With six teams on bye this week (Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Baltimore), replacements for your fantasy roster are hard to come by. Complicating matters is the number of injuries around the league. Who scares you heading into Halloween?
Read on ... if you dare.
Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings, (Q): And to think that last week we were concerned about Favre's elbow. That now seems long ago and far away. In the past six days the focus has all been on Favre's ailing left ankle, injured again in last Sunday night's contest. On Tuesday, we talked about the nature of the injury, on Thursday, we discussed the steps Favre had taken toward returning and today we can tell you, well, the decision as to whether he plays or not has yet to be made. On Friday, Favre returned to limited practice, wearing a size larger shoe and with his ankle heavily taped for support. In the portion of practice open to the media, Favre did some throwing and maneuvering about the field. I watched the video (posted on the website of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) and saw pretty much what I expected. Favre is moving somewhat stiffly on the ankle, but it's important to remember that the support he is using in his shoe is likely designed to restrict his ankle motion to a degree. Limiting the motion at the joint likely helps with pain; the challenge is allowing Favre to retain enough mobility to perform his job effectively.
Whether or not Favre can be effective is the decision coach Brad Childress needs to make before the Vikings square off against the New England Patriots. There has been much speculation as to which way Childress will go, but it appears at this point that Favre is removing some of the uncertainty as to whether he physically could take the field this Sunday.
Vince Young, (P) and Kerry Collins, (P), Tennessee Titans: On Thursday, we discussed the improved mobility of Young in practice this week and said that he would likely, if all continued well, get the start Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Indeed all has continued well as Young put in another full practice Friday and coach Jeff Fisher told reporters he thinks there is a "good chance" he will start. Meanwhile Collins, whose finger kept him out of practice until Friday, is listed as probable and is expected to be available as the backup.
David Garrard and Trent Edwards, Jacksonville Jaguars, (P): Garrard, who missed Week 7 with a concussion, practiced fully all week and is expected to start Sunday in Dallas. Edwards, whose sprained right (throwing) thumb also kept him out of Week 7 (he was listed as the backup to Todd Bouman), practiced every day and will likely back up Garrard this week.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals, (P): Palmer had some soreness in his hip that kept him out of practice Thursday. Palmer's absence gave the Bengals a bit of a scare but his return to the practice field Friday brought a sigh of relief. Palmer hinted that the hip ailment was not new but also suggested that the condition was improved. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Palmer said of his hip, "It's all good now. I'm practicing today and playing Sunday." The probable tag tells us that the Bengals expect him to be there, as well.
Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders, (Q): Although Gradkowski is listed as questionable, there does not seem to be much question as to who will be starting for the Raiders this week. And it won't be Gradkowski. Jason Campbell, who enjoyed a pleasant 59-14 outing against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, is not on the injury report and is expected to start against the Seattle Seahawks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Gradkowski, whose injured throwing shoulder has caused him to miss the past two weeks, has improved enough to be listed as a limited participant in practice, but appears to still be a ways away from game readiness. That said, coach Tom Cable told the Chronicle he hasn't ruled out listing Gradkowski as the backup to Campbell. The real questions may come when both quarterbacks are healthy.
Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins, (Q): Once again, McNabb is listed as questionable on the Redskins' injury report. Once again, we expect him to be on the field Sunday. While the list of ailments does appear to be piling on (the Washington Post reports McNabb is dealing with soreness in both hamstrings and the groin, along with a shin contusion), none appears serious enough to threaten his status for game time.
