Are you still in the playoffs? Well, congratulations! Now it's more important than ever to get that fantasy lineup right! To help you avoid the injured guys, here's what we know as we head into Week 15.
Addai, who entered last week's contest with a sore knee, exited the game with a shoulder problem. Although the Colts have offered no specifics as to the nature of the injury, coach Tony Dungy has made it clear that Addai would not play if the shoulder was a factor. Well, Addai didn't practice all week. That's clue No. 1 that he likely won't play Sunday. The Colts signed Najeh Davenport this week. That's clue No. 2 that the Colts are ensuring proper backup for the position. Chad Simpson, the rookie running back who sprained his right ankle last week, was able to make significant progress over the course of the week, and returned to practice Friday. Tom James of the Terre Haute (Ind.) Tribune Star reports that the potential availability of Simpson gives Dungy another reason to rest Addai (which would be clue No. 3). With Rhodes (the expected starter), Simpson and Davenport available, the running back and special-teams duties are well-covered.
Addai is officially listed as questionable, and a decision on his status might not come until game time. Considering the clues, though, Rhodes will be your fantasy starter Sunday, whether or not Addai is dressed for the game.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: Barber did not even travel with the team to Pittsburgh last week, but this week the Cowboys play on their home turf, so there will be no hints as to his status based on whether or not he makes a flight. Barber is officially listed as questionable and is expected to be a game-time decision.
So what's a fantasy owner to do? Given all the uncertainty, you should probably look elsewhere for your primary running back, and here's why: Barber, who originally dislocated his pinkie toe on Thanksgiving Day, subsequently strained his calf while running to test the injured toe. Although Barber said his calf was much better early in the week, he still did not make an appearance in practice until Friday. Even then, he only participated on a limited basis. Barber is apparently running straight ahead without much limitation, but cuts continue to present a problem. The bottom line is that even if Barber plays, he is not at full Barber-like strength. The Cowboys have more confidence in rookie Tashard Choice after his fine performance in Pittsburgh, so even if Barber takes the field, Choice likely gets his fair share of action. Then there's the opponent. The New York Giants offer a tough defense in what promises to be a high-intensity game.
The Giants and Cowboys don't play until Sunday night, so waiting on Barber poses a high risk. Of course, there's always the chance that Barber is active and that on one of his shared-time carries he has a breakaway run for 45 yards and a score. But this comes down to a risk/reward issue for fantasy owners. Play him if you will, but temper your expectations on what Barber can deliver this week.
Other noteworthy items: Other players in the Giants-Cowboys matchup on the injury watch list include Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, who is listed as questionable because of a sprained ankle, and Cowboys receiver Roy E. Williams, listed as probable with a foot ailment. The probable designation tells you that the Cowboys expect Williams to play despite not practicing all week with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue supporting the arch that can be quite painful. Rest is the best medicine, which is what Williams has been doing. Nonetheless, the arch might still bother him on the field Sunday. Keep in mind that Williams has had only three catches in his past six games, so it's not as if he has had a major impact. Just consider that he could have even less of a role this week. Hixon was not able to practice Wednesday or Thursday, but did return to a limited practice Friday, giving the Giants hope that he could return. He is listed as a game-time decision, but even if he plays, he is not likely to be at full strength.
Despite 49ers running back Frank Gore's desire to play, the medial ankle sprain he suffered in Week 14 is likely to keep him sidelined this week. Gore returns with his team to Miami -- his hometown and college town -- and might have to watch along with the fans. Gore, who is listed as questionable with the injury, will say that he just wants to play with his team, which is experiencing a late burst of confidence after a big victory over the Jets. But Matt Maiocco of The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat reports that Gore has been limping all week and has not been able to practice. Coach Mike Singletary is giving Gore every opportunity to play by calling him a game-time decision. However, DeShaun Foster has been taking all the snaps in practice in anticipation of getting the start, and it appears he will.
Steven Jackson is off the injury report, so you already know he will play this week. It's worth pointing out, however, that he looked healthier running last week than he has since before he strained his quad. Jackson was running hard, even hurdling defenders at one point. For those still wondering if his thigh is a factor, Jackson seems to be proving that he is past the effects of his injury and is getting back to his former self.
Broncos running back Selvin Young is listed as probable and is expected to play. Wait ... we said that last week, but Young never took the field. The Denver Post later reported that coach Mike Shanahan said he felt Young wasn't quite ready. Young has missed extended time with a groin injury, and although he has been able to practice all week for a second straight week, if he returns Sunday, it is likely to be in a backup role and only for a handful of carries. It appears that the recently re-signed Tatum Bell is expected to get the nod for starter at running back, but at this point, with Denver trying to patchwork their backfield as best they can following a slew of injuries, there is no telling how Shanahan will divvy up the duties. Be cautious about relying on any Denver running back as your fantasy star, but if you must go there, expect Bell to at least get the start.
Matt Hasselbeck was out of the lineup last week, and isn't expected to start this week, either. He is listed as questionable, but that is probably so he can be considered for backup duty Sunday. Seneca Wallace is expected to make the start again in Seattle. Hasselbeck is still experiencing symptoms related to his back, and it is uncertain what his status will be going forward.
Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who were officially added to the "Out" listing for Week 15.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: The Giants have opted to play it safe and rest Jacobs this week, and they've been kind enough to announce it early enough for fantasy owners to take action. Jacobs has had issues with both knees this year, and most recently suffered a setback with his left knee in Week 14. Newsday is reporting that Jacobs has a posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injury in that knee suffered during the Seattle contest. A PCL sprain, even a minor one, can result in intermittent knee instability and discomfort, and the best method of preventing it from being truly disabling is rest. Derrick Ward will get the start, and Ahmad Bradshaw will back him up. As for whether Jacobs will be available next week, that has not yet been determined.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: Yes, he's out again this week. The question is whether we will see him again this season. Stay tuned.
Arnaz Battle, WR, 49ers: His foot injury continues to limit him. Battle sits this one out.
Good luck in Week 15! Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET.