Stephania Bell: Atlanta Falcons

Thursday night fantasy injury report

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
11:40
AM ET
Tony GonzalezKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesFalcons TE Tony Gonzalez, who's nursing a toe injury, is listed as questionable for Thursday night.
There are several injury storylines heading into Thursday night's matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Here’s a look at a few players on both teams whose injury status might affect your lineup.

Atlanta Falcons

Star veteran receiver Roddy White began his season injured, limited by a high ankle sprain sustained in an exhibition game. Just when the ankle appeared to be turning a corner in the recovery process, White strained his hamstring. As a result, White was sidelined, forced to miss games for the first time in his career. He returned from the hamstring and ankle injuries in Week 10 and appears to be the healthiest he’s been all year, finally netting his first touchdown Sunday. He is still working his way back to form but is no longer being limited in practice and is not on the injury report this week.

Also off the injury report is running back Steven Jackson. He was injured in Week 2 when he suffered a hamstring strain and went on to miss the next four games. Jackson returned to action in Week 8 but managed only 6 yards on 11 carries. He has not found the end zone rushing yet this season and still has a ways to go to get back to looking how he did in Week 1. Meanwhile, RB Jacquizz Rodgers is listed as probable with his ankle injury and is expected to be available. Interestingly, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure notes that coach Mike Smith is looking to get running back (and special-teamer) Antone Smith more involved in the ground game after his Week 11 performance.

Before White and Jackson could get healthy, the Falcons lost yet another star offensive weapon in Julio Jones. Late in their Week 5 contest, Jones refractured the foot he had surgically repaired prior to starting his NFL career, abruptly ending his season.

With the team’s top two receivers and starting running back sidelined due to injury, other Falcons have had to step up. Harry Douglas did exactly that for the team’s receiving corps but took some extra punishment as a result. Douglas was recently on the injury report because of a sore knee but is no longer listed there this week. He is expected to start across from White.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, toe (Q): Gonzalez is the most notable pass-catcher on the injury report this week. He hurt his toe in Week 10 and was questionable coming into last Sunday’s game. Gonzalez managed to play and was a regular target for quarterback Matt Ryan. His involvement in last week’s game would suggest that he will play Thursday, despite the short week. It makes sense that he was restricted in practice given the limited recovery time between outings (did not practice until Wednesday and then on a limited basis), but he still comes into Thursday night’s game as questionable. Coach Mike Smith anticipates Gonzalez playing Thursday, noting that the tight end's practice involvement included “much more workload” than last week.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints haven’t exactly been immune to the injury bug either, and just last week they lost another player when cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a torn ACL.

While Greer’s season is over, not all of the Saints' injured stars are dealing with ailments of that magnitude. With the short week, however, prognostication becomes a bit more challenging.

Jimmy Graham, TE, elbow/foot (P): Graham has been playing despite his plantar fascia injury (with mixed results). After an initial post-injury outing where Graham saw limited yet efficient action, his involvement from a snap-count perspective increased significantly the following week. The subsequent week he was not used as much, prompting concerns about his health. Graham later noted that had more to do with how the Saints were matching up against their opponent, although it’s possible the elbow injury he suffered the week prior had an influence. In Week 11, Graham’s time on the field increased again, but his productivity from a scoring perspective was limited. His availability for Thursday night’s game is not really in doubt given his daily practice appearances and probable tag, but it’s hard to know what to expect in terms of production. That said, Graham is always a threat even when injured -- and it’s hard to envision three straight weeks without an end zone grab.

Darren Sproles, RB, knee/ankle (Q): Sproles’ status may be the toughest read of the week. He sustained knee and ankle injuries (to opposite sides) in Week 11 but after some attention on the sideline was able to return and finish the game. He has not practiced this week, and according to ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett, practices have been especially light considering Thursday’s game. It is unclear whether this is a proactive measure to rest Sproles so that he is available come game time or if he is truly at risk of missing the game. His questionable status is legitimate. Even if he plays, there is the question of how much he will be asked to do given that he's less than 100 percent. Fantasy owners should be sure to check Sproles’ status before kickoff.
The Atlanta Falcons continue to look like a MASH unit when it comes to injuries. Two of the four players mentioned in this post have been on the injury report nearly every week of the season, but the two new additions are perhaps of greater concern.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, (toe): Gonzalez injured a toe in his left foot in Week 10, and appeared to be in serious discomfort immediately afterward. He exited the game briefly, but managed to return, fighting through the pain but struggling on the field. Gonzalez, who was visibly limping in the locker room after the game, netted only 29 yards on three catches. It came as little surprise that he was held out of practice Wednesday, but when he remained out on Thursday, the questions after practice understandably turned to whether his status for Sunday was in jeopardy.

