It's hard to believe that the NFL regular season, and thus the fantasy season, is drawing to a close. Many of you played your championship matches in Week 16, which more and more teams are doing because of the dearth of starters in Week 17. For those of you embroiled in a championship matchup, or Week 2 of a championship playoff round, the injury factor is extremely relevant because teams who have already made the playoffs will, in most cases, rest players with hangnails for fear of exacerbating their ailments before the postseason. In fact, many otherwise healthy players will rest in Week 17 unless the team needs to secure a victory to make the playoffs, gain home-field advantage, or in one case, make some history and break some records. So whom should you be wary of on the injury list in Week 17?
Rudi Johnson, RB, Bengals: Johnson's hamstring continues to be problematic. He was not able to practice all week and today the Bengals ruled him out for Week 17. No reason to make his condition even worse now. With De De Dorsey already listed as out (and on injured reserve) because of a high ankle sprain, Kenny Watson looks to see a lot of action and could be a great fantasy play in Week 17.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: This announcement is not much of a surprise seeing as Johnson could not continue in practice because of persistent problems with the midfoot. The true test will come in the offseason as Johnson works to get his foot healthy. Barring any setbacks he should be ready for 2008, but the key for Johnson is gradual progressive supervised rehab. We should have a better idea by spring workouts as to how he is shaping up for the fall.
Reggie Bush, RB, Saints: Bush is still recovering from a torn PCL. When the injury was discovered four weeks ago, the Saints said Bush was expected to miss the remainder of the season, but they then teased fans with the idea that he might beat the time frame. Although his rehab has gone well, an early return to a game situation would have been a big surprise given this type of injury. There is an outside chance that the Saints make the playoffs, meaning there is an outside chance that we see Bush take the field in January. Both have a small probability of happening, however, and Bush would benefit from the extended rest and rehabilitation.
L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles: Out since Week 15 with knee and rib injuries, Smith remains out for Week 17.
Jason Campbell, QB, Redskins: Campbell is still working his way back from a patellar dislocation and is not yet ready to take the field. Now if the Redskins make the playoffs his status could get interesting, but that bridge will be crossed after Week 17.
Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: In what seems a disproportionate amount of bad luck for one player, Jones suffered an injury to his right ACL this past Sunday. The swelling will have to subside further before the extent of the damage can be determined, which will then dictate whether or not Jones needs surgery. In any event, Jones is looking at another offseason spent doing rehab for yet another body part.
Shaun Hill and Trent Dilfer, QB, 49ers: Dilfer is still out following a concussion. This is not news. The real news is that Shaun Hill, who has been such an able replacement since Dilfer was forced out with the injury, will not be able to play due to back spasms, which will force the 49ers to start their fourth quarterback of the season. Remember Chris Weinke?
Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: Two broken ribs mean McGahee will spend Week 17 sitting on the sidelines. Mike Anderson is still dealing with a quadriceps strain and it is unclear whether he or Musa Smith will start.
Here's what we know so far about other players with injury concerns heading into Saturday and Sunday.
LenDale White, Titans: Despite appearing on the injury report over the past few weeks with a knee problem, White (probable) has performed on Sundays. And no Sunday counts more than this one as the Titans try to secure a playoff spot. Expect White to handle the majority of carries and the knee is not a concern.
Frank Gore, 49ers: Gore (probable) is another running back who has appeared in recent weeks on the injury report; his problem is a nagging ankle sprain. He too will show up on Sunday and is expected to see his fair share of carries.
Jesse Chatman, Dolphins: There's a new sheriff in town and the players are stepping up their game. With Bill Parcells watching closely, Chatman, who does not appear on the injury report for the first time in weeks, is expected to start Sunday against the Bengals. Expect Gado, and more so Booker, to get work as well, potentially limiting Chatman's value.
Brian Westbrook, Eagles: OK. We know by now that he doesn't need to practice, but Westbrook (probable) did just that, for fun. He has learned how to manage his knee extremely well. Expect him to have a usual Westbrook day.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants: Jacobs (probable) has a minor ankle sprain that will not keep him from seeing action Sunday. As Jacobs said on the Giants' official Web site, "Guys want to play." He also said that coach Tom Coughlin expects them to play to win the game. Jacobs practiced fully all week and says the ankle feels great. Expect him to play, as long as the game is competitive.
Joseph Addai, Colts: Despite getting banged around and bruised in Week 16, Addai does not appear on Sunday's injury report, for which the Colts are no doubt very thankful. They will want to keep it that way, so do not expect Addai to see much playing time, despite the fact that he is healthy.
Aaron Stecker, Saints: Stecker (questionable) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday due to what coach Sean Payton is calling a "severe" case of turf toe in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. (Stecker was excused from Friday practice for personal reasons.) The fact that the toe kept him off the field all week makes it appear unlikely that he will play. He is likely to be a game-time decision based on how the toe feels Sunday, but since turf toe limits push-off and pivoting, functions essential for a running back, expect rookie Pierre Thomas to get the majority of the work.
