Injuries trend down across league, but plenty of situations to watch
Here's an odd little fact -- injuries tend to go down about this point in the season. There's no one reason why. There's certainly a survivors effect, and late in the season, some teams begin to rest players or look at rookies. There are always injuries at some level, and the perception remains up, but the numbers bear this out. It trends slightly downward from Week 1, dropping off sharply in Week 10 and 12. Injuries linger across the season, so it's tougher for even dedicated medheads to discern this pattern. Then again, it may not really matter in what order or pattern injuries occur. Early-season injuries may cost more points, but the longer adjustment time for real or fantasy teams diminishes it to some extent. That said, there are plenty of injuries to talk about today, so let's look around the league. Remember, I'll have my normal 11.30 a.m. ET chat here to get the latest info to you as the inactive lists roll out as well as updates all morning.
It's not often that this report is more about who's in than who's out, but that's the case in this big matchup. The Falcons will have Jones ready to go, though a minor setback with his hamstring has him at less than 100 percent. He's a very slight downgrade. The Saints get Ingram back, making their RB committee a bit tougher to read, though it's expected that Ingram will get most, if not all, of his touches back at the expense of Chris Ivory. Ivory has a mild hamstring strain. All the major injuries are on the defensive side, with Jonathan Vilma out again.
The Panthers are very healthy coming back from bye, as they have been all year. It's one of the key points in their turnaround and one to watch next season. Teams can have fluke years of good or bad injury numbers that can be a big part of their seemingly changing fortunes. It's not as big a factor as strength of schedule, but it's notable. The Titans are relatively healthy as well. They have one key injury, with Washington dealing with a bruised hip. He's a GTD+ at this stage, but his missed practice might cost him a bit in targets.
Most of the Steelers' issues are on defense. The linebackers should all be back, with LaMarr Woodley the most in question as a GTD+. Troy Polamalu should play, though he will be wearing protection for his injured ribs. Sources tell me that Polamalu is still having pain with breathing, so he may be forced to rotate out some. Hines Ward has been cleared to play, but it's unclear if the Steelers will keep him at the low end on targets. The Bengals have an issue at TE, with both Gresham and Donald Lee injured. If neither can go, the Bengals might shift to more runs, adding some touches for Scott. Andre Smith is a GTD+, but if he is out, that could put more pressure on Andy Dalton.
It only seems like most of Cleveland's offense is on the sideline. Worse, the big injury for the Browns might be T.J. Ward, one of the best run stoppers, opening things up a bit more for Jackson. The Browns will be without Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty again, leaving all the carries for Ogbannaya. Mohamed Massaquoi is out, which should give his targets to Greg Little with Josh Cribbs and Norwood picking up Little's role. None of the Browns WRs are great fantasy plays. The Rams will have Sam Bradford under center again, though he continues to be limited by his ankle injury. Most of the Rams' injuries are to their already shaky defense but are depth issues.
Fred Jackson's playing at home -- Cowboys Stadium stands on where his childhood home used to before Jerry Jones built his stately pleasure dome -- but he doesn't sound too bitter. Jackson and his Bills teammates need to keep pace in the AFC East and are healthy enough to do it. They're going to be missing Lindell, but he's replaced easily enough as is any kicker. Kyle Williams is a more key piece who's out after having ankle surgery last week. It puts more pressure on Marcell Darius to clog up the middle and could open things up for Murray. Murray has at least one more week without Felix Jones, meaning he should get most of the carries and all of the TDs. Miles Austin is out, and if it plays like it did earlier this season, Bryant gets the targets, with Jason Witten seeing a bit of an uptick as well. Sean Lee is a GTD- with his wriest issue on the defensive side but would be a big boost against the slashing Bills attack if he can play.
The Jaguars are pretty healthy coming into Indy, with their injury list either irrelevant, minor or dealt with. Maurice Jones-Drew is fine; he's been rested in practice all season. Tyson Alualu is also expected to play (GTD+) despite a knee injury. The Colts are very banged up heading into a game that might be their last best chance for a win this season. Dallas Clark was listed as out, which isn't a surprise, but the reason was. "Fibula" doesn't tell us much, but instead of the Achilles and ankle injuries that had been rumored, it could be that Clark has a broken bone. If that's the case, he'll be out a minimum of a month and could end up on the IR. Brody Eldridge is also out, leaving Jacob Tamme as the only relevant TE. Both Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney were rested this week, but both will play, testing Gabbert's ribs.
