A few quick hitters on last Thursday night’s injuries and a couple of players already ruled out for today before I run the list of Sunday concerns.
Though the nature of his knee injury remains unknown, Hakeem Nicks was able to take part in the team’s walkthrough on Friday. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s closer to returning, but it’s the first positive sign we’ve seen in two weeks. I’ve speculated that a minor cartilage or meniscus injury was a worst-case possibility, but I think that’s less likely with each passing day that Nicks doesn’t return and doesn’t have surgery. Hopefully, he’s been dealing with a bruise that took longer than expected to heal and the extra 2-3 weeks of rest have helped his foot soreness to settle as well. Expect to hear more on Nicks early next week; a return to limited practice on Thursday would be an excellent sign.
There won’t be any new news on Greg Jennings for another week or two. With luck, Jennings hasn’t suffered a higher grade groin strain that would keep him out 4-6 weeks, but I doubt we’ll see him return until Week 7.
Ryan Williams is only admitting to a shoulder injury after the big hit he took Thursday night. While he did take a direct hit on his shoulder, there was also a clear helmet-to-helmet component to the hit. Williams said his whole arm went numb, which often means a stinger. Most players with a stinger try to shake their arm to relieve the numbness and pain. Williams laid motionless face down and the trainers weren’t paying any particular attention to his shoulder on the sideline. This may well be another Michael Vick “dirt in the eye” situation. I think there’s reason to worry about a concussion in addition to the reported shoulder injury in the coming week.
There were early week reports that Julio Jones was bothered by his hand laceration last week. Though there are areas on the hand on which a laceration could limit a receiver, Jones denied those reports. There were multiple near misses on Jones’ eight targets last week and no drops that suggested his injury was a problem. Now two weeks after the laceration and with a full week of practice behind him, there’s even less reason to worry about the laceration. Fantasy recommendation: Start Jones with confidence.
There’s a report from Mike Reiss this morning that Rob Gronkowski’s hip condition may be more severe than what has been previously reported. Whether it’s a chronic condition (e.g. labral tear, flexor strain) or continued soreness limiting him after a more acute injury (e.g. hip pointer) is unclear. His production wasn’t limited last week (five catches, 104 yards and a touchdown) but Reiss is a very trustworthy Patriots’ source. It’s something to be monitored. Fantasy recommendation: Don’t sit Gronkowski, but monitor his snap count and usage.
Reggie Bush favored his injured leg at times last week but made it through a nearly full workload without an obvious setback. However, he’s been on the injury report this week with a hip condition. It’s likely that his hip issue is a compensatory condition, but two consecutive full practices suggest it’s a minor problem. There’s some risk of aggravating either the knee or hip injury today, but his practice participation suggests that Bush will be trusted with a full workload barring a unexpected issue in warmups or during the game. Fantasy recommendation: Bush is a safe RB2 today.
Most players returning from a significant ankle sprain will feel a tweak or two in their first game back, especially if their returning at the early end of their expected recovery timetable. That was the case with Matt Forte last week, and it was a good sign that he was able to finish the game without any obvious setbacks. After a full week of practice (including full participation on Friday), he can be considered near full strength. Fantasy recommendation: A rotation with Michael Bush (including goal line snaps) is still a concern, but Forte is a RB2 with upside against Jacksonville today.
Though Jeremy Maclin may not fully recover from his hip pointer for another week or two, he’s now off the injury report and practicing fully. Philadelphia beat writer Sheil Kapadia wrote a terrific breakdown of Maclin using the All-22 views this week, showing that Maclin was open more often than his low target count may have suggested last week. That’s not a guarantee that Maclin can separate deep or underneath consistently yet, but it’s comforting to know that he wasn’t just a decoy last week. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Maclin as a WR2 / WR3.
