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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After three weeks of your fantasy football lineup pretty much setting itself, Week 4 will present some more difficult decisions, particularly at running back.

That's because the combination of early-season injuries and the first of the bye weeks, leaves fantasy owners with a much thinner pool of running backs from which to choose.

The bye week, with Minnesota, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Kansas City taking the week off, puts six quality running backs on the sidelines. They include the No.1 running back Adrian Peterson (63 points to date) along with Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams, Marion Barber and Felix Jones.

Then there is the early-season injury bug that seems to have hit the running back position harder then any other spot.

Ryan Grant (RapidDraft ADP 34.2) was the first star to go down, and his was a season-ending injury. Reggie Bush was injured in Week 2, breaking a bone in his right leg which will keep him out for three to five weeks.

They are the only two who are definitely out for the upcoming week, but there are six more running backs who suffered injuries that will likely be "game- day" decisions.

Those six are: Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, Jahvid Best, Knowshon Moreno, Fred Taylor and Ryan Mathews.

Rice has a badly bruised knee and though he says he will be ready for the Steelers, that is not a guarantee. Willis McGahee is his backup and he is owned in about 67-percent of all leagues, therefore picking him up just before kickoff may not be an option.

Jackson's injury is a strained groin and if he doesn't go then Kenneth Darby is the Rams' first option. I hope that's not your best option and that you have another player on your bench with more fantasy value.

Best has the dreaded "turf toe" injury that seems fairly innocent, but has turned many a starting running back into a bench player. It was "turf toe" that turned LaDainian Tomlinson from a superstar into last year's disappointment. I don't think Best will perform well enough to start for you in Week 4 against the Packers. Neither will his backup, Maurice Morris.

According to the most recent updates, Moreno likely won't play in Week 4 against Tennessee. That leaves Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter to share time as his replacement. I'd look elsewhere as the Broncos have become a pass-first offense.

Taylor also has a toe injury. With Kevin Faulk sidelined as well, the Patriots' running chores will now be divided among BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Sammy Morris. Green-Ellis (16 carries for 98 yards and one TD against Buffalo last week) is a viable replacement and he is likely available in your league (28-percent owned).

Finally, there is Mathews, who suffered a high-ankle sprain and missed last week. This injury usually takes more than one week, so you must have an alternate plan ready to go. It will require extra planning since the Chargers' game doesn't start until 4:00 p.m., reducing your options. Hopefully, you picked up Mike Tolbert last week as he was the entire San Diego running game against Seattle.

All these last minute decisions also means you will have to be prepared to make changes to your lineup 30-45 minutes before the game begins when your NFL team announces it's inactive players list. This will require you to be connected to the Internet either through your home computer or cell phone sometime between 12:30 and 1:00 PM.

As you can see, planning ahead in Week 4 will likely reward you with a much better outcome.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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