Week 13 is in the books! Unfortunately, so is the season of another promising young player who succumbed to injury. The Detroit Lions seemed to have unleashed another talented wide receiver in Ryan Broyles (who many a fantasy owner added to the roster when Titus Young was, ahem, demoted). After notching over 100 yards receiving in Week 12, Broyles didn't get through the first quarter of Sunday's game before suffering a knee injury. Sadly Broyles, who tore his left ACL in November 2011 while at Oklahoma, tore his right ACL and will now relive the surgery and lengthy rehab process. On the bright side, he knows what to expect and has proved he can return to an elite level of play. In the meantime, Mike Thomas becomes the next in line to fill in at wide receiver for the Lions.
Up in Boston, it appears the New England Patriots will have to do without the services of wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman injured his foot in Sunday's game and ESPN Boston cites a report from WBZ-TV saying Edelman's foot is broken, which will require surgery. This is unfortunate for the Patriots and unfortunate for fantasy owners who benefited from Edelman's production in recent weeks.
On the other side of the ball, the Chicago Tribune reports Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will miss the next three games and potentially the remainder of the regular season after suffering a Grade 2 (moderate) right hamstring strain late in Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Urlacher entered the season with questions about his left knee after spraining his MCL and PCL late last season, but has managed to play every game until now.
As we head into Week 14:
• The Jacksonville Jaguars had two wide receivers who suffered injuries in last Thursday's practice, but both Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts were healthy enough to play by Sunday. Unfortunately, only Blackmon emerged from the game unscathed. Shorts, along with teammate running back Rashad Jennings, suffered a concussion. Both Jennings and Shorts will follow the standard protocols of evaluation and required clearance for return to play. It is too early in the week to know what their status will be.
Montell Owens stepped in the game when Jennings went down. With Maurice Jones-Drew still "very questionable" for Week 14 according to coach Mike Mularkey, Owens may be in line for a start. The Jaguars have seen Jones-Drew, Jennings and Jalen Parmele (now on injured reserve) all go down with injuries at various points this season. There are still four games to play, however, and the Jaguars do not seem inclined to automatically shut Jones-Drew down, nor should they be, assuming he progresses to the point of being able to return.
Despite Jones-Drew's projection in early November that he was about two weeks away from returning, it never really seemed plausible to count on him before December. Well, it's now December and while there's no urgency for the Jaguars in terms of needing victories to secure a playoff berth, there is still rationale from a rehab perspective to return a player to competition IF he is healthy enough to go. If Jones-Drew does not progress, the Jaguars certainly won't expose him to further injury by playing him unnecessarily. If he can return to practice in the next week or two, however, there is still a chance he returns for the final weeks of the season.
• Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson injured his hamstring again. During pregame warm-ups Sunday, Nelson reportedly aggravated the same hamstring that caused him to miss time earlier this season. According to news reports, Nelson attempted to play despite the injury but was unable to do so successfully and left in the first quarter (deja vu for fantasy owners who experienced similar pain in Week 9 when Nelson, already hampered by a recent hamstring injury, left early after injuring his ankle).
Nelson is a classic example of how hamstring injuries can resurface even after a player has had a successful post-injury outing (he had 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 12). With an eye on playing deep into the postseason, it's hard to imagine the Packers returning Nelson quickly, even if head coach Mike McCarthy says the injury does not appear serious. Of course McCarthy already tipped us off that Nelson will likely miss Week 14, saying he would be "pressed hard" to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Maybe this is the week we see the return of the pre-injury Greg Jennings? While the numbers in his first game back from surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle may not have been what fantasy owners were hoping for, he was targeted more than any other receiver Sunday and he emerged from the game feeling, well, "great." According to ESPNMilwaukee.com, Jennings said after the game, "I felt great, feel great now, felt great getting hit a couple times, hitting the ground, getting dirty, making some plays." Quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered this observation: "It's nice having him back. He's a big-time player. He can make big catches down the field. ... We've got to give him more opportunities." With Nelson expected to be out, maybe this is the week for Jennings to get those opportunities.
• Despite the positive reports on Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson as they returned to practice last week, both were held out of Sunday's game. Perhaps they weren't quite ready for competition, perhaps there was concern about the weather, or perhaps there was thought given to the fact the Raiders would have two games very close together (they face the Denver Broncos on Thursday). Or maybe it's simply that Marcel Reece has provided enough security to allow for the extra cushion of recovery time.
No matter the reasons for last Sunday's absence, both backs are expected to be available for Thursday night. The question then becomes how the workload will be divided given McFadden and Goodson are coming off high ankle sprains while Reece and fellow back Jeremy Stewart have played well. According to the Contra Costa Times, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said the Raiders will know more by Wednesday or Thursday as to how they will use them. Reece is also dealing with quadriceps and hamstring injuries that could compromise his effectiveness. Interestingly, Knapp also expects the return of tackle Khalif Barnes (he returned in Week 11 after a nine-week absence following groin surgery) to bode well for McFadden's productivity. It may be tough for fantasy owners to count on a huge boost from McFadden in his first game in five weeks, but a solid outing would be encouraging for a couple of upcoming favorable matchups.
• The Philadelphia Eagles have named Nick Foles the starter for the rest of the season according to head coach Andy Reid. That doesn't necessarily mean Michael Vick is out for the remainder of the season, just that if and when he does return, he will be the backup. Vick is still working his way back through an exercise progression post-concussion. The bottom line for fantasy owners who may have been holding out hope is that it's time to move on. It appears the Eagles have. As for running back LeSean McCoy, he is also in recovery mode post-concussion. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reid says McCoy is in Phase 3 of the Eagles' five-phase concussion recovery program. He is not a lock to play this week and when he does return could very well find himself sharing time with Bryce Brown who, minus a fumble here and there, has been exceptional in McCoy's absence.
• Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell injured his foot in the third quarter of Sunday's game and is now in a walking boot. LaFell underwent an MRI on Monday but there is no word yet as to the specifics of his injury. Teammate Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) is improving according to the Charlotte Observer, but the running back has no timetable for a return.
• Neither wide receiver Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings nor Danny Amendola of the St. Louis Rams played last Sunday. Harvin has now missed three games due to an ankle sprain and is no lock to play this week. After one attempt at limited practice last Wednesday, Harvin could not repeat the effort and was still having trouble running. As for Amendola, he did not practice at all last week with his injured heel and the Rams opted to rest him Sunday. For both players, the next meaningful update is not expected before Wednesday practice.
Speaking of Wednesday practice, all eyes will be on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (SC joint and first rib injury) to see how he looks throwing the ball. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the soreness in Roethlisberger's shoulder and chest has diminished. If he demonstrates he is healthy enough to function at the position, he could return to face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.