Here's what we know as we head into Week 6 contests.
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer is listed as doubtful this week but the Bengals have already indicated that backup Ryan Fitzpatrick will start. Palmer still has soreness in his throwing elbow, and after not practicing all week, was relegated to non-starter this week. Whether Palmer is completely sidelined or whether he suits up as the No. 2 quarterback remains to be seen. It appears that the team is being protective of Palmer's elbow in the interest of his long-term health. With Fitzpatrick having an extra week of snaps with the first team, and Palmer being so critical to the franchise, it is not surprising that the team would opt to rest him. What is a bit surprising is they have not completely ruled him out of the game. It seems that if the Bengals wanted him to rest his elbow, the safest play would be to make him unavailable. After all, the No. 2 quarterback would then be Carson's younger brother, Jordan. Surely he's picked up a tip or two from his older sibling. In any event, fantasy owners want to find a replacement for Week 6 and it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep a second quarterback on your reserve list. This could be a week-to-week situation.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB and Deion Branch WR, Seattle Seahawks: What is in the drinking water in Seattle? There has to be a big reward waiting for whoever can discover the antidote to the injury plague attacking the Seattle quarterback and receiving crew.
Seattle will be starting its No. 3 quarterback Sunday if Charlie Frye takes the field at 4:15 p.m. EST. I say "if" because although Hasselbeck has not yet been cleared for contact, there is an outside chance that could happen by Sunday -- a very teeny, tiny outside chance. Hasselbeck hyperextended his knee last week and although a subsequent MRI revealed no ligament or meniscal damage, he did sustain a painful bone bruise and has been unable to practice all week. Early in the week, coach Mike Holmgren indicated that he expected Hasselbeck to be ready by game time, a point that was reiterated as late as Thursday by offensive coordinator Gil Haskell. But Hasselbeck was still not practicing Friday and, according to ESPN reports, Holmgren offered this explanation: "The thing just has not responded. He can't do much with his leg. It's not ligaments, it's not anything like that. It's just sore." Holmgren does not want to put a potentially vulnerable Hasselbeck on the field when his inability to move well could result in more hits and further injury. So, enter backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Oops! He's not available because of a calf strain that has had him sidelined since he was prepping for filling in as the fifth or sixth wide receiver. Fortunately for Frye, he has been taking the first team snaps all week, and he did some filling in for Hasselbeck in preseason games while Hasselbeck nursed a sore lower back.
But the injuries don't stop there. Branch, who was so excited about making his regular-season NFL return last week from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, was forced out early Sunday with a new injury. Branch is listed as questionable but is not expected to play.
Branch suffered a heel bruise on his left side. Sure, a bruise doesn't sound major, but if you were to take a hammer and slam it against your heel, then walk around on it, you might be able to appreciate just how limiting this type of thing can be. Now attempt to run, where your heel has to hit the ground harder. Even better, try jumping and landing on that foot alone. That's right. You really can't. (Hopefully no one actually tried this, but you get the picture.) Now complicate that picture by having a newly reconstructed knee on the other side. Although Branch was doing well from a healing perspective on his surgically reconstructed right knee, he was just getting his confidence back in that leg. Part of that help is having another "sound" leg. With his left leg now compromised, it potentially alters the way he moves on his right leg, and that is not something you want to see from a rehab perspective, as you're just getting an athlete back to competition.
If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, there is a bit of good news in Seattle. Last week the Seahawks saw receiver Bobby Engram enter the lineup for the first time in 2008 after being out with a fractured shoulder. He played well and is expected to see increased activity this week. Recently re-signed receiver Koren Robinson appears to be on the mend from the knee soreness that kept him out of the lineup thus far. After practicing all week, he is expected to start Sunday also.
Justin Fargas, RB and Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: The bye week helped both Oakland running backs, but one is clearly healthier than the other at this point. Fargas, who suffered a groin injury in Week 3 that caused him to miss Week 4, took advantage of the bye to get healthy. He practiced fully all week, is listed as probable and is expected to start.
McFadden has been dealing with a turf toe injury for several weeks that clearly limited him in Week 4. The bye week also afforded him some much-needed rest, but the fact that McFadden was still wearing a protective boot early this week let on that the toe was not 100 percent. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports that McFadden feels much better but is still stiff and still requires protection in his shoe. McFadden is listed as questionable but is expected to play Sunday. Given their relative health, expect Fargas to get the bulk of the work this week.
Brian Griese, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In a move that surprises no one, Jeff Garcia has been announced as this week's starting quarterback in Tampa Bay. Griese took a hit last week that left him with a bruised elbow and a shoulder strain in his throwing arm, and although he is listed as questionable, it is more likely that Luke McCown will serve as Garcia's backup. Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times reported that inflammation in Griese's elbow has essentially kept him from being able to throw at all this week, and unless that changes Sunday morning, which appears unlikely at this point, he will be in street clothes. Griese's timeline for return really depends on how the inflammation resolves and how functional his arm is, something that will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis next week.
Marques Colston, WR and Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints: The injury-plagued Saints appear to have been sharing tainted drinking water with the Seahawks. It now appears the Saints will be without the services of defensive tackle Antwan Lake as a result of a groin injury. Lake was filling in for the injured Sedrick Ellis, who is still recovering from knee surgery to address a torn meniscus. Wide receiver David Patten (doubtful) will likely miss another week because of his groin injury.
