It’s Week 8 and many fantasy owners are dealing with holes in their rosters due to injuries or teams on bye (or both). It’s a big bye week with six teams off, including the Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.
As far as injuries, several stars have already been ruled out while dozens of others are still in question. One player who has been ruled out for Week 8 is Percy Harvin, who the Seahawks confirmed will not make his debut with the team on Monday night. This is not a big surprise considering Harvin just joined the team in practice this week for the first time since undergoing hip surgery over the summer. However, Harvin has made impressive gains in rehab and his first game appearance is expected to come sooner rather than later. (Note other key players who have already been ruled out for this week at the bottom of this report.)
Harvin aside, who can we start and who should we sit? Here’s what we know as of Saturday afternoon.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (probable): Vick looked to be the starter this week as early as Tuesday, as he had extra time off last week to recover and backup Nick Foles landed on the injury report with a concussion (Foles has already been ruled out for this week). He was a full participant in practice all week, but Vick told reporters that he planned to run 100 yards at full speed Friday to test his hamstring. No word yet on whether the sprint actually happened (the Eagles' Friday practices are not open to the media), but whatever did happen, it must have been good enough to prove that Vick is ready to go. Barring a pregame setback, Vick will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback on Sunday against the Giants.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, shoulder (probable): After appearing for so many consecutive weeks on the injury report because of his throwing shoulder, it was almost surprising when he was no longer included. Soreness in his shoulder landed him back on the report this week and he was limited in Thursday’s practice. By Friday he was back to full participation and he will play on Sunday.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, shoulder (probable): Tannehill has recently taken some big hits, and it seems his throwing shoulder may be feeling the effects. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but returned to full work on Friday. Listed as “probable,” he is expected to play but has to hope he can avoid getting that shoulder driven into the ground.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring (probable): Behind Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Jackson might be the most talked about player per actual minutes played this season. So far he has appeared in just one full game and a small portion of a second contest, but his injury status has been a weekly topic of conversation. This week, he returned to practice on a limited basis for the first time since Week 2, and the plan is for him to return to play on Sunday. How will he hold up? There is reason to be concerned, but at some point the only way to find out the health of a hamstring is to test it. Presuming no pregame setback, Jackson will do just that on Sunday.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, hamstring (probable): The good news is that the Vikings have again listed Peterson as “probable,” and with them playing Sunday night, this is reassuring news for fantasy owners. But Peterson is not out of the woods with the injury. He acknowledged to reporters this week that tightness in his right thigh (secondary to a bruise he sustained weeks ago) was affecting him. “It’s more so when I run, I was kind of hesitant to stretch out and really stretch the hamstring, thinking that I was going to pull [it],” he said. Peterson added that he is feeling better now and anticipates going “full speed” this Sunday.
C.J. Spiller, ankle (doubtful) and Fred Jackson, knee (probable), Buffalo Bills: We previously discussed the challenges surrounding the decision for Spiller to either play or rest his ankle. Everything is pointing to the decision coming down on the side of rest. Spiller has not practiced this week and is listed as doubtful, suggesting a less than 25 percent chance he plays.
Last Sunday, Jackson appeared to aggravate the knee in which he suffered an MCL sprain earlier this year, but he was able to put in limited practices both Thursday and Friday. At “probable,” he is expected to play and will likely get the bulk of the workload while Tashard Choice is also available to contribute. The Bills elevated Ronnie Wingo from the practice squad Friday to add extra insurance at the position.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys, knee (questionable): Last week, Murray sat out the game after being listed as "doubtful" due to a sprained MCL. This week, Murray has been practicing on a limited basis and appears to be in line to play Sunday in Detroit. It should be noted the Cowboys listed Murray at “questionable” and have not confirmed that he will play. It will likely come down to a game-time decision. It is not so much a question on Murray’s part as it is the team’s concern about ensuring it doesn’t rush him back, especially in light of his injury history. As noted by Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, “We want to do right for DeMarco for the season, not just one game." Meanwhile, Lance Dunbar has missed the past two games with a left hamstring strain but practiced all week, including a full workout on Friday. Listed as “probable,” Dunbar is expected to play.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, knee (probable): Bush surprised (and scared) everyone when he sat out practice Friday. Bush later said he missed practice for “precautionary” reasons, according to the Detroit Free Press. He is expected to play Sunday when the Lions host the Cowboys.
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals, toe (doubtful): Mendenhall has intermittently dealt with toe problems this season and appears to have had a setback. He has not practiced at all this week and, listed as “doubtful,” is not likely to play.
James Starks, Green Bay Packers, knee (probable): Starks has been out for multiple weeks with a knee injury but has quietly been improving through rehab. This week, he was a full participant in practice each day and is expected to play Sunday night.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ankle (probable): Gore’s presence is critical for the 49ers’ offense, and they will have him on Sunday (in London) against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gore was limited in practice only one day (Wednesday) and otherwise was a regular participant.
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns, knee (probable): McGahee gets a rest day during the week for his knee. This week, that day was Thursday. Full practices on the bookends and a “probable” tag indicate McGahee is expected to play as usual.
Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots, knee (questionable): As noted last week, Bolden’s pattern of limited practices while playing on Sunday is expected to continue. Be sure to check the pregame inactives list to be sure.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe (questionable): It’s interesting that Ingram is listed as “questionable” when he has not practiced other than limited work on Friday. In fact, Ingram has not stepped on the football field in a game situation since Week 2. It would seem unlikely that he would return this Sunday.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants, hamstring (doubtful): Jacobs missed the Giants’ Monday night matchup and will likely miss his second straight game with a strained hamstring after not practicing all week. However, he did travel with the team to Philadelphia, leaving the door ajar for him to suit up. The unfortunate Giants cannot seem to stay healthy at this position. If Jacobs does not go, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox are your Giants running backs for Week 8.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, knee (probable): Like last week, Johnson again comes into the weekend with a “probable” designation, indicating he is expected to play. He rested the knee Wednesday but was back in limited practices Thursday and Friday. If all goes well, Johnson will head into the Week 9 bye without a setback and will then have an opportunity to rest his knee.
