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Saturday, September 27, 2008
Westbrook's status truly up in the air


First bye week, first major substitutions for fantasy owners whose top draft picks are resting. And then there are those pesky injuries that complicate matters. This week, the injury picture actually looks much clearer in terms of who will sit and who will start, with a couple of notable exceptions. But even when they start, the big question for fantasy owners is, will those semi-healthy players be productive?

Here's what we know as we head into the Week 4 contests:

Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles: The answer to the question, "Will he or won't he suit up Sunday night?" remains the same as it was Wednesday when we last discussed Westbrook's injury status. We don't know. What we do know is that through a complete week, Westbrook has not practiced because of his sore ankle. We also know that the game is Sunday night. And if past performance is an indication of projection, we know that Westbrook is entirely capable of showing up big in a game without practicing at all during the week. He's done it before.

That being said, his latest injury appears to be consistent with a high ankle sprain. Even in the mildest of cases, this is a tough injury to recover from and move effectively as a running back in just one week. Westbrook seems to know his body well and knows when he can and cannot push through something. I believe that when he is a game-time decision, as he will be this week, it truly will be a matter of him warming up pregame to assess how effective he can be before a decision is made. The problem for fantasy owners is the timing of the game. Unless Correll Buckhalter, who will start in Westbrook's place if he cannot go, is on your bench, you may not have the luxury of waiting. At this point, his questionable designation, which literally is intended to translate to an athlete having a 50-50 chance of playing, appears right on point.

Brett Favre, QB, Jets: Although Favre appeared noticeably hobbled by his ankle early in the week, per ESPN reports he seemed to move better in practice each day. Most importantly, he did, in fact, practice every day, albeit on a limited basis. He is listed as questionable, but there seems to be no danger of his consecutive start streak being broken. Favre has played with injuries far more serious than this. Nonetheless, he is a quarterback who makes plays with his feet. Stiffness and pain in the ankle could hamper his mobility and render him less effective in that area of his game. Expect him to play, but know that he may have to unload the ball more quickly if he can't escape the rush as easily.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: Palmer was a late addition to the injury reports this week, showing up Friday as limited in practice with soreness in his right (throwing) elbow. Coach Marvin Lewis pointed out that Palmer had been hit "quite a bit" in last week's matchup against the New York Giants, but in reality he has been getting hit quite a bit all season. The evidence? A broken nose in the preseason, a sprained ankle in Week 2, and now an elbow ailment.

But Palmer, according to the Bengals' official Web site, seemed to attribute his elbow issues to overuse. It is worth noting that soreness that typically occurs at the elbow associated with overuse is related to the muscles that control grip. Wide grip, such as is necessary to grip a football, is particularly taxing. If indeed this is an overuse issue, it could potentially hang around for a while, as in weeks. A mild case may not be of much concern, but if it continues to become aggravated as Palmer plays, it could be a bigger concern down the line.

Both Lewis and Palmer have suggested that the rest Friday means he will be ready to go Sunday, despite the questionable tag next to his name. If the elbow is still sore, it could affect his grip on the ball and his ability to throw hard. It will be interesting to see how he fares during the game and how his elbow responds afterward. At the moment, it does not appear that it will limit him terribly this Sunday, but it wouldn't hurt for him to get some better protection. I'm sure he wouldn't disagree.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: Tomlinson's performance Monday night was a welcome sight for Chargers fans and his fantasy owners. Although he is not 100 percent recovered from the injury to his big toe, LT certainly showed familiar sparks, especially when driving straight ahead. Cutting is still somewhat problematic, which is to be expected with this type of injury.

Tomlinson was able to practice more this week, also a good sign that his toe is improving. He is listed as probable and is expected to play. Tomlinson has enjoyed great success against the Raiders in the past and no doubt intends to try to maintain that trend.

Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: Finally, McGahee gets into the game to contribute, and we can breathe easier that he is past the recovery mode for his recent knee scope. Except then he gets poked in the eye. In fact, McGahee suffered enough of a cut on his eyelid that it caused a fair amount of swelling around his eye. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because he was literally having difficulty seeing becuase of the swelling. Coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun that he would play Monday night "as long as he could see." Things seem to be going in the right direction, since McGahee was a full participant in Friday's practice. With a couple more days to further treat the eyelid, McGahee, listed as probable, should be good to go. Keep in mind that the running back committee of McGahee, Le'Ron McClain (also listed as probable on the injury report because of his ankle and back) and Ray Rice will likely be in play.

Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings: Peterson was limited in Week 3 by a hamstring strain sustained in Week 2. The best news coming out of last week's game was that Peterson said his hamstring felt good. Peterson was restricted in practice throughout the week, which makes good sense with a still-recovering muscle strain. Another week removed from injury means another week closer to healing, especially given that there appear to have been no setbacks. Although he is listed as questionable, expect Peterson to play.

