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There are three words that will make a fantasy football owner cringe. No, they aren't "Touchdown, Robert Royal."
They're "game-time decision."
Actually, the hyphen might just make it two words.
Regardless, those words suck, and they'll turn your Saturday night into a tossing and turning spectacle that'll make you see big fat "zeroes" in the points column for your star running back or wide receiver.
These days, it seems like there are more and more game-time decisions going on, and too many are involving some pretty significant players.
Last week alone, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running backs Corey Dillon and Thomas Jones, and wide receivers Torry Holt and Hines Ward were all game-time decisions heading into their weekend contests.
Roethlisberger didn't play, although many fantasy owners held out hope because he'd returned to practice late in the week.
Dillon didn't play, but Jones did and turned in 89 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Holt played and did alright (six catches for 70 yards, but no scores), but Ward did not play.
So, what's a fantasy owner to do?
The answer depends on your commitment and your league's lineup deadlines. Some leagues allow you to switch out starters until their game kicks off, while others require a complete lineup before the first game of the weekend has begun.
If you need to have your lineup in before all games have started, it's generally best to play it safe.
It stands to reason that most players won't reach their potential if they're pushing to get back from an injury, anyway. Although Rams running back Marshall Faulk a few years ago made a habit of returning early from injuries only to rush for four touchdowns.
Even if you have the luxury of being able to switch up until kickoff, submit an early lineup with the safer play - the backup.
Then scour the news like a bloodhound.
NFL.com, espn.com, yahoo.com, cbssportsline.com, foxsports.com will all give you the scoop, up to a point. But they'll generally make you pay for the "real" scoop.
But if you aren't willing to pay for one of these Web site that simply pull together headlines from around the nation, you can find up-to-the-minute updates if you know where to look.
The NFL is the biggest game in town and there are probably more reporters covering it than any sport, so there's no shortage of information.
The first place to go is Google News (news.google.com), which is a simple news database that grabs headlines from news outlets all over the world.
Sure, they pull together information about what's going on in the world and stuff like that, but who wants to know about that?
It's a great place to get the latest on your fantasy players.
Simply search your player's name in quotes and, if you know it, entering the injury will help pull
up more specific stories (i.e. "Torry Holt" knee). Make sure you choose to sort the results by date to get the most recent ones first.
On game day, local newspapers and the Associated Press usually will run a short update on a player whose availability was questionable.
Also, watching the Sunday morning pregame shows is a good place for updates from on-field reporters at the game moments before kickoff, as long as you can still get to your lineup in time to make necessary adjustments.
Remember, Fox has reporters at NFC games and CBS has them at AFC games. The network that handles games from the visiting team's conference covers interconference games. (If the visiting team is from the NFC, Fox will cover it. If the visitor is from the AFC, it'll be covered by CBS.)
You won't be able to prevent every misstep in trying to predict injuries, but being well-informed could save you some frustration and leave with a big grin after making the right move.