Welcome to Week 5! The four teams on bye this week are the Kansas City Chiefs, the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars get a reprieve after the journey over to London, but the Colts do not as they take on the visiting Chicago Bears, led by Brian Hoyer. Tom Brady returns this week (sorry, Browns fans) and Derek Anderson will be the one leading the Panthers in their Monday night football matchup against the Buccaneers who, by the way, appear as if they will be without their top two running backs. Injuries are making themselves felt around the league just one-quarter of the way through the season.
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 may impact fantasy teams.
For those who may be new to this blog: 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 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 is 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, 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 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, 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 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.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, right thumb, (D): Cutler continues to be held out of practice. The doubtful designation has been in place for three weeks now and Brian Hoyer has started for the last two. Expect Hoyer under center for the third week in a row as the Bears travel to face the Colts.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder: Traveling to London last week didn’t make it any easier on Luck, who continued to be knocked around throughout the game. Although he did not appear on the team’s injury report on Wednesday, he was there Thursday as a limited participant. Luck was upgraded to full practice Friday and his removal from the game status injury report indicates he will play.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills, hand, (Q): What happened here? A completely healthy McCoy made a sudden appearance on the Friday injury report after, as he described it, “jamming” his hand in practice Friday. McCoy downplayed the injury saying it was “something small” and insists he will be fine to play by Sunday. Nonetheless, given the late addition to the injury report and the questionable designation, fantasy owners will want to be sure to check the pregame inactives.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots, hip, (Q): Blount appeared on the injury report this week because of a hip injury. It’s worth noting that it was a hip issue that sidelined Blount last year, but this episode does not appear to be serious. A week’s worth of limited practices hint at Blount’s availability.
Arian Foster, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, (D): Despite the Dolphins’ take on the Foster injury as minor, his continued absence reminds us that hamstring injuries can often linger and that no soft tissue injury is insignificant when it comes to Foster. He has been able to practice every day this week on a limited basis but he is not yet ready to return to full speed competition. Given the doubtful tag, expect Foster to miss another week.
Doug Martin, hamstring, (D), and Charles Sims, knee, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (D): Martin is not yet practicing with the team since injuring his hamstring, but the doubtful designation actually represents a slight improvement over past weeks when he was ruled out in advance of the game. Alongside him this week, however, is his teammate Sims, who injured his knee in the Week 4 game but managed to finish it out. He was not able to practice this week and the team’s label of doubtful indicates he, too, is unlikely to play Monday night. The Buccaneers have a bye in Week 6 which will give both backs two more weeks of recovery if they sit as expected on Monday. After Martin injured his hamstring in Week 2, early forecasts had him returning post-bye. In the absence of Martin and Sims, Jacquizz Rodgers is expected to get the start.
Kenneth Dixon, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (Q): It appears this could be the week that Dixon makes his NFL debut. An MCL injury in the preseason knocked him out of the first few weeks of the regular season, but Dixon has been working diligently to return, rejoining team practice last week and upgrading to full participation daily this week. His upgrade on the game status injury report from doubtful last week to questionable this week is an indicator of his improvement. He has been fit with a custom brace that will continue to provide medial and lateral support for his knee as he integrates into game action. Dixon’s first outing is not likely to net him a full complement of snaps but it will be interesting to see how the Ravens choose to utilize him in this first appearance, presuming he does indeed play.
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants, thumb, (Q): Jennings has not played the past two weeks because of a left thumb injury. With his thumb and wrist wrapped in a small cast and padding, Jennings has limited use of his left hand. Apparently the Giants preferred not to take on the risks associated with him being forced to catch and carry the ball one-handed, not to mention his limitations or risk of further injury in pass protection. It appears his absence will extend into this week as well, according to ESPN.com’s Jordan Ranaan which makes Orleans Darkwa the likely primary ball carrier against the Packers.
Dwayne Washington, Detroit Lions, ankle, (D): Washington was injured in Week 4 and was visibly limping immediately afterward. He was optimistic early in the week about his chances of taking the field Sunday, but his inability to practice reflected the severity of the injury. Washington is expected to sit this one out.
