There might be nothing more frustrating -- other than being a Carson Palmer or Larry Johnson owner -- than leaving points on the bench in a loss. Your starting running back scores seven points, your backup scores 17, and you lose by four. Sigh.
Even more bothersome is that these bench points almost seem as if they're by design. I mean, you drafted, say, three running backs in the first four rounds in one league, but you can start only two of them. So the odd man out does well, and it has you wondering what the heck you were thinking on draft day. It's one thing when a mid-to late-round pick such as DeSean Jackson does well, but it's quite another when a player you expected to do well does and you aren't using him.
Ah, the typical frustrations of the first three weeks of the season. Yes, three weeks. As in, you'll leave more points on your bench this week. But don't panic and try to change that via blockbuster trade. You must realize that draft day fantasy teams aren't built for the early non-bye weeks. They're built for the bye weeks and beyond, and other than the unfortunate "forced" bye for Baltimore and Houston in Week 2, there will have been no byes three weeks into the season.
The first three weeks of the season are predictable in that everyone is on the field, and you have a good idea of who will earn the touches for most teams because the injuries haven't piled up. It's so close to the draft itself that not many situations have had enough time to change for injuries, ineffectiveness or just general Larry Johnson-ness. That's why players you expected to do well are racking up points for your bench.
But that changes next week. Beginning in Week 4 and extending through Week 10, at least four teams per week will be on the bye. In Week 4 itself, six teams will be on bye. Yeeow! So that roster depth you focused on building on draft day will come in handy. You'll see why you picked that third back in the fourth round. You'll see why you picked four or five similarly talented receivers for two or three starting spots. You'll still wonder why you settled on Carson Palmer as your quarterback -- I know I do -- but at least your game plan can take shape. You can get Matt Forte off your bench for a few weeks, and maybe more.
Then, after the bye weeks, who knows what the situations will look like? There could be a lot of change in NFL situations, and if you're diligent on the waiver wire, it's not inconceivable that you'll have two or three starters on your team come Week 11 who weren't even on your team before Week 3.
Stay the course. Don't make major changes to your team and deal with the frustration for another week. Things will change drastically in Week 4. Except for Larry Johnson. He'll continue to stink it up.
Roethlisberger's shoulder injury not serious
"Steelers coach Mike Tomlin clarified quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury as sprained, not separated. There were a lot of guesses and misinformation the past few days. Now everyone in Pittsburgh can finally rest easy." -- James Walker (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Roethlisberger is sure to be pressured by a blitz-happy Philly defense in Week 3, and his shoulder might get another test. But given his talent and weapons, he belongs in your starting lineup.
Injuries mount for Colts
"President Bill Polian revealed a high ankle sprain will hold Bob Sanders out four to six weeks. That's a disastrous development for a defense that's struggled to stop the run and that, when it's at its best, gains a good dose of its personality from Sanders.
Meanwhile, things are getting worse, not better, for the Colts on offense, too. Left tackle Tony Ugoh went out of the Minnesota game early with a groin injury. If he doesn't play, the Colts could have an offensive line that includes just one starter from the group the team intended to field -- right tackle Ryan Diem. Tight end Dallas Clark (knee) could miss his second game in a row." -- Paul Kuharsky (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: This does not sound good at all. Upgrade your offensive players, especially your running backs, against the Colts' defense that is now without a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year. And as for that offensive line, it's worth noting that the Colts are dead last in the league in rushing yards per game, and Peyton Manning isn't tearing it up, either. And now they face the Jaguars. All your typical Colts must start, but the big production probably won't be there.
Lions scouting new backs
"We all knew the Detroit Lions were committed to improving their running game this season. But with all the problems they've had in their first two games, it's a little jarring to see reports of their running back tea party Tuesday at team headquarters. Two weeks after signing veteran Rudi Johnson, the Lions had former MVP Shaun Alexander and ex-Green Bay runner Vernand Morency work out for them. Disgraced former Chicago tailback Cedric Benson also visited.
