Fantasy Football: Ill-timed injuries could tilt playoff balance

Rare is the fantasy owner who breezes through the season without having to overcome injuries. It’s a part of the game — real football, of course, and the fantasy game we love to play.

But some injuries hurt more than others. David Johnson’s broken wrist in Week 1 and Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury five weeks later leap to mind. (My buddy’s contention that Pierre Garcon’s Week 8 injury was a crushing blow to his roster just doesn’t hold water.)

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But losing one or more of your studs at playoff time can prove fatal to your title chances.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and Saints running back Alvin Kamara. | Getty Images

Nobody knows that better than owners of Alvin Kamara, who went down with a concussion on the first drive of the game Thursday. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and it undoubtedly prevented countless fantasy teams from advancing to the next round as they otherwise would have.

Carson Wentz’s loss is different but no less alarming. Wentz treated his owners to a 291-yard, four-touchdown performance before going down for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Those who don’t already have a solid quarterback on their bench will be searching for emergency help on a waiver wire that likely has been picked clean. I’ve offered a couple of recommendations below, but unless Aaron Rodgers is still sitting there for some inexplicable reason, get ready for a significant downgrade.

By the way, if you find yourself facing Wentz’s owner in Week 15, or could face him or her in the championship round, consider making a preemptive claim on the best quarterback available. Keeping Rodgers, Blake Bortles or whomever from your opponent isn’t just a sneaky blocking move, it’s good strategy that could make the difference in your title run.

Catch ’em while you can

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: How is he still available in a third of all leagues? Surely my readers haven’t overlooked Rodgers, since I advised you to grab him last week. Come on, people … it’s Aaron Freaking Rodgers, and he’ll probably be the Packers’ starter next week!

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: Did Wentz strand you at the worst possible time? Bortles could come to the rescue. Benefitting from a stifling defense, a strong running game and the emergence of playmaking wideout Marqise Lee (who’s also still widely available), Bortles posted his second consecutive multitouchdown game without a turnover in the tough battle with Seattle. Next up: tasty matchups with the Texans and 49ers.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: Stewart is available in four out of six ESPN leagues, which is odd because he scored in each of the last two games before his 103-yard, three-touchdown explosion against the Vikings’ top-ranked run defense. With the Packers and Buccaneers up next, Stewart could keep the touchdown streak going while grinding out decent (or better) yards.

Don’t be fooled

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: Foles had his moments in the fantasy spotlight, but those days are long gone. Though he has a great cast around him, and even a favorable matchup against the Giants next week, he’s just not the guy you want leading your team in the fantasy postseason. Unless you are truly desperate.

Rod Smith, RB, Cowboys: Smith has become the king of trash-time scoring, finding the end zone four times in the last three games — all in the fourth quarter. So if you think the Cowboys will continue to nurse big leads at the end of their next two games, go ahead and grab him. But that’s an awfully risky proposition. Don’t forget: Ezekiel Elliott returns from suspension in Week 16.

Follow me on Twitter @ladd_biro.