Pierre Garcon wasn’t able to get to full speed quickly last week and didn’t come out of his breaks crisply, but didn’t appear to be severely limited by his foot injury. He has now had two weeks of consecutive practices and hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his foot or suffered a compensatory muscle strain. He may again miss a few snaps today, but he’s likely to be a bigger part of the game plan this week. Fantasy recommendation: Garcon is a safe start as your WR3.
I believe Week 5 has always been the target for Rashard Mendenhall. Holding him off the PUP list allowed the team to re-acclimate him in practice slowly over the first month rather than restrict him from practice for six weeks. All indications are that he went through two weeks of consecutive full practices and is ready to go today. It’s still unlikely that he’ll return to an 18+ touch workload immediately, but he’ll get an opportunity to prove he’s ready for his past usage right away. Today’s game with Philadelphia is tough to handicap, however. Facing an improved front seven against the run and an offense that could put points up early, there’s no guarantee that the Steelers will run the ball enough to give Mendenhall more than 10-12 touches in rotation. Fantasy recommendation: Mendenhall is worth consideration as a flex play in deeper leagues, but it’s best to observe him for a week before trusting him as a fantasy option.
Ben Tate reportedly has a toe sprain. Gary Kubiak said that Tate could play Monday night after two consecutive limited practices late this week. There’s been no specific information about which toe Tate has injured or the severity of the sprain, but I don’t expect the Texans to push Tate to play at all this week. Even if he’s active and the game is well in hand late, Tate likely sees a small number of touches at best. Fantasy recommendation: The Monday night game makes this an even easier decision. Keep Tate on your bench this week.
Kenny Britt is listed questionable, but he missed practice Friday after trying to return and was said to be “not close to playing” last week by Mike Munchak. I’m still bothered by Munchak’s reference of Colin McCarthy when discussing Britt’s injury, which raises a strong possibility that Britt’s ankle injury is a high ankle sprain. While I may be reading more into that comment than I should, I’m expecting at least another week’s absence for Britt. Since he’s yet to practice fully, he’s extremely unlikely to see more than a handful of snaps if he’s active today. Fantasy recommendation: Avoid Britt if he’s active.
Aaron Hernandez was able to return to a limited practice this week. He’s just three weeks out from what I believe to be a mid-grade high ankle sprain. We’ve seen Hernandez play through injury before, but returning to play three weeks is pushing it after this injury. If Hernandez is active, expect to see him in a few high leverage packages only. More likely, the Patriots are easing him back into practice slowly, with the expectation that he will return in a limited role for Week 6. I wouldn’t expect to see Hernandez at full strength until closer to Week 8. Fantasy recommendation: If active, use Hernandez only as a desperation play with the hope that he’ll cash in a red zone opportunity.
Derrick Johnson ~ I have no specific news from KC, but indications are that he’s much less likely to play through this groin injury than the sprained ankle earlier this season. Make sure you have a backup plan in place. Jovan Belcher would likely move into an every-down role if Johnson is inactive.
Colin McCarthy ~ He’s a game time decision, but likely to be limited this week if he goes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a heavy rotation if he’s active. Use him as a desperation LB3 only. Don’t count on Will Witherspoon here, either. He rotated with Zac Diles last week.
Jon Beason ~ He’s very unlikely to play today. Two weeks ago, Ron Rivera hinted that Luke Kuechly would play in the nickel packages if Beason sat. This week, Kuechly was taking reps at MLB with Jason Phillips. I’m betting that Kuechly plays MLB, with Thomas Davis outside and the two split nickel reps alongside James Anderson. Consider Anderson a borderline LB1 and Kuechly a clear LB3 with upside.
Erin Henderson ~ He will return this week, but it’s very likely that Jasper Brinkley continues to play his role in nickel packages this week. Henderson is a risky LB3 at best.
William Moore and Roman Harper ~ I have no information on either, but I suspect both are closer to probable than doubtful. Proceed with caution and hedge where you can, but prepare to use both as you normally would.
Categories: Sunday Expectations