This is an important week in the fantasy football world as the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. Naturally, some of the biggest question marks when it comes to trades are players whose health statuses are uncertain -- and many of those players are typically listed here in our injury report.
This week, since there will be another article dedicated to trade-deadline injury concerns, some of those players will not be included here; as such, consider DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew and Greg Jennings -- all expected to miss Sunday -- among them.
Here's who we're keeping an eye on in Week 11:
Darren Sproles (hand), New Orleans Saints: Sproles has not played since undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his left hand but that looks like it's about to change. The team initially offered a four to six week recovery timetable, but added that they hoped he would be able to return sooner. Sproles returned to full practice on Thursday after putting in limited work on Wednesday. Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Saints coach Joe Vitt said Sproles was both running and catching the ball well, critical elements of Sproles' game. The fact that Sproles could increase his work the day after returning suggests there were no issues with the hand afterward. Things are certainly looking good for Sproles to return this Sunday against the Raiders.
Ryan Mathews (neck), San Diego Chargers: Mathews has had a neck injury since absorbing a big hit in last Sunday's game and has not been able to practice. (He collided in frightening fashion with Buccaneers' linebacker Quincy Black, who needed to be carted off the field.) According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, coach Norv Turner said that missing both Wednesday and Thursday practice sets a player back. Mathews is reportedly dealing with stiffness in his neck, a vague descriptor that makes it difficult to predict whether he'll be able to make it back by Sunday. If his status comes down to a game-time decision, fantasy owners need to keep in mind that the Chargers play a late game against the Denver Broncos.
Julio Jones (ankle), Atlanta Falcons: Jones left Sunday's game after injuring his ankle but did manage to return. However, he has not been seen in practice this week, and his status is uncertain. Falcons head coach Mike Smith indicated that although Jones is making progress he could be a game-time decision, telling the Falcons' official website, "...we'll make a determination as late as we possibly can." The Falcons play at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. It's worth noting that when Jones suffered a hand laceration in Week 3 -- which did not initially sound serious -- he ended up with only one catch the following week. Clearly this is a different injury, but it would be nice to see Jones moving a bit beforehand to get an idea of just how effective he can be given his ankle injury.
Three quarterbacks suffered concussions this weekend and as is representative of the variable nature of the injury, they all seem to be going through slightly different experiences this week.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has recovered to the point of returning to limited practice. With the team not playing until Monday night, he appears to have a good chance of being on the field if all continues well. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is not practicing, and his status for Monday night is unclear. Lastly, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has not been ruled out but it certainly doesn't seem as if he'll be back. Given the fact Vick that has not practiced -- combined with coach Andy Reid's description earlier in the week of how poorly Vick was feeling -- suggests that Nick Foles will start. The big question in Philadelphia is whether there will be a starting job for Vick once he is healthy. First things first, however, and for now, that means Vick needs to focus on his health.
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner is listed on this week's report with a groin injury. Turner practiced both Wednesday and Thursday on a limited basis and seems to be in line to play Sunday. His teammate, tight end Tony Gonzalez, has a shoulder injury, though he practiced fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday and appears on track to play.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is still recovering from an ankle injury sustained in Week 9. He has not practiced and is not looking like he'll be ready by Sunday. In the running game, the Steelers could see the return of Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall, who has missed time with a strained Achilles, put in full practices both Wednesday and Thursday. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are no longer on the injury report, and Mendenhall expects to be ready to go.
Given the brouhaha that ensued after Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson discussed his injuries last week, it's not surprising that he's been silent on the subject. "Man, I ain't talking about nothing injury related," Johnson said Thursday, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Johnson, who is still listed on the injury report because of his knee, was able to go through limited practice Thursday after being out Wednesday. It looks as if this could be the pattern for a while. Expect him to play again Sunday. Meanwhile, teammate Titus Young (knee) was in limited practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and should also play.
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has now missed two games since his original return from the ankle injury he suffered in Week 2. It looks as if he'll miss a third game. Hernandez participated in limited practice last week and is doing so again this week. The team has not offered details as to why he remains limited, but with the Patriots playing two games in five days (they face the Jets next Thursday), the sense is that Hernandez will not play this Sunday. As for a couple of his teammates, wide receiver Deion Branch was added to the injury report Thursday because of a sore hamstring and Wes Welker did not practice either day because of his ankle. While Branch's late addition to the injury report makes it worth keeping an eye on him, Welker's limitation may be strategic given the team's two games in close proximity.
Plenty of Raiders appear on the injury report. Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both seem likely to sit this week after not practicing. McFadden did some individual work with the athletic training staff but offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said he expects Marcel Reece to start, according to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. Tight end Brandon Myers is back practicing after suffering a concussion last week. He was upgraded to full practice Thursday and if there are no setbacks, he could be active Sunday. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey strained his hamstring in Wednesday's practice and did not take part on Thursday. The injury does not sound serious but it will be worth watching to see if he can get back into practice Friday.
Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon is hoping he can make it to the playing field on Sunday. Garcon is not fully healed from his toe injury but wants to try to play through it. A source tells me that Garcon is working at about 75 percent and the plan is for him to give it a go. The greater worry is whether the toe will hold up to the demands of a game.
Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson seems to have benefited from the bye week to rest his sprained ankle and sore hamstring. He has been practicing on a limited basis this week and it appears he will play, barring a setback.
Keep an eye on Friday's practice report for Colts running back Donald Brown. After a full practice on Wednesday he was absent on Thursday, perhaps a designed move to help protect his injured knee. A return Friday would certainly add peace of mind heading into the weekend, especially since Brown's knee seems to have been up and down since undergoing surgery a few weeks ago.