"I would never count Tony Gonzalez out," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Never."

Smith's reaction is understandable, perhaps, given that Gonzalez has not missed a game since 2006. In fact, he's missed only two in his entire career. File that under the category of "ridiculously healthy player," at any position. The Falcons have not revealed much related to the specifics of the future Hall of Famer's injury, but their official Twitter account reported that Smith "hopes to see him on the field [Friday]." Until Friday comes, there will be no indication as to whether Gonzalez might miss Sunday's game, but fantasy owners should at least prepare for that possibility.

Roddy White, (shoulder), and Harry Douglas (knee), WRs: Might the Falcons also be without their most consistent wide receiver on Sunday? With White missing more time this season than ever before in his NFL career, and Julio Jones out for the year since injuring his foot in Week 5, Douglas has taken on an expanded role. But Douglas was a no-show at practice Thursday, listed on the injury report with a knee issue after participating as usual on Wednesday. Given that the team has issued virtually no information on the topic, it's hard to know how serious the injury is. But if Douglas were to be forced out on Sunday, it makes sense the Falcons would lean on the now presumably healthy White.

Not so fast. White is back on the injury report this week, not because of his hamstring or ankle but because of his shoulder. He was listed as a limited participant both Wednesday and Thursday, but the fact he was at least there on consecutive days is a plus. The Falcons would understandably limit him in order to have him out there against the Buccaneers Sunday. Douglas is ranked No. 40 in Eric Karabell's Flex ranks this week, with White at No. 84.

Steven Jackson, RB, (toe): Then there is Jackson, who missed four games with a hamstring injury earlier this year. He appeared on Wednesday's injury report as a limited participant due to a toe injury. His ailment does not seem to be of the same severity as that of Gonzalez; Jackson upgraded to full practice on Thursday, and appears on track to play. The bigger concern -- to fantasy owners, at least -- might be whether this will influence the Falcons' stated goal of trying to get Jackson the ball more each game. An injured toe could certainly be a limiting factor, although it won't matter much if the Falcons have to continue to play catch-up through the air. If that's the case, they have to hope they have their trio of top pass-catchers -- Gonzalez, Douglas and White -- on the field, even if they're functioning at less than 100 percent.
Steven JacksonAP Photo/David GoldmanWe likely won't know Steven Jackson's true recovery status until Sunday.

The Falcons have been battered by injuries this season and could really use some positive news heading into their Week 8 meeting with the Arizona Cardinals. Signs seem to be pointing to at least one key offensive starter getting back in the action.

Steven Jackson, RB (hamstring): Last week coming off the bye, Jackson had still not been cleared to practice. In fact, his first day of practice was Wednesday of this week and that was limited. Yet the plan is for Jackson to return to action Sunday.

It’s interesting that we’ve heard he would not return until he was 100 percent, a rationale that’s hard to dispute given the high rate of recurrence for these injuries and his aforementioned risk factors. But what is 100 percent? We can’t prove that an athlete has fully recovered by a particular imaging test. There might be no lingering evidence of any tearing of the muscle or even any inflammation, but that doesn’t guarantee the muscle is capable of maximum performance. Nor can we prove that an athlete has fully recovered by a particular on-field test. He can run hard, stop, backpedal, change direction, sprint, sprint again and do well with all of those things. That still doesn’t ensure there are no setbacks when he is asked to perform in a game situation with the extra intensity of an adrenaline surge or the endurance demanded to last four quarters of football.

In Jackson’s case, a few days of limited practice don’t seem especially reassuring when it comes to his readiness to return. On the one hand, the downtime has helped keep his body fresh. On the other, his leg won’t truly be tested until he is in that game situation. In other words, Sunday, on the field, everyone -- including Jackson -- will find out just how far along his recovery is.

Roddy White, WR (hamstring/ankle): Now that White has missed a game for the first time in his career, perhaps it makes the decision to miss another somewhat easier. His ailing hamstring is no doubt making it difficult to argue for a return. White is still not practicing and there is no indication as of yet just when he might resume that activity. It was clear his presence was not especially helpful in the early part of the year when the high ankle sprain hampered his mobility. Perhaps that experience is the best motivator for White to stay off the field until he feels he can at least run and cut without limitation. This appears to be a week-to-week situation.
Though the New York Giants and Houston Texans have gotten a lot of attention as underperforming teams this season, the Atlanta Falcons have to be right there with them, at 1-4. Coming off their bye week, they'll play the remaining nine games of the season without wide receiver Julio Jones, and unfortunately, he's not the only member of the team with health problems.

Roddy White, WR, (hamstring/ankle): This appears to be shaping up as the week White is forced to miss the first game of his professional career. Some might argue that it should have come sooner; in retrospect, even White acknowledged the high ankle sprain has been more problematic than he expected. Nonetheless, he was determined to try to gut it out until the team’s bye week in an effort to contribute at some level.

After suffering a setback with the ankle in Week 4, then a hamstring injury in Week 5, it appears a single bye week isn’t enough time to get him back in playing shape. In fact, White was recently seen limping in the facility, as reported by ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. Not practicing at all this week certainly isn’t improving the chances that we'll see him on the field Sunday and at this point, it seems even White would acknowledge that he needs to get his body right in order to better help his team.

Steven Jackson, RB (hamstring): Jackson is another Falcons player who apparently has yet to get his body right. With no explanation coming from the Falcons through Thursday’s practice, his obvious absence was a bit puzzling. From the outset, Jackson’s hamstring injury was expected to cost him multiple weeks, but there were hints that he would be returning following the team’s Week 6 bye. That bye has now come and gone and Jackson has yet to practice with his teammates. According to McClure, Jackson is now expected to miss his fourth straight game.

Significant hamstring strains can take multiple weeks for recovery, and had there not been hints prior to the Week 5 game that Jackson was “close” to returning, this continued absence might not garner as much attention. Is the team simply being cautious, or is there something more serious to explain his situation? It sounds as if Jackson’s healing just hasn’t progressed in the latter phases, as the team had hoped.

Speaking to reporters after practice, coach Mike Smith offered this assessment: "It's a hamstring that's been tough to come back from at this point in time." Smith noted that once doctors have cleared Jackson to return to practice, he will be back out there with the team. With Jackson not even being cleared to practice yet, it becomes virtually impossible to make a game plan for a return.

He is a high risk for re-injury, not only because hamstring strains are known for recurrence but because of his age (30), his history (multiple soft tissue injuries) and his position (running back), all of which are associated risk factors. While it’s understandable that no one wants Jackson to return too soon and suffer a major setback, the increasing length of his absence is in and of itself worrisome, in that it reflects just how serious this injury actually was, an injury he suffered not even two full games into the season.

Jason Snelling, RB (concussion): On a positive note for the Falcons, Snelling returned to full practice this week after suffering a concussion in Week 5. As long as there are no setbacks, he should be available this weekend. That may turn out to be a big deal, as Jackson continues to be out of the picture.

Fantasy injury report: Julio Jones

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
4:09
PM ET
The news Tuesday that Atlanta Falcons star WR Julio Jones’ season might be over due to a foot injury, as first reported by Fox Sports, came as a shock both to Falcons fans and fantasy owners.

But there was a clue. When Jones was seen limping out of the X-ray room after the team’s Monday night loss to the Jets, it at the very least indicated there was some lower-extremity concern being evaluated. Jones has been listed on the Falcons’ injury report weekly because of a knee issue; his foot had not been part of that report, hence the surprise as to the nature of the injury.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Jones is headed to Charlotte, N.C., to be evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson. Not only is Anderson a renowned foot and ankle specialist who provides second opinions for -- and often treats -- athletes with foot injuries, but he has taken care of Jones in the past.

At the 2011 NFL combine, Jones put on an impressive display, including a blazing 4.39 40-yard dash. Much to the surprise of those who witnessed his performance, Jones showcased his talent despite a fracture in his foot. During the medical evaluations, a fracture in the fifth metatarsal, the long bone of the outer forefoot between the pinkie toe and the midfoot (also called a Jones’ fracture), was identified, and he underwent surgery a week later. Surgery involved inserting a screw to stabilize the fracture, and Jones spent the remainder of the spring and early summer recovering. He was ready to play by the start of the season.

