Stephania Bell: Jacoby Ford

Expect Brady, Romo, Big Ben to play

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
6:36
PM ET


If you're still alive in your fantasy playoffs, your new year is getting off to a good start. With a full slate of games on New Year's Day, you have 32 teams that could help crown you champion. Or, you could have 32 teams that combine to sink your season by resting their star players, particularly those who are at less than 100 percent health (who is at 100 percent health at this stage anyway?), in advance of the real playoffs or because they have no hope for the playoffs. Whom can you count on? We are in search of that answer as the final games of the 2011 regular season approach. Here's what we're hearing midweek.

Quick Hits

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: This is the biggest nonstory story of the week. Brady took a number of hits to his nonthrowing (left) shoulder last week, and Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England reported that Brady underwent X-rays to rule out a shoulder separation. Apparently there were no significant findings, and after sitting out practice Wednesday (noninjury related, according to the Patriots), Brady was at least present for the portion of practice open to the media Thursday, although how much activity he did is unclear. It sounds as if the team is understandably conserving his stamina for Sunday, when the Patriots are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Brady has played through far worse, including, as many longtime fantasy players might remember, a sore throwing shoulder that had him on the injury report for record time. He will play Sunday, and while he perhaps would prefer not to take hard hits on his left shoulder, it should not affect his game.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain got an extra week of recovery when he sat out Week 16, and he now appears on track to play this Sunday. Roethlisberger was listed as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and acknowledges that while he still has pain in the ankle, he is improving. Expect Roethlisberger to play Sunday, barring a setback. Whether he will play the entire game is impossible to predict at this stage, and it might ultimately depend on how his ankle responds that day.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesTony Romo sat out most of last week's game with a hand injury but appears to be in good shape for the season finale.
Tony Romo, QB, and Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Both players are on track to play Sunday night in the game against the New York Giants that will determine who lives to play another week. Jones benefited from the rest he got in Week 16 (he was removed from the game after just four carries) and has been practicing on a limited basis. Of course, the ultimate test for his hamstring will come in the demands of a full game, but his issue was only ever described as "tightness," never a true strain. Romo meanwhile has been working on getting the swelling down in his bruised right hand. The less swelling, the less there are any issues with functionality of the hand that would affect grip and, ultimately, ball control. Romo's presence in practice throughout the week indicates the team is fully expecting he will start.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson has missed three games since suffering his second hamstring injury of the season and made it clear he wanted to get back into a regular-season game before heading into the playoffs. It appears he will get his wish, as Johnson has practiced this week and coach Gary Kubiak indicated he is in line to play Sunday. It appears the Texans do not plan to use Johnson the entire game, as Kubiak suggested they would aim for 15 to 20 plays. Who can blame them after the spate of severe injuries their key players have endured this season? So while they will support Johnson getting some in-game work, they are not likely to take excessive risk. The question for fantasy owners is whether a limited appearance from Johnson will translate to significant point production.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins: After being a pregame scratch in Week 16 because of a painful toe, Helu has returned to limited practice this week. He says he expects to play, but the combination of his being less than 100 percent and a nice performance last week by Evan Royster makes this week's outlook unclear.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has settled into a routine of not practicing early in the week but returning Friday and playing Sunday. It appears that could be the case again, and the Giants have everything to play for Sunday night.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: You probably are not in your fantasy championship if you were counting on McFadden to be back, since he now has gone 67 days without practicing. He is not headed to injured reserve, so there still is an opportunity if the Raiders make the playoffs. However, fantasy owners are left hoping for a full offseason recovery.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Ford now is back in practice on a limited basis. His participation on back-to-back days is encouraging, but it is not yet clear whether he will be in the lineup Sunday.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and his status for Sunday is looking grim. At this point, it's more important for the Packers to have him healthy for the playoffs, so do not plan on seeing him in Week 17.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireIt'll be hard for either the Saints or fantasy owners to rely on Mark Ingram down the stretch.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Uh-oh. Not good news here for the Saints. Ingram has missed the past three games with a turf toe injury but in the past week had appeared to be making some progress. Unfortunately, his return to light practice Wednesday resulted in a setback, one the New Orleans Times-Picayune suggests could keep him out of the playoffs. Wise fantasy owners probably already made the move to secure Chris Ivory, who is expected to play again this Sunday.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew had an ankle injury heading into last week's game and managed to play through it. He has not practiced yet this week, but there seems to be little doubt that this is just rest in advance of Sunday's game.

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: Bush has had a resurgence of his career in Miami and wants to finish the season strong. His absence from practice both Wednesday and Thursday is a bit worrisome, considering he downplayed last week's injury to his right knee. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Bush is walking without a limp, but a knee injury to a running back with a history of knee issues is still concerning. If Bush is not practicing Friday, fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, WRs, New York Giants: On Saturday, Nicks aggravated the hamstring he injured earlier this season, and it kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. He made it clear he plans to play, however. According to ESPN New York, Nicks said, "It is all or nothing. It is playoffs now." That's not to say he'll be completely past it. Nicks and teammate Manningham both present some risk in that neither is expected to be completely beyond his injuries by the time Sunday rolls around. Manningham's struggles with swelling in his knee have been ongoing, but he turned in some limited work Wednesday and Thursday. Coach Tom Coughlin seems encouraged that Manningham will be available for this critical matchup.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Dale Zanine/US PresswireLeSean McCoy is the leading rusher in fantasy this season, but will he get to build on his stats?
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Finally, Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin are off the injury report, but McCoy gets added this week. McCoy hurt his ankle in Week 16 and was given Wednesday off. Eagles coach Andy Reid expressed optimism early in the week that McCoy would be fine, and his return to limited practice Thursday seemed to support that statement. McCoy is expected to play Sunday.

Kevin Smith, RB, and Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Smith's ankle is still in recovery mode, but he has turned in full practices this week. As noted Tuesday, the Lions signed Joique Bell from the practice squad, so it is difficult to assess just how Sunday's lineup will shape up. Johnson is listed on the injury report with an Achilles injury and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. There has been no indication that there is anything major to be concerned about regarding his health but his status for Sunday is unclear. While the Lions have made it sound as if it will be business as usual, it's hard to imagine their starters not being removed early at the very least, as this game does not hold much value (they're playing to keep the 5-seed in the playoffs).

Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, RBs, San Diego Chargers: Not what fantasy owners want to see -- both Chargers running backs returned to the injury report. Mathews, again listed with a calf injury, sat out Wednesday but was back to limited practice Thursday, suggesting he'll be available Sunday. Tolbert, however, was out both Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury, and his status is less certain.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog.

Late Week 16 injury updates

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
8:24
PM ET


With the majority of NFL matchups taking place on Saturday, there is one fewer day for teams, coaches and, most importantly, fantasy owners to prepare! Never fear, championship contenders. We won't let something as small as a schedule change get in the way of bringing you all the latest information. With the NFL injury reports hot off the presses, here are the players whose status may have you concerned heading into this week's games.

Good luck in Week 16, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Frank Victores/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger likely will play against the Rams only in case of an emergency.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (Q): The Steelers have been preparing Charlie Batch all week to face the St. Louis Rams, with Roethlisberger active only in an emergency scenario. This is not a huge surprise, as Roethlisberger is coming off a short week following the Monday night game in which he was clearly limited. With the playoffs forthcoming, the extended rest can only help. It's too soon to say whether the Steelers plan to have him active or not in the final week of the regular season.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, ribs, (P): Vick will probably be on this list through the end of the regular season as his rib injury continues to heal. There's no question, however, that Vick will be the quarterback for the Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder, (P): Freeman is now at the point where he can play despite the shoulder soreness. He practiced fully this week and will start against the Carolina Panthers.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has still only returned to limited practice. It's expected that John Skelton will start again.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, ankle, (D): Bradford has been struggling with his ankle, saying it feels as if it's "going backwards." Not good. Neither is a doubtful tag. With backup A.J. Feeley already ruled out, it appears recently signed Kellen Clemens will get the start.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson sprained his ankle Sunday and has been gradually increasing his activity throughout the week in an effort to return. While Johnson escaped major structural injury, the ankle has still been sore and could affect his overall performance, particularly with lateral movement and cutting. Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday and is expected to play, but likely will not be at top form.



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

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
Douglas Jones/US PresswireThe oft-injured Felix Jones is once again a question mark for fantasy owners.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Jones hasn't done much ... and that's the worry. Although he has been doing some running on the side, he has not fully tested the hamstring. While the Cowboys hold out hope he'll be available, it's Sammy Morris who has taken all the first-team reps in practice. As another signal the Cowboys want insurance, they promoted running back Chauncey Washington from the practice squad, according to ESPNDallas.com. To complicate matters, this is a late game and the decision will not likely be announced until inactives are due. Even if Jones plays, there has to be some concern about what exactly one can expect in live game conditions.

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (Q): Bush has been on the injury report but it seems only logical he would be. After all, there are many other Raiders there to keep him company but, most importantly, he has been the workhorse of the backfield, enduring a physical toll. After he has been limited in practice each day, the questionable tag does raise some eyebrows. The signals out of Oakland all week have been that the Raiders expect to have Bush play, but it will be important to check pregame inactives.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, hamstring, (P): McGahee has been bothered intermittently by the hamstring since hyperextending his knee but the probable tag tells us the Broncos plan to have him on the field. McGahee practiced in full every day, which should also help put fantasy owners' collective minds at ease.



Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith's status is an upgrade over last week, indicating the team is feeling far more confident about his ankle. Smith's activity this week was a positive sign, as he was able to practice in full each day. While there's no way to be certain he can get through the game unscathed, this is certainly a better situation than last week.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu downplayed his injuries, but according to The Washington Post, he felt much better after practice Thursday than he did earlier in the week. Despite the questionable tag, it appears Helu will play.



Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): His ankle got tangled up during the Week 15 game, but Jones-Drew, one of the most durable and productive running backs this season, was never really in danger of missing the game. He was given fewer reps in practice but participated on a limited basis every day. Jones-Drew is expected to start against Tennessee.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): After he was listed as probable the past couple of weeks, it's a little concerning that Wells has been downgraded this week to questionable. He did practice daily, but on a limited basis; however, that has been the pattern for some time as the team has been attempting to manage his knee condition. The Arizona Republic reports that Wells is expected to play Saturday, despite the questionable tag.



James Starks, knee/ankle and Brandon Saine, concussion, Green Bay Packers, (P): Starks sat out last week's game to give his ankle some additional rest. It only made sense after Starks struggled for several weeks in a row. This week has gone much better for Starks, who was able to participate fully in practice each day. Saine missed Week 15 with a concussion but returned to limited practice Wednesday, then full practice Thursday and Friday. Both backs are expected to be available along with Ryan Grant. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is likely to be a shared workload in place.

Shonn Greene, New York Jets, rib/shoulder, (P): Greene has been on the injury report for a few weeks now and his latest injury (torn tendon in finger) isn't even listed. The probable tag indicates the Jets expect him to play.

Marion Barber, Chicago Bears, calf, (D): Barber is listed as doubtful, meaning there is little doubt that Kahlil Bell will be carrying the load for the Bears on Saturday.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe, no designation yet: Ingram is still not practicing, and with the game on Monday night, fantasy owners should avoid him in their lineups.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Scott Rovak/US PresswireAfter missing part of last week's game with an injury, A.J. Green appears poised to carry a full load this week.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Knowing that Green comes into this game fresh off a Grade 3 shoulder separation, the probable tag is very encouraging. Green has maintained all along that he would be able to play this weekend, and now it appears all but certain that he will. He was catching passes as early as Tuesday, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, and returned to a full practice Friday. If Green lands hard on the recently injured shoulder, it certainly won't feel terrific and he may be challenged to reach directly overhead, but he managed to finish the game last week after suffering the injury. It's hard to imagine it being much worse Saturday.

Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills, groin, (P): Last Sunday Johnson appeared to aggravate the groin injury that has plagued him throughout the season and was removed from the game as a result. Johnson said he could have re-entered the game and expressed little doubt that he would be back in Week 16. He practiced on a limited basis daily and appears on track to play as usual. It's worth noting that Johnson has performed well this season despite the presence of injury.



Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (Q): Robinson was listed this way last week but we all know he played. Expect him to do the same again after practicing daily.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring/shoulder (P): Maclin looked better last week than he did the week before and the probable tag tells us the Eagles are confident he'll be out there again. Maclin practiced fully each day and looks to be overcoming the injury.

Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee, (D): Manningham has managed to play through his knee issue for the last two weeks but it appears he will miss this one. Swelling in the knee has returned, and he did not practice at all this week. Fantasy owners should make other plans.

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (P): Washington has already shown he can play through the ankle injury, even coming in at far more questionable status. After practicing in full daily, Washington appears good to go against Jacksonville.

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall apparently had been dealing with some knee soreness but nothing so serious that he might have to miss this matchup against the New England Patriots. Marshall didn't practice Wednesday but returned to light work Thursday and full practice Friday. Expect him to play.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREA groin injury may keep out Vincent Jackson at the worst time for fantasy owners.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (Q): Jackson did not practice at all this week because of the groin issue, making his Saturday status far less certain. Jackson has played through injuries before, but this time may be different. It seemed like a foregone conclusion earlier in the week that Jackson would go, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Jackson's groin has not responded as hoped to treatment during the week. Late game alert.

Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Once again the Patriots have roughly half their roster at questionable after limited practice all week. Welker has been at this status for several weeks and has played without incident. Branch, however, missed last week and there is legitimate question as to whether he is ready to return. Branch says he's improving, but the team will make the final decision, just before game time.

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 the Jets expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that, and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.

Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, foot, (P): Moore was able to make it back last week but didn't do too much. Another week of practice (full practices daily) should have him on track for more action.

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.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Boldin underwent knee surgery this week and will miss the remainder of the regular season.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Jennings suffered a sprained MCL in Week 14 and is likely out for the remainder of the regular season.

[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJake Ballard won't be able to take advantage of a Jets defense that struggled to stop fellow tight end Brent Celek last week.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, knee: Forte suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and the Bears still hope he will be able to return before the regular season is complete, but it is far from certain.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, thumb: The Bears' starting quarterback remains out alongside their starting running back. Cutler is recovering from surgery to repair his broken right thumb.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, foot: McFadden is still removed from practice but the team still holds out hope he can return at some point. It won't be this week.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders, foot: Ford has still not been able to practice this week as he recovers from a foot injury.

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

Anthony Fasano, TE, Miami Dolphins, head: Fasano was diagnosed with a concussion Thursday, at which point it appeared obvious he would sit out this week. The team made it official Friday.

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

Good news for Peterson; Big Ben murky

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
5:58
PM ET


The only players fantasy owners are wondering about heading into the Thursday night game are Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner. Jones, who has strained both hamstrings this season, put on a nice display Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Limited practice for Jones on a short week did not likely come as a surprise to most, but seeing the word "back" next to his name on the injury report may have. While the Falcons have not said much about Jones with regards to this back ailment, it's not uncommon to have low back and hamstring issues simultaneously. The large sciatic nerve in the back of the thigh is formed from nerve roots in the lumbar (low back) region (which is why herniated disks in the back often result in leg pain when the sciatic nerve is affected). That is not to suggest by any stretch that is the case here, only that it is not unusual to have overlapping back and hamstring conditions. There is no reason to expect any limitations with Jones, but until he survives the remainder of the season incident-free, it's only natural to be a little nervous. Meanwhile Turner has also been on the injury report for several weeks because of his groin but has managed to play nonetheless. He is expected to do so again Thursday night.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday

Ben Roethlisberger
Jason Bridge/US PresswireIt appears fantasy owners may have to wait until Monday night to figure out whether to use Ben Roethlisberger in their lineups.
Here is a list of players who are worth monitoring based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon:

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain sustained a week ago is no secret, but his status for Monday night remains murky. Roethlisberger is in a walking boot and may not practice at all before Monday's game. If anyone has defied all medical logic when it comes to returning from injury, it's Roethlisberger, but this one could prove to be a huge challenge. Roethlisberger need only look at Sam Bradford's struggles over a month removed from a similar injury. (Bradford now says he feels like he's "going backwards") Bradford had difficulty stepping into his throws and was clearly hampered with his mobility in Monday night's game. If Roethlisberger is similarly limited, is it worth playing him and risking a setback besides? That will be the question the Steelers will be considering as Monday approaches. This could come down to a game-time decision.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Despite the fact the Texans are referring to Johnson as day-to-day with his latest hamstring injury, all the signals out of Texas suggest he will not return to action this week. Johnson has resumed some running but is not practicing with the team. After he sustained his second hamstring injury of the season (and with the Texans having earned a playoff berth), the team is bound to exercise caution.



[+] EnlargeGiants' Ahmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/US PRESSWIREAhmad Bradshaw is still slowed down a bit but still looks like he will play this weekend.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Last week Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but still suited up for Sunday. Of course, fantasy owners weren't expecting him to be benched for the first half of the game for violating team rules, but one has to imagine that won't happen twice in a row. Bradshaw should return to some form of practice Friday and play on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.



Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: We summed up the latest discourse regarding <a href="http://espn.go.com/fantasy/blog/_/name/bell_stephania/id/7350107/demarco-murray-greg-jennings-likely-done-year-ben-roethlisberger-darren-mcfadden-iffy-return"McFadden's midfoot injury Tuesday and nothing has really changed. He is not practicing and there is no timetable on his return. It's worth noting that Taiwan Jones also remains out with a hamstring injury. The Raiders have to be crossing their fingers on Michael Bush staying healthy.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Like his running back brethren, Ford has not yet returned to practice as he recovers from a foot injury.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks attempted to work out Tuesday but according to the Green Bay Post-Gazette, his ankle did not respond well. Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not looking likely to play Sunday. Brandon Saine remains out of practice as well following a concussion sustained in Week 14. Ryan Grant is likely to get the bulk of the work.



Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Ingram's turf toe kept him out of last week's game and he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. At this point, it appears Chris Ivory will make another appearance for the Saints alongside Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans: Washington was clearly in pain near the end of Sunday's game but he fought through it to deliver some nice playoff points for fantasy owners. Washington had been dealing with a sprained ankle, which kept him out of practice the entire week. According to the Titans' website, Washington had back spasms to go along with his balky ankle. It shouldn't come as any surprise then that Washington has not yet practiced to allow him some recovery time. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Washington is expected to return to practice Friday. If Washington does play, it looks as if he might have Matt Hasselbeck to throw him the ball. Hasselbeck, who left last Sunday's game early after feeling a "pop" in his calf, returned to limited practice Thursday and the team is encouraged.

Practicing Thursday:

Here is a list of several key fantasy players who were back in the mix by Thursday.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Andy KingAdrian Peterson has missed three games so far with an ankle injury but may finally return in time for the fantasy playoffs.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson seems to have turned a corner with regards to his ankle health. He has been in practice both Wednesday and Thursday and, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave noted Peterson was cutting better, even answering in the affirmative when asked if he was confident Peterson would play. Last week, Peterson had initiated running but still exhibited a limp and struggled with cutting maneuvers. The Vikings wisely gave him an additional week off (he has now missed three games) and it appears the time has helped. Barring a setback, Peterson looks to be making his return in Week 15.

