Strains, sprains and a few bad breaks

On Fantasy Sports

It's still early, but Deuce McAllister has to be the overwhelming favorite for the biggest fantasy flop of 2004.

McAllister was a consensus top-6 pick in most leagues, but his stat line to date – 19 carries, 58 yards, two fumbles lost in two games – ranks among the NFL's worst. If your league penalizes fumbles (most do), you'd have been better off starting seldom-used Ravens fullback Alan Ricard (one carry, 1 yard) than McAllister.

On top of that, McAllister has a high ankle sprain that will keep him on the shelf for the next 4-5 weeks, plenty of time for Deuce drafters to contemplate their rotten luck.

McAllister's was the most important injury in an injury-filled weekend that knocked a handful of the NFL's impact players out of action and left fantasy owners scrambling for alternatives.

Priest Holmes and Edgerrin James might sit out this weekend. McAllister, Todd Heap and Tommy Maddox could miss a month or two. Rookies Kellen Winslow and Julius Jones could be lost for the season. What it all adds up to is a lot of holes on fantasy rosters.

Holmes (sprained ankle) and James (strained hamstring) haven't been ruled out, but both are listed as questionable – enough to raise more than a few eyebrows. The nature of their injuries and the uncertainty of their status make either a risky play in Week 3, but leaving them on the bench is equally risky. The most an owner can do is monitor their situations carefully and hope to avoid the dreaded game-time decision. Derrick Blaylock (K.C.) and Dominic Rhodes (Indianapolis) stand to benefit most if either Holmes or James can't go.

McAllister's injury is potentially disastrous for his owners, who will be lucky to salvage a .500 record in his absence. Former No. 1 draft pick Ki-Jana Carter and Aaron Stecker will split carries for New Orleans in the meantime. Carter should be the better of the two and a decent pick-up, but neither will approach the value of a healthy McAllister.

Maddox, who is out at least six weeks with an elbow injury, shouldn't have been a fantasy starter, but his injury does clear the way for intriguing rookie Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger won't have much value in the short term, but he showed flashes of ability against the Ravens and might be worth stashing for down the road if you can afford the roster spot. More importantly, Roethlisberger's presence should give a slight boost to the values of Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress.

Jones' stock has fallen quite a bit since he joined the Cowboys in April. Drafted as a potential starter, he carried five times for 16 yards in two games and now is out for at least two months – possibly the season – with a shoulder injury. That creates an interesting situation in the Dallas backfield, where Eddie George will continue to get carries for lack of a better option. But Bill Parcells didn't want Dallas to sign George to begin with, and the Cowboys reportedly were shopping the aging back around a few weeks ago. Once healthy, Richie Anderson could have some value.

The injuries to Heap (out 2-4 weeks with a sprained ankle) and Winslow (out 8-10 with a broken leg) are particularly significant given the shallow pool among tight ends. With two of the top five TEs out of the picture, consider these adequate replacements – Eric Johnson (San Francisco), L.J. Smith (Philadelphia), Chris Cooley (Washington), Erron Kinney (Tennessee) or Ernie Conwell (New Orleans). All five should be available, and all five have scored at least one TD already this season. The same can't be said for Heap, Winslow, Tony Gonzalez or Jeremy Shockey.

Quick hitters

Week 2's top five performers: Donovan McNabb, Aaron Brooks, Joey Harrington, Curtis Martin and James. Most surprising in that bunch is Martin, who already has twice as many TDs this season (4) as he did all of last year. He's tops among fantasy running backs through two weeks and ranks behind only McNabb and Daunte Culpepper in overall scoring. The next best thing to owning Martin right now might be facing the team that does this week – the Jets have a bye. Open dates will also take Corey Dillon (New England), Travis Henry (Buffalo) and DeShaun Foster (Carolina) out of the mix this week.

Foster led all running backs in Week 2 with 172 yards rushing in place of the injured Stephen Davis. Keep in mind that those big numbers came against a helpless Kansas City defense that made Quentin Griffin look like a Hall of Famer a week earlier. At the same time, owners lucky enough to have Foster should be glad he's finally getting a chance and find a way to get him into their lineup. Just not this week.

I take back what I said about Roy Williams – not only is he a useful fantasy receiver, he was the best one in the NFL last weekend. I said last week that rookie receivers weren't worth starting, and Williams made me look foolish by catching two touchdown passes against Houston. But hey, I'm not perfect – I cost myself a win this week by starting Steven Jackson (3 carries, 10 yards) over Koren Robinson (66 yards receiving, 1 TD). Point is, go ahead and play Williams. He's good.

Starting Culpepper and Randy Moss is a given, but that duo figures to put up some particularly ridiculous numbers this week against a depleted Chicago secondary. The Bears will be without two players who started last week – Mike Brown (out for the season) and Charles Tillman (out 7-10 weeks) – and another (Jerry Azumah) who is still recovering from offseason surgery.

A few muddled backfield situations began to clear up in Week 2. Henry got the bulk of the carries over Willis McGahee for Buffalo (21 attempts to 2); William Green over James Jackson in Cleveland (19-3); Chicago's Thomas Jones over Anthony Thomas (23-5); and Warrick Dunn over T.J. Duckett in Atlanta (14-9).

Starting nod

Quarterback: Brett Favre, Green Bay – He won't allow a repeat of last week's rough outing at Chicago, especially against a suspect Indianapolis pass defense.

Running back: Marshall Faulk, St. Louis – Has 10 TDs in seven career games vs. New Orleans; Domanick Davis, Houston – Any back looks like a good play right now against K.C.'s porous defense.

Wide receiver: Laveranues Coles, Washington – The Redskins' top target will get his first TD of the season Monday night vs. the Cowboys; Peerless Price, Atlanta – Has yet to live up to the hype with the Falcons, but should have a big day against the Cardinals.

Tight end: L.J. Smith, Philadelphia – Two touchdowns in two games; McNabb seems to like this guy.

Kicker: Jason Hanson, Detroit – Philly's defense won't give up a lot, but the Lions' offense is good enough to give Hanson a chance to put up some points.

Defense: Miami – The Dolphins don't have much on offense, but their defense is as good as ever and facing a Cleveland team that struggled mightily last week at Dallas.

Ravens report

The big news is Heap's ankle injury, which takes one of the league's top tight ends out of the mix for a few weeks. Baltimore's offense relies on production from the tight end, which means youngster Daniel Wilcox should put up above-average fantasy numbers in Heap's stead.

Jamal Lewis has yet to have the kind of big-yardage game that fans came to expect last season. Of his 62 yards against the Steelers, more than half (36) came on the Ravens' opening drive. But Lewis got in the end zone twice last week and could actually see a spike in value with Heap sidelined. One fewer red zone option means more carries near the goal line for Lewis. Defenses will continue to key on him, but that's been the case for most of his career in Baltimore and it has yet to slow him down.

As a change of pace, the Ravens will turn to Chester Taylor, who is coming off the best rushing game of his career (76 yards). He's earned playing time and should continue to get 5-10 carries a game, which means he's worth grabbing if you can get your hands on him. He's one of the NFL's better backups and should start if Lewis misses any time while facing federal drug charges later this season.

Another Raven who might be worth grabbing is receiver Randy Hymes, who looks capable of making big plays and seems to have a good chemistry with Kyle Boller. Hymes had a 39-yard TD catch negated by a penalty out on Sunday, but he'll have more chances to get into the end zone in the coming weeks.

Dave Alexander is a sports producer at Send questions or comments to

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