Mortensen reports the current injury is to the same foot as the one Jones had surgically repaired nearly three years ago, but that doesn’t put us closer to an official diagnosis. Further information should be forthcoming after Jones consults with Anderson on Wednesday.
It’s not often that we get advance notice of key players who will sit out Sunday, but it certainly makes for easier planning. On that note, here are some key players who are already ruled out for Week 3 or won’t be starting:

Out for Week 3

Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons (hamstring): Two bits of noteworthy information: First and foremost, the thigh injury that forced Jackson to make an early exit from Sunday’s game will definitely sideline him this week. On Tuesday, coach Mike Smith indicated Jackson would be out for more than a week, telling reporters, "It's short term. Don't know if that's two or three weeks.” Still, it’s nice to have confirmation via the official league reports that Jackson is listed as out for Week 3.

The second bit of information is that the word “hamstring” is listed next to his name on the injury report. The Falcons originally described this as a thigh injury; now we know it is the muscle group on the back of the thigh. As noted earlier this week, Jackson is no stranger to soft-tissue injuries, and this is just an additional incident. The early projection of Jackson being sidelined a few weeks hints at a moderate strain. With a 30-year-old athlete such as Jackson, the best protection against having this turn into a more severe injury is adequate rest.

Brandon Weeden, QB, Cleveland Browns (thumb): OK, so maybe this isn’t the biggest news to come out of Browns headquarters in the past 24 hours. But it’s still worth noting that the Browns have definitively declared Weeden out for this week after he injured his thumb late in the fourth quarter Sunday. On Wednesday, the Browns announced that Brian Hoyer would start in Weeden’s place when the team faces the Vikings this weekend. It is not clear what the quarterback situation will be going forward.

Not yet ruled out but not starting

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (concussion): After Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry of last week’s game, it appeared there would be a good chance he would miss this week. While there are encouraging signs that Lacy is making some progress in the healing department (attending meetings despite not practicing), Packers coach Mike McCarthy indicated Wednesday that James Starks would get the “starting opportunity” in Week 3.

Starks is not without his own injury history, notes ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. In fact, that history has been significant enough to cause him to miss more than half of the team’s regular-season games during his four-year career. Starks showed last week what he can do when healthy, rushing for 132 yards and a touchdown. With Lacy potentially sidelined for Week 3, the Packers are hoping Starks will start -- and finish -- against the Bengals.

Fantasy injury report: Steven Jackson

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
6:23
PM ET
UPDATE 6:23 p.m.: Falcons head coach Mike Smith has ruled out Steven Jackson for Week 3, but offered no further specifics about the nature of the injury. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Smith stated, "it's short term. Don't know if that's two or three weeks."

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UPDATE 2:41 p.m.: NFL.com has reported that Steven Jackson may be out for two to four weeks, though the team has classified him as "week to week."

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When Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson is on the field, he exudes strength, power and hard-driving running. The key words here are "when Jackson is on the field."

Unfortunately, a "thigh" injury, as the Falcons termed it, forced Jackson off the field in the first quarter of Sunday's game, limiting him to three carries and one reception. The reception happened to be for a touchdown, making his brief appearance more valuable, but this risk is likely to be part of the ongoing concern with Jackson. As ESPN's Mike Sando notes in his Insider column , Jackson "has now appeared on an injury report no later than Week 3 in each of the past three seasons."

Jackson's ailments have tended to be of the soft tissue variety -- quadriceps, groin, hip flexor -- but nothing has been severe enough to sideline him for long. Despite his frequent appearance on the injury reports, Jackson has played in all 16 games twice over the past four seasons and has missed only one game in each of the other two campaigns. He is not an athlete who shies away from playing through discomfort, although it has limited his effectiveness at times (e.g., in 2009, when he was playing with a herniated disc in his lower back).

Still, he has managed to put up more than 1,000 yards rushing for each of the past eight seasons, including 2008, when he played in only 11 games. The difference now is that Jackson is 30 years old, and, although he maintains a remarkable fitness level, the years of play and the accumulation of various soft tissue injuries has to be considered.

As for the immediacy of this latest thigh injury, there has been no update from the Falcons thus far, but here's hoping that will change Wednesday when the first practice reports come out.
While Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White suffered a reported mild lateral ankle sprain in the team’s second preseason game, it still seemed a foregone conclusion that he would play in the Falcons' season opener, his 129th consecutive game.

