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|Robert Griffin III is not expected to dress against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.|
For those who were lucky enough to enjoy a first-round bye, welcome to your fantasy football playoffs! For those who managed a victory last week to continue on, welcome to the second round of your fantasy playoffs! And for those who are fighting their way through the consolation ladder, well, it's still the playoffs!
A few more players have been added to injured reserve this week, and a few players have already been ruled out of Sunday's games. But there are still plenty of injury question marks heading into Week 15.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins, knee (Q): The Redskins have been very clear about the criteria required for Griffin to play Sunday. He needs to be able to perform effectively and, most importantly, protect himself from further injury. Despite the fact that Griffin was listed as a limited participant daily, that determination has not yet been made. Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reports that Griffin took zero first-team reps this week; Kirk Cousins got them all. If Griffin plays, he will not be 100 percent healthy. Despite the low-grade injury, there is still tissue healing taking place and may even be some residual swelling and soreness. His status remains uncertain for Sunday.
Addendum: Late Saturday, the Washington Redskins announced via Twitter that Kirk Cousins will start on Sunday in place of RG III.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens, hip (P): Rice never gave the impression the hip pointer sustained in last week's game would keep him out. He practiced on a limited basis each day this week, undoubtedly resting up for Sunday. Expect him to play.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears, ribs (Q): Last week, Bush was questionable because of the rib injury heading into the game. He ended up active, had one carry, took a big hit and was removed for the remainder of the game. The ribs are still sore this week, and Bush did not practice until a limited outing Friday. His status could come down to Sunday, and even if he is active, it's hard to trust that he has recovered to the point of being effective.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, abdomen (P): Peterson never really seemed in jeopardy of missing this game, but it still raised an eyebrow when he didn't practice Thursday. He was back for limited work Friday and is on track to start as usual.
DeMarco Murray, foot, and Felix Jones, knee, Dallas Cowboys (P): Now that both backs have shown they can play since sustaining their respective injuries, there are fewer question marks surrounding their status. Both are again listed as probable this week and are expected to be on the field to face the Steelers.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders, ankle (P): McFadden has practiced fully each day and is in line to start Sunday against the Chiefs. In Week 14, he was forced to exit early after tweaking his injured ankle. Although McFadden told the San Francisco Chronicle it was more of a scare than anything else, the test will be to see whether he can get through an entire game without a setback.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): Wells is still on the injury report because of his knee, but his status in advance of the game has been upgraded to probable. This week, he has even been a full participant in practice daily. In the past two weeks, though, he has totaled only 40 yards rushing. Start at your own risk.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, foot (P): Unlike his teammate Danny Amendola, Jackson has not been kept out of games because of his foot. Although he did not practice Wednesday or Friday, Jackson is expected to start as usual when the Rams host the Vikings.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns, chest/rib/finger (P): Richardson is still on the injury report but is going to play.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch's back gave him some fits during last week's game, but he persevered to the tune of more than 100 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Don't count on the same number of points this week, but do plan on him playing.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, wrist (P): Gore has played through this wrist injury and will do so again Sunday night.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans, hamstring/foot (P): Tate had fallen behind in the depth chart as a result of his injuries, which have caused him to miss four games since the team's Week 8 bye. Apparently he has proved his health and conditioning and is re-establishing his position on the depth chart behind Arian Foster. Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle reports coach Gary Kubiak said this week that Tate is closer to being the No. 2 back. It's hard to rely on guaranteed production, but as the end of the regular season approaches, we could see more of him.
Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers, hamstring (D): Brown has a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice every day this week. His expected absence might not directly affect fantasy owners in the playoffs, but it could mean more work for Ryan Mathews.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle (no designation): Despite sitting out Thursday's practice, Johnson was a full participant Friday. He seems in no danger of missing Monday night's game.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets, shoulder/toe (no designation): A toe injury turned out not to be a broken bone, but it could still threaten Powell for Monday night. He did turn in a limited practice Friday after sitting out Thursday, so there is some improvement. For his part, Powell told ESPN New York that he would be ready to go Monday night. Still, his status remains uncertain.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, finger (Q): The challenges for Bryant to play with a fractured finger have been discussed in this blog, but it appears he is going to give it a try. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the Cowboys have devised a satisfactory means of protecting Bryant's finger while still allowing him to be able to catch, but pain will be an issue. The problem facing fantasy owners is there is no way to determine just how effective Bryant can be until seeing him in the game. Although he caught some passes in practice this week, he has not caught a ball coming full velocity or been challenged by an oncoming helmet or a fall on the injured finger. It looks as if he's likely to play, but how well he can perform remains to be seen.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams, foot (P): This is a big status change for Amendola from the past few weeks and a promising indicator that he will be more than just a decoy on offense. Earlier this week, coach Jeff Fisher said Amendola would need to be close to fully recovered to be effective, undoubtedly a factor in why the team chose to keep him out the past two weeks. Amendola had two days of limited work followed by a full practice Friday. While it doesn't mean he is risk-free, since this will be Amendola's first time testing his foot in a game in three weeks, the expectation is that he will play.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, knee (P): Nicks usually comes into the weekend with a questionable status, so his probable listing makes his likelihood of playing less of a concern. That said, Nicks and the Giants have basically acknowledged his knee is likely to be an issue for the remainder of the season. He will continue to get rest during the week. This week, it was an off-day Wednesday followed by two limited practices, which translates into uncertainty when it comes to Sunday production. Nicks has appeared to have difficulty fully striding at times, and his effectiveness could change during the game if the knee becomes aggravated. It remains a fluid situation and therefore a risky fantasy situation. There's the potential for a big reward, but there's also the potential for disappointment.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons, knee (Q): On Thursday, I indicated that White, who has not missed a game in his eight years with the Falcons, would likely be a game-time decision. Indeed, that is the case. White did not practice all week, not altogether surprising after coach Mike Smith said the team would rest him in advance of Sunday and see how his knee responded. White is expected to test the knee before the game, and it would come as a surprise if he sits, given that he has yet to miss a game in his career. The natural follow-up question is what to expect if he does play. The Falcons have not shared the results of White's MRI taken earlier in the week, and with his absence from practice, it's hard to know just how impaired he might be. It's a bit of a dice roll if White is active, but unless fantasy owners have exceptional other options, it's equally difficult to leave him on the bench.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, foot (P): Garcon has shown incredible toughness in returning to play despite not being fully recovered from his toe injury. He still rates himself at 75-80 percent, although he has been able to deliver strong performances at three-quarters health. When Garcon visited ESPN's Fantasy Football Podcast earlier this week, he told me the pain from the ruptured plantar plate in his second toe felt like someone was "sticking a needle in the bottom of my foot." Try running on that. Garcon had never undergone surgery in his career and didn't want to start now if it wasn't absolutely necessary. He opted for conservative treatment and rest, which seems to have paid off for now. Garcon said the orthotic support in his shoe has helped, and he is getting used to the feel of something else being in his shoe besides his foot. This may be the first week where Garcon's effectiveness may be determined less by his foot than by which quarterback is under center, something that won't be known until Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, knee (P): Johnson has been a mainstay on the Detroit injury report because of his knee but has yet to miss a game. He adhered to his regimen of limited practice throughout the week but is expected to play against the Cardinals.
Antonio Brown, illness, and Emmanuel Sanders, shoulder, Pittsburgh Steelers, (P): Brown missed Friday's practice due to illness but is expected to play. Sanders sat out Wednesday to rest his sore shoulder but returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. He is also expected to be available.
Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals, ankle (P): The biggest challenges to Arizona's passing game may not have anything to do with Roberts' health. That said, Roberts played last week despite being listed as questionable. This week, he ramped up to full practice Friday and is listed as probable. Expect him to be available.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, shoulder (P): Thomas has dealt with a shoulder ailment intermittently, but it has not resulted in any missed games. At probable after fully practicing all week, Thomas will start against the Ravens.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars, concussion (P): Earlier in the week, Shorts would not guarantee he would play, citing his health as the priority. Smart decision. After practicing on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, Shorts practiced fully Friday and appears poised for a Sunday start.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks, foot (P): Rice may have been in a walking boot to start the week, but he was a full participant in practice Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. Barring a surprise, expect Rice to start.
