Who's in and who's out? Your last minute med check for Week 1

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I'm so excited for football season that I feel like dancing around like that Numa Numa kid. Ok, maybe not that excited, but close. We'll do a couple things different this year to make this better. Doing something 'last minute' is tough, even at Internet speed, because of how things go up. We've structured things so that you get a good read on how things will play out when we first get this up before 11am Eastern, but then, like Peyton Manning, I'll have the freedom to change the play, giving you updates right up to kickoff to make sure the information is as close to perfect as I can get it. I can't make you the promise that we won't miss one or that a true gametime decision won't throw things off, but I can tell you that I'm working each week to get darn close. Each player (or section) has a rating, one of four easy to note things if you're just scanning. I shouldn't have to explain Green, Yellow, and Red -- they're simple ascending risk -- but CWM isn't a color. It stands for "check with me," a football term the QB says when he's going to call an audible at the line. I'll leave that for the players that I'll be checking on heading into gametime.


No significiant injuries for either team.



Willis McGahee (RED): The Ravens started backpedaling when the OIR came out, saying they wanted to be sure McGahee was ready to go. He's a gametime decision to play, but Ray Rice is going to get the majority of carries and is the better start this week as McGahee continues to heal up from minor knee surgery. The probable designation means he'll probably see the field, but no one seems sure how much.

Todd Heap (YELLOW): Add this to McGahee's odd probable and the new coaching staff in Baltimore and it's tougher to read than one on a team with known tendencies. For Heap, he's one of only two TEs on the roster and will be a big target for Joe Flacco as well as a safety valve. The leg should limit him, but not enough to not use him if he's your TE1.

DST (YELLOW): Ed Reed and Kelly Gregg are going to be limited, if they play, exposing some rookies. We'll see if the big hitting D can cover them in the first week.

Update (11:22 p.m.): The Ravens are confirming that McGahee will get the start. Rice will get significant, if not the majority of carries.


Kenny Watson (YELLOW): Watson has the feature role now and if the passing game opens things up, he might be a big fantasy scorer. Problem is that he's never really been a durable guy and that's without the workload of a feature back. His hamstrings are already a problem this season and tempers the excitement. He'll play this week.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh (GREEN): Listed as probable, his hamstring didn't appear to be a problem in practice. He'll see the WR1 role on Sunday and will test some deep routes.

Chad Ocho Cinco (YELLOW): The name alone should get him listed as "doubtful - brain cramp" but it's the shoulder that's the worry. He's in a harness, but if he takes a big hit or lands the wrong way, his season is done. Naturally, he's starting against a big hitting team. If he gets a couple good games in, it's time to think about a trade. (Want to know how you know if your injury info is coming from someone who's talked to the right people? Ask if Chad will be wearing a harness. It's not "might" or "may"; he will, and it won't be a big issue for his play.)



Deion Branch (RED): Branch is out. He hasn't made it back far enough from knee surgery, but the fact that this was in doubt is a good sign. He's not a bad stash if you have the bench space or a DL. He's still their best WR once he's ready.

Bobby Engram (RED): So Matt Hasselbeck is going to be throwing to guys who's names you don't know. The shoulder injury has Engram out for the first month of the season on the upside. Nate Burleson can only get so many targets, so Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor are going to be names you'll have to learn, especially if you're counting on numbers from Hasselbeck.


O-Line (YELLOW): Jason Peters ended his holdout, but won't play until at least next week. That doesn't mesh well with TurkSchoenert's plan to run more.

DST (GREEN): The defense is strong even with a hobbled Paul Posluzny, but they're a lot better with him. An ankle injury has him slowed and his lateral mobility is key.



Laveranues Coles (CWM): Context counts and if you watch the OIR like I do, you'll know that the Jets are very loose with their "questionable" tags. They end up with the right percentages at the end of the year, but they're always a bit liberal ... or is it conservative? Coles is likely to play, though watch this space for a pre-game update.

Update (11:22 p.m.): The Jets will have all their jets burning for Week 1. Late word is that Coles will play this week. No determination yet on how much he'll play. We know that Brett Favre spreads the ball around, so don't expect Jerricho Cotchery to get significantly more targets than normal no matter how much or little Coles plays.


No significant injuries



Tom Brady (GREEN): What? He's NOT on the OIR? Knowing that Brady is dealing with some sort of post-injury program, we're now asked to believe that he's finally healthy? Forget the facts and focus on the results. Brady will play against a weak defense. That's someone you want starting, sore foot or not.

Ben Watson (RED): The Pats have Watson listed as doubtful and that's a category they don't play with much. Expect Watson to be used sparingly, if at all, with David Thomas getting the start.


Kolby Smith (YELLOW): On many rosters as a handcuff, Smith has had some back problems but appears ready to play. He's not worth a start and the back might have cost him enough in the preseason to lose carries as a changeup.



Joey Galloway (YELLOW): Ah, the mystery that is Galloway. He misses the preseason and now, you have to decide where he fits into the Bucs passing game. Sources tell me he's "95 percent", especially in a straight line, which is where Galloway gets most of his work done.

O-Line (YELLOW): Davin Joseph is unlikely to play, which will affect both the running and passing game. JeffGarcia's scrambling skills negate some of the effects on the passing game, so it's much more Earnest Graham that takes the hit here.