Michael Vick, QB, and Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick returned to action in Week 14, but his ribs are still sore. Since he is still on the mend, the Eagles did not have him practice Wednesday, but he returned to a full workout Thursday. The good news is the Eagles expect him to start; the not-so-good news is that the Eagles face the New York Jets this weekend. The Jets will have to account for Jeremy Maclin at the receiver position, as he is also expected to play despite not being able to finish last week's game. Maclin, who had missed the previous three games with both a hamstring strain and a shoulder separation, had only one catch in the game and was clearly at less than full strength. Maclin had a limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday. As long as there are no setbacks between now and Sunday, Maclin will play. The big question for fantasy owners is whether he can deliver a full 60 minutes or whether the hamstring will act up again.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: Smith made an early exit from the Week 13 game after aggravating his high ankle sprain and was not able to make it back for last Sunday's contest. This week, Smith has taken an encouraging step in returning to practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis. If all continues well, the Lions plan to have him on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the workload shapes up since Smith will still not likely be at full health.

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: Graham fought through back spasms last Sunday but still managed to be productive. More importantly, Graham returned to full practice Wednesday and has all but assured his fantasy owners that he will be back in Week 15.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!



Heading into the Thursday night game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are, thankfully, only a couple of fantasy question marks. For the Browns, running back Peyton Hillis appeared on this week's injury report with a hip strain. He is listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis this week, but the general sense in Cleveland is that he will play. Teammate Montario Hardesty returned in Week 13 to active status but never touched the ball. Hardesty was only in for a few snaps but claims the calf injury is behind him. After practicing fully earlier in the week, Hardesty is listed as probable and is expected to be available. If Hillis ends up not being able to go, Hardesty would get the start.

For the Steelers, there were a number of players listed on the injury report but all were able to practice. From a fantasy perspective, running back Rashard Mendenhall (back), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (thumb) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee) are all listed as Probable and all are expected to play.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday:

Here is a list of players who are worth monitoring based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon:

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesAndre Johnson had barely returned to action when he hurt his other hamstring last week.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson injured his non-surgical (left) hamstring in Week 13 and while the injury is reportedly mild, the Texans will not take any chances by rushing him back too soon. According to the Texans' website, coach Gary Kubiak said of Johnson, "The key here right now is that when we get him back, we need to make sure we get him back for the long haul." Not only is caution warranted to avoid risking a setback with this latest injury, but there is no reason to chance overloading Johnson's right side. He needs to be running uninhibited with even strides before taking the field. The Texans have said he will be a game-time decision but it appears likely he will rest this week.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: Smith returned in Week 13 just 10 days after suffering a high ankle sprain and it did not yield a good result. Smith struggled in his outing, then left the game after aggravating the ankle. Given the setback (and Smith's long history of injury issues), it appears Smith will not be participating this Sunday. Maurice Morris would get the start in his place.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: At this time last week, Bradshaw had not tested his foot in practice and seemed unlikely to play. Then Friday came, he had a solid practice and then played Sunday. While he did not post stellar numbers, most importantly Bradshaw emerged with his foot no worse for the wear. His absence from practice on Wednesday and Thursday of this week might have signaled concern, but the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano reports that coach Tom Coughlin says he expects both Bradshaw and Jacobs (who has been out with a sore hamstring) to return to practice Friday. Both backs are in line to play Sunday night in a big divisional matchup in Dallas.



Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: In what now sounds like a broken record, McFadden is still not practicing with the team. Even Raiders coach Hue Jackson seemed at a loss for words on the subject Wednesday when he told reporters he has given up on guessing when any of his injured star players will return. Expect McFadden to be out again in Week 14, with Michael Bush continuing to carry the load.

Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders: See the note above on McFadden. Neither player has returned to practice and neither, at this point, can be expected to play Sunday.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks aggravated his ankle injury yet again in Week 13 and this time it looks as if he will be forced to miss a game. Starks has not practiced this week but still has a shot to return to practice Friday, although that appears unlikely. If he does not practice Friday, it is expected he will sit Sunday.

Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos: McGahee did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but has told reporters he plans to play. He was listed on the injury report because of his knee, but there has been no news of anything new and significant. Recently, McGahee has dealt with a strained hamstring (the result of hyperextending his knee) along with hand surgery to address a fractured metacarpal (long bone of the hand). He has been remarkably resilient, missing only one game and has performed well since suffering those injuries, including rushing for more than 100 yards rushing last week. The rest during the week may go a long way towards helping him perform on Sundays. Barring a surprise, McGahee is expected to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Ingram has a case of turf toe (injury to the ligaments anchoring the big toe at the ball of the foot), which has kept him off the practice field this week. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Ingram's toe injury appears to be mild, but Ingram says he will let what's in the best interest of the team take precedence. "If I feel like I can bring my best to the table, I'm gonna go," Ingram said. "If I can't, I'll sit if that's what's best for the team. But I always wanna try to go." The Saints are in a much better position with the overall health of their running backs now compared to the same time last year. Chris Ivory hasn't been active recently only because he's the fourth guy in a stable of healthy backs. If Ingram does not go -- and at this point it would not be surprising if the Saints rested him with the playoffs looming -- then Ivory will likely take his place.

