Sometimes, as I'm kicking back and watching the 'The Amazing Race,' I can't help but think: Wow, this really is an amazing race.
And not amazing in the sense that 'Amazing Animal Videos' is amazing, either. It's a cat watching television. Got it.
But I mean, really, truly amazing. The show, if you've never seen it, pits teams of two against one another in a race around the globe. And they really race. One day they're in Iceland, then Sweden, then Senegal. Amazing. They're darting around, frantic and flustered, catching planes and trains and haggling with angry cab drivers. Amazing.
They're scaling cliffs and stacking cured fish (and in my mind, I can hear Peyton Manning chanting 'Stack those fish!'). Amazing.
Not quite as amazing - but with comparable global flavor - is this week's pre-playoff fantasy football Q&A. Questions poured in - OK, trickled in - from all around the world from topics ranging from Ty Willingham's firing at Notre Dame to my take on the Ravens uniforms. But the topic is fantasy football, and we'll stick to that from here on out. No more reality TV references, I promise.
Let's get started. All of these questions were submitted last week, but the following inquiry from Jim in San Jose stands the test of time. He asks: Will Jamal Lewis play this week? Also if he plays will he be close to 100 percent?
I'm speculating here, but I'd put the odds of Lewis playing on Sunday at less than 50 percent. He's got one of those tough-to-predict ankle deals, and the Ravens are going to play it safe. Even if Lewis does suit up this weekend, he figures to play on a limited basis, splitting carries with Chester Taylor. Either way, I wouldn't expect much unless something changes dramatically later in the week. My advice: Leave Jamal on the bench this week and go with Plan B (you should have one, since Lewis has sat out four of Baltimore's 12 games this season). Assuming you can hang around for another week, your reward should be a money-in-the-bank matchup with Indy in Week 15.
Sticking with the injury theme, Sebastian from the Bronx sends this question: I've got Todd Heap on my fantasy team. I've bounced around all season from one bum TE to the next, all the while with Mr. Heap on the bench. I let him go early and picked him back up a few weeks later only to continue sitting him week after week due to injury. When will he play, and how close to 100 percent will he be when he does?
Fortunately for Sebastian and others, Heap's timing is impeccable. Perhaps sensing the gathering fantasy frustration, Heap made his long-awaited return last weekend and looked like his old self. Don't be discouraged by his modest three catches, all in the first half - the Ravens limited him to 25 snaps. The limit will be lifted this weekend and beyond, and he'll go back to being the top option in Baltimore's budding passing attack. A fresh and rested Heap is a great play from here on out.
We'll go global for our next question, sent in by Paul in Seoul, Korea. Paul wonders: Has there ever been a worse year for injuries? It seems like every week we are missing at least four Pro Bowl players.
Paul's asking specifically about the Ravens, who at one time or another this season have been without former Pro Bowlers Heap, Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware, Chris McAlister and Deion Sanders. I'd say chalk it up to rotten luck, except that guys all over the league are getting banged up this season. Cincinnati has 14 players on injured reserve. Carolina has 11.
Of the running backs that ranked in the top 25 or so on draft day, eight didn't play last week because of injury - Priest Holmes, Lewis, Marshall Faulk, Stephen Davis, Emmitt Smith, Travis Henry, Lee Suggs and Quentin Griffin. Ahman Green played in a flak jacket. Chris Brown lasted little more than a half because of his nagging turf toe. Kevan Barlow and Onterrio Smith also headed to the bench early. And that's just the running backs.
Point is, by Week 14, everybody is feeling the effects of a grueling season. If you've got a reasonably healthy roster, consider yourself lucky.
Next up is Sean in St. Cloud, Fla., who wants to know: Have you had anyone who has Peyton Manning seeming overly concerned about Peyton playing Baltimore in Week 15? It is, after all, our playoff time in fantasy land.
Sean, I'm still trying to figure out what the Houshmandzadeh happened to the Ravens in the fourth quarter against the Bengals. Based on what I saw on Sunday, that defense will have its hands full with Eli Manning, to say nothing of Peyton.
In fairness to Sean, his question came in last week, when the Ravens' pass defense ranked a respectable fourth in the NFL. But no, I don't think Manning's too concerned about facing Baltimore, and you shouldn't be, either. In fact, Manning (who's thrown 29 TDs in his last six games, if you're counting at home) is pretty much a lock to break Dan Marino's single-season TD record against the Ravens. He's four TDs behind Marino's 48 heading into this week's game at Houston.