The short weeks feel even shorter when teams hit the midway point of the season. The cumulative toll of wear and tear is adding up, making quick recovery more challenging. Factor in the actual injuries and it becomes more difficult to get back on the field in a four-day window. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers have been riddled with injuries in their backfield of late. As the running back carousel continues to turn for both teams, here are the official designations of key fantasy players in Thursday night’s game:
New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas, rib/shoulder, (out) and Khiry Robinson, forearm, (Q), RBs: At least the Saints have made it easy to know what Thomas will, er, won’t be doing Thursday night. However, Robinson is another matter. The Saints have him listed as questionable to play despite the fact that he did not participate in a single practice this week and missed this past Sunday’s game. He is listed on the injury report with a forearm injury, but the team has offered no additional details. Last week, Robinson was seen wearing a soft, removable splint and downplayed the injury, yet he wasn’t available for the game and hasn’t done anything practicewise since then to suggest he has progressed. Given his lack of participation in practice since the injury, he appears unlikely to play. Still, the team has him listed in a way that suggests he has a 50-50 chance of suiting up; how much he would contribute even if he does dress also is unclear.
Given the performance in Week 8 by a healthy Mark Ingram, fully recovered from surgery to repair a fracture in his hand, the expectation is that he will again bear the brunt of the run workload in this game, with an assist from Travaris Cadet.
Jimmy Graham, TE, shoulder, (Q): After playing through injury the past two games, there isn’t much doubt that Graham will suit up for the Thursday night game. Last week saw an increased number of snaps for Graham -- and more production for fantasy owners -- as he managed to find the end zone among his five receptions, a big improvement over the zero receptions the prior week. Unfortunately, the short week doesn’t help Graham in the recovery process, which is that much more important when still healing from an injury. Graham is far from 100 percent, telling ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett: “I’ve been better. But nobody really cares about that. We’ll just keep going and do what I can to be as healthy as I can on Thursday.”
Graham went from being on the field for 30 snaps and no catches (on just two targets) in Week 7 to 42 snaps in Week 8 with the handful of catches and that touchdown. More importantly, Saints coach Sean Payton indicated they were beyond reserving Graham for just limited packages. Although no one from the Saints has offered a definitive diagnosis on Graham’s shoulder, his own statement that he would “pretty much live in the treatment room” between Sunday and Thursday says plenty. He is playing in pain, and managing any associated inflammation and discomfort between games, but he is doing so while being increasingly productive on the field. Ultimately, that result makes the Saints and fantasy owners happy.
DeAngelo Williams, ankle, (P) and Fozzy Whittaker, thigh, (out), RBs: The big news here is the return of Williams to the Panthers’ backfield. He missed the past four games with an ankle sprain after missing two games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury. Now healthy, Williams comes into the Thursday night game with fresher legs than most and is expected to start. Teammate Jonathan Stewart, who had his best performance in recent memory this past Sunday, can expect to see his share of the workload dip. Stewart also missed time this season to injury (he was sidelined three weeks with a sprained knee), but he stepped up last week with the other backs ailing and touched the ball more than he had in the past two years.
With Williams back in the mix, those touches will decrease for Stewart, but he could still manage to get the occasional red zone look. As far as the remaining backs go, Whittaker has already been ruled out, Chris Ogbonnaya has been dealing with a sore groin recently (although he is not listed on the injury report this week) and had only one carry in Sunday’s game, and Darrin Reaves, who saw some injury fill-in work, was waived by the Panthers on Tuesday.