Week 15 is in the books! Whether you're heading into your championship game or your semifinals, a win this week is no doubt critical. Naturally, injuries factor into the equation as to who will make your starting roster and, naturally, there are fewer options to choose from as yet another player says goodbye to the 2012 season.
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews missed the first two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle and now he will miss the last two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle. In the preseason he fractured his right collarbone; now it is his left. At least he knows what rehab he has in store for him. This puts an end to the season in which Mathews scored just one touchdown. Backup Ronnie Brown was forced to sit out Week 15 with a hamstring injury. This week coach Norv Turner says Brown has "a chance" to play, reports Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
As we head into Week 16:
• Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III cheered on teammate Kirk Cousins on Sunday as the backup led the team to victory. Griffin was held out due to the sprained LCL in his right knee amidst doctors' concern that he would be risking further injury. A return this week remains a possibility and, as The Washington Post reports, coach Mike Shanahan noted, "If the doctors give their OK, he's going to play." Griffin moved increasingly well as last week progressed, an encouraging sign given how painful the injury appeared at the time. If he can continue to make strides this week and if the swelling has resolved and doctors believe the knee is stable, look for Griffin to be pressing for a return. After all, he was doing that last week and made it clear it was not his decision to sit. Resting was a wise move by the team, which has to balance the weight of the lengthy career of a star player against any single-game benefit. Hopefully, the decision for Week 16 will come well before game time.
• Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant played last Sunday despite a fractured left index finger (which will ultimately require surgery to repair) and it certainly affected him at times. Bryant wore a customized splint created for him by the Cowboys' medical staff; however, his finger, too bulky to fit inside the glove, was exposed (the finger of his glove was cut out to accommodate the splint). Although Bryant performed better than might have been expected, there were some dropped passes or missed plays likely attributable to the finger. Bryant has already said he plans to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend. He will continue to have the finger protected and he likely will face the same challenges from week to week. As long as it does not worsen, he should be able to perform as he did. His performance may even improve a bit as he adapts to the feeling of having the finger splinted. Of course, the unknown remains how any given hit or fall during the course of a game could affect his hand. Don't expect him to do much to jeopardize the relative health of his finger during the week. As Bryant told ESPN Dallas, "We're just going to be careful with it throughout the week and get ready for the game."
• New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was held out of Week 15 because of a sprained knee. Despite his toughness and known willingness to play through pain, Bradshaw's knee concerned the team enough for the Giants to keep him at home as they traveled to Atlanta. The Giants are certainly ready to move on from that game, and Bradshaw is hopeful, expectant even, that he will play. Bradshaw paid a visit to the ESPN campus Tuesday and told me he has full range of motion in his knee again, a critical determinant of him being permitted to upgrade his activity. The knee is still sore (he had a bag of ice handy so that he could carry out his treatment, even while visiting) but Bradshaw says it feels significantly better than it did at the time of injury. Oh, yes, he's still battling pain in his foot, but as he indicated, the knee issue has essentially made him forget about anything with the foot. And as he pointed out, "I've played with broken feet. I know that's not going to stop me." I am under the impression Bradshaw will be returning this week, barring a setback.
• Another player who could return this week is Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy has missed four weeks since suffering a concussion and has been working his way back through the team's five-phase concussion recovery protocol. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports McCoy has been cleared by a neurologist to return, and head coach Andy Reid says there is "a chance" he plays. From a rehab perspective, there is no benefit to shutting him down if, in fact, he has made a complete recovery. Expect McCoy to participate in practice and, as the week progresses, there should be some insight from the team as to whether the Eagles plan on utilizing him in Sunday's game.
• Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey continues to leave the door open for running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) to return. John Oehser of the Jaguars' official website reports that Mularkey indicated Jones-Drew's pain had improved. The plan was to work him out Tuesday to see how the foot would respond. Mularkey changed Jones-Drew's status from "very questionable" (which it has been for several weeks) to questionable. Still, it is clear the team is being cautious in returning him from a serious foot sprain. Right now, it seems unlikely Jones-Drew will make the necessary progress to play in a game, but as Mularkey noted, the Jaguars are not yet ruling him out. You probably don't want to invest your championship hopes in him.
• St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola played his first game in three weeks last Sunday. He had a decent outing, considering Amendola isn't fully recovered from the plantar fascia injury he sustained in Week 11. He managed 58 yards and a touchdown along with a two-point conversion for good measure. Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The foot felt pretty good for the most part." The best takeaway is that Amendola made it through the entire game and had no setbacks. The foot will not be 100 percent healthy until he has more time to rest it in the offseason, but if he can perform well enough to deliver fantasy points -- and it appears he can -- then he might just be worth inserting into your lineup.
• The Chicago Bears have placed running back Michael Bush on injured reserve. He suffered a rib injury in Week 13, managed just one carry the following week before pain forced him out, and then was sidelined completely for Week 15.
• The Tennessean reports Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright says he suffered at least one cracked rib in Monday night's game. Wright exited the game in the fourth quarter after the injury. His status for this week is uncertain, but given the short time frame, it would not be a surprise if he is held out.