It’s Week 7, and once again just two teams are on bye. The Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints get a brief respite from the physical toll of football (thank goodness, say all the Jimmy Graham fantasy owners). For those who can’t rest this week, who are going to be among the dreaded game-time decisions? Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon:
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (Q): Vick essentially removed any mystery about his status Thursday. Last Sunday, he was active as the emergency quarterback, which could happen again this week, but it will be Nick Foles getting the start against the possibly DeMarcus Ware-less Dallas Cowboys. Ware is listed as doubtful with a quad strain but did make the trip to Philly and will likely be a game-time call.
Last week, Vick sounded confident about his chances of playing against the Cowboys, but he acknowledged still feeling discomfort in his leg when he tried to "burst," a sign the hamstring has not fully healed. An aging Vick understands that sitting out now to allow proper recovery is a better option than returning too soon and suffering a more severe injury. Vick also knows if Foles delivers a topflight performance while he’s out that it could encourage the team to continue to rest him. Consider Vick a possibility -- but not a lock -- for Week 8.
Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans, hip/knee (Q): In a bit of a surprise move, it sounds like the Titans could start Locker. He is coming off a sprained hip and knee, which were expected to potentially sideline him through the team’s Week 8 bye. Locker moved better in practice late in the week, including a full session Friday, apparently inspiring enough confidence that the team is considering putting him back on the field.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, hamstring (P): The good news is that the Vikings have listed Peterson as probable, all the more helpful given that the team plays Monday night. Peterson participated in limited practice Thursday, the day he popped up on the injury report with the hamstring problem. He did not practice Friday, raising concern, but returned to limited work Saturday. The hope is that this seemingly mild hamstring issue doesn’t turn into something bigger. But no one is planning on resting Peterson as a preemptive strike.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills, ankle (Q): The expectation is that Spiller will play, but his ankle is not back to pre-injury form yet. Spiller acknowledges he can’t cut normally on it and is hoping that he will overcome that hurdle by the first game following the Bills' Week 12 bye. Until then, his plan is to continue to play, but fantasy owners should be aware that he is not at full strength and, per his own admission, is not likely to be for a few more weeks.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys, knee (D): Despite the doubtful tag and not practicing at all this week, Murray did fly with the team to Philadelphia. He has made it no secret that he would like to play Sunday despite spraining his MCL just last week. His lack of practice activity combined with owner Jerry Jones’ hint earlier in the week that Murray would be out, presumably to help ensure that his injury doesn’t worsen, makes his travel a bit of a surprise. It appears the Cowboys are leaving the door open for Murray to impress them Sunday morning. If he can show the knee is not an issue, he could be granted clearance. Iffy situation.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams, chest (P): Stacy was again excused from practice Wednesday to rest his sore ribs but returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. This is lingering soreness from a rib injury late in the Week 5 game, but Stacy played in Week 6 and is expected to do so again Sunday.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions, rib (Q): Bell suffered bruised ribs and left last week’s game early. Rib injuries leave lingering discomfort, but Bell managed to practice on a limited basis each day. Although he told reporters he has improved, the pain is likely to prove to be a hindrance for him Sunday. Whether it’s enough to keep him out remains to be seen, but if he does play, this could become exacerbated as the game progresses.
