It’s crunch time in the World of Fantasy Football, with leagues gearing up for playoff season. Most fantasy leagues target week 14 for their first round of playoff games so, for teams on the bubble, these last two weeks are particularly important.
As if things weren’t already crazy enough, add to this mix the Thanksgiving holiday complete with three games featuring a bunch of big name players, some key rivalry matchups, teams fighting for real divisional locks or wildcard spots, and an injury report overflowing with a host of weekly starters, all coming together to make this one stressful run for the playoffs. On the good news front—the bye weeks are over. So we’ve got that going for us.
As for this week’s injuries, let’s start things off with a look at the quarterbacks (because let’s face it, this portion of the report is a mess).
Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler is out for an estimated 6 to 8 weeks with a broken thumb. This effectively takes him out for the Fantasy Season. Look for Caleb Hanie to start in his place, but Cutler and Matt Cassel owners should also keep a close eye on Kyle Orton (just released by the Broncos), as both the Bears and Chiefs may be looking for a veteran leader to step in. Orton could be an interesting pickup in deeper leagues if that should happen.
Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub suffered a serious fracture/dislocation of the tarsometatarsal joint (mid-foot) in week 10 and is out indefinitely. These are very painful and have a bad tendency to linger. Dynasty owners should pay particular attention to any reports out of Houston. Those in regular leagues should prepare to go on without Schaub. Matt Leinart will get the start in his place. Most analysts see little value in Leinart, but he may have some upside moving forward given the potency of that offense.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has an injured thumb but we do not consider this a major injury and we fully expect him to play this week.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick has a couple broken ribs. Normally this wouldn’t be of much concern but these are the bottom two ribs and they tie in directly to the abdominal muscles, making this a very painful injury, particularly for a quarterback. As such, we think it’s unlikely he will return this week but we would advise owners to carefully monitor practice reports and look for back-to-back participation on consecutive days. If Vick can’t go, look for Vince Young to start again in his place. Last week Young went for roughly 260 and 2 TDs, offering a nice boost for anyone who might have played him.
Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck injured the muscle in his right arm on Sunday but the good news for his owners is that there was no structural damage. This is simply a pain management issue and it really just comes down to how much pain he will experience when throwing the ball. We consider this a day-to-day issue that is too close to call. If pressed, we would expect him to start (just betting on better living through chemistry and painkillers on this one), but this is truly no better than 50/50 until we get more info from the team. If Hasselbeck can’t go, then look for rookie QB Jake Locker to fill in. Locker had a solid performance in relief last week.
Arizona Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb is still nursing a right foot injury and is not looking good to start this week. According to comments from head coach Ken Wisenhunt, Kolb wasn’t even close to being ready to go last Sunday. The injury, which includes both a major sprain and turf toe, has sidelined Kolb since week 8. John Skelton would start in Kolb’s place but is not a viable fantasy option. Given Kolb’s status, we’d look at other options right now, even if that means snatching someone like Matt Moore (Miami) off waivers.
Wide Receiver Report
Houstan Texan’s WR Andre Johnson may return to action this week. This aligns with our original projections and is pretty much on target for an aggressive recovery timeline for his type of hamstring injury. He’s been getting some good work in and it looks like he is getting his burst and explosiveness back, but he’s still not anywhere near 100%. We feel there is a 70/30 chance he will start, but be sure to watch the team reports from later in the week. Even without Schaub, and even if he’s not 100%, Johnson is a must start if he plays.
Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson was wearing a walking boot after the Giants game but we’ve since learned it was just a contusion. Now don’t get me wrong, contusions, bruising and inflammation can be much bigger issues than most people give them credit for, but the reports here sound promising. We would expect Jackson to start this week. Teammate Jeremy Maclin (WR), however, may be another matter. Maclin didn’t play on Sunday and there has been little word from the team this week on the status of his injury. He did participate in light drills on Monday and is said to be “improving.” All we can recommend in this case is to check out the team reports (and tweets) from later in the week. If Maclin sits, Riley Cooper may be a viable option in deeper leagues. Cooper was targeted a whopping 12 times last weekend, hauling in 5 catches for 75 yards and a score.
Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered a neck injury during Sunday’s win over Minnesota. Despite being carted off the field, this is not a long-term injury. Nonetheless, we do not expect Heyward-Bey to play this week against Chicago, as he suffered both a concussion and damage to the muscles supporting the neck and spine. The challenge here is that such damage exposes these areas to further injury if not fully healed. We don’t see the Raiders taking this risk. If he sits, look for Jacoby Ford (likely returning to action) and Denarius Moore to see an uptick in targets.
Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he has now missed the first two practices of this week as well. Given that the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving (Thursday), his status looks iffy at best. Watch for any late breaking reports on Wednesday, but with Laurent Robinson playing so well in his absence, we would not expect the team to rush his return. Robinson was an outstanding waiver acquisition for those owners lucky enough to snatch him up a couple weeks back.
Bengals WR A.J. Green sat out last week’s game against Baltimore with a knee injury. He is expected to put in a full practice on Wednesday and we expect him to play this week. Watch the reports from later in the week. If he puts in full workouts, then he should be good to go.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones is still suffering from a lingering hamstring injury and looks very questionable for this week’s game against Minnesota. On Monday Jones Tweeted the following: “I don’t know if I’ll be playing this weekend”—leaving many to wonder as to his status. We think it’s doubtful he will suit up but, once again, be sure to check the team reports from later in the week. If Jones can’t go, look for WR Harry Douglas to play opposite WR Roddy White.
Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings suffered a bruised shin in week 11 but is expected to start on Thursday. Jennings put in a limited practice on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders might return to action this week following arthroscopic knee surgery in week 9. Sanders was back at practice on Tuesday but we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Steelers limit his action or hold him out altogether one more week. Watch the team reports this week, but be prepared to roll with other options if you have them. WR Antonio Brown will see a continued uptick in targets during his absence. Brown has been outstanding over the last few weeks and should continue to get targets even if Sanders were to return.
Running Back Report
Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson suffered a grade 1 high ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss to Oakland and is expected to be in a walking boot until later in the week, when he may try to work out the ankle. Peterson says he'll be back in Week 12. However, as much as we respect his toughness, we feel that assessment is unlikely. A high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic ankle sprain, is a sprain of the syndesmotic ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula on the lower leg. Unlike common ankle sprains when ligaments around the ankle are torn or receive injury through an inward twisting, high ankle sprains are caused when the lower leg and foot twist out. These sprains take much longer to heal (typically 3 to 6 weeks) and, in this case, we know there was some ligament damage. Peterson is as tough as they come and has played through injury in the past but we wouldn’t expect to see him back, given these reports, for at least two weeks.
Detroit Lion’s RB Jahvid Best is still suffering from a concussion and did not practice Monday. In fairness, the entire team did not practice but Best was listed as a player that “would not have practiced” on Monday in any event. His status for this week’s game against the Packers looks unlikely. As we noted several weeks ago, Best has had issues with concussions throughout his career (both College and Pro), making this a much bigger concern. This is actually his third concussion of the year (if you include training camp). Cumulative effects of concussions are poorly understood but the severity of concussions and their symptoms may worsen with successive injuries, even if a subsequent injury occurs months or years later. During his absence, look for RB Kevin Smith to see an increased workload. Smith looked strong last week going hauling the rock 20 times for 159 yards and two TDs. He may be a nice late season acquisition for those in need of RB help.
Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis (hamstring) is still out and will not play in week 12. To say that Hillis has been a disappointment to fantasy owners this season would be an understatement of epic proportions.
Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson suffered a calf strain in week 11 and is very questionable for this week. One challenge here is that we have conflicting reports: one calling the injury a calf strain and another referring to it as a deep muscle bruise. Either way, this shouldn’t be a long-term or lingering issue but it could very well cost Jackson a game. Watch the reports from later in the week to see if he practices. This is a tough call, but we put his status at roughly 50/50 at this point.
Oakland Raider’s RB Darren McFadden left week 7’s game against Kansas City with a foot injury. We were told that he suffered no structural damage and was expected to return to action, following their week 8 bye. Unfortunately, he has now missed three straight games with a sprained foot. We still don’t have many specifics on this injury but he was using crutches and a walking boot for roughly two weeks following the injury, so we can only assume that it’s a fairly serious sprain. Word out of Oakland is that McFadden is unlikely to play in week 12 but should be ready to go in week 13. Be sure to check Friday’s team reports just in case. If McFadden isn’t ready to go, look for RB Michael Bush to have another big day.Packers RB James Starks suffered a mild knee sprain (LCL) in week 11 but is expected to play on Thanksgiving Day against Detroit. Starks was back at practice on Tuesday but we would expect him to see fewer carries with Ryan Grant returning to action.