It’s Week 12, and there are four teams that finally get their bye this week. The Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks are resting in advance of the final push of the regular season.
Some fantasy owners are also trying to make their final push for a valued spot in the playoff bracket. With so much on the line, selecting optimum roster lineups is critical. Given the questionable status of some players, fantasy owners will want to be sure to check pregame inactives. There are even a couple of players in late games whose status may be questionable enough to cause owners to find early alternatives.
In the interest of filling out those lineup cards, here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon:
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, ankle (P): Manning got through Week 11 quite nicely after aggravating his right high ankle sprain a week earlier. That isn’t to say he’s out of the woods; in fact, his ankle will likely have to be managed across the rest of the season. The Broncos have to hope Manning can continue to play as well as he has without sustaining any further injury. As for this week, Manning was able to practice fully Thursday and Friday after getting Wednesday off. Listed as probable, he is expected to play Sunday night against the Patriots.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, shoulder (P): Ponder played last week for the first time since dislocating his left shoulder. He has a harness for stability, but given the injury is to his nonthrowing shoulder, there is no significant limitation. Ponder practiced fully each day and is expected to play Sunday when the Vikings travel to Green Bay.
Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders, knee (Q): Pryor is still recovering from the knee sprain that forced him to exit the Week 10 game early and sit out entirely in Week 11. He is back in limited practice, but with running being so integral to his game, Pryor is not quite ready to return. In the meantime, Matt McGloin gets another start -- and another opportunity to claim the starting role.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, groin (Q): On Thursday in this space, I expressed concern about Peterson’s groin injury based on how it limited him in his last outing, something he and coach Leslie Frazier openly acknowledged. The worry isn’t as much about whether Peterson will play -- he insists that he will -- but about what happens once he gets on the field and if he lasts the entire game. The conundrum for fantasy owners is that Peterson has been known to post good numbers even when playing at less than full health. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that he had only one limited practice on Friday. He is coming into Sunday listed as questionable, so owners will want to verify his status before game time.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans, ribs/ankle/toe (P): Despite the number of body parts listed next to Tate’s name, he still plans on playing Sunday. Considering his various ailments, Tate was limited in practice each day, but the probable tag indicates the Texans plan for him to be on the field against the Jaguars.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts, calf (Q): Richardson’s fantasy owners have already been concerned about his numbers; now there’s an additional reason to worry. Richardson aggravated his calf during the week, leading to limited practices on Thursday and Friday. He is designated as questionable for Sunday’s game, but coach Chuck Pagano sounded encouraged Friday about his chances of playing. Still, the Colts play in a late game Sunday, making Richardson’s uncertain status more problematic for fantasy owners.
Then there’s the emergence of his teammate to consider. Donald Brown saw nearly double the touches of Richardson when it came to running plays last week and certainly netted more points with his opportunities. The Colts may turn to Brown more again for the ground game this week, even if Richardson is active.
Joique Bell, Detroit Lions, Achilles (Q): Bell left last week’s game early, reportedly due to an ankle injury. He later revealed he had been bothered by tendinitis in recent weeks but said there came a point during the game when he knew he could not run. The listing of “Achilles” next to his name indicates just where the tendon inflammation is. While this sounds like something Bell can play through -- he said it was an injury that could be “contained” -- how effective he can be may depend on how severe this in-game tweak was.
After a day off Wednesday and limited practice Thursday, Bell was a full participant Friday. Presuming no setbacks following the consecutive practice days, Bell should be on the field Sunday.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, hamstring (P): Mathews played last week despite being on the injury report with the hamstring problem and should do so again this week. He practiced fully every day and does not appear to be limited.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, knee (Q): Jacobs was questionable last week with the knee and hamstring ailments; this week, it is just the knee listed next to his name, but his status remains in question. He was a limited practice participant Thursday and Friday, and it looks as if he could sit out another week.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (no designation): Gore is another one of those veteran players who routinely appears on the injury report yet continues to go out on Sundays and grind. It is safe to say he is expected to play Monday night against Washington, despite there being no official status designation yet.
Calvin Johnson, knee, and Nate Burleson, forearm, Detroit Lions (P): Johnson is on the now somewhat familiar schedule of one day off during the week (Wednesday) followed by limited practice the subsequent two days. Burleson was cleared for full contact this week, and all signs point to him making his return from forearm surgery, including being listed as probable.
Miles Austin, hamstring, and Dez Bryant, back, Dallas Cowboys (P): It appears Austin will be making his post-2013 hamstring injury debut this weekend after being granted some extra recovery time. As always, the risk of re-injury remains, but the hope is that the extra downtime will have paid off. Bryant continues to receive treatment for his back but, along with Austin, practiced fully every day this week. He, too, is expected to play Sunday against the Giants.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, abdomen (Q): Interestingly, Nicks was listed on the injury report Wednesday with a groin injury. On Thursday, the listing changed to “abdomen.” The overlap of a groin/abdominal injury is suggestive of the core muscle type of issue (previously referred to typically as sports hernia), which can be a source of chronic limitation. Nicks did not practice Wednesday but did do limited work Thursday and Friday. ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano reports Nicks said he will “surely play.” More importantly, he said he feels good, suggesting he does not expect to be limited if he is on the field. The team, however, is unlikely to confirm his status until pregame warm-ups.