Deuce McAllister (GREEN): The Saints listed him as probable despite no problems in practice or, actually, for the whole preseason. The knee let him slip down, but he had the same issue in 2006 and was solid.

Aaron Stecker (RED): He's the forgotten man in the backfield, which means you can forget him for now, hamstring problem or not.

Updated (10:30 p.m.): The Saints are waiting to see if Stecker is ready to play before deciding on McAllister's status. McAllister could be made inactive this week after his knees came up sore late in the week. Stecker, dealing with a hamstring strain, will run just before gametime.

Update (11:47 p.m.): McAllister is active for the Saints, which also tells us that Stecker is a bit worse for wear than we had expected. Sources tell me that the Saints will have a true committee approach to the running game, making McAllister a tough start in Week 1.



Brian Leonard (YELLOW): Leonard's shoulder makes him just a backup, rather than a guy who'd likely see a few more carries than normal due to StevenJackson's holdout and the effects on his stamina. The effect is overstated by the media, but still, Leonard's value is near nothing this week.


Reggie Brown (YELLOW): On top of Kevin Curtis, who's out, Brown's chronic hamstring problem has Donovan McNabb throwing to the third and fourth guys on the depth chart. Andy Reid has to hope he drafted well. So do you.



Ahman Green (YELLOW): He's nowhere to be found on the OIR, but no one thinks Green is 100 percent. At best, he's part of a committee, which increases his chances of staying healthy while reducing his chances of helping a fantasy team.


No significant injuries



Jerry Porter (RED): After missing the whole preseason, Porter's still not up to speed, pun intended. He'll need another week of practice before Jack Del Rio is ready to sutit him up. That leaves Reggie Williams and Matt Jones at WR, but don't forget Marcedes Lewis, who David Garrard discovered late in the season.


No significant injuries



WR: Normally I wouldn't group players like this, but if you have Sam Hurd and Miles Austin on your roster, you're in one of those crazy deep leagues that is a step short of having you committed. These injuries don't affect the players themselves, but the context of the players that are available and on rosters. It means more targets for Patrick Crayton and use of Felix Jones in the passing game, while Terrell Owens isn't really affected positively or negatively.

DST (GREEN): It's not like the Cowboys don't have depth. If Terrence Newman can't go, Adam Jones is ready to return to the NFL.


Jamal Lewis (RED): The only thing worse than a gametime decision is a gametime decision in the late games. Lewis looks to be limited by his hamstring injury whether he starts or even plays, and has a tough matchup against the Cowboys anyway.

O-Line (GREEN): Both RGs are banged up, leaving a lot of work with a tough, quick defense across from them. It may work better in pass blocking than trying to open holes for ... whoever ends up behind them.

DST (RED): It's bad enough that they're facing a talented Cowboys offense. They also have to play without Joshua Cribbs on returns, which was the saving grace of this unit last year. His high ankle sprain will linger.



No significant injuries


Antonio Gates (YELLOW): My eemail inbox still hasn't recovered from the reaction when it was reported that Gates wouldn't start this week. I'd tell people that they need to go back and read what I wrote on Thursday. You'd realize that starting or not isn't a big deal, but that either way, Gates is likely to have a tough time, potentially impacting his value all season long.

O-Line (YELLOW): Add up a backed up LT, a TE that can't help (unless they go two TE or have Gates on the sideline), and a QB coming off knee surgeries and what do you have? Risk. I hate risk.

DST (YELLOW): We know that Shawne Merriman is playing on a bad wheel, but he's been cleared to play. There's enough other weapons here to keep them as your starting D, but there's still some weaknesses that Merriman's speed often covered.


No significant injuries


Peyton Manning (GREEN): The Colts told everyone mid-week that "the Peyton Manning watch was over." We still haven't seen him at game speed, so there's some risk, but I'm going to agree with the Colts on this one. This injury is over and we have to hope it doesn't lead to another.

Marvin Harrison (GREEN): While Manning is probable, Harrison isn't even listed on the OIR. I was burned enough by Harrison last year that I am almost required by law to note that he still carries some risk, but I've seen nothing but positives this preseason.

O-Line (RED): Ron Jaworski told me a couple years ago that Manning made the line look good, not the other way around. He's got a bit of a bias to the QB, as you might have noticed, so this is actually going to be a great test. With Jeff Saturday, Mike Pollak, and Ryan Lilja out, the Colts are way down the depth chart. That means they are likely to keep Joseph Addai in, use two TE sets, and more quick passes. If you can translate how all that will shake out for fantasy values, you're a better man than I am.


No significant injuries



Tarvaris Jackson (GREEN): Just because he's going to get the start doesn't mean you should play him. He is expected to play with no physical limitations.


Ryan Grant (YELLOW): Grant went very high in a lot of drafts for a guy who, this time last year, couldn't make a team out of camp. A year can change a lot. He had no touches in the preseason and didn't practice Friday, so expect him to look a bit more like the sixth string RB the Giants traded away than the guy you drafted in the first round this week, but don't panic. Yet.

James Jones (RED): Jones is going to need a few more weeks before he's ready to come back and help the WR corps. Ruvell Martin will see some action, though the Packers aren't expected to use much three wide.



No significant injuries


Javon Walker (YELLOW): He's really close to a green, but Walker's just so risky that even with great practice reports, he's just on the other side of yellow. Any hamstring injury, especially to a speed player, holds a lot of recurrence risk and if that happens in the second quarter, don't say I didn't warn you.