It's fantasy football playoff time in most leagues, so the choices of whom to start and sit become ever more important. This week, a big-name running back is expected to return to action, but his presence could make a fantasy owner's lineup decisions even more difficult.
Darren McFadden, ankle; Marcel Reece, hamstring/quadriceps; Mike Goodson, ankle; Taiwan Jones, ankle, RBs, Oakland Raiders, (P): One thing is clear: The Raiders expect to have a stable of backs available to participate Thursday night. It only clouds the picture for fantasy owners who are likely agonizing over the decision of whom to start in this playoff week. With that in mind, here are the things to consider with regard to the injury-plagued Raiders backfield.
McFadden and Goodson have been out for an identical period of time (four weeks) with high ankle sprains. After practicing on a limited basis last week and appearing as if they had a chance to play, both players were ultimately held out of Sunday's game. Presumably the prospect of another game just four days later contributed to that decision. Both McFadden and Goodson put in limited practice Tuesday and full practice Wednesday this week. Both are expected to be active Thursday night against Denver. Goodson has never topped more than four carries in a game, although he did contribute some as a pass-catcher before Reece's emergence.
Reece has been shouldering the load with McFadden and Goodson sidelined. He has been effective both running and catching the ball despite not scoring since Week 9. The work has taken a toll on Reece's legs, however, and he has been fighting through a sore hamstring for several weeks. This week, he added a sore quad to the list of ailments. After practicing fully on Wednesday, Reece was listed as probable, indicating the team expects to have him. He's certainly not going to be removed from the offense after his performance over the past few weeks, but the presence of McFadden in particular is likely to cut into his numbers. It would seem McFadden and Reece are in line for the bulk of the touches with Goodson coming in somewhere behind them. The Raiders may wish to ease McFadden back into game action to see how he responds.
Jones is likely not in the mix for anyone's fantasy team and does not present a real threat in terms of stealing touches. Jones saw very limited action when both Goodson and McFadden were out, so it's likely we'll see even less on Thursday. To further that notion, one needs to go back only two weeks ago, when coach Dennis Allen said Jones would need to demonstrate some improvements before being entrusted with a bigger workload. According to the Contra Costa Times, Allen said, "He's got to prove to us that he can stay healthy, that he's got to know what to do on every single play and he's got to protect the football." That's a lot to prove.
Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (P): Myers has proved to be a nice surprise at tight end for fantasy owners and has become a favored target for Carson Palmer. He has been on the injury report in recent weeks with a concussion (sustained in Week 11) and a shoulder injury (since before Week 13) but hasn't missed a game. In fact, last week Myers saw the most targets in a game of his entire season and notched more than 100 yards receiving as a result. After a limited practice Tuesday, he resumed full practice Wednesday. Designated as probable, is expected to play.
Brandon Stokley, WR, Denver Broncos, hip, (Q): Stokley missed Sunday's game with a hip injury, and it does not appear four additional days will be enough to allow him to play Thursday. Stokley, according to the Denver Post, isn't sure how he injured his hip, but he has been limited in practice again this week. If he does not play, the biggest beneficiary of his absence may be tight end Jacob Tamme, just as he was on Sunday when he recorded a season-high nine catches. Be sure to check pregame inactives to verify Stokley's status.