Happy post-Thanksgiving fantasy football weekend! With three games out of the way already, there are fewer fantasy choices to make heading into Sunday and Monday’s games.
Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon:
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): Manning’s ankle issues are not behind him, but he’s proven he can play through the discomfort and still be effective. His biggest challenge is making sure he doesn't end up on the bottom of a pile where the vulnerable right ankle could get twisted. He certainly knows how to make adjustments, but Manning can’t be disappointed that the Chiefs will be without one of their key pass-rushers, Justin Houston, who has already been ruled out with an elbow injury.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): This is the biggest (pleasant) surprise of the weekend injury report. Based on how Moreno looked last Sunday night both during the game (coming on and off the field in the final quarter, limping significantly) and afterward (in a walking boot, on crutches), his chances of playing this Sunday appeared slim. Moreno was reportedly dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle -- and a “significant” one at that -- suggesting his status for Week 13 was a legitimate concern. After all, bone bruises are not to be ignored. A severe bone bruise can take weeks to resolve and continued trauma to the joint, even in the simplest form of high-impact weight bearing, can lead to further problems.
That's why it was no surprise when Moreno was a non-participant in Wednesday’s practice, but it was a surprise when he not only turned up Thursday, but also looked to be moving pretty well on the practice field. By Friday, he increased his workload to “full” participation, and the team was confident enough in what they saw to list him as probable.
Now comes the tricky part. While Moreno is clearly on track to play Sunday, how much of a workload can be expected, given that he is coming off the recent ankle injury? It’s reasonable to think Montee Ball could see some extra touches in an effort to off-load Moreno. It’s also reasonable to think that how much Moreno plays will be fluid depending, at least in part, on how his ankle withstands the early work. In any case, the outlook for Moreno is far brighter than it was as recently as Wednesday. Despite the late kickoff Sunday, fantasy owners can feel confident that Moreno is expected to be on the field against the Chiefs.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, groin (P): It’s no surprise that Peterson got two days off from practice this week. After all, he has recently been nursing a sore groin -- not that anyone noticed with his 146 yards rushing and a score in Week 12 -- and the team plans to continue to rely on Peterson’s legs. Coach Leslie Frazier came right out and said as much, according to ESPN's Michael Wright. “We feel like we've got the best running back in the NFL on our team,” Frazier said. “So we’re going to try to play to our strength.” He will not get any arguments from fantasy owners.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, knee (P): Even with coach Marc Trestman’s confidence earlier in the week that Forte would be ready to go by Sunday, it’s still reassuring to see the probable designation next to his name at the end of the week. Forte hyperextended his knee in last Sunday’s game but, as noted here Tuesday, he returned to finish out the game, a positive sign. After sitting out Wednesday’s practice, Forte returned to a limited effort Thursday followed by a full practice Friday. He is expected to play as usual against the Vikings.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams, concussion (P): The news for Stacy got better and better as the week went on and he increased his involvement in practice. By Friday, he was a full participant and as ESPN’s Nick Wagoner notes, Stacy was cleared to play against the 49ers. Barring any surprise return of his concussion symptoms, Stacy will be on the field Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams, thigh, Jonathan Stewart, ankle and Mike Tolbert, knee, Carolina Panthers (Q): It can’t be a good sign when the entire backfield comes into a game listed as questionable; the challenge then is figuring out who is more questionable than the others. Williams may be at the top of that list, with the Panthers expressing genuine concern about his availability. Williams did not practice the entire week because of a quad contusion sustained in last week’s game, and while he has not been ruled out, there is not a lot of optimism. Coach Ron Rivera made it plain and simple when talking to reporters after Friday’s practice, saying there are "a lot of concerns with DeAngelo."
