This is a week in which we’ll have more clarity on many of the running back injuries after the games than before unfortunately. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for late breaking updates as the inactives are reported.
Arian Foster left Thursday’s practice with soreness in his knee, then did not practice Friday. Foster says he’s playing, but Gary Kubiak said Foster’s status will depend on how he looks in pregame warmups. There’s no specific information on the nature of Foster’s injury. Foster says his soreness is around the knee but doesn’t involve the knee itself and your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. The Texans have a more than capable replacement in Ben Tate and it is possible Foster’s workload could be limited even if he’s active. Fantasy recommendation: Foster’s matchup is too good to leave him on the bench if he’s active.
Adrian Peterson just began taking contact in practice late this week, but continues to insist he’s ready to play. The team continues to take a cautious approach with him but there are reports this weekend that Peterson could see 12-15 carries. I think we’re still likely a few weeks away from seeing Peterson as the Vikings’ primary ball carrier, but there’s a chance Peterson could surprise today. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Peterson a boom-bust RB2 only. 12-15 carries is possible, but fewer than 10 touches is much more likely.
Trent Richardson has reportedly looked good all week and will reportedly start today. Most observers believe that the Browns will limit his workload in the first couple of weeks, but the lack of an inspiring option below him on the depth chart could mean that Richardson gets a surprisingly high number of touches this week if the Browns can keep this game close. Fantasy recommendation: Richardson can be used as a RB2 today.
Marshawn Lynch is likely to play after showing improvement over the last 48 hours and should still considered a game time decision. His back spasms could worsen at any time, but expect the Seahawks to lean on him heavily if he’s active. Robert Turbin would see nearly all of Lynch’s prospective touches if Lynch cannot play. Fantasy recommendation: Sit Lynch only if you cannot make a late lineup change or you have another clear top 15 option.
Steve Johnson was back to a limited practice on Friday after sitting out Thursday with soreness in his surgically repaired groin. Johnson said earlier in the preseason that his groin had not yet fully recovered, but downplayed this most recent episode of soreness. One of the few receivers to have some success against Darrelle Revis, Johnson may struggle to be as productive in this matchup. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Johnson as a WR3, but temper your expectations.
Austin Collie was a “full go” according to Chuck Pagano early this week and practiced fully on Wednesday. Since Wednesday, however, Collie has been limited in practice and was cryptic about his playing status in post-practice interviews. He’s listed as having a head injury, so the questionable tag is presumably related to his recent concussion. It’s odd that the team would make him available for media interviews if he had a recurrence of symptoms after Wednesday’s practice, but Collie’s answers strongly hint that he and the Colts have decided to err on the side of caution. Call him a game time decision, but I don’t expect him to play. Fantasy recommendation: WR3 if active, but expect to use another option this week.
Marques Colston’s missed practice on Wednesday was a surprise, but his foot injury seems like a minor issue after he practiced both Thursday and Friday. Colston has a long history of playing through injury and it’ll be a surprise if he’s not active and starting. Fantasy recommendation: Use Colston as you normally would this week.
Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne both practiced fully both Thursday and Friday. Both were considered very questionable for Week 1 late in the preseason, but both look likely to start Sunday after the team left both Barrett Ruud and Jonathan Vilma on the exempt list. Lofton likely plays every down; Hawthorne may be replaced in subpackages by Jonathan Casillas. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Lofton a LB2+. Use Hawthorne as a LB4 in deep, tackle heavy leagues only.
Chris Wells had been showing marginal improvement in his recovery from offseason knee surgery, but now has a hamstring injury that’s likely related to the knee issues – either due to compensation for continued knee pain or the re-conditioning process. Though the team was reportedly set to start Wells, Ryan Williams is now likely to get the majority of the team’s carries. Williams was arguably the more football-ready back anyway. Fantasy recommendation: Wells is a risky flex play only if he’s active. Consider Williams a flex start if Wells is active, a low level RB2 play if Wells sits.
Ron Rivera remains adamant that Jonathan Stewart’s ankle sprain is a classic low ankle sprain, but I’m still not fully convinced. Certainly the low ankle sprain mechanism was the most dramatic on replay, but there were other injury mechanisms that could be complicating his return. The Panthers haven’t ruled Stewart out, but it’ll be very surprising if Stewart plays after not practicing all week. Though Tampa Bay has a number of promising young defenders across the front seven, they’re transitioning to a new defense and not proven. DeAngelo Williams could be very productive with Stewart out, though we could see Mike Tolbert carry the ball in a minor rotational role. Fantasy recommendation: Avoid Stewart if he’s active. Consider Williams a strong RB2 play if Stewart sits as expected. [Ed. 10:00 ET: Stewart tweeted that he will not dress today. Like Williams as a potential top 10 option.]
