Well, they're finally here. The playoffs have arrived on the fantasy calendar, and for those owners lucky enough to be a part of the action, determining what to do about injured stars (and injuries to pertinent teammates of stars), is a key factor in how your postseason will play out. So let's lock arms and take a deeper look into at the injuries affecting Week 14.
Brian Westbrook: Concussion
In a "what, really?" moment, Westbrook was spotted on the practice field this week, albeit in a limited role. He's missed five of the past six games, and considering LeSean McCoy averaged 0.3 yards per carry last week, many owners are pining for a playoff return from Westbrook. While that's still a possibility, it's very unlikely to happen in Week 14.
According to Andy Reid, "the next step is putting the helmet on and running around and getting him back into football shape." Remember, it's not like Westbrook's been nursing a sprained ankle that allowed him to hop on a bike or weight train; he's essentially been without physical activity for nearly a month and a half now. Throw in the fact he's publicly expressed concern for returning to the field too soon, and it's pretty obvious owners need to squash hopes of using "Mr. Questionable" this week.
DeSean Jackson: Concussion
According to Jackson, he's "definitely" going to play this weekend. His presence and full participation at practice on Wednesday is a good indication you can trust D-Jax's personal injury report, but if there's anything we've learned in "The Year of the Concussed" it's that fantasy owners simply can't trust mid-week status updates. Count on having Jackson available Sunday night, but make sure you keep your options open, because there's no telling when an ill-timed headache will spoil your plans.
Matt Schaub: Separated left shoulder
The knock on Schaub has always been his durability, or more specifically, his lack of it. He missed all or part of 14 games in the two years prior to this season because of various ailments. While we can't remove the "injury prone" designation yet, after witnessing him separate his left (non-throwing) shoulder in the first half last week and then return to the game, we can certainly add "tough dude" to his growing list of positive attributes.
On the Texans' first offensive play, Schaub was driven into the turf hard and immediately taken to the locker room in obvious pain. Being a Schaub owner myself (and I'm sure I wasn't alone in this thinking), I wrote off my season right then and there. No way the brittle Schaub was returning from a sprained hangnail, let alone what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury. But then, to the surprise of everyone, he re-emerged from the locker room with the Texans trailing 17-0, and pumped full of enough drugs to make Jeremy Mayfield jealous (or so I'm guessing), nearly guided Houston to a comeback win.
According to the Houston Chronicle, this is essentially the same injury Schaub suffered two years ago. As a reference point, he underwent season-ending surgery back then, but there he was on Wednesday, taking all the reps with the first-team offense and basically announcing he'd be in uniform against Seattle. Thank Jehovah, if I had to pick up and start Rex Grossman for a playoff game, I would have seriously contemplated my fantasy retirement.
Jim Sorgi: Right shoulder injury, placed on IR
Attention Peyton Manning Owners: if you were counting on using Sorgi as an emergency replacement in case the Colts sit the soon-to-be four time MVP (c'mon, you know it's happening), you need to change your plans. Curtis Painter is now the official "Indianapolis Week 16 and 17 fill-in QB." That is all. Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the column.
Steve Slaton: Unspecified spinal ailment, placed on IR
Slaton's disappointing season came to a premature end when the Texans placed him on injured reserve this week. After experiencing numbness in his right shoulder and hand -- a possible explanation for his fumbling problems -- Slaton visited with a spinal specialist, and while the exact cause of the numbness hasn't been revealed, Gary Kubiak reported that "the doctor just didn't think Steve should be taking any more hits." Too bad someone never gave Charles Rogers the same advice.
Chris Brown will remain the "starter" and continue to be a goal line threat, but if you're looking for a Houston back to start in the tasty Week 15 matchup against St. Louis, the more well-rounded and explosive Ryan Moats is the guy to target.
Mark Sanchez: Sprained PCL
Ignoring vehement protests from Sanchez, Rex Ryan announced on Wednesday that Kellen Clemens would be his starting quarterback come Sunday. "The Sanchize" is dealing with a sprained PCL in his right knee and wasn't able to practice early in the week. According to Ryan, his quarterback is "mad as a hornet" about the timing of the decision, but in order to prevent further injury and to get Clemens up to speed, it was a choice that needed to be made.
Despite evidence to the contrary (see: box score, last week), Clemens is not a terrible quarterback. In fact, at one time he was considered the future of the Jets franchise. He was thrust into action during his second season and led New York to three of their four wins on the year. He's most definitely a turnover machine, sporting 13 career turnovers against five touchdowns, but he's a scrambler who can get the ball downfield. Think Ryan Fitzpatrick with a stronger, less accurate arm. Against Tampa Bay's putrid defense, Clemens could a sneaky good play for desperate owners.
Michael Turner: High Ankle Sprain
There has been no new update on Turner and his highly sprained ankle, but he wasn't at the mid-week practice, and based on the situation (two separate sprains in three weeks), I find it hard to fathom Turner being a useful fantasy option, regardless of his playing status.
Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling will continue to share time if Turner's unavailable. Norwood has reported persistent soreness in his previously injured hip, and it showed last week as he rushed for 16 yards on 10 carries. Snelling, who will likely see the goal line carries, is probably the safer play, but neither inspires confidence.
Matt Ryan: Turf Toe on Right (plant) Foot
Ryan tested out his injured toe in a team walk-through on Wednesday, but wasn't able to practice. There's no chance of him being fully healed by Sunday, but if he can tolerate the pain, the Falcons may activate him.
The NFL Network reported the ultimate decision to play Ryan may depend on the status of offensive lineman Harvey Dahl and Sam Baker. The team doesn't want to put a hobbled Ryan onto the field with an offensive line incapable of adequately protecting him. If the Falcons do decide to sit him down, Chris Redman, who's thrown for 478 yards and three touchdowns in Ice's absence, would get the start against New Orleans. I can just imagine how that conversation would go down:
Mike Smith: "Chris, we've determined that there's a possibility Matt could get seriously injury, possibly even maimed, if we throw him out there with this makeshift line ... so you ready to lead us to victory in our season-defining game?"
Redman: "Ummmm ... isn't John Parker Wilson still on the team?"
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter who's quarterbacking the team. You shouldn't be playing either, and both quarterbacks are smart enough to target Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez almost exclusively, so there's really no fantasy backlash from whichever decision is made. Well, unless "JPW" factors into the equation, in that case you should drop everyone involved and slowly back away.
Clinton Portis: Concussion, placed on IR
Attention all Clinton Portis Owners: He's done for the year (and possibly his career). You can go ahead and drop him. Thanks for reading.