James Jones, Green Bay Packers, knee (doubtful): Last week, the Packers had Jones, who sprained his PCL in Week 6, listed as “questionable” prior to the game, but he clearly was not ready to play. After not practicing this week, the team lists him as “doubtful,” making it easier on fantasy owners since the Packers play on Sunday night. This could be another big week for Jarrett Boykin.
Miles Austin, hamstring (questionable) and Dez Bryant, hamstring/wrist (probable): Austin played last week after being listed as “probable” but did not have a single catch. He’s still troubled by the hamstring injury as evidenced by his very limited involvement in practices, and this week he is downgraded to “questionable.” Even if he is active, there has to be concern about what his contribution will be. As for Bryant, he saw limited reps Wednesday, but after full practices Thursday and Friday, there is no concern about his status for Sunday.
Julian Edelman, thigh (questionable) and Danny Amendola, concussion/groin (questionable), New England Patriots: Edelman has played through this ailment and is expected to do so again in Week 8. Amendola, who practiced on a limited basis throughout the week, needs to complete all components of the league’s concussion protocol before he can receive final clearance to play. However, he seems to believe he’s ready. “I'm healthy and I'm ready to play,” Amendola said on Friday. The extra time off last week will have helped his groin issue, but there is still the possibility it could flare up in a game situation. Fantasy owners should be sure to check the pregame inactive list.
Cecil Shorts, shoulder (probable) and Justin Blackmon, hamstring (probable), Jacksonville Jaguars: Both Jaguars receivers traveled to London and are expected to face the 49ers in Week 8. Last week, they were both listed as questionable, and Shorts was in considerable pain from his recent sternoclavicular sprain. Another week has helped alleviate some discomfort, but Shorts is not completely past it. Blackmon got some rest Wednesday and Friday but is still expected to play.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs, groin (questionable): Bowe showed up on the injury report Thursday with a groin injury then sat out Friday's practice. Now he’s listed as “questionable.” According to ESPN.com’s Andy Teicher, coach Andy Reid said Bowe was feeling a little better Friday (than Thursday), but indicated a decision would not be made about his status until game day. This has all the makings of a situation to avoid.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, hamstring (probable): Fitzgerald has been working through bilateral hamstring strains but seems to be making progress. He worked out in full each day this week and will play Sunday, barring a setback.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, hand (probable): After missing several games with an unspecified hand injury, Moore returned to full practices this week and indicated his hand is feeling good. At “probable,” he is expected to play. If tight end Jimmy Graham sits out, Moore provides another pair of receiving hands for Drew Brees.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets, hamstring (probable): With Santonio Holmes sidelined for yet another week, the Jets will need Kerley on the field. After being limited Thursday, Kerley practiced in full Friday and is expected to play against the Bengals.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints, foot (questionable): Since injuring his foot prior to the Saints’ bye week, the only time Graham has practiced was Friday on a limited basis. ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett sums up the scenario perfectly: The fact Graham made a practice appearance Friday opens the door to him playing, even on a limited basis. On the other hand, no one wants to see Graham -- who reportedly suffered only a minor foot injury -- go down for a lengthy period of time as a result of returning too soon. This, of course, leaves us with no clear answer heading into Sunday’s game. It sounds as if the Saints will go through warm-ups and make the call at that time. For fantasy owners, the only saving grace is that this is an early game.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, back/forearm (probable): Gronkowski now has a clearer status than some of his teammates who are listed as “questionable.” He seemed to get through his first game back unscathed and notched more than 100 receiving yards. He will likely be listed on the report for a while but his playing time is expected to progress.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, hamstring (probable): Davis is still listed on the injury report because of his hamstring, but seems to be improving each week. He practiced fully each day and is expected to play against the Jaguars.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins, hip (probable): Reed had his coming-out party in Week 7 with a big scoring day; it would be a shame if he couldn’t follow it up. He sustained a hip contusion in last week’s game but was able to play through it. This week, Reed practiced in full each day and is expected to play Sunday.
Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets, hamstring (probable): Cumberland did not practice Wednesday after experiencing tightness in his hamstring in Week 7, but returned Thursday and followed it up on Friday. He said he expects to play Sunday, which is always a promising sign. Barring a setback, expect Cumberland to take the field in Cincinnati.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings, left hamstring (probable): Walsh is again listed as “probable” and should play Sunday night, barring a pregame setback.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring/ankle: White missed his first career game in Week 7. He will now miss his second this week. White is still not practicing and there is no timetable for his return.
EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills, knee: Manuel suffered an LCL injury in Week 5 and remains out.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets, hamstring: Holmes will miss yet another game with a hamstring strain. This week, he hinted at being out through the team’s bye in Week 10.
David Wilson, RB, New York Giants, neck: Wilson has been out since injuring his neck. He is not yet practicing and his timetable is uncertain.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions, forearm: Burleson fractured both bones in his forearm, then underwent surgery to repair the damage and is now out for an extended time. The team hopes he will be able to return late in the season.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers, neck: Finley suffered a spinal cord contusion in Week 7 and it is unclear when or if he will return this season.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles, concussion: Foles suffered a head injury in Week 7 and is inactive this week.
Josh Freeman, QB, Minnesota Vikings, concussion: On Monday, Freeman suffered a concussion during his first start as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, and he will sit out Week 8. Christian Ponder gets the start against the Packers.