p>This just in. The New England Patriots are a pretty good team. Just as important for fantasy owners, their key skill position players are pretty healthy too. Enough said. The New York Jets' skill position players are actually fairly healthy. Let's hope that their performance Monday night -- or lack thereof -- didn't cost you a playoff spot.
As we approach fantasy playoff time, every player on your fantasy roster matters. It's not just a question of who's active or not, it's whether that active player can be productive, especially if he's coming off an injury or trying to play through one.
With that in mind, here's who fantasy owners might be concerned about heading into Week 14:
• Why not start with the one player who seems to draw the most attention when he's injured? Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre lasted only a few plays Sunday before exiting with what is being called a sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint. The SC joint is where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the sternum (breastbone). In other words, the joint is located right at the center of the chest, just below the neck. Because the other end of the clavicle forms the point of the shoulder (acromioclavicular or AC joint), an injury to the SC joint will affect the ability to throw. The SC joint is protected by strong ligaments to help prevent displacement of the clavicle and injuries here are relatively uncommon, but can occur, usually as a result of trauma. In sports, the trauma is either a direct hit to the joint (kick or blow to the chest) or a fall on the shoulder which translates force through the clavicle, injuring the joint. There can be a fracture or break of the clavicle (there was no fracture in Favre's case) or a sprain.
A sprain is any ligament injury, and as with all sprains, the degree of ligament damage determines the severity of the sprain. In Favre's case, we do not know the degree of sprain, so this could range from minor ligament damage to subluxation or displacement resulting from more serious ligament damage. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, coach Leslie Frazier said doctors did not tell him the degree of sprain but did say the injury is "not something that can surgically be attended to." The fact that Favre did not require surgery tells us that it was not the most serious version of a subluxed SC joint (typically where the collarbone is displaced behind the sternum, dangerously encroaching on delicate structures). In the absence of a surgical situation, the standard treatment is rest and ice to help control pain and swelling, perhaps some treatment of the soft tissue in the area which may be in spasm (some of the neck muscles, for instance) and then a lot of wait and see. Sometime a few days of rest will allow the bulk of the pain to resolve, depending on the severity of the injury.
Presuming Favre is medically cleared to play, the main concern will be whether he is able to throw the ball effectively. Doctors can provide pain-relieving injections for the game, but given the location of the injury, there is no external brace or harness that would offer much in the way of support. It's always important, however, to place an athlete's injury in the context of that particular player. Favre has started 297 consecutive games. If he doesn't start this week, do we really expect Favre to start again in two or three weeks? Is his career going to end with him sidelined because of pain (as opposed to not being medically cleared to play), thus fading away into the end of the season? It's a hard scenario to envision. While he may have no choice if the injury is insurmountable, at this point it's too early to bet against him. As far as fantasy owners are concerned, there are better choices at quarterback for Week 14. This could come down to a game-time decision and even if Favre starts, it's always possible that he doesn't finish. This situation is too risky on which to hang fantasy playoff hopes.
• Sticking with the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson actually seemed to emerge from the game better than when he started it! Three touchdowns and over 100 yards would make anyone feel better, but most importantly, Peterson's ankle reportedly felt no worse after all the work. He should be good to go again this Sunday.
• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his face slightly rearranged Sunday night by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. As if Roethlisberger's ailing foot wasn't enough, he endured a bloody and broken nose and emerged victorious. Pretty impressive. Roethlisberger underwent surgery Monday to reset his nose and is expected to miss some practice time this week, which probably benefits his right foot as well. The Steelers plan to have him available Sunday.
• Carolina Panthers running back Mike Goodson sprained his right AC joint late in the game Sunday. According to the Gaston Gazette, Goodson says he originally injured the shoulder several weeks ago and it was aggravated during a kickoff return by an opponent's direct blow with a helmet. Goodson seems to think the injury is not too severe, but this may have cemented Jonathan Stewart as the primary back going forward.
• Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Monday that he expects running back Ryan Torain to be in practice this week. Torain actually was listed as a limited participant Friday, but the team was not comfortable returning him to the lineup just yet. Looks like this could be the week he returns, but fantasy owners beware of the dreaded timeshare.
• Another returning running back this week is likely to be the New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas, who has not played since injuring his ankle in Week 2. Thomas was far more active in last week's practice than in previous weeks, and the Saints were hinting even then at a Week 14 sighting. The likelihood of his return was confirmed Monday by coach Sean Payton. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton says he remains "cautiously optimistic" about Thomas' availability Sunday, adding, " ... I would say based on the way he practiced last week, that there is a lot of optimism he will be involved in this plan." Still, the Saints have shown that they will be cautious with a running back in his first game back (think: Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving Day) and Chris Ivory did enough last week to earn the majority share of carries. Thomas may be decent insurance for fantasy owners to have though in the event something happens to Ivory.
• There were a couple of tight ends added to the injury list Sunday. Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez rolled his left ankle Sunday, which he blamed on the slick surface at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gonzalez said he wore long cleats because of the surface and they "roll easily." The good news is that he expects to play in Week 14. Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap strained his hamstring Sunday night and so far the outlook is not too encouraging for this week. Fantasy owners should plan on an alternative.
• The New York Giants are hoping to get their two injured wide receivers back in the near future. Hakeem Nicks may be available this week depending on whether he can practice in advance. Nicks, who has a healing leg wound following a fasciotomy procedure, is hopeful to return to practice Wednesday. Teammate Steve Smith is recovering from a partial tear of his pectoral muscle. He has missed four games and could miss another, depending how this week goes. Smith hopes to try practicing Wednesday with the goal of seeing some playing time Sunday but knows he would still be limited. In fact, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, Smith says he expects to be uncomfortable for the remainder of the season. The muscle is under strain when being stretched (when the arm is extended to make a catch) and when contracting (as it would with bringing the arm across the body or pushing off) and the goal is to ensure that Smith does not suffer a setback. To that end, he will likely wear a protective harness that limits his motion but will still need to guard against overdoing it.
• The San Diego Chargers continue to be challenged by various injuries. Fantasy owners are eager to hear whether receiver Vincent Jackson will be available, something that won't be known until later in the week. The plan is to test his calf strain with some running in the early part of the week. Meanwhile, Legedu Naanee suffered an apparent setback to his hamstring and is looking doubtful for this weekend. Tight end Antonio Gates continues to have pain but also continues to fight through it. Running back Ryan Mathews was active Sunday but did not get in the game. That's one way to stay healthy.
• Seattle Seahawks receiver Mike Williams returned from a foot injury Sunday only to leave the game early with a sprained ankle. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that it is a first degree sprain (the most minor) and the Seahawks are optimistic that he could be available Sunday. More to come later in the week.
• The Indianapolis Star reports that running back Mike Hart aggravated his ankle injury Sunday. With Joseph Addai appearing still a ways away from returning, expect Donald Brown to start again Thursday night.
• Thursday night should herald the return of one of the Tennessee Titans from injury. Wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has missed time with a serious hamstring strain, is no longer on the injury report. Britt practiced last week but the Titans opted to give him a few more days. The first game back is always a big test for a hamstring injury, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on Britt's performance. If he does well, it could be a good sign for his value throughout the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 on Thursday and Saturday!