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Fantasy Football - Week 4 Preview

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Strategy topic of the week: should you cut your injured/suspended players?

One of the most difficult decisions fantasy football team owners have to make each season is how to react to players' injuries (and the occasional suspension). As you might suspect, there are a number of factors that should be considered before you make a decision:

Is your league a redraft league (i.e. - teams do not have the option to keep players from one season to the next), a keeper league (i.e. - teams are allowed to keep a limited number of players from one season to the next), or a dynasty league (i.e. - teams are allowed to keep most, if not all, of their players from one season to the next)? This is the most important factor to consider for top-tier fantasy players who are out for an extended period of time. For example, Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt is out for the season with a knee injury. It makes no sense to keep him on your roster in a redraft league, while keeping him on your roster may be the right decision in a keeper or dynasty league.

How long will the player be out? If the player is out for the season, the decision is made for you in a redraft league -- you drop the player immediately. If the player is out for just a few weeks, you may be able to get by without him until he returns. However, what about a star player who is likely (but not definitely) out for the rest of the season? Should you drop Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning or keep him on your roster in hopes that he returns just in time for your fantasy league's playoffs? In this case you have to look at the player's real-life team and gauge how likely a return is. In Manning's case his team will almost definitely not make the playoffs without him, so it's highly unlikely the team will bring him back for a few meaningless games in December. Cut him in redraft leagues and look for another player who can help your fantasy team this season.

Will the player get his job back when he returns? Again, each case is different. If you're talking about Chicago wide receiver Roy Williams, there's a good chance the answer is "no". If the player in question is Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin or Houston running back Arian Foster, the answer is a resounding "yes".

Does your league have IR (Injured Reserve) roster spots, and if so, how many? If you can put players on IR, there's no harm in using an IR spot to stash a player like Manning in the unlikely event he does return this season. But what if you have more players eligible for IR than you have IR spots available? Then it makes the most sense in a redraft league to stash the player(s) on IR most likely to help your team this season and drop the rest. If you're in a keeper or dynasty league, and your team isn't likely to contend for the championship this year, then it makes more sense to keep the player(s) you think will have the most value in future seasons.

If your league doesn't have IR spots, how many bench spots do you have available? Generally, I'd want to use my first five bench spots (assuming I have that many) on a quarterback, two running backs, and two wide receivers. If you have more than five bench spots, and you're in a redraft league with fewer than 16 teams, you're probably fine stashing an injured player.

How many teams are in your league? As I alluded to in the previous item, the more teams in your fantasy league, the more valuable each spot on your roster becomes, and the less sense it makes to stash an injured player who's not a top-tier fantasy contributor when healthy.

How easy would it be to replace the player with someone currently on waivers or your IR? This will depend on both the number of teams in your league and your league's starting lineup requirements. If you're in a league where each team is required to start two quarterbacks, you should be more inclined to hold on to an injured quarterback who's likely to get his job back when he returns. Generally, quarterbacks and running backs are the hardest to replace, while wide receivers, tight ends, and kickers are easier to replace.

Does the player have any trade value in your fantasy league? If someone in your redraft league is a Peyton Manning fan (or just believes he will return in December), then you're likely to get a more valuable fantasy contributor in a trade than you are from the waiver wire.

Players you'll wish you hadn't started this week
QB: Ryan Fitzpatrick (@Cincinnati), Matt Schaub (vs. Pittsburgh), Matt Ryan (@Seattle)
RB: Arian Foster (vs. Pittsburgh), LeSean McCoy (vs. San Francisco), Frank Gore (@Philadelphia)
WR: Andre Johnson (vs. Pittsburgh), Nate Washington (@Cleveland), Steve Johnson (@Cincinnati)
TE: Antonio Gates (vs. Miami), Anthony Fasano (@San Diego), Daniel Fells (@Green Bay)
DEF: New York Jets (@Baltimore), New York Giants (@Arizona), New England (@Oakland)

Players you'll wish you had started this week
QB: Rex Grossman (@St. Louis), Kyle Orton (@Green Bay), Cam Newton (@Chicago)
RB: Cedric Benson (vs. Buffalo), Daniel Thomas (@San Diego), Tim Hightower (@St. Louis)
WR: Victor Cruz (@Arizona), Brandon Gibson (vs. Washington), Andre Caldwell (vs. Buffalo)
TE: Jared Cook (@Cleveland), Greg Olsen (@Chicago), Visanthe Shiancoe (@Kansas City)
DEF: Minnesota (@Kansas City), Carolina (@Chicago), Tampa Bay (vs. Indianapolis)

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