Key fantasy injuries for Week 16

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
3:09
PM ET
DeMarco MurrayAP Photo/Kiichiro SatoWil 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 gametime 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 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 pm 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 nonentheless. 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 pm ET). If Gore can’t go, with Carolos 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 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 last 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’ post-season 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 gameday. Coach Mike Smith has said he will announce Jones’ status around 10:30 am 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 pm 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 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 gametime 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 Saturday afternoon (4:30 pm 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 stats 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.

videoDeMarco 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
videoStephania 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
1:04
PM ET
Stephania Bell discusses Oakland Raiders RB Latavius Murray's status for Sunday.

Video: Dwayne Allen's status

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
1:02
PM ET
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
2:48
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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
Nov 29
5:19
PM ET
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.

Video: Reggie Bush's status

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
4:54
PM ET
Stephania Bell discusses Reggie Bush's status for Thursday's game.

Key fantasy injuries for Week 12

November, 22, 2014
Nov 22
5:07
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Arian FosterThomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesAlthough RB Arian Foster didn't practice on Thursday, coach Bill O'Brien said there was no setback.
Welcome to Week 12! This marks the final bye week, and only two teams are off, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. 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. Additionally, because of the massive snowstorm in Buffalo, the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets game has been postponed and relocated. Originally scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET Sunday kickoff, the divisional matchup will instead take place Monday at 7 p.m. ET at Ford Field in Detroit.

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 is 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 used 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'll be on the field come game time, although as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams use the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often is 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 11, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Mallett, Houston Texans, chest (P): Mallett appears on the injury report, but it’s not a threat to his status. After full practices every day this week, he is on track to start at home against the Bengals.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, ankle (P): Brady likely will remain on the injury report throughout the season. He’ll also continue to show up and do what he does on Sundays. He'll start against the Lions at Gillette Stadium.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back (P): It seems like ages ago when Romo sustained two transverse process fractures in his spine, but it’s actually been less than four weeks since the injury. Fractures take more than a month to heal and there’s undoubtedly still some discomfort, so it’s no surprise he’s still on the injury report, taking Wednesdays off as a matter of routine. Of course he’ll still play, too.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, left shoulder (P): Tannehill has been a bit beat-up of late, but this injury to his nonthrowing shoulder won't sideline him. His limited practices daily are a means of preserving his health for Sunday, and this will be a big one against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, chest (P): After his teammate Antonio Gates referenced a severe rib injury for his quarterback, the team was forced to address it. While coach Mike McCoy denied that Rivers had an injury, Rivers’ name does now appear on the injury report. For his part, Rivers indicated he was no worse off physically than any of his teammates at this point in the season. He’s not missing any practice sessions or, as of now, any games.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, left wrist (P): The injury to Bortles’ nonthrowing wrist hasn’t presented any issue that would keep him off the field. Expect him to get another start Sunday, this time against the Colts.

Running backs

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, groin (Q): If there was ever a player who brought equal parts joy and frustration to fantasy owners, Foster is it. When he’s healthy, he is as much of a sure thing as there is in the NFL, an uncontested feature back who can single-handedly carry an NFL run game and the fantasy points that go with it. When he’s injured -- a loosely defined term that might be phrased better as "not fully healthy" -- the uncertainty of whether he will suit up on any given Sunday is the opposite of a sure thing. The latter appears to be what fantasy owners are dealing with this week. Foster was close enough to playing late last week for coach Bill O’Brien to refer to him as a game-time decision. The plan was to work him out pregame, then determine his ultimate playing status. Except Foster didn’t make the trip to Cleveland. Apparently Foster indicated he wasn’t quite ready to play, so there was no need to take the decision all the way out of state and to pregame warm-ups. Certainly another week would allow him to be ready for game action, though, right?

Wrong. Foster returned to a limited-practice status Wednesday, and it appeared things were in order for a Sunday return, until Foster did not practice Thursday. A setback, perhaps? Not according to O’Brien. Maybe it was just a day of rest for the back who has rushed for over 100 yards in six of the eight games he has played this season. After all, this was the first practice for Foster in a while, and O’Brien did say he was day-to-day.

But when Foster failed to practice Friday, the signs started pointing in the negative direction for his Sunday availability. Yet again O’Brien is referring to him as a game-time decision, and he is again listed as questionable, although he is anything BUT a sure thing for Week 12. Fantasy owners won’t get the decision a day early this week because the Texans host the Bengals at home, but they should consider themselves sufficiently warned that they should have a backup -- just like the Texans have Alfred Blue -- at the ready.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals, hip (P): After being away from practice since he injured his hip in Week 8, Bernard returned this week, much to the delight of his coaches, teammates and fantasy owners. He worked his way up to full activity gradually, doing more each day and allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief that he was able to participate on three consecutive days.

It’s worth noting that Bernard is not yet 100 percent healthy. His hip has been problematic, and he has been dealing with a shoulder/clavicle injury at the same time. Bernard was not shy about telling ESPN.com’s Coley Harvey why the injuries kept him sidelined. "The reason I was sitting out is because I felt like crap," Bernard said of the hip and clavicle issues that sidelined him, both the result of hard hits. "I'm just recovering from some of those hits.” Although Bernard is clearly in line to play after being listed as probable and is expected to be named the starter, there will be plenty of work for Jeremy Hill, who has proved his abilities during Bernard’s absence. Given that the team has been cautious with Bernard’s return to practice, it only makes sense that the team will be equally cautious with his return to the field, watching to see how his body responds not only to the speed of the game but also to big hits similar to the ones that sidelined him in the first place.

The Bengals could soon have a problem they would welcome, also known as a fantasy nightmare, where they have to sort out the workload between two capable, versatile backs. For now, they will just be happy to get both through a game healthy.

Reggie Bush, ankle (Q) and Joique Bell, ankle (P), Detroit Lions: Bush sat out last week’s game thanks to lingering issues with his sprained ankle but confidently told reporters earlier this week that he planned to play Sunday against the Patriots. The questionable tag next to his name inspires anything but confidence, however. Bush was on the practice field every day, participating on a limited basis, but it appears that wasn’t enough to assure the likelihood of him playing at greater than 50 percent. If Bush does play, he’ll likely play behind teammate Bell, who, despite being listed on the injury report because of an ankle ailment, practiced Thursday (limited) and Friday (full). At probable, there is every expectation Bell will lead the running back pack this weekend.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch keeps on plugging away regardless of where his injuries are and how much they may be bothering him. A calf ailment had him on the injury report the past two weeks (he even entered last week’s contest listed as "questionable"), yet he rushed for 140 and 124 yards, respectively. After he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday this week, there was some concern about Lynch’s health. But he returned Friday to a full practice, and coach Pete Carroll declared him ready to play. He's back to his standard listing as probable, and there is no reason to doubt his availability.

Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins, shoulder/knee (Q): Miller has played the past two games since suffering an AC sprain in his left shoulder in Week 9, so the expectation would be that he should take the field again Sunday. But Miller had a new injury next to his name this week (knee) and was listed as a limited participant late in the week. The second injury and the questionable tag are enough to make fantasy owners nervous about his status, especially given that this is a late game against the Broncos. Miller is an important factor in the Dolphins’ offense, and based on his history of playing even at less than 100 percent, it appears he will play. The Miami Herald also cites a source confirming Miller will play. Fantasy owners are advised to have a backup plan, but it does appear that Miller will be active.

Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts, illness (P): With Ahmad Bradshaw now on injured reserve with a fractured fibula, the Colts need Richardson and teammate Dan Herron to step up. Richardson missed practice Wednesday because of illness but returned to full participation Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, hip/foot (P): Ellington remains on the injury report because of both his hip and his foot, but he also remains probable, as in, he will play. He faces a tough matchup against the division-rival Seahawks, but after a full practice Friday, Ellington is indeed expected to be on the field.

Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings, back (P): Offensive coordinator Norv Turner made it clear this week when the Vikings signed Ben Tate that McKinnon remained No. 1 back. With Asiata sidelined with a concussion, the door is open for McKinnon ... but his health could be a factor. The probable tag indicates the Vikings fully expect McKinnon to play, just as he did last week after his back strain surfaced, but his production last week was limited. It appears McKinnon will be first in line on Sunday, but Tate could see some opportunities alongside him.

Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons, illness (P): The illness that forced a few Falcons from practice this week kept Jackson away on Thursday. He returned to a full practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday against the Browns.

Doug Martin, ankle and Charles Sims, ankle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Q): Martin returned to limited practice last week after missing time since injuring his ankle in Week 8. This week he continued his limited practices daily, and it appears he has a chance to be active. One factor may be the status of Sims, who cropped up on the injury report Thursday because of his ankle. After Sims was limited for two days and is now listed as questionable, his status is of concern, especially considering he only emerged from the IR/designated-for-return list in Week 10. The IR designation followed ankle surgery in August, so this development raises eyebrows. It could also simply represent some scaling back of practice time in an effort to ensure Sims doesn’t overdo it on the ankle too soon. With Bobby Rainey still in the mix, the division of the workload if all three backs are healthy is still unclear, although it appears Sims is the favorite to touch the ball most frequently.

