Heap is a GTD+, but with Kolb out, it's unclear what kind of role Heap will play if he's available.
UPGRADE: Mario Manningham, Kevin Faulk
DOWNGRADE: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks
This game more than any other this week could tip on injuries. The Ahmad Bradshaw saga has gone back and forth this week, but the medical evidence points to Bradshaw being out at least this week and ineffective or out for longer. While he won't need surgery, the bone is going to have to heal. The Giants will also be conservative with Hakeem Nicks, who's dealing with another hamstring strain, albeit a mild one. Nicks can sit out because Mario Manningham is back from illness. On the defensive side, the DEs are a mixed bag, with Jason Pierre-Paul very questionable after a concussion last week. Prince Amukamara is a GTD- once again. New England's only real issues are at RB. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was bothered early last week by his toe injury, leading to more usage of Kevin Faulk. Faulk came up a bit sore after his first game action. Faulk leapt over Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead mostly because Wes Welker was shut down last week by the Steelers and nearly was beheaded by Troy Polamalu. He's healthy for this week and we'll see if this "Welker blueprint" that the Steelers showed us works.
UPGRADE: JerMichael Finley, Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert
DOWNGRADE: Malcom Floyd
The Chargers have some serious injury concerns. Ryan Mathews is very unlikely to play, though officially he's a GTD-. Malcom Floyd is also a GTD+, but there's more chance he'll play despite his questionable status. Shaun Phillips is a big part of the defense and likely to help in coverage against JerMichael Finley -- if he were playing, which is unlikely. Mike Tolbert, Antonio Gates, and Vincent Jackson should all play normally. Green Bay has some minor dings, but all their relevant players should be playing.
Sunday Night Football
UPGRADE: Ed Dickson
DOWNGRADE: Steelers D/ST
We're still waiting to hear if James Harrison will play. It all comes down to an eye test; if the bone around his eye is very stable, he'll play but if not he won't. Harrison is very clear that if he's not 100 percent, he's not willing to risk any compromise his vision. With LaMarr Woodley out and James Farrior a GTD-, the LB corps is a real issue. The Steelers D should be able to adjust, especially against the run, but there's going to be exploitable gaps on short routes. Hines Ward is a GTD+ and if he's back, it should affect the targets for Antonio Brown. Emmanuel Sanders is out. The Ravens will be without Lee Evans yet again, but have no other relevant injuries.