None were signed, and reports indicated the Lions were merely building an internal scouting report should they need to add a runner in the future. But as John Niyo of the Detroit News points out, the same thing was said the night Johnson arrived for his visit Labor Day weekend. As it stands, Johnson is backing up rookie starter Kevin Smith. The No. 3 runner is rookie Marcus Thomas, whom the Lions claimed on waivers from San Diego." -- Kevin Seifert (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Signing one of those guys definitely help the Lions, but likely not fantasy teams. The more guys there are in the mix, the less likely it is that one guy would emerge from it. We'd like to see Kevin Smith get more chances -- maybe in a game or two that the Lions aren't trailing early -- and see him become a fantasy factor the way Kevin Jones did in his rookie season back in 2004. That could still happen, and it sounds like the Lions will give it another game or two. But if Smith doesn't pick it up quickly, we could see the dreaded three-back offense for the Lions by Week 6. That wouldn't be pretty.
Galloway possibly out, Stevens back
"Receiver Joey Galloway has a sprained foot. The extent of his condition isn't known yet, but it's possible he'll miss Sunday's game at Chicago. Tight end Jerramy Stevens is back from his two-game suspension and the Bucs have to clear a roster spot. Reserve tight end Ben Troupe is a possibility." -- Pat Yasinskas (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Galloway could miss a couple of weeks, although that isn't confirmed. And take a wait-and-see approach to Stevens. Make him earn his way onto your roster. The Bucs released Troupe.
Collins to remain Titans' QB
"Coach Jeff Fisher just said more firmly what he'd hinted at and indicated last week: Vince Young's not getting back on the huddle anytime soon so long as things don't fall apart. 'As long as we're winning, Kerry [Collins] is our quarterback,' he said. Pressed for more, he offered this: 'We're going to get Vince back and get his knee back and work with him getting back involved in the offense, but Kerry's going to go ahead and play for us until he struggles or whatever else happens. You saw by the way he played and just in light of everything, it just makes sense to go with this.'" -- Paul Kuharsky (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Is this the beginning of the end for Young as the Titans' quarterback? Maybe, but there's always the chance the 35-year-old quarterback could get hurt or break down. But for now, fantasy owners can safely let Young go to the waiver wire, knowing that even if he returns as the starter, it'll likely take a few games to get in fantasy owners' good graces.
L.J. still focal point of Chiefs offense
"Larry Johnson should feel better now. His coach, Herm Edwards, has made it clear that Johnson still is the focal point of the Chiefs' running offense. I have a feeling Johnson will bounce back quickly after hearing his coach's comments and simply after having time to cool down and relax. After Sunday's home loss to Oakland, in which Johnson had just 12 carries for 22 yards, the running back, who is coming back from a broken foot that prematurely ended his 2007 season, wondered aloud if his days as the Chiefs' go-to tailback are over.
Johnson, who will be 29 in November, may not be the team's long-term answer, but for now, the 2008 season and likely the 2009 season, Johnson is Kansas City's best chance at running back. Maybe after hearing Edwards say it, Johnson will believe it." -- Bill Williamson (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Let's be fair to Johnson here -- it's not all him. The passing game is broken and might be led by the third starting quarterback in as many weeks, and the offensive line is quite porous. So Johnson certainly isn't getting any help. That's the reason I doubt Johnson is headed back to his superstar ways anytime soon. It took everything coming together for him to play that way, and so far none of it has come together.
Dallas' Williams out
"Cowboys safety Roy Williams broke his right forearm in the third quarter, and I'm told he could be out for a month. It's a major setback for a player who seemed to be showing a lot of maturity both on and off the field." -- Matt Mosley (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: I've already heard people mention that the loss of Williams will hurt Dallas' secondary, which most people take to mean its pass defense. Not true in this case because Williams, a strong safety, is more like another linebacker on the field than a rangy safety. His pass-coverage skills are average at best, but he's among the top run-stoppers at his position in the league. So I think Dallas' run defense will suffer the most, but allow me to be more specific. Dallas is still mighty strong up the middle, both in the line and at linebacker, but Williams' strength is going sideline to sideline and tracking down the speedy runners that some of the linemen and 'backers can't get their mitts on. I don't worry about Edgerrin James (Week 6) or Chris Perry (Week 5), but I would worry about slippery types such as Ryan Grant (Week 3), Clinton Portis (Week 4) or even somebody like Kenny Watson (Week 5) if he were part of the mix.
Lions QB controversy?
"The Lions are at least contemplating how they will handle the position if this season gets away from them. Starter Jon Kitna will turn 36 later this month and makes an awful lot of mistakes for a player expected to lend a calming, veteran influence to the offense. Dan Orlovsky is currently the Lions' No. 2 quarterback, but many in Detroit are fixated on former Michigan State signal-caller Drew Stanton. Stanton is recovering from a sprained right thumb and won't be ready to play until next month. It's hard to imagine coach Rod Marinelli making a change anytime soon, but Tom Kowalski of MLive.com says: 'The Lions drafted Drew Stanton in the second round last year with the idea that he would one day take over as the starter and lead the team. (That's still the reason you draft players, isn't it?) As much as Marinelli likes Kitna's toughness and leadership, there comes a point of diminishing returns.'" -- Kevin Seifert (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Let's be honest here: Do we really care who quarterbacks the Lions? Kitna is a decent bye-week fill-in when the matchup is favorable, and that luxury probably would go away initially with another quarterback, but really, the only Lions we care about are Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. As long as the quarterback can get the ball to those guys with regularity, this situation doesn't concern us too much.
Hester should be OK
"Although the Bears haven't updated the status of kick returner/receiver Devin Hester, the Chicago Tribune reports he should be healthy enough to play Sunday against Tampa Bay." -- Kevin Seifert (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: The Bears will need him, although, considering the matchup, we shouldn't expect to see Hester do much in the passing game. Leave him on your bench outside of leagues that use return yardage.
Seahawks sign Koren Robinson
"Some notes about Robinson's signing: Robinson had impressed quarterback Matt Hasselbeck at a Christian retreat during the offseason, and word of their meeting had filtered back to Seahawks president Tim Ruskell. As the injury situation worsened, Ruskell dispatched pro personnel director Will Lewis and director of player development Maurice Kelly to check references on Robinson in Green Bay, North Carolina (Robinson's home state) and elsewhere. As the research indicated Robinson had turned around his life, the Seahawks met with Robinson last week and ran him through a workout. The team brought in Robinson for a follow-up workout today, and Robinson showed improvement and seemed to be relearning the offense well.
Robinson said he has been sober since August 2006. He said he doesn't go out to clubs anymore and he doesn't 'run with an entourage or a group of people or negative people' any longer. He credited a recommitment to his faith, including the one-week getaway in which he encountered Hasselbeck, as one key to his sobriety. Ruskell acknowledged he is taking a risk. He said the current 'little crisis' at receiver led him to take a harder look at Robinson than he ever would have otherwise." -- Mike Sando (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: I must admit that Robinson intrigues me, but the recently acquired Keary Colbert intrigues me even more. No, he won't be a fantasy savior, but at least Hasselbeck will have more options than the no-names he has now.
Deuce admits he's not the same
"Deuce McAllister admits he's not the same player he was earlier in his career, but said he thinks he still can play a significant role." -- Pat Yasinskas (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: McAllister is on fantasy teams only because of his red zone ability and the team's relative lack of an option other than him. But it's clear that McAllister isn't the same after more knee surgeries. If you need his roster spot, and you soon will, he probably should be let go in standard-sized leagues. There's been no indication he'll provide anything more than an occasional touchdown.
Detroit's Williams speaks out
"According to the Detroit News, Roy Williams thinks the team isn't throwing to him enough. Thus far, he has six receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Here's what Williams said, according to the News: 'I really think I'm a role player right now. I'm a little ticked off because I feel if I'm not involved in the game and we lose, I'm ticked off. If I'm not involved and we win, great. I feel I can make some plays.' This sentiment isn't surprising. Williams expressed similar feelings before the season when asked about the emergence of teammate Calvin Johnson and the Lions' plans to run the ball more frequently. It will probably be interpreted as jealousy of Johnson's fast start, but in reality it's the truth. Johnson and Williams are the Lions' two best offensive players, and their talents should be maximized. That said, Williams won't get much out of complaining." -- Kevin Seifert (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: As a Roy Williams owner, I agree! Not really. As good as Williams is, it's clear that Calvin Johnson is the superior receiver; the sky is the limit for the second-year player. Just like when Torry Holt passed Isaac Bruce years ago in the Rams' pecking order, this might be a tough pill to swallow for Williams and his owners, but Johnson is the player you want in that Lions receiving game.