The team seems far more hopeful when it comes to the availability of Stewart and Tolbert, who were limited in practice late in the week but are expected to play.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, knee (Q): Fantasy owners do not like late-week downgrades, therefore they will not like seeing this change in Ellington’s status. According to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss, Ellington injured his left knee late in Thursday’s practice. He did not practice Friday and will be a game-time decision, per head coach Bruce Arians. While Ellington sounded hopeful Friday that he would be able to play, there are the effects of a cross-country flight to consider, and the coach’s hint that he wants to be cautious with his explosive back. Even if Ellington is active, this setback won’t do anything to help his fantasy owners’ desire to see him get increased work, at least not this week.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets, ankle (P): Things didn't look so good for Ivory after he had to concede carries to teammate Bilal Powell in the Week 12 contest because of an ankle injury. He didn't miss any practice days, however, and after a limited effort Wednesday and Thursday, he returned to full practice Friday. The probable tag gives us confidence he will play. How well Ivory’s ankle holds up during the game may dictate just how much action he will see.
Ben Tate, ribs (P), Houston Texans: Perhaps the most notable thing about Tate here is that he is only listed on the injury report because of his ribs. His other injuries seem to have healed. Naturally, Tate is expected to play against the Patriots.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, hamstring (P): As his teammate Antonio Gates noted, hamstring injuries are “tricky.” Despite coach Mike McCoy downplaying Mathews’ hamstring issue coming into Week 12, Mathews aggravated the injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s game and made an early exit. The setback didn't appear to be severe, since Mathews was back in practice on a limited basis Thursday, followed by a full workout Friday. He’s not out of the woods by any means, but he is expected to play against the Bengals.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (P): Gore is again listed as probable because of his ankle. He was held to limited practices this week (last week he was a full participant each day), indicating perhaps a little more soreness in that ankle, but he is in no danger of missing Sunday’s game.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, knee (no designation yet): Lynch continues to be listed on the injury report because of his knee, but he has yet to miss a game. Expect him on the field for a big Monday night game against the New Orleans Saints.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints, ankle (no designation yet): Sproles was inactive in Week 12 because of injuries to each leg, an ankle on one side and a knee on the other. Considering the Saints’ Week 12 game came just four days after their Week 11 contest, the move to hold Sproles out was wise. While the Saints did not offer much in the way of detail, Sproles’ return to full participation in practice Thursday suggests he is much improved after the week off. Sproles is expected to be back on the field Monday night when the Saints travel to Seattle.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals, shoulder (P): Floyd has not only been playing, he’s been performing extremely well the last couple of weeks, despite spraining his right acromioclavicular (AC) joint in Week 10. After limited practices Wednesday and Thursday, Floyd practiced in full Friday and is expected to play against the Eagles.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears, quadriceps (P): Marshall was limited Thursday because of the quad, but to the relief of his fantasy owners and Bears fans, he was back in full practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Cecil Shorts, groin (P) and Mike Brown, shoulder (Q), Jacksonville Jaguars: By now, the practice pattern for Shorts is familiar enough that fantasy owners would perhaps be more surprised if he was not on the injury report. Listed as probable, Shorts is expected to play as usual. Unfortunately for him, he draws the Joe Haden coverage tag this week. Brown is a different story. He is contending with an AC sprain suffered two weeks ago and sat out last Sunday’s game. This week he will be a game-time decision, according to coach Gus Bradley. The team will work him out pregame to make a final determination as to his status. For fantasy owners who are considering Brown, be sure to check pregame inactive reports.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills, groin (P): Johnson has hinted all week that he would be ready to take the field this Sunday after sitting out the Bills’ last game. That game was two weeks ago, as the Bills had a bye in Week 12, conveniently allowing Johnson some extra recovery time from this latest soft tissue injury, a right groin strain. He doesn't appear to be limping into this week’s contest, either, practicing fully each day and designated as probable. It should be nice and warm for Johnson, too, as the location for this week’s game is the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where presumably the roof will be closed.
