Welcome to Week 15! It's the second round of the fantasy playoffs and, once again, all NFL teams are playing. There are no more bye weeks so the only players whose status is in question are those dealing with injury. On Thursday night the Seattle Seahawks dominated the visiting Los Angeles Rams. The remaining 30 teams will see action this weekend, including a Saturday night game with the New York Jets hosting the Miami Dolphins.
Injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each Saturday this entry will be dedicated to those who appear on the official weekly NFL game status injury report and how their status may impact fantasy teams.
For those who may be new to this blog: Injury reports provide some insight to 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 on Friday evening. Teams playing on 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's not playing Sunday.
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, leaving this classification 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 the Saturday blog, 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 there at the end of each positional section, there is a subgrouping 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 blog 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.
Good luck in Week 15, everyone! And, don't forget to set those lineups early if you have players in the Saturday night game.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, calf: There are several variables working against Rodgers this week. First -- and most notably -- he is dealing with a right calf injury sustained just last week. Coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers was injured on the third play of the game yet he hung in there, his limp getting progressively worse, as the game went on until he was removed in the fourth quarter, buoyed by a comfortable lead. And, it's worth noting, he accomplished his three-touchdown performance despite his injury. Still, it's a different set of circumstances when entering the game with an injury. Rodgers did not practice all week in an effort to rest his calf and focus on treatment along with other elements of game preparation. He told reporters it will be "about pain management on Sunday but the good thing is I'll be out there." The great unknown is just how mobile Rodgers will be, especially as the game progresses. Given that he is such a threat on the ground with his ability to escape pressure and extend plays when healthy, one has to wonder how this latest injury will impact his overall productivity. The Packers appear to be obtaining insurance for Rodgers, which hints at their level of concern. On Saturday they elevated quarterback Joe Callahan from the practice squad, something ESPN's Bob Holtzman said to watch for earlier in the week based on past practices.
Then there's the weather. Holtzman noted Rodgers once told him he struggles with his leg muscles tightening up when the weather is extremely cold -- and that is precisely what is expected on Sunday. If weather projections prove accurate (zero degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below), this will be the coldest temperature at kickoff in Chicago's football history. Soft tissue injuries are common in extreme cold, increasing the risk for reinjury. Ground surfaces can be slick in extreme cold, which can be more problematic for someone with a lower-extremity ailment. Oh, and it's supposed to be windy. Quarterbacks don't love throwing in the wind.
Finally, there's Rodgers' history of a left calf strain in 2014. He didn't miss a game despite missing practice for three weeks and he already has indicated this injury is less serious than his previous episode. But, anyone who watched those games saw Rodgers struggle with his mobility, particularly in the early going after the injury. He's coming off a recent left hamstring injury and while he no longer is listed on the injury report with that ailment, it's hard to know if he is truly 100 percent recovered.
And yet, he is Aaron Rodgers, one of the best quarterbacks in the game without question. He has proved in the past that he can be highly functional despite injury with no practice and there's a good chance he will do the same thing again this week. The challenge for fantasy owners is not knowing until seeing him in action just how much this injury will impact his performance, particularly since the injury isn't the sole variable in play. There are weather challenges, personnel challenges at other positions (including at running back, something that has forced Rodgers to run the ball himself more this season) and the overall uncertainty of how these variables intersect.
But, there's one thing that is known. The Packers know Rodgers gives them the best chance to win and everything about their management of him in preparation for Sunday indicates he will be on the field at kickoff, even if it is in the record-breaking cold.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, shoulder, (Q): Newton hasn't been himself this season for any number of reasons, but there was another concern that arose this week. Soreness in Newton's throwing shoulder resulted in an MRI earlier this week. While the specifics have not been shared, this clearly appears to be something the team will attempt to manage. Newton participated in limited practice early in the week while first-team reps went primarily to Derek Anderson, but Newton did more on Saturday and was upgraded to full participation. It looks as if he is trending toward a Monday night start against Washington, but fantasy owners may want to choose another option given the late game.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions, finger/right hand: What looked to be a very concerning injury to Stafford's throwing hand early in the week doesn't even warrant an appearance on the game status injury report. A dislocation of the PIP (proximal interphalangeal joint) on his middle finger and an apparent tendon injury to the tip of that same finger weren't enough to keep Stafford from finishing the game in Week 14, although he did so with a glove. In an effort to craft something more comfortable for him heading into this week's contest, the medical staff created a four-fingerless glove, leaving all fingers free to directly contact the football except the protected middle finger. Stafford himself has said this is not as bad as when he broke the index finger on his throwing hand several years ago (quarterbacks will say the index is far more important to their control when throwing than the middle finger). He threw in practice as a full participant all week long without issue. Of course, it is impossible to simulate game situations when throwing under duress with traffic all around, so this could be a bit more challenging come game time. All things considered, however, the injury does not appear to present as much of a challenge for Stafford at this point as it seemed it could earlier this week.
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos, foot: Siemian has already played through the foot injury, so seeing him on the practice injury report doesn't come as a surprise. He was a full participant all week and heads into the matchup against the Patriots without limitations.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder/right elbow: Luck remains on the injury report because of his shoulder but adds another body part: his throwing elbow. He did not practice at all Wednesday but returned Thursday to a limited session followed by a full practice Friday. There is no doubt he will start after being removed from the game status injury report.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, right shoulder: Bortles is likely to stay on the injury report during the week because of his shoulder, but it hasn't curtailed his throwing on Sunday. Again this week he practiced in full each day and was removed from the game status injury report.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills, groin: Taylor has played through the groin injury for the past two weeks and after practicing fully each day will do so again. The Bills host the Cleveland Browns this week.
Matt Forte, New York Jets, knee, ACTIVE: Forte has been a regular on the injury report due to a maintenance issue with his left knee. This week is different, however, as he took a hit in Week 14 that hyperextended his right knee and forced him out of the game early. An MRI revealed a meniscus tear but Forte believes the injury is old and he has been playing with it throughout the season (it is not uncommon for a running back to have a degenerative meniscus tear brought about by wear and tear and be able to play through it). Still, given the aggravation of his right knee from last week's game and his longer-term value to the Jets, it appeared he might be sidelined for at least this week. Forte is a gamer, though, and he was back in limited practices Thursday and Friday after taking Wednesday off. He came into tonight's game listed as questionable and a game-time decision. Even though he will play, it would stand to reason that teammate Bilal Powell would still see the bulk of the work, given the recency of Forte's injury. Kickoff for this game is 8:25 p.m. ET. Saturday night.
Theo Riddick, wrist, (D) and Zach Zenner, concussion, (Q), Detroit Lions: Riddick's doubtful status leaves little to the imagination when it comes to anticipating his game-day status, especially after he was inactive last week then failed to practice at all this week because of his wrist injury. His teammate Zenner has been in the concussion protocol but did participate on a limited basis the entire week. Presuming he receives final clearance to play, it appears Zenner will join a healthy Dwayne Washington on the field Sunday to face the Giants.
Shane Vereen, New York Giants, concussion, (Q): As the week progressed it appeared Vereen was making progress through the concussion protocol, participating on a limited basis each day. On Saturday he received the final clearance from the independent neurological consultant and he is expected to play Sunday.
Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings, ankle, (Q): Asiata's status appears to be truly in question after he was downgraded to a nonparticipant in Friday's practice. He had been a full participant both Wednesday and Thursday and the move Friday came as a surprise. If Asiata is active, there could be three backs available for the Vikings as Adrian Peterson is expected back Sunday, just over 12 weeks removed from a lateral meniscus repair (normal recovery is in the four-to-six month window). While it's unclear just how much work Peterson will see in his first game back in three months, it stands to reason that he would be eased back into the game, particularly given both the nature of his injury and his value to the team in the postseason, should the Vikings get there.
