For a couple weeks, I and the other folks who regularly participate in ESPN.com fantasy chats have begged, pleaded and otherwise cajoled you not to panic over the performance of Steven Jackson or the rest of the Rams' offensive stars.
Well, it's time to panic.
Jackson, who rushed for an impressive 115 yards on a less-than-impressive 30 carries against Tampa Bay on Sunday, is out for Week 4 because of a partial tear of his left groin. St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan told the Associated Press that Jackson was officially "week-to-week," but one has to believe assuming a return in Week 5 might be slightly Pollyanna-ish. (Then again, we'd all written off Eli Manning's throwing shoulder as so much raw hamburger, and he hasn't missed a game.)
In the meantime, rookie Brian Leonard will get his first NFL start next week in Dallas against a Cowboys defense that showed some backbone Sunday night, holding Cedric Benson to 2.9 yards per carry. Still, with Dallas paranoid about a shaky pass defense and Greg Ellis evidently not close to returning to bolster the pass rush, the Cowboys will continue to be a defense that can be had via the ground as well as the air, as happened in Week 1, when Derrick Ward came off the Giants' bench to rush for 89 yards. Leonard should definitely be picked up in all fantasy football league formats tout de suite, and he might even be a possible flex start depending on your bye-week situation in Week 4.
Of course, it wouldn't do to mention the Rams' running game without discussing the ridiculously decimated offensive line. Orlando Pace is already out. Richie Incognito missed the team's first three games, and will be questionable at best for next week. And now Mark Setterstrom, normally the starting guard opposite Incognito, is out for the season with a torn ACL. He'll likely have to be replaced by former starter Claude Terrrell on the right side, while Alex Barron has been okay at left tackle for Pace. But this is now an O-line missing 60 percent of its starters, blocking (kind of) for a backup rusher and a shell-shocked quarterback. Listen, the Rams can do some offensive damage downfield against the 'Boys next week, and the game's likely as not going to be a shootout (at least on Dallas' side of the ledger). But things just got tougher in the long run for Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and anyone else in the passing game you care to mention. Leonard benefits and, as I say, needs to be added immediately, because he showed flashes at Rutgers. (And please don't drop Jackson until we know more about the injury.) But a once-promising season is going Hindenburg for the Rams as we speak.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.