So it’s come to this. You’ve spent five months away from your family while communicating only through carrier pigeon, and for good luck you’ve consumed the same meal three times each day. Yeah, that’s a lot of Kraft Dinner.

But it’s all been worth it, because now here you are ready to battle for a fantasy championship, and earn some sweet cash to pay off various debts tied to the holidays, bookies, and other matters. Immediately after Week 15 you went through the usual Monday morning damage report, and identified any injury holes that may need to be plugged heading into the upcoming week. With the obvious exception of any hurt in the Monday nighter, we usually know about most of the major injuries by that morning.

This week, though, there’s been another horrible exception. Jordan Cameron.

The Browns tight end reported his concussion symptoms Monday, long after he had posted his meager 23 yards on three catches in a close loss Sunday to Chicago. In today’s NFL, playing the week after a concussion rarely happens given the (quite rightful) heightened awareness surrounding head trauma, and that especially applies to a concussion that’s only diagnosed on a Monday. So immediately it didn’t look good for Cameron, and then it looked worse when he predictably didn’t practice yesterday.

And now it looks downright horrible…

If you’re entering a championship showdown with Cameron on your roster (*points at self, cries in shower*) here’s how you might be trying to shrug off Cameron’s likely absence: meh whatever man, he’s sucked lately anyway.

Although that may be a little short-sighted, it’s not entirely wrong. With the focus of a vertical offense resting squarely on the ample speed and just plain freakish year that Josh Gordon is having, Cameron has mostly been an afterthought in recent weeks. Over the first eight weeks of the season he averaged a mighty fine 74.5 yards per game, a stretch in which he also scored six of his seven touchdowns. What’s he done in the six games since? Well, a season high 121 yards in Week 14 was nice and all, but even if we include that his per game yardage post-Week 8 drops to only 42.

That said, overall Cameron is still the fourth best fantasy tight end this season with his 121.5 points. To put that total in perspective, there are only four tight ends with more than 120 points. So even if he was dwindling of late, there was far more hope for solid production with Cameron given what he’s done previously, the reasonably high volume of targets he’s still getting (32 over the last four weeks), and the simple lack of other appealing options left to claw for on the waiver wire.

But hey, here we are now. Let’s take a little gander at those barely there options:

1. Delanie Walker: This seems to be the most popular Cameron replacement, and for good reason. In Ryan Fitzpatrick’s five starts since taking over following Jake Locker’s season-ending injury, Walker has averaged 51.4 receiving yards per game. That’s an average average, which is just fine from a frantic replacement. Toss in Walker’s season high 91 yards in Week 12 and his two games with double-digit targets under Fitzpatrick, and suddenly he becomes a lot more appealing.

Percentage owned: Yahoo- 52%, ESPN – 27%

2. Heath Miller: Again, average production is a fine landing spot here, because getting something average from a last-minute replacement is a wild success. And it’s hard to find anything more average at the tight end position than Heath Miller. Miller is clipping along at a 46.6 yards per game pace, a number that’s topped 70 yards three times.

Percentage owned: Yahoo – 50%, ESPN – 16%

3. Tyler Eifert: Another popular choice, Eifert would be a whole lot more popular if Jermaine Gresham was set to miss time. But alas, he’s healthy and functioning.

Percenage owned: Yahoo – 14%, ESPN – 7%

Tim Wright is also highly appealing with his 82 yards on seven catches last week, and touchdowns in two straight games. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the 30 percent or so of leagues where Charles Clay is available, change that now.

More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

In any other year, Jamaal Charles would be the MVP

My deepest apologies, faithful readers, as I’ve been listed as questionable for the past two days with the stomach flu and have missed out on valuable time to make bad predictions during championship week. An ill-timed illness, to be sure, but as I played some catch up this morning I stumbled upon this.

Yep. Life ain’t fair, Jamaal.

Elsewhere in catching up

This was quite enjoyable to see yesterday…

Sadly, that’s only good news for those of us who like to watch good football players play football, and it’ll have no fantasy impact whatsoever. Cobb will only make an appearance on a field again this year if the Packers qualify for the January dance. There’s a little more optimism surrounding Aaron Rodgers, but as of right now a lot of shoulder shrugging is going on with him too.

Truth Talk from Ray Rice

In a media conference call yesterday the subject of retirement came up with Ray Rice. The quote below may seem a little jarring at first coming from a player who’s only set to turn 27 this offseason, though I’m not quite sure why given the nature of Rice’s position.

From PFT:

“It’s always something to think about at the running back position. I’ll just put it out there — my goal was to make it 10 years in the NFL. Anything after 10, if I can’t do it the way I want to, then it’s something to think about. But, I’m young. I came in the NFL at 21 years old, a young guy. So, I’m still young; I’m only going to be 27 in January. So, there’s a lot of football left to be played. With that being said, I have priorities too. You know I have a young daughter, and you’ve just got to put all that in perspective when you’re going out there week-in and week-out, especially when you get older in your career.”

This is how every running back entering the league should think. Sure, there are exceptions, with Frank Gore still chugging at 30, and Fred Jackson acting as a fine platoon-mate at 32 (though he’s unique, as he didn’t start getting heavy carries until his age 28 season). But generally, the decline once a feature back hits 30 is a swift one, with the abuse a body has taken — and Rice has a small one — accumulating over time.

Get in, get to 30, get a juicy paycheck or two, and then get the hell out while you’re still reasonably healthy. Sorry fans, but that’s the reality of this football business.