He started, but only after much drama and the revelation that there was more to his injury than initially reported.

Now that we know it’s a high ankle sprain, what should we expect for Week 2? White tweeted on Monday, “As far as fantasy if I don't participate in practice than don't start me it's a red flag.”

If you’re planning on following his advice, consider that White did not participate in practice Wednesday or Thursday. Although it seems likely that he will again suit up and function in a role similar to last week, even that is not guaranteed yet.

Until we actually see White making sharp cuts and breaks, which he acknowledged last week he could not do, it is hard to expect a top-flight performance. It will be worth noting whether he does get back into any practice before the week is out, but White may have given fantasy owners all of the advice they need.

Late Week 17 injury updates

December, 31, 2011
12/31/11
2:19
PM ET


It's finally here! The last week of the NFL regular season is upon us and there is chaos everywhere. Who's resting? Who's playing? Who's playing a series, a quarter, a half, the entire game and into overtime if need be? This might be the most challenging week for fantasy owners making key sit/start decisions. Multiple variables factor into which players will rest and which will roll Sunday, but fortunately there are a few clues in the Friday team injury reports to help guide us.

Good luck in Week 17, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Douglas Jones/US PresswireWith the Cowboys' season on the line, expect Tony Romo under center.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (P): Roethlisberger practiced fully all week and is expected to play. He indicated the week off had allowed his ankle some recovery time and felt better moving around this week. The bigger question might be how long he remains in the game. At stake for the Steelers is a bye in the first round of the playoffs and home-field advantage (which also depends on the outcome of the Ravens game), so there is little doubt that they would like to secure a victory. But Roethlisberger, while improving, is not past the injury and there is no telling how the ankle will respond as the game progresses. If the Steelers get a big lead early, it leaves the possibility that Roethlisberger's day might be shortened. Of course, that might also mean fantasy owners would have gotten their points' worth by that time.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, hand, (P): The probable tag tells you all you need to know: The Cowboys plan on having Romo under center. As far as the injury itself, on Thursday we noted the issues Romo could face if swelling persisted in his bruised hand. Obviously Romo has shown through the week of practice (in which he participated daily on a limited basis) that he can handle the duties. The game is too important to the Cowboys to have him out there at a significant disadvantage. As long as he doesn't aggravate the injury during the game, Romo should be able to function, just as he has through other ailments.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, shoulder, (P): On Thursday we discussed the non-separated non-throwing shoulder of the Patriots' quarterback. After sitting out Wednesday's practice (non-injury-related, according to the Patriots), Brady, while limited, did enough in Thursday and Friday's practice to demonstrate he could play. With 16 other Patriots listed as questionable and Brady holding the only probable designation on the team, it's clear they expect to have him on the field Sunday. According to ESPNBoston.com, teammate Wes Welker hints at Brady playing the entire game. From an injury perspective at least, it does not appear the shoulder will be a factor.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, concussion, (P): Ponder left last week's game early with a concussion but was cleared to return to practice by Wednesday. After putting in full practice sessions all week, Ponder is expected to start Sunday.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb is still experiencing concussion-related symptoms when trying to practice. John Skelton will start again.

Running backs

[+] EnlargeMcCoy
Debby Wong/US PresswireLeSean McCoy should get his usual touches in Week 17.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, ankle, (Q): The questionable designation is a bit mysterious since even coach Andy Reid has indicated that McCoy is expected to play Sunday. Naturally this allows for any pregame setbacks. But McCoy was a full participant in Friday's practice after a day of rest Wednesday and a limited workout Thursday. There seems to be little doubt that McCoy will play and will be given the ball plenty Sunday.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson's ankle is in better shape after another week of healing time. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but was back to full practice Friday. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Johnson said he was having trouble just walking on the ankle last week. Johnson indicated the ankle was much improved this week and that the rest early on helped prevent setbacks. It seems a healthier Johnson would want to end his season on a much brighter note. It remains to be seen how effective he can be against the Houston Texans, although there is admittedly little at stake, considering their playoff berth is secure.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, knee, (P): There is no real injury concern with Foster here, other than the potential of suffering one if he plays too long in Week 17. It's hard to imagine the Texans, who have been so decimated by injuries at numerous key positions this year, risking Foster for an entire game. Foster can clearly score even in a short time but expectations for him putting in a full workload should be tempered.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing Sunday. Expect him to play again in this critical Sunday night matchup against the Cowboys.

