Welcome to this week's session of fantasy football therapy. Let's talk about the problems that are troubling you, and we'll come up with some methods of dealing with them. We can work through these issues. Each week, I'll closely examine significant challenges that face your prominent players and threaten the stability of your teams. I'll help you tackle these concerns and redirect you toward success and peace of mind.
ISSUE: I lost Ronnie Brown for the season and don't have an adequate replacement.
OUTLOOK: Many fantasy owners who had Brown were too high in their standings to be in the proper waiver position to get Jesse Chatman, easily the most popular free-agent addition of the week. There aren't too many useful running backs available in free agency at this time of the season, especially in leagues larger than 12 teams. Not everyone was willing or able to handcuff Chatman to Brown, and they are left struggling to find a solid replacement for him.
YOUR STRATEGY: Time to give in and make a trade, whether you like it or not. You don't have to shoot for a Willie Parker or Adrian Peterson (Vikings) to keep winning. Don't do a major roster overhaul. Just get a solid fill-in who will continue to get you decent numbers without making you deal away the rest of your good players. Target guys like Clinton Portis and Marshawn Lynch. You also can take a week-to-week approach if a trade doesn't pan out right away. If you must plug in guys like Kenny Watson or Kenton Keith for a week, hope for the best possible production and just be happy you're not getting zero at the position. You can't field a perfect lineup every week, so be happy as long as you can plug in a stopgap who can supplement the good production of your other remaining starters.
ISSUE: I was fortunate to get Chatman off the free-agent list, but his first matchup as a starter is against the Giants.
OUTLOOK: The first reaction is to bench Chatman. Defense has fueled a five-game winning streak for the Giants, and they are allowing 97.4 rushing yards per game, fifth in the NFC. New York certainly isn't going to respect the Miami passing game, especially with Cleo Lemon at quarterback and Chris Chambers now gone. Plus, the Dolphins could fall behind quickly, and Chatman could become a non-factor.
YOUR STRATEGY: Actually, even with their quarterback problems and a winless record, Miami has averaged 115.1 rushing yards per game and has totaled nine rushing touchdowns, second in the AFC. While the team might be slightly less productive in both of those categories without Brown, they will not be terrible, either. The Dolphins' offensive line must be given some credit for blocking well in the running game. You can expect Miami to run the ball early in an effort to stave off the furious pass rush of the Giants. The 49ers totaled 103 rushing yards against the Giants last week, and the Falcons attained the same total against New York the week before. Neither team has offered much on offense this year. Chatman certainly is not a terrible start this week. I have him ranked 20th among running backs, which makes him good enough to be a quality second running back in a 10-team league. With bye weeks and injuries a major concern this week, Chatman is a decent starter who might get you good, but not great, totals. I would expect at least 75 rushing yards and possibly a touchdown from him in Brown's place.
ISSUE: Steven Jacksonfinally returns to action this week. Should I start him?
OUTLOOK: In Jackson's weekly column, he announced that he'll return from a four-game layoff that seemed much longer to some desperate fantasy owners. The matchup is attractive, since the Browns are allowing 149.5 yards per game, 14th in the AFC. The Rams certainly have not rushed Jackson back to the field, since the season essentially is lost at this point, and they wouldn't want to risk reinjuring their franchise player. So Jackson should be fresh and ready to roll.
YOUR STRATEGY: I would not expect great numbers from Jackson, but I don't think he will be terrible, either. The Rams likely won't want to overwork him in his first game back, and you still should see Brian Leonard and some other running backs get some reps. Plus, keep in mind that Jackson was not putting up outstanding numbers before he was hurt. He rushed for 233 yards and no touchdowns in his first three games of 2007. He also caught only eight balls for 57 yards. Also, remember the St. Louis offensive line is a patchwork unit right now. I have Jackson ranked 19th among running backs this week, so he is good enough to start during a week when many owners need him back badly, but I would not hope for a big return outing. If you get 80 rushing yards, take it, and smile if you win your game.
ISSUE: Carson Palmer faces the Steelers this week.
OUTLOOK: This seems to be a concern for Palmer's owners every year and might raise more red flags this season. He already has thrown nine interceptions in six games, which puts him on pace for a career-high 24 picks. The Steelers are allowing 174.8 passing yards per game, third-best in the AFC. But they have only six interceptions, tied for 10th in the conference. Palmer threw six touchdown passes in two games against the Steelers last season and had a three-touchdown performance against them in the second regular season meeting of 2005.
YOUR STRATEGY: Don't bench Palmer. The Bengals won't be able to mount much of a running game against Pittsburgh and will have to throw a lot. Palmer has faced the Steelers enough times to not be intimidated by them. Every season, his owners seem to get antsy about these matchups, but he usually delivers good totals in them. Sure, he will make more turnovers this week, but the overall numbers still will be solid enough to help you win. He has come through with double-digit fantasy performances in ESPN leagues in five of his first six games in 2007.
ISSUE: I am well ahead in my league and want to start making plans for the postseason.
OUTLOOK: Some owners who are 7-0 or 6-1 already are looking to make trades for players with friendly fantasy postseason schedules. They are trying to acquire guys who have good-looking matchups in Weeks 14 through 16 or 17, and might be trying to move top Patriots players for fear of them getting benched late in the season.
YOUR STRATEGY: After only seven weeks, it's too early to start looking ahead to the playoffs in terms of roster moves. Too many changes will happen on a lot of teams between now and the final weeks of the NFL regular season, and today's outlook certainly isn't tomorrow's. Most notably, injuries will alter the fantasy landscape over the next six to seven weeks. You can't trade for a player now and be assured that he will continue to perform at a similar level or even be available to play in a few weeks. Week-to-week management still should be your priority. Do not mess with success or start to look ahead and overthink. If your team is playing great, leave it alone. As for your Patriots, they could be fighting the Colts for home-field advantage in the AFC all season long and might not shy away from attempting to go undefeated. So while getting good depth behind them is recommended, dealing away Tom Brady or Randy Moss certainly is not advised when they will continue to help you dominate your league. Plus, you don't want to risk a decline in your team's performance and lose your current playoff seeding.
ISSUE: I don't have an ideal starter at the tight end position.
OUTLOOK: This a problem for about half of the owners in leagues of 12 teams or more. If you don't have one of the top five tight ends (Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow), you likely are struggling to get consistent production from the position and can't get the owners of one of the top guys to make a satisfying trade with you.
YOUR STRATEGY: You can't always have a perfect lineup, and there are lesser players who can help you at tight end. If your team still is winning, you can start players like Greg Olsen or Matt Spaeth, and consider the production you get from them a bonus. Many owners want to field a lineup of standouts every week, but most fantasy teams are going to have holes in them on a regular basis. Your regular challenge is to overcome those obstacles, and rarely will you have a starting lineup that is just perfect at every position in a larger league.