Well, it finally happened. My injury-laden fantasy team in our GMC Pro Grade League finally succumbed in a loss that pushed me out of playoff contention. But not without a fight! Despite the multiple injuries over the season, which forced me to nearly completely renew my roster, I lost by a hair (six points) to Matthew Berry, the Talented Mr. Roto, he of the high-scoring Tom Brady, Wes Welker, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Justin Fargas crew. In fact, had Brett Favre, whom I just recently acquired via trade because of the recent injuries to Donovan McNabb, not left Thursday's game with an injury, I am confident that I would have won. I guess my point is two-fold: 1) Berry can mock my undying loyalty to my 49ers, but he cannot gloat in his barely eked-out victory, and 2) I believe that I have demonstrated, by virtue of my injury-laden team, that I understand and sympathize with fantasy owners everywhere whose teams have been decimated by those unpredictable injuries that can make all the difference between agony and ecstasy.
So for those of you fortunate enough to have made the playoffs, and for those of you just trying to spoil the playoff dreams of others, here are some of the injuries fantasy owners should be aware of early this week. Keep in mind that the Thursday matchup will feature Chicago at Washington.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Well, it seems the questions about Peterson's readiness to return have been answered. He looked remarkably solid in his first outing since tearing his lateral collateral ligament, brace and all. The Vikings somewhat limited Peterson's activity as planned -- he had 15 carries and did not appear in the fourth quarter -- but he is so dangerous whenever he touches the ball that his numbers made it seem as if he played the entire game. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Peterson felt as good as he has all year after Sunday's outing, so we can expect to see him and Chester Taylor utilized in tandem the rest of the season.
Marshawn Lynch, Bills: Coach Dick Jauron still is being cautious about Lynch's status for Sunday, saying Lynch has made a lot of progress but he doesn't want to "overstep it right now." Jauron's comments on the Bills' Web site are the most positive since Lynch's injury about four weeks ago, but they are necessarily guarded, given the nature of the injury (high ankle sprain). Lynch will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis as he practices throughout the week, and we should have a better idea of his status late in the week.
Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, Giants: The Giants have made it official. Ward has been placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken fibula in Sunday's contest. So will Jacobs make it back this week? It appears that way if you listen to coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin told the New York Daily News that all along, the plan has been for Jacobs to return this week, and he is not being rushed back because of Ward's injury. That sounds reasonable. Now, let's hope Jacobs can not only make it back, but also stay to finish out the year healthy.
Selvin Young and Travis Henry, Broncos: Young appeared to be the healthier back headed into Sunday's game and, in fact, was the starter. But he managed to sustain yet another injury, this one to his arm, according to the Denver Post, and his status is uncertain for this week. Meanwhile, Henry received word from the NFL that he won his suspension appeal, so now his game availability depends only on his health. Henry was able to get back in the lineup last week, so if Young cannot go, Henry likely will start. There always are more running backs to be found in Denver, though, so starting does not necessarily translate into more fantasy points. It is worth watching the practice reports throughout the week to see how the running back lineup is shaping up.
Larry Johnson, Chiefs: Johnson already has been ruled out for Week 14, but the Chiefs continue to be guarded in their statements regarding Johnson's status for the season. In comments made on the Chiefs' Web site, coach Herm Edwards reinforced the idea that no decision has been made, saying only that Johnson is "getting better" and the team will continue to evaluate him. He did say that if the star back were to return too soon and re-injure his foot, it could result in Johnson requiring surgery, which always is the potential scenario for a mid-foot injury. It is not totally clear what is going on with Johnson and the Chiefs. Johnson being ruled out so early in the week suggests he is a long way from being able to return. Yet the Chiefs continue, at least outwardly, to indicate there is hope he will return this season. Perhaps there is some motivational incentive; the potential of getting back on the field might help Johnson maintain the intensity of his rehabilitation. And he might yet return, but it remains just a possibility, not one worth taking up a spot on your fantasy roster.
LenDale White, Titans: According to the Tennessean, White (dislocated middle finger) is expected to play Sunday against the Chargers. On Monday, we mentioned fumble concerns as a possibility, especially if the finger remains sore and swollen. Given Chris Brown's effectiveness Sunday after White exited the game, there could be concern Brown will steal some action from White this week, especially if White shows any signs of struggling with the finger.
Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay: According to the St. Petersburg Times, Garcia said his back is feeling better by the day and he expects to return to practice Wednesday. Despite some residual soreness, Garcia plans to play Sunday against the Texans while his mobility and flexibility continue to improve. It still is wise to check back at the end of the week, but at this point, it sounds as if he is preparing to make his return.
Donovan McNabb, Eagles: Philly.com has reported that McNabb is expected to return this week from the thumb and ankle injuries that have caused him to miss two straight games. Coach Andy Reid said McNabb can grip the football well now but might wear a brace on his hand to protect the thumb. The bigger concern is his mobility with the ankle, but Reid said McNabb moved around better in practice last week. Nonetheless, he held McNabb out of Sunday's contest because he did not feel he was ready to go from a health standpoint, and the extra rest no doubt has helped the quarterback. Barring a setback in practice this week, expect McNabb to get the green light Sunday.
Marc Bulger, Rams: According to a report by ESPN's Len Pasquarelli, Bulger underwent another battery of tests Tuesday as a follow-up to his concussion a week ago and was cleared to return to practice Wednesday. The Rams are optimistic that Bulger will be available Sunday, but it should be noted that he will be monitored throughout the week to ensure his symptoms do not return as his practice activity increases. Bulger's replacement, Gus Frerotte, suffered a shoulder injury Sunday that might keep him out for at least one game. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Frerotte has a sprained shoulder and a partial tear of the labrum, the ring of cartilage that helps reinforce the shoulder joint. Frerotte injured the shoulder in the third quarter of Sunday's contest but was able to return to finish the game; however, the shoulder was much more sore the next day, prompting the additional tests. If neither Bulger or Frerotte is able to go, it could be Brock Berlin. Fantasy owners, keep your fingers crossed that practice agrees with Bulger.
Brodie Croyle, Chiefs: Croyle sat out last week's contest with a sore bruised back but could make his return Sunday if, as coach Herm Edwards said on the Chiefs' Web site, he's "mobile enough to get out of the way." Edwards also said that although the Chiefs would like to see Croyle back in the lineup, the team will not risk putting him in there if he is not fully recovered. Croyle is expected to return to practice Wednesday, and his progress, particularly his mobility, will be evaluated throughout the week.
Alex D. Smith, 49ers: Smith has sat out the 49ers' past two games because of lingering pain in his shoulder (a Grade III, or complete, separation) and his forearm (tendinitis, which developed after he injured the shoulder, possibly while trying to rehabilitate the arm). Smith might yet face shoulder surgery, but before that decision is made, Smith will try to throw this week, according to ESPN's Len Pasquarelli. Smith will see how the arm feels while throwing and then will consult with the medical staff to evaluate his status. Either way, he is not a factor for the remainder of the fantasy season (not that he was much of a factor beforehand). His progress will be relevant for next year, so we will monitor him with that in mind.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Roy Williams, Lions: Williams sprained his posterior cruciate ligament Sunday and, according to a report in the Detroit News, is expected to miss the last four games of the season. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the Lions do not plan to put Williams on season-ending injured reserve in the hope that he can heal quickly, but it is a slim hope. This is an injury similar to the one that kept Broncos running back Travis Henry out four weeks and Texans receiver Andre Johnson out eight weeks. Coach Rod Marinelli said the ligament is not torn, usually a reference to the ligament not being completely torn, since any sprain reflects some degree of injury to the tissue, even if microscopic. The timeframe will depend on how long it takes any swelling and pain to subside, and the amount of tissue healing that needs to take place. Williams then would need to regain his strength and mobility, as well as the confidence that his knee is stable enough to support him running, cutting and jumping. That is a lot to ask in less than four weeks. Nonetheless, if the injury is minor, there is a chance he could return, but it is a small one. If Williams is on your fantasy roster, you need to find a replacement that you can count on for the duration of the season.
Santonio Holmes, Steelers: Holmes, who missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain, could return in Week 14, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Coach Mike Tomlin said "it depends on how [he] perform[s] in practice." Even mild high-ankle sprains often require about four weeks before a player can return, so Holmes is just now coming up on that mark. Practice will resume Wednesday, meaning we won't have a real indicator as to whether Holmes is likely to play until late in the week. Stay tuned.
Don't see your player here? Be sure to check back later in the week when we check further Week 14 updates. We also will quickly touch on any Thursday game injuries at that time.