There are multiple reports this morning that Aaron Hernandez is not playing today. All indications were that he’d be ready to play after resting through the bye week, practicing all week and talking to reporters as if he’d play. There are two possibilities here. Perhaps the plan all along has been to allow him to work in limited fashion through this week and give him four weeks of rest to allow his syndesmotic sprain to fully heal. But there has to be some concern that a setback of some kind occurred during Friday’s practice. We’ll know Hernandez’s Week 10 status for certain in a few hours, but his long-term status is more difficult to handicap. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Hernandez week-to-week. Anything from a Week 11 return to an additional 1-2 week absence is possible.
Danny Amendola returns today. Conditioning shouldn’t be an issue, as Amendola has been allowed to run for over a month. The harness / padding the medical staff will provide some additional support to the SC joint should limit Amendola’s catch radius significantly. Fantasy recommendation: The road matchup against San Francisco is borderline, but Amendola is a trustworthy WR3 (WR3++ in PPR leagues) today.
I expressed a pointed concern about Calvin Johnson’s “nerve damage” on the live Audible podcast Thursday night. I thought it was odd that Johnson had so much to say on his knee issues and the concussion / nerve damage problems in past weeks, as the Lions are known for keeping the information they release on player injuries vague. And Johnson’s comments implying that he had grip weakness on both sides of his body were a major red flag. Stingers – a stretch injury to a nerve that causes numbness, weakness and / or pain – are injuries to the plexus of nerves outside the spinal column. It would be a rare sort of bad luck to have that injury on both sides on the body. Symptoms on both sides of the body usually suggest some compression inside the spinal column itself and a chronic condition that could require surgery or an earlier than expected end to a player’s career. It’s not uncommon, however, for an athlete to be unclear about an injury when speaking with the media. Assuming the symptoms were known to the medical staff, Johnson would not have been cleared to play. So, it’s not surprising that Johnson greatly minimized those symptoms to the media the following day. In the end, I think it’s likely much ado about nothing and that Johnson’s description of his injury was more confusing than accurate. The larger reason for worry is that his knee soreness will continue to cause inconsistency in his play. Fantasy recommendation: Start Johnson as you normally would, but don’t panic if his production doesn’t match his Week 9 efforts.
Owen Daniels is a game-time decision with a lower back / hip contusion that has severely limited him in practice this week. Gary Kubiak refused to rule him out, however, and it’s possible that Daniels could make enough progress to play by Sunday night. It’s very likely he’ll have difficult separating from coverage and see his snaps limited to a small number of packages, however, and another hit or fall could knock him out early. Fantasy recommendation: There’s too much risk to leave Daniels in your lineup and there’s no ready hedge to roster as a Plan B. Sit Daniels this week.
It’s hard to know just how healthy Hakeem Nicks is right now. After reportedly experiencing another episode of significant knee swelling after last week’s game, Nicks practiced later in the week, said his swelling was just a “little puffiness” and declared himself to be as healthy as he’s been all year. The truth here, as always, lies in-between. It’s not uncommon for players to have a “little puffiness” after a game. Over half the league would be listed as questionable on the injury report if “puffiness” was a big concern. However, knee swelling is what cost Nicks multiple weeks early in the season and, though he looked better than his stat line suggests last week, there’s no denying that Nicks has been inconsistent getting up to speed and with his routes in most weeks. Fantasy recommendation: I’m not benching Nicks for a wide receiver outside the top 25. But drop him into the risk-reward WR3++ tier and consider him more sensitive to matchups than in previous seasons until his stat lines are more consistent.
Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are listed as questionable, but are expected to play. Both situations feel like the usual New England approach – limit the practice of an injured veteran and list him questionable despite a very minor injury. Expect both to play and, with Aaron Hernandez reportedly out, see an above-average number of targets today. Fantasy recommendation: Lloyd is on the safer side of the boom-bust WR3 tier. Welker easily has a WR1 ceiling.
Marshawn Lynch should be at full strength today. His wrist injury did not look significant last week and Lynch’s probable tag suggests that his missed early week practices are a continued attempt by the team to limit his practice reps. Though the back issues could recur at any time, Lynch hasn’t had any problems when active on game day this year and today shouldn’t be any different. Fantasy recommendation: Start Lynch as you normally would.
Stevie Johnson is expected to play through a thigh contusion today. He was not running well after the injury last week, however, and it’s difficult to know how he’ll perform today. If he had minimal bleeding in the muscle, a week of rest and rehab should be enough to keep the injury from limiting him much. If he had more extensive bleeding, the inflammation and muscle spasm that accompanies larger hematomas will make it difficult for him to be effective today. Fantasy recommendation: The matchup today is favorable enough to risk starting Johnson as a boom-bust WR3. But don’t hesitate to sit him if you’ve got other strong options.
Categories: Sunday Expectations
Great stuff, Dr. Jene. Must read.