It’s championship time! Many of those playing this week are playing for the big one, the bragging rights and the accolades that come with winning the league. It is, in the words of Europe, the final countdown.
With all that is on the line, what could be more important than setting your optimal lineup? In order to do so, it’s important to know who’s limping into Week 16. Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, knee (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Flacco is expected to play Sunday against the Patriots. On Thursday, we outlined the injury and how it might affect him. Unless he takes another hard shot to the knee, he should not have particular difficulty making it through four quarters.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals, right elbow/ankle (Q): Palmer has played through the elbow issue; now he adds an ankle sprain to the mix. Palmer did practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday after getting Wednesday off. There is every expectation that he will play, but he will likely be a little less mobile and faces a tough defensive matchup in Seattle.
Adrian Peterson, groin/foot (Q), and Toby Gerhart, hamstring (P), Minnesota Vikings: On Thursday, we updated Peterson’s and Gerhart’s status, indicating both appeared likely to play Sunday. The final decision on Peterson may not be made until pregame, although he indicated Friday that, as far as his foot was concerned, he was “ready to roll.” Perhaps the team wants to wait to make the final call to allow it a little more time to evaluate the decision. Functionally, it sounds as if Peterson feels his foot is progressing well, but there is always the risk of re-injury versus reward -- unclear in this case since there are no stakes for the Vikings as far as the postseason is concerned -- to take into account.
The probable tag for Gerhart tells us the Vikings plan on having him available, although the health of his hamstring won’t truly be tested until he is on the field. As far as Peterson’s status, every hint has been that he would play Sunday, but fantasy owners will want to double-check pregame inactives, just in case the team has second thoughts.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, ankle (P): Lacy has already shown that he can play through the ankle sprain. After lighter work Wednesday and Thursday, Lacy was a full participant Friday. He is expected to play his usual role Sunday.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring (Q): Jones-Drew is enough of a competitor that he wants to play, no matter the outcome of the season. His body, however, may not let him compete. He did some work Friday, the first time he tested his hamstring since injuring it two weeks ago. But there is a gap between what he has done so far and what he would need to do in a game situation. Expect this to come down to a late decision, but even if Jones-Drew is active, he most certainly will not be at 100 percent.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders, ankle (P): McFadden has been back on the practice field and wants to finish out the final two games of the season. It appears he will have an opportunity to play this weekend after putting in his first full practice Friday. Even with his return, the Raiders have turned to Rashad Jennings as their starter and McFadden will be the No. 2 back.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts, neck (P): When a stinger took Brown out of the Week 15 game early, it certainly posed a possibility of sidelining him. Brown has had a good week, though, participating fully in practice each day. At probable, he is expected to play against the Chiefs.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (no designation): It’s the final game at Candlestick and an important matchup for the 49ers. Gore may be dealing with a less-than-perfect ankle, but he will play.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, foot (P): Despite a few bumps and bruises, the oft-injured Mathews has remained remarkably healthy this year. After one limited practice this week, Mathews turned in two full days Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play.
Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins, ankle (Q): First it was widely hinted that Thomas was done for the season after injuring his ankle in Week 12. He missed the following week’s game but surprised virtually everyone by being active in Week 14. It was fortunate too, as he stepped in when teammate Lamar Miller suffered a concussion.
Thomas just happened to put up his best numbers of the year in that game, leading everyone to forget about the ankle injury that nearly brought his season to an early close. Then came Week 15 and Thomas aggravated the ankle. After not practicing Wednesday and Thursday, Thomas did participate on a limited basis Friday. Still, the questionable tag reflects the uncertainty about his status for Sunday’s game in Buffalo.
Andre Ellington, quadriceps, and Rashard Mendenhall, finger, Arizona Cardinals (P): Ellington suffered a thigh bruise last week but was never particularly concerned about his status. After limited practice Wednesday, he turned in full practices Thursday and Friday and is expected to play. Mendenhall is back on the injury report, this time with a finger injury that resulted in a limited practice session Thursday. He was back in full practice Friday and should not have any issues Sunday. These two will continue to divide the work at running back.
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns, concussion/knee (P): McGahee missed last week’s game due to the concussion component of his injury. This week, he was able to return to limited practices Wednesday and Thursday then bumped up to a full practice Friday. As long as there are no setbacks, expect McGahee to suit up Sunday.
