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|It's unclear whether Greg Jennings will be able to return this week.|
No more byes! Three games have already been played in Week 12 but all other teams have a contest to look forward to this weekend. Fantasy owners have a full slate of players to choose from, minus, of course, the injured players. With that in mind, here are the injuries we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 12.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers, concussion (Q): Smith did not play in Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears, as he was recovering from a concussion. While Smith watched from the sidelines, Colin Kaepernick delivered a performance that ignited a quarterback controversy of sorts in San Francisco. Of sorts, because there's a controversy only if the two quarterbacks involved are healthy enough to play. Right now it remains unclear whether Smith will be cleared to play this week.
It would appear, however, that Smith is on track in his recovery. He practiced on a limited basis each day and completed a simulated contact test before the 49ers traveled to New Orleans, according to CSNBayArea.com. Smith has to remain symptom-free if he is to receive final clearance to play Sunday. Despite many reports that Kaepernick is in line to start, coach Jim Harbaugh says he will not officially announce his starter before kickoff so as not to yield any competitive advantage. It's certainly possible we could see both quarterbacks dress for Sunday's game, and then the controversy will be in full swing.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, concussion (Q): Cutler did not play in Week 11 after suffering a concussion the week before. He has made steady progress, however, and has been able to practice daily on a limited basis. Coach Lovie Smith told reporters Friday that Cutler was "looking good" for Sunday, but noted he still needed to be evaluated Saturday by an independent neurologist. The expectation as of Saturday is that Cutler will indeed start.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons, left finger (P): When "finger" is listed as the injured body part for a quarterback, even a seemingly small injury can be a big deal. Thankfully the injured finger is on Ryan's nonthrowing hand, so it should not affect his passing game. It could potentially have an impact on how well he handles the ball in nonthrowing situations, but given that he practiced fully each day there seems to be little reason for concern.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, ankle (P): It almost feels silly to include Peterson here, as the ankle is clearly not slowing him down. Unless you consider the 171 yards he amassed in Week 10 (before the Vikings' bye week) as not living up to his potential.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, toe (P): Well, well, look who's back. Wells is making his return to the playing field after a seven-game absence due to a turf toe injury. He says he feels better than he has in over a year, but how much that can translate into productive yardage remains to be seen. Can he handle the large workload? Ryan Williams was expected to share with Wells, but his season ended early when he suffered a bizarre shoulder injury. LaRod Stephens-Howling is listed as questionable with a rib injury, so the bulk of the work could very well land in Wells' hands.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints, hand (P): Sproles was oh-so-close to playing last weekend when the Saints traveled to Oakland. He had practiced all week, reportedly looking sharp both catching and carrying the ball. But swelling persisted in Sproles' left hand, the one on which he had recently undergone surgery to repair a fracture. Despite heading west with his teammates, Sproles watched from the sideline to allow his hand some additional recovery time. This week fantasy owners won't have to agonize over his status. Sproles practiced fully every day and at probable, is expected to play.
Fred Jackson, concussion, and C.J. Spiller, shoulder, Buffalo Bills (P): Jackson has been back in the practice mix this week after sitting out last week with a concussion. Spiller's status has really never been in doubt. Bills head coach Chan Gailey indicated the team expects Jackson to play this weekend, but noted Spiller will get the start. According to the Bills' official website, Gailey said, "Fred will get quite a few snaps, but C.J. will start and get the majority of the snaps." So there you go, fantasy owners. That's the plan.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot (P): Here's the biggest takeaway from Bradshaw's listing on the injury report: He's listed only because of his foot. After talk about him undergoing repeat tests on his neck following a flare-up in Week 10, it turned out not to be anything serious for Bradshaw. The practice pattern for him was essentially unchanged from any other week, so the expectation for him to play is standard. The unknown is just how the load will be shared between Bradshaw and teammate Andre Brown, who has managed to snag goal-line touches of late.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, foot (P): Jackson is one of two key Rams offensive players who is on the injury report, but Jackson's foot injury does not appear to be serious. Jackson did not participate Wednesday but was back in full practice Thursday and Friday. Expect him to play in a division rivalry game against the Cardinals Sunday.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns, chest/rib/finger (P): Richardson has been on the injury report for multiple weeks now, but continues to play. Back when the original rib cartilage injury happened, we noted that these injuries are very slow to heal, something Richardson can certainly appreciate. Still, he manages to be productive, as long as there is no major setback. Count on him to play again Sunday.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin (P): Turner played in Week 11 (albeit limited snaps) after being limited with a groin injury during practice. Turner practiced every day this week including a full effort on Friday. The probable tag -- an upgrade over last week's questionable status -- indicates the Falcons expect to have him on the field.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts, knee (P): Brown followed an identical practice schedule last week (Thursday off with full work Wednesday and Friday) and suited up in Week 11, so he is expected to do so again. He carried the ball only four times, however, just one-fourth of the number of touches his counterpart Vick Ballard had in the run game. There hasn't been anything specific to suggest Brown's knee was responsible for the way the workload was divided. There also hasn't been any declaration from the Colts that the ratio will change.
Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers, concussion (P): Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer are finally off the injury report, and Redman is almost right there with them. Back in full practice each day after suffering a concussion in Week 11, Redman is expected to be available. If there is a trio of backs, it's not yet clear who will get the bulk of the work. Coach Mike Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "My preference would be to have a healthy, solidified featured runner, but I don't always get what I want in this business, obviously, for a variety of reasons." Neither do we, coach. Neither do we.
