This is the make-or-break week. While some leagues are starting their playoffs, the vast majority are in that last week. Some teams are in, some out, but it's the ones on the edge that are on edge around the office. Trash talk has gone quiet. There's some that are like the Texans or Bears, hanging on, hoping to build around the injuries that have foiled their best-laid plans. Some are like the Bills, falling apart piece-by-piece and just hoping to back into the playoffs. Some are like the Dolphins, finding themselves in the second half and hoping they can sneak in past that guy whose team is falling apart. There are a lot of ways fantasy football is nothing like the real thing, but watching team owners chew down Pepcid is a reminder that it's very, very real if you're as passionate as most owners. Let's get to the Week 13 injuries:
Once you get past how much McFadden looks like Kanye West, the only thing separating McFadden from being one of the five best running backs in the NFL is durability. McFadden is neck and neck with Adrian Peterson if you don't count the three or four games he seems to miss every season. His foot sprain is taking longer than the Raiders seemed to expect, but not longer than normal and certainly not longer when you consider McFadden's injury history. McFadden is out of the walking boot, but we won't know until late week practices whether McFadden will be ready to contribute on Sunday. Even if he does, he's going to come back slowly, sharing carries with Michael Bush, so don't get too excited if he's active.
We've gotten to the point where high ankle sprains are just "HAS" in the discussion. It's common enough now to have its own acronym, but there's still not a lot of understanding. While no high ankle sprain is good, like any sprain, there are degrees of sprain. A sprain is a tearing of a ligament, in this case the one between the tibia and fibula, and yes, mild tearing means a mild, low-grade sprain. Peterson's low-grade sprain leaves the medical staff some hope he can be back this week, even in a limited role. That said, he'll need to do more than just run. That's the easy part, so don't be fooled by "Peterson's running at practice!" reports. His ability (or inability) to accelerate and cut will be the tough part. The Vikings will give Peterson every chance to play, but Toby Gerhart is more likely to be back at RB1 this week.
The Giants could have used Bradshaw against the Saints. They could have used lots of things against the Saints, who are once again looking like a team that could play deep into January. The Giants will end up a measuring stick on that as the Giants face the Packers this weekend. There's an open question as to whether Bradshaw will be a part of that game either. His foot is simply not healing quickly enough or completely enough to let him get back out on the field. In fact, he's still not cleared to run. There's an additional complicating factor of the field. There have been reports from both the Giants and Jets that the MetLife turf is oddly hard, at least in places. Turf games might end up being a big issue for Bradshaw even after he comes back, and three of five games are on the fake stuff.
It's strange to be talking about Smith in the same breath as Peterson, but fantasy football is weird that way. Smith's high ankle sprain still is a bit confusing. While it appeared to happen on a reverse, when he turned, a look back at the video shows he was having problems a couple plays earlier, even waving to the sidelines at one point. I think the last play where we saw him hobble was more an exacerbation than an actual mechanism of injury. Regardless, the ankle is going to keep Smith hobbled another week at least. While it's considered minor, it doesn't look like Smith will make it back. He's running a bit, but as we've seen time and again, it's not running that's the hard part; it's stopping, cutting and lateral movement, none of which Smith has at this point. He'll be a GTD at best.
Manning is headed to see his surgeon for a final check on his spinal fusion. The doctors will be checking for stability and if the bone they placed in between the vertebrae has properly fused. This has nothing to do with his ability to play QB or do his daily activities. There's been precious little change or news for Manning, leading to outrageous parsing of the slightest sign or word. When Manning showed up with his young son, people
Recurrent concussions aren't good. When Rice fell awkwardly, missing a defender, it appeared he was bracing for, and ended up going head first into, the turf. It was very clear he was at least briefly unconscious. The "fencer's response" where the arms go straight out make it impossible to dance around the facts. It's one of those situations that can't be helped. He wasn't hit; he just fell the wrong way. Absent a major advance in helmets, there's nothing Rice, the team or the NFL can do to prevent it. Rice was placed on the IR after it was determined he would miss at least a couple of games. As with any concussion, the worry is that there will be long-term implications, so the Seahawks will take the short-term hit on a team that's not going anywhere to try to protect his future. Smart move in a scary situation.
The Steelers just don't like to say "concussion." They'll say "symptoms" and follow the protocols, but their disdain for the term is unusual in today's NFL. Other teams clearly dance around the term and do silly "grass in his eye" things, but the