Downgrade Mendenhall, upgrade Rice in Week 5 medical check
If there's one positive to bye weeks -- and I hate bye weeks -- it's that it does reduce late games. With the advent of Red Zone, which has truly changed how I watch football, I think the NFL should consider shifting all games to one time. Start later, say 2 p.m. Eastern, keeping the Sunday and Monday night games (and Thursday, I guess). This week there's only three late games, so it should be easier to make fantasy decisions, though having a possible MNF shootout does complicate things a bit. For me, bye weeks just extend the season without giving a real benefit. It doesn't reduce injuries in any meaningful way. I'm sure players like the week off, but if that's the case, wouldn't it make more sense to make it a full off week, giving everyone a week off in the middle of the season? I know people think it's needed for TV, but there could easily be fill-ins with recaps, highlights, and the like, plus with enough planning, it could end up as a showcase week. There's always ways to improve, but for now, let's look around the league at the injuries that will affect our favorite teams and our fantasy teams.
I'm trying a new term today or actually a modifier. Instead of saying that a GTD player is "leaning in" or "looks like he's out", I'm going to try saying GTD+ or GTD-. The "+" indicates that the player is more likely to play than not play, while the "-" is the reverse. For those of you that don't wait until the last second to set your rosters, it's my hope that this will give you a bit extra guidance. Remember, however, that things can change rapidly and I'm giving you the best available information at the time. Given the state of the mobile web and apps, there's little excuse for not waiting to set your roster.
I hope to see you all at the SMMC Chat at 11.30a Eastern as well, for those last minute updates and the official inactives.
I think we can agree that Michael Vick's hand is fine, functionally. Vick showed no problems at all receiving the ball from center, which was the major concern. There's enough other injuries to worry about, including Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, and Winston Justice. Follow a sliding scale from out to probable with those three. Brent Celek was back at practice later in the week after an illness, but there's some worry about his condition. Steve Smith did get more playing time and seems to be factoring into the scheme more. Most of the Bills issues are on the defensive side and mostly minor. Demetrius Bell is out at OT and will necessitate some shuffling up front. There's some concern about Fitzpatrick's protection, so downgrade him slightly. Spiller, already banged up, might see a bit less playing time if the protection is more of an issue.
Sean Payton made his point, leaving Marques Colston off the OIR. Colston practiced fully (though he avoided contact, I'm told) and will get "more involved" in the offense. I'm still a bit dubious and think with Devery Henderson hobbled by a calf strain, Drew Brees will again focus on Graham. The Panthers are already thin at LB. Brees could easily spread things around as well. With Zach Strief and Olin Kreutz both GTD- at best, Brees will need to adjust his timing or find a way to get the running game going. Carolina is relatively healthy, with Shockey the only question mark, but expected to play as the TE2.
The Texans will be without Andre Johnson this week and at least a couple more. They shifted some of their targets last week to Daniels, so it's reasonable to think he'll get more looks this week as well. The Raiders list a lot of injuries -- 15 this week -- but none are significant enough to really change how they'll play the game or how you should deploy any of them. Gary Kubiak is thin at RB, so much so that if he needs to rest Arian Foster, it will be Ogbonnaya in for him and he was fifth on the depth chart just a couple weeks ago.
The Chiefs might come into Week 5's "Luck Bowl" completely healthy, assuming you ignore their extensive IR list. The Colts aren't nearly so lucky. Their O-line is battered, losing two OTs and necessitating some shuffling (Ryan Diem back to RT, if he plays) and some signings. That's going to hurt the running game more than the passing game. Kerry Collins is still out, leaving the job to Curtis Painter. The defense is banged up, with both Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney hurting, plus little depth in the middle with Eric Foster out and Drake Nevis hurting. The Chiefs could try to batter that weak middle with Jones and Battle.
The Jags have a number of listed injuries, but only the ones on the defensive side should amount to anything. Aaron Kampman probably won't play again, while Tyson Alualu likely will. Kassim Osgood is a question for the thin WR corps, but the rest seem ready to go. The Bengals have no FRG's injured, but the depth issues in the defensive backfield are balanced out by the lack of talent in the Jags passing game. There's just not much to see here, healthy or not.
