Here are a few excerpts from my 4th & Long column, which runs every Friday on Sporting News' Fantasy Source site.
THE TRAINER'S TABLE
Several players will be game-time decisions on Sunday, so you're playing with fire if you don't follow the inactive reports prior to the game. As a reminder, I tweet them all every Sunday morning (www.twitter.com/ladd_biro), along with other breaking news.
Pierre Thomas is one of the guys I'll be tracking. He has a history of missing time with injuries, and his sore ankle could cost him a tasty matchup in Carolina. Ladell Betts is projected to get the bulk of the reps if Thomas sits, with rookie Chris Ivory also seeing action. But more likely, we'll just get more of Drew Brees -- who will wear a brace to protect his sore knee -- and his receivers. I'm not hanging my hat on either backup rusher, or, for that matter, Thomas, as he carries the risk of seeing limited action if he does suit up.
Kenneth Darby played well after Steven Jackson suffered a groin injury last Sunday, and it's looking more and more like he'll get another chance to prove his value this weekend. The Rams took a look at free agent Larry Johnson earlier in the week, and they decided he was no better than the guy they already had. Jackson's status against Seattle will go down to the wire; but as of now, it's not looking promising. Darby could be a decent flex-play in a pinch, but the real beneficiary of Jackson's absence will probably be Mark Clayton.
Ray Rice practiced Friday and is preparing as if he'll play this weekend, though a bruised knee won't be his only obstacle. Willis McGahee will likely take the pounding at the goal-line, if the Ravens are fortunate enough to get there against Pittsburgh's defense, which has been playing lights-out all season. You probably can't sit your No. 1 pick if he plays, but keep your expectations for Rice low.
Rookie sensation Jahvid Best used the word "definitely" when asked if he will play Sunday despite his turf toe injury. We haven't heard his coach say that, though; but it's a good sign. I learned my lesson about projecting sub-par results for Best against the Eagles in Week 2, so I'd start him if he's active against Green Bay. But if he sits, I wouldn't touch either Maurice Morris or Kevin Smith with a 10-foot pole.
Knowshon Moreno is all but certain to rest his hammy again this weekend, leaving Denver's backfield in the hands of Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter. As with last week's game, neither back offers much to get excited about.
Beanie Wells looked good in his 2010 debut against the Raiders, and you can expect even more from him this week, especially since Arizona's receiving corps is in such a shambles. Larry Fitzgerald is the last man standing, while Steve Breaston and Early Doucet both nurse injuries.
Ronnie Brown labored through a sore hamstring during Sunday night's matchup with the Jets, we are now told, but he is fully expected to play against the Patriots. Still, there's a measure of risk there, since they don't play until Monday night. Keep an eye on his status in case you need to hedge your bets.
Mario Manningham may not have suffered a concussion last week as originally feared. He is expected to play Sunday, and he's a decent start against Chicago.
Jacksonville picked up recently released Bills QB Trent Edwards.Don't be surprised if Edwards challenges David Garrard for the starting job at some point this season.Garrard has been dreadful so far this year.
What in the name of Brandon Stokley is going on in Indy? Three weeks into the 2010 season, the No. 1 wide receiver in Fantasyland is...wait for it...Austin Collie! Yeah, I predicted that. (Not.) Remember Pierre Garcon? He'll probably miss another week with his sore hammy. Collie has been limited by a heel injury in practice this week, but he's still an absolute must-start against the Jags.
Now that the deadline has passed for Vincent Jackson to secure a trade that would reduce his suspension to four weeks -- and with the bye weeks upon us -- few teams have the luxury of carrying his dead weight any longer. Feel free to waive him for a player that actually plays.
Owen Daniels is still noticeably hampered by his knee injury, and he has sat out practice this week due to a hamstring injury. Keep him in reserve against Oakland, even if he's active.
To Jay Cutler: I'm sorry I doubted you. Nice work so far. But, for the record, it's a long season and you still have time to prove me right.
To Terrell Owens: Are you kidding me? You're already throwing Carson Palmer under the bus? Dude...just shut up and play. You wore out your act years ago.
To Shonn Greene: I would never have used a first- or second-round pick on you, but when you were there in the middle of Round 3, I though I had a steal. How 'bout you toss me a bone every now and then, huh?