Now that the last holdout cable company has made a deal with the NFL, can we please get rid of the Thursday night games? I realize having three boring games in three weeks isn't the NFL's fault; these games looked solid on paper. I realize expanding the showcase probably makes sense to the NFL. Where it doesn't make sense is for the fans, especially fantasy players. The short weeks, the roster moves, and even taking one game from the miracle that is Red Zone Channel (and yes, Red Zone is part of the Time Warner deal) is anti-fan. The NFL owns Sunday in a way that would have been unthinkable even thirty years ago. I'd be curious to see what the comparison would be between the number of people in churches and the numbers of people watching the pre-pregame shows that cable is populated with on Sundays now. I understand that Monday Night Football is a tradition now and that Sunday Night Football is the highest rated program on TV, but Thursday? This might be the last step before we have football every night of the week ... and I hope I didn't just give Roger Goodell an idea.
Remember to check in all morning for the latest updates, then chat from 11.30 a.m. Eastern right up to early game time. Let's look around the league:
Matt Forte isn't officially out, but consider him that way. The ankle sprain could do with another week of rest and, without any real lateral movement, he is a worse option than Michael Bush. Steven Jackson is an unknown now, not because the groin strain is bad, but that it's just bad enough to give Jeff Fisher cover not to give him the normal touches. Let's call him a GTD- at this stage, but it's very fluid. Rodger Saffold is out, which could give Sam Bradford some more headaches.
Trent Richardson isn't 100% yet, but he showed why the Browns used such a high pick on him. Power, speed, balance, vision and there's still upside there. Josh Cribbs and Greg Little are both on the OIR, but it's Cribbs that's the worry. His speed is negated by a knee injury. Little should play normally. Buffalo has no new injuries this week. Fred Jackson remains out as expected.
The Dallas defense is just banged up enough to give Tampa a little breathing room. Expect Dez Bryant to play a little bit more and better as his knee is now manageable, plus he's adjusted a bit. The Bucs are relatively healthy, with no fantasy relevant players expected to miss time. Keep an eye on Dallas Clark, who's beginning to emerge as an option for Josh Freeman.
Austin Collie is ready to play, we think, but the Colts have a bye next week and will be in more of a "show me" mode with Collie. He'll get some looks and some easy catches, but he's more likely to be well down the pecking order for catches in a broad offense. Blaine Gabbert will play and without Dwight Freeney chasing him, his strained glute might not get tested quite as quickly.
Whichever QB is in the game, Dustin Keller probably won't be. His hamstring is sore. His targets likely go to Stephen Hill. Darrelle Revis is a go, which doesn't help Ryan Tannehill's prospects any. The Jets OIR is twenty-two deep, but there's really not much beyond those two that are fantasy relevant. There's some defensive dings on the Dolphins side, but most should play. Only Daniel Thomas could be relevant with his concussion likely to keep him sidelined, but Reggie Bush has exploded in the first two weeks regardless, so Thomas is a change of pace at best.
There are no FRI (fantasy relevant injuries) here. The Vikings have some dings on defense and no, Ted Ginn is not relevant. Many are looking at this as a huge test for Adrian Peterson's knee, but those questions have been answered already.
Seeing Jamaal Charles on the OIR worries some people, but the issue here is that he needs normal maintenance on the knee post-surgery. He's seeing some swelling and tenderness, but there's no reason to think he won't be ready to take his full complement on Sunday. It's less clear whether that's also true for Dexter McCluster. The speedy hybrid has a very sore shoulder and is a GTD-. He only got five targets last week and this could be much the same if he plays. Dwayne Bowe picked up those targets last week and should again. Another key for the Chiefs will be whether Ryan Lilja is able to go. He's a key to their running game and pass protection. The biggest worry for the Saints is Marques Colston. His lingering foot injury -- the Saints aren't offering specifics, but I'm told it's a mid-foot sprain -- had him missing practice. He's a GTD+, but his targets are likely to look like last week, with Drew Brees shifting some targets to Lance Moore and Darren Sproles.
Issues in the Lions' defensive backfield could open things up for Jake Locker and his WRs. With Kenny Britt proving he's healthy, it could be his week to shine. Calvin Johnson will play, but we do have to wonder how good he might be if he could practice most weeks. Why Johnson isn't wearing more advanced pads is beyond me.
The foot injury that sidelined Pierre Garcon wasn't said to be serious, but the lack of progress has Garcon and the Skins worried enough that he could be headed to a specialist early next week. There was thought that being at home, on grass, would help Garcon play, but while he's not officially out, it looks very unlikely. Almost all of Cincinnati's issues are on the defensive side, with lots of "dings" and "maybes." We'll keep an eye on this, but there look to be holes that Robert Griffin III and friends can exploit.
There's a lot of injuries to deal with on the Eagles' side. Jeremy Maclin is unlikely to play after he talked his way into last week's lineup, only to re-injure his hip flexor. DeSean Jackson will play, but is still feeling tightness in his hamstring and is guarding it some. Riley Cooper still isn't ready. That leaves the start to Jason Avant, though Damaris Johnson is a nice sleeper. King Dunlap is unlikely to play at OT, though Michael Vick can adjust to that with his feet. On the Cards side, John Skelton is still out, leaving the QB job to Kevin Kolb. Todd Heap is a GTD+, but he's used to dealing with dings. Both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will play normally despite being listed on the OIR. The Cards defense is banged up in the backfield, so Vick might be able to find a rhythm.
Matt Ryan gets the upgrade because he'll have both Roddy White and Julio Jones. Both are a bit dinged, but should play. Jones might not be the red zone target, so those looks would go to Tony Gonzalez. Tyson Clabo looks like he'll try to go on Sunday, but any limits might force Ryan to throw a bit quicker, holding back some of the deep routes his WRs love. Ryan Mathews will go this week, but the Chargers will limit his touches. They'll also be careful about the situations, not wanting Mathews to have to run into a "hard front". Expect 8-12 touches, which makes him a downgrade against expectations of a mid-tier RB1. Antonio Gates looks very likely to play, but I said that last week. Confirm before you put him in. Eddie Royal also looks likely to play.
Denver is healthy for this big matchup, though questions about Peyton Manning's arm are likely to get a response from the QB. Watch for his early throws to be aimed as much at his critics as his WRs. The Texans have a lot of top names listed on the OIR, but almost everyone is expected to play in their normal roles. This game's going to be decided on the field, not the Training Room. If there is one thing to watch, it's Arian Foster. There are whispers that his knee injury from Week 1 is lingering, pushing more carries to Ben Tate.
The Steelers will be looking at a decimated defensive backfield. It's unclear who'll benefit most, but it's reasonable to think the answer might be "all of the above." I'll give the biggest upgrade to Ben Roethlisberger. Then again, the Steelers D is more like a thin sheet of aluminum instead of steel. James Harrison and Tory Polamalu will be out again, anticipating a weak matchup ahead of a bye week. Things get better for the Steelers if the Raiders D is without Richard Seymour and Rolando McClain.
With Aaron Hernandez out, the big question is whether Wes Welker moves to the slot or whether newly acquired Kellen Winslow can take Hernandez's role for a couple weeks. Bet on Welker, who's healthy and well-connected with Tom Brady. Brandon Lloyd missed practice on Friday with a quad strain and is GTD+ for Sunday. Add that to Logan Mankins hip injury and the Pats have to be thinking short pass, more reason to like Welker. The Ravens think they'll have everyone, including Michael Oher and Bernard Pollard.