Donnie Avery, Indianapolis Colts, rib (P): Avery was listed on the injury report Wednesday because of a rib injury. Since then, he has put in two full practices on Thursday and Friday, and there seems to be little concern about his availability.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets, hamstring/heel (P): Kerley was a full participant throughout the week and is expected to play.
Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers, shoulder (D): Manningham's shoulder continues to be a problem, and he is not expected to play against the Patriots.
Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers, hamstring (Q): Royal has missed the past three weeks with a hamstring injury. He is no lock to play despite putting in limited practices Wednesday and Thursday and bumping up to a full practice Friday.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers, toe (Q): Last week, LaFell was designated as questionable yet did not play, not altogether surprising after not practicing all week. LaFell did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and seemed headed for the same fate but then participated on a limited basis Friday. It appears his turf toe is improving, but it will be interesting to see how the toe responds to the Friday work. Louis Murphy, who started opposite Steve Smith when LaFell was out, has been dealing with a sore hamstring. Murphy is listed as probable, suggesting the Panthers are confident he will be ready to play. Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reports coach Ron Rivera gives LaFell a 50-50 chance to play against the Chargers. Even if LaFell ends up active, it doesn't sound as if he has fully recovered, and he could be limited.
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions, ankle (D): Pettigrew was injured in the first quarter of last week's game and didn't practice all week. According to the Detroit Free Press, Pettigrew has a high ankle sprain, but coach Jim Schwartz was not prepared to rule him out entirely, giving him until Sunday to see how he's faring. Given the injury, it does not appear likely Pettigrew will suit up.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets, ankle (D): Keller has not practiced this week due to his ankle injury and is not expected to play Monday night.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, shoulder (P): Rudolph was able to get back to full practice Friday after limited work Wednesday and Thursday, the same pattern as last week. He is expected to play.
Aaron Hernandez, ankle, and Rob Gronkowski, forearm, New England Patriots, (Q): After last week's performance, everyone can feel confident in the health of Hernandez and expect him on the field Sunday night against the 49ers. Gronkowski teased us by returning to limited practice Friday, but it's unlikely he will suit up this week. While four weeks would likely be the soonest an athlete would return following a surgically repaired forearm fracture, extra time means extra healing. Given the Patriots' eye on the postseason, it seems he would be given the benefit of more healing time. It's still worth monitoring his status throughout the week, but don't count on him to play.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, back (P): Daniels has been playing despite the back injury since Week 11. He will do so again Sunday against the Colts.
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.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants, knee: On Thursday, I noted there was less confidence Bradshaw would play after suffering a sprained knee in Week 14. The Giants announced Friday that Bradshaw would be out against the Falcons on Sunday, which translates to a bigger role for David Wilson.
Earl Bennett, WR, Chicago Bears, concussion: Bennett is still recovering from a concussion and will sit this week.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs, ribs: Bowe sustained broken ribs in Week 14 and was ruled out of Sunday's game early in the week. The Chiefs have not indicated whether he will return this season.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars, foot: Jones-Drew is still not involved in team practice. Despite the team's insistence that they are still holding out hope that he plays before the season is done, there is not much reason to hold onto him on your fantasy team. Even if he does return, it's hard to know how much playing time he would see, how he would perform and how his foot would respond. Better to wait until next year.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars, concussion: Jennings suffered a concussion in Week 13 and is still recovering. Montell Owens starts again in Jacksonville.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, ankle: Stewart has missed the past two weeks with the ankle injury and will miss another. DeAngelo Williams remains the starter.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers, hamstring: Once again, the Packers have given fantasy owners an advance heads-up as to Nelson's status by ruling him out before game day. After coach Mike McCarthy called him a long shot to play earlier in the week, the decision does not come as much of a surprise.
Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now" on Sunday airing on ESPN2 at 11:00 a.m. for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!