For those still playing for titles in their fantasy football leagues, this is the final countdown, the last hurrah, the one for all the marbles. This is also the only week of the season when all games will be played on Sunday. Of course, that doesn't count Tuesday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagl
es and the Minnesota Vikings, which really is a remnant of Week 16. It also presumes that no games will be postponed because of weather-related issues. Assuming all games tip off as scheduled, half those contests will be late games, making fantasy roster decisions that much more challenging. Between some teams potentially sitting their stars in advance of the playoffs and others not risking further player injury when there will be no postseason, havoc could be wreaked on many fantasy football lineups.
Although personnel decisions may not be made until late in the week, some injury situations are already on the radar. If one of the players below is on your fantasy team, there is reason to be at least a little concerned. Start plotting your insurance strategy and keep in mind that waivers will be processed one day later than usual because of the Tuesday night game.
• The theme for the San Diego Chargers this season has been injuries. Although they did their best to plug the injury holes by rotating personnel, it simply was too much to overcome. Now eliminated from the playoffs and just looking to wrap up the season without further damage, the Chargers likely will be without several of their ailing players. Running back Mike Tolbert suffered a scary hit in Week 16 that left him facedown on the turf for a brief period. Tolbert was taken off on a stretcher but was fortunate to come away with an injury that was less serious than it initially appeared. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tolbert has a neck sprain and a shoulder bruise and already has been ruled out of the Week 17 game. Ryan Mathews, who picked up the load when Tolbert went down, is expected to get the start.
As far as pass-catchers for the Chargers, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Patrick Crayton are expected to miss Week 17. Gates has been nursing a painful foot, the result of a torn plantar fascia, for weeks and can now truly focus on his recovery. Floyd, who has injured both hamstrings this season, is not likely to be completely healthy by Sunday, and there is no reason to risk a more serious setback. Crayton has been out since Week 11 after wrist surgery. There had been some thought he might return for the final week of the season, but it appears he will remain out. It looks as though Vincent Jackson and Legedu Naanee will be the starting wide receivers with Randy McMichael handling tight end duties.
• The Seattle Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback. At least that's what head coach Pete Carroll told the team's website. With Matt Hasselbeck potentially sidelined because of a left hip injury, Carroll wants to eliminate any uncertainty. As Carroll pointed out, "We're going with Charlie because we know he's ready to go and he'll be able to have a great week, practice every snap and go full speed and all that."
As far as what's ailing Hasselbeck, it's a bit of a mystery. After Sunday's game Hasselbeck denied that his back was at fault, telling reporters, "It's embarrassing, but it's more my butt." It's worth noting that low-back and hip issues often go hand in hand. Even a history of disc problems in the low back can be associated with subtle hip muscle weakness and pain. There is also the very real possibility of a completely independent injury to the hip itself. Inflammation around the joint can severely affect the function of the muscles that support the hip, making mobility and power difficult to achieve.
According to the Seahawks' website, the onset of injury occurred when Hasselbeck took a helmet hit to his hip in Week 3. He then aggravated the injury in Week 10 when trying to move quickly on a play-action play to his left, and his hip has been somewhat problematic since. Carroll says the issue for his starting quarterback is with certain types of motions. "He's not in a lot of discomfort, but when he has to turn and move and stride and all that kind of stuff, that's where it enters in," Carroll said. Carroll also said that Hasselbeck believes he'll be ready to play Sunday night in what will decide the NFC West. Fantasy owners would be advised to see what progress Hasselbeck is able to make during the week before setting their lineups in stone.
• The Dallas Cowboys saw yet another quarterback leave a game with an injury. The Cowboys lost Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in Week 7, and he was ultimately placed on injured reserve. Jon Kitna, who has been filling in since Romo went down, left the Week 16 game with what appeared at the time to be an injury to his hip. As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas reports, however, the team is calling it a left oblique muscle injury. Kitna pretty well summed up the problem with this type of injury for a thrower, saying, "I can't do any athletic movements and things you got to do at quarterback. Anything that requires any torque." Coach Jason Garrett told reporters the door is still open for Kitna to start if he improves enough through the week. If he is unable to go, Stephen McGee will start.
• Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno played in Week 16 despite his sore ribs, but he didn't last, as he left the game early after aggravating the injury. Lindsay Jones of The Denver Post tweeted that coach Eric Studesville said Moreno could have returned to play, but "Buck [Correll Buckhalter] was rolling." It sounds as though the setback was not enough to keep Moreno out of this week's game.
• Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden injured himself during the third quarter of the Week 16 game. According to the Contra Costa Times, McFadden said he rolled his ankle, while coach Tom Cable called it a turf toe injury. Given McFadden's history of turf toe, that particular diagnosis might be more concerning. There was no hint in the report at McFadden's status for Week 17 being in jeopardy, but this will be a situation to monitor in practice.
• Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson did not play in Week 16 because of the increased pain in his ankle. Coach Gary Kubiak already has indicated that Johnson will let him know if he is able to go this week. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, Kubiak said Johnson will not practice this week, but if he says he can play this weekend, he will. This situation could be heading toward another game-time decision.
• Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has an ankle issue that was giving him trouble in Week 16, causing him to leave the game in the fourth quarter. However, it's unclear whether it will be enough to keep him out Sunday. Head coach Jim Schwartz told the Detroit News that Johnson could sit out practice this week and play Sunday. If Johnson does play, quarterback Shaun Hill likely will be the one to throw to him, but that has not been confirmed.
• The New York Jets have to decide whether to rest quarterback Mark Sanchez or play him in Week 17. Sanchez and his sore throwing shoulder were the subject of much discussion heading into last week's contest, but he did not appear hindered by the injury at all. The decision may be more about keeping Sanchez in a routine heading into the playoffs as anything else. Stay tuned.
• Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai saw a decent amount of work in his first game back in more than two months. More importantly, he emerged apparently no worse for the wear and should appear again in Week 17, although his number of carries may not change drastically.
• As for two running backs who sat out Week 16 -- the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew and the New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory -- it is too soon to predict whether either will be available in Week 17. Jones-Drew had swelling in his knee, and Ivory was still working his way back from a hamstring injury. Practice reports this week should yield further clues as Sunday approaches.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back on Thursday and Saturday for the latest injury updates affecting Week 17.