Ka’Deem Carey, hamstring, (Q), and Jeremy Langford, ankle, (D), Chicago Bears: Langford was projected to miss multiple weeks after spraining his ankle in Week 3. He is not practicing and is not expected to play in Week 5. Carey has been making his way back from a hamstring injury sustained in Week 2 and this week participated in limited work daily. The questionable tag suggests he may be available Sunday, but Jordan Howard -- who posted over 100 yards rushing in Week 4 -- is on track for another start for the Bears.
Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers, hamstring, (Q): Tolbert, like fellow Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, is on the injury report because of his hamstring. The difference is that Stewart’s was far more serious, and he has already been ruled out for Monday night’s game. Tolbert was able to do limited work Thursday followed by full practices Friday and Saturday. He is expected to play Monday night, barring a setback.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
Matt Forte, New York Jets, knee/ribs: Forte has been playing through this knee issue and typically gets a lighter day of practice on Wednesday, followed by heavier work Thursday and Friday. This week is no different as far as his practice schedule; the only change is that he had another body part added to the report. Given that he was able to maintain the same practice schedule, there is no real concern as to his availability for Sunday.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts, chest: Gore did not practice Wednesday but was a full participant Thursday and Friday. He is expected to play.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, knee, (Q): Last week the Cowboys hinted at Bryant’s potential availability for game day until the time he was not on the plane to travel with his teammates to San Francisco. Though he continues to be considered day-to-day in his recovery from a hairline crack in the lateral tibial plateau of his right knee, Bryant has yet to engage in a team practice. His work thus far has consisted of rehab and work on the side. Despite being listed as questionable, it seems unlikely he will play, which would mean another start for Brice Butler.
Quincy Enunwa, New York Jets, knee, (Q): Uh-oh. Enunwa was supposed to be the relief for fantasy owners who were trying to replace the injured Eric Decker. Actually, it wasn’t just for fantasy owners, he was also insurance for the Jets at the wide receiver position. Enunwa didn’t even come up on the injury report until Friday, when he did not practice due to knee soreness. Although it does not sound like a serious ailment, his official status could come down to game time.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, foot, (Q): Edelman appeared on the Thursday injury report as a limited participant because of his foot. Given that he has undergone two surgeries on his foot to address a fifth metatarsal fracture, there was reason to pay attention to this development. Considering he did not completely miss any practice, it’s not unreasonable that he could simply have experienced some soreness and the team chose to back him off activity. His status bears watching but the scale should tip towards him playing, barring a pregame setback.
Alshon Jeffery, knee, (Q), and Eddie Royal, calf, Chicago Bears, (Q): Lather. Rinse. Repeat. When it comes to Jeffery that is the mantra as he remains on the injury report weekly; the only variation is how he is listed. This week it is his knee that gets the attention, but with the Bears so thin due to injury, he actually looks relatively healthy by comparison. Jeffery’s ability to participate in limited practices points to the likelihood of his availability this week. Fantasy owners should know by now the importance of checking the pregame inactives to confirm his status.
Meanwhile, his teammate Royal has a calf injury that should have fantasy owners concerned as he was unable to practice at all this week. His questionable tag seems to be optimistic given how limited he is at the moment. After putting up 111 yards and a touchdown last week, it would be tough to imagine him coming anywhere close to those numbers while hindered by a calf strain, if he were to be active. The Bears are thin at wide receiver with the loss of Kevin White to injury last week; ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson notes there is likely to be an increased role for Cameron Meredith, and Daniel Braverman could be activated off the practice squad.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings, groin (D): It would have been reasonable to be concerned about Diggs’ status after he did not participate in a single practice this week; the doubtful tag only serves to reinforce it. Coach Mike Zimmer seemed relatively unconcerned however, noting Diggs had a groin issue last week and played through it. True, but he was at least able to participate to some degree during the week. Expect Diggs to miss this game against the visiting Houston Texans.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions, foot, (Q): Last week Jones gave fantasy owners a bit of a scare when he popped up on the Thursday injury report with a hamstring ailment. He was a full participant Friday however, then played without issue in last week’s game. This week there is no indication the hamstring is still a problem but Jones was on the injury report early on because of his foot. He progressed daily from a non-participant Wednesday to limited Thursday then full on Friday. Barring a setback, it appears Jones should be available on Sunday.
