Welcome to Week 9! It's another fantasy nightmare as six more teams are on bye this week and, yes, the injuries continue to mount around the league, limiting choices for fantasy owners.
The Falcons and Buccaneers matched up on Thursday night so there are just twelve games remaining. Oh, and then there's Daylight Saving Time to contend with in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Thankfully, the time change in the fall adds an extra hour of sleep, but it still can be enough to throw players off, especially those changing time zones with travel.
Injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each Saturday, this entry will be dedicated to each player who appears on the official weekly NFL game status injury report and how his status might impact fantasy teams.
For those who might be new to this feature: Injury reports provide some insight into a player's status. The NFL requires teams to submit practice injury reports several times a week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. This year, there has been a change in the language of injury reporting, per the league office. The most notable change is the removal of the "probable" designation. For more detailed information on the changes and what they mean, click here.
Early in the week, the practice injury reports indicate whether a player did not practice, was limited in practice or was a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all teams file a game status injury report assigning one of the following designations: questionable, doubtful or out. The designations listed here reflect the injury reports filed with the league office Friday evening. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows:
Out: This is the easy one: The guy is not playing this week.
Questionable (Q): This remains the most dreaded player designation. By definition it means a player is "uncertain to play." How uncertain is uncertain? There is no percentage or measurement scale, so this classification remains rather vague. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he feels on game-day morning or how he performs during warm-ups. Final inactives are due 90 minutes before kickoff.
Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player is unlikely to play that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time.
Each week in this Saturday feature, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end).
This year, at the end of each positional section, there is a subgroup of players: "Players off game status injury report." The probable tag no longer exists, so players who would have been listed as probable in previous years are now simply removed from the report. This means there will be players who appear in the practice injury reports during the week but will not appear on the game-status report Friday, since they are presumed active for game day. They are included in this article so that fantasy owners can see where players who were on the practice injury report during the week have been upgraded in advance of the games.
At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "out" for the week's games will appear as a group.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee, (Q): Roethlisberger was back on the practice field this week, taking reps with the first team, making throws and generally convincing his teammates at least that he is ready to return. The team, however, is not so sure.
Given that his surgery was just three weeks ago, they are closely monitoring his knee for swelling, discomfort or any other sign that he may be overdoing it. In the past, Roethlisberger has shown himself to be a quick healer, but he is also 34 years old, and there is the matter of the long-term health of his knee, not only for this season but for beyond his football-playing days.
That said, the competitor in Roethlisberger wants to be on the field if the team will clear him, so it would not be surprising to see him under center on Sunday. Fantasy owners will want to check the pregame inactives to be sure, as coach Mike Tomlin was noncommittal about Ben's status on Friday.
Players off game status injury report:
Cody Kessler, QB, Cleveland Browns, concussion: Kessler was cleared to return to practice this week after sitting out the Week 8 game due to a concussion. He participated fully each day, but coach Hue Jackson waited until late in the week to announce whether it would be Kessler or Josh McCown (who returned from a clavicle fracture to start last week) under center. On Friday, Jackson announced it would be Kessler, saying he needs to continue to evaluate Kessler's play to determine whether he can be the Browns' long-term starter going forward.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder: At least Luck only has one body part listed next to his name this week. Perhaps it's a reflection of him absorbing less contact recently? He is still hurried and there is still reason to be concerned about his ability to avoid punishment, but there is also improvement. His ankle is no longer a concern, but expect Luck's shoulder to keep him on the practice injury report -- and with a light day of throwing during week -- for the remainder of the season. As long as he comes off the game status injury report, fantasy owners can breathe a little easier heading into Sundays.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, knee/pectoral: Wilson remains on the practice injury report because of his knee and his pectoral strain but once again is removed from the game status injury report. The injuries have manifested themselves in Wilson's play, but he insists he is finally turning the corner. Wilson says he is now feeling the best he has since Week 1. It remains to be seen if that will immediately translated into productivity, but fantasy owners have to be hopeful about what could be ahead in the second half of the season.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers, shoulder, (Q): Despite his insistence that he would only miss one game after suffering an AC sprain to his right shoulder in Week 6, Hyde's status for this week is very much up in the air. Hyde did indeed sit out the week following his shoulder injury, and the 49ers enjoyed a bye week afterward. He was back in limited practice this week, wearing a noncontact jersey (as would be expected) to protect his shoulder in advance of this week's game, but Hyde's comments to reporters suggested apprehension. He explained that he could suffer a setback not only from direct hits, but also if he were to go to the ground and have others fall on top of him, driving the injured shoulder into the turf. Perhaps his experience with his foot last year has made Hyde more cautious. The door is open for him to return, but his lack of confidence (even late in the week) hints at the possibility he takes some more time to recover. Fantasy owners won't likely know of his decision until pregame inactives are released.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills hamstring, (Q): McCoy undoubtedly has made improvements over last week. Last week, he was unable to practice after aggravating his hamstring early in the Week 7 game. This week, McCoy practiced daily, albeit on a limited basis. After returning to practice Thursday, McCoy told reporters he felt good, notably more upbeat than a week earlier. On Saturday, coach Rex Ryan all but removed McCoy from the injury report, telling reporters he is "confident" that McCoy will play. While it remains to be seen whether McCoy can get through the full game without a setback, particularly given that he has not tested full-speed in-game running or running through tackles, he clearly has made strides since the week after his injury. The Bills face a tough test against Seattle Monday night after a long flight west, making it not the ideal scenario for a return. The Bills do have a bye in Week 10, so they have the luxury of allowing McCoy to test his legs in this contest, knowing there is added recovery time on the back end.
