FANTASY GRIND: Injuries, lots of injuries
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By OSKAR GARCIA
HONOLULU -- The easiest one-word summary of the 2013 fantasy football season so far: Ouch.
Injuries to Reggie Wayne, Sam Bradford, Doug Martin, Jermichael Finley and a bunch of other players in Week 7 have fantasy circles buzzing about whether this year has been particularly rough for injuries in the NFL.
As far as fantasy players are concerned, it's the worst since 2000.
According to STATS, 177 skill position players (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends) have had to miss at least one game with injury so far this year. That's higher for the first seven weeks than any year since 2000 -- and nearly 25 percent higher than the average of 142.1 skill players missing at least one game in the first seven weeks each year from 2000 through 2013.
The difference is slightly sharper among more severe injuries: 122 players have had to miss at least two games so far this year, according to STATS. That's nearly 28 percent higher than the average of 95.4 players missing at least two games over the same span from 2000 through 2013.
The bright side? It's legitimate if you want to complain about injuries hurting your fantasy football team -- plenty of players are doing the same on Twitter, Reddit and other social networks. But the reality is the injuries are likely affecting most of the teams in your league in some way. That's why you try to draft for depth, strategize on handcuffs and consistently look at your competition's assets and needs in hopes of making the right moves.
Let Chuck Pagano's comments on Wayne's season-ending knee injury serve as a fantasy rally cry for owners facing injury problems.
"He's not going out like this. He's not going to leave this game like this. There's no way," Pagano said Monday. "He'll fight, he'll get his surgery, and he'll rehab and he'll grind like nobody's ever grinded.
"He'll do whatever it takes to get back on that football field -- even if it's to catch one more pass, make one more block, do one more thing to help this organization win a football game, he'll do it. But he's not going out like this," Pagano said.
The fantasy season is halfway through. Don't give up yet.
THE RED ZONE
You know how important touchdowns are to fantasy scoring. But predicting touchdowns is especially difficult for running backs and receivers because NFL offenses are trying to disguise their plays and often have role players used in different (ahem, frustrating) ways when they get within 20 yards of the goal line.
At each position, some surprising red zone numbers give a different perspective on the players you're considering each week.
QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta. Ryan leads the league with 51 pass attempts in the red zone. Yes, Ryan, not Peyton Manning -- and Ryan has already passed his bye week. He's less efficient than Manning and others, and fantasy players are somewhat down on Ryan because of injuries to Julio Jones and Roddy White. Rightly so, but Atlanta is at its core a passing team, with Ryan throwing to whomever he can.
RB: Fred Jackson, Buffalo. This probably will help more with decisions on C.J. Spiller, but Jackson has twice as many carries as Spiller inside the red zone (16 to 8) and five red zone touchdowns compared with none for his teammate taken in the first round of many fantasy drafts. Not only is Jackson dominating Spiller in opportunities, he's top 10 in the NFL in red zone carries.
WR: Kenbrell Thompkins, New England. Thompkins is third in the league in fantasy scoring in the red zone, with more fantasy points there than Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and Victor Cruz. He's also tied with Washington's Pierre Garcon with 10 red zone targets, fourth in the league.
TE: Julius Thomas, Denver. Not that you need convincing he's an every-week start at this point, but Thomas has more fantasy points and catches than any other tight end inside the red zone. He's caught 10 red zone passes on 12 targets, with six touchdowns.
RINGER TIME: SALVATORE STEFANILE
Week 7 was a huge week for a subset of fantasy footballers that play in a specialized kind of league: 2 quarterback leagues.
It's a simple-sounding tweak, but it changes the dynamics of any league significantly and some fantasy experts -- like Salvatore Stefanile of XN Sports -- believe it'll become more popular as more players learn the format.
"Now I spend even more time researching players I wouldn't even have heard of," Stefanile said.
No less than four quarterback situations in the NFL were thrown into question in Week 7, with Bradford and Jay Cutler injured, Houston's Case Keenum making a respectable start for Houston in place of Matt Schaub, and Brandon Weeden struggling again, prompting Cleveland to question whether he'll start this week.
In typical one-quarterback leagues, these situations are ho-hum. You can pick up someone like Ben Roethlisberger and move on with your life. Not so in two-quarterback leagues, where bye weeks and scarcity mean anyone who might sniff the field is likely owned or on the radar.
"These are just situations that the two-quarterback owner has to think about that the one-quarterback owner doesn't even care for," Stefanile said.
Stefanile said he was skeptical of two-quarterback leagues at first, but enjoys them now because of the increased strategy possible and the research needed to be successful.
"Most of the strategies are the same thing year in and year out" in one-quarterback leagues, Stefanile said. "It's sort of getting to that point where it doesn't matter who you have."
It's all part of connecting with football and the game. Stefanile says there are signs that the leagues are getting more popular, like fantasy experts talking about two-quarterback leagues or analyzing players they wouldn't have before, like Keenum.
"Most people probably have no idea who Keenum is or cares who he is unless they're a Houston Texans fan," he said.
Can't wait to get some of that homemade grub for winning in Week 7 in one of my two-quarterback leagues. Jordan Reed made me look smart.
Of course, I lost Bradford in the process and am now scrambling to try to find someone -- anyone, really -- who will start in Week 8. In the process, I'm bidding the rest of my free agent acquisition budget because the quarterbacks are just that important.
But 4-1 isn't bad, and neither is 4-1 in five daily leagues.
Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can be reached at ogarcia(at)ap.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/oskargarcia
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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