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Saturday, December 20, 2008
Many RBs are questionable for this key week

By Stephania Bell, ESPN.com

Championship week at last! Or close to it for most fantasy teams. Who is playing and will those players be effective? That's all most fantasy owners care about; no one is particularly interested in whether a guy will be better in four weeks or three months at this time of year. So today's blog is designed just for you fantasy playoffs people. Let's cut to the chase.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: Saturday night game warning! Set your lineups early. And you might not want Barber in your lineup. Officially listed as questionable, Barber will test his injured toe in warm-ups to see whether he will be active. Despite the fact that he has not practiced all week, it's quite possible the Cowboys will keep him as an active option. After all, he did catch a few passes in Week 15. His running game was largely ineffective, though, and he clearly is still limited by his injuries. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Cowboys have to face the Ravens' tough run defense. Expect Tashard Choice to handle the bulk of the running game; he's proved to be quite capable so far. Incidentally, Tony Romo (probable) will play despite a sore back, but if the Ravens get to him early and often, this could be a problem.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Jacobs rested his sore left knee Friday, and despite the questionable tag, is expected to play against Carolina on Sunday. In fact, coach Tom Coughlin said after Friday's practice that Jacobs will play barring a setback. Keep in mind that although his symptoms appear to have settled, at least enough that he could practice on a limited basis all week, this is not an injury that "heals." As Jacobs himself indicated, this most recent setback is an aggravation of a previously sprained knee (posterior cruciate ligament), and that means he has some residual instability in that left knee. It's conceivable that he could perform very well. It's also conceivable that he could get rolled up from behind, fall directly on the front of a flexed left knee or slip and slide on a wet field (wintry mix weather conditions expected), any of which could aggravate the knee and cause him to leave early. Jacobs undoubtedly will share some work with Derrick Ward (probable), who is recovering from an ankle injury, but assume that Jacobs will get the majority of the carries as long as his knee cooperates.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Put him in your lineup. Peterson, listed as probable, most certainly will be on the field for the Vikings, who are in playoff contention. Not to mention that Peterson is vying for the league rushing title. He had a sore ankle following Sunday's contest and was limited in practice throughout the week. But he shrugged it off, calling the issues with his ankle just the "normal wear and tear of the season," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It does not sound as if this is an injury that will affect his ability to run or cut, perhaps just a mild sprain, and fantasy owners should expect a typical "All-Day" performance.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Gore is listed as questionable and is another game-time decision with his sprained ankle that kept him out in Week 15. Despite Gore's remarks in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier in the week that his ankle felt much better, he still has not participated in practice, doing only side work individually. While we're happy to see that he's coming along, you have to be skeptical that he is really ready to go. And the fact that the game will be on the artificial turf in St. Louis might present even more of a challenge for Gore's already limited ankle. Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat adds that even if Gore suits up, "it seems unlikely that he would have a big role in the game." The 49ers were happy with what they saw from DeShaun Foster in Week 15 and likely will lean on him again Sunday.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: Sorry, fantasy owners. Start scrambling for a replacement, if you haven't already, because Boldin is likely to sit this one out. He has had some struggles recently, perhaps due to some of the new offensive plays he has been learning, perhaps due to a sore shoulder. Either way, coach Ken Whisenhunt said on the Cardinals' Web site this week that he would be willing to rest Boldin on Sunday in the interest of having him at full strength for the playoffs. In general, the game does not stack up well for the Cardinals: travel to the East Coast, cold and snowy weather, and an already secure playoff spot. Although he's listed as questionable and a game-time decision, Boldin did not practice all week and seems quite unlikely to play. Expect Steve Breaston to get the majority of the work.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: Portis developed some back spasms Friday that kept him out of practice. According to The Washington Post, Portis was having difficulty bending and was moving slowly. Hmmm. Those symptoms sound awfully consistent with a flare-up of a disc in the back. Not the kind of thing that goes away quickly. Portis was expected to seek treatment, and his status (questionable) remains uncertain for Sunday's matchup against the Eagles. Despite his ability to play through just about everything else, I don't like the way this sounds. If you have a viable alternative, use him, because Portis' availability and ability to play through this are far from sure things.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: We know Trent Edwards will be back calling the plays for the Bills' offense Sunday, but will Lynch be running? Lynch is listed as questionable because of a sore shoulder, but the Bills have not made much of this injury. In fact, Lynch was able to increase his practice workload throughout the week, and it looks as if he will be available against Denver. What is uncertain is how much the Bills will utilize him, given their non-playoff status. Perhaps they will be motivated to wrap up their season on a high note, beginning with a hard rushing game against a weak run defense.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers: In Week 15, it sounded on Friday as if Garcia might play, but some fantasy owners found themselves scrambling to find a replacement Sunday when it was announced Brian Griese was starting instead. This week, the news out of Tampa Bay sounds a little more convincing that Garcia will indeed start, and he has had the benefit of an added week of rest for his ailing calf. He is listed as questionable, but he has put in limited practice every day this week and expects to be under center when the game gets underway. The St. Petersburg Times reported that coach Jon Gruden seemed to echo that sentiment when he said after Friday's practice, "I believe he'll be the starter." Garcia is a scrambler and often jumps in the air to throw, and a sore calf might affect his typical moves a bit. He obviously has shown enough in practice to at least secure the start, and being the tough player he is, this injury should not hold him back.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: This game isn't until Monday night, so Forte's absence from most of the week's practices might have some owners in a panic. Breathe deeply -- it appears Forte will play. He is listed as questionable after injuring his right big toe in Week 15's Thursday night game, but coach Lovie Smith said Forte would return to practice Friday, and he did. Smith also said Forte would play Monday, and so far, he has been good on his remarks. It appears the Bears were proactively giving Forte extended rest, knowing how problematic toe injuries can be. Assume that Forte will play in this Monday night game, which is meaningful for the Bears, and unless he suffers a setback in the game, expect him to get his usual workload.

Good luck in Week 16! Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET.