Welcome to Week 10! This marks the seventh of the bye weeks, and, once again, six teams are on bye. It’s another tough week for fantasy owners looking for replacements, many of whom continue to vie for a playoff spot. Getting a reprieve this week are the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans and Washington. As always, there will be game-time decisions but the final injury reports give some guidance as to who’s in and who’s out.
As a reminder, 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). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group. 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 definitely not playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out and you can plan accordingly.
Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.
Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it also is most frequently used by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance that he'll be on the field come game time, although, as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams use the "questionable" designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs during warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.
Doubtful (D): The "doubtful" designation means a player theoretically has less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.
Good luck in Week 10, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back, (P): The "probable" tag on Romo pretty much sums up what the Cowboys have been saying all week: Romo is expected to play. The description of the injury he suffered in Week 8 certainly makes it seem as if it would be nearly impossible to take the field so soon, but the fact is he would not be the first. Transverse process fractures are painful but structurally nonthreatening, thus the issue comes down to whether he can move well enough to protect himself from other injuries and whether he can perform at the level to which he and the Cowboys are accustomed.
After participating in two days of light practice in England, where the Cowboys will face the Jaguars this week, Romo must have shown enough to inspire the confidence that comes with a "probable" designation. The bigger question beyond taking the field Sunday will be how well he can perform and for how long. It is likely to get more challenging as the game progresses, and downfield or hard cross-body throws might be, at the very least, uncomfortable. The Cowboys likely would not expose Romo to a playing situation if they didn’t plan on him being the quarterback for the entire game, or at least the majority of it. There are no guarantees when it comes to playing with an injury, but at least in Romo’s case he has had prior success under similar circumstances (broken ribs, back pain).
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars, left wrist, (P): Bortles had his wrist examined after injuring it this past Sunday and told reporters he was fine. Apparently he was fine enough to take in full practices each day while the team was in London. He is expected to start against the Cowboys on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, hamstring (P): Rodgers tweaked his hamstring in the Week 8 game, conveniently right before the Packers went on bye. His mobility was clearly limited in the game after the injury, although he did manage to play through it. Rodgers returned from the bye reportedly feeling better (or, as he told ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky when asked how his hamstring was doing, “fine”), supported by his full participation in practice throughout the week. Whether he’s 100 percent recovered or not, as long as Rodgers is mobile enough to make the occasional scrambling play and evade defenders, he should be able to lead his team just “fine.”
Michael Vick, foot and Geno Smith, right shoulder, New York Jets (P): Both quarterbacks were full participants in practice throughout the week. According to ESPN.com’s Jane McManus, Smith will be available to back up Vick on Sunday but the starter role remains in Vick’s hands. For now.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ankle (D): The designation might be a "doubtful" tag, but there is little doubt Martin is expected to be sidelined Sunday. Bobby Rainey would then get another start in his place. Third-round draft pick Charles Sims is also expected to see the field for his first professional football action, although his snaps could be limited. Sims missed the start of the season after undergoing ankle surgery, and the Buccaneers activated him just last week. Deemed not quite ready for competition this past Sunday, Sims participated in limited practices throughout this week in anticipation of his debut. Rainey is expected to get the bulk of the work this week, but Sims’ share could increase as the team gains confidence.
Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos, groin, (Q): It appears Ball has a decent chance to test his recovery and his lighter frame this Sunday after participating in daily practice this week. Out since Week 5 with a groin injury, Ball returned to practice lighter (down to 212 pounds from 224) and apparently impressed his coaches in the process.
“He’s worked very hard he looks good," coach John Fox observed after Ball’s return to practice.
Ball was reportedly moving well in practice without any apparent limitation in lateral movement and with some increased burst to the holes, perhaps a reflection of his new weight combined with his injury recovery. Although Ball acknowledged that teammate Ronnie Hillman deserved to be the starter, it’s clear Ball would like to earn his way back to the top spot. He should have a chance to start chipping away at that opportunity although the amount of work he is expected to see in his first game back is uncertain.
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins, shoulder (Q): Miller sprained his left shoulder at the acromioclavicular (AC) joint in last week’s game. Despite any residual soreness he might be experiencing, Miller was out on the practice field at the start of the week claiming he expected to play Sunday. Indeed, Miller practiced daily on a limited basis; whether that was a reflection of how much the shoulder was bothering him or preservation for this week’s contest -- or both -- is unclear. An AC sprain might present less of a challenge from a functional standpoint for a running back when carrying the ball as opposed to having to reach overhead to catch passes. There is still the risk of aggravation from contact either via a direct hit to the shoulder from an opponent or the ground, but, depending on the grade of injury and the level of discomfort, it’s possible Miller could play and still be effective. Fantasy owners will need to check pregame inactives. If Miller can’t go, it will be Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams sharing the load, according to ESPN.com’s James Walker.