Practicing Thursday:

Here is a list of several key fantasy players who were back in the mix by Thursday.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Nell RedmondAdrian Peterson has missed the past two weeks with an ankle injury.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson has now been out of commission for two games since suffering a left high-ankle sprain and the question now is whether he will miss his third game Sunday. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Peterson rated himself at 70 percent health early in the week, yet is eager to show he can play. As much as fantasy owners would love to have him available for their playoffs, most would agree his long-term health is the primary concern, and it only makes sense the Vikings would see it the same way. Peterson said he would know after testing the ankle running and cutting whether he would be able to play. The first step in that direction came Thursday when he returned to doing individual drills in practice, including making some cuts. How Peterson's ankle responds to the increased activity will be critical and whether he can put in back-to-back practice workouts may prove the determining factor. The progress is encouraging, but the decision to play has not been made as of yet.

Michael Vick, QB and Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick has missed three games with two broken ribs but can now throw the football without cringing. Vick graduated from throwing the football Monday to returning to full practice, and he plans to start Sunday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Vick insists he plans to alter his style to slide more and avoid some contact, but that is no guarantee of avoiding a setback. After all, this latest rib injury happened in the pocket when Vick was hit as he threw the ball. Vick's fantasy value has come largely in the form of supplementing his throwing yards with plays made on his feet, so it will be interesting to see how this new strategy shakes out. The first step is getting him back under center, though, and it appears that will happen in Week 14. Meanwhile, teammate Maclin may join Vick on Sunday if he continues to feel as he did Thursday. Maclin has now put in back-to-back practices, an important step after last week's practice attempt resulted in a setback with his hamstring. The concern naturally will be if Maclin has not tested the leg at full speed whether he can survive a game situation without the threat of re-injury.



[+] EnlargeTBD
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezMiles Austin last appeared in a game on Nov. 6 against the Seahawks.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: After missing four games with his second hamstring injury of the season, Austin now appears on track to rejoin his team. Austin returned to route running last week, but given his health challenges thus far, the team was not going to force him back into service too soon. Not to mention, teammate Laurent Robinson has been filling in more than ably in his absence. However, Robinson has a mild shoulder separation, which he suffered but played through last week. He has not practiced yet this week but maintains he will play on Sunday. This week Austin returned to practice on a limited basis and, barring a setback, he is expected to return. The Cowboys tentatively expect to have both receivers available Sunday night but how the workload will be divided is unclear.

Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants: Manningham sounded discouraged about the status of his knee last week, even hinting at a possible early end to his season. Well, things are looking up in Week 14, as Manningham has been able to practice on a limited basis for two days. While he is no lock to play Sunday night, coach Tom Coughlin sounded encouraged saying Manningham looked "good, sharp, quick," according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Stay tuned, but it looks as if Manningham has a chance to be on the field against the Dallas Cowboys. Manningham's knee will likely not be fully healthy again this season and he may yet need surgery once the season is over, but the key question has been whether the swelling would be manageable enough to allow him to continue.

Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Freeman sat out the Week 13 contest after injuring his shoulder late in the game one week earlier. Freeman reportedly suffered no major injury other than bruising in the shoulder, but acknowledged that it was extremely painful even at rest. The rest appears to have paid off, however, as Freeman's pain eased up, his range of motion has improved and he returned to limited practice this week. On Wednesday, Freeman only did light throwing with backup Josh Johnson handling most of the reps with the first team. On Thursday, the Tampa Tribune reported Freeman was back "making all the throws" in practice, a somewhat stronger indication that he is likely to start Sunday.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 10 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 in Saturday's blog!



This week's fantasy hand-wringing game-time decision on Thursday night involves Eagles' running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is listed as questionable because of a sprained toe. [Editor's Note: McCoy is active for Thursday's game.] A few positive signs for McCoy: He finished the game in Week 12. He practiced daily this week. Granted, it was on a limited basis but he was out there on back-to-back days, and most importantly on Tuesday, which is considered the primary prep day for Thursday night games. Both McCoy and head coach Andy Reid expressed optimism early in the week about McCoy's availability. One of the benefits of a player testing the toe in practice is that the medical staff also gets a chance to evaluate how the athlete's toe is responding to any supportive taping or shoe inserts, and adjustments can be made. The plan is for McCoy to test the toe in pregame warmups but the expectation is largely that he will play, barring a surprise. The unpredictable element then becomes whether the toe will limit him, particularly as the game progresses. McCoy has performed well in the presence of other ailments in the past and if he is deemed well enough to start, then the team is expecting a similar result.

