If you're still in it, you're in it to win it, so you'd better pay close attention to every position in your fantasy lineup this week. Injuries at this time of year can be very tough on fantasy owners, as some NFL teams "rest" their injured players near the end of their regular season, wreaking havoc on your playoffs. Fortunately for fantasy owners, a lot of spots are still up for grabs in the NFL, and home-field advantage is at stake in many cases. So take advantage of the situation and play your best players as you try to get one step closer to fantasy prominence. Several fantasy stars will be game-time decisions this week, so assess carefully and be sure to check those last-minute inactives. To get you started, here's what we know as we head into Week 14.
Joseph Addai, RB and Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Uh-oh. Two additions to the Friday injury report that fantasy owners do not want to see. Addai was added after being limited in practice because of a "knee," meaning it does not appear that Addai has a specific injury, but rather that his knee was sore and the team took precautions. He is listed as questionable, and a source close to the team indicates that Addai likely will play, but it may come down to a game-time decision. Dominic Rhodes' value may have just gone up.
Likewise, Anthony Gonzalez appeared on the Friday injury report as questionable after not practicing because of a sore shoulder. When an athlete practices Wednesday and Thursday and sits out Friday, it is usually not a good sign, but this late in the season, it can also signal a proactive maneuver by a team to try to ensure a player's availability for the weekend.
In this case, questionable means 50-50 chance to play, so be sure to check game-day inactives (the Colts play at 1 p.m. EST) before you submit your fantasy lineup.
Other noteworthy items
• Steven Jackson is looking forward to resuming the role of the feature back in St. Louis. After Jackson emerged none the worse for wear from last week's contest, he and coach Jim Haslett seem to be in agreement that he will see more work this week. Jackson is listed as probable and is expected to start and play a full four quarters this week. Jackson was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday -- not a surprise, as his quadriceps is still healing. But after a full practice Friday, Jackson is prepared to shoulder the load. Good news for fantasy owners, as Jackson faces Arizona and could have a big day.
• Ryan Grant, who sat out most of the second half of Sunday's game with a sprained thumb, has been a full participant in practice all week, is listed as probable and is expected to start. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy told the Packers' official Web site that he expects Grant to see his usual workload. One of the tests in practice this week? Ball-security drills, which Grant apparently passed with flying colors. The team will not decide until Sunday whether Grant will wear a protective splint on his thumb, but at this point everyone appears confident that he can handle the responsibility. Should he falter, Brandon Jackson, who stepped in ably in Grant's place Sunday but sustained a bruised quadriceps in the process, is also listed as probable and is expected to be available to serve as needed.
• Brian Westbrook is again listed as questionable, but it is widely assumed he will start after his four-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving. Westbrook practiced Wednesday but sat out Thursday and Friday to rest his oft-inflamed knee. Normally I get concerned when a player practices midweek but then decreases his activity late in the week, but this is a practice pattern we have seen before with Westbrook. Coach Andy Reid is careful to limit Westbrook's work on the turf to minimize the stress on his joints right before a game. Keep in mind that Correll Buckhalter, still ailing from an MCL sprain, is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play. The Eagles need Westbrook, and you can expect, barring some unusual pregame setback, that he will be on the field, albeit against a tough Giants defense.
• Reggie Bush didn't practice Friday, but don't sound the alarm bells just yet. Bush was given a day of rest, and as a result was added to the injury report Friday. He is listed as probable, and coach Sean Payton has said Bush will play, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He returned last week after missing more than a month following meniscus surgery, and the time off showed. Bush appeared hesitant and was unable to accomplish much in the rushing department. It is not unusual for players to appear rusty after being out of the game. The speed of the game and the intensity of the contact can't be reproduced exactly during practice. Bush, frustrated by his performance, is eager to prove that he can be a spark for the Saints and hopes to deliver Sunday. Expect Pierre Thomas to see quite a bit of work, though, and temper your expectations for Bush's productivity.
• Brandon Jacobs is no longer on the injury report, indicating that he will start this weekend against the Eagles. Teammate Derrick Ward twisted his ankle in practice Thursday, but his absence from the injury report means he is ready to go and will share carries with Jacobs. Ahmad Bradshaw, who sat out last week's contest with a neck injury, was able to practice fully all week and is listed as probable. Bradshaw will be waiting in the wings to spell Jacobs and Ward.