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants, knee (D): Jennings has been out since spraining his MCL in Week 5 but has finally returned to practice on a limited basis. Although that’s an encouraging sign as far as his overall progress, it is not enough to put him back on the playing field just yet. The "doubtful" tag indicates the Giants don’t expect to have him. ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano has indicated Jennings and the Giants likely are targeting a Week 11 return.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, hip (P): Gore’s body takes a beating when he’s on the field thanks to his hard, physical running, but he rarely is a threat to miss time. Once again, Gore is expected to play, but how the 49ers will choose to use him is a different question.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): After sitting out the game two weeks ago with lingering soreness from an ankle injury, Bush is fully expected to play this week. Last week’s bye came at a good time for the Lions, and Bush, the only Detroit running back even listed on the injury report, was able to return to full practices daily this week. The "probable" tag means no second-guessing Bush’s status Sunday.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, shoulder (Q): Ingram’s status might be listed as questionable, but that’s an improvement over his two teammates who have already been ruled out (Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, see note below). Ingram appeared uncomfortable at times last week after taking some bruising hits to the shoulder but continued to produce. He was kept to limited practice throughout the week, perhaps as much to preserve him for this week as to rest his shoulder. It appears he is likely to play, but fantasy owners will want to check pregame inactives to verify his status.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, calf (P): Despite missing practice Thursday and causing a mild panic among fantasy owners, Lynch was at it again Friday. Listed as a full participant and designated "probable," Lynch is expected to start. This is something to monitor going forward, though, as a minor calf issue can easily become more serious for a running back, especially with a heavy workload.
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills, groin (Q): Jackson returned to practice this week after sitting out the past two games with an adductor (groin) pull. Now, three weeks removed from what he understands to be a four-week injury, Jackson has made progress, but it would seem not quite enough to get back to the playing field. On two consecutive days, coach Doug Marrone indicated Jackson wasn’t quite where he needed to be to play. Still, he left the door ajar for Jackson’s return, hinting at the possibility of him suiting up if he were to make more progress between Friday’s practice and Sunday. As Jackson said, “There’s always a chance.” This will be a game-time decision, but, if Jackson cannot go, look for Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown to fill the gap.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, foot (P): Ellington remains on the injury report, but the "probable" tag indicates there are no worries for fantasy owners. His limited practices throughout the week help ensure his availability for game day. Stepfan Taylor remains out with a calf strain, so Marion Grice again serves as Ellington’s primary backup.
Chris Johnson, New York Jets, ankle (P): Johnson remains on the injury report, but the "probable" tag indicates the team plans on him being available Sunday.
Sammy Watkins, groin (Q) and Robert Woods, back (P), Buffalo Bills: Watkins tweaked a groin muscle in Wednesday’s practice, resulting in him leaving the field early. He was then held out of practice Thursday and Friday as a result, casting doubt on his availability for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Doug Marrone expressed concern about Watkins' time away from practice with the injury. Watkins seemed to be in the dark as to whether he legitimately has a shot to play Sunday.
“That's the coach's decision about whether I should play,” Watkins said. “It's a long season, so I'm really clueless right now. I don't know.”
It’s true that it is a long season; the Bills would like their season to extend beyond the Week 17 regular-season finale. With that in mind, along with the freshness of the injury and the potential to easily aggravate it, it seems unlikely Watkins will play. If he were to miss, the Bills would lean on Robert Woods (probable and expected to play) and Chris Hogan.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons, foot (Q): Douglas was away from competition for four weeks with a foot injury before he returned in Week 8. He managed three catches for 42 yards but, more importantly, suffered no setbacks. He then got a week to rest as the team was on bye. Douglas returned to limited practices early in the week but was listed as a full participant Friday. Although he has a "questionable" tag next to his name, Douglas is expected to play, barring a setback.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): He said he would come back when he could play at an elite level, the level to which he -- and, frankly, the rest of us -- has become accustomed over his career. That time appears to be now. Johnson did not enjoy the role of the decoy his body forced him to play shortly after his high ankle sprain, but there is reason to believe his performance will be much improved this week. Fresh off a bye and several weeks of rehab, Johnson was a full participant in practice each day, and both he and coach Jim Caldwell expect him to be on the field Sunday.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knee (Q): Jackson has often been on the injury report listed as questionable and played through whatever ailment is nagging at him. For several weeks this season, he has been playing through rib soreness; this week, it is his knee. Although the team has offered no specifics, it’s encouraging that Jackson was recorded as a full participant Friday after working on a limited basis Thursday. One difference this Sunday is that Josh McCown will be throwing to Jackson after coach Lovie Smith announced a quarterback change earlier this week.