Steve Smith looks to be fully recovered from his foot infection and should not be limited. Fantasy recommendation: Use Smith as you normally would. He’ll have WR2+ value today.
Jon Beason has practiced fully all week and should start at middle linebacker. However, Joe Person told me on Twitter Thursday night that he expects to see the Panthers play four different linebackers based on down and distance situations. Fantasy recommendation: None of the four Carolina linebackers should be considered more than LB3 starts today. One or more may put up nice numbers, but consider Beason, Luke Kuechly and James Anderson risk-reward plays only.
Dustin Keller has been running at full speed this week on the side and reportedly felt good running routes during Friday’s practice. He’s considered a game time decision, but looks likely to play. Fantasy recommendation: Keller is a low lever TE1 start today.
Denarius Moore is reportedly running well on the side and showing the first signs of being able to cut comfortably after missing multiple weeks with a re-aggravated hamstring strain. The Raiders haven’t ruled him out for Monday night, but he’s likely at least a week a way from effective play and will be at risk of another aggravation if he goes this week. Fantasy recommendation: Put Moore in your lineup as a WR3/flex only if you have another option to swap in if he’s inactive and you like to live on the very edge of the upside curve.
Rashard Mendenhall practiced fully all week, but likely won’t return to active duty on gameday for some time. Isaac Redman is probable, but has ankle and hip injuries that will likely limit his workload. Jonathan Dwyer will share time with Redman and may get the bulk of the team’s carries if he plays well early. Fantasy recommendation: Only Dwyer is safe to consider as a flex play this week. Avoid Redman until he shows he can handle 15 touches.
All indications are that Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers will be available and starting for Kansas City. Jovan Belcher was listed as limited Friday after missing practice Thursday with a groin injury. Linebackers coach Gary Gibbs said today he was confident that both Johnson and Belcher would play. Fantasy recommendation: If active, use Johnson unless you have another a top 20 option available.
James Harrison didn’t practice on Thursday or Friday and is likely at least a week away from returning. Jason Worilds will start in his place. Ryan Clark will not play in Denver, where the slightly lower concentration of oxygen could precipitate complications with his sickle cell anemia.
Daryl Smith is out this week and will be a major loss for the Jacksonville defense. Smith was arguably the team’s best nickel linebacker and a stabilizing presence in the run defense. Though the Jaguars have capable coverage safeties, Minnesota tight end Kyle Rudolph should have an easier time finding open space this week. Justin Blackmon tweaked an ankle on Wednesday, but practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and should be near full strength.
Brian Urlacher practiced fully all week, but admits he’s not 100% recovered from the knee issues that required surgery just before camp. The Bears aren’t expected to limit his snaps, but there’s no guarantee he’ll make it through the season.
Sione Po’uha has been limited all week with a back injury, and while he was reportedly practicing without limitations in the media portion of practice, Rex Ryan suggested he’d prefer to hold Po’uha out. It would be a big loss to the interior run defense and good news for Fred Jackson between the tackles.
Miami starting offensive linemen Jake Long and John Jerry are fighting nagging injuries, but both returned to a full practice Friday and should play. With both less than 100%, the strong Houston front seven will likely make life very difficult for Ryan Tannehill.
Ryan Mathews isn’t yet cleared for contact, but his recovery is progressing as expected. Able to run and work out with fewer restrictions, his conditioning should not be a major issue when he is cleared for contact. There’s a chance that could happen next week.
Jerrell Freeman will replace Pat Angerer in the starting lineup and presumably play every down alongside Kavell Conner. Freeman has been inconsistent in the past two preseason games, but has flashed intriguing potential on the practice field. There are a host of other possible options on the Colts’ depth chart, but it’s Freeman’s job to lose.
Braylon Edwards will start for Golden Tate, who could be out some time with a knee injury. Despite having a hematoma drained recently, Doug Baldwin is back practicing fully and will be in the slot. Sidney Rice has also held up well in multiple practices after missing much of the preseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
Brooks Reed is also a game time decision after suffering a hip injury during practice on Thursday. Kubiak hinted that Reed was less likely to play than Foster. Whitney Mercilus will see an expanded role if Reed can’t go. There’s no worry with J.J. Watt, who will be at close to full strength after dislocating his elbow earlier in the preseason.
Categories: Sunday Expectations
This is invaluable advice and unlike anything else on the internet. It’s also a lot of work. I really appreciate it and as I mentioned before, don’t be afraid to make this a pay-site. This is really kick-ass stuff.
I have A. Foster and I’m going to start him. Like you said, the match-up and his talent are a must-start even if less than ideal injury situation.
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He’s the diggy diggy docta!
Big ups Dr J. as always.