Peterson's teammate Taylor has been added to the injury report because of his foot. Although specifics have been hard to come by, Taylor, too, was limited in practice. With his injury being more recent and Peterson on the upswing, expect Taylor, also listed as questionable, to play but Peterson is likely to resume the primary role.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: Rice sprained his knee (posterior cruciate ligament or PCL) in Week 2 and sat out Week 3 as a result. He remained limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable. Rice hopes to get in the game, but with a PCL injury, he has some instability in the knee. The key for him is whether he has adequate muscular strength to compensate for the stability deficit so that he can run, jump and land effectively enough to play the position and not risk further injury. He is also likely to be a game-time decision but could see some action.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: McFadden played in Week 3 despite suffering a turf toe injury the week before. He was not at his best, and appeared to have trouble with his footing on the turf. Whether that was attributable to his toe at all is uncertain, but he did wear a stiffer shoe to help support the toe, which does alter the ability to push off.

This week, McFadden was rested on Wednesday, then returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday; he is still not fully healed. But Justin Fargas is out with his still-healing groin injury (look for him to potentially return following the Raiders' Week 5 bye) and McFadden is again expected to start, despite the questionable designation. Michael Bush will no doubt get some work to spell McFadden, and given that he is not at full health, there is risk that McFadden exits early. Nonetheless, he is lined up to get the bulk of the work as of now.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears: Hester is still experiencing enough pain to significantly restrict his practice activity. Hester, who sat out last week's game with torn cartilage in his ribs, does not appear ready to go just yet. He is listed as questionable for this week's game against the Eagles, but the relevance of his position cannot be underestimated. Yes, he is seeing time at wide receiver. But his most important role is as a kick returner and, as such, he is the target of an entire squad whose sole goal is to hit him and bring him down. He knows he will have to absorb impact and potentially a lot of it. His chances for playing do not appear great at this point, but he will be a game-time decision.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Despite an injured hand at the end of last week's contest and a shoulder sprain the week before that, Roethlisberger has practiced all week and is off the injury report. Ah, the allure of Monday Night Football at home when you're a Steeler.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns: Edwards was limited early in the week in practice with a shoulder injury, but was able to practice fully on Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday. Edwards played last week despite a listing as questionable, so his status has only improved. He did not do much last week, but he did catch the balls thrown his way, which was an improvement over the first two weeks. The Browns are likely to throw more his way this week, so expect his performance to go up again Sunday.

LenDale White, RB, Titans: White made an early exit from practice Thursday with what the Titans called a shoulder problem, but it did not appear serious at the time. That appeared to be confirmed by the fact that White was a full participant in Friday's practice. He is listed as probable and is expected to play Sunday. White's physical style of running is likely to make him susceptible to bumps and bruises along the way. He showed last year that he could play through some discomfort, so this episode is not of great concern.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: Grant's hamstring has been the source of much concern for Packer fans and Grant's fantasy owners. His condition has steadily improved and this week he is off the injury report. Expect Grant to start Sunday. His hamstring should not hold him back, but the Tampa Bay defense might.

And a couple of IDP updates

Charles Woodson, CB, Packers: Despite the toe injury, he is performing and will continue to do so. He is listed as probable and is expected to play.

Tommie Harris, DT, Bears: Ongoing problems with his knee are the challenge for Harris. He is listed as questionable after not practicing at all this week. Very questionable indeed.

Out

This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as additions to the "Out" listing for Week 4.

Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: Same story as last week: foot injury and 37 years old now. Bad combination. Galloway did not practice at all this week, so this is looking as if it could last a while.

Roscoe Parrish, WR, Bills: Parrish is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a thumb injury, a la Marques Colston. Better replace him on your roster.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: The groin injury that caused him to miss last week forces him to sit again. Look for him to possibly return in Week 6 after the Raiders' bye week. Meanwhile, McFadden and Bush pick up the load in Oakland.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: Shockey had surgery this week to repair a sports hernia. Reports of his timetable vary widely, but based on the average recovery time for this procedure, plan on at least a four-week absence.

Jason Taylor, DE, Redskins: Taylor took a blow to the leg and had to undergo a procedure to drain the resulting blood and relieve the pressure on the nerves and blood vessels to his foot. Sounds bad, but the procedure is not complicated. The important thing is getting to it in time. Thankfully, that was the case for Taylor, but it will take him some time to recover. If he's on your IDP list, seek out a replacement.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: We have not been given the specifics of the injury that is forcing Parker to the sidelines, but when a coach says a player is "week-to-week" as Mike Tomlin did in his news conference this week, it does not sound good. Best to ensure that you have a 2-4 week replacement.

Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at 12 p.m. ET. Good luck in Week 4!