Max Hall, Arizona Cardinals, (P): Hall suffered a head injury in Week 7 but never missed a day of practice this week. He has already been designated the starter by coach Ken Whisenhunt so there is not much question as to his role Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers, (D): On Thursday, we hinted at preparing for a Williams replacement, as he had not practiced with a foot sprain. Williams did not practice Friday, either, and the doubtful tag is a pretty strong hint that he will not suit up Sunday. That would translate to a start for Jonathan Stewart and many remember the damage he inflicted on opponents last year when given that opportunity.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, (Q): Jackson has been protected from practice so as to avoid damaging his recently repaired ring finger of his left hand (he had pins put in Monday to stabilize a fracture). Jackson, who did participate in limited practice Friday, has already announced that he will be on the field Sunday. Jackson carries the ball primarily in his right hand, so any protective splint should not present a huge issue for him. Interestingly, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that although Jackson's confidence is high, coach Steve Spagnuolo has been more "cautious" when referencing Jackson's Sunday status. It's hard to imagine him sitting out but check the game-day reports to be sure.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, (P): Johnson has been managing some quadriceps soreness for a few weeks, but it is not expected to be an issue for Sunday. After resting Wednesday, Johnson practiced fully Thursday and Friday. Expect him to play as usual against the Chargers.
Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions, (P): The bye week provided some much-needed rest for Best, who is listed as probable this week and is expected to play. Best acknowledged that the toe hindered him to some degree. According to mlive.com, Best said, "I didn't feel it, but on film you could see it. It was definitely something we needed to get better." And now he believes that it is better. It's worth pointing out that Best has been dealing with toe injuries in both feet this season and while they have improved, the problems are not 100 percent behind him and may not be until the season is over. Nonetheless, he has found a way to press through them and with the added rest, expects to fare even better.
Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts, (?): With the Colts not playing until Monday night, combined with the Colts' tendency to provide limited information when it comes to their injured players, there is not much definitive to say about the status of their running backs. Addai went into the bye week with a left shoulder injury that has not shown much improvement, certainly not enough for him to return to practice as late as Friday. Brown, who has missed three weeks (plus the bye) with a right hamstring injury, was at least practicing on a limited basis Friday. According to Tom James of the Terre Haute Star-Tribune, Brown is happy just to be back on the practice field. Before Friday's practice Brown said, "I feel good ... if the game was today, I'd play." Brown went on to point out that although he hasn't been a participant in practice he has been taking everything in, from positional meetings to observing practice, saying he "hasn't missed a beat." We know Mike Hart, not on the injury report, is available and might even be the starter. Who plays alongside him -- and who gets the start -- may not be clear until game time. It appears Brown has a better shot than Addai but this is a situation where fantasy owners must have insurance.
Malcom Floyd, (D), Legedu Naanee, (D) and Buster Davis, (Q), San Diego Chargers: This feels like deja vu from last week. Floyd, who didn't practice all week, is expected to be out. Naanee, who tried to practice some on Wednesday but couldn't go the rest of the week, is expected to be out. Injured hamstrings and wide receivers are clearly a bad combination. Davis, who has a rib injury and didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday but did see limited work Friday, might try to go but is no lock. The Chargers are concerned enough that they signed yet another wide receiver to their roster Saturday. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Gary Banks, who has been on the practice squad since 2008, is now a member of the active roster in time for the matchup against the Tennessee Titans. With so many questions as to who will be catching balls thrown by Philip Rivers, fantasy owners may want to look elsewhere.
Deion Branch, New England Patriots, (Q): Another wide receiver with a hamstring injury. Branch is heading into Sunday's matchup against the Vikings with the questionable tag after limited workouts Thursday and Friday. The sense is that he will more likely play than not, but it might have much to do with how he feels in pregame warm-ups. This is a late game and the injury showed up late in the week, so fantasy owners beware.
Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos, (P): Royal played in Week 7 despite his groin injury but struggled in the game and made an early exit. Although he did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday, he was listed as a full participant in the light Friday workout. The Broncos seem confident enough that he will play this week, since they list him as probable; the question is how healthy he will truly be and therefore how effective.
Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals, (P): There does not seem to be any major concern that Owens' hand issue is serious. Owens was limited in practice Thursday but was a full participant Friday, along with his quarterback. Expect Owens to be on the field Sunday.
Steve Breaston and Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals, (Q): Breaston was not active in Week 7, largely due to wet field conditions in Seattle, according to coach Ken Whisenhunt. Given that he was just coming off knee surgery, this is understandable. After another week of limited practice under his belt, however, Breaston appears to be more likely to play this week. Doucet played last week and will likely be active again this week.
Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers, (P): Driver was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday again this week to rest his sore quadriceps. Just like last week, he returned to limited work Friday and is expected to play. He has appeared somewhat slowed by the injury, but he is expected to be on the field Sunday, barring a setback.
Justin Gage, Tennessee Titans (Q): Gage has missed the past three weeks with a hamstring injury. He returned to full practice last week and it looked like he might get in the game with Kenny Britt not starting for disciplinary reasons. As it turned out, Gage was inactive and we all know what Britt did even after missing more than a quarter of the game. Britt is active this week and is expected to start. Even though Gage practiced fully all week, he is still listed as questionable and with Britt's hot play, there isn't much fantasy value there, anyway.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, (P): Bryant looked to be moving well Monday night and the ankle did not appear to be slowing him down. Bryant was limited in practice again Wednesday of this week but after full practice Thursday and Friday, he is expected to play Sunday.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (?): It's a Monday night game for Johnson so the team does not have to designate his official status just yet, but after a week of rest, it's safe to assume Johnson will be on the field for prime time. Johnson's ankle still keeps him on the injury report but he practiced fully Thursday and Friday. Barring a big surprise, expect Johnson to play as usual.
Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts, (?): Austin Collie isn't even listed here because we know he is going to be absent following thumb surgery (although he's not yet listed as officially out). Wayne and Garcon are both on the injury report because of hamstring injuries but neither seems to be at great risk of sitting out. Both practiced Thursday and Friday, although Wayne was classified as limited Friday while Garcon did a full workout. Perhaps most interesting is the expected return of Gonzalez, who has been nursing a high ankle sprain for more than a month. Gonzalez was a full participant in practice this week and has been telling reporters that he expects to play. While this situation is not quite as uncertain as that of the Colts' running backs, it is unclear how the receivers, assuming they all play (along with Blair White, who is also available), will be targeted during the course of the game. Maybe the Colts want to keep everyone guessing.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, (Q): The fact Gates played last week so soon after the injury is a pretty solid indicator that he will continue to play through it, as long as the condition doesn't worsen. Although he was given Wednesday and Thursday to rest the toe, he was back in full practice Friday. As long as there are no major setbacks in the next 24 hours, expect Gates to take the field. He knows he's not at his best but we know that even at less than his best, he can still be productive.
Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins, (Q): Cooley injured his foot in Week 7 but has been practicing fully all week and is expected to play.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, (Q): Last week it was his knee, this week it's Davis' ankle that has him on the injury report. Although the only practice he's had was limited work Friday, it does sound as if he will play. Be sure to check game-time inactives, though.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, (?): Daniels is back on the injury report because of limited participation in practice but there have been no strong hints that he will miss Monday's game.
Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders, (Q): Miller has a foot injury that has caused him to be limited in practice all week. There has been no hint out of the Bay Area that this is a major concern. With Louis Murphy out, Miller should see even more targets, assuming he's active. This is a late game, however, so fantasy owners should have insurance.
Out: This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.
Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints: Bush needs a little more time to get game ready before returning from his broken fibula. The time to test it was not against the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense, so he sits out again.
Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots: Out. Again.
Chaz Schilens, WR, Oakland Raiders: See above.
Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland Raiders: Murphy suffered a contusion near his lung and may be out longer than just this week.
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers: Another Smith -- Troy -- gets the start in London.
Nate Kaeding, K, San Diego Chargers: The groin injury is still an issue so Kaeding remains out this week.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 3-4 p.m.). Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now" on Sunday on ESPN2 from 11:30 a.m. to noon, switching to ESPNEWS from noon-1 p.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!