The Eagles have already announced they will be without quarterback Michael Vick (ribs) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring). Vince Young and Riley Cooper start in their respective places. The Seahawks will be without wide receiver Sidney Rice, who has been placed on injured reserve after suffering another concussion, his second this season.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of players whose status is in serious question based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson missed Week 12 because of a high left ankle sprain and has not yet practiced this week. Nonetheless, he claims he is progressing and hopes to test his ankle more Friday in the hopes he can play Sunday. According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Peterson did some jogging Wednesday and said, "I can sit here and say I am improving ... I'm getting more movement." Peterson says it may come down to a game-time decision but thinks he'll have a better idea after Friday as to what he can realistically expect. The question for the Vikings then becomes whether it's worth having Peterson attempt to play if he is less than fully healthy, despite his determination. Don't be surprised if there is another week of rest before he returns.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has not returned to practice as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his foot. Despite his declarations that he would play even if he did not practice, coach Tom Coughlin seems to be of another mindset. Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger reported via Twitter that Coughlin says Bradshaw must return to practice first. Part of that may be to prove that he can indeed run on the foot without a setback before testing it in a game situation. So far Bradshaw has not resumed running, so the likelihood of an appearance this Sunday appears to be fading. Week 14 is looking like the soonest option.

Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants: Recurrent knee swelling kept Manningham out of Monday night's game and he has not practiced since. More discouraging were his comments Thursday, when he hinted at the situation possibly being season-ending, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Chronic swelling is reflective of irritation within the joint which can range from tiny floating bits of cartilage or "debris" to minor tears or fraying of a meniscus. While rest, compression and cold therapy can reduce swelling temporarily, if the source persists, the swelling (and associated pain and limitation) will recur. The decision often comes down to whether the condition can be managed effectively or whether surgery is required. Right now his status for this week appears in doubt.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Despite a McFadden sighting in Oakland, he does not look as if he will be ready for Sunday. McFadden has been out of his boot and walking around but he is not yet working with the team. We heard over a week ago from coach Hue Jackson that the Raiders would not return him before he was 100 percent healthy (the luxury of having Michael Bush on your roster) and they clearly are not rushing McFadden back. While frustrating for fantasy owners now, this will be of benefit to McFadden's foot and ankle health in the longer term. Week 14 could be a possibility, but even then, expect McFadden to be eased back into play.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported earlier this week that Ford hoped to be back in practice Thursday but was not optimistic about his chances for playing in Week 13. He must be even less so now since he was not practicing Thursday after all. Ford continues to recover from a foot injury and will likely be sidelined Sunday.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Earlier this week, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Austin would play Sunday. By Thursday he had changed his tune. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas, Jones said Thursday he does not expect Austin to play Sunday against the Cardinals. Like the Raiders having the luxury of Bush filling in for an injured McFadden, the Cowboys have enjoyed the surprise performance of Laurent Robinson. With Austin on his second hamstring injury of the season, there is no desire to press him into action only to lose him for good at the most important time of the year. Austin has not practiced and now probably won't until next week. More Robinson this Sunday.

Julio Jones, WR and Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Jones played in Week 12, coming off his second hamstring injury of the season, but was limited in that effort and had no catches. The team is giving him some rest again this week but the hope remains that he can be available Sunday. More surprising was the appearance of Turner on the injury report Wednesday because of a groin issue. Turner's absence again Thursday is causing a bit more concern, especially considering he underwent groin surgery in the offseason. There has been no word as to the severity of this incident or whether it is precisely the same area that is injured, but for a running back known for his power, any groin ailment can be problematic. Friday's practice status should be telling for both of these players.

Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of some key fantasy players who were back in the mix Thursday.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: Stafford was participating last week too, but this week he is throwing without gloves or a protective splint on his index finger. According to the Detroit Free Press, Stafford believes his finger is improving, although he doesn't blame his recent struggles on the finger alone. Still, the closer to normal the throwing conditions for a quarterback, the more he is likely to succeed. Fantasy owners are hopeful.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: After spraining his ankle on Thanksgiving and not practicing Wednesday, there was concern about whether Smith could return in Week 13. Thursday, however, was another story as Smith returned to the practice field. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Smith appeared to be cutting well doing cone drills and was working first in the running back rotation. While he may not be at full strength, if Smith does not have a setback following Thursday's workout he could be in line to start again Sunday.

See you in the injury chat, Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 in the Saturday morning blog!



Week 12 is in the books and with three games happening on Thanksgiving, at least the pain of the cumulative injuries was spread out over several days.



• On Thursday, the Detroit Lions lost Kevin Smith late in the first half to an ankle sprain. The injury was reported as a high ankle sprain, but after the game Smith said the injury was not that bad. He told the Detroit News that he was cutting when someone fell on his ankle but pointed out he had 10 days to recover before the Lions' next game. Still, there are no guarantees with this type of injury that Smith will be ready to return. If Smith is unable to play, Maurice Morris would once again be in line for the start. As for Jahvid Best, he was placed on IR and is done for the season.

