- Will Carroll, ESPN Fantasy Games
In a weekend where the Colts' defense can actually stop the run, where a botched hold can blow a season and maybe a career, and where the less-injured team lost in almost every case, I'll believe almost anything. Heck, TivoToGo even came out for the Mac, ending my nearly two-year wait. Injuries weren't predictive last week, but they're seldom a perfect indicator. The better predictor is how a team deals with the injuries. It can be through depth, through schematic adjustments, or just dumb luck. No one fact or stat tells us everything you need to know. By getting more information, assigning a value to it, and integrating all of it into a solid plan, you'll be running your fantasy team like real teams do. In some cases, better. As we ring the Division Bell, let's get to the injuries:
BEARS: Does the bye help or hurt? It's something we'll hear asked over and over this week. In most cases, it's a big help, allowing the injuries and soreness we don't talk about, the seasonal fatigue and bruises that happen in the NFL to dissipate a bit. The Bears' most significant injuries need more than time to return; they need next season to start. The one big question mark -- at least injury question -- is Thomas Jones. His return is almost assured, but everyone expects Cedric Benson to get his share of carries as well. We should get some indicator of how healthy Jones is and how many carries Benson will get during practice this week. With Rex Grossman sure to be attacked by blitzes, the backs may need to carry a bigger share of the load this weekend.
SEAHAWKS: The Seahawks look like a mess if you're reading this column. Darrell Jackson left the game after aggravating his toe and even if he plays, as Mike Holmgren said in his Monday press conference, we've seen this type of injury pop back up in a similar fashion, making him extremely risky. (Tatum Bell, anyone?) D.J. Hackett has become Matt Hasselbeck's favorite target, but he's played in pain with a problematic hip and groin, something that could slow him up again this week. The defensive backfield isn't any healthier, though the blitz packages thrown against Tony Romo might also work against Rex Grossman. The line remains beat up, though they played well enough and seemed to adjust well throughout the season when one or another of the linemen were out. This might be one area where having had injuries throughout the season helped them deal with injuries now. The most significant problem to me is still Shaun Alexander. He's not cutting well, running straight ahead. He's effective, yes, but in a play near the end of the game where he broke away a bit, he tried to cut and then limped off the field for a few plays. Alexander is running much like an ACL returnee -- straight ahead. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that limp-off reminds us that the foot is not only less than 100 percent, but also just one wrong move away from having Maurice Morris back in the lineup.
22hKevin Van Valkenburg