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Jones is expected to start Sunday night in a game in which the Cowboys' season hangs on the brink. Jones was removed early from last Sunday's game, which was perhaps the best move for his tight hamstring. He was able to return to daily limited practice this week and the Cowboys are planning on him being the featured tailback. His hamstring will not be fully tested until the game but the conservative approach so far in managing his work over the past two weeks will hopefully pay off now.



Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith still appeared to be struggling with his ankle to some degree in Week 16 but he was on the field. Smith practiced fully all week and at probable, is expected to play. The question is how much the Lions plan to use him. Joique Bell was signed by the Lions this week as insurance but coach Jim Schwartz has been vague as to whether he would actually play in Week 17.



Ryan Mathews, calf, (Q) and Mike Tolbert, hamstring, (P), San Diego Chargers: Earlier in the week it seemed Mathews was faring better with his injury concerns than Tolbert. That seems to have changed Friday. Mathews sat out Wednesday with a sore calf but participated to some degree Thursday. Post-practice soreness led the Chargers to give Mathews another day off Friday in the hope he'd be well enough to play Sunday. Even if active, his response to Thursday's light workout suggests he could struggle to get through an entire game. And this is nothing new. Mathews dealt with a calf injury in October but benefited from a bye week immediately afterward. His status will not likely be known until game time. If he plays, he will be sharing with Tolbert who was bothered this week by a sore hamstring. Tolbert did not practice until Friday but participated in a full workout his first day back. Barring a setback, listed as probable, Tolbert will play.



Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu says he feels better this week after sitting out Week 16. But Evan Royster delivered such a solid performance in his absence, it's hard to know how the workload will be divided even if Helu plays. Tricky.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): Jones-Drew has been remarkably durable this season and leads the league in rushing. So much for those who doubted him before the season began. He can help increase his chances of securing that title by playing Sunday, which he is fully expected to do. After getting some rest for his ankle Wednesday and Thursday, Jones-Drew turned in a full practice Friday.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns, elbow, (P): It's no secret to fantasy owners how much the injury bug has impacted Hillis this season. Now he's on the report because of his elbow but the Browns plan to have him on the field after he put in limited practices daily. Hillis faces a tough Steelers defense but undoubtedly would like to finish the season strong after what can otherwise only be called a disappointing year.

Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Again Wells is listed as questionable for the Cardinals but again he is expected to play. The Arizona Republic reports Wells is likely to have offseason surgery on his right knee, not entirely unexpected given the chronic irritation he has dealt with since injuring his knee in Week 6. Still, with one final outing awaiting him, Wells is expected to gut it out once more.

Shonn Greene, rib/shoulder and LaDainian Tomlinson, quadriceps, (P): Greene has been playing through the rib injury for weeks and will do so again. Tomlinson has a sore quad that kept him out of practice Wednesday but he returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. The probable tag for both indicates the Jets expect them to play.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin, (P): The groin injury has kept Turner on the injury report and appears to have hampered his effectiveness in the latter portion of the season. Nonetheless, the probable tag indicates the Falcons are planning on him being in Sunday's lineup, although how much time he'll see is questionable.

Marion Barber, Chicago bears, calf, (D): Barber is again listed as doubtful, making Kahlil Bell the feature back for the Bears again Sunday.

Wide receivers

Andre Johnson
AP Photo/Bill BaptistFeeling lucky? Andre Johnson's status could be dicey.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, hamstring, (P): Johnson will play; this much coach Gary Kubiak has indicated. Kubiak also shared that Johnson is likely to be restricted to approximately 15 to 20 plays. From a health standpoint Johnson appears ready, but how much can he do for fantasy owners in that window? That, friends, is the roll of the dice inserting Johnson into your lineup will require.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Green suffered a third-degree shoulder separation in Week 15 but returned to finish the game. He was active in Week 16 and although his numbers weren't extraordinary, he did make an impressive catch while well-defended, suggesting the shoulder was not holding him back. Another week of recovery should only help. After limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, Green returned to a full practice Friday and, at probable, is expected to face the Ravens on Sunday.

Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (P): Robinson practiced fully each day and will be in the lineup again Sunday night.

