There had to be something wrong. The Pittsburgh defense is very solid, sure, but after five straight games with at least 120 yards rushing there was no way a healthy Clinton Portis would have totaled just 51 yards against the Steelers.
Now, two weeks later and after a bye-week for the Redskins, Portis' sprained knee has shown no improvement. He could not practice Thursday and there is now serious doubt as to his ability to play in Week 11's major rivalry game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
|Owners will be watching the status of Clinton Portis all weekend. (US Presswire)|
Things certainly don't bode well for the NFL's second-leading rusher and the Redskins would likely do the most good by allowing him to rest for one more week. This brings us to what his Fantasy owners can do to supplement their rosters in case he is a last-minute scratch.
The answer, unfortunately, is not much. The game being on Sunday night, most of your other options will have already played their Week 11 games. You'll likely be just as limited in your backup choice as will be Washington. Those choices are Ladell Betts and Shaun Alexander.
And if this was 2002 the choice would be clear. Jim Zorn's system was built for Alexander in his heyday. Except, with Betts looking like a lock to return from the knee injury that kept him out for three weeks and forced the 'Skins to go out and sign Alexander, the original backup is now ready to resume his role and start if Portis cannot.
"Betts looked good," Zorn said Thursday. "He's got a brace on, but made some cuts. That was encouraging."
Betts has always done a nice job filling in for Portis when he's had to and we expect that trend to continue in the case that Portis is out. Betts is only owned in 12 percent of Fantasy leagues, so if you own Portis, go pick him up now.
Portis wears No. 26 on his jersey but his chances of playing against the Cowboys are likely less than that. The good news is that you can count on Betts to soften the blow.
Running BacksFrank Gore, San Francisco: The 49ers tailback is listed on the injury report with a neck injury but he told the San Jose Mercury News Thursday that he suffered a concussion against Arizona on Monday night.
Gore left the game after taking a big hit from defensive end Chike Okeafor but returned for the final play. He has yet to practice this week but the 49ers are expecting the man who represents 37 percent of their offense to be ready to play against the Rams in Week 11.
Fantasy Take: Gore may need one or two more days of rest before returning to action but his head injury shouldn't keep him out against the Rams porous rush defense. We give him a 75 percent chance of starting in Week 11 and consider him a must-start in any format.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis: Jackson has rushed for 17 yards in three weeks as his strained thigh has limited him to just seven carries and two missed games. Jackson, who has rushed for 525 yards and four touchdowns this season in seven games, thought he'd turned the corner as he was able to practice on Wednesday. That was, of course, until he woke up on Thursday.
Jackson, reports the Chicago Tribune, woke up feeling stiff and sore and was forced to watch the team's practice wearing sweats on the sidelines. The news caused coach Jim Haslett to severely doubt his running back's availability for Week 11 at San Francisco. "I doubt if we'll have him, to be honest with you," Haslett said. "But we'll see. You never know."
Fantasy Take: We give Jackson a 20 percent chance of returning in Week 11 against the 49ers. Unless the soreness subsides before the weekend, the Rams will probably settle for starting Antonio Pittman, who is not a recommended replacement in Fantasy.
Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay: Graham was unable to practice on Wednesday for the Bucs and that caused some concern leading up to Week 11 against Minnesota. The Bucs have been starting both Warrick Dunn and Graham and Graham has been the better Fantasy back. He rushed 19 times for 62 yards last week in a win over Kansas City.
Fortunately for coach Jon Gruden, Tampa expects to have the former Florida Gator healthy enough to meet the tough Vikings defense as he was able to return to practice on Thursday, reports the St. Petersburg Times.
Fantasy Take: We give Graham a very solid 70 percent chance of starting against the Vikings in Week 11 but you should probably have tempered expectations. Graham will likely continue to share carries with Dunn and now has Cadillac Williams to deal with as well and against the No. 3 rush defense in the NFL should be viewed as a No. 3 Fantasy option.
Selvin Young, Denver: You really don't want to own a Denver running back right now. The Broncos themselves don't really want any part of the Denver running backs at the moment. With names like Ryan Torain, Anthony Alridge, Andre Hall and Michael Pittman out for the season, the team is basically left with Young and fullback Peyton Hillis.
Young, however, has carried the ball just once over the past four games as his lingering groin injury just won't heal. And as of Wednesday, Young's groin was still keeping him on the sidelines.
Fantasy Take: We give Young a 10 percent chance of being healthy enough to play in Week 11 at Atlanta. And even if he's available, we don't expect him to produce very much as he'll still be bothered by the injury. With Hillis available in most Fantasy leagues, he could give you No. 3-type Fantasy numbers against the Falcons if you are in dire need of a last-minute option.
Darren McFadden, Oakland: McFadden's season started off so promising after rushing for 164 at Kansas City in Week 2. What happened? Injuries are a bummer and they have wrecked McFadden's freshman campaign as he's still dealing with injuries to both his toes leading up to Week 11 in Miami.
But McFadden was able to get onto the practice field on Wednesday, reports the Sacramento Bee and coach Tom Cable is optimistic his rookie out of Arkansas will be able to go.
Fantasy Take: Cable may be optimistic but we are less so. McFadden hasn't played in three weeks and his toes are still going to limit him regardless of whether he returns. We give him a 30 percent chance of playing against the Dolphins solid rush defense but don't recommend him as anything better than a low-end Fantasy option.
QuarterbacksKyle Orton, Chicago: Fantasy owners hoping to start Orton against the Packers on Sunday are in for a week full of guessing and uncertainty as it appears the decision to let him return from his right ankle injury will come just minutes prior to game time.
Orton has been able to practice in a limited capacity all week for the Bears, a positive sign for his pending return, but he hasn't been able to run much, his ankle has been heavily wrapped and the Bears won't make a decision until they are absolutely certain of his status, reports the Tribune.
Fantasy Take: Orton didn't play against the Titans in Week 10 as Rex Grossman got the starting nod. Continue to check back through the weekend as new can change on a dime, but currently Orton gets a 40 percent chance of starting at Green Bay. Hopefully, whoever you chose over him in Week 10 will be a suitable option once again should Orton be ruled a no go.
Tight EndsJason Witten, Dallas: Witten knows he probably should have just rested during Week 9 game against the Giants. His broken rib did not allow him to catch a pass although targeted four times in the game. But after the Cowboys bye week in Week 10, Witten is expecting to play against the rival Redskins in Week 11.
The Dallas Morning News said Monday that although Witten will continue to be limited in practice throughout the week, he will wear added protection around his rib cage and will jump at the chance to reconnect with Tony Romo against Washington.
Fantasy Take: Witten gets an 85 percent chance of playing against the Redskins on Sunday night. Our only issue is whether or not he'll be able to play like the No. 1 Fantasy tight end that he's become. With Romo coming back, we still recommended starting Witten in all Fantasy leagues in Week 11.
Alex Smith, Tampa Bay: Smith has yet to practice this week leading up to Week 11 against the Vikings, reports the Tampa Tribune.
Smith, who has caught 19 passes for 228 yards and three scores this season -- including two catches for 12 yards and a touchdown last week against Kansas City -- likely will not be able to face the Vikings because of his injured ankle.
"Alex Smith is a key member of our offense and team," said coach Jon Gruden. "He's played a lot of roles. We're concerned about his status for this game."
Fantasy Take: We give Smith only a 15 percent chance of suiting up against the Vikings. He's normally just a last-ditch Fantasy option anyway, so you can go ahead and keep him on your bench in Week 11.
Wide ReceiversReggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis: Colts coach Tony Dungy expects not one but both of his receivers to be healthy enough to play in Sunday's game against Houston. Neither Gonzalez (hamstring) nor Wayne (ankle) has been able to step foot onto the practice field yet this week, however, reports the Indianapolis Star.
Wayne hurt himself early in a Week 10 win at Pittsburgh but returned for six catches and 114 yards with a touchdown and, although he's not practicing, Dungy believes his ankle is healing nicely.
"Hopefully, by Friday, we can get him going. I think he will be able to play and do fine," Dungy said Wednesday. "It's going to be tough practicing for him, but I think game day he'll be there."
Gonzalez caught four passes for 26 yards last week and also hasn't practiced but Dungy believes he'll be fine for Sunday as well.
Fantasy Take: The Texans defend the pass well, but not nearly as well as the Steelers so after Week 10's solid numbers for Wayne you can expect that trend to continue. We give Wayne a 70 percent chance of starting against the Texans and label him a must-start. Gonzalez gets a 65 percent chance of starting and should be considered a No. 3 option if healthy.
Marques Colston, New Orleans: Colston caught seven passes for 140 yards last week against Atlanta and didn't look like his knee was bothering him much. However, the Times-Picayune is reporting that he was limited in practice Thursday and his knee continues to give him trouble.
"Colston's knee is just something that he has fought now for a year-and-a-half or so," said coach Sean Payton on the team's official website. "He had some swelling, but that was it."
Fantasy Take: It certainly sounds like Haslett expects his top receiving option to play in Week 11 at Kansas City. The Chiefs defense is not good at all and a healthy Colston should rack up huge yardage. We give him an 85 percent chance of playing against the Chiefs and consider him a must-start.
Derrick Mason, Baltimore: Mason caught three passes for 41 yards against Houston last week but is currently being held out of practice with a dislocated left shoulder, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Mason's injury is not one to take lightly, especially for a player who makes his living with his hands. Though, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron refused to rule Mason out. "He is one of the toughest guys I've been around." Cameron said. "You saw what he did in the second half the other day. I don't think there's anything that Derrick could do that would surprise me from a health standpoint."
Matt Jones, Jacksonville: The Jaguars pass catcher could not practice on Wednesday with a thigh injury but was upgraded on Thursday as he returned to practice, albeit in limited capacity.
Jones caught five passes for 62 yards last week in a win over Detroit but left the game in the 3rd quarter. Little is being reported as of right now about whether or not Jacksonville expects Jones to be ready to play against the Titans on Sunday.
Fantasy Take: We expect Jones will be able to play based on the fact that he got onto the practice field Thursday. Jones gets a 65 percent chance of starting against the Titans solid pass defense. He's developed into a very nice No. 3 or No. 4 Fantasy wide receiver option and should be starting in most lineups if he's available to play.
Deion Branch, Seattle: The Seattle wideout hasn't played since bruising his right heel in Week 5 against the Giants and has just three catches for 31 yards for the entire season. So what? He's back and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is back along with him.
"I'm feeling really good -- this is probably the best I have felt since I've been out," Branch told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Wednesday. "I'm practicing as if I'm playing and I'm doing what I have to do to get on the field. Hopefully coach will let me play."
Fantasy Take: Not only is Branch back at practice, but coach Mike Holmgren expects him to start on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously, with the way his season's gone, nothing is for certain yet but we give him a 90 percent chance of returning to action. Still, we cannot recommend him until he plays a full game and looks like a contributor.
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