Returnees from injury proving worth of NFL medical staffs
This week, in association with my friends at Rotowire.com, we gave out the
We don't have anything like that in football. The closest is the rankings that Football Outsiders does each year, based on their proprietary Adjusted Games Lost formula. PFATS (the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society) does have a couple awards, including the Ed Block Courage award, for their membership, but it's based on a vote, not data. (Their winner last year? The Philadelphia Eagles.)
Awards are nice, but underneath it all are two principles: Recognize the hard work of these medical professionals and get the results visible so that fans can understand what medical staffs are contributing. The more we learn, the better. For instance, did you know that
The Panthers have been pretty healthy all year -- except at LB. Jason Philips and Dan Connor have injuries that add to the issues there, which could open things up for Brandon Pettigrew, if Matthew Stafford's broken finger allows him to get some touch over the top to his big TE. Jeremy Shockey is unlikely to play, but he's essentially a backup anyway to Greg Olsen. Aside from Stafford, the Lions don't have any relevant injuries. Kyle Vanden Bosch is expected to play as the Lions defense tries to contain Cam Newton.
We finally heard some good news regarding Darren McFadden this week, but is it enough to get him back on the field? Not this week, so the carries stay with Michael Bush. The Raiders have some real depth issues in the defensive backfield, which should give Christian Ponder some windows to find if his line gives him time. It gets better for Ponder if Richard Seymour (GTD-) can't go. The only significant injuries for the Vikings is Visanthe Shiancoe, who should play normally.
The Cowboys roll with what they had last week, with only a possible addition of Felix Jones. Jones' ankle sprain is still an issue so even if he plays, it will be as an RB2 to DeMarco Murray. Ignore who starts; Jones isn't a good fantasy option yet. Miles Austin remains out, which increased opportunities for Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson, who will likely see a bit more attention this week. Jason Witten might see a bit less coverage in a real 'pick your poison' scenario for the Redskins defense. The Skins defense is already banged up in the secondary, so Tony Romo could have a big day. Santana Moss remains out with his hand injury. The rest of their OIR is GTD+, though be sure to watch to make sure LaRon Landry and London Fletcher are active.
Buffalo has some issues at WR. Stevie Johnson is a GTD+ with a shoulder injury. The gameplan will shift to keep him from taking too many hits, eschewing slants and crosses for outs and curls that will keep him near the sidelines. David Nelson is expected to play after missing time with an illness this week. (Go ahead, make a cheerleader joke in your head.) That combo gives a bit more looks to Donald Jones and Scott Chandler this week, as well as a slight shift to run bias. The Dolphins only relevant injury is a mild ankle sprain for Anthony Fasano. He should play, but will lose some targets.
Cleveland will be without Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty again in Week 11, leaving Chris Ogbannaya with the RB1 role again. The Browns will also be missing TJ Ward, which hurts their run defense. Mohamed Massaquoi will be a GTD+, coming off a concussion and should be considered the WR2 if he plays. Jacksonville's issues are all defensive and mostly on the line, which should give Ogbannaya some room, especially to the left.
No Ray Lewis? That seems almost impossible for the indestructible, age-defying future Hall of Famer. It took something as small as his toe to take him down. He's officially a GTD-, but whispers around football are that Lewis is willing to take time off to get healthy for a playoff run, but that Lewis also realizes he's just not healing as quickly as he used to. The Ravens will be without Lee Evans again, but he's slid behind Torrey Smith's speed anyway. The Bengals are playing it very conservative with A.J. Green. Their star WR hyperextended his knee on his big TD last week, but there's still some tenderness. The Bengals are playing this long term. Leon Hall isn't on the OIR this week -- he's done for the season -- but his absence will be felt, especially if the depth issues continue to challenge Mike Zimmer's defense. Nate Clemens, Adam Jones, and Chris Crocker should all play.
Tampa heads to the other bay relatively healthy and they'll need all their players if they hope to keep up. Green Bay is mostly the same, with only a few players banged up and some names they've been missing still out. The only relevant injury is to Ryan Grant, which shifts some carries to James Starks. Aaron Rodgers will want to keep his feet away from Albert Haynesworth as well.
The Seahawks need to check their helmets and their luck. With the whole right side of the O-line down, there's some real question about how Marshawn Lynch will be able to run and Tarvaris Jackson will be able to stay upright. Lucky then that they're facing a Rams defense that hasn't had too many answers this season. Lynch should be fine as a power back who can make his own yardage and Jackson can scramble or roll out to buy some time. With Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin cleared to play after concussions, the Seahawks can go that route as well. It's not like the Rams are healthy either. Roger Saffold is questionable, leaving Sam Bradford on a bad ankle and without either starting tackle. It's just not a good situation either way.
The major question in this game is how -- even if -- the Niners will use Frank Gore. The injury itself, a bruised knee, isn't serious, but with his injury history, the team's division lead, and the presence of Kendall Hunter, the smart medical play is to rest Gore. The rest of the team is relatively healthy, though Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree are both worth watching more closely. Both have maintenance issues and seemed to have a bit harder time. Those two could be paced as well, which would affect their value and that of Alex Smith. I'm more concerned about Edwards this week. Arizona will be without Kevin Kolb again this week, but the big worry is on defense, where Joey Porter, Kerry Rhodes and Paris Lenon are all unlikely to play. Chris Wells is on the OIR as always, but he should play as he has the past few weeks.
The big injuries for both teams are pretty concentrated. For the Falcons, the problems are in the receiving corps. Julio Jones is GTD- with his hamstring issue. His backup, Harry Douglas, is hobbled by a thigh strain and is GTD+. Tony Gonzalez is just generally banged up, but expected to play normally. For the Titans, its all in the LB corps, led by Barret Ruud. His groin strain has him GTD+, but likely to sub in and out depending on situation.
The one injury to watch here is a very tough read. Matt Forte is listed with a shoulder injury and given his running style, it's very tough to play through that. However, it doesn't seem serious enough to cause him problems ... and that's a problem for the Chargers. The Bears defense has some dings, but should play normally. The Chargers, however, have a ton of injuries. Marcus McNeill is out and Philip Rivers and the running game missed him last week. We'll have to see if they adjusted. Malcom Floyd is out again this week, giving Vincent Brown another shot.
It looks like Vince Young will have a chance to make the "Dream Team" run. The Eagles didn't wait until game time to declare Vick and Jeremy Maclin out. They join Dominque Rogers-Cromartie on the sidelines. If Young goes, he does tend to look for his TE on scrambles, so that should help Brent Celek. The Giants aren't getting Ahmad Bradshaw back just yet -- Week 13 is the target right now -- but they should have Mario Manningham in the lineup. Prince Amukamara made it through Friday's practice and will likely make his season debut. As John Gruber might say, "finally."