McGahee showed his hand was no problem last week. He should be fine again this week as we see whether Romeo Crennel has answers for the read option. Crennel should have Brian Dawkins back this week. The Chiefs' only relevant injury is to Javier Arenas, who is a GTD- right now.
Miami comes into this week healthy, but there are some significant Redskins injuries. Tashard Choice will be a GTD+, adding confusion to the RB splits even after Roy Helu's big day. Fred Davis is a GTD+ as well, though he's slowed by an ankle sprain. Jammal Brown is also a GTD+, with a groin strain that could make life tougher for John Beck.
The Cardinals are loaded down with injuries. You know about Kevin Kolb's turf toe, which will keep him out of this week's game again, and the chronic knee issue for Wells, which will not keep him out. The deeper issues are all over the defense, especially the backfield. Heap (GTD-) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (GTD+) are relevant in deep leagues only. The Eagles should have everyone, including McCoy and Asante Samuel. McCoy could lose some touches but is still a good start in most formats.
With nearly half their roster on the official injury report, it might be easier to talk about who's healthy for the Texans. Then again, the relevant injuries make up a pretty short list. Andre Johnson is likely out again as the bye week tips things over to skipping this game. Eric Winston's a GTD+, but the rest are minor injuries that shouldn't affect anything the Texans do on either side of the ball. Names like Tate, Walter and Brian Cushing might scare some, but all should play their normal rules. The Bucs have one key injury, with Mike Williams a GTD+ after Tracy Porter's head left Williams with a deep thigh bruise. He practiced late in the week, but it's one more knock against an already disappointing player.
Seattle doesn't have any significant injuries, while Baltimore seems to be wearing down a bit. Lee Evans is a GTD-, putting Smith back in position for another game where his fantasy owners can hope for a long TD. Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs should play (GTD+) and will cause their normal issues for the opposing offense. The only GTD- is Brendon Ayanbadejo, but he's just depth and special teams.
Matthew Stafford was a late addition to the official injury report with a finger injury. I made some calls, and no one thinks this will affect him much, though the one concern my sources had was the deep ball. "If he can't spiral it, it makes it tougher to throw the accurate deep," I was told. That's fixable with a game plan and shouldn't affect Stafford or his receivers much. Brandon Pettigrew and Kyle Vanden Bosch are expected to be full go. The Bears are relatively healthy, with some defensive dings and a hobbled Hester. Since Hester is so reliant on speed, any loss there reduces his effectiveness. He's already on the edge with fantasy, unless you're in a league with return yards.
It's pretty clear that Bradshaw is out this week, but beyond that, it's a bit less defined. Bradshaw's fracture -- not a stress fracture, mind you -- isn't healing up and it looks like he'll be at the long end of the original 2-4 week estimates. Surgery still isn't likely to help, though reports that Bradshaw is considering it still spin. Nicks is a GTD+, though the hamstring isn't 100%. Even if he plays, he's a risky fantasy play, and Cruz should still see enough action to be valuable. Cruz's value may hinge on how serious the knee injury to Manningham is. He was a late addition to the official injury report. Prince Amukamara is a GTD-. He still hasn't made it through a full practice and Tom Coughlin just doesn't trust the rookie yet. The Niners have a long official injury report, but most of their players are just fighting through dings. Gore, Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree will all play normally.
With 17 and 13 on the official injury report, respectively, you'd think that the Sunday night game would have a lot of issues. The Jets don't expect to miss any of their key players. Plaxico Burress, Antonio Cromartie, Nick Mangold and Shonn Greene are all expected to play. There's a bit more concern over Holmes' foot, so he could lose some targets. With Burress banged up, that could mean a few more targets for Dustin Keller (who's not on the official injury report at all after last week's non-concussion) and Kerley. The Patriots have a lot more questionable players, though that designation doesn't mean much. Green-Ellis is the big question mark. While he'll play, his role will be based on effectiveness, making him a bit of a risk to put into fantasy lineups. There's a lot of defensive dings, but most are expected to play.