(This was originally posted on Sports Illustrated, September 26th 2008)

It’s official. I hate bye weeks.

It’s bad enough that Randy Moss lost Tom Brady, dashing the hope that my clever WR/WR gambit in many of my leagues could set a new standard for draft day craftiness. But now Plaxico Burress, new contract in hand, is suspended for two weeks (one of them of course a bye this week) and my wide receiver corps suddenly looks like something out of The Living Dead, with Marques Colston, Joey Galloway and Marvin Harrison either lame or nearly embalmed.  I’m going to have to pick up Ike Hilliard and Brandon Lloyd this week just to have three warm bodies in my WR slots.

I suppose it could be worse though.  I’m not exactly sure how, but when you survey week four’s fantasy landscape; there are a lot of divots in view that need patching. Then there are the canyons in my lineup because I foolishly didn’t pay attention to bye weeks during my drafts.

Ouch

It’s only week three and many teams are already looking at their bench like a triage doctor does after a train wreck. Not much salvage here.  Steve Slaton; he’ll live. Ray Rice…not so much.  Marc Bulger…nurse, bring a priest and a body bag please. Gus Frerotte, hmm, looks like a resurrection. Nurse, you can use the priest and body bad we had assigned to Gus.  Such is my waiver wire scouring.  It’s not so much a labor of love as it is a desperate attempt at keeping life support plugged in for one more week.  As I stave off elimination in some leagues and look for some cork to plug a leak here and there in my 3-0 teams, I’m also asking myself a few questions.

How badly will the Eagles miss Brian Westbrook this week?

Westbrook’s early exit last weekend cost me two games; worse considering I had Ronnie Brown riding the pine. Somehow the Thunder and Lightning act of Correll Buckhalter and  Lorenzo Booker don’t have the star power, much less the firepower, to scare the Bears, especially wounded from last week’s theft of a win and at home. Jeremy Trueblood was the real culprit in the personal foul call that allowed Brian Griese to pull a Houdini against his former team, for his former team.  Ok, that made me a little dizzy.

Can Rashard Mendhenhall cure what ails the Pittsburgh Steelers this week? 

Baltimore looks like a renaissance defense, which doesn’t portend good things for the Steelers’ ground game.  Mendenhall needs to hang on to the ball, and Baltimore just might give the rookie a hearty hazing of an introduction to the NFL.

How many more beatings does Ben Roethlisberger have to absorb before Mike Timlin gives him a break and patches Charlie Batch in?

Oh, yeah, Batch is broken too, which leaves Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon as the evil of two lessers.  Yes, you read that right.  Santonio Holmes value decreases, and I don’t know that even Hines Ward can be considered a viable starter this weekend for most fantasy teams. I do know that the Pittsburgh line misses Alan Faneca about as often as they miss their blocks…yup, pretty much every play.

The Hot Seat Derby has a winner; The City and fans of the Detroit Lions. 

Of all the firings a football fan could have hoped for, none raises the spirits, nor calls for a spirited toasting, than the long-overdue removal of Matt Millen as President and General MisManager in Detroit.  Yes Michiganders there is a Santa Claus and his name is Bill Ford Jr. Apparently he got through pappa Ford’s hearing aid loud enough to effect a long needed change at the top of the Lion’s heap, which frankly doesn’t reach the bottom of most other NFL heaps. 

Can a third quarterback change stave off the next firing of our current Hot Seat headliner? 

It worked for Jon Gruden and Brad Childress, so why can’t it work for Scott Linehan? I have two words for you. Offensive line.  As in the Buccaneers and Vikings have good ones, and the Rams don’t.  Stephen Jackson and Torry Holt are so completely devalued compared to their draft positions that fantasy owners have been known to send mass emails out begging to be nickel and dimed in trade talks for the pair.  Sorry Scott, but I sense that you are next unless Lane Kiffen loses again in the final seconds against Denver. 

How good are the Vikings now that they have a real quarterback?

I know it sounds funny, but Minnesota’s fortunes, and likely those of Brad Childress, are now riding on the 38 year old arm of Gus Frerotte.  And believe it or not, that isn’t a bad thing.  Frerotte isn’t going to scramble out of the pocket. He won’t have to hit a receiver on a roll out. The Vikings have a good enough line that he will have time to look downfield and see his options. This is good news for Bernard Berrian and Sydney Rice owners. It’s also good news for Adrian Peterson, since defenses can no longer afford to put eight in the box against the Vikings’ running game.  Now if Peterson could just stay healthy for the rest of the year…

What kind of value can we expect from Brian Griese for the balance of 2008?

People often forget how well he did with Gruden in 2005 before tearing an ACL in the sixth game.  While he still forces the ball into tight coverage too frequently, he is a more patient and accurate passer than Jeff Garcia, and Gruden seems to have all but abandoned the running game.  I’d say that at least for the next two weeks, in games against Green Bay and Denver, he’ll be throwing often enough to warrant a start.

Two more words, this time for Jon Gruden.  Earnest Graham

Ok Cleveland fans let’s hear it – “Brady Brady Brady Brady” –

Someone call the cops.  My studs have been stolen and replaced with poor imitations. This must be how owners of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow are feeling.  I’m just hoping Cleveland rights the ship before I sink any further into the morass of depression known as “no shot at the playoffs.”  It’s only week four for goodness sake, let me have hope!

Will Steve Slaton survive his first start?

This isn’t an easy matchup so far. Jacksonville has been flat out nasty since the Bills rode into town and fleeced the Jaguars in a close game. Houston does have a history of playing big against their division rivals. This is a game I stay far, far away from in my survivor pools.

What is going on in John Fox’s head?

It’s supremely obvious that Jonathan Stewart is the better back in that offense and it really isn’t close. DeAngelo Williams couldn’t beat out Deshaun Foster the last couple years, and Stewart is a much better runner than either and should be huge this weekend against Atlanta.  Maybe John has been consulting with Mike Shanahan. Either that or he hates fantasy football.  I’m currently shopping for a voodoo doll in his likeness.

Is The Streak really in danger or is Brett Favre just begging for attention?

Considering the drama that has swirled around this august field general over the last few years you have to wonder if it’s become his new drug.  Eric Mangini said he expects Favre to play, and it’s not like we don’t already have sympathy for Brett playing for the Jets.

Will Brandon Marshall have a 200 yard game this week against Kansas City?

That sounds pretty crazy since 200 yard receiving games are so rare, but Jay Cutler seems to have locked on to Marshall since his return. The Chiefs are currently ranked 4th in the NFL against the pass, but that is a mirage, since they’ve given up an average of 204 rushing yards per game so far 31st in the NFL  . Teams haven’t needed to throw on them but I’m betting Denver will want to bury them quickly to avoid any last minute surprises.

One more game for the Tampa Bay Rays and the bubbly will flow. What an amazing season.

Please say a prayer for Matthew Tryson Bryant, who died in his sleep at only three months old, and his parents, Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant and his wife Melissa. There is no pain that compares to losing a child, especially one so young.