What have the coaches been saying in their weekly news conferences? Brendan Roberts takes a quick-hitting look at the goings-on for each of the 16 NFC teams:
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo's hamstring is fine, and he's all set to play against the Eagles in Week 9. So the question for coach Wade Phillips in Monday's news conference was whether Romo, not quite the size of a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, could hold up all 16 games this season. "It's a demanding position. There's only a few quarterbacks that can get through the season unscathed, so to speak," Phillips said. "Our protection has been good for him, so that helps. You always worry about it with a scrambling quarterback; he's going to run with it some. But all you can do is talk to him about running out of bounds and stuff like that." Good point, Wade. Romo takes his share of hits. He's fine now, but it's worth noting that he never has started 16 games yet in his career. Can he hold up physically? His owners have no choice but to bank on it.
New York Giants: Coach Tom Coughlin has officially become a Brandon Jacobs fan (if Coughlin is capable of such a thing). In his Monday news conference, Coughlin raved about his big back: "When he was a short-yardage back, he showed flashes. There was no question he was not going to be limited to that. I was especially impressed with his pass-catching and pass-protecting. When he chips or when he ends up on a linebacker, he does a very good job of that," Coughlin said. "He's also shown the endurance factor. He can play well with [a lot of] carries." So does that mean Jacobs will become the every-down back rather than just the lead in a platoon? No. Said Coughlin: "We're shooting for X number of runs per game ... at least two of the three backs [we have] are going to get a nice opportunity." The way Jacobs is running, we shouldn't complain.
Philadelphia Eagles: Injuries were all the talk at coach Andy Reid's news conference Monday. First of all, it looks like Brian Dawkins (stinger) will be able to return against Dallas. But don't expect him to supplant his replacement, Quentin Mikell, right away. "[Mikell has] done very well in there, and it's not a situation where Brian would have to play every snap when he comes back," Reid said. "We can ease him back in there and get him started here." So don't expect to see "B-Dawk" at full strength just yet. Reggie Brown, who had a "career day," according to Reid, has a trapezoid spasm, which is not considered serious. And big tackle Jon Runyan played despite a painful gluteus contusion, which Reid praised him for. Reid also was pleased to see a good game from Donovan McNabb. "Donovan [McNabb] played very well. He really followed the game plan well. He moved well in the pocket, those subtle little movements, and made big plays down the field." All is returning to normal in Philly, and that's a good thing for fantasy owners.
Washington Redskins: I gotta stray from fantasy here for a moment. As Matthew Berry noted, the Redskins were wronged Sunday by the Patriots, who elected to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Redskins' 37 with the Patriots up 45-0. Even fantasy owners, along with most of the Washington press, apparently, wondered how Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs would react to this. But Joe Gibbs is a class act. If he was bothered by coach Bill Belichick's decisions, he didn't play the part. "I always look at it as you can't get in a situation like that ... I'm certainly not going to complain about that," said Gibbs in his news conference Monday. "I look at it as us making sure that that situation doesn't happen again. I don't try to analyze what's on the other side." As someone who listens to Gibbs' news conferences week in and week out, I must say that his positive and upbeat attitude make it a real treat to still have him in the game.
The news at Soldier Field was not about anything Lovie Smith said Monday, but the news that defensive star Brian Urlacher is playing through a very painful back injury. Urlacher told FOX Sports, that last week a specialist in Pittsburgh confirmed the diagnosis by Bears team doctors that Urlacher has an "arthritis type of thing" and that he's frustrated because "there is no clear-cut solution to give him relief." He just has to deal with the pain, and that has to be concerning for owners of either the "coveted" Bears defense or Urlacher himself (in IDP leagues). Something tells me that if the injury doesn't heal, and the Bears continue to lose, the All-Pro linebacker will shut it down late in the season.
Detroit Lions: Jason Hanson doesn't get the credit he deserves in fantasy circles, mostly because he has been kicking behind a mediocre Lions offense for many of his 16 years in the league. In his news conference Monday, coach Rod Marinelli raved about Hanson, who had three field goals, including a 52-yarder, against the Bears. "I expect perfection [from him]," Marinelli said. "Not just the field goals, but what he did on kickoffs and placing the ball all over the field. That's hard to do." Hanson is coming off two straight double-digit fantasy games and should be considered a reliable start at least the next two weeks against Denver and Arizona.
Green Bay Packers: Our own Merril Hoge called it. In last week's Tape Room, Merril said the Packers' woeful running game (they still rank dead last in the league in rushing yards per game) would be able to run the ball in Denver, and it turned out he was right. Or at least half-right, since 105 yards is not exactly setting the grass afire. Regardless, the Packers seem to have found a new starting running back, as Ryan Grant rushed for 104 yards and showed a running style that appealed to coach Mike McCarthy. "Clearly, Ryan Grant's running style is what you're looking for with his forward lean. He just really needed the opportunity," said McCarthy in his postgame news conference. "We had DeShawn Wynn in the first slot, and he got [a shoulder injury] early in the game. He was just further along than Ryan because he was here for training camp. I felt comfortable running the ball all four quarters." So what's next, coach? "I think it's safe to say Grant will be the starter when we go to Kansas City." Good enough for us. The Broncos make a lot of backs look good, but it sounds like owners have a fine waiver-wire option for this week.
Minnesota Vikings: The quarterback situation is a mess (you could probably say it was even for before the injuries). Tarvaris Jackson still has that broken finger, and he will try to throw this week. Backup Kelly Holcomb has what coach Brad Childress called a "whiplash injury." Said Childress in his news conference Monday: "No fractures, no spinal cord injury, he's just going to be extremely sore, as you will be with that." Childress failed to rule out Holcomb for next week, instead focusing on Tarvaris' availability and just mentioning third quarterback Brooks Bollinger in passing. "As I mentioned to you last week, if Tarvaris can play, he'll play. I think he has improved," Childress said. Early indications are it looks like the Tarvaris Jackson Era will return this week for the Vikings. Yippee.