Devin Funchess, foot, (Q), and Ted Ginn Jr., foot, Carolina Panthers, (Q): Both Funchess and Ginn appear on the injury report with foot issues this week and both followed the same routine. Neither practiced Thursday, both were upgraded to limited Friday and both turned in full practices Saturday. The steady progress through the week bodes well for both to be able to play Monday night, barring a setback.
Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams, thigh, (Q): Britt was listed as questionable last week with the same injury but played in last Sunday’s game, netting 82 yards on four receptions. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday (the Rams as a whole did not practice on Thursday) but Britt was a full participant Friday. All signs point to him playing this weekend.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons, shoulder: Sanu injured his shoulder in the Falcons Monday night game two weeks ago but has already played through it and is expected to do so again. Reportedly dealing with a separated shoulder, Sanu was held to limited practices Wednesday and Thursday but increased to a full workout Friday.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, hip: Thomas has been managing the hip issue since it cropped up during the first week of the season. To that end, he has been held to limited practice on occasion, as he was on Wednesday and Thursday this week, then upgraded to full on Friday. His removal from the game status injury report indicates he is expected to play.
Brandon Marshall, New York Jets, foot: Marshall was held off the game status injury report heading into last week and he looked much improved running up and down the field compared to the previous week when he was fresh off the injury to his knee and foot. He has clearly progressed and now remains listed on the practice injury report only because of his foot. Full practices daily suggest the remaining ailment is relatively minor and his removal from the game status injury report tells fantasy owners he is expected to play.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, hamstring, (Q): At this point it’s a bit surprising to still see Gronkowski listed as questionable when there is virtual certainty that he will play. The designation serves as a reminder that he is not yet 100 percent recovered from his hamstring injury. Gronkowski was certainly more involved in the game plan in Week 4 than he was in Week 3, playing 36 snaps versus 14. He even had a catch, albeit a short one for 11 yards. Most notably, he was not in the mix for long routes or situations where he might be asked to stretch the field, an indicator that the team was still not quite ready to cut him loose.
Still, he has not had any reported setbacks and his continued progression, despite being slow, indicates he is improving. Gronkowski remains limited in daily practice sessions and it is hard to know just how he’ll be utilized in this week’s game. But there is one significant change this week; the tight end’s star quarterback is returning. Perhaps the most interesting stat of all is this: All but one of Gronkowski’s touchdown receptions have come from Tom Brady. Maybe everything is coming together for patient fantasy owners in Week 5.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, hamstring, (Q): There was some progress for Gates this week as he returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday and was upgraded to full practice Friday. He comes in as questionable, but the real question is how much work he might do should he be active. Not only might Gates be limited in his first outing because of the recency of the hamstring injury, but Hunter Henry has filled in nicely during Gates’ absence. Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests Henry might still get the greater share of playing time between the two.
Chances are Antonio Gates (hamstring) gives it a go Sunday, but we'll see what he can do. Hunter Henry to stay busy. May lead TEs in snaps.
— Michael Gehlken (@sdutGehlken) October 7, 2016
Fantasy owners may be in a bit of a quandary here as to what to do with Gates, but he is shaping up to be a risky play, even more so because of the late start time.
Zach Miller, Chicago Bears, ribs, (Q): Miller was given the day off Wednesday to aid in his recovery from a rib injury, but he upgraded to limited practice both Thursday and Friday. With the receiving corps somewhat depleted due to injury, it would help the Bears to have their pass-catching tight end available. Barring a pregame setback, it sounds like Miller will go, but fantasy owners will want to check pregame inactives to be sure.
Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders, knee, (Q): Walford did not practice Wednesday, but he was involved in limited practices both Thursday and Friday. He sustained a knee injury in last week’s game against the Ravens, but his ability to return to practice by Thursday suggests the injury is not serious. Still, with a late kickoff against the Chargers Sunday, fantasy owners should have a backup plan in place in the event Walford cannot go.