"Here is comprehensive analysis from Scouts Inc.'s Keith Kidd: 'Why is Carson Palmer struggling? After studying the Bengals' offense this weekend, there is no doubt the pounding he took in Week 1 [by the Ravens] has affected the way he plays in the pocket, and a broken nose he suffered in the preseason can't help. Palmer remains one of the league's top quarterbacks, in my mind, but the tension with No. 85 Chad [Ocho Cinco] appears to have increased, and he is not in sync with his receivers. On top of that, the Bengals don't have a legit third receiver right now. The offensive line is not playing well, and say what you want about Chris Perry, but he is not a younger version of Rudi Johnson. The Bengals better right the ship quickly because they could be in for a long day against a very good New York Giants defense on Sunday.'
Tight end Ben Utecht is doubtful for Sunday." -- James Walker (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: I think Palmer & Co. will be in for a long day, and as a disgruntled Palmer owner, I'm officially benching him. But I'm not giving up. I know he has the talent and weapons, and I know it takes just one game to get back in rhythm. It's just that Palmer unfortunately has proved to us the past couple of years that his bad games are not "adequate" for fantasy anymore. He actually deserves to be benched for bad matchups. What a bummer.
The "other" Peterson sits
"People want to know why the Bears in essence made Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch for Sunday's game at Carolina. According to Larry Mayer of chicagobears.com, the Bears chose receiver Mark Bradley over Peterson when whittling down their game-day roster. (Bradley was deactivated for the opener against Indianapolis). As a result, Garrett Wolfe served as the backup for starting tailback Matt Forte. Sunday deactivations aren't always a big deal, but this one was. Peterson hadn't missed a game since 2004 and overall had played in 63 of a possible 65 games entering Sunday. The Bears don't have big plans for him as a runner this season, but in retrospect he might have been a better option than fullback Jason McKie on that key fourth-down play in the fourth quarter against the Panthers. And it wasn't like the Bears had some special plan for Bradley." -- Kevin Seifert (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: When the bye weeks arrive, and maybe even before they arrive, if you need a spot on your bench to grab a fill-in tight end or kicker, Peterson should go. Being a "healthy inactive" is about as low as it gets for a rostered NFL player.
Giants opening up passing game
"Says Tom Coughlin: 'We designed some things to allow us to get the ball down the field. You would like to think you could do that a couple of times a game. You send a message that you are willing to take a chance to throw the ball deep.' When I sat down with Eli Manning during training camp, all he wanted to talk about was focusing on the deep ball. On Sunday, the Giants took several shots downfield, and it seemed to open up the running game in the second half." -- Matt Mosley (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Indeed it did. Of course, the Rams are really bad, so it's not a fair matchup to spin. But it has been obvious to me from watching the G-men the past two weeks that the "kid gloves" are off Eli Manning when it comes to passing downfield. The field is his oyster, and I think he'll put up weekly pearls. More yards, more touchdowns, a big year from Plaxico Burress the whole shebang. Sure, he'll have quite a few interceptions, too, but I don't see why a Ben Roethlisberger 2007-like season couldn't be in store.
Smith cleared to practice, but
"Ravens quarterback Troy Smith has been cleared to do light workouts as he recovers from a viral infection. A lot has changed for Smith in a short period of time. First, he's lost 20 pounds, and that will take some time to recover from. Second, rookie Joe Flacco is close to sealing the deal as the team's starting quarterback with a few more victories." -- James Walker (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Cutting Smith from one team's roster now
No QB controversy in Miami
"Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano stiff-armed the notion of a quarterback controversy, again declaring that Chad Pennington will remain the starter.
As for Chad Henne's appearance with 9:42 left in the game, Sparano said it was because the game was out of hand and he wanted the second-round pick to get some experience. Henne completed seven of his 12 attempts for 67 yards." -- Tim Graham (Read full blog entry)
Fantasy spin: Let's face it: Henne wouldn't do any better at this point than Pennington has. In fact, he could negate the Dolphins' passing game the way John Beck did last season. But we wouldn't mind seeing Henne get a little more game experience to see what he can do for next year.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN Fantasy.