At this late juncture in the fantasy football season it is highly unlikely that your team isn't dealing with at least a few injuries. Even "healthy" players are ailing and taking the field at less than 100 percent. Latching hold of a key free agent or a spot starter can be the difference in a pivotal late season win and a devastating loss. Here are a few "Band-Aid Bandits" that you should keep your eye on to fill out your roster if you find yourself limping towards the finish line.
After a record-setting season in 2011, New England's Rob Gronkowski was an early-round pick on draft day this year. On Sunday, Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm late in the game that required surgery. The injury is expected to sideline him for 4-6 weeks. With such a key contributor sidelined, you will have to scramble to find a fill-in. The tight end position is thin enough to start with. You are simply not going to find a suitable fill-in to compensate for what you are losing from your lineup. There are a few options to plug in while Gronkowski is out.
The Carolina Panthers appear to be more committed to the run of late. With Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams in the backfield, the Panthers' play action game will freeze linebackers and free Greg Olsen up to find open pockets in the middle of the field. Olsen is a hot-and-cold option, but has the talent and is surrounded by a strong offense that could position him to have some big games.
A lesser-known option that is available in many leagues is Oakland's Brandon Myers. Myers hauled in his third touchdown of the season on Sunday. He is not a big yardage threat, but he has consistently been catching five or six passed for around 60 yards a week most of the season. There are more flashy tight ends, but none of those guys are likely to be available at this point of the season.
Willis McGahee suffered a broken bone and torn ligament this week that put him on the shelf for 6-8 weeks. The extended absence renders McGahee nearly expendable in most leagues. Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball figure to share carries in his absence. Hillman will likely get more of the carries and has the greater value for your team. McGahee has been solid, but unspectacular, on the season. Hillman could offer a little more value with his nose for the end zone. Coach John Fox likes to run the ball and Peyton Manning will demand the respect of defenses, opening running lanes for whoever is getting the ball. Don't expect Hillman to be a savior, but he would make a nice RB3 or flex play for your team.
Bryce Brown will be a name thrown around a lot this week. Brown has top end speed and may get a chance to showcase his talent if LeSean McCoy is unable to play with a concussion. Philadelphia has a long week to prepare for a Monday night game against Carolina, but McCoy seems likely to sit out. The Panthers are prone to being exploited on the ground, but Brown could have a tougher time than expected as a backup running back lining up beside a shaky rookie quarterback if Michael Vick is sidelined as expected again this week.
Few running backs do more with fewer opportunities than what Joique Bell of Detroit has done this season. With Mikel Leshoure averaging 15 carries each week, Bell is getting his production by catching passes out of the backfield. Bell is an excellent add for owners in points per reception leagues. Should you have a key injury, Bell could be plugged in and counted on to get you a handful of catches to go with a few carries week-to-week. Hillman should be your primary target, but don't be disappointed if you can only claim Bell.
Sometimes a well-placed ace bandage can be exactly what it takes to hold your fantasy team together and march on to a league title. Don't be afraid to mix up your roster and take a chance on a lesser-known role player to fill holes on your team.