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|It appears as though Julio Jones will be a game-time decision this week.|
Week 11 is significant on the injuries front in that the statuses of three starting quarterbacks have been affected by concussion injuries suffered this past week. Only one still has a chance to play. We also could see the return of a couple of players from hand injuries, but ankle injuries will continue to sideline others. And with six teams playing on Thanksgiving Day, timing certainly could affect whom we see on the field this Sunday.
Four teams are on bye this week: New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks. Here are the players we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 11.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers, concussion (no designation yet): Of the three quarterbacks who suffered concussions this past week, Smith is the only one whose recovery leaves him with a chance to play. Smith experienced blurry vision after a hit on a quarterback sneak and has been undergoing the standard post-concussion protocols. He was cleared to return to practice this week, however, and put in limited work Thursday and Friday. The 49ers play the Bears (who will be without Jay Cutler) on Monday night, so the official designation is not yet noted. It appears, however, that the 49ers are planning on Smith's being under center, barring a setback.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints, hand (Q): Sproles looked all set to play this week after returning to practice and looking sharp catching and running. On Friday, however, Sproles noted he still has swelling in his surgically repaired left hand, and his status for Sunday is less certain. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sproles said, "Whatever the doctors tell me," Sproles said. "They have the final decision."
It's worth noting that Sproles was able to turn in full practices Thursday and Friday, but the question will be whether the medical staff decides it's better for the health of his hand to sit another week. It's also worth noting that this is a late game, so fantasy owners should have a backup plan in place if Sproles can't go.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, neck (Q): On Thursday, Mathews' chances of playing were not looking good, given that he had been unable to return to practice because of a stiff neck resulting from a Week 10 hit. On Friday, however, things took a turn for the better for Mathews. He was able to practice on a limited basis, and, according to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mathews said his neck "loosened up a lot." Coach Norv Turner said he was "encouraged" watching Mathews, adding, "He feels a lot better and moved a lot better."
We always like to see player health trending upward late in the week, but this isn't to say Mathews has recovered fully. After all, he is still listed as questionable. This is a late game against the Broncos.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin (Q): Turner was limited in practice the entire week, but he was on the field each day. Still, Turner has lacked the power and explosiveness that were signature traits; a groin injury (which he has experienced in the past) certainly doesn't help. ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinkas details the struggles Turner has had in short-yardage situations, none of which is aided by any physical impairment, no matter how slight.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts, knee (P): On Thursday, we noted that Brown's absence might have been by design, given the Colts are playing two games in five days this week. It appears that was indeed the case because Brown returned to a full practice Friday and, at "probable," is expected to play.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, Achilles (P): At long last, it appears Mendenhall is prepared to make his return since straining his Achilles in Week 6. After full practice each day, he is expected to play. All the other Steelers backs, including Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, are now healthy, so the bigger question is how the Steelers will choose to rotate them.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys, foot (D): Although Murray reportedly is making progress, he is still not practicing with the team. He is not expected to play Sunday and might be in doubt for Thursday, as well.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ribs/wrist (no designation yet): Gore was very sore after last week's game against the Rams and even had X-rays on his ribs. But there's nothing to worry about here, as Gore practiced fully late in the week and is expected to play Monday night.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, ankle (Q): Jones injured his ankle in Week 10 and has not been able to practice all week. On Thursday, we noted that coach Mike Smith had already projected Jones as a game-time decision, and it looks as if that will indeed be the case. The Falcons have held Jones out of games in the past when he has been less than healthy; he missed time last season with hamstring injuries. Jones also played a game this season at less than full health, and the results showed. In Week 4, Jones played despite a hand laceration that was considered to not be serious, but he netted only one catch for 30 yards.
The worry with Jones' ankle would be that, if it is aggravated during the game, it could result in lower production or, worse, an early exit. Jones' performance in warm-ups will be the deciding factor, but fantasy owners should be sure to have a replacement ready.
Calvin Johnson, knee (Q) and Titus Young, knee (P), Detroit Lions: Johnson is following the now familiar pattern of Wednesday off and light practice Thursday and Friday. Despite the "questionable" tag, Johnson is expected to play, barring a setback. Young's status has been upgraded to probable. After practicing daily on a limited basis, expect him to play, as well.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers, hamstring/foot (P): Nelson entered the Week 9 game with a questionable hamstring and left early with a foot injury. The bye week helped get him the rest he needed, and he practiced daily this week. Nelson was a limited participant, but coach Mike McCarthy has been confident about Nelson's status since the start of the week, much more so than heading into Week 9. The "probable" tag reflects the team's confidence that Nelson will play.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders, hamstring (Q): Heyward-Bey strained his hamstring in Wednesday's practice and was not able to participate Thursday or Friday. The Raiders weren't ready to rule him out, but given that there's no activity to measure him by, including no attempts yet to run, consider him very questionable.
