Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! It’s the time of year when everyone gathers with friends and family to celebrate and give thanks.
Among the many things I am thankful for is the trio of football games taking place today. Playoff hopes hang in the balance for many middling teams -- real and fantasy -- in Week 12.
Let's take a look at the latest involving injuries for these six teams.
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sam Bradford, QB, concussion/left shoulder, (Q): Bradford suffered a concussion in Week 10 along with an AC sprain to his non-throwing shoulder and sat out Week 11. Bradford was cleared to return to practice early this week, and it raised the possibility he might return for Thanksgiving. Looks like that’s not going to happen after all. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Mark Sanchez will get the start for the Eagles. Actually, it’s not a huge surprise given that Bradford was limited until Wednesday. At least fantasy owners trying to make game day decisions can be thankful for the early notice.
Zach Ertz, TE, concussion; Ryan Mathews, RB, concussion/groin: Neither player was really expected to take the field this week based on the reports of their absence from practice. Mathews sustained his concussion in Week 10 and has yet to return to practice, while Ertz suffered his concussion just days ago but was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. Neither was deemed healthy enough to return to full activity, and they are both going to sit this one out.
Calvin Johnson, WR, ankle, (Q): Why torture fantasy owners on this Thanksgiving holiday by listing Johnson as questionable? All indications are that the Lions expect to have Johnson on the field Thursday despite the uncertainty implied by the designation. Johnson has been contending with an ankle injury in recent weeks, but he played last Sunday and looked more like himself, notching 88 yards on five catches. While the end zone has remained somewhat elusive for Johnson this season (only three scores in 10 games), Johnson’s consistency over the past four weeks has been impressive. Five or six catches for 80-plus yards weekly guarantees points, a critical factor as fantasy teams approach the playoffs. It always warrants confirming Johnson is active before kickoff, but -- thankfully -- this is the earliest game on the docket.
Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. ET
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, knee, (P): As indicated by the probable designation, Ginn and his knee aren’t in danger of missing Thursday’s game. Although he was listed as limited Monday with a vague knee ailment, the team did not practice. The limited tag only reflects an estimation of what Ginn might have been able to do had there been a true practice. More importantly, he had full practice sessions both Tuesday and Wednesday, suggesting his knee is game ready.
Dez Bryant, WR, knee/foot, (P): By now, fantasy owners should be accustomed to seeing Bryant on the injury report, even though the expectation since his return from foot surgery has been that he will play. Bryant was listed as a non-participant Monday when the team conducted a walkthrough. On Tuesday, he was limited, and on Wednesday was upgraded to full participation. He is clearly expected to play.
Darren McFadden, RB, groin, (P): McFadden delivered a stronger performance than expected last Sunday when he rushed for 129 yards, despite entering the game with a recent groin injury. The weather conditions cooperated, allowing McFadden to touch the ball more than 30 times. Better yet, he emerged from the game with no setbacks. After limited sessions early in the week, McFadden was a full participant Wednesday and is set to take the field Thursday against the Panthers.
Tony Romo, QB, back/left shoulder, (P): Romo is going to play today in what feels like a regular part of the Thanksgiving tradition. The Cowboys are a fixture on this Thursday, and it only seems right that a healthy Romo is back on the field. It’s part of the plan to limit his exposure during practice each week, but he was a full participant Wednesday and will play today.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. ET
Matt Forte, RB, knee, (Q): Last week, Forte looked as if he had a chance to return to action from an MCL sprain. He told ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson that pain was no longer an issue, but he was still managing some swelling. Ultimately, the Bears opted to avoid exposing Forte to two games within five days, probably a wise decision with a look ahead to the remainder of the season. Today appears to be the return day for Forte, despite the questionable tag.
Forte practiced daily and has indicated he will be on the field. The question for fantasy owners is how much to expect from him in his first game back. This is a tough call. On the one hand, Forte has made it clear that Jeremy Langford’s performance in his absence has proved he no longer needs to be an every down back. It would also stand to reason that he and the Bears would not want to risk a setback by overutilizing him in his first outing. It’s worth noting that offensive coordinator Adam Gase, formerly of the Broncos, is familiar with the concept of rotating two backs and even commented about his excitement around being able to do that once again. Of course, if Forte is running well and feels up to the task, he could end up seeing more action than planned. Fantasy owners should expect both Forte and Langford on the field today, but it’s anyone’s guess how the workload will formally shake out.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, groin, (Q): Jeffery injured his groin last Wednesday in practice and was subsequently held out of workouts the next two days. He was also a non-participant in last Sunday’s game, but the hope was he would improve enough to play Thursday. Now this game is also in question. Jeffery did participate on a limited basis Tuesday but conveyed his lingering uncertainty about his health status. The sentiment has carried Jeffery to what appears will be a gametime decision. Fantasy owners will definitely want to check pregame inactive reports prior to Thursday evening’s contest.
Martellus Bennett, TE, ribs; Eddie Royal, WR, knee: Bennett left last Sunday’s game with a rib injury and simply didn’t have enough recovery time for a Thursday game. Bennett didn’t practice this week and has already been ruled out for the matchup against the Packers.
Meanwhile, Royal, who injured his knee in Week 8, hasn’t done much better in terms of progress. He is still not practicing and is clearly not ready to resume game action.
Davante Adams, WR, ankle, (P): After some skepticism regarding the health of his ankle, it appears Adams has done enough to show he is ready to give it a go. Following limited practice early in the week, Adams was a full participant Wednesday and the team listed him as probable. Good news for fantasy owners who may be looking for an option. Although he struggled with the ankle in Week 11, Adams had 10 receptions (on 21 targets!) the prior week, indicating Rodgers might just be looking his way Thursday night.
Eddie Lacy, RB, ankle, (P): Lacy was put on notice about his performance after falling to the No. 2 running back spot. The ankle injury he sustained back in September hasn’t helped either. Last week, Lacy took some steps to try to put both the groin and ankle injuries as well as the ineffectiveness behind him. He rushed for 100 yards, his first hundred yard game of the season, but perhaps more importantly, Lacy touched the ball almost three times as often as his teammate James Starks. Unfortunately that makes for a confusing situation for fantasy owners heading into Thursday night’s game as the scale could tip in favor of either player, depending who is running the ball better on any given night. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Lacy has a new strategy which seems to be working for him and if it continues, he could be a surge player in the final games of the fantasy season.