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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Running backs banged up heading into Week 17

By Stephania Bell



My oh my, what a week of football! There were some crazy performances this holiday week. Unfortunately many of the players who had them may not have been in your active lineup ... or perhaps were not even on your fantasy roster. Devin Aromashodu? An injury to Chicago Bears receiver Johnny Knox opened the door to his star performance on Monday night. Greg Olsen? He hadn't scored more than one fantasy point in the last three weeks but delivered 10 -- most likely to your bench -- on Monday night. And what about Steven Jackson, who may have been in your Sunday lineup after he promised to "gut it out" the remainder of the season, but ended up inactive? (In defense of Jackson, his symptoms took a late turn for the worse, always a justifiable reason for a player's status to change, although that still may not appease fantasy owners.)



On the flip side, Jonathan Stewart had a phenomenal day and the Carolina Panthers tipped us off early that he likely would have the bigger role, even if DeAngelo Williams played (which he didn't). If you've been relying on Cadillac Williams as a flex play, he put up a healthy double-digit day while shouldering the load in the presence of an ailing Derrick Ward. And Tom Brady owners knew to start him Sunday even though he's been listed on the injury report with multiple ailments for several weeks. He delivered several touchdown passes to recently beleaguered teammate Randy Moss while delivering plenty of fantasy points to faithful owners.

If you're still alive after all the fantasy drama and are aiming for victory in Week 17, then you need to know who will be on the field for you come Sunday. While we can't anticipate all the various coaching strategies surrounding the do-you-or-don't-you rest the starters question, we can certainly pay attention to who's on the injury watch in this final week of the regular NFL season. Here's what we're looking at so far ...

Pierre Thomas
With the Saints having clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, it's possible that Pierre Thomas won't play in Week 17.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints: Thomas left Sunday's game before halftime with bruised ribs and was unable to return. Fortunately, X-rays proved to be negative for a fracture, but Thomas is no doubt experiencing lingering soreness and difficulty moving. The New Orleans Times-Picayune suggests that Thomas likely will be limited in practice this week and questionable heading into Sunday's game. Knowing a running back faces certain contact on the field, it would not be at all surprising if Thomas is on the sideline in Week 17. Fantasy owners might want to check out Lynell Hamilton if in need of an emergency running back.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: Williams sat out Week 16 because of a left ankle sprain, and Jonathan Stewart did his usual job of stepping it up in his absence. The question becomes whether Williams will be available in Week 17. According to the Charlotte Observer, coach John Fox has said "he has reason to believe there's a chance" that Williams plays Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Fox tends to hold the door open for Williams until late in the week to give him an opportunity to get healthy. It remains to be seen just how much Williams will be able to do on that ankle, but if he has not returned to practice by Thursday, it would put his status further in doubt. Stewart should be expected to get his usual Wednesday off but then increase his work. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on Panthers practice reports late in the week to see how things are shaping up.



Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: Jackson was a surprise inactive in Week 16 but we later found out there was good reason for him to rest. Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he began experiencing some new symptoms, including pain radiating down his leg, along with difficulty loosening up his back before the game. Jackson confirmed the widely reported herniated disk injury and added that he hopes to play in Week 17. Pain radiating into the leg signifies that there is nerve involvement to accompany the disk injury, a more serious situation than pain localized to the back area. The hope is that the leg pain will resolve through the week and that Jackson will be able to return, but as fantasy owners saw last week, that could come down to game time. Expect Jackson to try to play, but have an alternate plan handy.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Jones aggravated a rib injury and sustained an ankle injury in Sunday's game, according to The Seattle Times, making it seem all the more likely that Justin Forsett will indeed see the majority of the work in Week 17. Jones and Forsett were just about even in Week 16 in terms of touches, but Forsett managed slightly more productivity with those carries. Forsett may well be trying to impress with 2010 in mind, which could be a nice bonus for fantasy owners.

Other quick hits:

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams left in the third quarter of Sunday's contest with a right shoulder injury. There have been no specifics as to the nature of the injury but Williams told reporters after the game that he would be "fine." Keep an eye on his practice activity this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward aggravated his hamstring injury late in the game. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, coach Mike Tomlin summed up Ward's condition by saying "He's just beat up." Hard to argue with that. Whether Ward will be able to return for Sunday's game is not yet known.

Indianapolis Colts receiver Pierre Garcon has been ruled out for Week 17. It's not necessarily a surprise, but it's nice of the Colts to provide fantasy owners with some official advance notice.

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner has the potential to return to practice Wednesday, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Fantasy owners should not be lured into thinking that he will be a good fantasy option this week, even if he manages to suit up for Sunday.

See you at the final Sunday pregame chat (10:00-10:30 a.m.) and check for the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog!