Will Carroll
Thursday November 17th, 2011

There's a problem of perception with injuries. When one happens to your team's star player, suddenly everything is wrong. Injuries are up! The lockout! Woe! If it's someone else, or one of the faceless linemen or special teams' players, well, it's just part of the game.

Injuries aren't up significantly, but if you ask someone in Houston or Kansas City, I can bet they think they're up. It's this perception that injuries are unavoidable, unknowable, and unquestionable among the media that fuels this. Even with sideline reporters ubiquitous across sports, we seldom have one that does more than repeat the party line. Injuries are another commercial break. The Injured Reserve is a puff of smoke that causes that player to vanish, perhaps seen, briefly, on the sidelines when the storyline calls for it. We do the same in fantasy. When a player is injured, even a star, we cut them and move on, looking back only to complain about our bad luck. This is just a reminder that what we think is true should always be questioned until we can prove it's true. It's harder to check with injuries, but that's why I'm here for you.

UPGRADE: Lance Ball DOWNGRADE: LaDainian Tomlinson, Willis McGahee

Tomlinson was hoping to get ready despite the short week, but his MCL did not hold up to even a light workload. He won't play and it's iffy even with the extra rest heading into Week 12. Shonn Greene will get the start, but watch Joe McKnight, who's been factoring more and more into the run game. The rest of the Jets' long injury list should play normally, including Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis. The Broncos are waiting to see if Willis McGahee will be able to go. He's a GTD-, which puts Lance Ball back in position for a big day in the "Denveer" run game. If both Ryan Clady and Chris Clark can go on the line, the Denver attack will be even tougher and they're both GTD+.

It just had to be Albert Haynesworth, didn't it? Schaub caught his foot underneath the big new Buccaneer and ended up with a significant sprain in his foot. It's the dreaded Lisfranc sprain, which isn't better or worse than a Lisfranc fracture. The ligament is in the same area and creates a great deal of pain when it is torn like this.

Schaub saw a couple foot specialists, including Dr. David Porter in Indianapolis, to determine the extent of the injury. There's massive swelling at this stage, with Schaub describing the foot as the size of a "cinder block." Even if Schaub doesn't need surgery, it would be very difficult for him to return this season. Schaub should be fine for next year, but right now, the Texans' season is going to hinge on Matt Leinart's ability to keep the offense moving forward. The bye will help, as will the return of Andre Johnson (nothing new on him this week as the hamstring continues to heal), but the one thing the Texans know works is the running game. A steady diet of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and even Derrick Ward could push 35 or 40 carries, with Leinart asked just to move the chains and keep the defense honest.

There are still a lot of blanks in the story of what happened to Cassel. The Chiefs won't confirm any details -- what the injury is, how it happened, what the plan is -- aside from "season-ending injury requiring surgery." What is known is that Cassel's hand was injured near the end of the game ... or was it? There's some question about this being an injury to the anatomic wrist, perhaps a fracture-dislocation of some sort, but the effect would be the same. There's also a report that Cassel had a significant strain, getting one of his fingers peeled back, snapping the tendons that are necessary for grip and throwing. Again, the effect is the same. Cassel's out, Tyler Palko is in, and a season defined by injury for the Chiefs gets one more entry on the IR.

I've gone back and watched the game rewind a couple times. I still don't see where Vick broke his ribs, aside from the hit late in the game where he took what looked like a helmet to the kidney and stayed down. Certainly, if he had fractured ribs at that point, he would have stayed down more. This isn't to say it didn't happen, just that there wasn't an apparent effect. That would lead me to believe he could do what Tony Romo did and play with an advanced flak jacket. (Then again, why wasn't he wearing one in the first place?)

The Eagles are calling Vick day to day, which indicates they'll give him every chance to play. Beyond that, Andy Reid doesn't seem sure if Vince Young or Mike Kafka would get the start in Vick's absence. Vick shouldn't miss much time, if any, but he continues to take too many hits in too many ways. Until that changes, he's simply too risky to make use of all the talent he has. Speaking of talent, getting DeSean Jackson might help Vick as much as any padding.

Stafford played through a fractured index finger last week, which sounds worse than it is. The mechanics of throwing and gripping a football rely less on the index finger than you'd think. If you have a football around, go ahead and grab it. Now, pull your index finger off it. Easier than you thought? It's the same for throwing, where the thumb and middle finger do the bulk of the work. The index finger does offer some touch, which could explain some of Stafford's inaccuracy. It certainly didn't keep the Lions from calling pass after pass. Stafford should be able to continue adjusting and playing, though you do need to consider the risk that he could take a hit and be forced out, which is something probably baked in to any valuation of Stafford already.

If you just finished reading about Stafford and his finger, you'll notice how key the thumb is to doing the things a QB has to do. Roethlisberger has a history of thumb issues, so at the very least, we know that he knows how to adjust. Roethlisberger fractured his thumb during the Cincinnati game and showed no real ill effects. He gets the bye week and shouldn't miss any time. The Steelers have shown that they're willing to shift things around to help Roethlisberger, so expect a bit more in the way of shotgun sets.

Gore is used to knee injuries, so a bruise? That's nothing to a guy who's gone through a couple ACL reconstructions. It is painful and the cascade possibilities of adding to an already sore ankle made pulling him the smart move for the Niners medical staff. Gore is a bit iffy this week, but it does look like he'll play. The downside for Gore's fantasy owners is that he'll definitely be giving some of his normal touches to Kendall Hunter. It's a bad thing in the short term, but should allow Gore to hold some value (he'll still likely get the red zone touches) while healing up for the fantasy playoffs. Hunter's a more solid play, especially in deep leagues, for this week and maybe next, but Gore's not unplayable unless Jim Harbaugh decides to sit him for a week, which doesn't seem to be the case just yet. He's definitely one to watch Sunday, but it's a late game, which makes it a bit tougher.

It was a bad week for Maclin. His team lost, but during the game he suffered not one, but two injuries. Maclin got blown up early in the game, taking a serious (but clean) hit that stopped him in midair. Unfortunately, his shoulder kept going, separating and dropping him to the ground. Maclin was able to come back from this once the medical staff had the shoulder stabilized, but when he got back on the field, he strained a hamstring and had to come off the field again. With DeSean Jackson out, there was some question about whether Maclin was forced into action, but it's hard to say how one injury contributed to the other. The shoulder injury seems to be the bigger problem heading into a big matchup with the Giants, so watch practice reports. Maclin is likely to be a GTD this week.

Jones didn't have a setback with his hamstring, as originally reported. Instead, he injured the other one. The right hamstring is the issue now and given how much he missed before, he has to be considered iffy for this week as well. The Falcons tend to be more conservative with injuries than they are with fourth down calls, plus Harry Douglas played well as a fill-in. The Falcons will give Jones every chance to play, but after last week, they'll be more careful here. That makes Jones a tough play for this week and downgrades Matt Ryan a bit as well, since Jones is his real home run threat.

Speculation about a Tom Brady injury is "laughable and unprofessional," according to a source close to Brady ... Darren McFadden is finally making some progress with his foot, getting out of the walking boot. It may not be in time for this week, but there's finally some good news. Michael Bush's play has given the Raiders time to let McFadden heal up ... Ahmad Bradshaw is very unlikely to play in Week 11, but there's some evidence that he could be back in the next few weeks if he continues to be pain free ... Peyton Hillis is out again this week as there continue to be whispers that the Browns may shut him down and show him the door. Montario Hardesty is also very iffy for this week ... Felix Jones isn't ready to get into a timeshare with DeMarco Murray, so don't read short carries as "backup" if he does play this week. The Cowboys are expecting an inside/outside platoon of sorts once Jones is fully healthy ... Jahvid Best has still not been cleared to play. He's out for at least Week 11 ... Calvin Johnson was evaluated and cleared for a possible concussion last week ... A.J. Green is running well after last week's scary hyperextension on his TD catch. He's expected to play normally ... Sidney Rice is expected to play on Sunday after a concussion last week. Watch the Friday practice report to make sure he's back there before locking him in for Sunday ... Andre Johnson is expected back for week 12, giving Matt Leinart a target, but don't get too excited. Johnson needs to show the acceleration is back in practice next week before we pencil him back into fantasy lineups. I'm still hearing he's showing a real drop-off ... Maybe Jacoby Ford got Darren McFadden's walking boot. Ford is out this week with a sprained ankle ... Roger Saffold is going to try to play through a bone bruise on his fibula. That can't make Sam Bradford too confident ... Devin McCourty will miss a couple of weeks after separating his shoulder last Sunday night. Expect him back on the short side of the two to four week estimates ... Antoine Winfield had his broken collarbone plated and hits IR, ending his season ... Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he suffered "torn ligaments" last week. He's no doctor, but he's not wrong either. It's a moderate ankle sprain, so don't look for him back before Week 12 at the earliest.

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