James Starks, concussion, (D), Christine Michael, illness and Aaron Ripkowski, back (Q), Green Bay Packers: The Packers' backfield is in a shambles due to injury. Starks suffered a concussion in a motor vehicle accident this week and the doubtful status suggests he will miss this game. Christine Michael, who came to the Packers in November, has reportedly struggled with the playbook and has been ill this week to boot. Ripkowski, the fullback who is a potential threat to score at the goal line, has a back issue that resulted in a downgrade from full practice Wednesday to limited Thursday and Friday (although Friday was just a projection). He is questionable to play. So, who does that leave to carry the ball? Ty Montgomery, who will come into Sunday as the No. 1 running back for the Packers (he was at No. 2 behind Starks). Earlier this week, coach Mike McCarthy indicated he wasn't concerned about leaning on Montgomery, and with the injury situation being what it is and the weather a concern -- not to mention a less than fully healthy Aaron Rodgers -- it could happen.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe/knee (Q): Ingram played last week with the same injury concerns and then he was listed as questionable. Now he's off the injury report heading into this Sunday's contest, giving fantasy owners one fewer thing to worry about. The production, however, is another matter. At least Ingram practiced both Thursday and Friday on a limited basis, an improvement over last week, when he sat out Thursday. He will be on the field against the Cardinals, but how his workload shakes out with Tim Hightower also in the mix is unknown.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers, shoulder: See the Packers running back entry above; everyone is injured except Montgomery. Although Montgomery was on the practice injury report because of his shoulder, he is off the game status injury report and is expected to be the starter for the Packers at the position.
Chris Ivory, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring: Last week a questionable Ivory sat out a second straight game with a hamstring injury. With another week of practice under his belt -- including a full session on Friday -- his removal from the game status injury report indicates he is expected to play. Denard Robinson remains out with an injured ankle but Ivory will cut into T.J. Yeldon's work. The Jaguars face the Houston Texans this week.
Lamar Miller, Houston Texans, ankle/ribs: Miller continues to press through a couple of nagging injuries and is expected to do the same this week. Last week against the Colts Miller posted over 100 yards and found the end zone. The Texans host the Jaguars this Sunday.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee: Williams had a chance to return last week, but the team opted to give him another week of practice. Out since Week 10 following arthroscopic knee surgery, Williams is now completely removed from the game status injury report. He is expected to be available as the backup to Le'Veon Bell.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, hamstring, (D): Green was involved in practice on a limited basis throughout the week, but as ESPN's Bob Holtzman noted, Green was unlikely to play unless he saw full action in a Wednesday or Thursday practice. The doubtful tag indicated the team expected to sit Green, then Holtzman reported Green would indeed sit this one out:
AJ Green is listed as doubtful, so this pretty much goes without saying, but I was just told he will not play... https://t.co/SFgEtxFEUP
- bob holtzman (@BobHoltzmanESPN) December 16, 2016
Since he is coming off a partial tear to his hamstring, Green benefits from additional pre-competition practice. It appears he will be on track to return next week.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, foot, (Q): Now that Watkins has resumed a significant playing workload without setbacks, the questions are less about his status and more about how productive he will be on the field. Last week he scored his first touchdown of the season, so that's an encouraging sign for fantasy owners. He's not entirely out of the woods but will continue to play barring a setback.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles, ankle, (Q): Matthews did return to action last week after missing one game with a sprained ankle. One more week removed from the injury can only help. Matthews was limited on Wednesday but practiced in full both Thursday and Friday. Barring a surprise, Matthews will be active Sunday, but fantasy owners should confirm his status via the pregame inactive report.
Brandon Marshall, foot/knee/back, and Quincy Enunwa, ribs, New York Jets, ACTIVE: The Jets play Saturday night and both receivers are active, despite being listed as questionable. Marshall did tell reporters he might see fewer reps than usual, but it's hard to know how that translates, especially given the general offensive woes of the team. Marshall has less than 50 yards receiving in each of the past two games and had a season low in targets in Week 13. Those numbers won't help fantasy owners and Enunwa's won't either (just four receptions in the past two weeks). For those who may have few options, both players will be active.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, back, (Q): Bryant is back on the injury report because of his back and the only element that causes concern (since he has played through this before) is that he was added on Thursday. On the positive side, Bryant did not miss any practices but was held to limited status. The Cowboys play Sunday night when they host the Buccaneers and the expectation is that Bryant plays. Still, fantasy owners should have an emergency replacement on standby, just in case.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers, ankle, (Q): Cobb injured his ankle in Week 14 and exited the game briefly although he did return. He did participate in daily practices on a limited basis and is expected to play, despite the questionable tag. As always, fantasy owners considering Cobb should verify his status before kickoff.
Amari Cooper, shoulder, and Michael Crabtree, finger, Oakland Raiders, (Q): Crabtree aggravated his finger injury last week and told reporters after the game that he would be getting X-rays. The finger didn't keep him out of practice, but he was only a limited participant throughout the week. The Raiders play San Diego this week in what will definitely be a warmer game than last week's night game at Arrowhead. That should offer at least a little bit better conditions for a sore finger. Cooper appears on the injury report because of his shoulder and was also a limited participant throughout the week. He too is expected to play. This game has a late kickoff (4:25 p.m. ET) so fantasy owners should have a backup plan in case either of these players is deemed inactive.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers, back, (Q): Benjamin was listed on the practice injury report for a back injury, but it appears it will not keep him out of the Monday night game. After limited practice sessions Thursday and Friday, Benjamin was upgraded to full participation on Saturday. He is expected to play Monday night, but fantasy owners considering using him should have an emergency fill-in if he is a surprise inactive.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, back: All he does is play ... and play well. Hilton has dealt with various injuries throughout the season but has yet to miss a game. In each of the past two weeks he has netted over 100 yards receiving and is Andrew Luck's preferred target. It's easy to see why, given that he is so reliable. After full practice on Friday there is even less question about his status this week as he has been removed from the game status injury report.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, foot: Thank goodness fantasy owners won't be in the dark heading into Sunday when it comes to this player's status. Thomas was inactive last week after just one light practice Friday teased him into a questionable designation. This week Thomas practiced on a daily basis: limited Wednesday and Thursday but upgraded to full on Friday. With his removal from the game status injury report, he is expected to play Sunday.
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons, groin: Last week the Falcons were without Sanu and Julio Jones in the wide receiver department. This week they will just be without Jones. Sanu made good progress this week in his recovery from a groin injury, and after limited practices Wednesday and Thursday he turned in a full session Friday. Sanu is expected to play opposite Taylor Gabriel this week against the 49ers.
Brandon LaFell, Cincinnati Bengals, (knee): LaFell has already played through this injury and he is expected to do so again after full practice sessions both Thursday and Friday. With Green out yet another week due to his hamstring injury, LaFell's role remains elevated.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings, knee: Diggs has been back in action since Week 13 after missing one week with a knee injury. He had been the target leader although he was matched in last week's game by teammate Adam Thielen (who ultimately had more fantasy points). As far as the injury goes, there were no reported setbacks and Diggs followed a practice pattern similar to last week. His removal from the injury report gives further confidence that he is expected to play as usual on Sunday.
Tyrell Williams, San Diego Chargers, shoulder: It's no secret that Williams is playing through a labral tear in his right shoulder, but he will continue to do so as long as he can be functional. So far, that has indeed been the case and Williams has been off the game status injury report for two straight weeks.
J.J. Nelson, Arizona Cardinals, knee: Nelson has produced a touchdown in each of the past two games and with Michael Floyd no longer a member of the Cardinals, there is one fewer competitor for catches. While his volume hasn't been exceptional, he provides an opportunity for the upside play. He appears on the injury report because of a knee issue, but after two limited sessions he returned to full practice Friday. His removal from the game status injury report indicates he will play.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans, hamstring: Hopkins has had disappointing fantasy numbers, but he's still an exceptionally talented receiver whom fantasy owners may be considering this Sunday. His appearance on the injury report with a hamstring could be unsettling, but it appears to be minor. Held to limited practice sessions daily as a means of protection, Hopkins' removal from the game status injury report tells us he will be on the field Sunday.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, shoulder, (Q): Reed played last week after sitting out Week 13 but was limited to just 10 snaps, a disappointment for fantasy owners and for Washington fans. It sounds like he has turned a corner this week in terms of how his shoulder feels, which should provide some optimism for Monday night. Not only has he been seen making catches with greater ease in practice, but as ESPN.com's John Keim notes, Reed says he is learning to manage the pain better. The hope for everyone is that translates into more action on Monday night. Despite being listed as questionable, Reed is expected to play.
Martellus Bennett, ankle/shoulder, New England Patriots, (Q): Bennett's status is never really in doubt. Just last week he equated himself to the Energizer Bunny, as in, he just keeps on going. Limited in practice throughout the week, just as he has been for multiple weeks, Bennett is expected to play Sunday.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, knee, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Ebron is expected to play against the Giants. Listed as a limited participant daily, Ebron followed the same routine as last week. This is a homecoming for Ebron, who was born in New Jersey; perhaps it will translate into a better performance this week.
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, hip, (Q): Allen is listed as questionable because of a hip injury that may have hindered his performance last week. Not that one should expect the three-touchdown output of Week 13, but at least Allen is expected to play after a full practice session Friday. With Donte Moncrief out for this game, Allen could be a beneficiary. Fantasy owners should confirm his status before kickoff.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills, knee, (Q): Clay has been on the injury report as questionable for multiple weeks but has played through his knee ailment. He missed only one game and that was so he could be present for the birth of his child. Expect Clay to play again this week after practicing on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday.
This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, toe: As disappointed as fantasy owners might be about not having Jones for the playoff run, they have to at least be relieved the Falcons made the call to rule him out in advance of game day. Jones did not practice all week but has been doing some running and side work. Friday was to be a test to see if he could "explode" off the toe without pain according to Falcons' head coach Dan Quinn. Apparently, Jones did not pass but that doesn't mean he isn't close. At least fantasy owners who make it through to the next round can see the Falcons are being careful with Jones so that when he does return, it is without limitation.
Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers, hip: When Gordon's injury happened it appeared as if it could have been at least season-ending if not career threatening. The good news is that the hip strain and knee sprain the Chargers say Gordon suffered are far less serious than what might have been. Although the Chargers will be cautious with him, Gordon is eager to return to action before the season ends. It won't be this week though, as Kenneth Farrow -- who stepped in and rushed 16 times for 55 yards with a handful of receptions to boot -- will get the start at running back for the Chargers.
Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles, concussion: Sproles took a big hit in Week 14 and to no one's surprise, suffered a concussion in the process. He did not practice all week and will miss his first game of the season.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Houston Texans, concussion: Fiedorowicz has been a pleasant surprise for many fantasy owners, but this week they will need a replacement. He suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has not practiced. Ryan Griffin is expected to see a workload increase in Week 15 as a result.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins, knee: The Dolphins believed Tannehill had suffered an ACL tear after his knee was forcibly hyperextended when he took a hit from Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell. It turned out to be an ACL/MCL sprain that will not require surgery, according to the Dolphins. Although the door is open for Tannehill to return this season, it is not clear whether or not that will happen. In the meantime, Matt Moore will start on Saturday night against the New York Jets.
Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring: Hurns has not practiced and therefore will not play for a third straight week since injuring his hamstring in Week 12.
Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle: Robinson is still on the mend from a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 13. He remained out of practice this week and will miss his second straight game.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts, hamstring: Moncrief injured his hamstring in Week 14 and was unable to practice this week.
Eddie Royal, toe, (D) and Marquess Wilson, groin/foot (Q), WR, Chicago Bears: The Bears have had health issues with a number of their receivers...and it doesn't get better this week. Royal continues to struggle with his toe injury and Wilson, who had already been dealing with a groin injury, reinjured his foot (fracturing it for the third time since 2015). According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, Wilson is out indefinitely and coach John Fox said the medical staff is still evaluating whether or not he needs surgery. The Bears do get Alshon Jeffery back this week as he returns from a four-game suspension.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots, ankle: Amendola did not practice at all this week so there is one fewer pass-catcher available for the Patriots in Week 15.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, foot: This will mark the sixth straight game that Heyward-Bey has missed due to his foot injury.
Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now, Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:00 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!