Key fantasy injuries for Week 17

December, 27, 2014
Dec 27
5:21
PM ET
Philip RiversEzra Shaw/Getty ImagesDespite a bulging disc in his back, Philip Rivers is listed as probable against the Chiefs.
Welcome to Week 17! It’s the final week of the regular NFL season, and that means season-long fantasy football leagues with two-week championships are wrapping up! Injuries this late in the season have resulted in some players for non-playoff bound teams being placed on injured reserve. As always, there will be several game-time decisions, but the final injury reports offer some insight into what owners can expect and, as always, several players have already been ruled out.

As a reminder, each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status, and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out, and you can plan accordingly.

Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams utilize the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.

Good luck in Week 17, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, calf (P): Rodgers injured his calf in Week 16, and while he stayed on the field to finish the game, his mobility was significantly limited in the second half. Rodgers didn’t take any downtime, however, going into the team facility for workouts Monday. He was a limited participant in practice Wednesday. He was also listed as limited both Thursday and Friday, but those are estimations since the team did not hold a formal practice. Rodgers made it clear at the start of the week he planned to play, but it would not be surprising if he is still somewhat limited in his mobility, particularly as the game progresses.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, thigh (P): Everyone knows Manning plans to play this week, but he remains on the injury report because of his thigh. Another week removed from the injury, he should be faring some better, and he was a full participant in practice throughout the week. The Broncos can earn a bye during the first round of playoffs with a win over the Oakland Raiders, so there should be plenty of playing time for Manning.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, chest, back (P): Rivers started off last week’s game a bit shaky but bounced back to deliver a stunning comeback performance. The news of the bulging disc in his back might have some folks worried, but not Rivers, who said he felt much better early this week than he did at the same time last week. He may not be feeling 100 percent, but he already proved what he can do despite his current condition. He will certainly play as the Chargers need a win to secure a playoff spot. Rivers will be without his top running back (Ryan Mathews) and most likely without his top receiver, as well (Keenan Allen, who is doubtful), but that was also the case last week, and we saw how that turned out. Rivers is quite capable of finding his other options, and Antonio Gates was one who stood out in Week 16.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle (P): Brady is expected to make his start in Week 17 when the Patriots face the Bills, but ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss expects his time on the field could be limited, especially if the Patriots get ahead early.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back (P): With the exception of the game after he broke two transverse processes in his back, Romo has answered the bell every single week. He is expected to do so again this Sunday. The concern for fantasy owners might be how long Romo will remain in this game. There is not much to be gained for the Cowboys by keeping him in the entire game, and there is definitely much to lose should he get hurt. Maintaining the rhythm of playing weekly will help ensure that he starts, but don’t be surprised if he doesn't finish.

Running backs

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys, hand, illness (P): Murray has already proven that he can play since the hand surgery. Now everyone wants to know whether he’ll repeat the effort in a game that doesn’t matter much for the Cowboys in terms of their playoff scenario. The probable tag indicates the Cowboys expect to have him, and it’s worth noting Murray needs just 29 yards to pass Emmitt Smith’s single-season rushing record. Of course, the Cowboys will give him the opportunity to reach that milestone, but whether he will see much additional time on the field beyond setting a record is questionable.

Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons, quadriceps (Q): Jackson injured his quad in Week 16 and left the game before the end of the first half. His status has been in doubt all week, and he was absent from practice daily, further hinting at his being out this Sunday. Although the team has not formally ruled him out, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure cites multiple sources indicating Jackson will miss. Jackson’s absence would increase the opportunities for Devonta Freeman (who found the end zone last week) and Jacquizz Rodgers.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, hamstring, ankle (Q): Charles has been banged up one way or another for a good portion of this season, and it may be catching up to him. Last week the injuries certainly didn’t help when the Chiefs matched up against the Steelers. This week would appear to be a more favorable scenario for Charles, but between his hamstring and his ankle, he was only a limited participant in practice each day. The questionable tag in the final injury report of the week doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Still, Charles has been listed as questionable before and has taken the field. This is a must-win game for the Chiefs in order for them to even have a shot at the playoffs. The Chiefs will have Chase Daniel filling in at quarterback, and it would be ideal for them to have their full complement of running backs. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the news of whether or not that will happen is likely to come down to pregame inactives.

Rashad Jennings, ankle, (P) and Andre Williams, shoulder, (Q), New York Giants: After suffering a setback on the first play in the Week 15 game, Jennings was out for Week 16, and it appeared he might miss the final week, as well. Things appear to have taken an upward turn. Jennings was in practice on a limited basis all week and comes into the weekend listed as probable. All indications are that he will take the field against the Eagles on Sunday, but how will he hold up? No way to know for sure, but after the early aggravation of the ankle injury two weeks ago, it seems unlikely the Giants would allow him to play if they suspected there might be a repeat occurrence. ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano expects Jennings to play and acknowledges the running game gets a huge boost if he can last for four quarters, especially given the possibility of Williams having to sit out with a shoulder injury.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch was off Wednesday and estimated to be off Thursday (Seahawks did not conduct a practice that day) but returned Friday. Again, he is listed at probable. Again, we expect him to run hard Sunday with the division title up for grabs between the Seahawks and the Cardinals. The Seahawks face the Rams in a late afternoon game.

C.J. Anderson, ankle (P), Ronnie Hillman, foot (P), Denver Broncos: The Broncos need a good game. They would like to move past the difficult prime-time loss to the Bengals, and they can earn a playoff bye with a win against the Chargers. How nice then that they will likely be getting the services of Hillman, who has been out since Week 10 with a midfoot sprain. Anderson is expected to remain the starter, but the Broncos have more options with Hillman in the mix. Fantasy owners may not be thrilled about any division of workload, but it’s hard to imagine Hillman taking too much away from Anderson in his first game back. This is more likely to be a build-up toward the playoffs for him.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers, hand (P): This is the first time Williams has been listed as probable since injuring his hand in Week 13, and it sounds like the Panthers expect to have him available. Teammate Jonathan Stewart is still expected to start and, more importantly, get the bulk of the work.

Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings, foot (P): Asiata has already played through this injury and found the end zone twice last week, foot ailment and all. There is no real concern about his status for this week given that he practiced in full each day and is listed as probable.

LeGarrette Blount, shoulder, and Shane Vereen, ankle, New England Patriots (Q): Last week Blount ended up sitting out the game because of the shoulder injury. Vereen played, but his contribution was limited as the work appeared to be split among the trio of active backs -- Gray, Vereen and Brandon Bolden. This week Jonas Gray has already been ruled out with an ankle injury, and it will again likely be a committee approach -- but it’s hard to know which backs will end up being active. With the team’s playoff status already secure, there’s not any reason to take risks. Fantasy owners will want to be sure to check pregame inactives before submitting their lineups.

Joique Bell, Detroit Lions, Achilles, (P): Bell was added to the injury report with an Achilles strain this week but had two consecutive days of practice Thursday and Friday. It appears the Lions are confident he will play since he has been designated as probable. The only concern would be a possible in-game setback that would force an early exit.

Wide receivers

Julio Jones, hip (Q), Roddy White, ankle (P) and Harry Douglas, foot (P), Atlanta Falcons: The status of these three was identical last week, and they were all active. The most questionable right up to the 90-minute pregame inactive announcement was Jones, and he answered questions about whether he would be able to perform. With an additional week under his belt, one day of practice participation Friday (Jones did not practice at all last week) and a must-win situation for the Falcons, his status is less dubious than last week. The expectation is that all three will suit up with the divisional title at stake against the Carolina Panthers.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring (Q): Hilton was another receiver whose status came down to the wire last week, although by game day it was looking likely he would sit. The rest has perhaps paid off as Hilton was able to participate on a limited basis each day this week and, above all, suffered no setbacks by returning too soon. Although he is again listed as questionable, there is more optimism about Hilton’s availability this week. That said, he may not see an entire game’s worth of action in an effort to ensure he doesn’t suffer a setback this week. Playing at game speed is always a big test, and the Colts might be inclined to be cautious.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, biceps (P): Given how much pain Green was in when he took the shot to his arm in the Monday night game, there was no way of knowing whether six days would be enough to allow him to return to action. Green indicated to ESPN.com’s Coley Harvey that he experienced numbness down the arm after the hit, indicating the nerve had been affected. Those symptoms cleared within the first 48 hours, though, and Green was even back in limited practice late in the week. The probable tag puts fantasy owners at ease despite the Sunday night kickoff; Green is expected to play.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans, wrist (P): Hopkins played last week despite being listed as questionable with an ankle injury. This week it’s his wrist that has him on the report, but the probable tag indicates he will play.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos, hip (Q): Last week Sanders overcame his flu-like symptoms to play Monday night, but this week he is dealing with a hip injury. Sanders was limited in practice throughout the week, and the questionable tag does raise some concern. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, Sanders is expected to play as of now, but fantasy owners are advised to have a backup plan. Teammate Demaryius Thomas is on the injury report again this week (ankle, hip), but at probable, there is no doubt he will take the field. This game kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, knee (P): Matthews is on the report again because of his knee, but he has been playing through it. Expect him to do so again when the Eagles visit the Giants.

Percy Harvin, New York Jets, ankle, ribs (Q): Harvin now has bruised ribs to go along with his recently sprained ankle. Early in the week, coach Rex Ryan said Harvin was “very sore,” and he did not practice except for a limited workout Friday. The return to practice is an encouraging sign, but this is still expected to be a game-time decision.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): By now fantasy owners know that when Johnson is listed as probable, as he has been for the last few weeks, he is expected to play. Expect him on the field to face the Packers.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): Fitzgerald sprained his knee (Grade 2 MCL sprain) in Week 11 and has appeared on the injury report most weeks since. He returned to play in Week 14 and continues to be a full participant in practices. At probable, he is expected to take the field again Sunday against the 49ers.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers, knee (P): Crabtree has not been at full health for a fair portion of the season, cropping up on the injury report at various points with different ailments. Still, he has been active for every game this season. Expect him to be active again this Sunday against the Cardinals, but it’s hard to count on a significant amount of production. Last week he appeared to aggravate his knee early in the game and only had one reception in the short amount of time he saw the field. At probable, he is expected to play, but he may not be at full health.

Julian Edelman, thigh, concussion, and Brandon LaFell, shoulder, New England Patriots (Q): Edelman sat out last week’s game after suffering a concussion the prior week. He has been in limited practices daily. LaFell played in Week 16, just as he has every other week since being listed on the injury report with a shoulder ailment, making it likely he sees the field again. With New England’s playoff spot secure and a significant number of their stars nursing multiweek injuries, the question becomes whether either of these players will see extensive playing time. ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss laid out the most likely scenario for the Patriots and their injured players, suggesting if the team secures an early lead against the Bills, their playing time could be limited.

Tight ends

Julius Thomas, ankle, and Jacob Tamme, foot, Denver Broncos (P): Thomas was making improvements in practice last week and appeared poised for a bigger performance in Week 16 than the one he had the prior week when he returned from injury. Simply put, that did not happen. Will it happen this week? The opportunities will be there. Thomas practiced fully all week, and after the Broncos’ collective disappointing showing Monday night, everyone wants to shake that memory. Meanwhile Tamme, who had been dealing with sore ribs, now has a foot ailment, but at probable, he is also expected to play.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, ankle (Q): Rudolph was upgraded to questionable this week, and his knee is no longer listed as a problem on the injury report. Still, he had not been himself since returning from abdominal surgery and could be hard to trust in this spot.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, knee (P): Clay practiced on a limited basis each day and is expected to play when the Dolphins host the Jets.

Out:

This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs, lacerated spleen: Smith’s symptoms were slow to evolve over the first few days following last week’s game, but once the team discovered the nature of the injury, it was clear he would be ruled out. Chase Daniel will start for the Chiefs in this must-win matchup against the Chargers.

Jimmy Clausen, QB, Chicago Bears, concussion: A concussion sustained late in last week’s game will sideline Clausen this week. Jay Cutler resumes his starting role.

Jonas Gray, RB, New England Patriots, ankle: Gray saw limited action in the second half of last week’s game and showed up on the injury report this week with an ankle ailment. After limited practices Wednesday and Thursday, Gray was a nonparticipant Friday and was later ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Drew Stanton, QB, Arizona Cardinals, knee: Stanton looked to be on track to return soon from the knee sprain that caused him to miss last week's game, until he developed an infection. He underwent a scope this week and is out indefinitely.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers, ankle: Mathews missed Weeks 15 and 16 with the ankle injury, and he will miss yet one more. Branden Oliver, Donald Brown and Ronnie Brown formed a running back committee last week with Oliver being the primary beneficiary.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers, ankle, shoulder: The Chargers will be without their top running back in Mathews and also their top receiver in Allen. This could mean another fine week for tight end Antonio Gates.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts, knee: Allen left last week’s game with a knee injury, and while the team deemed it not serious, it’s enough of a concern for them to hold him out this week.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland Browns, hamstring: Manziel was forced out of the Week 16 game with a hamstring injury and was ruled out early in the week for this Sunday. With Brian Hoyer’s shoulder ailing, it appears Connor Shaw will get the Sunday start.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: Foles remains out as his clavicle has still not fully healed. Mark Sanchez continues to be the starter.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!

Video: A.J. Green's status

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
2:23
PM ET
videoStephania Bell has the latest updates on A.J. Green's arm injury.

Key fantasy injuries for Week 16

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
3:09
PM ET
DeMarco MurrayAP Photo/Kiichiro SatoWill DeMarco Murray suit up against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday?
Welcome to Week 16! It’s championship time! At least, that’s what many are hoping for as they head into the week that will either determine it all or, for those who play through Week 17, will set up the final week of play. Unfortunately, injury concerns are always a variable and there are some players on the bubble this week who are likely responsible for guiding fantasy owners to the playoffs. As always, there will be game-time decisions, but the final injury reports offer some insight into what owners can expect and, as always, several players have already been ruled out.

As a reminder, each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. Teams playing on Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out, and you can plan accordingly.

Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams utilize the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.

Good luck in Week 16, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, back (P): What a difference a week makes. Newton is moving much better a week removed from his car accident where he sustained two transverse process fractures in his spine. An upbeat Newton rejoined his team in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and upgraded to full practices the remainder of the week. His teammates noted he looked like himself, including delivering balls with the usual zip on his passes. Coach Ron Rivera stressed early in the week that the critical factor would be Newton’s ability to protect himself. Apparently he has convinced everyone (well, almost everyone, as he awaits final medical clearance) he is physically ready to return given that the team has him listed as probable for Sunday. In a must-win game against the Cleveland Browns, expect Newton to play.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, thigh (Q): Manning fought through the flu and a thigh injury just to get through the Week 15 game. He had an unusual-for-him rest day Wednesday but was back in practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. Just a reminder: Other than when he sat out the season following neck surgery, Manning hasn’t missed a game. There seems to be no doubt he will play Monday night but everyone wants to know whether he will indeed be back to his usual self. Manning was not seen limping at the facility this week and he benefits from the extra day since this is a Monday night game. He did throw more on Friday than Thursday and Manning is such a competitor, it’s easy to imagine him willing himself to a better performance this week, despite the injury. And he won’t be dealing with the flu symptoms any longer.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, chest, back (P): Rivers has made one thing clear: It doesn’t matter how hurt he is, he plans to play. Remember, this is the quarterback who opted to play with an injured ACL several years ago, refusing to quit (and undergo reconstructive surgery) until his team was eliminated from the postseason. Oh, and Rivers has never missed a start in his career. The effects of these injuries may be showing up in his performance on the field, however. Rivers has not appeared to be his usual self for some time, struggling with a chest/rib injury initially and now reportedly also dealing with a back injury. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the back injury was the more serious of the two, although the team has not revealed any specifics. After reluctantly sitting out Wednesday to rest, Rivers returned to full practice Thursday and coach Mike McCoy said he had “an outstanding day.” Rivers repeated the effort Friday and will play Saturday evening when the Chargers host the 49ers.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle (P): Brady continues to practice fully each day. Of 13 Patriots listed on the injury report this week, he is the only one whose status is not “questionable.” He will play Sunday when the Patriots visit the Jets.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back (P): Romo has done well when he maintains his routine of resting Wednesday and practicing Thursday and Friday. He will play Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys host the Colts in a late-afternoon matchup.

Running backs

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys, hand (Q): Will he or won’t he? That has been the daily question about Murray’s playing status since we learned Monday that he had undergone surgery to repair a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand. On Tuesday I posted an item explaining the injury and the rationale for why Murray would be able to play from a medical standpoint, as long as he is comfortable doing so and presuming he can be effective. Those final two items will be the ultimate deciding factors for Murray as he evaluates whether he can suit up for the Cowboys on Sunday night. Based on his progression since surgery and his appearances in limited practice sessions both Thursday and Friday, it appears Murray will opt to play. Fantasy owners should be advised this is a late-game matchup Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET) and a backup plan is a must.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, hip (P): Foster has been on the injury report on a regular basis because of his recent groin ailment. Now he’s listed with a hip issue and it’s unclear whether this is entirely different. The main takeaway is that Foster was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday followed by a full practice Friday. Listed as probable, he is expected to play Sunday when the Texans host the Ravens.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, eye (P): Lacy proved last week that his hip is not an issue but he ended up on the injury report nonetheless. Lacy is dealing with an eye issue that the team indicated was not game-related. According to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, Lacy has irritation in his left eye from a contact lens and it was enough to hold him to limited practices this week. Not to worry. The probable tag indicates the Packers intend for him to play. Although Lacy has said he will not wear goggles, it sounds as if he doesn’t plan to let the contact lens situation hold him back, even if he can’t see that well as a result. All he needs to see is the space between defenders and he’ll do just fine for fantasy owners.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, knee, ankle (P): Charles came into Week 14 with a knee bruise and exited the game with soreness in the knee and a swollen ankle. He played in Week 15 but exited for a period of time to be evaluated for a head injury. Although he was cleared to return, the team chose to exercise caution based on an earlier concussion episode this season, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher. Knile Davis handled the late-game work, as many Charles fantasy owners are aware. Charles enters this week on the injury report because of the same knee and ankle issues preceding Week 15 but after full practices Thursday and Friday is expected to play.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, concussion (Q): Gore’s toughness, resilience and will to push himself to play through various ailments is well established. Unfortunately none of that matters when it comes to concussions. There is a very specific set of criteria Gore needs to meet to be able to take the field. When Gore returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday, coach Jim Harbaugh said Gore was moving through the protocol and “on pace” to play. Gore did return to another limited workout Friday but the team was not divulging whether he would be able to take the field in a game situation. Making it more challenging, the Niners are on a short week with a Saturday evening game against the Chargers. Fantasy owners are advised to stay tuned to pregame inactives (the game kicks off at 8:25 p.m. ET). If Gore can’t go, with Carlos Hyde already ruled out, the next in line at the position would be Alfonso Smith and Phillip Tanner.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills, shoulder (P): It appears Spiller could be making his return to the playing field for the first time since fracturing his collarbone in Week 7. Spiller underwent surgery to repair the fracture and was placed on the team’s injured reserve/designated to return list. His first week to be game eligible is this week and with a probable tag, all indications are the team will indeed utilize him. But how much can we really expect in his first game back? This is probably more of a re-acquaintance with the speed of the game and contact from an opponent than a plan for heavy work. After all, even practicing in pads was an adjustment and Spiller has only participated in limited practices throughout the week. Even if he plays, teammate Fred Jackson is still expected to get the majority of the work at running back for the Bills this week when they visit the Raiders in a late kickoff Sunday.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch hasn’t failed to deliver this season when it comes to durability. Despite the concerns and the weekly injury report appearances, Lynch shows up on Sundays. He practiced each day this week, including a full practice Friday, is listed as probable and is expected to play in a big divisional contest in Arizona on Sunday night.

C.J. Anderson, ankle (P), Juwan Thompson, hip, knee (Q) and Ronnie Hillman, foot (Q), Denver Broncos: All the eligible running backs it seems are on the injury report (Montee Ball has been placed on injured reserve) but it appears all could be active Monday night. All three backs were present in practice Friday and Saturday. The only one to turn in full practices was Anderson, who is in line to be the starter again this week. The biggest question is how much of a workload Hillman could expect to see in a return from his foot sprain if he is indeed active Monday night. It’s hard to imagine Hillman seeing significant action in what would be his first game in six weeks, particularly coming off a foot injury. Thompson’s contributions could depend on Hillman’s status. For fantasy owners it would seem that Anderson is the back most likely to be guaranteed multiple touches and it gets cloudy from there. The team does not travel until Sunday so the decision on which backs head to Cincinnati can be delayed.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers, hand (Q): Williams hasn’t played since Week 13 due to a fracture in his hand. He did return to limited practices this week but may not be quite ready for prime time. As ESPN.com’s David Newton noted, Williams has been fitted for a playing cast but it doesn’t mean he’ll play. Jonathan Stewart figures to continue being the primary ball carrier.

Chris Johnson, New York Jets, knee (P): Johnson has been on the injury report for multiple weeks yet continues to suit up week in and week out. He is again expected to play when the Jets host the Patriots this week.

Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings, foot (P): The foot issue that landed Asiata on the injury report this week can’t be too serious as he was able to practice daily. Limited practices Wednesday and Thursday were followed by a full practice Friday. At probable, Asiata is expected to play Sunday in Miami.

Kerwynn Williams, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): Williams has had two very productive weeks in the Cardinals' ground game since Andre Ellington was lost for the season. It’s no surprise that he might have some knee soreness which lands him on the injury report. He did practice daily however, limited Wednesday, Thursday and full on Friday. At probable, he is expected to play in a critical game against the top division rival Seahawks.

Roy Helu, Washington, toe (P): Although Helu put in limited practices Thursday and Friday, he wasn’t ready for game action in Week 15. This week his condition appears to have improved as Helu has been a full participant each day. Listed as probable, Helu is expected to be available for the team’s 4:25 ET kickoff on Saturday against the Eagles.

LeGarrette Blount, shoulder, and Shane Vereen, ankle, New England Patriots (Q): Vereen has been a regular on the injury report with the questionable designation over the past several weeks but continues to play. Blount is a new addition this week with a shoulder injury. Both players practiced on a limited basis each day and both appear likely to suit up in Sunday’s contest against the Jets. As always, fantasy owners are advised to confirm their status when pregame inactives are issued.

Wide receivers

Julio Jones, hip (Q), Roddy White, ankle (P) and Harry Douglas, foot (P), Atlanta Falcons: Given their probable designations it’s clear that White and Douglas are expected to play. So let’s get to the player everyone is really curious about when it comes to Sunday status. Jones sat out Week 15 with a hip injury suffered late in the Falcons’ Week 14 Monday night game. Jones has not practiced all week, something which would ordinarily hint at him missing another week of action. But this is not an ordinary week. While the Falcons may have no interest in helping -- or hurting -- fantasy owners, they very much would like to secure a playoff spot and the presence of Jones makes a huge difference. Given that the team entertained the possibility of him playing last week (even if it was a half-hearted bit of entertainment), it would suggest the injury is not SO serious that he would automatically miss another week. And forget the notion of “saving” Jones for full health in Week 17. A loss this week would end the Falcons’ postseason hopes. While no playoff scenario is worth jeopardizing the long-term health of a player, if that is truly what is at stake for Jones, it seems the Falcons would have ruled him out sooner. Instead there were reports of a Saturday morning “test” run (followed by an assessment of his recovery from said run) to see if Jones could suit up on game day. Coach Mike Smith has said he will announce Jones’ status around 10:30 a.m. CT on Sunday. If Jones plays, there is clearly some risk that he could suffer an in-game setback. But it’s also hard to imagine Jones functioning exclusively as a decoy given the stakes of the game and his own physical toughness. The only silver lining is that this is an early game Sunday so fantasy owners will have some options but no matter what his status is, there will be some difficult decisions to make.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring (Q): By Friday it appeared the chances of Hilton suiting up Sunday were trending downward. He did not practice all week with a left hamstring injury suffered in the second half of last Sunday’s game, despite early reports that his MRI came back negative. ESPN.com’s Mike Wells makes a good case for why the Colts should rest Hilton this week, especially considering they have locked up a playoff spot and might not want to risk Hilton aggravating an injury and missing more time at a critical juncture. Hilton says if he’s feeling 100 percent healthy, he’ll play but he also indicated there were plenty who could step up should he sit this one out. It appears there’s a strong possibility Hilton rests this week, in which case the value of Donte Moncrief is sure to rise. This is a late kickoff (4:25 p.m. ET) Sunday so fantasy owners need to plan accordingly.

Andre Johnson, concussion (P), and DeAndre Hopkins, ankle (Q), Houston Texans: Johnson suffered a concussion in Week 14 and sat out the following week. Later Johnson indicated he was cleared for Week 15 but wanted to make sure he took his time from the head injury before returning. Smart. This week Johnson participated in limited practice Wednesday but upgraded to full practice the following day. At probable, he is fully expected to play Sunday but his teammate is another story. Hopkins has an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice all week and his status is very much in question. Look for him to be a game-time decision.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos, illness (Q): Don’t be overly alarmed about the late addition to the injury report. Sanders was given Saturday off from practice after he developed flu-like symptoms but, despite the questionable tag, the expectation is Sanders will be well enough to play Monday.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, knee (P): There was some mild alarm when Matthews turned up on the injury report with a knee issue. The concern has dissipated throughout the week as Matthews has been a full participant in practice each day. At probable, he is expected to play when the Eagles take the field in Washington on Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET kickoff).

Percy Harvin, New York Jets, ankle (P): Considering Harvin played last week with the ankle injury after being considered a long shot and listed as questionable, there is far less doubt about his status this week. Harvin got a rest day on Wednesday but returned to limited practices Thursday and Friday. The probable designation indicates the team is more confident about his availability this week.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): Johnson is following the same routine of limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is fully expected to play.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle (no designation yet): Thomas has played through the ankle issue and after a difficult Week 14 had a strong performance last Sunday. Although he remains on the injury report, Thomas has been a full participant in practice. There is no real doubt as to what his Monday status will be.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): This is just a reminder that Fitzgerald suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain earlier this season. He has already returned from the injury and is expected to play again this week after full practices Thursday and Friday.

Julian Edelman, thigh, concussion, and Brandon LaFell, shoulder, New England Patriots (Q): Both players have played through questionable designations before so it would appear automatic they would again. Or would it? Maybe that will be the case for LaFell, who has been managing a shoulder issue for several weeks. In Edelman’s case the thigh injury is not new and he did suit up the week after suffering an apparent setback. The difference this week is the word “concussion” after Edelman’s name. This popped up on the injury report Wednesday when Edelman was limited and it is not clear when he suffered the injury. The good news is that he participated in practice daily but the unknown is whether he has cleared all phases of the concussion protocol. Fantasy owners will need to check Edelman’s status once inactives are announced and not presume he is an automatic start this week.

Tight ends

Julius Thomas, ankle, and Jacob Tamme, ribs, Denver Broncos (no designation yet): Thomas returned from his ankle injury last week but his production was minimal. This week he has been in practice as a full participant daily and is expected to play. Tamme was not active in Week 15 and it is unclear whether he will be available to offer depth at the position for the team. He did practice on a limited basis Thursday followed by a full practice Friday, an encouraging sign. Thomas figures to get the start and will hopefully see closer to a full workload Monday night in Cincinnati.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, ankle, knee (D): Rudolph has struggled since returning from his abdominal surgery and now has two lower extremity ailments in the mix. Although he returned from not practicing earlier in the week to a limited workout Friday, the doubtful designation indicates the team does not expect to have him available.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, knee (P): Clay has been upgraded in status from his usual “questionable” to "probable" this week. Daily limited practices and the probable designation indicate Clay will take the field as his team hosts the Vikings.

Out:

This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.

Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants, ankle: The normally upbeat Jennings tried to play through his recent ankle injury but just one play into Week 15 he suffered a setback. After not practicing this week it quickly became apparent he would not be able to play and he has been ruled out for Sunday.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers, collarbone, ankle: This news comes as a surprise to no one after the team disclosed Monday that Allen had a clavicle fracture to go with his injured ankle. What was surprising was that it took so long to officially rule him out. Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal could see additional targets.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers, ankle: Mathews missed Week 15 with the ankle injury and has not yet been able to practice. Branden Oliver and Donald Brown will see the bulk of the work in his absence (last week Oliver had more than twice as many carries as Brown; each caught four passes).

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers, ankle: It’s somewhat amazing that the only injured part on Hyde’s body was his ankle after he got twisted like a pretzel while being tackled last Sunday. He has not practiced all week and was always considered a long shot to suit up. The big question now is whether his teammate Frank Gore will be cleared to return from a concussion.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: Foles remains out as his clavicle has not fully healed. Mark Sanchez continues to be the starter.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:00 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!
Delanie WalkerRonald C. Modra /Sports Imagery/ Getty ImagesDelanie Walker is the most fantasy-relevant player in Thursday's matchup. How will a knee ailment affect him?
While the matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars consists of two teams that have no shot at the NFL playoffs, there may still be a player or two who appear in playoff matchups for fantasy owners. As always, injuries play a role, even if indirectly. In the case of the Titans, the injuries to the top two quarterbacks might just impact how fantasy owners set their lineups.

Titans

Delanie Walker, TE, knee, (Q): Of all the players in the Thursday night matchup, Walker might be the one whose status is most concerning to fantasy owners (he's owned in more than 75 percent of ESPN.com standard scoring leagues). The team has not revealed the specifics of the knee ailment that is affecting Walker, and he did play the entire game last Sunday, right down to the 30-plus yards he posted on the final play. Listed as a limited participant daily, Walker seems likely to suit up, but fantasy owners will want to double-check the pregame inactive reports.

Kendall Wright, WR, hand, (Q): Wright missed the past two games with a broken bone in his right hand, but he was able to participate in two limited practices last week. He has been able to catch some passes in limited practice this week, but he has clearly not returned to the level where the team is confident he’ll be able to play. Wright said Tuesday he hoped to be on the field with his team, and the concerns are not so much about making the injury worse but more about how effective he can be with a hand that’s still sore. It sounds as though he will attempt to make his return Thursday night, but even if he does, it’s unclear how productive he can be.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, right shoulder, (D): Mettenberger aggravated his already-sprained shoulder in Week 14, and he looked to be done for the season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt would only rule him out for Week 15, however, and with Jake Locker now on injured reserve after dislocating his shoulder, Mettenberger is sticking around. However, he is not practicing, and the doubtful tag indicates the Titans don’t plan to have him. At this point, they have to hope Charlie Whitehurst can stay healthy.

Jaguars

Blake Bortles, QB, foot, (Q): Between a right midfoot sprain sustained in last Sunday’s game and persistent inflammation in his throwing shoulder -- along with a prior left ankle sprain and wrist injury -- the rookie quarterback for the Jaguars has been a bit banged up during the past two months. His latest injury is particularly concerning, but Bortles expressed confidence to reporters Monday that he would be able to play. He was injured in the fourth quarter on a sack, but he finished out the game, later sporting a walking boot. After spending Monday morning in the training room for rehab, Bortles said the foot was already improving. He was a limited participant Tuesday and Wednesday, but he did enough for coach Gus Bradley to take note.

“[He’s] progressed much faster than we anticipated, and I think that’s what we’re down to now, just to see how he moves around,” Bradley said. Bradley told reporters the plan is for Bortles to go through a pregame workout before the final decision on his status will be made. While it appears encouraging, fantasy owners who are concerned about his status should be sure to check pregame inactives. If Bortles is ruled out, it would be Chad Henne throwing to receivers Cecil Shorts III, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.

Marqise Lee, WR, elbow, (P): Speaking of Lee, he had his lowest production since Week 10 on Sunday, but whether or not his elbow was a factor is unclear. The injury doesn’t appear to be too serious, since Lee played the entire game. Despite being listed on the injury report, he was a full participant in practice each day, and the probable tag indicates the team expects him to play. Lee has been targeted at least eight times in the past three games, so if Bortles is under center, he is likely to look for him.

DeMarco Murray delivered yet another terrific performance Sunday night as the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, but he paid the price with an injury, suffering a broken bone in his left hand.

Specifically, Murray fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand, according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer. The fourth metacarpal is the long bone that runs from the base of the ring finger to the wrist.