Cecil Shorts, groin (P), and Mike Brown, shoulder (Q), Jacksonville Jaguars: Shorts practiced every day this week, albeit on a limited basis. This is different from past weeks, when he has often taken Thursday completely off. Expect Shorts to play as usual. Brown is dealing with a shoulder injury (AC sprain) and did not practice until Friday, then only on a limited basis. His status could be a game-time call.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals, shoulder (P): Last week, Floyd entered the weekend with questionable status after spraining his right acromioclavicular joint the week before. His performance proved that he could play -- and more importantly that he could be effective as a receiver -- despite the recent injury. Floyd was in practice daily, limited Wednesday and Thursday but a full participant by Friday. With an additional week under his belt, Floyd’s status has upgraded to probable, and the Cardinals expect him to be out there when they host the visiting Colts.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers, knee (P): On Thursday, we noted there was little reason to worry about Allen’s status given his coach’s confidence and his practice participation. He put in a third day of full practice Friday and is listed as probable, both solid signs that the team expects him to play against the Chiefs.
Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins, hamstring (P): Wallace came in as questionable last week after straining his hamstring days before the game yet played. He was a full participant in practice by Friday and, at probable, is expected to play against the Panthers.
Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens, knee (P): Late last week, Brown appeared on the Ravens’ injury report due to soreness in his surgically repaired knee then sat out last Sunday’s game. He must be feeling better this week as he was a full participant in practice each day. Barring a surprise, Brown will be active when the Ravens host the Jets this week.
Santonio Holmes, foot/hamstring (P), and Stephen Hill, knee (P), New York Jets: Holmes returned last week after missing multiple weeks with a significant hamstring strain. He was given a day off Wednesday but participated on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, hopefully enough practice time to work out some kinks. Geno Smith wants to throw to Holmes, especially with Jeremy Kerley remaining out following a dislocated elbow.
Hill continues to be on the injury report because of his knee, but the Jets have made it clear they’re not endorsing him as a meaningful option. Holmes is expected to play, and it will be interesting to see whether he and Smith have a better connection against the Ravens.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers, foot (P): Sanders had a sore foot after he was stepped on in Sunday’s game, but he dismissed the injury as insignificant. It certainly didn’t look as if it was bothering him much since he was a full participant in practice every day this week. He is expected to play against the Browns.
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos, neck/concussion (P): Last week, I pointed out that the presence of Welker on the injury report was so routine that fantasy owners barely gave it any attention. The difference this week is that the body part listed is no longer the ankle but rather a much more concerning dual listing of “neck/concussion.” Early in the week, there was legitimate uncertainty about his status given the nature of the injury. Welker has made good progress, and the team’s decision to list him as probable reflects its confidence that he will play Sunday night.
It’s worth reminding fantasy owners that there is always the possibility, even if remote, that a player will experience a recurrence of symptoms before game time and be downgraded to out. Given Welker’s progression in practice (limited Thursday, full Friday), combined with the probable tag, the odds are leaning in favor of him playing against his former team Sunday night in Foxborough.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos, knee (Q): Thomas has been on the injury report the past two weeks because of an ankle injury sustained before the team’s bye but has played in both games. This week it is his knee, and despite putting in two days of limited practice, the Broncos seem to be awaiting a pregame call. As ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold notes, Thomas would likely have to show some improvement between Friday and Sunday to be given the green light to play. Not only is the status of Thomas uncertain, the game isn’t until Sunday night.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers, collarbone: Rodgers is still healing from his fractured left clavicle (collarbone). There remains no target return date, but he has been doing some light throwing, so there is functional progress. The biggest factor when it comes to evaluating his readiness to play will be the concern of re-injury should he take a similar hit to the shoulder.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, ankle: Cutler has graduated from a hard cast to a smaller brace on his left ankle, but he remains sidelined by his high ankle sprain. The Bears still describe him as week-to-week.
Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets, elbow: Despite seeing some limited practice time this week, Kerley is not ready to return to a game situation.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins, concussion: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday that Washington has ruled out Reed for Monday night’s game against the 49ers. It appeared he was headed that direction after not practicing. Fantasy owners now have an early opportunity to seek out a replacement.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, hamstring: McFadden has not yet returned to practice and continues to recover from his hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Rashad Jennings continues to take advantage of the opportunity.
Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders, shoulder: Moore injured his shoulder, and after undergoing an MRI, the conclusion was he would need to “manage” through the pain. This week, he will manage by sitting out.