To say that the first two weeks of the NFL season have been confusing would be an understatement. Perhaps you were hamstrung in your Week 2 efforts by a stingy Jacksonville defense or cursed yourself for parking the Cadillac. Maybe your top running backs failed to get the chain moving, or a vulture swooped in and stole your TD glory. Whatever the case, the topsy-turvy world of the NFL has left many fantasy owners feeling as though they've been hit by a blitzing linebacker.
This week, we introduce a new feature whereby I'll review the day's most important fantasy injuries to get you ready for waiver wire activity and lineup fortification during the week. A number of big names appear on the list this week, including the electrifying Michael Vick and TD machine Priest Holmes. I'll begin with a player whose injury opened the door to one of the most entertaining plays of the week.
In a bit of a scary moment for Eagles fans during the romp over the 49ers on Sunday, kicker David Akers injured his hamstring and was forced to sit out a PAT attempt and the ensuing kickoff. Linebacker Mark Simoneau fired up the crowd by booting the ball through the uprights. Akers later returned to the game, and the injury will be re-evaluated during the week. He's 1-for-4 in field goal attempts thus far in 05.
Tatum Bell, expected to rise up and challenge Mike Anderson for the top spot in the celebrated Denver running game, sprained his ankle on a kickoff return. Anderson rushed for only 54 yards on 19 carries, leaving the door open for another back to shine in the comeback win. That back was the much-maligned former Heisman winner Ron Dayne, who put up 44 yards on eight carries. Dayne now leaps into the mix to make this a three-man mess in Denver. Approach this backfield with caution.
The Vikings have been brutal in their first two games of the season, with Daunte Culpepper off to a horrendous start (zero TD passes, eight interceptions and two lost fumbles). As if the 37-8 drubbing at the hands of the Bengals weren't enough, the Vikings ended the game with an injury list seemingly as long as the roster sheet.
- Culpepper injured the middle finger on his right hand. It's a minor injury that will not cause him to miss any time. The Vikings will welcome the Saints in Week 3.
- Nate Burleson left the game with a sprained knee. Expected to pick up the slack for the loss of Randy Moss as he did during the 2004 season, Burleson has caught only six passes for 93 yards thus far. Results of tests on his knee will be available mid-week, but dare I say that he's now drifting into No. 3 fantasy receiver territory?
- The re-tooled Vikings defense has certainly left people scratching their heads, obliterated by the Bengals attack (seven turnovers by the Vikings didn't hurt). Darren Sharper and Antoine Winfield both left the game with injuries. The extent of those injuries is not yet known.
Things have been pretty horrid for the Packers over the first two weeks of the season. Besides the losses to Detroit and Cleveland, Brett Favre continues to lose weapons. Javon Walker was lost for the season in Week 1. Now, red zone favorite Bubba Franks is on crutches, afflicted by a hip injury. David Martin will assume the top TE spot should Franks miss any time. As much as Favre loves the TE position, there are better emerging options on the waiver wire, including Steve Heiden, Matt Schobel and Jerramy Stevens.
Marcus Pollard left the game against Chicago after receiving a devastating blow from Mike Brown and sustaining a concussion. The Lions have a Week 3 bye, giving Pollard an extra week to get back on the field for Tampa Bay in Week 4.
The Titans rebounded from a miserable season opener against Pittsburgh to manhandle the Ravens, led by the defense and special teams. Fantasy owners knew it was just a matter of time before Chris Brown or Travis Henry suffered an injury that would cost them PT. Brown flinched first. He sustained a mild concussion in Sunday's game and was forced to miss the second half. Brown is questionable for Week 3. If he is unable to go, Travis Henry will face a St. Louis defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing defense entering Monday's games at 58 yards per contest.
Think Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has been impressive thus far? He rushed for his second straight 100-yard game to open his career, this time running over the vaunted Buffalo defense. Williams battled through a sprained foot in the second half, seeking to demonstrate his toughness and willingness to shoulder the load. Tampa Bay takes on Green Bay and Detroit in the next two weeks, two games that offer huge opportunities for the rookie back. He'll have tests performed on his foot this week, but fully expects to be ready for action.
Byron Leftwich sustained a knee injury late in the Jaguars' 10-3 loss to the Colts. He left the game briefly, but returned to the field shortly thereafter to attempt to engineer a tying drive. Leftwich tried to rally the troops as he did against Marshall a few years back, but the final toss to the end zone was broken up. He's a gamer, so unless something shows up on the X-ray, don't expect him to miss any time. The Jaguars face the Jets in Week 3.
Initial reports speculated that Michael Vick may have pulled his left hamstring against the Seahawks on Sunday. It was later revealed that severe cramping in his left leg forced him to the sidelines. Vick is expected to be in the lineup for Week 3 against Buffalo.
Priest Holmes briefly left the Sunday night game versus Oakland after sustaining a shoulder contusion. He missed only one series before returning to action, a series capped by a TD run by Larry Johnson. After being bottled up early in the yardage column, Holmes finished with a respectable 75 rushing yards. He is not expected to miss any time, but the brief absence made owners who failed to secure the rights to Johnson take a deep breath.
Late in the Raiders' 23-17 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night, Ronald Curry's right leg gave way when running a pattern near the end zone. At first it was feared that Curry had re-injured the Achilles' tendon tear that ended his breakout 2004 campaign prematurely. Curry said he felt a sharp pain in his right calf, easing the fear of an extended absence for the moment. An MRI will be performed on Monday to review the damage. With Doug Gabriel still on the mend, the loss of Curry would mean opportunities for Alvis Whitted in the Raiders attack.