It’s Week 11, and just two teams are on bye this week, the Dallas Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams. A few key players could return after lengthy absences, including Patriots running back Shane Vereen (not on the injury report but not yet activated) and Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin. Several quarterbacks remain sidelined with injury, but a couple will play through their injuries.
Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon:
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): Manning has been dealing with a high right ankle sprain since October, yet it didn’t seem to limit him terribly. Last Sunday, he aggravated the injury when he was sacked. Manning was in obvious discomfort, grasping at his lower right shin and limping immediately afterward. But in Manning-like fashion, he returned to the game and finished it out.
A follow-up MRI confirmed that he had indeed aggravated the injury, yet the test reportedly revealed no new damage, suggesting the presence of swelling without new evidence of ligament tearing. Manning was out of practice Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday (although his limited work approaches what some would describe as full). Interim coach Jack Del Rio has already indicated Manning will play, not that there was really any doubt as to his status.
To last the entire game, though, Manning will have to avoid contact to the best of his ability. Fortunately, he is a wizard when it comes to making adjustments, which he will presumably do against the Chiefs on Sunday night.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, shoulder (P): On Thursday, we noted that Ponder was making improvements with his recently dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder and could play wearing a protective harness. He practiced on a limited basis each day, and the probable tag suggests he will be on the field Sunday. This is a late game against the Seahawks, so fantasy owners will want to have a backup plan in place.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (Q): Vick went through a full practice Friday after limited work Wednesday and Thursday. His status is somewhat limited in relevance, though, as Nick Foles is the clear starter for Sunday’s game.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans, ribs (P): Arian Foster is out for the season, opening the starting job to Tate. He has played through the cracked ribs and will continue to do so. The further removed he is from the injury, the better for him. Even Tate acknowledges he played through significant pain but it is getting easier. That’s good news because his workload isn’t getting any lighter.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons, toe (P): None other than Jackson himself declared, “I am healthy,” according to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. Still, we find Jackson on the injury report because of a toe ailment. It does not appear to be limiting him much, as he practiced in full Thursday and Friday after a limited workout Wednesday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, knee (P): Lynch continues to be listed on the injury report because of his knee, but he has played every game. Expect him on the field again as the Seahawks face the Vikings.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, knee (P): Jones-Drew was given Wednesday off to rest his knee, but he practiced (limited) Thursday and turned in a full workout Friday. Listed as probable, he is expected to play in the Jags' home tilt against the Cardinals.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, knee/hamstring (Q): Last week, Jacobs was listed as doubtful, so coming in at questionable is an improvement. Still, his status is not going to threaten Andre Brown, who performed quite nicely in his season debut last Sunday. Jacobs has turned in only two limited practices and could need additional recovery time.
Roddy White, shoulder (P), and Harry Douglas, knee (Q), Atlanta Falcons: As recently as a week ago, who would have thought White would be the healthiest of the starting wide receivers? Suddenly that appears to be the case, as Douglas and tight end Tony Gonzalez are questionable with their injuries. On Thursday, we discussed the situation in further detail, including the fact that White’s presence here is not because of the hamstring and ankle but instead due to a new ailment, his shoulder.
Apparently the shoulder is not considered serious since White practiced every day, including a full workout Friday, and he is expected to play, as evidenced by the probable tag. For Douglas, the nonspecific knee injury kept him off the practice field Thursday, but he did return Friday on a limited basis. According to ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, coach Mike Smith expects Douglas to play Sunday. The Falcons may need to lean on him, given that Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis may devote most of his attention to White. Yes, White has been getting healthier, but so has Revis as he gains confidence in his postsurgical knee.
Calvin Johnson, knee (P), and Nate Burleson, forearm (D), Detroit Lions: Johnson got two days off this week, but the probable tag tells us the Lions expect to have him. He did put in a limited practice session Friday and should be ready to face the Steelers on Sunday.
Burleson has been increasing his activity in practice to the point of facing defensive players and absorbing contact. Every new step in his rehab increases the level of difficulty for his healing forearm in preparation for what he will face in a game situation. So far he has done well in each phase, but the team has been clear about not rushing him back. He is not quite ready for competition and will likely sit out this week, but his return does not appear far off.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knee (P): Jackson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday to rest his knee after a Monday night game. He was back practicing in full Thursday and Friday and is expected to play against the Falcons.
Cecil Shorts, groin, and Mike Brown, ankle, Jacksonville Jaguars (P): When a Jaguars player misses Thursday practice, it’s not as concerning as it is with some others because coach Gus Bradley has established a pattern. Thursday is often used to rest players he expects to have available Sunday as a means of limiting their exposure -- in what is typically the heaviest practice day -- to aggravation of an injury.
Shorts did not practice Thursday, similar to past weeks, as he manages a groin injury. He did, however, participate on a limited basis Wednesday and Friday. Brown practiced on a limited basis each day. Both players are listed as probable and are expected to play.
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks, hip (P): In perhaps the surest sign yet that he will take the field for the first time Sunday, Harvin was assigned the probable tag in the Seahawks’ final injury report. It has been a long road back since Harvin underwent surgery in August to repair a torn labrum and resurface the bone of his hip. When he first returned to practice, subsequent soreness forced the team to scale back his work. Gradually he has resumed his activity, upgrading to back-to-back full practices this week.
While Harvin is expected to appear in Sunday’s game, he is not likely to see an overwhelming amount of action. His hip’s response to early practices is a reminder that each step up in activity needs to be carefully evaluated to ensure no major setbacks. This isn’t to say he can’t have an impact right away, depending on where and how he is used, but the team is not likely to leave Harvin on the field for the majority of offensive plays in his first outing, something even he acknowledges. "I won't say what I can and can't do, but it would be crazy for me to think I can go out and run all the plays I normally run," Harvin said.
Seattle enjoys a late bye next week, which will give Harvin some rest after his first game test before a Monday night game in early December. If all goes well with this outing, expect his involvement to continue to increase.
Michael Floyd, shoulder (Q), and Andre Roberts, knee (P), Arizona Cardinals: Floyd sprained his right acromioclavicular joint late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. Although he is listed as questionable, Floyd said he will play, according to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss, who reports Floyd was catching balls at shoulder height in Thursday’s limited practice session.
He was back on the field Friday, this time catching balls overhead, which bodes well for his chances. Even coach Bruce Arians offered his thoughts on Floyd’s status. “Michael should be ready to go,” Arians said. “[He] looks pretty solid.”
Roberts is dealing with a sore knee but got in full practices Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins, hamstring (Q): Additions to Thursday injury reports make us nervous, and Wallace was one such case this week. He was listed as limited due to a hamstring strain, which remained the case on Friday. ESPN.com’s James Walker reports Wallace is expected to play despite the questionable tag. This is a late game against the Chargers, so fantasy owners are advised to have a backup plan should Wallace’s status change.
Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens, knee (Q): Brown was listed as a non-participant Friday, his first appearance on the injury report this week. When the team issued the official status report, Brown cropped up as questionable. The Baltimore Sun notes Brown tore his ACL a year ago while at the University of Georgia and the knee bothers him intermittently. Although listed as questionable, it appears he will play unless the knee is problematic Sunday morning. Fantasy owners should be sure to check pregame inactives.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, foot/hamstring (P): Holmes appears to have been accurate in his prediction that he would return after the team’s bye from a hamstring injury. He was only a limited participant in practice throughout the week, but the probable tag indicates the Jets expect him to be active Sunday.
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): The sight of Welker on the injury report because of his ankle is so familiar it barely raises an eyebrow. He is again listed as probable and is again expected to play.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, toe (Q): On Thursday, we noted that Gonzalez was dealing with a painful toe after last week’s game, but coach Mike Smith cautioned against counting the reliable tight end out. Still, Gonzalez did not practice at all Wednesday or Thursday then was kept to limited work Friday.
At questionable, he is shaping up to be a game-time decision. ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure noted that backup tight ends Levine Toilolo and Chase Coffman spent extra time after Friday’s practice working on route running. Be sure to check pregame inactives and consider that Gonzalez, if he plays, could be limited by the toe.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints, foot (P): Graham is being held to limited practices as part of managing his health. The probable tag indicates the Saints expect to have him, so fantasy owners can feel confident heading into Sunday afternoon’s contest.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears, ankle (Q): Bennett is listed as questionable with an ankle injury, which kept him out of practice Thursday. He did some limited work Friday, which Bears coach Marc Trestman found somewhat encouraging. “We were trying to be smart with him, but he got work in today and did well,” Trestman said. “Hopefully with 48 hours [until kickoff Sunday] he’ll feel even better.” Bennett has played through injuries at several points throughout the season. History would suggest that he will do so again, but fantasy owners will want to verify his status pregame.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, concussion (Q): Davis was able to practice on a limited basis throughout the week and, according to ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson, is on track to play Sunday. Davis was given a contact test Friday and, presuming no recurrence of symptoms pregame, should be available Sunday.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): Thomas played last week in his first game since spraining his ankle. The probable designation indicates he will do so again this week.
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals, groin (P): Gresham missed just the fourth game in his career last Sunday when he sat out with a groin injury. The rest appears to have helped as Gresham returned to full practice the entire week. At probable, he is expected to play.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, collarbone: Rodgers is still healing from his fractured left clavicle (collarbone). Rodgers said he can now sleep through the night and get dressed without pain, so there is progress. It continues to be a one-day-at-a-time process for him.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, ankle: The conversation last week surrounded whether Cutler’s injured groin muscle had recovered to the point where he could play. He played but sustained a new injury in the process, a left high ankle sprain, which ultimately forced him out of the game early. Cutler was sporting a hard cast this week and is sidelined while his ankle heals.
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders, knee: Pryor was downgraded to out Saturday, not altogether surprising after his performance last week, when he was clearly hampered by his sprained MCL. A week off should help quite a bit, especially since Pryor did practice some this week. It’s Matt McGloin under center for the Raiders.
Steve Johnson, groin, and Robert Woods, ankle, WR, Buffalo Bills: It never looked promising for either receiver as both missed the entire week of practice. There has been no indication as to how long an absence they might be facing.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets, elbow: Kerley remains sidelined with his elbow injury and has yet to return to practice.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, back: Foster underwent surgery Thursday to address the problematic disk in his lower back. The Texans placed him on injured reserve this week, and he is done for the year.