The playoff push continues for fantasy owners far and wide. With each player’s contribution in the scoring department being so critical, no one wants to make an ill-advised decision. There are some tricky injury situations heading into Week 15, but aren’t there always? Maybe it’s more painful because of the potential consequences this week.
Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, ankle (P): The Bears announced Thursday night that Cutler would be their starting quarterback in Week 15, giving fantasy owners ample time to agonize over what to do. McCown has been solid in his role as the replacement quarterback for the past five weeks as Cutler has been recovering. On Thursday, we noted how the Bears arrived at this decision and what lingering concerns might exist with regards to the injury. On Fantasy Football Now Friday, we discussed Cutler’s status in further detail.
In short, coach Marc Trestman has indicated he expects Cutler to play “effectively and efficiently.” It will be interesting to see how Cutler fares from a performance standpoint after such a lengthy absence. More importantly, here’s hoping he can avoid the type of contact that caused his ankle injury in the first place, a repeat of which would likely set him back.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, right elbow (Q): Palmer played through his elbow soreness in Week 14 and looked better than anticipated, given his limitations during the week. He remained limited in this week’s practice sessions to continue to rest his elbow. Despite the questionable tag, Palmer is expected to play Sunday at Tennessee.
Adrian Peterson, groin/foot, and Toby Gerhart, hamstring, Minnesota Vikings (Q): When Peterson went down in obvious pain Sunday and had to be carted off the field, most thought he might not return this season, much less this week. As reported Tuesday, despite all tests indicating no significant structural damage, it seemed unlikely Peterson would be ready to play by Sunday.
Early in the week, however, Peterson maintained he wanted to play, if able. He participated in pool workouts as part of his physical therapy, but even coach Leslie Frazier was not optimistic as late as Thursday evening. But this is Adrian Peterson, an athlete who routinely defies expectations. On Friday, he returned to the field to participate in running drills. Frazier’s comment that day reflected his surprise. "He was able to plant. He was able to push off," Frazier said. "We'll see tomorrow if there's any soreness, but he looked far better than I anticipated."
As ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling notes, Peterson is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision. The primary concern would be the risk of Peterson suffering further injury during the game. He still is listed on the injury report with the groin ailment that has been hampering him for multiple weeks. Although he was limited from a productivity standpoint when the groin injury first cropped up, he had performed well recently, almost making people forget there was an injury at all. Now there are two body parts that are, at the very least, less than 100 percent. If the Vikings give Peterson the green light to play, it would suggest they are confident that his foot has recovered to the point where he can be effective.
And what, then, to make of Gerhart? He stepped in for the injured Peterson on Sunday and performed well until straining his hamstring near the end of the game. Gerhart did not practice until Friday either when he joined Peterson for some light running drills but was kept to limited work, although he indicated he felt “pretty good” afterward. Hamstring injuries are notorious for being easily aggravated, and there may be just as much concern about the risk for Gerhart taking the field and suffering a setback as there is for Peterson. Ultimately, the availability of both players will not be known until just prior to the game. Thankfully, this game kicks off early on Sunday.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, ankle (P): On Thursday evening, there was optimism on the Lacy availability front from Packers coach Mike McCarthy. Lacy, who injured his ankle Sunday but was able to return and finish the game, joined his teammates in practice Friday for the first time since the injury. He was able to participate on a limited basis, and with the probable designation, all signs point to him being active against the Cowboys. While he might not be functioning at 100 percent, the time off during the week undoubtedly helped in his recovery.
Maurice Jones-Drew, hamstring (D), and Jordan Todman, shoulder (P), Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s certainly not looking good for Jones-Drew this week. The doubtful tag means he is likely to sit this week out due to his injured hamstring. Jones-Drew was hoping to return to practice Friday, but that did not come to pass. While the team is giving him until game time to make it official, it appears unlikely he’ll have shown enough improvement to be able to go.
Todman would get the start should Jones-Drew sit out. He has been dealing with a shoulder injury but did practice on a limited basis Wednesday, then fully Thursday and Friday. Barring a surprise change of circumstances, Todman will be the lead back for the Jaguars when they host the Bills on Sunday.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, calf (Q): Debating whether to play Bush will be perhaps one of the toughest situations for fantasy owners. In the midst of fantasy playoffs, no one wants to deal with uncertainty, and there is plenty of it here. Not so much from the perspective of whether Bush will play, though, as he has said he expects to play and his limited participation in practice Friday suggests he will.
Two potential problems present themselves. Bush could suffer another pregame setback, just as he did last Sunday, resulting in a late decision not to take the field. That seems unlikely, simply because that type of thing rarely happens to the same player two weeks in a row. The next potential problem for fantasy owners would be if Bush were to start the game but end up being limited by the calf. The limitation could be the result of the calf not having the opportunity to fully heal yet or there could be an in-game setback. Either situation could result in Bush yielding work to Joique Bell, a possibility even without a setback. For fantasy owners who decide to roll the dice, it would be wise to have an alternate plan Monday night should Bush suddenly be unable to play.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders, concussion (P): After sitting out last week’s game due to lingering effects from a concussion sustained on Thanksgiving Day, Jennings is poised to return in Week 15. He has been a full participant in practice each day, and barring an unexpected setback, Jennings will own the starter role with teammate Darren McFadden still out.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (P): Gore continues to play week in and week out despite nursing a sore ankle. At times in games, Gore can be seen visibly limping and will be periodically spelled by the likes of Kendall Hunter. Not to worry. Gore remains the feature back for San Francisco.
Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, wrist (P): Despite remaining on the injury report because of his wrist, Vereen continues to practice in full each day. At probable, he is expected to play against Miami on Sunday.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins, concussion (P): Last week’s pectoral injury turned out to be a non-issue for Miller as he was forced out of the game with a concussion. Surprisingly, teammate Daniel Thomas had his best game of the year stepping in for the injured Miller and collecting more than 100 yards and a score in the process. All this from a back who some thought might be done for the year with an ankle injury sustained in Week 12 against the Panthers.
While it’s encouraging that Miller is recovering nicely from his concussion (practicing fully from Wednesday through Friday), the situation presents a conundrum for fantasy owners. Miller, at probable, is expected to play and Thomas isn’t even on the injury report, indicating he too will play. A divided workload perhaps? It certainly looks that way. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, it’s hard to know how last week’s performance by Thomas could influence that split.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, knee (P): Ellington played in Week 14, and while his numbers weren’t spectacular, he did score a touchdown. This week, his knee appears to be further improved as he practiced daily, upgrading to a full workout Friday. He is expected to play again this week but will continue to share duties with Rashard Mendenhall.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans, ribs (P): Tate has been out there every week, with some outings being more productive than others. The ribs have been part of his injury repertoire for multiple weeks, and by now we know he will play regardless, despite participating in limited practice all week.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, shoulder (P): We’re accustomed to seeing Lynch listed because of his knee, but this week it’s his shoulder. Expect the outcome to be the same; Lynch will play Sunday when the Seahawks visit the New York Giants.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals, illness (P): Green-Ellis missed two practices due to illness this week but returned to full practice Friday. Listed as probable, he is expected to play Sunday night when the Bengals visit the Steelers.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars, groin (Q): Shorts listed as questionable heading into Sunday isn’t altogether unusual, and fantasy owners have come to assume he will play. Not this week. Shorts suffered a setback with the groin injury that has been bothering him for multiple weeks. In fact, Shorts said he needs surgery after the season to repair the injury, according to The Florida Times-Union, but still hopes to play Sunday.
It seems like a tall order given the only practice Shorts could participate in was a limited one on Friday. He has certainly played through significant pain (including a sprained SC joint earlier this year), but this injury is not just a matter of pain. It has the potential to limit his mobility and power, making it difficult for him to make explosive movements or go up high to catch passes. First he has to get on the field though, and that decision may not come until game time. Fantasy owners should take appropriate precautions.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons, knee (Q): It was so exciting to see White finally off the injury report, but that didn’t last long. This week, he returns to the report because of a troublesome knee that limited him in practice throughout the week. The sense is that he will try to play, but the questionable tag means fantasy owners need to double-check before game time.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, shoulder (Q): Moore has been unable to play for the past three games due to a shoulder injury, but that could change Sunday after getting in limited practices daily this week. Coach Dennis Allen said things are “looking positive” for Moore, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Given the questionable tag, fantasy owners should verify his status before kickoff.
