It’s Week 6, and there are just two teams on bye. The Atlanta Falcons get a much needed break for all their injured stars, and the Miami Dolphins get the week off as well. The New York Giants and Chicago Bears played Thursday night, and after suffering yet another loss, the Giants can certainly use a few extra days to regroup.
Who should concern you when it comes to setting your fantasy lineup? Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon:
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (Q): Vick injured his hamstring in Week 5 and never seemed likely to start in Week 6. ESPN.com’s Phil Sheridan is reporting that Vick will be out for Sunday’s matchup against the Buccaneers. Still, Vick practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday. He put in a full practice Friday, making it appear he could at least be available as an active player, even if just to provide insurance for Sunday’s projected starter, Nick Foles.
Although fantasy owners won’t have Vick this week, the positive takeaway is that the amount of work he was able to do this week so soon after straining the hamstring certainly bodes well for his availability next Sunday. Vick had said earlier in the week he was “being smart” about how he handled this injury but indicated he expected to be ready to face the Cowboys in Week 7.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills, ankle (Q): After 10 days between games, it’s not exactly comforting to see Spiller come into this week’s contest listed as questionable. Spiller participated in limited practices and it’s clear his ankle has not yet fully recovered, but ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak reports coach Doug Marrone “feels good” about Spiller's chances to suit up against Cincinnati on Sunday. Given that Spiller took the field just days after sustaining the injury, it makes sense that he would play in this game barring a setback. But it does suggest that teammate Fred Jackson -- who is no longer on the injury report -- could again be in line for more work.
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots, knee (Q): Ridley missed last week’s game because of an injury to the area just above his knee, but it never sounded as if he would miss extended time. After not practicing at all last week, Ridley returned to limited workouts this week. Barring a setback, he is expected to play Sunday. Meanwhile, Bolden has played weekly despite the knee ailment and is expected to do so again.
Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings, hamstring (Q), and Marcel Reece, knee (P), Oakland Raiders: What are fantasy owners to make of the Raiders' running back situation other than it being clouded by injury? At least Reece is listed as probable, so we can expect him to play. Reece has been on the injury report with the knee issue prior to this week and played through it, just as it appears he will again.
In the case of McFadden (who missed Week 5 because of a hamstring injury suffered the week before) and Jennings (who injured his hamstring Sunday when playing in place of McFadden), neither is a sure bet to play. Both backs were limited throughout the week, and their questionable status reflects the uncertainty caused by the nature of their injuries. McFadden isn’t exactly adding clarity by suggesting his playing status will be determined by the medical staff, perhaps not until Sunday. “I’m just looking forward to whatever the decision the coaches and trainers have to make if we want to roll with it,” McFadden told reporters Friday.
The Raiders have a bye next week, so if there is concern about McFadden’s health -- and Jennings’ for that matter -- there could be a bonus week of recovery by holding them out. The only good news for fantasy owners is that for once the Raiders are playing in an early matchup.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, hip (Q): No one likes to see a feature back like Lynch miss practice Friday then come into the game as questionable. The Seahawks, however, don’t seem overly concerned. Coach Pete Carroll seemed to dismiss Lynch’s absence Friday as no big deal. “We did treat Marshawn for a little hip thing this week, but he's fine," Carroll said. Let’s hope. The Seahawks don’t sound concerned about his availability and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Lynch is expected to play, but given his questionable status, fantasy owners should have a backup plan. Lynch and the Seahawks play in a late game against the Titans.
Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens, thigh (Q): Pierce was limited in practice throughout the week with a thigh injury. There doesn’t appear to be too much concern in Baltimore about his availability, perhaps reflective of the team’s confidence about the health of Ray Rice. Pierce looks to be active, but it’s unclear how much he would be expected to play. This is an early game, so double check his status before kickoff.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe (Q): After being ruled out early the past few weeks because of his toe injury, Ingram now comes in at questionable after returning to limited practice. Just how much he would contribute after missing the past three games is unclear, but common sense would suggest that he would have a limited role after the lengthy absence. To complicate matters, this is a late game Sunday, but it’s hard to foresee Ingram doing much and the Saints may not be ready to put him on the field just yet.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams, chest (Q): Stacy went from no practice Wednesday to limited Thursday to full practice Friday, a trend in the right direction when it comes to projecting game status. He had a rib injury late in the Week 5 game, but coach Jeff Fisher indicated he expected Stacy to be fine going forward. Stacy is expected to start again this week when the Rams visit the Houston Texans.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, toes (P): Charles’ practice schedule this week: Wednesday off, Thursday limited, Friday full. Charles -- who showed he could run just fine despite the blisters last week -- is expected to play Sunday when the Chiefs host the Raiders.
Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins, ribs (P): When Morris headed into Washington’s bye week after suffering a rib injury in Week 4, he indicated he did not believe the injury to be serious. He has followed that up with a full week of practice and a probable designation, indicating both he and the team expect him on the field against the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, concussion (P): Mathews did not practice Thursday after suffering a concussion in Week 5, but he was on the field Friday. In fact, Mathews was listed as a full participant Friday and Saturday, an encouraging sign for his availability Monday. As per the guidelines, Mathews will need to remain symptom free in order to play.
Just recently, Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor appeared on track to play the week after suffering a concussion but was determined to have a recurrence of symptoms (light sensitivity) and was held out. Regardless of how well Mathews is doing and his probable designation, fantasy owners should keep in mind his status could fluctuate all the way up until game time.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, knee (P): Gore continues to drive the 49ers’ ground game, and his knees (and hips and ankles) take a pounding every week. It’s no surprise that he is listed on the injury report intermittently given his knee history, but it’s not going to keep him out of action this week. Gore is still listed as a full participant in practice each day and is expected to start Sunday when the 49ers host the Cardinals.
Arian Foster, thumb/chest, and Ben Tate, elbow, Houston Texans (P): The body parts are slightly different -- Foster now listed with a chest injury, not the back, and Tate with an elbow injury, not the shoulder -- but both backs are expected to be available Sunday. Foster, as usual, participated in limited practice all week, and Tate took full reps daily.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, knee (Q): Johnson again comes into this week’s game as questionable, but he did do a little more activity this week as compared to last. After taking Wednesday off, Johnson returned for position drills only on Thursday. He practiced on a limited basis Friday, and as ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein noted, Johnson was doing a bit more, running routes and catching passes.
He continues to wear a compression sleeve on his right knee, suggesting swelling is still a concern. The back-to-back practices are an encouraging sign, but expect his status to ultimately be determined during the pregame warm-up period. Coach Jim Schwartz would not elaborate on Johnson’s injury but did say he was improving. “He is getting better every day, and we'll see when we get to Sunday what he looks like," Schwartz said. Last week, it was Sunday morning when Johnson’s knee dictated it was not ready for game action; this week, fantasy owners are hoping for a different outcome. Thankfully, this is an early matchup.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, shin (Q): As noted Thursday, Johnson has been playing through this injury for the past two weeks. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but returned for limited work Friday, a positive indicator that he is likely to suit up again this week.
The location of the injury and the amount of swelling make it painful to run, and resting is one of the best remedies, hence the days off for Johnson during the week. That isn’t to say he’s not working; Johnson continues to work on the bike and in the pool, doing a bit more of that activity this week per ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli. Although coach Gary Kubiak designated Johnson a game-time decision, Johnson sounds confident that he will play. "Yeah," Johnson said. "I don't see why not."
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, hamstring (Q): Fitzgerald was off the injury report last week and appeared to be past the left hamstring issue, which had originally surfaced in practice before the Week 2 games. Apparently that’s not the case. Hamstring injuries are known for their high rate of recurrence, and coach Bruce Arians confirmed Fitzgerald suffered a setback in the same hamstring.
According to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, Arians noted the injury is in a slightly different location within the muscle, also not uncommon with these injuries. On the plus side, Fitzgerald put in a full practice Friday after doing limited work Wednesday and Thursday. Obviously, how his leg responds will be important as will the pregame warm-ups. As Arians noted, “We'll wait and see by game time.” Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that time is 4:25 p.m. ET.
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring (P): Last week, there were signs Austin was making progress in his recovery from a hamstring injury suffered in Week 3. He practiced on a limited basis throughout the week without setbacks, but the team was not ready to turn him loose.
This week, Austin has practiced fully each day and comes in listed as probable before Sunday night’s game. The plan is for him to play, but certainly no one can predict how involved in the offense he will be or, more importantly, how he’ll hold up. ESPNDallas.com’s Todd Archer says the Cowboys do not plan to limit Austin’s snaps; the hope is that his hamstring doesn’t force them to do so.
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, groin (Q): Amendola has already returned to play since tearing his groin (adductor), so we expect him to play Sunday against the Saints. The fact that he remains limited in practice and saw controlled action last week tells us he is not fully recovered, and there is always the chance of an in-game setback. That said, he does provide a threat by taking the field, even when he is not at his best.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars, groin (P): On Thursday, I noted that coach Gus Bradley said he expected to have Shorts available Sunday. The probable tag supports this. Shorts was held out of practice Thursday in what Bradley described as a proactive measure, but he returned Friday to a limited workout. Shorts has been playing in the presence of this groin ailment and looks as if he will again Sunday.
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills, back (Q): Johnson injured his back in last week’s Thursday night game and was not able to continue. This week, Johnson has not practiced, but it is not due entirely to his back. He was excused from the team due to a death in the family. ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak reports Johnson received treatment while he was away, but coach Doug Marrone has not yet decided whether Johnson will be ready to play Sunday.
Marlon Brown, thigh, and Jacoby Jones, knee, Baltimore Ravens (Q): Jones continues to practice on a limited basis as he returns from an MCL sprain. According to ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley, coach John Harbaugh is "encouraged" by what he has seen from Jones in practice. Given the original timetable the Ravens set forth for Jones, it’s possible he could return this week.
Brown has a hamstring strain, which caused him to sit out Week 6. This week, Brown has practiced daily on a limited basis, an improvement over last week when he sat out until Friday. Still, given the fickle nature of hamstrings, it could come down to a game-time decision for Brown.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hamstring (Q): Before the bye, it was Williams who appeared to be the healthier of the two receivers. Teammate Vincent Jackson, fresh off a rib injury, was targeted more frequently but had only two receptions for short yardage against the Cardinals. Despite a hamstring injury, Williams had more catches, plus a score. Jackson is off the injury report after the bye, but Williams remains on it. He did practice daily on a limited basis and seems likely to play, but fantasy owners should double check before game time.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, hand (Q): It’s a bit surprising to see Moore listed as questionable given that he did not practice all week. Moore has missed the past two games due to an unspecified hand injury but must be making progress for his status to be upgraded. He hardly seems like a receiver to count on though given the lack of practice and the late game start.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, back/forearm (Q): This really appeared to be shaping up as the week to showcase the return of New England’s star tight end who has been participating in all forms of practice, including tackling, on a limited basis for several weeks. But as this week has progressed, it has appeared less and less likely that Gronkowski would take the field against the Saints. On Friday, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Gronkowski is not expected to play. And the wait continues.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, hamstring (P): Davis has been playing through his hamstring ailment the past two weeks and is expected to do so again Sunday. He still appears to be a bit limited at times, but the probable designation hints at improvement, especially after he practiced fully every day.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers, foot (P): As noted Thursday, sometimes a boot is used as a precaution. It appears that was the case with Olsen, who returned to full practices Thursday and Friday after taking Wednesday off. At probable, he is expected to play.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings, left hamstring (Q): Walsh’s potential absence could be a huge blow for the Vikings and fantasy owners, as he has become one of the most consistent place-kickers in the league. Walsh reportedly felt a twinge in his left (plant) leg during Thursday’s practice, hence the shortened outing. He did not participate Friday.
Coach Leslie Frazier downplayed the injury and said he expected Walsh to be available Sunday, but that may ultimately depend on how his leg feels during warm-ups. Although it is not his kicking leg that is directly affected, the hamstring plays a role in stabilizing the plant leg and could present a challenge if there is any discomfort or tightness. This is an early game, so fantasy owners should double check Walsh’s status before kickoff.
E.J. Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills, knee: Manuel suffered an LCL injury in Week 5 and is expected to miss multiple weeks. Thaddeus Lewis gets the start in his place.
Kellen Winslow, TE, New York Jets, suspension: Winslow was suspended for four games for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Shonn Greene, RB, Tennessee Titans, knee: Greene underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sept. 16 and is still in recovery mode. He is not yet practicing.
Quinton Patton, WR, San Francisco 49ers, foot: Patton fractured his foot and is out for several weeks.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions, forearm: Burleson fractured both bones in his forearm, underwent surgery to repair the damage and is out for an extended time. The team hopes he will be able to return late in the season.