Arian Foster, thumb/chest/hamstring, and Ben Tate, elbow, Houston Texans (P): The challenges continue for the Texans, who travel to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7. When Matt Schaub injured his lower leg and ankle last Sunday, the Texans were underwhelmed by the performance of backup T.J. Yates. Consequently, Case Keenum was awarded the start this week. It’s entirely possible that the run game gets a boost. Foster got Thursday off but bookended the week with two full practices. Tate practiced fully every day.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, hamstring (Q): Jacobs is virtually the last man standing among the Giants’ running back starters. Or maybe he’s leaning, off that tight hamstring. David Wilson remains out, as does Andre Brown (although he is progressing his running program), and Jacobs, as everyone witnessed last week, is now “the guy." But first he has to take the field. The expectation was that he would rest his legs early in the week with an eye on Monday night. Jacobs was limited in practice Thursday and Friday but did not practice Saturday. Downgrade or proactive rest? There doesn’t appear to be an answer just yet, making his Monday night status worrisome for fantasy owners.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, knee (P): This week, all seems right again with the Johnson injury report, as he comes into Sunday’s contest listed as probable after practicing on a limited basis daily. The fact he is still on the injury report tells us the knee is still an issue, but it has clearly improved. Let's hope he will not flare it up during Sunday’s contest against the Bengals.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers, knee (Q): Jones has not practiced since spraining his knee last week. If he is active, there is legitimate reason to be concerned about how productive he can be. This is expected to be a game-time call.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, shin (Q): Johnson continues to play as his shin attempts to recover from the deep bruise injury he sustained a few weeks ago.
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring (P): Austin is expected to play, but no one knows what to expect when it comes to productivity or reliability. The team is trying to control his activity during the week, though that didn’t solve the problem when it did that for weeks during the preseason.
Cecil Shorts, shoulder, and Justin Blackmon, hamstring, Jacksonville Jaguars (Q): Shorts insists he’s improving and wants to play Sunday. This is the same guy who couldn’t sleep and couldn’t get his arm over his head just days ago. He did do limited work with the team Thursday and Friday but remains a game-time decision. If he falls on the shoulder on the same side, the pain has the potential to escalate again. Less worrisome, as far as his status, is Blackmon, who is presumably getting even more rest this week with Shorts impaired. Blackmon has indicated he plans to play.
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo Bills, back (P): The best indicator that Johnson is recovering from his back ailment is his consecutive full practice sessions Thursday and Friday. After missing Week 6, Johnson is expected back as the probable tag tells us.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hamstring (Q): Williams bumped up to a full practice Friday after two limited days earlier. Time is helping. Williams appears in line to play this week after sitting out Week 6.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, back/forearm (Q): Here we go. Gronkowski traveled with his teammates to New York on the heels of a declaration made by his agent Drew Rosenhaus on Friday: "Gronkowski has been cleared by all of his doctors to return to play." There has been so much emphasis on the wait for this final clearance that there hardly seems to be any mystery surrounding whether Gronkowski will or won’t suit up. The bigger question is how much playing time he’ll see. Even that could be a decision that remains fluid during the game.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, hamstring (P): Davis is still listed with a hamstring injury, not surprising as he has not looked like he is consistently running well despite playing the past few games. He continues to practice fully daily and is expected to play.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears, knee (Q): Bennett sat Wednesday but participated on a limited basis the remainder of the week. He played through the knee pain last week, and it seems he should again, barring a pregame setback.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings, left hamstring (P): Walsh made his field goal, albeit a short one, along with his extra point attempt despite entering the game as questionable. He is trending upward this week in the practice department, though, a positive sign with a Monday night game. After getting Wednesday off to rest, Walsh was listed as limited Thursday and full on Friday. The probable tag tells us the Vikings expect him on the field. He may not be out of the woods entirely, but he appears to be in better shape this week than last.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring/ankle: It finally happened -- and maybe should have happened sooner. White is sitting out this week, clearly hampered by his leg injuries. There is no indication as to when he will return.
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring: The best thing to be said here is that fantasy owners have been given advance notice that Jackson is definitely out. Not that this is a surprise since he has yet to practice with the team.
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills, knee: Manuel suffered an LCL injury in Week 5, and coach Doug Marrone announced this week Manuel is still four-to-six weeks away from returning. Thaddeus Lewis gets the start in his place.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee: Starks is still out despite the rumblings that he was close to returning to action.
Quinton Patton, WR, San Francisco 49ers, foot: Patton fractured his foot and is out for several weeks.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions, forearm: Burleson fractured both bones in his forearm, underwent surgery to repair the damage and is out for an extended time. The team hopes he will be able to return late in the season.