Santonio Holmes, foot/hamstring, and Jeremy Kerley, elbow, New York Jets (P): Both receivers were listed as questionable last week, and both took the field. Kerley even landed a score in his first game back since Week 9. The results for Holmes were fairly pedestrian, but that has been the story of his season. With both players listed as probable, at least fantasy owners know both should be expected to play.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals, ankle (Q): Floyd does not appear on the injury report because of his shoulder, but rather because of an ankle injury sustained a couple of weeks ago. His stats were way down in Week 14, in part because of the limitations in his mobility. He is still limited despite making the effort to tough it out with the injury. Floyd is likely to try to play, but the questionable designation indicates that could change by game time. Fantasy owners should check his status and may want to consider other options.
Danny Amendola, groin (P), Kenbrell Thompkins, hip (Q), and Aaron Dobson, foot (Q), New England Patriots: Amendola is a regular here but has been playing the past few weeks without incident. He is once again expected to start for the Patriots.
The two rookie receivers -- Thompkins and Dobson -- are bigger question marks. Dobson has been out since Week 12 with a foot injury. He did return to practice on Friday, but that was as a limited participant. It would seem a stretch for him to play. Thompkins practiced on a limited basis each day. Last week, he did the same thing, was listed as questionable and did not play. The Patriots often like to see their players get a few weeks of practices under their belt before releasing them to play, so his chances have improved somewhat. Until the Patriots make their official inactive announcement, however, Thompkins remains risky.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (P): Crabtree was listed on the injury report this week because of his ankle, although the 49ers indicated this was not related to his recently repaired Achilles. On a positive note, Crabtree was a full participant in Friday’s practice after doing limited work Wednesday and Thursday. The probable designation indicates the team plans to have him on the field in Tampa Bay.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hamstring (P): The hamstring didn’t keep Jackson off the field in Week 14 even if it did cause him discomfort. After getting Wednesday off to rest, Jackson returned to limited practice Thursday and full work Friday. He plans to play Sunday.
Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams, ankle (Q): There really isn’t much encouraging news when it comes to Austin’s status for this week. After injuring his ankle in Week 14, Austin has not practiced all week. As ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner notes, Austin was still sporting a walking boot on his left foot Friday. Given the questionable tag and his lack of activity, it appears unlikely fantasy owners should count on Austin for Sunday.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers, foot (P): Sanders was limited in Thursday’s practice due to a sore foot but returned to full practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play Sunday night against the Bengals.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, toe (Q): By now we know Gonzalez is going to play despite the questionable tag and sore toe. He continues to practice on a limited basis each day but takes the field each Sunday.
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans, hamstring (Q): Graham, who has been playing in place of the injured Owen Daniels, is dealing with a hamstring strain that kept him out of practice the entire week. His status is very questionable indeed as he will be a game-time decision.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, concussion (Q): Reed has been out of commission since suffering a concussion in Week 11. At one point he appeared on the verge of returning, but a recurrence of concussion symptoms (headache) quickly altered those plans. He continues to struggle with symptoms and has not yet returned to practice.
He is not expected to play this week. Although the team has not shut him down, his slow recovery suggests he might not reach the point of returning before the regular season is out.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans, concussion (P): After missing last week’s game with post-concussion symptoms, Walker is on track to return Sunday. He practiced in full every day, and unless there is a surprise recurrence of symptoms, he will be on the field for the Titans.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, collarbone: Rodgers did not receive medical clearance to return. It is that simple. Despite increasing his practice efforts, the choice to sit is, well, not really a choice. Rodgers, according to ESPN Wisconsin's Jason Wilde, described himself as “sad” upon getting the news. Matt Flynn gets the start again.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, ankle: McFadden remains out of practice with the ankle injury and with no clear timetable for a return on the horizon.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks, hip: Harvin has still not returned to practice since flaring up his hip during his season debut. The Seahawks are making no projections about his return.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, knee: Stewart injured his MCL in Week 14 and is out for this week, at the very least.