[+] EnlargeLeinart
Matt Stamey/US PresswireMatt Leinart got exactly one game as the Texans' starting QB before being shelved for the season.
• The Dallas Cowboys were without the services of wide receiver Miles Austin as he continues to recover from a second hamstring strain, but Laurent Robinson didn't seem to mind. Austin has not yet returned to practice but is apparently moving around better, at least according to Jerry Jones. According to ESPNDallas.com, Jones said he expects Austin to play Sunday but, recognizing the tricky nature of hamstrings, he quickly followed that up with a caveat, saying, "We don't want to push that, because we've got a lot of football ahead of us." It sounds as if Austin is making progress, but the decision as to whether he will return to action will not likely be clear until late in the week.

• In the Thursday nightcap, the Baltimore Ravens were without the services of linebacker Ray Lewis, but it didn't stop the defense from halting the San Francisco 49ers' win streak. Lewis is still nursing a toe injury and may not be ready to return in Week 13.

• Sunday was supposed to be a happy day for the Houston Texans as they saw the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson after six games missed due to a hamstring injury. Johnson managed to get through the game just fine (albeit a little tired, per head coach Gary Kubiak) but the Texans lost their second quarterback in two games when Matt Leinart, replacing injured starter Matt Schaub, suffered a fractured clavicle. The Texans confirmed that Leinart will undergo season-ending surgery. This is not Leinart's first experience with a broken collarbone. In October 2007, Leinart, then with the Arizona Cardinals, broke his left clavicle and was placed on injured reserve. For now, the Texans' starting quarterback is T.J. Yates, with newly acquired Jake Delhomme and Kellen Clemens as backups.

There were a number of players who sat out Week 12 and fantasy owners are hoping to get them back soon with fantasy playoffs approaching. Will they be back in Week 13?

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was optimistic last week that he would play but fantasy owners who have seen the impact of high ankle sprains knew better. Peterson never really tested the ankle last week and was not ready for action. He may not be ready this week, either. While he's reportedly improving, until he takes the practice field, there's no independent way to judge how close he is to game action. Fantasy owners should prepare for the possibility of another week without Peterson.

• The Philadelphia Eagles play Thursday night and it won't likely be enough time to get two key players back. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, whose already ailing hamstring tightened up in practice last week, is trying to work his way back from two injuries. He did not practice Tuesday, the big prep day for a Thursday game, and is not expected to be available. Vince Young led the Tuesday practice for the quarterback position, indicating Michael Vick will almost assuredly miss another week because of his broken ribs. With 10 days between this game and the next one, both players have a chance to be ready for Week 14. A good sign for Vick is that, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadephia Inquirer, he was throwing some balls to receivers on the side. No word on how uncomfortable -- or accurate -- he was.



[+] EnlargeMario Manningham
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesMario Manningham was a late scratch Monday night, opening the door for bigger things for Victor Cruz.
New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was not ready to play in Week 12 despite his own announcement that he was improving. The fact he's been doing some side work is encouraging, but there's still the matter of allowing the cracked bone in his foot to heal adequately before returning to a game situation. The biggest clue will come when we see that Bradshaw has been cleared for practice. Until that happens, the presumption is he is not ready to return to play. Teammate Mario Manningham missed Monday night's game after swelling in his knee became an issue again this past week. Despite traveling with the team, he was not able to get through pregame warmups in a convincing enough manner to warrant playing. Fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks took his share of physical punishment in the game, leaving at one point with what the team later called a rib contusion. Nicks was able to return shortly afterward and maintained he was fine after the game. At this point, he does not appear in danger of missing any time because of the ribs.

• The Oakland Raiders have their share of walking wounded, many of interest to playoff-bound fantasy owners. Running back Darren McFadden has now missed four games since suffering a midfoot sprain in Week 7. Largely invisible over the past few weeks as he received treatment on the foot, McFadden was out of the boot and walking around the team facility early this week. He was also seen working out on the side during team practice. While those are the most encouraging signs thus far for McFadden, there is still quite a bit more for him to do to return to action. The Raiders certainly have the luxury of ensuring McFadden's gradual progress, given how well Michael Bush has been playing in his place. Even when McFadden returns, which appears as if it won't be before Week 14, the team is likely to ease him back into action alongside Bush.



• Receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both missed Week 12 with foot injuries. Moore was a bit of a surprise addition to last week's injury report when he showed up with a walking boot on his right foot after apparently injuring it in Week 11. Ford has been out for two weeks now, and while he claims his injury is different than McFadden's, it is similarly slow to progress. According to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times, Ford expects to return to practice Thursday but does not hold out much hope for playing Sunday. It looks like another week of drought for fantasy owners when it comes to some key Raiders.

• Finally, Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice suffered a concussion Sunday, his second of the season. With the Seahawks playing Thursday, the expectation is that Rice will not be available.

See you on Thursday as the practice updates start to shape up the game plans for Week 13.

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