By the time the injury news was announced, Murray was undergoing surgery to stabilize the fracture. The team left open the possibility that Murray could return this weekend by stating he had not been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. But is it really possible that he could return less than a week after undergoing surgery?

Yes, actually, it is possible.

The implantation of hardware during surgery provides a construct in the hand that offers immediate stability and helps ensure proper alignment of the bone. While the bone itself takes at least four to six weeks to heal, the surgical stabilization permits sooner range of motion activities (sooner than if there were no surgery) and potentially less soft tissue adhesions or scarring. The return-to-play criteria then comes down to pain tolerance and the return of functional range of motion and strength.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Mitchell Leff/Getty ImagesIt seems possible DeMarco Murray can play this week despite undergoing surgery on a broken bone in his left hand on Monday.

In a study presented at the 2014 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting, a group of in-season elite football players who had undergone surgery to repair metacarpal fractures were able to return to play, on average, in less than a week. The study, conducted by physicians at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, included high school and collegiate football players; the average return-to-play time for the collegiate players was 2.8 days. There were no reported complications following surgery and, most importantly, no incidence of re-fractures.

One college player in this study who suffered this injury and returned to play less than a week after surgery was then-Alabama wide receiver (now Atlanta Falcons star) Julio Jones. He fractured a metacarpal in his left hand in the first half against South Carolina in October 2010. After undergoing surgery the next day, Jones returned to practice late in the week and played the team’s next game against Mississippi. During my visit to Falcons training camp in August to see Jones, who was preparing to return from a second foot surgery, I referenced the scar on his hand and asked how he was able to return to action so quickly following that injury. He told me that once he caught the first few balls in practice, he knew his hand was solid and he just mentally made the decision he would be ready to play. He has had no setbacks with his hand since the surgery.

Most athletes cited in the study were either wide receivers or defensive backs and the sample size is relatively small, but Dr. Lyle Cain, orthopedic surgeon, University of Alabama team physician and one of the study’s authors, notes there have been several other players since that data was collected -- including running backs and offensive linemen -- who have returned to play in under a week. The study results demonstrate that a return to playing football at a high level less than a week after surgery to repair a metacarpal fracture is possible. But is it probable?

Not necessarily. It’s important to remember, above all, that individuals heal at different rates. Each injury has its own unique presentation, and there may be other factors that influence how quickly a player is allowed to progress through the rehab process and onto the playing field.

Cain says there are two primary considerations when evaluating whether an athlete can return to play within days following this type of injury and surgery: surgical fixation and functionality. Most of the fractures that occur in these athletes are clean breaks in the middle of the bone that are easily stabilized; fractures that result in multiple fragments are more complex and would not fall into this category.

“Once you get good fixation with the hardware in there, it appears the repaired metacarpal may even be stronger than the native metacarpals around it," Cain said. “Then you need to make sure the athlete has enough strength in the intrinsics [small muscles of the hand] to control the ball and to do what he needs to do on the field with minimal discomfort.”

As a running back, Murray needs to not only carry the ball effectively (which he does primarily with his right hand; the injury is to his left), but he also needs to be able to catch the ball and block effectively. Murray would be expected to be wearing some type of protective equipment on his surgically repaired hand and would need to demonstrate that he could still carry out his responsibilities uncompromised (or at least minimally compromised). As ESPN’s Ed Werder reported, the Cowboys athletic training staff that cared for Emmitt Smith as he returned from a similar injury is unchanged, which benefits Murray.

When he spoke to reporters Monday, coach Jason Garrett laid out what will be the determinants of whether Murray plays this week. Garrett's words seemed to reflect what the team’s medical personnel will also be evaluating.

“The biggest question we have to ask ourselves is: Is he functional to do his job?" Garrett said. "Can he hold the football? Can he carry it under duress? Can he block? Can he do the things necessary to play the position?”

All football players who undergo surgery to repair a metacarpal fracture will have a few things in common: They will all experience some degree of pain and limitation after the operation and will all require several weeks to heal completely. The timetable in which they return to competition, however, is based on the variables that make each of them and each of their injuries unique, particularly how fast they recover and how quickly they can return to form. The big question for the Cowboys will be whether they are comfortable enough with Murray’s progress as of Sunday to expose him to game conditions.

While recent examples provide evidence that elite football players can return to competition quickly following this type of surgery, given the uncertainty that surrounds how any player recovers from injury, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Murray’s status remains in question until game day approaches.

Video: DeMarco Murray not ruled out

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
5:08
PM ET
Stephania Bell discusses the broken bone in DeMarco Murray's hand, and whether it is realistic that he could be active Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys play the Indianapolis Colts.

Key fantasy injuries for Week 15

December, 13, 2014
Dec 13
4:56
PM ET
Julio JonesAP Photo/Tom LynnFantasy owners will be keeping a close eye on Julio Jones' status.
Welcome to Week 15! This is a huge week for those who have made it into their league playoffs. There are no more fantasy bye weeks as the final four (in most cases) square off. And let’s not forget the consolation brackets; there are still many bragging rights at stake. Unfortunately, there are injury concerns for fantasy owners to contend with as they make critical lineup decisions. As always, there will be game-time decisions, but the final injury reports give some guidance as to who’s in and who’s out -- and several players have already been ruled out.

As a reminder, each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status, and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out, and you can plan accordingly.

Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is a fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams utilize the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.

Good luck in Week 15, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle, (P): Brady is in no danger of missing this divisional matchup against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Colt McCoy, Washington, neck, (Q): McCoy suffered what coach Jay Gruden originally referred to as a neck sprain in last Sunday’s contest, but Gruden made it clear McCoy would be the starter this week, if he gained medical clearance. After limited practices Wednesday and Thursday, McCoy turned in a full practice Friday. The final step came when McCoy, who was actually dealing with a nerve flare-up related to his neck, received clearance to return as ESPN.com’s John Keim reported Friday night.

Eli Manning, New York Giants, back, (P): What’s this? Eli Manning on the injury report is a rare sight. Apparently his back was causing him enough discomfort to warrant a limited practice Thursday and an appearance on this list. Manning was a full participant Friday and coach Tom Coughlin was not concerned. The probable tag confirms the confidence that Manning will indeed play Sunday when the Giants host Washington.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back, (P): Romo remains on the injury report with his routine of resting Wednesday and practicing Thursday and Friday. He will, of course, play in the team’s huge Sunday night matchup in Philadelphia.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, right shoulder/ankle, (P): Bortles continues to appear on the injury report, but he has played through his ailments and will do so again this week against the Ravens.

Running backs

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, groin, (P): Foster remains on the injury report because of his recent groin ailment and sits out Wednesday practices. He participated on a limited basis Thursday and fully on Friday. At probable, he is expected to play in Indianapolis.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, ankle, (Q): Mathews was a nonparticipant in practice throughout the week after spraining his right ankle in last Sunday’s game, not an encouraging sign for his likelihood of playing against the Broncos on Sunday. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out that the only time in his career that Mathews played in a week where he didn’t practice was against the Broncos in a playoff situation. He only had five carries before exiting that game. ESPN.com’s Eric Williams reports coach Mike McCoy maintains Mathews could play without practicing, but complicating the picture for fantasy owners is the late kickoff (4:05 p.m. ET). If Mathews were to miss the game, it would be Donald Brown and Branden Oliver filling in, although it’s unclear how the workload would be divided.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, hip, (P): When Lacy emerged from Monday night’s game with a hip injury, there was concern about his potential availability for Sunday. He returned to limited practice Wednesday, but it was by all accounts very limited. By Friday there was more confidence about Lacy’s health, enough for the team to designate him as probable heading into Sunday’s matchup against Buffalo. As ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reported, coach Mike McCarthy is not willing to share just how much work Lacy might get compared with his teammate James Starks, but both backs saw plenty of work Monday night. The question is not about Lacy’s status, it’s about how much work he will see, and the Packers are not providing any clues in advance.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): After a three-week absence, Bush returned to the lineup in Week 14 ... and totaled just 34 yards. Now he’s back to questionable status with the nagging ankle injury, practicing on a limited basis Thursday and Friday after resting on Wednesday. Even if he is active, it’s hard to gauge just how productive he can be, particularly with teammate Joique Bell getting the majority of the touches of late.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, knee, ankle (P): Charles came into Week 14 with a knee bruise and exited the game with soreness in the knee and a swollen ankle. In fact, Charles left the game briefly to get his ankle examined but returned (and scored!) afterward. By the end of the week, he was practicing fully, and coach Andy Reid made it clear he expected Charles to not only play, but also to carry his usual workload.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns, hip, (P): Crowell was a full participant in practice this week, and given the probable designation, he is virtually assured of playing. Last week he was listed as questionable, and while Crowell ended up playing, his work was an almost even split with fellow back Terrance West. The timeshare is likely to continue, but the advantage goes to Crowell who, despite identical yardage to West last week, found the end zone for the score.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back, (P): It’s difficult to find new ways to describe how Lynch continues to perform week in and week out, despite being bothered by his back to various degrees in any given week. It certainly didn’t slow him down against the 49ers two weeks ago when he rushed for more than 100 yards, and now he gets to face them at home.

C.J. Anderson, ankle, and Juwan Thompson, knee, (P); Ronnie Hillman, foot, (Q), Denver Broncos, knee: Anderson and Thompson have been listed here for a couple of weeks and, listed at probable, are expected to play. The surprise this week is the change in status for Hillman, who has missed the last four games with a midfoot sprain. Hillman returned to limited practices each day this week, and the questionable tag indicates he could be available. Even if Hillman does play, it’s hard to imagine him making a substantial dent in Anderson’s workload, given Anderson’s performance in Hillman’s absence.

DeAngelo Williams, hand, (D) and Jonathan Stewart, hip, (P), Carolina Panthers: It appears Williams will sit out again this week with a finger fracture, although he did return to limited practice Thursday and Friday, making next week a possibility. Stewart is on the report because of his hip but was a full participant in practice Thursday and Friday, and at probable, he should see the bulk of the work at running back against Tampa Bay.

Chris Johnson, New York Jets, knee, (P): There is nothing new here, as Johnson has been on the injury report for multiple weeks. He continues to play despite his knee ailment and should do so again against Tennessee.

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, ankle, (Q): The questionable tag might refer more to Vereen’s workload than his actual game status. He has played through the ankle injury already but hasn’t netted much production in the last couple of weeks.

Wide receivers

Julio Jones, hip, (Q), Roddy White, ankle, (P) and Harry Douglas, foot, (P), Atlanta Falcons: The status of the first in this trio of receivers might present the most agonizing decision for fantasy owners this weekend (and it’s not solely because he is on two of my fantasy playoff teams). Many a fantasy team has been successful, at least some weeks, because of the contributions of Julio Jones. On Monday night, Jones posted 31 fantasy points in standard leagues, his single-game career best, while also setting a Falcons franchise record in receiving yards (259), but it all came at a price. Jones exited the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury. The team has been vague on the specifics, but Jones appeared to hyperextend his hip as he went to the ground late in the game and came up with his hand holding the front of his left hip. He limped off the field and remained on the sideline through the end of the game.

Although coach Mike Smith expressed optimism throughout the week regarding Jones’ potential availability Sunday (he is formally being dubbed a game-time decision), the fact he has not practiced at all raises some concern. Jones has been working with the athletic performance staff on an individual basis doing some running and conditioning according to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, but it is unclear how intense his running efforts have been and how well he is able to move. Many of his spectacular catches are the result not only of sprinting down the field but also leaping into the air and outworking a defender to make the grab, all of which could be severely compromised by an ailing hip.

The question then becomes whether the Falcons choose to play a less-than-fully-healthy Jones who, even if he were well enough to move effectively, could be at risk for aggravating an injury sustained less than a week ago, or, rest him to avoid the risk of a setback and allow another week of healing. The Falcons face the Steelers in a nondivisional matchup but have two more games to make their run at the NFC South title -- next week in New Orleans and the following week at home against the Panthers.

The other top Falcons receivers, White and Douglas, are both listed as probable and are expected to play. Douglas has been battling a foot injury for most of the season but has been playing well of late. Just two weeks ago he amassed more than 100 yards receiving and was targeted a dozen times, something the Falcons could try to repeat if Jones sits. Meanwhile, White has been fighting through an ankle issue of his own and was forced to sit out in Week 13, the week Douglas starred alongside Jones. White wasn’t heavily targeted in Monday night’s game but did manage to score a touchdown on one of his three receptions. After practicing all week, including a full practice Friday, White is expected to play.

It appears then that White and Douglas will both be available with Jones’ status remaining in question until just before game time. If he warms up on the field, reports about how he looks in those warmups will be telling for fantasy owners trying to evaluate the risk versus reward of starting Jones. Perhaps the Falcons are agonizing just as much as the rest of us over the decision of whether to allow the tough and physical Jones to play this week, but I doubt it. The one silver lining for fantasy owners here is that this is a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.

DeSean Jackson, Washington, shin, (Q): Jackson sat out Week 14 after a contusion in his shin area (near the fibula, the long skinny bone on the outer lower leg) kept him from being able to run effectively. He was a limited participant in practice throughout the week -- an improvement over no practice last week -- but the questionable tag indicates the team may not yet be comfortable enough with his progress to allow him to take the field. As of Friday, it appeared Jackson’s chances of taking the field were on the low side as he had only participated in individual drills until then, but after Friday’s practice, coach Jay Gruden labelled them as 50-50. The decision will be made at game time, and fantasy owners need to be prepared that this could go either way.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (P): The probable tag is a bit puzzling as the reports of Smith’s mobility, or lack thereof, certainly made it sound as if he would sit this one out. Smith came into last week’s game saying the only way he wouldn’t play was if he was on crutches. Then, in pregame warmups, his knee flared up, causing him to appear uncomfortable and stiff. He struggled on a limited snap count and wasn’t targeted once. After the game, Smith was listed as day-to-day with a right knee sprain. He didn’t practice at all until Friday, and even then he still appeared hampered.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Smith looked “extremely gimpy and uncomfortable” while attempting to run routes, and coach Jim Harbaugh later called him a game-time decision for Sunday. So, why the probable tag? It’s a fair question. Perhaps it’s the fact that Smith put in a full practice Friday, even if he may have struggled through it, or, as ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley noted, Smith has never missed a game in his four-year professional career. Fantasy owners saw proof last week that being on the field and performing at full strength are not necessarily a mutual occurrence. Last week’s pregame reports were very helpful, so fantasy owners considering Smith should check those out before making a decision. This is an early game against the Jaguars.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, concussion, (Q): Johnson suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has been going through the phases of the NFL concussion protocol ever since. Unsurprisingly, he did not participate in practice Wednesday or Thursday, but, in a sign of progress, he was a limited participant Friday. He was also in good spirits in the locker room, according to ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli. Coach Bill O’Brien said Friday that Johnson had not cleared the concussion protocol but did not elaborate on the remaining components. It is possible he could achieve final clearance before Sunday, but the Texans have not indicated when the final decision will be made.

Percy Harvin, New York Jets, ankle, (Q): Things have certainly changed in a matter of a few days. After Harvin suffered an ankle injury in Week 14, it appeared the remainder of his season was in jeopardy. While Harvin expressed optimism that he might be well enough to take the field Sunday, his coach Rex Ryan called it “a stretch.” Maybe the reach is getting a bit less heading into the weekend after Harvin was able to return to limited practice Friday. The injury is to the opposite ankle of the one that ended Harvin’s final season in Minnesota prematurely and is a low, or lateral, ankle sprain. Simply because this is not a high ankle sprain doesn’t mean it’s an easy recovery. One of the biggest concerns is having enough stability to perform without excessively increasing the risk of further injury. As ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini reported, Ryan is still not convinced that Harvin is ready to return to action, although he is impressed with his efforts.

Harvin’s optimism remained high as of Friday, however, when he provided all the reasons he believed prove his readiness to play. “I did all my cuts that I have to do in a game,” Harvin said. “I told all the coaches I felt good, and they said I looked good. I fully expect to play, without any limitations." If Harvin makes the trip with the team to Tennessee, then he will have an additional day to lobby on his own behalf, but it could still come down to a game-time announcement. Fantasy owners should be forewarned that this game has a 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Johnson is following the same routine of limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is fully expected to play.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle, (P): Thomas played last week after first appearing on the injury report because of his ankle, but he turned in an uncharacteristic appearance (two receptions for 11 yards). One week further removed from injury is a plus for Thomas, who practiced fully Friday after limited practice Thursday and a day of complete rest Wednesday. Listed as probable, Thomas is expected to start against the Chargers on Sunday.

Julian Edelman, thigh, and Brandon LaFell, shoulder, New England Patriots, (Q): Last week was a bigger concern for Edelman after he appeared to aggravate his thigh injury in Week 13. Yet he played ... to the tune of 141 receiving yards and a touchdown. Naturally, he’s going to be limited in practice the following week. LaFell has been much quieter, although he is consistently good for a handful of targets from Brady. He continues to receive treatment on his shoulder, but there is nothing to suggest he is in danger of missing this week’s game against the Dolphins. Given how the Patriots list many of their players on the injury report as questionable, it’s always a good idea to verify their status after pregame inactives are released.

Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans, hand, (Q): Wright sat out last week’s game with a small fracture in his right hand but returned to limited practices Wednesday and Thursday this week. He then sat out Friday’s practice, which would appear to cast doubt on his availability for Sunday’s game against the Jets. This is a late game kickoff, so fantasy owners may want to make alternate arrangements.

Tight ends

Julius Thomas, ankle, (P) and Jacob Tamme, ribs, (Q), Denver Broncos: Thomas has made significantly better progress in practice this week according to coach John Fox and is expected to start Sunday. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, he should also see close to his normal workload. This comes as a welcome relief to fantasy owners after last week when Thomas was declared active just before kickoff but didn’t see a single snap. His teammate Tamme is still recovering from bruised ribs and may be in line for a week of recovery with Thomas scheduled to play.

Jace Amaro, New York Jets, concussion, (P): The Jets are happy to have Amaro back in the mix after he missed the last two games because of a concussion. He was able to practice fully both Thursday and Friday and is expected to play Sunday.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, knee, (Q): Clay did take the field last Sunday after being listed as questionable and having missed the two prior games. There were no reported setbacks, but his presence on the injury report and being held to limited practices indicates he is still not at full health. Given his play last week, it does appear he will take the field against the Patriots, but fantasy owners are advised to check pregame inactives.

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers, knee, (P): Olsen has already played through the knee issue that placed him on the injury report. At probable, he is expected to do so again this week.

OUT:

This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, Tennessee Titans, right shoulder: Mettenberger aggravated a prior AC sprain in Week 14 and could miss the remainder of the season. Jake Locker returns as the starter.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, back: Newton was fortunate to suffer only minor injuries (including two transverse process fractures in his low back) after a rollover motor vehicle accident earlier in the week. He has no timetable for his return, although he did return to do some light pool workouts at the team facility late in the week. Derek Anderson starts this week to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just as he did in Week 1.

Denard Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars, foot: Robinson had emerged as the starting back in Jacksonville since the midpoint of the season, but his season has now ended. Robinson suffered a right midfoot sprain in Week 14, and the team will now likely divide the running workload between Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman and Storm Robinson.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington, toe: Although Helu put in limited practices Thursday and Friday, he wasn’t ready for game action.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: Foles remains out as his broken clavicle heals. Mark Sanchez continues to be the starter.

Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos, groin: Ball aggravated his groin injury in Week 11 and had not yet returned to practice. On Saturday, the Broncos placed Ball on IR, ending his season.
Larry FitzgeraldMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsIt looks like Larry Fitzgerald will play Thursday night, but how effective will he be?
This is not the same St. Louis Rams team that the Arizona Cardinals faced in Week 10. In that contest, the Cardinals won handily (31-14), and in doing so improved to 9-1 and maintained their spot atop the NFC West.

Since then, each team has moved on to starting a different quarterback (Shaun Hill replaces Austin Davis for the Rams, and Drew Stanton has taken over for Carson Palmer in Arizona). The Cardinals also lost starting running back Andre Ellington to injured reserve, and while they remain in first place in the division, things have tightened up with the Seattle Seahawks.

Meanwhile, the Rams are playing their best football of the season, with the defense posting two consecutive shutouts and the offense notching 66 points in that time frame. Running back Tre Mason has emerged as the Rams’ definitive starter since these two teams last squared off, and tight end Jared Cook is coming off his biggest performance of the season (18 points in Week 14).

Division matchups late in the season are always interesting when one team, even if not a playoff contender, has the potential to drop another in the standings, as is the case Thursday night. Trying to determine which fantasy stars will shine brightly in these contests becomes a bit more challenging. While injuries always threaten to be a factor, thankfully the playing status of this week’s key fantasy players is not really in question.

Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, knee, (P): Fitzgerald suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in Week 11, and missed the subsequent two games as a result. After returning in Week 14, there is no real doubt as to Fitzgerald’s availability for this week, especially as he comes into the game listed as probable. While his MCL is not likely 100 percent healed, he proved last week against the Kansas City Chiefs that his presence must still be accounted for, and that he will still draw a handful of targets. The last time the Cardinals faced the Rams, Fitzgerald had 112 yards receiving, which ensures he will have the attention of their defense, recently sprained knee or not, on Thursday night.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, ankle, (Q): Defensive players don’t always get their due in this space, but Cromartie’s dramatic turnaround in status this week is worth the attention. Cromartie left last week’s contest on a cart after an injury near his left ankle had some, including Cromartie himself, thinking his season was over with a torn Achilles tendon. Further examination revealed the injury was not to his Achilles, but rather to another nearby tendon (reportedly the peroneal, which controls motion of the foot and contributes to lateral stability of the ankle), per Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.