Atlanta Falcons: The original diagnosis on Byron Leftwich's ankle injury was that he'd be out till at least Week 11, but coach Bobby Petrino said Leftwich is progressing well. "Byron was in there this morning, and he was walking around on it already. There was some pain involved still, but not as much as he thought there might be," said Petrino in his Monday news conference. "In my opinion, he's probably a couple of weeks away. In his opinion, he's probably one week away." It's back to Joey Harrington for now, like it or not. Deep-league owners, keep an eye on wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Petrino singled him out Monday and said he'd like to get the young receiver more opportunities.
Vinny Testaverde suffered an Achilles injury in the first half Sunday and lost some of the zip on his throws. So it was back to David Carr in the second half, and coach John Fox acknowledged that Carr's back probably will still hurting. Their availability for this week has not been determined. Then again, neither are fantasy options anyway. What we want to know is what it means to the Panthers' passing game, specifically to Steve Smith. In his Monday news conference, Fox addressed whether there's a "disconnect" between Carr and Smith. "I don't know that there's a level of disconnect. There's no question that we did not play as well offensively in the second half as we did in the first half," Fox said. "I think sometimes you are victimized by the score in a game and the direction an opposing defense takes you. Some of those things were not conducive to getting Steve the ball. We have to look at that a little closer ... and work on it." Like I've said in this space before, acknowledging a problem is the first step to fixing it.
New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston stepped up Sunday in San Francisco, with eight catches for 85 yards and three touchdowns. But coach Sean Payton was quick to point out that his game could have been even better. "He had some opportunities to make some others ... He had a couple drops, he got stripped for a fumble and he missed a couple of blocks on the perimeter," said Payton, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune Web site. "The expectation level that he has and I have for him is high. Don't get me wrong, he made some good plays for us yesterday, but you try to temper it when you put the film on and there are some things that he'll see that we would have liked to have done better." Tough crowd. Payton said he and Colston will "get back to work on it Wednesday." Hey, as long as it means Colston is a steady part of the game plan, we won't complain.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As coach Jon Gruden quipped in his news conference Monday, he "has gotten to meet a lot of guys on the football team" this year because of all the injuries. And as the Buccaneers' Web site noted, this has allowed the Bucs the opportunity to see a lot more players. Two of those guys are running back Michael Bennett and wide receiver Maurice Stovall, who both were on the field for the team's first offensive play. Bennett actually got the game's first carry. The reviews were mixed. Bennett played a handful of snaps and scored his first touchdown as a Buc, taking a bubble screen 19 yards for a score (it was scored as a running play because the pass went backwards), and Stovall caught a career-high five passes, including consecutive grabs during the two-minute drill to close the first half. However, Bennett dropped a lob pass on a wheel route that Gruden predicts would have been a 35-yard play. "I thought he did a pretty good job. Obviously, he's got some speed," Gruden said. "I'd like to see him catch the ball on the sideline. We have to make those plays." And Stovall was called for a pair of penalties, one of which negated an effective end-around by Ike Hilliard. "His inexperience showed a couple of times," Gruden said. "It was a good start." Both players will continue to be a bigger part of the game plan; just don't expect them to be a huge part of a bit.
Arizona Cardinals: Kurt Warner will be at quarterback for the Cardinals' in Week 9, and, according to the Cardinals' Web site, Warner said that strength has returned to his injured elbow. "Obviously if you do the movement, it is going to hurt because the ligaments aren't healed," Warner said Monday. "But we have gotten over some of the initial trauma. The time off helped." The Cardinals travel to Tampa Bay this weekend, which shouldn't be considered a favorable start for him. The Bucs rank second in the league in pass defense.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson's return to the starting lineup was successful but short-lived; Jackson didn't make it out of the first quarter because of back spasms. The Rams announced Monday that Jackson had the back evaluated, and the injury is a bulging disc in his back. "It is treatable, and we are optimistic for his return, even as soon as New Orleans," coach Scott Linehan said Monday on the team's Web site. "It's good timing since we have the bye this week. I would think he wouldn't be able to play this week if that were the case." Wouldn't be able to play in Week 9? This doesn't sound like just a day-to-day injury. Don't be so sure Jackson is 100 percent by Week 10. By the way, I'm looking forward to reading Jackson's column for ESPN Fantasy this week.
San Francisco 49ers: Many of the questions in coach Mike Nolan's news conference Monday centered around Alex Smith. To be more specific, Smith's shoulder. Smith played through most of Sunday's game despite obvious pain in his shoulder, and it showed in his passes. As the Santa Rosa Press Democrat notes, Smith was removed from the injury report last Friday yet had to get a pain-killing shot in the shoulder prior to Sunday's game. In the second quarter, his shoulder was heavily taped. It didn't help that he was battered by the Saints' pass rush. He had X-rays on the shoulder after the game, and they came back negative for fractures. But don't think that Smith is a lock to start next week in Atlanta. "We will see. Sometimes the adrenaline of a football game has something to do with him being able to play. Right now I can't answer that question," said Nolan on Monday. As rusty and in pain as he looked on Sunday, we almost hope he doesn't start.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks returned to practice Monday after a bye week, and wide receiver Deion Branch (foot sprain) was not among them. However, the team announced that Branch will practice Wednesday in preparation for playing in Week 9. Branch owners should track his progress this week and prepare to activate him for a favorable matchup in Cleveland.
Brendan Roberts is a contributing writer/editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.