Kellen Clemens, Jets: Despite the fact that he is still recovering from a rib injury, Clemens (questionable) is expected to start against the Chiefs. He is not likely to be at his best, but chances are you weren't going to start him anyway.
Brodie Croyle, Chiefs: Croyle hurt his hand in Week 16 but has been able to fully practice both Thursday and Friday and was good enough to convince coach Herm Edwards. Croyle (probable) is expected to start against the Jets.
Matt Schaub, Texans: Schaub (questionable) has been doing some activity in practice this week but will be available only as the team's No. 3 quarterback (read: major emergency). Schaub will have surgery on the shoulder in the offseason and that, combined with the extended rest his body needs, should have him ready for 2008.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Despite the questionable listing, the Steelers have already suggested that Roethlisberger will use Week 17 to rest and get healthy for the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Charlie Batch will be the starter. Roethlisberger's injuries are minor, a sprained ankle from Week 16 and a still sore throwing shoulder from a few weeks ago, and were this a playoff week, he would start. But it's not, so he won't, and you can plan on him being ready to go when it counts.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez, Colts: Could it really be so? Could Harrison actually play Sunday? The answer, apparently, is yes. Despite the questionable tag, Harrison is expected to take the field this Sunday night against the Titans for the first time in 10 weeks according to an Associated Press report. Harrison has been out with chronic knee inflammation ever since taking a hard, direct fall on the turf. The Colts have been hoping that Harrison could be available for the playoffs and this would be an opportune time to get him some reps before a playoff game. Coach Tony Dungy is likely to play him conservatively, however, because he does not want to risk Harrison's playoff health. Do not count on him for fantasy. Gonzalez, meanwhile, injured his foot this past Sunday and has not been able to practice since. He, too, is listed as questionable, but it is much less likely that he plays. Gonzalez will be rested so that he is prepared for the playoffs.
Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Same song, different verse. Boldin continues his improvement following a dislocated toe, and Fitzgerald is coming along gradually from his groin injury. According to the Arizona Republic, both are listed as questionable but both are expected to play, although it seems that Boldin has been taking more snaps and may see the bigger fantasy payout.
D.J. Hackett, Seahawks: Hackett has been out for several weeks since aggravating his ankle (from a high ankle sprain sustained during Week 1) but is officially off the injury report for Week 17. This week he has looked good in practice according to the Tacoma News-Tribune. With Deion Branch listed as questionable and appearing unlikely to play, Hackett may see a fair amount of action.
Plaxico Burress, Giants: By now it is common knowledge that Burress (probable) has been dealing with the lingering effects of an ankle sprain throughout the season. He has been forced to limit practice to rest the ankle so that he could play on Sundays, which at times has caused him to look out of sync with his teammates. This week, Burress actually asked to take some reps in practice according to the Giants' official Web site (this is only the third time this season he has practiced) and says the ankle is feeling much better. Like teammate Brandon Jacobs, Burress is expected to play, as long as the game remains competitive.
Terry Glenn, Cowboys: Glenn may make his long-overdue season debut this Sunday, if the weather cooperates. Glenn, who is attempting to return to the team after enduring two separate knee surgeries (one to remove a cyst, the other to clean up cartilage damage), has been working hard, yet gradually, to try to rejoin the team for the playoff stretch. With Terrell Owens out with a high ankle sprain, this is a good time for Glenn to get back into the Cowboys' receiver mix. The Dallas Morning News is reporting, however, that there is a significant chance of rain for Sunday, which might prevent coach Wade Phillips from using Glenn. Phillips pointed out that he did not want to return a player from injury only to put him in harm's way. Apparently he was referring to the potentially poor field conditions, although some would argue that stepping onto even the best of football fields for a professional game is defined as putting oneself in harm's way. That being said, even if Glenn does return it will be on a limited basis as a means of reintroducing him to the pace of the game, so for fantasy purposes he should still be avoided. For real-life purposes, it is great to see him coming back after working so diligently, despite the setbacks, to get here.
Greg Jennings, Packers: Jennings (questionable) suffered what coach Mike McCarthy called "more of a bruise" than an ankle sprain this past Sunday. It does not sound as if it is a serious injury but the Packers are handling their star receiver with kid gloves. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and although he returned to a limited practice Friday, his status is up in the air for Sunday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel quoted McCarthy as saying that Jennings' Sunday status would be determined based on how he responded to this limited workout. Not only does it mean that a start is not guaranteed, it suggests that Jennings will be used only on a limited basis in order to ensure his health for the playoffs. James Jones may see more action as a result.
Don't see your player here? Be sure to check back Saturday when we check late Week 17 updates.