Better yet, the result is that this is not a season-ending injury. Still, his status for this game was in question, and Cromartie could turn in only limited practices during the short week. In fact, he still hadn’t tested the ankle at game speed in practice, and was expected to be a game-time decision. On Thursday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that according to a team source, Cromartie is expected to play in the game. While he may be feeling some residual soreness from the ankle injury -- and may be challenged to run and maneuver at full speed -- it won’t be enough to keep him on the sideline.

Rams

Kenny Britt, WR, not injury related, (P): This designation is often utilized when a veteran player is given an extra day or two of rest during the week, but is not dealing with a specific injury. Britt was listed as a non-participant Monday, but even that was only an estimation as the team conducted a walk-through. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Britt was a full participant and the probable designation indicates the Rams fully expect to have him on the field. His contributions have been up and down this season, but his presence means the Cardinals have one more pass-catcher to account for alongside Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Cook.
Marshawn LynchKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsA banged up Marshawn Lynch will suit up once again this week.
Welcome to Week 14! For those who have advanced to the fantasy playoffs -- including, of course, the consolation bracket playoffs -- this marks the first week of competition, unless you are one of the fortunate ones with a bye this week. As always, there will be game-time decisions, but the final injury reports give some guidance as to who’s in and who’s out, and a number of key players have already been ruled out. No one wants to be one-and-done in the playoffs, so give careful consideration to those final lineup selections.

As a reminder, each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status, and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out, and you can plan accordingly.

Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams utilize the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.

Good luck in Week 14, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle (P): Brady is in San Diego, has practiced fully throughout the week and will start for the Patriots on Sunday night.

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans, right shoulder (Q): Mettenberger seemed confident from the start of the week that the minor AC sprain he suffered last Sunday would not be enough to sideline him Sunday. It appears he is likely to be proven correct. Coach Ken Whisenhunt remained optimistic late in the week about the prospects of his quarterback returning Sunday but is keeping his options open with the questionable designation. Fantasy owners should bear in mind that the Titans will be down one receiver for sure (Justin Hunter, who has been placed on injured reserve with a lacerated spleen) and possibly another (Kendall Wright, who has a fracture in his hand after a slip in practice Wednesday).

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, right shoulder/ankle (P): Bortles has been on the injury report for several weeks, so this appearance here might get overlooked, except for the fact that there are two different body parts listed here. Bortles was experiencing soreness in his left (non-throwing) wrist but played through it without issue. Now he is listed here because of his throwing shoulder and his ankle. The Jaguars don’t seem overly concerned however, given the listing as probable. He is expected to start against the Texans.

Running Backs

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, groin (P): The worst of this injury appears to be behind Foster, who returned to action last week after missing several games and posted more than 100 total yards. More importantly, he didn’t appear to take any steps backward as far as his health. This week he had Wednesday off, as is fairly typical for him, then returned to limited practice Thursday and full practice Friday. Thankfully for fantasy owners, he comes into the Sunday game as probable, eliminating the agonizing game-time decision stress.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): Bush has strongly hinted at playing each of the last two weeks … but hasn’t. So are we to believe him this time when he says he’s 100 percent healthy? Probably not (why would he still be on the injury report if he is truly 100 percent?), but he has done enough this week to suggest he will take the field Sunday. He was a full participant in practice each day, and that, along with the probable designation, indicates the Lions do expect to have him this week. It would still seem Joique Bell will garner the most touches, but at least fantasy owners have strong indications in advance that Bush will indeed play.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens, knee (Q): Forsett has emerged as the clear No. 1 ball carrier for the Ravens, but is the workload taking a toll? After not practicing Wednesday and Thursday because of a knee injury suffered last Sunday, he did return to a limited practice Friday. Earlier in the week, Forsett seemed to dismiss concerns about his status, telling reporters he was “just resting up, regular soreness.” Still, the questionable designation heading into Sunday leaves some uncertainty. Fantasy owners are advised to check pregame inactives.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, knee (P): The thought of taking Charles out of the mix for fantasy playoffs is just too cruel to imagine. Fortunately, we won’t have to. After practicing fully each day this week, there is confidence in Charles’ knee health, and the expectation remains that he will start.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants, ankle (Q): Jennings tends to be an optimist, just as he was after spraining his ankle in last Sunday’s game when he said he didn’t expect to miss any time. Not only did he not return to the game after the injury (although it didn’t happen until the fourth quarter), he didn’t return to practice until Friday. Even then, it was a limited effort for Jennings, so it is unclear just how much he could press the ankle if he does play. On Saturday, ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano noted Jennings did travel with the team to Tennessee, so it does appear he has a legitimate chance to play. If he does take the field, it is likely to be at less than full strength, which could translate to less than a full workload. At least the Giants play in an early game so fantasy owners will have some options.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch continues to surprise as he plays in game after game while banged up, incurring more physical punishment along the way. Expect him to play yet again Sunday.

Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders, concussion (P): Murray appears to have recovered from the concussion that knocked him out of the game two weeks ago. Although coach Tony Sparano doesn’t expect him to get the full workload, it’s hard to imagine him sitting idly by when he has such potential. Expect Murray to take the field against the cross-bay rival 49ers.

C. J. Anderson, ankle, and Juwan Thompson, Denver Broncos, knee (P): Why should we even be surprised that Anderson shows up here? After all, he’s been running like the wind for the last few weeks, supplying the vast majority of the Broncos’ yardage on the ground while Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are sidelined. The good news is that despite his presence here, Anderson has been a full participant in practice each day and is expected to once again start for the Broncos.

Thompson has been present on the injury report for several weeks, but he continues to practice fully each day and is also expected to be available for the team this weekend.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns, hip (Q): The Browns would really like to have Crowell on Sunday, but there seems to be a big question as to whether that will indeed happen. Crowell didn’t appear overly concerned, indicating his hip injury was not serious, but it did result in an absence from Wednesday’s practice followed by limited practices Thursday and Friday. ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler says he expects him to play, but Crowell’s status will not likely be confirmed until pregame inactive reports are released.

Chris Johnson, New York Jets, knee (P): Despite shouldering a huge workload Monday night, running back Chris Ivory is no longer on the injury report. Perhaps his running through the Miami defense proved his health. Teammate Johnson had a pretty good night himself, rushing for 105 yards. Although he remains on the injury report at probable, Johnson is expected to again be active for the Jets.

Mark Ingram, ankle, toe, and Khiry Robinson, forearm, New Orleans Saints (P): Robinson makes his return from a forearm injury that ultimately required surgery. He has been back practicing in full capacity this week and is expected to be available. Ingram is still the primary back among the group, despite his continued presence on the injury report. He was limited in practice throughout the week, no doubt to help ensure his availability for Sunday when the Saints host the Panthers.

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, ankle (Q): Vereen had this injury and played last week, so he should take the field again Sunday. As always, the Patriots’ backfield is tricky to project, but expect Vereen to be one of the factors in the mix this week. The game is a Sunday night matchup, however, so fantasy owners will want to have insurance.

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, knee (Q): Fitzgerald suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in Week 11 and has missed the two subsequent games. It has not been easy for Fitzgerald to be sidelined after going the six previous seasons without missing a game, but the wait has allowed the tissue to begin to repair itself. Now comes the question of whether or not his knee is ready to be subjected to the stress of in-game action. He has increased his practice activity by going out every day this week, even turning in a full practice Friday. The sense is that he will be active for this week’s game but is not likely to be quite 100 percent. Both Fitzgerald and the team have made it clear that if he does play, he will be expected to be a full go, but the first time playing at game speed after a significant knee injury is always a test. Fantasy owners are advised to verify his status before kickoff and, as usual, the Cardinals play in a late afternoon matchup.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): Limited Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday and Friday, Johnson is on track to play again this week. While his ankle may not be quite 100 percent, he is certainly performing at a high enough level to keep him on the field.

DeSean Jackson, Washington, shin (Q): Jackson did not practice at all this week after suffering a bruised shin (labeled a fibula contusion earlier in the week). The decision likely hinges upon whether the pain and swelling have subsided to the point where Jackson can be effective. If the contusion is near the location of a nerve that affects the muscles controlling the ankle, it can be a bit more challenging. Fantasy owners should check pregame inactives.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): Fantasy owners got nervous when they saw another Thomas on the injury report, but they can now breathe a sigh of relief. Thomas, who said his ankle was stepped on last week, updated his status Friday, indicating he felt much better. The probable tag indicates the Broncos are also feeling confident about his status. Expect him to play in a late afternoon tip-off.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, thigh (P): At least it’s not the toe that has Green on the injury report. The Bengals don’t appear overly concerned about this ailment. Limited practice Wednesday and Thursday was followed by a full practice Friday, and Green is expected to take the field Sunday.

Roddy White, ankle (Q), and Harry Douglas, foot (P), Atlanta Falcons: Douglas has made progress with his foot overall and is expected to be active this week. White, however, is less certain with an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week’s game. As of Friday, White had only done some running on the ankle, but he did participate in a light practice Saturday. While the Saturday practice is encouraging, the Falcons play in a Monday night game, meaning fantasy owners should be sure to have a backup plan in place.

Julian Edelman, thigh, and Brandon LaFell, shoulder, New England Patriots (Q): Edelman appeared to aggravate his thigh injury in last Sunday’s game and remained limited in practices all week. The team traveled straight to San Diego from Green Bay, so Edelman’s presence with the team doesn’t make him an automatic for Sunday night. LaFell also remains limited on the practice report but did not appear to suffer any setback in last week’s game. It appears both will likely give it a go, but it’s worth noting that this is a night game. Fantasy owners are advised to retain insurance.

Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins, chest (P): Wallace played Monday night despite being listed on the injury report with a chest injury and suffered no apparent setback. With the slightly shorter week, his limited practices come as no surprise. Expect him to suit up Sunday when the Dolphins host the Ravens.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring (P): Hilton was limited Wednesday but returned to a full workload Thursday. He repeated the effort Friday and, listed as probable, his status for Sunday is not in doubt.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens, knee (P): Smith expressed confidence that he would play Sunday despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday. The only way he wouldn’t play, Smith said, is if he was “on crutches.” He is not on crutches. It also helps that the team has him listed as probable and that he put in a full practice Friday. Expect him to play against the Dolphins on Sunday.

Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans, hand (Q): Wright has a crack in one of the bones in his hand after a slip during Wednesday’s practice. He has not practiced since and has been sporting a splint on his right hand. Although he is listed as questionable and the team has indicated if the pain and swelling permits, Wright could potentially take the field, it appears he is more likely to sit. If Wright is active, it’s unclear just how effective he could be not only catching the ball but also trying to block with this injury. With Justin Hunter already placed on season-ending injured reserve, this would leave the Titans somewhat thin at the wide receiver position.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, hip (P): Watkins has certainly seen his share of bumps and bruises across the season, but it appears his latest ailment won’t be enough to keep him off the field. After practicing on a limited basis each day, the team has him listed as probable. He is expected to play against the Denver Broncos.

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas, ankle, and Jacob Tamme, ribs, Denver Broncos (Q): Thomas has missed the last two games as he tries to return to full health -- or close to it -- before taking the field. Earlier this week, it sounded as if the progress he had made might translate to a Sunday return. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, Thomas indicated Monday he felt closer to a return to action.

“I’m encouraged with how it’s going, we’ll see how it’s going this week,’’ Thomas said. “I hate having to watch our team go out there and play without me…”

That return may not come this week, however. Thomas was limited in practice throughout the week and still comes in at questionable, as in, still a roll of the dice. It may come down to how Thomas feels Sunday and whether or not he feels his ankle is ready to move from limited work to a game situation.

If Thomas doesn’t play, the natural replacement would be Tamme, but he too is listed as questionable with a rib injury. It appears Tamme has a chance to play, perhaps sporting some extra padding and support to protect the rib area, but it will likely be a game-time decision for him, as well. Fantasy owners may need to have insurance for their insurance in this matchup.

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, ankle (P): After resting his ankle for the past two weeks, Allen is preparing for a return to the field. Full practices each day and a probable designation point to Allen playing Sunday.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns, concussion (Q): The Browns have been taking their time in returning Cameron to action, as they should, given this is the third concussion he has suffered in two years. Cameron was a limited participant in practice each day and retains questionable status for Sunday. The Browns are thin at the position (Gary Barnidge has already been ruled out), and a return from Cameron would be helpful, but the team will not jeopardize his overall health. Fantasy owners who are considering using him will need to check pregame inactives.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, abdomen, groin (P): Rudolph has returned to action since his abdominal surgery but continues to be monitored via the injury practice report. He is expected to play again this week.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, knee (Q): Clay has missed the last two games because of his ailing knee and hamstring issue, but the questionable tag leaves the door open for him to play Sunday. He did practice on a limited basis throughout the week but is a bit risky as he is still not at full health.

Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers, knee (Q): Olsen has been on the injury report but typically has played through his chronic knee issue. This week it was swelling that kept him limited in practice, but head coach Ron Rivera still expects Olsen to play. Given that he’s a primary target for quarterback Cam Newton, his presence is important. Fantasy owners are advised to verify his status when pregame inactives are issued.

Out:

This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals, hip/foot: The severe hip pointer Ellington suffered in last Sunday’s game threatened his status for this week as soon as it happened. Acknowledging his discomfort early in the week, Ellington will be watching from the sidelines this Sunday as teammate Stepfan Taylor gets the start. Expect Marion Grice to also see plenty of action with Ellington out.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings, back: McKinnon continues to deal with a back injury and has not practiced all week. He was already scheduled to be out in Week 14, but the Vikings announced Saturday that they are placing him on injured reserve.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers, hand: Williams has a fractured finger and has not practiced all week. Teammate Jonathan Stewart gets the start, as he did when Williams was sidelined earlier this season.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: Foles remains out as his broken clavicle heals. Mark Sanchez continues to be the starter.

Ronnie Hillman, foot, and Montee Ball, groin, RBs, Denver Broncos: This is not news as these two backs have been out for multiple weeks. They remain out this week.

Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets, concussion: Amaro has not practiced and remains out this week.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!

Video: Latavius Murray's status

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
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Stephania Bell discusses Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray's status for Sunday.

Video: Dwayne Allen's status

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
1:02
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Stephania Bell discusses Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen's status for Sunday.
JefferyAP Photo/Rick OsentoskiAlshon Jeffery scored 19 fantasy points in Week 13 but is battling a hamstring issue.
Both the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears played last Thursday, with neither team achieving a desirable outcome.

Playing in Thanksgiving Day games meant a short week of preparation, preventing players dealing with injuries from a full week of recovery. Both teams again find themselves in a Thursday game, but this time they will have had a full week between outings.

No excuses for a subpar performance this week, but there are still injuries for fantasy owners to consider:

Bears

Alshon Jeffery, WR, hamstring (Q): Last week, Jeffery’s teammate Brandon Marshall was listed on the injury report because of a nagging ankle sprain. The tandem has alternated appearances on the list multiple times this season because of their respective lower extremity injuries and subsequent flare-ups. Now it’s Jeffery’s turn. Hamstring issues had him on the injury report in September and again two weeks ago, but he has yet to miss a game. A short week last week may have contributed to his resurfacing on the report this week, and the question now is whether he will be able to continue his active streak.

Jeffery missed practice Monday and Tuesday but put in limited work Wednesday. According to ESPN's Michael C. Wright, coach Marc Trestman described Jeffery’s non-participation on Tuesday as “precautionary.” The scaling back of Jeffery at practice combined with the questionable tag is enough to make fantasy owners nervous. After all, many found their way to the playoffs based, at least in part, on his outstanding Thanksgiving Day performance, to the tune of nine receptions and two scores. There seem to be no major hints of concern from the team about Jeffery’s availability for Thursday night, but fantasy owners are advised to verify his status pregame.

Martellus Bennett, TE, foot (P): Bennett appears on the injury report this week with a foot injury, but he was able to practice fully Tuesday and Wednesday. The probable designation indicates the Bears expect him to play Thursday night.

Robbie Gould, K, right quadriceps (D): Gould has been associated with kicking for the Bears for so long that it seems automatic to have him in the lineup. Not this week. Gould comes into the game as doubtful, indicating the Bears are not planning on having his services. To further support the notion Gould will be absent, the Bears signed kicker Jay Feely on Wednesday.

Cowboys

Tony Romo, QB, back (P): Despite getting a day off of practice last week in advance of the Thanksgiving game, Romo had his worst outing in recent memory. In fairness, it should be noted that despite the official day off early in the week, Romo’s overall routine -- the one he has maintained since the start of the season -- was still disrupted. This week, the team returned to its standard number of days between games, allowing Romo several days of rest before a formal practice Monday. He was listed as a full participant each day, and there is no doubt he is going to take the field in Chicago. Now five weeks removed from the transverse process fractures in his back (and nearly a year removed from disk surgery), he is much further along in the overall healing process. Factor in that he has played some of his best football since the injury on the road and Romo should be set up for a better outing this week.

Terrance Williams, WR, finger (P): Williams played last week, just days removed from fracturing the tip of his left index finger. With another week of healing under his belt and a slate of practice sessions at full participation, there is little doubt that he will be available. The bigger question is whether that availability will translate into any more production this week. Most of Williams’ value early in the season wasn’t in his volume of catches; he has rarely had more than two per game. That could be easily overlooked when those receptions resulted in significant yardage gains or scoring opportunities. Williams has not scored a touchdown in the past five games, however, and has had only five catches in the past four contests. He is expected to play Thursday night, and the matchup would suggest he has a chance to remind fantasy owners why they drafted him.

Andre Ellington's injury

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
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Stephania Bell discusses the latest on Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington's hip pointer.

Key fantasy injuries for Week 13

November, 29, 2014
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VereenAP Photo/Elise AmendolaPlanning to use New England's Shane Vereen? Make sure to have late game insurance.
Welcome to Week 13! Actually, three games from Week 13 have already been played, but since every team’s bye week has passed, there is still a full slate of matchups on the docket. And since many fantasy owners are on the playoff bubble, having more plug-in options to substitute for injured players is critical.

As a reminder, each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out, and you can plan accordingly.

Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams utilize the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.

Good luck in Week 13, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle (P): Brady continues to be listed on the injury report because of his ankle, but he also continues to participate in full practices. In a showdown of elite quarterbacks, Brady will be on the field Sunday when the Patriots visit the Packers.

Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals, ankle (P): The Cardinals need Stanton to be healthy with the loss of Carson Palmer to a season-ending ACL injury. Despite appearing on the injury report because of his ankle, Stanton participated fully in practice each day and is expected to start against the Falcons.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, left wrist (P): Bortles has already played through this injury to his nonthrowing wrist. He will do so again this week when the Jaguars face the visiting New York Giants.

Running backs

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, groin (P): Finally! A Sunday is approaching where Foster fantasy owners can feel confident about his status. Foster has been day-to-day for several weeks, but the optimism about his availability this week has been different. Not only has he participated in limited practices on three consecutive days, he has looked strong enough while doing so for his coach to comment on it. After Foster returned to practice Wednesday, head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters Foster looked “pretty good,” expressing hope early in the week that he could return to game action this weekend. Listed as probable for Sunday, Foster is expected to play.

Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins, knee (P): The Dolphins don’t play until Monday night, but there is reason to be confident about his status. He did practice fully Thursday and Friday, and he is listed as probable, suggesting he will again play, despite remaining on the injury report.

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, ankle (Q): The Patriots are known for mixing up their running back usage, and last week was no different. Two weeks ago, Jonas Gray was the hero, but he went to zero -- as in zero carries -- just days later, perhaps a deliberate measure in response to his oversleeping and being late to practice. Instead, it was newly re-signed LeGarrette Blount who saw enough work to garner two trips to the end zone. Still, it was Vereen who saw the most offensive snaps of all New England’s running backs last week, and he matched his number of carries with a like number of receptions (eight). Somewhere along the way, however, he injured his ankle and became an addition to this week’s injury report. Vereen was able to practice each day on a limited basis, yet he comes into Sunday’s game listed as questionable. Fantasy owners will want to check pregame inactives to verify his status. Unfortunately, this game has a 4:25 p.m. ET tipoff in Green Bay, so anyone planning to use Vereen should have late game insurance.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, shoulder (P): Mathews looked to be back in good form last week, but he did exit the game briefly with a left shoulder injury. Fortunately it does not appear to have been anything serious as Mathews was able to return to the game after the injury last week and to practice in full each day this week. After accruing more than 100 yards last week, Mathews appears to have resumed his lead role among the San Diego backfield trio. The team lists him as probable, indicating they expect him to take the field against the Ravens.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, hip/foot (P): Ellington’s presence here is familiar, as is the expectation he will play Sunday. The Cardinals visit the Atlanta Falcons, and Ellington will be in the mix.

Jerick McKinnon, back (D), and Matt Asiata, concussion (P), Minnesota Vikings: Last week it was Asiata who sat out with an injury and McKinnon who played. This week the roles are reversed. Asiata has made enough of a recovery from his concussion to return to limited practice Wednesday, followed by full practices Thursday and Friday. There has been no setback so far, and barring a surprise, Asiata will take the field Sunday. Meanwhile, McKinnon, who has been fighting the discomfort of a back injury for a few weeks, appears to have taken a downturn. He was unable to practice at all this week, and while the team lists him as doubtful, ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling reports McKinnon will not play against the Panthers. There remains a dilemma for fantasy owners, as the recently signed Ben Tate has another week of practice under his belt (he was active last week but had zero carries).

Charles Sims, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ankle (P): Doug Martin is no longer on the injury report for the Buccaneers but his teammate Sims remains there because of his ankle. Although he played last week, he was not out of the woods. Sims was held to limited practices early in the week but was listed as a full participant Friday. At probable, he is expected to play, but how the division of work will break down in Tampa is unclear.

Juwan Thompson, Denver Broncos, knee (P): The running back list in Denver shapes up this week just as it did last week. Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman remain sidelined with their respective groin and foot injuries, and C.J. Anderson is the starter. The probable tag indicates Thompson will be available, but his usage is not expected to rival Anderson’s.

Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints, rib/shoulder (P): Now that Thomas has returned to action after missing four games with an injured shoulder, he is expected to return again this week. Although he remains on the injury report, Thomas has been a full participant in practice throughout the week. He is expected to be available when the Saints visit the Steelers.

Chris Ivory, shoulder, and Chris Johnson, knee, Jets (P): Both backs were listed similarly on the injury report a week ago, and both played Monday night. This week they again play Monday night (last week it was a game postponement due to the Buffalo weather that resulted in a Monday night contest; this one is scheduled), but as both are practicing fully headed into Monday, they are again expected to play.

Wide receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, knee (Q): Fitzgerald is one week further removed from the sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) of his left knee, which forced him to sit out Week 12. Still, it is early in the healing phase, as it has only been two weeks since the injury. Despite the short time frame, Fitzgerald told reporters it was “highly likely” he could play this week after he increased his workout activity. He did, however, add that it was not his call to make. Fitzgerald is clearly more comfortable on the field than the sidelines given that last week marked his first missed game in more than six seasons. Whether his knee is ready to handle the rigors of playing wide receiver is another question, however. After only participating in limited practice Friday, it would be a big jump to a full game. If Fitzgerald does play, he is still expected to be shy of full health, although coach Bruce Arians, who called Fitzgerald a game-time decision, says the plan will not be to limit him if he takes the field.

Roddy White, ankle (Q), and Harry Douglas, foot (P), Atlanta Falcons: Douglas has been a regular on the report with a foot injury, and after getting a day of rest Wednesday, he turned in back-to-back practices. The probable tag indicates the Falcons expect him on the field Sunday. The status of his teammate is less certain, however. White did not practice at all this week because of an ankle injury, only doing light stretching with the team. According to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, coach Mike Smith said he got good reports from the team’s athletic performance staff Friday about how White was moving and expressed confidence that White would play Sunday. Still, fantasy owners are advised to double check White’s pregame status, given the questionable tag.

Brandon LaFell, shoulder (Q), and Julian Edelman, thigh (P), New England Patriots: Edelman has already shown he can play through this injury, and the probable designation reflects the team’s confidence that he will do so again. LaFell is an addition to the Patriots’ injury report, but with a left shoulder injury sustained in Week 12. He did practice daily on a limited basis, and it seems likely that he will be available, but fantasy owners will want to check the pregame inactives.

Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, back (P): Beckham gave fantasy owners a scare when he popped up on the injury report with a back injury after making the catch of all catches in Week 12. Not to worry. Beckham was a full participant in practice each day and plans to be on the field making his routine spectacular catches against the Jaguars on Sunday.

Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins, chest (P): Wallace appeared on the injury report with a calf issue last week but played. This week he is listed on the report with a chest injury, but the probable tag indicates he should again be expected to play.

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars, illness (P): Shorts is listed here after missing Wednesday’s practice because of illness. He returned to full practices for Thursday and Friday, though, and is expected to play.

Cordarrelle Patterson, knee, and Greg Jennings, rib, Minnesota Vikings (P): Both receivers appear on the injury report, but neither is in danger of missing this game. Jennings played through the rib injury last week and practiced fully every day this week. Patterson did not practice until a limited outing Friday, but the team’s willingness to list him as probable indicates they expect him on the field Sunday.

Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams, back (P): Britt was shaken up on a play in the Week 12 contest and comes into this week on the injury report because of his back. Perhaps the best news is that it is not either of his surgically repaired knees that’s involved here. After full practices both Thursday and Friday, Britt is expected to play Sunday.

Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers, toe (P): Royal was a full participant in practice each day and is expected to play Sunday against the Ravens.

Tight ends

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle (Q): The good news is that Thomas was able to do more in practice this week than last, participating on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, Thomas received treatment throughout the week, and the decision on his status will come down to how he feels when cutting on that ankle. Coach John Fox said Thomas looked “much better” this Friday compared with last. On the one hand, fantasy owners should be encouraged by the improvement Thomas has shown and by the fact he clearly wants to function as more than a limited decoy if he takes the field. On the other, the questionable designation reflects the uncertainty about whether he is truly game-ready. The biggest problem for fantasy owners? The Broncos play in a Sunday night game.

Jordan Reed, Washington, hamstring (Q): Reed missed Week 12 because of this latest hamstring injury but appears to be progressing much quicker than he did with the last ailment. Reed did individual drills Wednesday and was limited again Thursday, but he was upgraded to full practice Friday. He is listed as questionable, so fantasy owners will want to verify his pregame status, but it sounds as if Reed expects to give it a go.

Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams, back (P): Cook has been bothered by a back issue but played last week after being listed as questionable. This week, he practiced fully Thursday and Friday and is listed as probable. Expect him to take the field against the Raiders.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, abdomen/groin (P): Rudolph continues to appear on the injury report as he progresses from his abdominal surgery. He has already played, however, and has had no setbacks as he continues to practice in full each day. Rudolph is expected to take the field again this week as the Vikings host the Panthers.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, hamstring/knee (D): Clay did not play in Week 12 after taking a step backward with the addition of a hamstring injury on top of a knee issue that has been bothering him throughout the season. This week, Clay did practice on a limited basis Thursday but was then listed as a nonparticipant Friday, raising concern about his availability for Monday night. That concern was justified when Clay did not practice Saturday and was then formally listed as doubtful for Monday. He is not expected to play.

Out:

This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders, concussion: After lighting it up early in his Thursday night Week 12 performance, Murray suffered a concussion late in the game. He returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday but did not practice Friday, suggesting a downturn. He has already been ruled out for Week 13.

Ronnie Hillman, foot, and Montee Ball, groin, RBs, Denver Broncos: Neither Brown nor Hillman has returned to practice for the Broncos. Again it will be C. J. Anderson getting the start with Juwan Thompson also available to help out.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts, ankle: Allen has not made enough progress from his ankle injury to return to practice. He will be sidelined again this week.

Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans Saints, forearm: Robinson has missed five consecutive weeks and has yet to return to practice. Make it six weeks missed.

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns, concussion: Cameron returned to practice last week for the first time since suffering a concussion in Week 8. This week he participated in limited practice daily but clearly has not made the progress necessary to return to action. Originally listed as questionable, Cameron was downgraded to out on Saturday and will not make the trip to Buffalo.

Jace Amaro, TE, New York Jets, concussion: Amaro was downgraded to out on Saturday because of the concussion.

Off the injury report:

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills, groin: Jackson is finally off the injury report after being there since partially tearing a groin muscle in Week 7. Although he didn’t post a huge number of yards in last Monday night’s game, he did find the end zone. Now apparently healthy, Jackson is off the injury report and expected to start against the Browns this weekend.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!

Reggie BushAP Photo/Duane BurlesonReggie Bush has struggled with an ankle injury most of the season.
Happy Thanksgiving! There are three games on the docket spread throughout the day and evening: The Chicago Bears visit the Detroit Lions to kick things off. The Dallas Cowboys play host to the Philadelphia Eagles to follow. The final game of the evening belongs to the NFC West as the Seattle Seahawks visit the San Francisco 49ers. For many fantasy owners on the bubble, this is the week that can make or break a playoff opportunity. Injuries are always a concern, as is remembering to set your lineup in advance of the three Thursday games this week. Here are the injury outlooks for key fantasy players heading into the Thanksgiving Day matchups.

Chicago Bears-Detroit Lions

Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears, WR, ankle (P): Marshall has been dealing with an ankle injury for several weeks now and it hasn't kept him from playing. The Bears might have their share of challenges, but being without Marshall won't be one of them this week. After participating in limited practices earlier this week, he comes in listed as probable and will play.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, RB, ankle, (Q): The only real consistency when it comes to talking about Bush's ankle is that it has caused him to appear on the injury report since Week 5. Although he returned to play in two games since suffering the original injury, he has struggled in those outings, especially late.

A desire to return to play at an improved level might be the reason his absence has been more protracted since he last aggravated the ankle in Week 10. After limited practice sessions throughout the week, the expectation is that Bush will return to the field, but until he can get through an entire game without a setback, he remains a risky play.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, WR, ankle, (P): Johnson also had an ankle injury that hampered his performance in the early stages of the season until he gave it the necessary recovery time. He returned with a bang in Week 10, and while his numbers haven't been consistent since then, there are more factors in play than just his health. Listed at probable, Johnson is expected to play.

Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, WR, knee, (P): Matthews was on the injury report last week with the knee issue and played through it, remaining productive in terms of receptions and yardage despite not seeing the end zone for the first time in a month. After practicing fully each day in this short week, Matthews, at probable, is expected to play.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, QB, back, (P): It’s almost hard to remember the images of the stiff and sore Romo after he suffered two transverse process fractures in his back, which was just over a month ago. Since that time he has played some very solid football, made that much more impressive knowing his bones were still healing. In fact, the fractures still are in the process of healing, but the pain diminishes with each passing week. If Romo could be effective just two weeks after the injury, he should theoretically only improve in that regard. And he has, performing at a top level in the two outings since his return from injury. He maintains his usual routine of taking one day off to rest, then returns to practice. Listed as probable, Romo is fully expected to play.

Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys, WR, finger, (P): Williams has been one of Romo’s key targets, making some amazing receptions that call to mind the talents of his teammate, Dez Bryant. The question this week is whether Williams’ ability to make those types of catches will be hindered at all by the broken fingertip he suffered last week. The good news is that the small fracture of his left index finger was not an injury that required surgery, and he was able to practice both Tuesday (limited) and Wednesday (full). Don’t expect Williams to let the finger be an excuse of any type, even if it’s uncomfortable. He will be on the field Thursday.

Seattle Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, RB, back, (P): Lynch’s back has had him on the injury report intermittently throughout the season. Last week, he was listed as questionable after a flare-up in the previous week's game but still managed to play. There is little doubt that Lynch will take the field in this critical divisional matchup. The larger question is whether the back will be a factor as he faces a tough run defense in San Francisco. Not that Lynch will be vocal about it; he'll show up for work as he always does, and, if history repeats itself, he'll have success against the Niners.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, RB, knee, (P): Gore has had some struggles, including uncharacteristic fumbles in back-to-back weeks, but he is not one to miss time. He appears on the injury report again this week with a knee ailment, but he was a full participant in Tuesday and Wednesday practices after being limited Monday. At probable, he is fully expected to play.

Brandon Lloyd, San Francisco 49ers, WR, quadriceps, (P): Lloyd has played through the injury once and should do so again this week. More limiting for fantasy owners, however, are the few targets he sees. Expect him to play, but don't count on significant productivity.

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