On the surface, the Aaron Hernandez problem is about as complicated as a hangover. You’re hurting, and the only cure is aspirin, more cowbell, and a backup tight end. When I’m under the dark cloud of liquid-induced self punishment, the first thing I need is a tight end. Also, a better metaphor helps.

Anywho, you get the idea. During a normal week, the Hernandez problem wouldn’t be all that unique. He’s practicing, but he’s hurting. So right now his playing status is unclear, and although clarity one way or the other will surely begin to emerge today and tomorrow, we likely won’t get a definitive word on his availability for New England’s game Sunday against the Bills until just before game time. ‘Tis the nature of the weekly custom of injury chasing, in which we as fantasy managers care far more about the body parts of fellow grown men than we do about, say, eating food.

So in that sense, most weeks there wouldn’t be anything special about Hernandez and his injury fight (sorry, Aaron). But this week there’s an exception due to the position he plays, and a highly appealing waiver wire option for owners who would need to desperately replace him if he can’t go.

The problem? That option plays Thursday. Or if you’d like that in more immediate terms, tonight.

I’m referring to Colts TE Dwayne Allen, whose usage and fantasy relevance has been limited for much of the season due to both Andrew Luck’s tendency to throw to anyone except the guys playing tight end, and more importantly his usage split with Coby Fleener. The Colts wisely used two draft picks on tight ends last spring, putting together a solid base for their rookie quarterback. Predictably, whenever Luck targeted a tight end early in the season it was Fleener, his college teammate at Stanford with whom he already had obvious chemistry. Fleener had six receptions for 82 yards in the season’s opening week before falling off over the next two weeks (only 16 receiving yards), but overall he was still averaging 31.5 yards per game, a decent clip for a rookie tight end who’s being used minimally.

But now he’s out with a shoulder injury, and he won’t return until at least Week 11. That eliminates the time share which has restricted the production of both Fleener and Allen, allowing Luck to focus on one safety valve. Allen’s fantasy value has risen quickly, and it’ll stay there as long as Fleener is out, and Luck is smashing single-game rushing records during ultra cushy matchups.

Tonight the Colts have another appealing matchup against the Jaguars’ 25th-ranked secondary with Rashean Mathis likely still out. After he caught six passes for 75 yards against a much better Dolphins defense and pass rush in Week 9, Allen is your first option for an injury fill-in this week at the tight end position, and he’s still almost universally available. The waiver period had little impact on his ownership, as he remains out there in 98 percent of ESPN leagues.

The problem is the date, and the blasted Thursday night game. You see, Thursday is today, and by the end of this afternoon Hernandez’s playing status will likely still be unclear, and by then we’ll be several hours away from Allen playing, and still several days away from Hernandez playing. Someday a time machine will exist to skirt this problem and peer through the everlasting gate of the space-time continuum. For now, we still have to make difficult decisions with limited information thanks to the weekly Thursday night game (#firstworldproblems).

As is often the case, if you’re a Hernandez owner in this situation, your direction depends on the depth of your league. In leagues with more moderate depth (10 teams) you can be patient and wait. Even if you get bad news on Hernandez over the weekend, there’s still likely another option out there who’s even more appealing and his name isn’t Dwayne Allen (hi, Brandon Myers).

But Hernandez owners in deeper leagues (12 or 14 teams) face the truly difficult decision and a clash with realism, which is the worst. Reality dictates that against the Bills, we may very well see Bill Belichick be Belichickian again, and attempt to gut a putrid run defense that’s giving up 5.7 yards per carry. Remember, Brandon Bolden surfaced from the nether regions of fantasyland during the last Bills-Patriots game in Week 4, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. In his four other games this year Bolden has only 97 rushing yards, showing the supreme ineffectiveness of the Bills’ rush defense, and the likelihood that Tom Brady may not be throwing at his usual Tom Brady level.

Knowing that, a lean to sitting Hernandez and picking up Allen can easily be justified, which is my recommendation for those deep leaguers struggling with this decision. So now you have both a suggested direction, and someone to blame if said direction fails miserably. We aim to provide a scapegoating public service.

Good luck, and godspeed.

And now the links part of the links post…

  • Whenever Rashard Mendenhall is healthy, we’ll finally have some clarity in the Steelers’ backfield. That’s because he’ll start. [Pittsburgh Tribune Review]
  • Marcel Reece is still the recommended pickup if you really want to hate yourself and own a Raiders running back, but that’s primarily for those in PPR leagues. [Rotoworld]
  • Feel free to roll with that Jake Locker pickup if you’re desperate to fill byes from either Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III. He’s starting. [The Associated Press]
  • Ryan Mathews could suck a lot this week. [Brad Evans]