Pierre Garcon, foot (Q) and Santana Moss, head (P), Washington Redskins: Garcon is going to try to play through this foot injury, but it will be a challenge. He returned to practice this week on a limited basis and is doing some running and cutting, but he is not at 100 percent by any means. It appears he will attempt to play Sunday, but it is not a lock. For more detail on my thoughts about his chances of being able to perform this season, click here. As for Moss, he has been able to practice fully all week and is expected to play.
Brandon Lloyd, knee (Q); Wes Welker, ankle (Q); Julian Edelman, hand (P), New England Patriots: Edelman played last week, practiced on a limited basis every day this week and, at "probable," is expected to play. Lloyd was limited in practice daily, but, after playing last week, he too is expected to play.
Welker did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but was back for limited work Friday. The hints of Welker playing are all there. The probability is that, given that the Patriots also will be playing on Thursday, they are resting their players accordingly in this week's practice sessions. Still, this is a late kickoff, so there is inherent risk in assuming that any of the players listed as questionable will play. Have an alternate ready.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets, heel/hamstring (Q): Kerley practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday and was listed on the injury report only because of his heel. On Friday, Kerley did not practice at all and the word "hamstring" was added next to his name. Being a late-week nonparticipant and having the hint of a hamstring injury normally do not bode well for a wide receiver. The New York Daily News reports, however, that coach Rex Ryan expects Kerley to play. After saying he expected him, Ryan added, "But he is questionable."
The Jets have a big game on Thanksgiving against the Patriots, which could be the reason for the extra rest Friday. It also could make Kerley's status murkier. Thankfully, they kick off Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Fantasy owners should be sure to check the Jets' pregame inactive report.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, back (P): Maclin was able to practice fully every day this week and is expected to play, barring a setback.
Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers, shoulder (no designation yet): Manningham has been playing despite his presence on the injury report with a shoulder ailment, and he should do so again Monday.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears, hand (no designation yet): Jeffery has not played since Week 5 after suffering a broken bone in his hand. Jeffery did not undergo surgery and was limited in activity until the bone was sufficiently healed. This week, his practice increased significantly and he went from limited work Thursday to a full effort with no restrictions on Friday. It appears he will be available for the Bears on Monday night.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, back (Q): Daniels did not play Sunday night after being very limited in his mobility with a back injury suffered the week before. This week, Daniels has made progress and was able to practice on a limited basis each day. It appears Daniels will be able to play, but be sure to check pregame inactives.
Rob Gronkowski, hip and Aaron Hernandez, ankle, New England Patriots (Q): Both players remain limited in practice daily and listed as questionable for Sunday. Gronkowski continues to play through his hip injury and should do so again Sunday. Hernandez has been out since Week 8 because of his ankle but has continued to be a limited practice participant again this week. Given that Hernandez has not yet played and with another game coming up on Thursday, expect him to sit this one out. His ability to be out on the field daily suggests he's not far off, however, and we could very well see Hernandez returning for Thanksgiving Day. Fantasy owners who have been holding out hope would be very thankful indeed.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, shoulder (P): After a huge game this past week, Gonzalez made an appearance on the injury report this week with a shoulder problem. After being limited Wednesday, Gonzalez was able to turn in a full practice Thursday and Friday, and at "probable," is expected to play.
This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (concussion): Cutler has not recovered to the point of being ready to play this week after suffering a concussion in Week 10.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (concussion): See: Jay Cutler. There is no timetable for a return. Nick Foles gets the start.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, RB, Oakland Raiders (ankle): McFadden and Goodson are both making improvements, but neither is ready to return to action. Marcel Reece is expected to start for the Raiders.
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots (knee): No word on what the ailment is, but it certainly has kept Bolden sidelined for several weeks. The same is true in Week 11.
Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (hamstring): Tate tried to resume practice activity Wednesday, but the soreness in his hamstring increased and he couldn't participate Thursday or Friday. He is out again this week.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle): Brown is still contending with swelling in his ankle and is not yet ready to practice. At least he was ruled out early, giving fantasy owners a heads-up before Sunday night.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (foot): He thinks he's not far from a return, but it's not happening this week.
Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now" this Sunday (11 a.m. ET, ESPN2) for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!