Juwan Thompson, Denver Broncos, knee (P): Thompson has been on the injury report, but there are far bigger injury concerns in the backfield, notably those of Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball. C.J. Anderson remains the starter, and Thompson, at probable, is expected to be available as well.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills, groin (Q): Jackson is improving from his groin injury but missed Week 11, largely because the game was played on a Thursday night just four days after his return from injury. With a short recovery time so soon after he played in his first game in three weeks, the wise decision was to rest him. After a snowstorm in Buffalo prevented the team from practicing until Friday, Jackson got some extra rest and said he “felt good” after Friday’s workout in Detroit. With an extra day until kickoff, Jackson gets the benefit of 15 days between games played. Expect him to take the field, at Ford Field, as the Bills face the Jets in Detroit on Monday night.

Chris Ivory, shoulder and Chris Johnson, knee, Jets (P): Both backs practiced fully each day this week coming off a bye in Week 11. Although the game with the Bills will be delayed until Monday night, there is little doubt that both Ivory and Johnson will be available Monday night.

Mark Ingram, shoulder, Pierre Thomas, rib/shoulder, Travaris Cadet, hamstring, New Orleans Saints (P): It appears the Saints will have three of their four running backs available Monday night to face the Ravens. Khiry Robinson is the only injured back who has already been ruled out. Ingram has been carrying the load and has been a full participant in practice throughout the week despite the shoulder ailment. He is likely to retain that role based on his performance thus far, although depending what happens with Robinson down the road, things could shift. For now it would appear that Ingram’s rushing responsibilities will not change much. Cadet had a hamstring injury, which resulted in a day off Thursday, but he was upgraded to limited practice Friday and Saturday. Thomas, out since Week 7 with a shoulder injury, was back in limited practices this week. The probable tag suggests the Saints are confident enough in what Cadet and Thomas have shown to plan on their availability this week. Thomas presumably regains some of the screen-passing looks Cadet absorbed while he was injured, thus devaluing Cadet’s role somewhat, as long as Thomas can stay on the field.

Wide receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Fitzgerald suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) of his left knee, reportedly of moderate severity (Grade 2). It’s difficult to imagine a wide receiver being able to take the field just one week later, but this is not just any wide receiver. Fitzgerald has not missed a game in six consecutive seasons, including 2012 when he played through an MCL sprain of his right knee despite struggling to be effective initially. In fact, he returned to play this past Sunday after sustaining the injury, even making a key catch late in the game to help seal the Cardinals’ ninth victory. The aftereffects, however, likely have him stiff and sore this week, and he has not practiced. That alone would not be enough to sideline him, particularly in a key matchup against a tough divisional opponent. But Fitzgerald and the team have to be confident enough in his ability to function -- even if to simply draw coverage -- without risking further injury that could compromise his health deeper into the season (and postseason), to allow him to play. That decision is not likely to come until just before game time, which has a late start (4:25 p.m. ET) in Seattle. If Fitzgerald does play, he cannot be expected to be at full strength.

Calvin Johnson, ankle and Golden Tate, hip, Detroit Lions, (P): Johnson has had two weeks with no reported setbacks of his ankle, which is good news for fans and fantasy owners. He continues to get a midweek day of rest and limited work Thursday and Friday but is fully expected to play Sunday against the Patriots. His fellow wide receiver Tate appeared on the injury report Friday with a hip ailment, worth noting because of how late in the week it surfaced. Tate was limited in Friday’s practice, but the probable tag suggests there is no reason to doubt his status for Sunday.

Brandon Marshall, ankle and Alshon Jeffery, hamstring, Chicago Bears, (P): Marshall got the day off Wednesday, then returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday. Jeffery appeared on the injury report Wednesday, when he did not practice, but was upgraded to limited Thursday and a full practice Friday. The Bears are clearly confident -- as indicated by labeling both their receivers probable -- in their availability for Sunday.

Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos, concussion, (P): Perhaps one of the bigger surprises headed into Sunday is the outlook for Sanders’ availability. He suffered a concussion after absorbing a big hit in the second half of Sunday’s game and immediately entered into the team protocol. Sanders returned to some light conditioning Thursday, then a full practice Friday. His case is a reminder that some of the bigger hits don’t necessarily result in the most profound or the most protracted signs and symptoms. As ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold reported, Sanders said he felt good “five minutes after the hit was over.” Of course there is more to recovery than feeling good, hence the protocol, which involves neurocognitive testing and a graded return to activity. Still, the overriding positive is that Sanders passed all the required tests, signaling his recovery. Sanders says he expects to face the Dolphins on Sunday.

Julio Jones, illness, and Harry Douglas, foot, Atlanta Falcons, (P): The Falcons need all hands on deck as they attempt to improve their subpar record. Douglas has been dealing with a foot injury for the greater part of the season, but he has played the past two weeks without incident. Jones was ill early in the week but was able to return to a full practice Friday. Both receivers are expected to be available.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, thigh, (P): Edelman’s body absorbed some punishment in Week 11, but he played through the bruising, although he was on the field for fewer total snaps than usual. Nonetheless he was held to limited practices throughout the week to aid in his recovery before facing the Lions. The probable tag suggests the Patriots plan on having him on the field Sunday, although it remains to be seen whether the thigh issue will hamper his usage in any way.

Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins, calf, (P): Wallace appeared on the injury report with a calf issue but participated in practice each day, albeit on a limited basis. The Dolphins expect to have him available Sunday in Denver.

Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, knee, (P): Although he appears on the injury report, Matthews did not miss a practice. In fact, he wasn’t even limited in any way. He will be an available target for Mark Sanchez on Sunday against the Titans.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans, knee, (Q): Hunter doesn’t appear to be in great danger of missing this one despite the questionable tag. He was limited Wednesday but completed full practices both Thursday and Friday, suggesting he should be able to play. Still, given the designation, fantasy owners should check pregame inactives, and fortunately, this is an early game.

Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings, rib, (Q): Jennings has a rib injury that forced a brief exit from Sunday’s game. He was held out of practice both Wednesday and Thursday but was able to return to full work on Friday. Barring a setback after his Friday practice, Jennings appears likely to suit up.

Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, groin, (P): Watkins is another Bills player who may have benefited from no practice early in the week because of the snowstorm. He was a full participant Friday in Detroit, where the team will play the Jets on Monday night. He is fully expected to play.

Tight ends

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle, (Q): Thomas injured his ankle in this past Sunday’s game, and while it does not appear to be as serious as initially thought, his status for Sunday remains very much in question. Although he dressed for practice for the first time on Friday, Thomas did very little other than light stretching -- so little, in fact, that he continued to be listed as a nonparticipant. Coach John Fox explained his status to reporters afterward. “We could have said limited, but it was probably closer to did not participate," Fox said. “But he still is questionable." In other words, the Broncos are retaining some hope that Thomas will be able to go when the game tips off at 4:25 p.m. ET. Fantasy owners should not count on his availability given the murky status and the late game situation.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, abdomen, groin, (P): Rudolph returned to the field last week but was clearly held to a controlled amount of activity. Perhaps the team was just being cautious after Rudolph’s return from abdominal surgery. This week he has been a full participant in practice each day and would appear on track to see some additional work.

Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, knee, (D): Clay’s appearance on the injury report has been so routine that this downturn could easily be overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. After a limited practice Wednesday, Clay did not return for the remainder of the week, and the outlook for him has not been positive. The team is indicating as much by labeling him doubtful for the game against the Broncos, and he appears likely to sit this one out.

Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams, back, (Q): Cook appeared on the injury report with a back issue this week and did not practice at all on Wednesday. He managed limited practices Thursday and Friday, but the questionable tag reflects uncertainty. Fantasy owners should also be aware that this is a late game against the Chargers.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans, concussion, (P): Walker was very close to returning last week, but the Titans opted to hold him out. According to ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky, it was a team decision as opposed to a late setback and one that took Walker’s concussion history into account. The good news is that Walker has now cleared all tests and, listed as probable, is 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.

Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: Foles is out for multiple weeks with a clavicle fracture. Mark Sanchez continues to be the starter.

Ronnie Hillman, foot, and Montee Ball, groin, RBs, Denver Broncos: As of now, the only certainty with regard to Hillman and Ball is that neither will play this week. C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson will carry the load.

Matt Asiata, RB, Minnesota Vikings, concussion: After he didn't practice all week, it hardly came as a surprise that Asiata would sit. The Vikings added insurance in the form of Ben Tate this week (after Tate was released from the Cleveland Browns), but they have made it clear Jerick McKinnon is their starter.

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns, concussion: Cameron returned to practice for the first time since suffering a concussion in Week 8. It was just a limited workout, but it is the most encouraging sign of his progress to date. As is the case with these types of injuries, there remains no specific timetable for his return.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts, ankle: Allen injured his ankle last week, and after he was absent from practice each day, the decision to hold him out was not unexpected.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington, hamstring: Reed injured the opposite hamstring earlier this season and missed multiple weeks. Washington hopes it will not be nearly as long this time, but he won’t be on the field this week.

Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans Saints, forearm: Robinson has missed multiple weeks, so this really comes as no surprise.

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