• Ben Roethlisberger gave everyone a scare when he tweaked his knee Wednesday on a muddy practice field. The good news is that he was back for full practice Thursday and is listed as probable. Translation: Roethlisberger starts Sunday. Also listed as probable is running back Willie Parker, who has had his share of ups and downs with his knee this season. Lately he is on an "up" swing, and his "probable" designation pretty well assures his start in the lineup. Don't be surprised, though, if the Steelers continue to use Mewelde Moore to offload Parker in the running game.
• Last week we added "oblique strain" to Clinton Portis' list of ailments, a list that already included an earlier hip flexor strain and a grade II MCL sprain in his knee. Portis suited up Sunday but took a forearm to the neck, which resulted in a whiplash-type injury and forced him out for a significant portion of the game. Portis' neck has been stiff all week, according to the Washington Post, and he is listed on the injury report again this week as -- you guessed it -- questionable. Portis did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and did only limited practice on Friday, but he hasn't missed a game yet. The difference this week is the opponent: The Redskins face a tough Baltimore run defense, and Portis is clearly at less than 100 percent. His status will again be a game-time decision, but the Redskins don't play until Sunday night. I suspect Portis will again take the field, but it remains to be seen whether he can last the whole game, given his injuries and the unfavorable matchup.
• Selvin Young is listed as probable, but not to worry, Peyton Hillis owners. Young has missed more than a month with a groin injury, and although he has been able to practice all week, he may return Sunday to only a handful of carries. His involvement in the game will not change how the Broncos plan to use Hillis. Hillis is also listed as probable because of a hip ailment, but his appearance on the injury report serves mostly to remind us of the beating he's been taking with all the work he's been getting. Hillis was able to practice fully all week and is not expected to be slowed by the hip or by the return of Young to the backfield.
• Is Matt Hasselbeck in your lineup? Better make a switch, because Hasselbeck is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play. His back is acting up again, and the Seahawks aren't going to risk their quarterback's long-term health at this point. What about the other Matt? Matt Schaub, the Texans' signal-caller, has been out of fantasy lineups while nursing a sprained MCL for several weeks. He is back under center this week after a full week of practice, and although the trip to Green Bay may be the coldest game ever for the Texans, Schaub is ready to run the offense on the tundra.
Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to Injured Reserve status, who are officially listed as additions to the "Out" listing for Week 14.
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: The dislocated pinkie toe that Barber injured on Thanksgiving is keeping him out of Sunday's game, which is a bit of a surprise given the Cowboys' optimism about Barber's status until late this week. When Barber injured himself, the team was relieved that he did not sustain a fracture, and the thought was that resting the toe (with a few extra days thrown in, given the 10-day stretch between games) and supporting it would allow him to be ready for this week's all-important matchup against the Steelers. But, as in many facets of life, there are no guarantees.
Barber, who has not been able to practice since sustaining the injury, did not accompany the team on its charter flight to Pittsburgh, according to ESPN's Ed Werder. The fact that Barber was not able to practice by Friday, along with the Cowboys' activation of running back Alonzo Coleman from the practice squad to add some depth at the position, signaled a lack of confidence in Barber's availability heading into the weekend. Remember, the Cowboys lost Felix Jones to a big-toe injury that occurred while he was rehabilitating his injured hamstring, and behind Tashard Choice was, well, no one, which is why Coleman was brought up.
According to Werder, the Cowboys' athletic training and equipment staffs have been trying various modes of support for the toe. The big challenge is to find something that minimizes pain and controls mobility yet allows the athlete's foot to fit in his shoe and does not compromise his gait. They even sought out a modified shoe from Nike (reinforced with a carbon fiber insert) to further control toe mobility. Alas, the team ultimately determined that Barber would be better served by resting this week and not risking any further damage that could extend his absence.
Although you may be disappointed as a fantasy owner, you should take some comfort in knowing that Barber would have been a risky play even if he started, as the toe may not have allowed him to complete the game, or he could have struggled with adapting to new footwear. Hustle and pick up Tashard Choice while you still can.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: The one player Ken Dorsey had a groove with from their University of Miami days won't be in the lineup when Dorsey starts. The question now is whether Winslow will return this season. It's too soon to say for sure, but high ankle sprains are nothing to sneeze at. Winslow is out this week, and maybe longer.
Mark Bradley, WR, Chiefs: Bradley was active last week despite an injured calf but did not have a catch. After another week of his struggling with the injury, the Chiefs decided to keep Bradley out. Could he make an appearance in the next round of your fantasy playoffs? Possibly, so if you're still alive next week, you may want to check his status.
Good luck in Week 14! Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET.