The pop you heard coming from Foxborough on Sunday afternoon was the deflation of tens of thousands of fantasy football hopes.
Last year's NFL MVP and Fantasy Football MVP, Tom Brady, apparently suffered a major injury to his left knee Sunday when Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard lunged to hit Brady around his legs. The Patriots haven't made anything official yet and will perform an MRI on Brady's knee Monday, but considering the team has reportedly flown Chris Simms and Tim Rattay into town for workouts on Monday, it seems that the MVP is going to be out for a good long while, possibly the season.
So what do you do if you're a Tom Brady owner in a fantasy league? Well, it's ugly, obviously. You probably took Tom Terrific in the first round of your draft, so he was your best player. But don't completely throw in the towel. Fantasy has a way of doing crazy things, and who knows -- that eighth-rounder you gambled on could wind up being a star. If you drafted Brady, there's every chance you didn't even bother taking a second quarterback, figuring that you'd be able to pick up someone off the waiver wire the one week Brady was off. If that's the case, the first thing you should do is pick up two quarterbacks. One of them should be Matt Cassel.
Yeah, I know, Cassel hasn't started a meaningful football game since high school. He was Carson Palmer's backup at USC, then he was Matt Leinart's backup at USC, and he has been Brady's caddie since he has been in the NFL. He was so bad in an exhibition game against Tampa Bay this summer, the NFL Network's announcers openly questioned why Cassel is even in the league. But Cassel acquitted himself decently for three quarters Sunday: he was 13-of-18 for 152 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. And more to the point, he's still going to be throwing to some of the game's elite weapons, first and foremost Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Also, on paper, New England doesn't face one of the league's toughest schedules.
Even if you get Cassel off your waiver wire, though, you should also think about investing in another signal-caller, if you don't have one. The pickings in most leagues might be a little slim, but you could consider someone like Trent Edwards, who had a very effective day (19-of-30 for 215 yards and a score) against what's supposed to be a tough Seattle defense in Week 1, or maybe even rookie Matt Ryan, who, granted, won't get to throw against the Lions' awful defense every week. But he showed he'll be able to put up numbers against lesser teams in '08. With a combination of, say, Cassel and Edwards, you might be able to patch together a decent beginning to your fantasy season on a week-by-week basis, and if your team is contending come midseason, then you can decide whether or not to trade a surplus rusher or receiver for a big-time arm. Mostly, though, don't give up.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.