Fantasy owners should definitely have a backup in place in the event that something happens between now and Monday night to set McCoy back again, but as of this moment, it appears he will take the field.
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings, ankle, (Q): Despite not practicing Wednesday, McKinnon still expressed confidence he would be available for this week's game. On Thursday, McKinnon returned to the practice field and was classified as a limited participant Thursday and Friday. As of Friday afternoon, McKinnon's expectation hadn't changed. Fantasy owners will want to check pregame inactives to be sure, but it appears he will try to give it a go after sitting out last week.
Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions, ankle, (Q): After playing in his first game in three weeks, Riddick was expected to get some extra recovery time built into his practice schedule. Riddick followed up his return to action with limited practices Wednesday through Friday and comes into this week's game with a questionable tag. He is expected to play, but fantasy owners should always double-check pregame inactives.
Players off game status injury report:
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans, toe: Murray left last week's game late in the second quarter with a right toe injury, but he returned after the half to finish out the game. He ended the game with more than 100 yards on the ground and a pair of receptions. An MRI revealed no significant tissue damage, and Murray dismissed the injury as not serious. The ten days between games didn't hurt his recovery either. Murray returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday but followed that up with two full practices. He is healthy enough to be removed from the game status injury report and is expected to start again on Sunday.
Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos, shoulder: Booker sustained a shoulder injury in the early going of last week's game but managed to play through it. After undergoing further examination Monday, Booker was cleared to return to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. He repeated the effort Thursday, then was upgraded to full practice Friday. Most importantly, he is off the game status injury report, a relief for fantasy owners since this game doesn't kick off until Sunday night.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers, hamstring, (Q): Cobb, who hadn't missed a game since 2013 before last Sunday, returned to limited practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a hamstring strain. He remained limited throughout the week as he cautiously tries to return from the injury, mindful of the importance of staying healthy down the stretch. Cobb pointed out that the Packers have nine games coming up (since their bye week has already come and gone) and that's before the playoffs. Even coach Mike McCarthy didn't sound supremely confident on Cobb's behalf. "Randall's not probably as far along as he'd like to be," McCarthy said when speaking to reporters Friday. Cobb's questionable tag has the feel of legitimate uncertainty.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, knee/back (Q): Bryant played in Week 8, his first game back after fracturing the tibial plateau in his right knee. He emerged relatively unscathed other than a little postgame soreness, not surprising considering the amount of work he did (114 yards and a touchdown in four quarters plus overtime). Bryant's back was also listed on the injury report, but he didn't seem overly concerned about that addition either. In fact, Bryant went from limited practice Wednesday to a full practice Thursday (his first since injuring his knee). He was again a full participant Friday, so the questionable designation should be interpreted as meaning that barring a setback, he is expected to play.
Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs, groin, (Q): Maclin arrived at the Chiefs' practice facility Thursday complaining of soreness in the groin area and was held out of practice as a result, instead receiving treatment. One day later, he was back at limited practice, but the Chiefs would only go as far as listing him as questionable for Sunday. Despite the questionable listing, coach Andy Reid told reporters Friday he fully expected Maclin to play. Fantasy owners will want to check the pregame inactives, but it appears Maclin will take the field.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders, back, (Q): Cooper delivered a huge performance in Week 8, so it comes as little surprise that he would be sore somewhere. Reportedly dealing with a back strain, Cooper was limited in practice throughout the week. The fact that he practiced daily is an encouraging sign, and the sense is that Cooper will indeed suit up Sunday. It's worth noting, however, that this is the Sunday night game, so fantasy owners will want to have a backup plan in place in the event Cooper is unavailable.
Travis Benjamin, knee and Tyrell Williams, knee, San Diego Chargers, (Q): Both receivers had Wednesday off to rest, and both were limited in practice the remainder of the week. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports both receivers are expected to play. This feels like one of those "listed as questionable because probable doesn't exist anymore" scenarios.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, (Q): Parker has had hamstring issues intermittently since the preseason. The questionable tag is interesting given that Parker practiced in full each day this week. Perhaps it reflects the up-and-down nature of his particular situation. It would appear that Parker is in line to suit up this week as long as there are no setbacks in pregame warm-ups.
Steve Smith Sr., Baltimore Ravens, ankle, (Q): Well, Smith has made it clear that he wants to play, but based on his questionable designation, it's not clear yet that he actually will. Smith missed Weeks 6 and 7 after spraining his ankle then had a bye in Week 8, yet he remained out of practice Wednesday and only participated on a limited basis Thursday. Smith was upgraded to full participation Friday, but he has not had much time to truly test the ankle. Even if he is active, Smith is not likely to be at 100 percent.
Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills, foot, (Q): Woods is again listed as questionable for Monday night's game after being limited in practice throughout the week. Given that Woods already made his return from the foot injury and was able to play last week with no apparent setbacks, he is likely to suit up again in Seattle. The questionable tag leaves room for his status to go either way, however, so fantasy owners should have an alternate plan if he is unavailable.
Players off game status injury report:
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers, illness: Montgomery sat out Week 8 in what the Packers referred to as a precautionary move, despite limited practice sessions, after he experienced symptoms potentially linked to him being a carrier of the sickle cell trait. This week, Montgomery was again a limited practice participant daily, but coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged about his status on Friday. Clearly the team believes Montgomery is out of the woods, as he has been completely removed from the game status injury report. With Eddie Lacy on injured reserve, James Starks still sidelined as he recovers from knee surgery and Don Jackson functioning primarily in a supporting role, Montgomery -- listed here in his original position as a wide receiver -- could be the Packers' starting running back on Sunday.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, hip: Brown said he took a knee to his thigh in Week 7, and it was clear he was struggling to run at full speed after the incident. The bye couldn't have come at a better time for him, and he posted pictures on his Snapchat account of himself working out with the BFR (blood flow restriction) training device. He was a full participant in practice this week, and his removal from the game status injury report reflects the confidence in his health.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions, foot: Jones was limited in practice on Wednesday but was upgraded to full participation for the remainder of the week. He is expected to play against the Vikings.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring: Hilton injured his hamstring in the Week 8 game, and it appeared this might be the ailment that would legitimately threaten his status. So far, he has played through hip and knee issues, but the hamstring pull was enough to force him out of Sunday's game and keep him off the practice field on Wednesday. Hilton returned Thursday to a full practice, and apparently his hamstring tolerated it well, since he was back to full practice again on Friday. His removal from the injury report indicates he plans to play Sunday. While hamstring injuries are always at risk for a flare-up during a game, especially within the first couple of weeks, Hilton is not expected to be restricted upon entering the game.
Corey Coleman, hand, and Terrelle Pryor Sr., hamstring, Cleveland Browns: Coleman was cleared to practice free of restrictions and free of any protection on his once-injured left hand after healing of his fracture was confirmed. After a limited practice on Wednesday, Coleman turned in back-to-back full practices on Thursday and Friday. He comes into Sunday's game off the injury report entirely. As for Pryor, he showed last week that his hamstring was much improved over Week 7, when he essentially served as a decoy. In Week 8, Pryor posted over 100 yards receiving, after just 18 yards on two catches the week before. In an effort to manage his practice reps, Pryor got Wednesday off this week, returned to limited practice Thursday and enjoyed a full practice Friday. His removal from the injury report heading into Sunday's game is a vote of confidence that he will play without limitation against the Cowboys.