Marcel Reece, hamstring/quadriceps (P), and Taiwan Jones, ankle (Q), Oakland Raiders: Reece will not only play, he will start. With McFadden and Goodson out again this week and Jones dealing with an ankle ailment that placed him on the injury report late in the week (Thursday), Reece will be the focus of the running game.
Ronnie Hillman, hamstring, and Knowshon Moreno, groin, Denver Broncos (P): With Willis McGahee essentially done for the remainder of the regular season, it's expected Hillman will lead the charge for the running backs to replace him. Hillman's listing here isn't of concern, as he practiced fully every day and is expected to start. Moreno has not been a factor in the run game, but he could see his first action since September this week.Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (P): Lynch has been on the report nearly every week and hasn't missed a game. Expect him on the field against the Dolphins Sunday.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers, ribs/wrist (P): Gore will play, just as he has each week. He has a few bumps and bruises, but nothing to threaten his status.
Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams, foot (D): Amendola injured his foot last Sunday and remained incapacitated and unable to practice throughout the week. At least the Rams, who play in a late game Sunday, did fantasy owners a favor and listed Amendola as doubtful so everyone could plan ahead for a sub. No predictions yet for next week, as it remains to be seen what Amendola will be able to do with regards to practice.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, ankle (Q): Jones did start last Sunday's game despite not practicing all week with an injured ankle, but he didn't last. Jones was forced to exit the game early when his ankle became a liability. This week Jones has actually been involved on a limited basis in two days' worth of practice, but how confident are the Falcons that Jones can actually play Sunday? Apparently there is still some concern (hence the questionable tag), but given that Jones did more this week than last week, there's a decent chance he'll be available. Obviously, there is the risk that Jones could again suffer an in-game setback, but another week of healing combined with his ability to increase his practice activity inspires more confidence. Fantasy owners need to confirm Jones' status before kickoff (thankfully, this is an early game).
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (Q): Brown is making progress from his high ankle sprain and participated daily in practice, albeit on a limited basis. Based on the combination of the Steelers signing Plaxico Burress and Brown still not able to perform at full capacity, he appears very questionable for Sunday. It could come down to a game-time decision, which carries its own risk.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, groin/abdomen (Q): Jennings was a daily fixture in practice this week as he pushes his return from abdominal surgery. He participated on a limited basis but returned to wearing pads and is eager to get back on the field. But will he? After all the caution to return him only when everyone was confident Jennings was fully ready, it seems that this Sunday might be a little early. Next week seems a more reasonable target. Double-check pregame inactives to be sure.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears, shoulder (P): Marshall appeared on the injury report Wednesday when he did not practice because of his shoulder. He was back to limited work Thursday, though, and put in full practice Friday. He will play Sunday and is hoping Cutler will be back to throw the ball his way.
Donnie Avery, Indianapolis Colts, head (P): Avery suffered a concussion in Week 11 and his status early in the week seemed very much in doubt. Avery returned to practice in full by Wednesday, however, and has suffered no setbacks thus far. At probable, he is expected to play.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, knee (P): Thomas was limited only on Wednesday. Expect him to start as usual.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders, hamstring (P): Heyward-Bey played last week after being a game-time decision, and is in better shape heading into this week's contest. Expect him to play.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs, neck/back (P): Earlier in the week it seemed as though Bowe's neck injury could challenge his availability for this week. Apparently not. Bowe was limited Wednesday but then practiced in full Thursday and Friday and is expected to play.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens, head (P): Pitta suffered a concussion in Week 11 but recovered swiftly enough to return to practice by Wednesday. Barring a setback, Pitta is expected to play against the Chargers.
Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders, shoulder (P): Myers practiced every day including a full day on Friday. Expect him to play.
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.
Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): The doubtful tag earlier said it all; Harvin's ankle just could not get to the stage where he could perform as necessary to play this week. On Wednesday we said it would come down to functionality and it did, as in Harvin could not function as a wide receiver. Now three weeks since the injury, Harvin's swelling has decreased but he is still likely dealing with the soreness and weakness that accompany more severe sprains. We'll see if he can get back on the field next week.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (concussion): Vick has yet to begin practicing and will be out for Monday night's game against the Panthers. Nick Foles will start.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (concussion): McCoy is also ruled out of Monday night's game due to a concussion. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder says McCoy still has headaches and wants to sleep a lot. Bryce Brown will start in his place.
Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder) and Byron Leftwich (ribs), QBs, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger is making progress from his injury and was even seen out of a sling this week. Leftwich is now perhaps in more pain than Roethlisberger after suffering multiple broken ribs last week. Charlie Batch is the next man up.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, RB, Oakland Raiders (ankle): Lather. Rinse. Repeat. McFadden and Goodson are both making improvements but are not ready to return to action. It's another Marcel Reece start in Oakland.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears (knee): Jeffery underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this week and has been projected to miss two to four weeks.
Domenik Hixon, WR, New York Giants (ankle): Hixon is out this week with an ankle injury after not practicing all week.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ribs): Broken ribs, especially more than one, will certainly sideline a receiver. Cotchery sits out this week.
Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers (hamstring): Royal has been dealing with up-and-down hamstring issues this fall. He did not practice all week and will be out against the Ravens.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (foot): He thinks he's not far from a return, but once again, it's not happening this week.
Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now this Sunday airing on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!