- Stephania Bell, Fantasy Sports
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If you survived the first round of fantasy playoffs, it probably was due to help from where you least expected it. It certainly wasn't thanks to Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson. It wasn't thanks to either Mike Williams or Antonio Gates. They all may have helped you get to the playoffs but they weren't able to deliver for you in Week 14. No, your help may have come from the unexpected return of the 2009 version of Pierre Garcon; the big-time contribution of Deion Branch in weather no one is supposed to score in; or even the ridiculous point total of kicker Jay Feely, who outscored most skill-position players and got a game ball, to boot.
It all serves to remind us that despite our best efforts to strategize and maneuver our rosters, there are some things we just cannot foresee. Still, we can at least consider the injury woes facing our rosters and with that in mind, we look ahead to Week 15.
• A big part of the reason Aaron Rodgers could not deliver fantasy points for your team is that he was knocked out of Sunday's game with a concussion. As has become the standard, Rodgers will go through the battery of post-concussion tests and clearances before he is eligible to return to play. This is Rodgers' second concussion this season. His first, in Week 5, did not cause him to miss any playing time. While coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We're not going to take any chances [with Rodgers]," we have to presume the standards to return to play are the same as they have been throughout the year. Bottom line: How Rodgers feels and progresses through his tests this week will determine his playing status for Sunday. Fantasy owners should have insurance in the event that Rodgers cannot go.
• Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel did not make the trip to San Diego this week after undergoing an appendectomy Wednesday. However, Cassel tells the Kansas City Star he is preparing to play this week. Said Cassel, "I'll do what I normally do. It will be a normal week of preparation." At least mentally. We won't get an idea of Cassel's physical readiness until the Chiefs resume practice later in the week, but the notion of a return Sunday is certainly within reason. He will be evaluated medically on a daily basis and progress accordingly.
• The Minnesota Vikings did not have Percy Harvin available for Week 14 after migraines kept him out of practice all week. The Vikings hope to have Harvin back in practice this week, which would increase the likelihood of his availability for the Monday night game against the Chicago Bears. Head coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN 1500 that the team expects Harvin back Thursday when practice resumes, "barring any unforeseen situation." Maybe by then we'll also know where that game will be played. Running back Adrian Peterson bumped knees with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in the first quarter and exited Monday's game briefly but returned shortly afterward. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he wasn't productive. We'll see if that changes against the Bears.
• As for Harvin's teammate Brett Favre, we knew his consecutive start streak would come to an end sooner or later and alas, Monday night, it was put to rest. He suffered a sprained sternoclavicular joint in Week 13 and even with a one day reprieve granted by Mother Nature in the form of a Minnesota blizzard, it wasn't enough to postpone the inevitable. But the SC sprain wasn't to blame in its entirety. It turns out that Favre suffered a pinched nerve in his neck during the game where the Vikings faced the Washington Redskins a week earlier and had been experiencing some tingling in his hand ever since. The hit that injured his SC joint in Week 13 also aggravated the tingling in his arm and hand, which ultimately may have been more responsible for Favre's inability to suit up than the pain at the front of his chest. As Favre told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "It's not so much the pain. There is a little pain, but that's subsided some. It's the tingling. I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don't have total feeling in five fingers." Favre said he was scheduled to undergo further tests Tuesday after which everyone should have a better idea of what his status will be going forward.
• New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas returned to action for the first time in more than two months. Thomas caught a few passes and ran the ball 12 times, partly due the early departure of Chris Ivory with a right hamstring injury. There is no word of yet on the seriousness of Ivory's injury, but if he is sidelined, Thomas' value goes up.
• The New York Giants saw the return of two injured wide receivers in Week 14. Both Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith were back in the mix, but unfortunately Smith was forced out of the game with a different injury. Smith, who was playing with a shoulder harness to protect his still-healing pectoral muscle, suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Nicks, coming back from a surgical procedure on his lower leg, looked strong, as expected, which should give fantasy owners confidence going forward. Wide receiver Mario Manningham entered the game healthy but left in the second quarter with what was termed a hip flexor injury. Later in the week we should get better clues about the status of the Giants' receivers.
• The Seattle Seahawks were without receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu this week. Williams was nursing a foot and ankle injury on the same leg and Obomanu had a deep laceration on his right hand that made it impossible for him to catch the ball. Coach Pete Carroll sounded quite confident Monday when he said he expects both receivers to be in practice Wednesday. According to the Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., Carroll said, "Both those guys will practice this week, yeah," adding that he expects both to be available for Sunday's home game against the Atlanta Falcons. We'll see if that holds true. The Seahawks have had a tough road with their wide receiver health, also losing Deon Butler on Sunday to a broken leg that required surgery to implant a rod for stabilization.
• San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates surprised many by not being able to play in Week 14 after gutting out the two previous weeks. His absence was a reflection of just how much pain he is still having, especially considering that earlier in the week Gates had announced he would play. On Sunday, Gates sounded uncertain about the rest of his season, but Monday he reiterated his commitment to trying to get back out to contribute, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I do everything I can every day to get healthy." Getting healthy -- or at least healthier -- may mean sitting out Thursday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. If Gates rests until Week 16, he will have essentially given his foot a three-week hiatus, which could prove beneficial for pain relief. Fantasy owners should prepare for an alternate this week; at best, Gates' status will likely be a game-time decision.
• Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans injured his ankle in Sunday's contest and looks as if he could be done for the year. According to the team's official website, head coach Chan Gailey said of Evans, "I know it's going to be two [games], and it might even be a struggle for him to get back for the last one." Not exactly encouraging.
• Both Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai and wide receiver Austin Collie were present at the team's light workout Monday. Both have been practicing on a limited basis for the past two weeks, however, and still have not been cleared to return to play, so fantasy owners should not be overly excited by this news.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 on Thursday and Saturday!
Stephania Bell looks at the key injuries coming out of Week 14 and heading into Week 15.