Players Off Game Status Injury Report:
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings, ribs: Rudolph has been extremely valuable to the Vikings in the early portion of the season, not to mention to his fantasy owners. He has clearly become a go-to target, especially in the red zone, for quarterback Sam Bradford, much to the delight of fans and fantasy owners alike. Injuries have been a challenge for Rudolph in the past, so no one wants to see his name pop up on the injury report as it did this week. The good news is that after practicing in full Friday, Rudolph was removed from the game status injury report. Expect Rudolph to play this week, with Bradford likely to continue to target him.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles, rib: Ertz suffered a first rib injury in the season opener and has since progressed according to plan. The team hoped to have him available after their Week 4 bye and it appears they will. Ertz practiced in full each day and is set to take the field in Detroit.
Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons, hip: Tamme was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice because of his hip but was back to full work Thursday and Friday. He is expected to play Sunday against his former team, the Denver Broncos.
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.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, concussion: The Panthers play on Monday night, but they will be without their starting quarterback, who remains in recovery mode from a concussion. Derek Anderson will be the starter.
Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver Broncos, left shoulder: Despite early optimism that Siemian could be available this week, the Broncos have elected to play it safe with his shoulder and will start Paxton Lynch instead. Siemian sustained a mild AC injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the second quarter of last week’s game and was forced to make an early exit. He had made strong progress throughout the week and returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday. He was making throws and participating in both individual and team drills, increasing his activity over the past two days. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, Siemian underwent a Saturday morning workout before coach Gary Kubiak made a final decision as to his status. In the interest of giving him another week of recovery, the team elected to go with Lynch, with Siemian unlikely to even be active for the contest.
Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets, shoulder: Decker was reported to have a partial rotator cuff tear last week, and he is still in enough discomfort that he is unable to practice. In fact, Decker said that he is still having trouble sleeping at night, a common complaint for people with rotator cuff tears as the weight of the arm tends to tug at the injury. He has said he hopes to rehab the injury and return to play this season; surgery is not a definite outcome, but if he does need it, Decker hopes to postpone it until the postseason. In the meantime, he remains out this week.
Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders, toe: Murray has been held out of practice with a toe injury and he will not take the field this weekend. Turf toe injuries can be especially problematic in running backs and run the risk of becoming chronic problems if continually aggravated. Hyperextension of the big toe with full weight bearing can be so painful that it often renders players who try to press through these injuries ineffective as they simply can’t push off. Holding Murray out will be better for his overall health.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals, back/ankle: The addition of back soreness for Eifert means that Week 5 will not mark his season debut after all. He did not practice all week. It certainly won’t hurt his ankle to have another week of rest. Better to wait until all his injuries have resolved before setting foot on a game field.
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions, ankle/knee: Ebron has been on the injury report weekly, but his status has never been as much of a concern as it is this week. The injuries -- including the ankle ailment that dates back to the preseason -- appear to be taking a collective toll on Ebron as he was a non-participant in practice throughout the week.
Jared Cook, TE, Green Bay Packers, ankle: The tight end position has taken numerous injury hits across the league; Cook is the latest to add to the list. ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reports Cook is likely to miss at least a month.
Kevin White, WR, Chicago Bears, ankle: White sustained a significant injury to his left ankle, a high ankle sprain severe enough to also result in a fractured fibula. To make matters worse, this is the same leg in which he had a rod placed in his tibia last season that resulted in him being sidelined for the year. He is out indefinitely.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Indianapolis Colts, shoulder: No surprise here as Moncrief continues to be sidelined with a fractured scapula.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers, hamstring: Stewart is making progress with his hamstring rehab but hasn’t gotten to the point of being able to join his teammates in practice. He will sit again this week.
Brandon Bolden, RB, New England Patriots, knee: Bolden was ruled out for this week’s game after not being able to participate in practice.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys, back: Romo is not yet practicing, but he has resumed some throwing. It sounds as if the Cowboys are hopeful he could return from his compression fracture in Week 8.
Josh McCown, QB, Cleveland Browns, left shoulder: McCown remains out with a clavicle fracture and is not yet practicing.
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!