Santonio Holmes, foot/hamstring and Jeremy Kerley, elbow, New York Jets (Q): Holmes returned from his hamstring injury following the team’s bye, but the injury is clearly not behind him. In fact, one wonders if he took a step backward. Holmes was limited in practice Wednesday but did not practice at all Thursday or Friday. The Jets are calling him a game-time decision and even if he does play, it’s questionable how much he’ll contribute. Meanwhile, Kerley is on the mend from an elbow injury and only shed his non-contact jersey this Wednesday in practice. He remained limited throughout the week and will likely come down to a game-time call.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, shoulder (P): There was some understandable concern when Hilton did not practice Wednesday, but that was alleviated when he returned Thursday. Hilton put in full practice efforts both Thursday and Friday, and at probable, he is expected to play.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, abdomen (P): Nicks says he could have played last week, but the Giants didn't agree. The abdominal strain that sidelined him still kept him limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but Nicks turned it up for a full practice Friday. At least fantasy owners can feel confident that Nicks will play this week, despite the late start. If only results on the field could be equally assured. It’s hard to believe, but Nicks has yet to find the end zone this season.
Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers, toe/chest (D): Royal has been a fixture on the injury report, so the initial designation of questionable didn't raise a huge red flag. On Saturday, however, the Chargers downgraded Royal’s status to doubtful, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The chest injury Royal suffered last week appears to be the culprit (the toe has been a long-standing ailment), and he appears very likely to sit this one out.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks, hip (D): (Note: This section has been updated to reflect Harvin's designation.) Harvin did not practice Saturday and the team has officially listed him as doubtful for Monday night’s game. After Harvin’s initial limited outing in Week 11, the Seahawks said that he experienced only minor soreness and hinted at removing restrictions from his playing time. Head coach Pete Carroll later seemed to retreat a bit emphasizing the team would be cautious with Harvin and would manage him going forward. Perhaps this limited practice is part of the management plan, which is entirely reasonable. But if Harvin is experiencing some lingering soreness or discomfort, it goes without saying the restrictions on his playing time will not be removed.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, toe (Q): Gonzalez has come into the game listed as questionable the past two weeks because of his toe injury, but has played. While he is clearly not 100 percent, as is evident by his limited practices each day, Gonzalez is expected to play Sunday in Toronto against the Bills.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, hamstring (P): Gates hasn't been on the injury report much in the last two years, a welcome change for him and for fantasy owners after battling plantar fascia issues for more than two years. He resurfaces there this week, however, after suffering a hamstring injury in last week’s game. Gates had two days off to rest, and despite returning to practice Friday, he indicated if the game were to be played that day, he was not sure he could have taken the field. He described the injury as “tricky,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It's one of those injuries where you can't fully grasp whether or not you can do something because it's all running,” Gates said.
Friday’s practice gave the veteran tight end an opportunity to gauge his health, and it sounds as if the vibe was largely positive, given the probable tag assigned to him. Gates is expected to play but, as he noted, it’s a tricky injury. The hope is that he can get through the game without a setback.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, knee (Q): Thomas sat out last week’s game when his hyperextended right knee had not recovered to the point of allowing him to participate. Although the injury, sustained in Week 11, was not considered particularly serious in that there was no significant structural damage, Thomas still had enough soreness and stiffness to limit his mobility throughout the week. The decision to hold him out appears to have been a wise one, and Thomas was held to limited practices throughout this entire week. But as ESPN’s Jeff Legwold notes, Thomas is on track this week to play against the Chiefs.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, back/forearm/hamstring (Q): It is not unusual to see Gronkowski on the injury report, but seeing him listed as questionable is a bit surprising. Since returning from offseason surgeries, Gronkowski has played each week, although the hamstring ailment is a new addition in recent weeks. The tag is likely a reflection of Gronkowski’s limited practice sessions. As of now, it appears he will take the field as usual Sunday.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, concussion (Q): Reed sat out the Week 12 game because of a head injury and remains uncertain for this week. He has returned to daily limited practices and he said he expects to play, but Washington, assigning Reed a questionable tag, appears less ready to formally commit. According to ESPN’s John Keim, the Redskins are indicating Reed will play as long as there is no recurrence of symptoms. This is a Sunday night game, so fantasy owners should have an emergency backup plan in place.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, ankle: Cutler has graduated from a hard cast to a smaller brace on his left ankle, but he remains sidelined by his high-ankle sprain. The Bears still describe him as week-to-week.