Larry Fitzgerald, concussion (Q), and Michael Floyd, ankle (P), Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald has made rapid progress since suffering a concussion late in the Week 15 game. After passing neurocognitive tests early in the week, he returned to limited practice Thursday and repeated the effort Friday. Despite the questionable tag, he is expected to play Sunday as long as there are no setbacks. It could be a tough day for Fitzgerald nonetheless. His quarterback is contending with two injuries and the Cardinals are traveling to Seattle.
Floyd’s status is upgraded this week compared to last, hinting at improvement in his ankle. He turned in full practices Thursday and Friday. The expectation is that Floyd will play, but he and teammate Fitzgerald face tough matchups against the Seahawks this week.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, knee (Q): Johnson continues to appear on the injury report each week, alternating between probable and questionable. While it’s more comforting when he comes in listed as probable, it’s hard to imagine Johnson sitting out completely this week. His knee may be giving him a little more trouble since his only appearance in practice was a limited effort Friday.
Still, there has been no serious indication that he is in danger of missing Sunday’s game, and it’s worth noting the Lions did have a short week after their Monday night game. Fantasy owners will want to double-check his status pregame to be safe.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, wrist (P): Despite a tough season for the Texans, Johnson has been consistent from a productivity standpoint, for the most part. He has definitely been consistent as far as attendance, playing in every game of the season thus far. The wrist ailment that has him on the injury report will not cause him to miss any playing time. Expect Johnson to take the field against the Broncos on Sunday when he will have Matt Schaub throwing to him as Case Keenum is out with a thumb injury.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, shoulder (P): Thomas has been on the injury report for a few weeks because of his shoulder, but it hasn’t appeared to limit him in games. After full practices each day, Thomas is ready to go on Sunday.
Santonio Holmes, foot/hamstring, and Jeremy Kerley, elbow, New York Jets (P): Both receivers were listed as probable last week and played, just as they did the prior week after being listed as questionable. Given the nature of their injuries, they are likely to finish out the year on the injury report, even as they continue to play. Expect both to be available again this week.
Danny Amendola, groin (P), Kenbrell Thompkins, hip (Q), and Aaron Dobson, foot (Q), New England Patriots: The status of these three players is unchanged from last week, although with another week of limited practices under their belts, Thompkins and Dobson appear to have a better shot at playing. Still, their status remains murky, as will their potential contribution if they are active. The only one fantasy owners can trust at this point is Amendola, who is expected to play.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears, hamstring (P): Marshall has had some soft tissue injuries to deal with intermittently this season but has played each week. He will do so again Sunday night when the Bears travel to Philadelphia.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers, ankle/wrist (no designation): Crabtree has already played through the ankle issue, and the wrist isn’t enough to hold him out of the Monday night game. Expect him to play.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, shoulder (Q): Hilton has been dealing with this shoulder injury for multiple weeks, and sometimes it presents more challenges than others. Like this week, for instance. Hilton did not practice Thursday, and coach Chuck Pagano acknowledged the shoulder remains an issue for Hilton. He did return to limited practice Friday but is listed as questionable this week (compared to the probable tag he had last week). Fantasy owners will definitely want to check the pregame inactive list.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, toe (no designation): As he approaches the close of his career, at least Gonzalez can soak up the memorable moments. This week could be one of them as the Falcons visit the 49ers in what will be his final Monday night game and likely the last game ever at Candlestick. Expect Gonzalez on the field.
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans, hamstring (Q): Graham had the questionable tag last Friday as a result of his hamstring injury but was downgraded to out before game day. He still has not practiced, and it would be a surprise to see him anywhere but on the sideline Sunday.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, knee (P): Thomas has made significant improvements with his knee, but it still warrants an appearance on the injury report. He has been a full participant in practice daily and is expected to play Sunday, as usual.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, collarbone: Rodgers did not receive medical clearance to return. Need we say more?
Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos, concussion: Welker missed last week after suffering his second concussion in four games the prior week. He has been making steady progress, including a return to light cardiovascular exercise and weight training. He has not made enough progress to resume practice, however. For those playing in 17-week leagues, it’s worth noting that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Jeff Legwold reported Friday that the Broncos are likely to hold Welker out through the end of the regular season.
Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns, concussion: Cameron had a delayed onset of concussion symptoms after last Sunday’s game. He is still in recovery mode and has not yet returned to practice.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills, not injury related: After the sudden passing of his mother last week, Johnson is spending time with his family in California and is out for this week’s game.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, knee: Stewart injured his MCL in Week 14 and is out again this week.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions, ankle: Pettigrew was unable to practice all week and consequently will miss Sunday’s game.