Injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each week this Saturday blog entry will be dedicated to those who appear on the official Friday NFL injury report and how their status may impact fantasy teams.
For those who may be new to this blog: Injury reports provide some insight to a player's status. The NFL requires teams to submit their injury reports several times a week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. Early in the week, these reports will indicate whether a player is not practicing, is limited in practice or is a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all players on the injury report are assigned one of the following designations by their teams: probable, questionable, doubtful or out. The designations in this blog reflect the injury reports filed with the league office on Friday evening. 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 not playing Sunday.
Probable (P): This designation indicates a player is expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.
Questionable (Q): This is the most dreaded player designation yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (sometimes to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is technically a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although some teams utilize the questionable designation far more broadly. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he feels on gameday morning or how he performs during warm-ups. Final inactives are due 90 minutes before kickoff.
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.
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.
This is the second of the bye weeks so adjust your lineups accordingly. The two teams who traveled to London last week -- the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins -- get this week off. The Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings join them on bye.
Good luck in Week 5, everyone!
Jay Cutler, hamstring and Jimmy Clausen, back, Chicago Bears, (Q): To the surprise of many, Cutler returned from his hamstring injury in Week 4 and led his team to a victory over the Oakland Raiders. Admittedly not fully healthy, Cutler managed to avoid running situations and was largely effective inside the pocket. Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase was impressed by Cutler’s performance under the circumstances. “For him to go out there and perform the way he did, I don't know if I've been around a performance like that, as efficient as he was, to fight through what he had going on,” Gase said.
Now he has another week of healing time under his belt and is in line to start again Sunday. He’s still not 100 percent recovered, as evidenced by the fact he remains on the injury report, listed as a limited practice participant. But if he could perform a week ago and emerge from that contest no worse than when he started, why not play this week?
It’s not as if his backup is fully healthy either, apparently. Clausen was added to the Bears injury report Friday with a back ailment, listed as participating on a limited basis. He too is listed as questionable.
Cutler says he is better than last week and recognizes he isn’t the only one ailing. “I feel better, I do," Cutler said. "But it is what it is, and we have a lot of guys banged up out here. I’ll just make do.” Making do in Arrowhead is not an easy task (remember the first half of Peyton Manning’s Thursday night game there earlier this season?) but Cutler plans to be there nonetheless.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee, (no designation yet): Roethlisberger is clearly making progress from his sprained left MCL and bone bruise. How do we know? Well, he did jog off the practice field Thursday. That’s a far cry from the vision of the quarterback after he sustained the injury two weeks ago, on crutches, barely touching his toe to the ground. While the team has yet to issue an official designation for Roethlisberger, since the Steelers play Monday night, we know his return won’t be this week. After all, he’s not practicing at all yet, although he is throwing the ball a bit. Still likely a few weeks away from a return, Roethlisberger will remain an observer Monday, but the recent news shows he is feeling more comfortable and more confident in his knee, which is definitely an encouraging sign.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals, knee, (P): Hill appeared on this week’s injury report with a knee issue that resulted in limited practices Wednesday and Thursday. He was upgraded to full participation Friday, however, and listed as probable. His status is not in doubt.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, Baltimore Ravens, foot, (P): Taliaferro has been dealing with a foot injury since Week 2 and has been limited in practice since. He hasn’t missed any games but his contributions have been minimal. Expect Taliaferro to be active again, but Justin Forsett is the clear starter for the Ravens.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (P): Murray was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder issue but was able to go through a full workout Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons, ribs, (P): Coleman has missed the past two weeks with fractured ribs but is expected to make his return this week. Last week he re-introduced running to his regimen and this week he resumed practice, starting off limited but increasing to full participation by Friday. Devonta Freeman has certainly made a splash in Coleman’s absence, but the Falcons always wanted to have two complementary backs available. The fact is that they haven’t had any time where both have been healthy. Both Coleman and Freeman suffered mild hamstring injuries in the first week of training camp. Coleman returned from his injury first and was eventually named the starter. It’s a good thing Freeman took the time to get fully healthy so he could step right in when Coleman went out with fractured ribs. Expect Freeman to get the primary load this week as Coleman is just returning and still has some discomfort, but it will be interesting to watch how this workload gets divided over time. Sorry fantasy owners, but that could be precisely what happens, presuming both backs stay healthy going forward.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (P): The probable designation for Ellington is an upgrade over last week when he was listed as questionable and was then inactive. Head coach Bruce Arians said Ellington was very close to playing last week so it seems all but certain he will be available Sunday. The decision to hold him out an additional week may well pay off for his long-term health, given Ellington’s history. Chris Johnson has been solid holding down the fort in the starting role and it doesn’t appear likely he’ll be giving that up, at least not in the immediate future. The Cardinals now have three healthy backs, meaning they have options, although those options could make it tough on fantasy owners going forward.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns, ankle, (P): Johnson was a full participant in practice each day so there isn’t much to worry about here. He is expected to play.
Randall Cobb, shoulder, (P), Davante Adams, ankle, (D) and James Jones, hamstring, (P), Green Bay Packers: Cobb had a bit of a setback with his shoulder last week but there was always the potential for that to happen. It wasn’t enough to take him out of the game, just enough to limit his exposure in practice this week. Cobb was listed as a limited participant throughout the week, but the probable designation indicates he’s fine to play.
Meanwhile, his teammate Adams remains in rehab mode for his ankle. Adams did not practice all week and it would appear he will sit out against the Rams.
Julio Jones, toe/hamstring, (Q) and Leonard Hankerson, thumb, (P), Atlanta Falcons: Last week Jones was probable with the same ailments. Why the downgrade? It’s not clear. While his stats weren’t quite in line with previous weeks, it appears to have been more a function of the game situation as opposed to physical limitations for Jones. ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure wrote this week that Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn gave “no indication” of Jones being unable to play. McClure also noted that Jones was moving well during individual drills Friday. The expectation is that Jones will indeed play against Washington.
Hankerson has a thumb issue that kept him to limited work early in the week. He resumed full practice Friday and is expected to play against his former team this weekend.
Alshon Jeffery, hamstring and Eddie Royal, ankle, Chicago Bears, (Q): Jeffery is again listed as questionable, but there are again doubts as to whether he will suit up. Jeffery began the week as a limited practice participant, just as he was throughout last week prior to being inactive, but he was a no-show at Friday’s practice, leading many -- including ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, who covers the Bears -- to wonder if it was a signal of Sunday’s status. According to head coach John Fox, the decision on Jeffery and others will be made after Saturday’s walkthrough. For now, it’s at least of concern that his work remains so limited. Jeffery has already missed three games due to a hamstring injury that surfaced after his sole game in the season opener.
Royal’s status is also in doubt after an ankle injury kept him out of all practices this week. He too is listed as questionable, but his inability to practice all week indicates he is far from healthy.
Sammy Watkins, calf, (Q) and Percy Harvin, hip, (P), Buffalo Bills: ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak wrote Friday that in addition to being without running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, the Bills could be without their top receiver. Watkins' comments were telling.
“I don't know if I'm going to play or not," Watkins said Friday. "But if it's an emergency, if I need to play, I think I'll play. But you just never know with this situation. They might hold me out. I don't even know the situation right now.”
Fantasy owners are probably not going to be inclined to start Watkins, even if active, based on the suggestion that he might play in an emergency. Calf strains are problematic in that they are slow to heal, even when minor, along with being risky for easy aggravation.
The good news for the Bills is that Harvin will be available as he routinely appears on the injury report (due to getting the day off on Wednesdays) but plays on Sunday.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, neck, (P): Thomas took a pretty big hit in Week 4 and was left with a sore neck. Limited in practice Wednesday, Thomas was upgraded to full on Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints, ankle, (P): Cooks has already played through this ankle issue for the past two weeks and is expected to do so again in Week 5. After a limited practice Wednesday, Cooks resumed full workouts Thursday and Friday.
Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens, back, (D): Smith suffered what the team described as microfractures in his back. No wonder he was in so much pain after absorbing a blow to his back last Thursday night. Although he hasn’t officially been ruled out on the injury report, coach John Harbaugh originally said Smith would not play this week. He later backtracked a bit, saying Smith is only week-to-week. Smith did not practice at all this week and while his pain tolerance is legendary, playing at his position one week after this type of injury seems highly unlikely, particularly given the risk of contact to the injured area. Consider him week-to-week, as his activity will increase as pain permits.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders, ankle, (P): Crabtree missed Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury but resumed full participation Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams, knee, (P): Britt did not practice on Friday and was listed on the injury report with a knee injury. Given his extensive history of knee issues, a day off to address a knee problem isn’t a total surprise. Most importantly, the team still listed him as probable, indicating there is no major concern about his status for Sunday.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle/thigh, (P): Hurns has been on the injury report the past two weeks and is still productive on the weekends. This week he did not practice Wednesday, was a limited participant Thursday and was upgraded to full on Friday. At probable, he is expected to continue the trend of playing on Sunday.
Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle, (no designation yet): The ankle injury that has Wheaton on the injury report may not be as big a threat as the return of teammate Martavis Bryant from suspension. Wheaton was listed as a full participant both Thursday and Friday and while the designations for Monday night are not yet posted, he is expected to be available.
Stevie Johnson, hamstring and Malcom Floyd, concussion, San Diego Chargers, no designation yet: Johnson did not practice Thursday or Friday and appears to be a legitimate question mark heading into the Chargers’ Monday night game. Johnson exited last week’s game early with a left hamstring injury. Unless his status changes significantly after the team’s Saturday workout, it does not look favorable. Floyd was forced out of last week’s game due to a concussion. Floyd has been making progress moving through the concussion protocol, including back to back full practices on Thursday and Friday. Barring a setback, it appears Floyd will be available.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs, groin/thumb, (P): Kelce has been banged up enough to appear on various injury reports this season, but his game status has never been in doubt. Add this week to the list, as Kelce prepares to suit up against the Bears after practicing fully all week.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars, hand, (Q): This marks the first week that Thomas has not been ruled out by Friday. We’ll take that as an encouraging sign as he continues to make progress from his hand surgery, but it’s not likely he takes the field this week. ESPN’s Mike diRocco noted Thomas’ debut is likely to come in Week 6 . The best news is that Thomas is close to a return and should be watched closely this week.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills, calf, (P): Clay was limited in practice during the week by a mild calf issue, but the probable designation is reassuring. Coach Rex Ryan even said Clay was only limited by a few reps in practice and there was no serious concern. Clay is expected to play this weekend.
Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons, concussion, (P): Tamme practiced in full all week without setbacks and is expected to play on Sunday.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, shoulder, (D): Seferian-Jenkins has moved up from the “out” category, but the doubtful designation indicates he’s not yet game ready. He is still not practicing and is expected to miss another week.
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.
LeSean McCoy, hamstring and Karlos Williams, concussion, RB, Buffalo Bills: Remember when McCoy hinted a week ago that his absence could extend beyond Week 4? He wasn’t lying. This week McCoy offered up some additional information about his condition, saying it’s typically a three- to four-week injury.
Meanwhile, his teammate Williams sustained a concussion in Week 4. He remains in the concussion protocol and was not a practice participant all week. He will sit this week out.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks, hamstring: This will be Lynch’s second consecutive game missed due to a hamstring injury. At least the Seahawks aren’t subjecting fantasy owners to a gametime decision. It sounds as if Lynch is making some improvement but not enough to last an entire game without risking a setback.
Joique Bell, RB, Detroit Lions, ankle: Bell will miss another game due to the ankle injury sustained in Week 3. It has been an inauspicious start to the season for him after spending the offseason recovering from two surgeries.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions, knee: Ebron suffered a knee injury in Week 4. He did not practice at all this week and ruling him out early rule does not come as a surprise.
Cody Latimer, WR, Denver Broncos, groin: Latimer was not able to practice due to a groin injury sustained in the Week 4 contest and consequently has been ruled out in advance of Sunday’s game.
Jordan Reed, TE, concussion/knee/ankle and DeSean Jackson, WR, hamstring, Washington Redskins: The most concerning of Reed’s ailments is the concussion, given his extensive concussion history, and the team will not be rushing him back. Jackson is still on the mend from his significant hamstring injury and will be sidelined another week.
Crockett Gillmore, TE, Baltimore Ravens, calf: Gillmore is still hampered by a calf injury that cost him last week’s game and will sit out this Sunday as well.
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring: Lee’s absence doesn’t come as a surprise, given how limited he has been with hamstring injuries since the summer.
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!