|ESPN.com: Bell||[Print without images]|
|Ahmad Bradshaw's status for Sunday is still uncertain.|
This might be one of the most critical weeks in fantasy football, the one that decides which teams make the playoffs and which ones get sent to the consolation bracket. Why then, must there be so many injuries at a crucial time like this?
With all the bye weeks now complete, the hope was that all the stars would be available just when they're most needed. Unfortunately, the reality of playing week in and week out in the NFL is that the physical punishment starts to add up. Here's where depth on the bench starts to come into play and some are forced to really dig deep. We're about to see who will step up when it counts.
Good luck in Week 13, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, toe (P): Kolb has turned the corner with his toe. He was finally able to get a full week of practice in and proved he is able to plant the foot to make the necessary throws and move about as needed to make plays. He is expected to start Sunday.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder (Q): First there was the thumb sprain that was called into the league by the New Orleans Saints after Freeman was spotted wearing a brace. Then, as reported by The Tampa Tribune, there were the stitches Freeman needed to repair a gash following an incident at a firing range. Add to that, perhaps most importantly, Freeman's ailing shoulder, injured late in the game in Week 12.
Freeman did not do any throwing until Friday, although coach Raheem Morris said he was taking mental reps all week. Mental reps will not help a sore shoulder endure 60 minutes of football, and Freeman's status is headed for a game-time decision. Although it appears he will play, there may be a shift in how much throwing he will do, given the physical limitation.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, right hand (P): On Thursday, Roethlisberger said he caught his thumb wrong on a snap and his practice was cut short that day. But the resilient Roethlisberger was back for a full day of work Friday and is expected to play as usual Sunday.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, ankle (Q): Bradford's situation is a reminder of how long high ankle sprains can take to fully recover. Despite the fact he has returned to play for multiple weeks now since suffering the injury, Bradford incurred a setback with the ankle in this past Sunday's game. After sitting out Thursday practice, Bradford was a limited participant Friday and his questionable status is very real. It will come down to a Sunday decision. If Bradford cannot go, A.J. Feeley will start in his place.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot (Q): Bradshaw surprised everyone except perhaps himself when he showed up to practice Friday. Coach Tom Coughlin had said Bradshaw would need to practice in order to play, and it appears he took the necessary steps towards doing so. Afterward Bradshaw said his foot felt "great," but Coughlin took a cautious approach, saying he wanted to see how Bradshaw was doing Saturday -- the always critical day following the first post-injury practice -- before making a determination as to his game status. And so we wait
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle (Q): Smith injured his ankle during the Thanksgiving Day game, and although he declared it to be "not that bad," there was still skepticism about whether he could return the following week. Smith appears to be on track to play Sunday, however, after turning in back-to-back practice sessions Thursday and Friday. Most importantly, he demonstrated that he could cut and make lateral maneuvers, actions that stress the ankle joint and were difficult initially.
Officially, the decision will come before the game, but judging from Smith's progress and his confidence in how the ankle has responded, it appears that he will play. The question may then become how much work he handles and how much the team turns to Maurice Morris. Warning: The Lions are playing in the Sunday night game, so fantasy owners are advised to have a backup plan in place.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin (Q): Turner's absence from practice Wednesday and Thursday raised some eyebrows, especially given the type of injury he is battling. Turner was listed on the Falcons' injury report with a groin ailment and Turner underwent groin surgery in the offseason. A stout runner who relies on power, Turner places high demand on the muscles in the hip and abdominal area. He was able to turn in a limited workout Friday, which would hint at his availability for Sunday. Still, it will be important to check pregame inactives in case Turner is not able to go.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (P): The 49ers continue to give Gore's joints some rest during the week in order to have him fresh on Sunday. This Sunday in particular, with a favorable matchup against the Rams, it would seem the 49ers will turn him loose.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): Last week Wells had a performance for the ages against the ailing St. Louis Rams. His knee took a pounding as he racked up over 200 yards, and Wells was limited throughout the bulk of the week. He did turn in a full practice Friday, however, and is listed as probable, expected to play against the Cowboys.
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals, foot (P): Benson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, raising some concern about the severity of his foot injury. He was back Friday, however, in a full practice, and the team listed him as probable. There was never really much concern coming out of the Bengals' camp during the week, suggesting that the rest was as proactive in nature as anything. He is expected to play.
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring (Q): Addai may hold a permanent spot on the injury report with his hamstring throughout the Colts' injury-riddled season. Addai seemed to have made progress only to take a step back again. To make matters worse, it wasn't until Friday that Addai appeared on the injury report after not being able to practice. His status indeed seems shaky for Sunday.
Peyton Hillis, hamstring (P) and Montario Hardesty, calf (Q), Cleveland Browns: When Hardesty's calf tightened up in warm-ups in Week 12, the team was forced to rely on Hillis more than expected in his first game back in over a month. This week Hardesty says he feels better than he did last week, and the expectation is that he will play (barring another pregame setback, of course). Hillis fortunately seemed to emerge unscathed from Week 12 and put in a full week of practice. He appears in line to start, with Hardesty available to back him up.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, illness (P): McGahee's hand and his hamstring seem to be holding up just fine, but it was feeling under the weather that limited him this week. He was off Wednesday, did light work Thursday and returned to full practice Friday, so expect him to play Sunday.
Shonn Greene, rib and LaDainian Tomlinson, knee, New York Jets (P): Greene was still affected by the sore ribs in Week 12, but time is a big helper. Greene practiced fully each day and, although he's still experiencing soreness, is expected to play. Tomlinson, who has missed a couple of games after spraining his MCL, was able to get back to full practice this week as well. He is expected to be available to play against the Redskins alongside Greene.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle (P): Starks was questionable heading into the Thanksgiving Day game because of the dual injuries, but managed to play nonetheless. He didn't exactly deliver a ton of fantasy points, but he did indicate that he got through the game just fine. He was then rewarded with a 10-day break between games, which can only help. After a full week of practice, expect Starks to be active as the Packers continue their pursuit of perfection.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee (D): Manningham was not able to play Monday night because of the swelling in his knee and now seems concerned about when -- and if -- he'll be able to play again this season. At least we have advance warning, via the doubtful tag, that he will not be playing in Week 13.
Victor Cruz, hip and Hakeem Nicks, ribs/concussion, New York Giants (P): Cruz looks like his hip moves just fine when he does his salsa dance in the end zone, but apparently he's still feeling it. With injuries all around and a short week, the Giants were no doubt giving him some lighter work this week. Cruz was limited Wednesday but a full participant Thursday and Friday, and is expected to play.
Nicks took some big shots Monday night and was held out of practice completely Wednesday and Thursday. After being medically cleared to return Friday he put in a full practice, so barring any return of symptoms, he should also play Sunday.
|Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones is expected to play this week.|
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring (Q): Jones was active but invisible in Week 12. Perhaps there was still some concern about his hamstring, as Jones did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He did return Friday, though, to limited practice, and the expectation is that he will be on the field. Like with teammate Michael Turner, check his status before the game, as things could change.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, knee (P): Johnson played a little more than coach Gary Kubiak would have preferred in his return from a partially torn hamstring tendon.
Consequently, he was given a lighter workload in practice this week. But Johnson will be a key target for T.J. Yates, the new starting quarterback for the Texans following the season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. Expect Johnson to play.
Jerome Simpson, Cincinnati Bengals, knee (P): Simpson had a sore knee coming out of Week 12 and was relegated to light practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. But a full practice Friday and a probable tag tell us the Bengals expect to have him on the field Sunday.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings, illness (Q): With teammate Adrian Peterson out, the Vikings need to have Harvin on the field. Despite the questionable tag, the team seems to believe he will be there. Harvin, whose ribs continue to be sore, is on the injury report with an illness, the nature of which is unclear. In the past, migraines have been a frequent problem for Harvin, and he has often been listed with an "illness" when a migraine cropped up.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, coach Leslie Frazier said this is not a migraine for Harvin, adding, "Everything that has been indicated to me is he's going to be fine and it's nothing like we've experienced in the past." Not sure what to make of that other than at the time, Harvin's illness must not have been consistent with his past migraine-associated symptoms. Until we get the all-clear on Harvin, fantasy owners should have an alternate plan in place, just in case.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): Johnson likes to tease fantasy owners by showing up on the injury report, but there appear to be no major concerns here. His ankle has bothered him intermittently this season but he practiced fully every day this week. Despite this being a night game, fantasy owners can be confident about Johnson's status.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers, hip (no designation yet): Floyd has been absent for several weeks now after suffering a setback with his hip injury. This week marked a big change for Floyd as he was able to practice fully both Thursday and Friday, his most encouraging work in nearly a month. Since the game is not until Monday night it is too soon to know what his official status is, but the sense around San Diego is that he will return to play this week.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings, hamstring (P): The hamstring is nothing new for Shiancoe but he has been playing through it for several weeks. While he's been on the field, he hasn't been particularly productive from a fantasy standpoint, so play at your own risk.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, knee (P): Daniels has been dealing with some soreness in his knee since hyperextending it in Week 10, but has been able to play. He practiced fully all week and is expected to play again Sunday against Atlanta.
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.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings, ankle: Peterson has not yet been able to practice. Despite making improvements in his mobility, he's not ready to return to game action. Peterson is hopeful to come back in Week 14.
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts, neck: Manning remains out following neck surgery. Follow-up imaging studies this week confirmed that his fusion is solid and he can proceed with more aggressive rehabilitation. There remains no timetable for his return.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring: Austin remains out (not yet practicing) as he recovers from his hamstring injury. Fantasy owners who were lucky enough to acquire Laurent Robinson can enjoy (at least) another week of him starting.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, foot: McFadden was at least spotted walking around the Raiders' facility this week, but is still not practicing with the team. With Michael Bush running strong, McFadden has been able to take it slow and steady, something which may frustrate fantasy owners but will probably help ensure McFadden's longevity. Week 14, perhaps?
Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders: Bad feet and ankles everywhere on the Raiders. Ford and Moore will join McFadden in sitting out Week 13. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens are likely to be Carson Palmer's options at the receiver position.
Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET, and Fantasy Surround on ESPN.com starting at 10 a.m. ET Sunday for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!