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, hip: Beckham was still bothered by this injury during the London game, but thankfully, the bye week came next, allowing him some additional recovery and treatment time. Although he was listed on the practice injury report this week, Beckham was a full participant, and his removal from the injury report in advance of the game indicates he is set to play.
Brandon Marshall, New York Jets, foot: Marshall is a regular here, as he has various ailments that require treatment and limit his reps during the week, but he manages to escape the game status injury report.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans, groin, (Q): No one likes a Thursday addition to the injury report; fantasy owners like it even less when that addition is a key player at a position already lacking in depth. Unfortunately, Walker was a late addition this week, suffering a groin injury when he slipped in practice. He was then held out of practice Friday, and the team designated him as questionable. Leaving his status open-ended Friday allows the Titans to give Walker a couple more days of healing before making a decision regarding his status. That decision is not expected to come before pregame warmups. Complicating matters is the late-afternoon start (4:25 p.m. ET) for the Titans.
Walker didn't seem overly concerned about his status, but he has already missed one game this season with a soft-tissue injury. A hamstring strain sidelined Walker in Week 3, and while he missed only one game, his productivity was down the following week as well. With a bye not coming for the Titans until Week 13, the team certainly doesn't want Walker to risk further injury in the interim. Expect his status to come down to the wire, as he will likely test his leg before the final decision is made.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, ankle (Q): After not practicing all of last week, Allen was able to return to limited practice this week. On Friday, he was upgraded to full practice, improving his chances of playing on Sunday. Still, Allen is not at full strength, and it is unclear just how much action he'll see, presuming he takes the field. His increased activity in practice hints at his availability, but fantasy owners considering using him will want to check pregame inactives to be sure.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills, knee, (Q): Clay has been a fixture on the injury report because of an injury to his knee, but he has yet to miss a game. After participating in limited practices again throughout this week, there is no reason to expect anything to change for Clay on Monday night.
Players off game status injury report:
Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks, knee: Once again, Graham is off the injury report in advance of the game. He continues to be monitored with regard to his knee injury, but there is no reason to be concerned about his status for Monday night.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle: Thomas has battled an ankle injury intermittently this season and has gotten some practice rest, as a result. He did not practice on Wednesday but returned to full practices Thursday and Friday. His removal from the game status injury report indicates he is expected to play.
Players ruled out
This space is intended for a list of key players who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.
C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos, knee: Anderson underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus and has been placed on injured reserve.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, knee: Persistent discomfort and swelling sent Charles down to visit Dr. James Andrews. He then underwent an additional arthroscopic procedure. The Chiefs have placed Charles on injured reserve, and while there is a chance he will return very late in the regular season, it appears to be an unlikely scenario.
Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, concussion: Ware suffered a concussion in Week 8 and remains in the concussion protocol. He did not practice all week, so it came as little surprise when the Chiefs ruled him out on Friday.
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs, head/ear: Smith sustained an ear laceration and a head injury in Week 8, the latter of which forced an early exit from the game, although the Chiefs have stated they do not believe he suffered a concussion. Whatever the true nature of the injury, Smith is going through an exercise progression to return to play but will sit out Sunday's contest. Nick Foles gets the start.
Hunter Henry, TE, San Diego Chargers, knee: Last week, Henry was clearing concussion protocol before entering Sunday's game. Unfortunately, he took a hit to his knee in that game and has not been able to recover to the point of game readiness. With Antonio Gates now much improved from his hamstring injury, Philip Rivers will still have a favored tight end outlet, even with Henry out.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee: Starks returned to a limited practice on Thursday, his first practice since undergoing surgery to address a meniscus tear. Although coach Mike McCarthy said Starks looked good in his return to practice, he is still less than three weeks removed from surgery and is not ready for games. Ty Montgomery is likely to be the No. 1 back for Green Bay this week.
Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay Packers, ankle: Cook returned to a limited practice session on Thursday and followed it up again on Friday -- his first practice sessions since injuring his ankle in Week 3. It's still early in his return to activity, and he remains out this week.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seattle Seahawks, fibula: Rawls continues to heal from his fibula fracture and has not yet returned to practice. Coach Pete Carroll has hinted at a possible Week 11 return.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys, back: Romo has finally returned to practice on a limited basis, now that his vertebral compression fracture has healed. He has been doing some throwing but remains a ways off from game readiness. And even if he were ready to play in a game, it's hard to imagine him stepping in now, with Dak Prescott performing so well. But if Prescott were to be injured, having a healthy Romo would be critical for the Cowboys.
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