The Vikings have Adrian Peterson listed as questionable, but don't worry -- he'll start, play, and get his normal touches. Toby Gearhart will get some looks, but not enough to move Peterson out of his must-start status. The Vikings have some issues in the defensive backfield, so the Andre Roberts could see some openings. Finally a week without Chris Wells as a GTD? No such luck as he missed some of practice. It looks like he'll be ready to go, but he's always worth checking on. With Todd Heap and Jim Dray both questionable, Jeff King is getting reps and has shown that he can get red zone targets.
The Giants will be without Brandon Jacobs, as his knee sprain will have him out at least this week. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are both technically GTDs, but it's expected to be like last week when Umenyiora was GTD+. Tuck was talking about being out through the bye, but the Giants haven't made that official just yet. His absence gives Tarvaris Jackson a bit more time. The Seahawks big injuries are in the DBs, with Marcus Trufant the biggest worry there. Mike Williams is out with a concussion, but he hasn't done much when healthy. Rice's shoulder seems healed enough to be confident in his start and his connection with Jackson.
The Steelers are beaten and battered. Ben Roethlisberger has a foot sprain which could affect him more than many think. He'll have some issues if he can't step into throws, given that he can't put a lot of pressure on the foot. The O-line will have to figure out a way to keep him upright and to keep defenders out of his legs. The move to Redman might be as much about his blocking skills as Mendenhall's hamstring strain. James Harrison and Casey Hampton are out on defense, with Aaron Smith another possible missing player. The major injury to the Titans is KR Marc Mariani. His hip strain could keep him sidelined for a team already short of WRs. The Titans haven't found a solid replacement for Kenny Britt yet, so they've talked about using Johnson split out with Javon Ringer in the backfield. We'll see if that works, but the idea means that Johnson's an upgrade in PPR leagues.
The Bucs have a pretty long list on the OIR, but only two names should worry fantasy owners. Aqib Talib has a sore knee and will be a GTD+, which could open up some room for Michael Crabtree. Earnest Graham is also sore with a hamstring strain. He's expected to play but like last week will lose some plays to Blount. The Niners are expected to have both Frank Gore and Crabtree starting. Gore's ankle didn't bother him much last week and he's said it's better this week. Hunter is not likely to get enough touches to be a solid fantasy play this week. Alex Smith should have his O-line more or less intact, which should help him build on a great Week 4.
Antonio Gates may be listed as doubtful, but there's almost no chance he'll play this week or in the near future. Gates' foot injury is severe and painful. McMichael gets the start, but didn't get the targets last week. In fact, McMichael was barely on the field more in the passing game that Kory Sperry (and I bet you don't have Sperry on your fantasy team.) The Chargers are instead using Tolbert in an H-back role and leaving more of the rushing to Ryan Mathews. That makes Tolbert the better play in PPR leagues, but both need Philip Rivers to find his A-game soon. That won't be easy with Denver getting Champ Bailey back and Brian Dawkins as a GTD-. Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas are out, so look for Decker to be the solid WR2. Decker could be even more important if Fells is out. His knee has him as a GTD-.
Just what the Pats needed -- another weapon. They believe they'll get Aaron Hernandez back ahead of schedule. Don't expect him to be more than a very good TE2, but that's still a very good option, especially in a bye week. They do lose Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman, both unlikely to play a significant role in the offense. Most of the issues are on defense, where there's a lot of dings. The most significant issue is with Jerod Mayo. His MCL sprain was expected to keep him out, but the Pats listed him as doubtful. Mayo would be the coverage on the TE, so Keller gets a bit of an upgrade. The Jets have several dings, but the major question is whether Nick Mangold will be ready to go after missing a couple games with a high ankle sprain. Right now, he looks like a GTD+. That type of injury can take much longer to heal and the Pats will test his lateral mobility early with stunts and A-gap blitzes. Without him, the Jets line has been degraded and confused.
The Packers get Ryan Grant back this week. He's expected to slot back into his split role with Starks. Donald Driver is one to watch after his injury last week and limited practice time as the team let him heal up. Nelson is likely to get more looks, as he did last week. The Packers D is dinged, but don't worry too much that Clay Matthews didn't practice all week. He's as sure of a GTD+ as there is. For the Falcons, the worries are mostly defensive, with Roddy White expected to play normally. The defense has some dings, but should be at the same level as the last couple weeks. One player to watch out for is Rodgers, who's getting more involved in the attack. He's in as much on passing downs as Michael Turner and could be a matchup issue for the Packers.