UPGRADE: Ray Rice DOWNGRADE: Knowshon Moreno
The Broncos still haven't been able to get past the hamstring issues of Knowshon Moreno. Despite conservative care, Moreno's legs simply aren't responding to the rest and treatment of his pair of Grade II strains. This isn't so much a slow-healing issue as it is one of trying to get everything right in order to not be back at square one a week after he finally gets into games. There's not only a balance between the right and the left legs that has to be dealt with, but also a balance between the strength of the hamstrings at the back of the leg and the quadriceps at the front. One doctor I spoke with compared it to NASCAR, adjusting the air pressure at a pit stop to try and fix the handling. It will be at least one more week, perhaps two, before we get to see how Moreno handles. For the Ravens, they have a series of minor injuries. RayRice was forced into action last week after LeRonMcClain and WillisMcGahee couldn't go, but Rice didn't cause any further problems with his knee. Amazing what wearing a pad over a knee can do for its safety. McClain is expected to go, though his shoulder is still problematic. It's the same issue for ToddHeap -- a shoulder sprain -- but he'll go as well.
UPGRADE: Matt Cassel, Joseph Addai DOWNGRADE: Austin Collie
Only seventeen players on this week's OIR for the Colts, so things are looking up! Or not, since it's key players who are being added to the report. The RB situation is, again, problematic, forcing the team to add some depth from the practice squad. Joseph Addai practiced all week without limitation, which makes the questionable tag a bit confusing. It looks as if he's going to play normally, but have a backup ready. Donald Brown won't be ready, having missed another week of practice. He's also questionable, which means it's 50/50 -- one will play and one won't. I don't think that math is going to make the NFL feel very good. The WR situation is a bit better. Reggie Wayne will play despite a minor knee issue and so should Pierre Garcon (hamstring) and Austin Collie (foot). The latter are both GTDs, but Garcon practiced more and appears to be the more likely to see targets. There's some significant issues on the defensive side as well. The loss of MelvinBullitt for the season puts more focus on the rest of the defensive backfield, so GTDs with JerraudPowers and AntoineBethea will be key. It looks like both should play, but the speed of the Chiefs could really come into play. The Chiefs come into Indianapolis healthy and undefeated, a combination that goes together by design.
UPDATES (11:40 a.m.): Collie is active, though there's no clarity on how much he'll play. Sources say Garcon is still the better play.
The Colts defensive backfield has no depth, with only one strong safety on the active roster.
UPGRADE: Ryan Torain DOWNGRADE: none
Most of the issues for the Packers are on the defensive side. NickBarnett had a second opinion on his wrist injury, which will need surgery. The question now is whether the surgery has to be done now, ending his season, or whether it can wait until after the season. Barnett's wrist isn't that similar to Brian Urlacher's, an injury I've seen it compared to time and again. The wrist is a complex of small bones, ligaments, and tendons that is very difficult to reconstruct properly, and loses function and can cause massive pain with only a small problem. CullenJenkins (hand) and CharlesWoodson (toe) should play, much as they have, but there's not a lot of depth. With RyanTorain taking over for ClintonPortis, who'll be out longer than the six weeks the 'Skins are selling now, there could be some openings. Beyond Portis, the injuries for the 'Skins are minor and the same ones they've been dealing with. TrentWilliams is the one that's a bit more important, but DonovanMcNabb has been able to adjust without his big tackle.
UPGRADE: Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford DOWNGRADE: none
This game is no longer for the No. 1 pick, though both teams know there's a long way to go before there's real playoff implications to the matchup. Both teams have pretty extensive injury lists, but the key players are mostly healthy. Steven Jackson showed his groin is healthy enough to play effectively, though it was clear it was on his mind. That long run he broke off was as much about holding back a bit as it was breaking free. The Rams should get Laurent Robinson back, but it's unclear how much he'll be in the mix in the Rams' offense. For the Lions, they're still without Matthew Stafford for another few weeks, leaving them to rely on Jahvid Best. Best, like Jackson, played well through injury and should do the same this week. Tony Scheffler had a concussion last week. While he came back to practice on Friday, he's a GTD at best. Brandon Pettigrew has been getting more and more of the TE targets. That pattern should continue. Both defenses have a lot of bumps and dings, so this could end up more of an offensive shootout than many expect.
UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Best will play, but expect similar results from last week as he continues to fight turf toe.
UPGRADE: none DOWNGRADE: none
The Bills come in to this week's game healthy and down one RB. Marshawn Lynch has gone west, but there's still not much clarity on who gets the carries. The Bills appear to be easing C.J. Spiller into the NFL this season, so expect Fred Jackson to get more touches, but for Spiller to get enough chances to be a decent fantasy option. His long term health is the bigger question. The Jags have their RB1 in Maurice Jones-Drew and his minor ankle sprain isn't going to change that. He'll get his normal touches this week. The team doesn't have any other significant injuries.
UPGRADE: Jonathan Stewart DOWNGRADE: none
The Bears are smartly keeping JayCutler (concussion) out of this week's game, despite being cleared to practice. The "second impact" is often a bigger issue, in addition to all the other problems a concussion can bring. There's just no way to protect a QB from that possibility, as clearly illustrated a couple years back by TrentGreen. The Bears' protection problems are what started this and they seem loathe to expose Cutler to more punishment until he's a bit more distant from the initial injury. He should be back for Week 6. ToddCollins will be the one standing in. Even he didn't make it through last week unscathed, he'll play through some neck soreness. Carolina will be without star SteveSmith (ankle), leaving their WR corps very thin. DeAngeloWilliams missed practice with an illness, but should play. The lack of targets is going to shift the offense to the run, which means they'll need Williams.
UPGRADE: Terrell Owens DOWNGRADE: none
Can a hit be dirty without being illegal? I'm not sure what T.J. Ward was thinking when he went headhunting on Jordan Shipley last week, but I know that Ward's hit has Shipley on the sideline for Week 5 while Ward will be playing against Atlanta. Sure, he's a bit lighter in the wallet, but NFL players don't take those fines seriously, even when they get into the Bentley bucks. Ward's job is to hit. He was drafted because he was a big hitter. Highlight shows love big hits. And I have no problem with big hits. I do have a problem with hits targeted at the head, which is what Ward did. He went for the knockout blow and got it. That simply can't be tolerated in an NFL that's still coming to terms with the implications of head injuries. Chad Ochocinco should get his normal targets, though last week's bias on targets toward Terrell Owens is likely to happen again. Ochocinco's groin isn't quite 100% yet, but there was no indication in practice that it's not very close. On the Bucs side, they have their normal concerns for KellenWinslow. His chronic knee issues aren't going away, but they have a pretty good understanding on how to get him ready each week.
UPGRADE: Michael Turner DOWNGRADE: none
The Browns have a lot of question marks. JakeDelhomme (ankle) is again a GTD, but there was more indication during practice that he's ready. The reps were split down the middle between Delhomme and SenecaWallace. I'm not sure Delhomme, even if he starts, will be effective, so avoid him unless you're stuck. PeytonHillis has a mild quad strain, but was protected this week in practice so that he could go. The question is not will he play but will he play at 100% or could the quad tighten up more? The Browns could use JeromeHarrison a bit more this week regardless. At WR, both JoshCribbs and BrianRobiskie should play, though neither is an ideal fantasy play unless you get credit for return yardage (Cribbs). They're also banged up on the defensive side, with ShaunRogers and RobaireSmith listed as questionable. That should open up some holes for the Falcons running game. The Falcons might get MichaelJenkins back this week, but he's at best the third option behind RoddyWhite and TonyGonzalez, so don't look for much there.
UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Hillis will start and get normal carries.
UPDATE: (11:40 a.m.): Wallace gets the start, but Delhomme is active as the No. 2.
UPGRADE: Kevin Boss, Kevin Walter DOWNGRADE: Andre Johnson
Houston will approach Week 5 the same way it did Week 4: lots of decisions to make just before game time, which makes it tough on fantasy players. AndreJohnson is a lot closer to playing this week than last, but it's still unclear how much he can do on an ankle that's still very tender. JacobyJones (calf) is also hurt, leaving KevinWalter and OwenDaniels to soak up the targets. The defense has a lot of dings, but none that should really change their game plan. One injury that's going under the radar is the rib injury to DerrickWard. With ArianFoster still in Gary Kubiak's doghouse, Ward stood to get some more carries this week, but those will now go to SteveSlaton. The Giants come into Week 5 with some RB questions. Ahmad Bradshaw's ankle sprain didn't slow him down in practice this week, so despite the designation on the OIR, don't panic and don't think that Bradshaw will be losing any of his touches. He won't have MadisonHedgecock in front of him, but BrandonJacobs, despite some early week rumors, won't be taking that role. Instead, it seems like the Giants will be following the trend of shifting some of their running offense and pass protection to quick passes, giving EliManning more chances. Manning's gotten the scouting report from his brother, who attacked the Houston linebackers with lots of option routes. KevinBoss isn't Dallas Clark, but he should get a lot of looks. On defense, the Giants will have OsiUmenyiora, but will not have MathiasKiwanuka or KeithBulluck.
UPDATE (10:40 a.m.): Johnson is expected to play, but he's not a great fantasy play with bad ankle.
UPDATE: (11:40 a.m.): Jones is inactive and Johnson active, as expected.
UPGRADE: Ladell Betts, Beanie Wells DOWNGRADE: Larry Fitzgerald
The Saints win the award this week for most players on the OIR with 19. Most will play, though any injury is going to limit players somewhat. Drew Brees' knee sprain didn't seem to bother him and the idea that any QB would be on the field without knee braces is just silly in 2010. Jeremy Shockey's the same. It's at RB, where Pierre Thomas is out again and Chris Ivory still isn't 100% where there's some offensive worry. LadellBetts is really the only healthy back. We should continue to see LanceMoore taking on ReggieBush's role in the passing game, where he's excelled so far. There's a ton of issues on defense, mostly with the passing game. WillSmith is a GTD and will be slowed by a groin strain if he plays. Almost everyone in the defensive backfield has something going on. TracyPorter (knee) is out for a couple weeks following surgery and there are depth issues at SS. No one seems sure if this is good news for MaxHall in his first start or good news for the Saints, in that they're not facing some passing surgeon like Brees who could find the weaknesses. Hall, for his part, has LarryFitzgerald to throw to, but that's about it. Both EarlyDoucet and SteveBreaston are out, leaving the Saints to shade coverage even more to Fitzgerald. BeanieWells might see more carries if they try to transfer the offense and slow the game down to help Hall.
UPGRADE: none DOWNGRADE: none
While there are some big names - or at least names you'd recognize - on the OIR for both teams this week, there's really nothing significant here. DezBryant is still the WR3. JustinGage is the same or less. Only Kyle Kosier's struggles seem to have any effect on the line play for both the running and passing game, with sources telling me he's looked much better this week and should play.
UPGRADE: PhilipRivers, MichaelBush DOWNGRADE: RyanMathews
The Chargers continued to limit RyanMathews in practice, indicating there's still some lingering issues with his ankle. It won't keep him out but expect similar touches to last week (nine for 55 yards, plus one reception.) That goes the same for MikeTolbert (16 carries) in probably the same proportion. The Raiders are just stricken this week with injuries. DarrenMcFadden is out with another hamstring strain, leaving those touches to MichaelBush, who seems completely recovered from thumb surgery. ZachMiller (hip pointer) should play. The defense is so thin, any injury on the field this week could force the team to start shuffling players out of position. Facing PhilipRivers without depth is going to be a hard task, so upgrade Rivers and his targets this week.