Wes Welker, Denver Broncos, back (P): Welker was a full participant each day despite being listed on the injury report with a back issue, the result of a hard hit in the game against the Patriots that forced his exit in the third quarter. If he’s still sore, he’s not acknowledging it. Given the "probable" tag, Welker is expected to play.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks, groin (P): Baldwin sat out Wednesday’s practice because of a groin injury but returned Thursday to a limited practice. He was upgraded to full participation Friday and, listed as probable, is expected to play.
Percy Harvin, New York Jets, heel (P): Harvin took a cleat to his heel in Wednesday’s practice, resulting in a cut he described as “down to the white meat.” Although it sounds dreadful, it wasn’t the injury that was as much a concern as the risk of infection that comes with any open wound. His practice was cut short that day to get the wound cleaned and dressed, but he returned for full sessions Thursday and Friday. Harvin is expected to play without limitation.
Kenny Stills, thigh (P) and Robert Meachem, ankle (Q), New Orleans Saints: The Saints are beset with injuries, but overall their wide receiver corps is faring better than their running backs. Stills has dealt with soft tissue injuries since the start of the season and had to exit last week’s game briefly to deal with what was termed a groin injury at the time. His ability to practice, even on a limited basis, each day and the "probable" designation suggest he will play. Meachem has an ankle injury that caused him to miss Thursday and Friday practices, and his status might come down to game time.
Cecil Shorts III, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring (P): Shorts was given a day off to rest his hamstring Thursday after a limited session Wednesday. He was able to return Friday and was listed as a full participant. Coach Gus Bradley indicated earlier in the week that he expected Shorts to play against Dallas, so there should be little to worry about here.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, shoulder (Q): Washington went from limited practices Wednesday and Thursday to a full session Friday but still comes into Sunday with uncertainty about his status. The injury happened in Week 8, before the Titans went on bye, when Washington landed hard on his shoulder and sprained his AC joint. Other pass-catchers have often struggled in the early weeks after this type of injury, so Washington might not be at his best even if he plays.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints, shoulder (P): Graham has been playing despite the shoulder injury, so his availability for the game isn’t really in doubt. But there are encouraging signs that he is improving. Not only has he increased the number of offensive snaps he is seeing since his initial game post-injury but Graham is now a weeklong full participant in practice.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, knee (P): Clay makes his regular appearance on the injury report but again comes into the weekend as probable. Expect him to play.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears, ribs (Q): Bennett suffered a rib injury in practice making a move coach Marc Trestman described as “kind of awkward on the practice field.” He was then held out of Friday’s practice, leaving him questionable to play Sunday. Trestman sounded uncertain, but hopeful, about Bennett’s status.
“We’ll see. We really don’t know right now,” Trestman said. “He’s been inside getting treatment. We’re hopeful he’ll play.”
According to ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright, if Bennett can’t go it will be Dante Rosario in his place.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs, ribs (P): Kelce has been on the injury report for several weeks with a rib ailment but has played each week. At "probable," expect him to do so again.
Joseph Fauria, ankle (Q); Brandon Pettigrew, foot (Q); Eric Ebron, hamstring (D), Detroit Lions: The Lions have multiple injuries at tight end, but it appears they are making some progress on the healing front. Ebron continues to nurse a sore hamstring, and, although he practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, the "doubtful" designation indicates he is not ready to return to play. Fauria is back practicing on a limited basis for the first time since injuring his ankle (a non-football injury, blamed on a puppy that got underfoot), and, after he missed five straight games, this week could mark his return. Pettigrew did not practice Wednesday because of his foot injury but returned to limited practices Thursday and Friday. The only healthy tight end is Kellen Davis, but whether Fauria or Pettigrew (or both) is available to join him likely will be determined pregame.
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.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, collarbone: As coach Chip Kelly said Monday, Foles has a “cracked clavicle” on his non-throwing (left) side. He is expected to miss approximately six to eight weeks. Mark Sanchez gets the start for "Monday Night Football."
Khiry Robinson, forearm and Pierre Thomas, rib/shoulder, RBs, New Orleans Saints: The Saints are beat up at running back as these two will sit out again. Even Mark Ingram comes into the week as questionable, but at least the status of Robinson and Thomas is already predetermined.
Stepfan Taylor, RB, Arizona Cardinals, calf: Taylor continues in his recovery from his strained calf and will sit out again in Week 10.
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