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle, (P): Wallace was limited Wednesday but fully practiced Thursday and Friday. At probable, the Steelers plan on having him Sunday.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Achilles, (P): Johnson rested Wednesday and Thursday but returned to limited practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play Sunday at Green Bay.

Mario Manningham, knee and Hakeem Nicks, hamstring, New York Giants, (P): Manningham has struggled off and on with swelling in his knee but managed to practice every day this week. Nicks has been dealing with a hamstring issue but insisted early in the week it would not keep him down. After resting Wednesday and Thursday, Nicks returned to a limited workout Friday. Both players are now expected to be available in the game that will determine whether their season continues or ends abruptly.

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall played through the knee soreness in Week 16 just fine and is expected to do so again Sunday. Marshall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday but was back in full practice Friday.

Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (P): Jackson did not practice until Friday as he rested the sore groin that plagued him last week. He was available for a full workout Friday, however, and the Chargers obviously feel confident he will go against the Raiders this Sunday. It's worth noting that Jackson has typically played well despite injuries in the past but was clearly not up to par in Week 16. The layoff during the week no doubt helped move him along and with the team feeling more confident about his status this week, Jackson is presumably faring better.

Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Both Welker and Branch were listed similarly last week and both played without limitations. While the receivers are being kept to limited work during the week, both are expected to be on the field again in Week 17. That is, of course, unless the Patriots decide to surprise us all and rest their starters. Welker told ESPNBoston.com that he expects to play all four quarters. Fantasy owners would be wise to check pregame inactives just in case.

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice but coach Rex Ryan said they expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.



Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders, foot, (Q): Ford is looking to make his return after missing the last seven weeks because of a foot injury. He was able to practice on a limited basis all week but has yet to test his foot in a game situation. While he presents another option for Carson Palmer, it is unclear how much Ford would be utilized after missing so much time, and with Denarius Moore demonstrating last week that he is back to full strength.



Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (D): Boldin underwent knee surgery last week and missed Week 16. Originally projected by the Ravens to miss the remainder of the regular season, it was a bit surprising that he was not officially ruled out in advance of this week's game. Perhaps that was due to the encouraging sight of Boldin back in practice Friday, albeit on a limited basis. The doubtful tag confirms though that Boldin is likely to be out again this week.



Tight ends

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, knee, (P): Finley didn't practice early in the week but managed to make it back to limited workouts Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play but the Packers have already hinted at resting a number of their starters. It does not seem likely that Finley will play the entire game.

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, neck, (Q): Clark missed the last two games after suffering a stinger-type injury but was back in full practice for the first time this week. It would seem he has a chance to play, but check the pregame inactive list to be sure.

Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, head, (P): Fasano missed Week 16 with a concussion but returned to full practice daily this week and is expected to play.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, knee, (P): Daniels only practiced on a limited basis and although he is expected to play Sunday, that too may be on a limited basis. The Texans already have their playoff berth secure and may want to limit the risk exposure for their key starters.

OUT


This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured-reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins, knee: This one is a bit surprising since Bush made it seem like the injury was not a big deal. He never was able to practice this week, however, so with the Dolphins out of contention, resting him Sunday seems wise.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Since spraining his MCL three weeks ago, it always seemed the Packers would keep him sidelined until the playoffs. Jennings has returned to running but will not see game action again until the postseason.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle: Starks has struggled to get his ankle healthy, suffering multiple setbacks over the last month. The decision to hold him out in advance of the playoffs is no surprise.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, (toe): As noted Thursday, Ingram suffered a setback to the toe in practice this week and it sounds as if it could be a problem for the playoffs. All fantasy owners need to know is that it will be a problem for this week, as in, he won't play.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore suffered an in-game setback with his strained hamstring in Week 16 and was forced to leave the game early. After not practicing at all this week, Moore's status for this Sunday is not surprising, especially with the playoffs looming for the Saints.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, (foot): McFadden isn't coming back after all, at least not during your fantasy season. He might not be available during the playoffs, either, but first the Raiders have to get there.

Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, foot: Battle was in a walking boot mid-week and never really seemed as if he would be ready to play.



Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss the game again this week.

Delanie Walker, TE, San Francisco 49ers, jaw: Walker left Week 16's game holding his jaw after inadvertently getting kicked in the head, and a break was later confirmed.

Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now, Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET, and Fantasy Surround on ESPN.com starting at 10 a.m. ET Sunday for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!

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