Everyone is looking for some good news on the injury front in New Orleans and Colston may be just the spark. But don't get too excited yet. Colston, coming off ligament-repair surgery in his thumb, is listed as questionable and may not see the field just yet. Colston came out of his cast last week and was able to participate in practice to some degree this week, wearing only limited padding on his thumb. In fact, Colston told the New Orleans Times-Picayune how surprisingly good his thumb felt when catching the ball: "I really don't feel it out there and I'm catching the ball well. It really doesn't feel like I'm trying to catch the ball any different."
Nevertheless, he is still on the early side of recovery and the medical staff needs to feel confident that no matter what Colston might encounter on the field, he will not be at risk for a setback. It's not just catching the ball and holding onto it, which certainly requires a great deal of thumb control and an ability to absorb impact. He has to be able to hit that thumb against a helmet or the ground and have that repair hold up. As much as they would like to see him active, the Saints may just have him sit tight another week. In fact, if he does suit up, expect him to see limited action.
Meanwhile, much was made of Shockey's return to practice Wednesday following sports hernia surgery a few weeks ago. Shockey did not practice Thursday or Friday, however, suggesting, as does his doubtful tag, that he will not see action for at least another week.
Other noteworthy items
• Cleveland Browns star tight end Kellen Winslow has spent the past two nights in a local hospital after not feeling well earlier in the week. There has been no word thus far as to the nature of the injury, but certainly hospitalization affords Winslow the chance to be observed and to ensure that he is receiving appropriate fluids and any necessary medications. The Browns have him listed as questionable for Monday night, but in addition to recovering from the illness itself, one concern has to be weakness after being in this state for a few days. Stay tuned.
• Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Lloyd is listed as doubtful with his sprained knee. Lloyd has yet to practice and the doubtful tag makes it virtually certain that he will not play. Expect his status to be shaky at best for the next couple of weeks.
• Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White dismissed his collision with Lawyer Milloy on Wednesday as minor, and it appears the team held him out of practice Thursday as a precautionary measure. But White did not practice Friday either and is now listed as a game-time decision. Head injuries are nothing to sneeze at, but White's injury was not seen as serious enough to require any formal testing. The rest may have been a means of ensuring he would be available for Sunday and it sounds as if he will play. The game is early, so fantasy owners should check inactive lists before game time, but there is reason to be optimistic.
• It looks as if there will be another backup quarterback starting Sunday, this time in Detroit. Jon Kitna has been dealing with lower back spasms that began during last week's game, and he is listed as doubtful. Backup Dan Orlovsky reportedly injured his ankle last week, yet he is listed as probable and it sounds as if he will get the start ahead of Drew Stanton. Receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson were both listed as questionable this week; Johnson has a minor knee ailment, the result of banging it in practice earlier in the week, and Williams has been bothered by his hip. Both were held out of practice Friday but are expected to play Sunday.
• New England has listed running back LaMont Jordan as doubtful with a calf injury and running back Laurence Maroney as questionable with his shoulder injury. While Jordan did not practice all week and is almost certain to sit, Maroney practiced fully Wednesday but then saw limited action Thursday and Friday. He has not divulged even the slightest bit of information relative to his shoulder but acknowledges that he has "issues" he is trying to address, and sounds less than 100 percent. Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk may be your guys this week.
• San Diego Chargers receiver Chris Chambers managed to injure his ankle on the last play of the team's loss to Miami on Sunday. He was unable to practice all week, is listed as doubtful and is unlikely to play. Teammate Vincent Jackson is listed as probable after missing a day of practice Thursday with a sore knee. Jackson was back full-bore Friday and is expected to start, especially in light of Chambers' situation.
• Denver Broncos receiver Eddie Royal is listed as questionable because of an ankle bruise that kept him out of practice Wednesday and limited him the remainder of the week. ESPN's John Clayton said Royal will be a game-time decision. With Tony Scheffler and Selvin Young out this week, Denver's offense could be in a bit of trouble.
Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to Injured Reserve status, who are officially added to the "out" listing for Week 6.
Brian Westbrook, RB and Reggie Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook's absence this week is not a huge surprise although it is a huge disappointment for fantasy owners. Westbrook has two broken ribs along with a still-recovering right ankle and, with a bye in Week 7, the Eagles have to be hoping that this will get him to a healthy place for the remainder of the season. Brown is dealing with his third soft tissue injury of the season (Achilles, hamstring, now groin) and will sit this one out.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Despite the fact Boldin was not officially ruled out until Friday, his absence does not come as a major surprise. Boldin is still recuperating from a procedure to address a sinus fracture. The Cardinals have a week off in Week 7, but you can expect him back in action in Week 8.
Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Galloway is out again. The difference this week is that Galloway did some limited practice. Very limited in fact, as in just one day of light work. Apparently his foot is still healing. But at least that is some progress to report and with any hope, he'll be steadily increasing his activity from here.
Terence Newman, CB, Dallas Cowboys: Officially listed as out because of an abdominal injury, there have been murmurings that Newman has a sports hernia that could require surgery and cause him to miss more than a month. Whenever an athlete has a groin injury followed by an abdominal injury, it begins to sound like a sports hernia. This is not good news for the Cowboys' secondary, because they have their fair share of challenges all around.
Tony Scheffler, TE and Selvin Young, RB, Denver Broncos: Groin injuries for everyone. Scheffler was on crutches after injuring himself in Week 5, so his absence from the lineup this week is not much of a surprise. Early on, it sounded as if this could be a more serious injury, but coach Mike Shanahan told the Denver Post he expects Scheffler to return for next week's Monday night game in New England. Shanahan offered essentially the same prognosis for Young, who has the same injury and did not practice all week either.
Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET. Good luck in Week 6!