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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Darren McFadden, Percy Harvin doubtful

It's this time of year when one wonders if anyone in the NFL is actually healthy. The question of health is relative at this point in the season and it becomes a matter of who is healthy enough to take the field.

As a result, decisions for fantasy owners are made more challenging, knowing the designation of "active" on game day doesn't necessarily translate to "healthy and productive." In many cases, fantasy owners are forced to work with a roster of mixed-level talent in the hopes that it will be enough to yield a victory. And NFL teams must do the same.

Here's who we're keeping an eye on in Week 10:

Running Backs

Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles), Jonathan Dwyer (quad), Isaac Redman (ankle) and Chris Rainey (ribs), Pittsburgh Steelers: Thursday marks the first injury report of the week for the Steelers since they do not play until Monday night. It really is remarkable how many of their backs have appeared on the injury report simultaneously. Redman started in Week 9 and had a good day at the office (147 rushing yards, one TD). But the mix will be different in Week 10 with Jonathan Dwyer expected to return. Dwyer, who practiced in full on Thursday, missed Sunday's game with a quad strain. And Mendenhall, who continues a slow return from his strained Achilles, was a limited participant in Thursday's practice.

Rashard Mendenhall
With Rashard Mendenhall likely out, the Steelers will again turn to their backup -- and banged up -- running back corps.

Interestingly, running backs coach Kirby Wilson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Mendenhall will remain the starter for the Steelers because, "Rashard is the complete package -- power, speed, explosiveness." All of which are compromised, of course, if there is an Achilles issue. It feels like an eternity since Mendenhall was injured, but it has only been four weeks. Achilles injuries are very easily aggravated (see: Troy Polamalu) and given that Mendenhall had only played in one game prior to Week 6 due to coming off of ACL surgery, there is little rationale for risking further injury on Monday.

Rainey suffered a rib injury in last week's game against the Giants and looked to be in a great deal of pain at the time. He was back in practice in full Thursday though, even telling Mike Bires of the Beaver County Times that he plans to play Monday, despite one of his ribs being cracked.

As of now, this appears to be a full-blown running back by committee, with perhaps Mendenhall the least likely to play. Hopefully by Saturday there will be a better indicator of who is likely to draw the start.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), Dallas Cowboys: Murray remains out of team practice, which is not surprising given head coach Jason Garrett's comments earlier in the week regarding thresholds he would first need to clear. It appears Murray is in line to sit another week. As Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters on Thursday, they will not return him to action at less than 100 percent. The result is that Jones is in line to start in Week 10 against the Eagles. Jones has been playing through a bruised knee but was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Darren McFadden (ankle) and Mike Goodson (ankle), Oakland Raiders: Both backs are dealing with high ankle sprains, both involve their right ankles and both were injured in Week 9. As noted on Tuesday, there has been no report from the team as to the severity of their injuries but neither has been present in practice this week -- and neither is expected to play. Taiwan Jones and Marcel Reece are expected to fill in at running back come Sunday.

Wide Receivers

Percy Harvin (ankle), Minnesota Vikings: On Monday, Harvin called himself a long shot to play this weekend after spraining his left ankle last week, and the report from that he "moved slowly with a significant limp" in the locker room on Thursday would suggest that is still the case. Harvin has not been ruled out but he hasn't practiced and he certainly doesn't look like he is ready to take the field. There is still time for him to progress, but based on the initial description of his injury -- as also noted on Tuesday -- it will be a tough task for him to play on Sunday.

Tight Ends

Owen Daniels (back), Houston Texans: Daniels was a late add to last week's injury report because of a hamstring issue, but he came out of Sunday's game with a new problem; initially referred to as a bruised hip, Owen's injury was called "some kind of hip pointer" by coach Gary Kubiak on Thursday, according to Nick Scurfield of the Texans' official website. Interestingly, Daniels is listed on the injury report with a "back" injury and he has not practiced this week, although Kubiak said he did make progress on Thursday. His status for Sunday is uncertain so fantasy owners might want to plan on a replacement.

Quick Hits

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has not practiced this week due to illness. McCoy is expected to return to practice Friday and at this point is still planning to play against the Cowboys.

LeSean McCoy
LeSean McCoy (illness), to the relief of Eagles fans and his fantasy owners, should play on Sunday.

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles has not returned to practice since undergoing surgery on his left hand on Monday. He hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game, but it's not looking promising at this point.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was a full participant Thursday (the first report of the week for the Chiefs since they play Monday night) after suffering what the team called a neck injury last week. Charles had tweeted that he would play and it's looking as if he is indeed going to do so.

Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 9 and coach Mike Tomlin called him doubtful earlier in the week. He has not practiced and is not expected to play.

Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson suffered a bruised thigh in Week 9 and it was expected he would be limited in practice early in the week. Johnson rested Wednesday and then returned to limited practice Thursday. According to the Bills' official website, Johnson said his thigh was "definitely better" than he thought it would be. If he can repeat the effort Friday, his chances of playing Sunday look good.

Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson made it through Week 9 based on a combination of rest during the week and strategy during the game. On Thursday, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that Johnson said he has been dealing with a nerve injury suffered in September which has made gripping the ball difficult. Johnson hasn't missed any games, but it's clear he's been playing through pain and he's not at his absolute best. Don't expect him to be magically recovered by this weekend, but based on what he's been doing so far, expect him to continue to play. Interestingly, his teammate Titus Young has not practiced this week. Young has been playing through knee tendinitis but typically sees some practice time. It's unclear whether he is taking a chapter out of Johnson's book to rest more during the week or if his knee has actually taken a downturn. So far there's no word that his condition has worsened but the Lions tend to be fairly mum when it comes to injury issues. Friday's practice report could be telling.

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned to limited practice Thursday after what has become almost a routine off day on Wednesday. Teammate Andre Brown has a shoulder ailment which caused him to leave Sunday's game early. He resumed full practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. It appears that both Bradshaw and Brown should be ready to go Sunday.

St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola remains listed as a limited participant in practice this week. Earlier in the week we noted Amendola's confidence that he would return to play Sunday. So far there has been nothing to dispute that, but it would be nice to see him get a full practice in before Sunday.

New England Patriots tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski were both listed as limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Gronkowski has been playing through a hip ailment and will continue to do so. Hernandez has had the benefit of two weeks rest and looks to be on track for the weekend, presuming he continues to practice through the end of the week.

San Diego Chargers wide receivers Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem are still on the injury report because of their hamstring injuries. This week, however, both are fully practicing. Their chances of playing against the Buccaneers look good.

And on a final note …

Last week, my note here was that Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was no longer on the injury report. Well, I spoke too soon. Nicks had a recurrence of swelling in his problematic knee and did not practice Wednesday. The good news? It improved Thursday and he was able to return to limited practice. ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk reported that Nicks said the Giants' medical staff has seen improvement in his running every week. Nicks said he will definitely play Sunday.

Four teams are on bye this week (Cleveland, Green Bay, Arizona and Washington), which means players from these teams will not appear on this week's official injury reports.