Up to Date Player Injuries and Relevant News from All 32 NFL Teams Heading into Week 5
Buffalo: QB E.J. Manuel has a sprained LCL in his right knee and will miss anywhere from 4-8 weeks depending on the optimism of the reports. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel finished the Thursday night game and was predictably awful. Look for the Bills to quickly sign a veteran free agent QB to compete right away with Tuel. Tuel has no fantasy value. WR Steve Johnson has a lumbar strain and is tentatively expected to be okay for week 6. Despite playing with injuries, RB's C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson looked fine. The extra days off to rest should allow both to get back to where the injuries aren't a concern, but the timeshare between them is. It's back to almost exactly where it has been before: a split in favor of Jackson with both players having enough fantasy value to be starting worthy, but the presence of the other prevents either from being a really strong, reliable consideration.
Miami: We're starting to see Lamar Miller push Daniel Thomas into just a complimentary role. It's not there quite yet, but will be soon. As it stands Miller is a middling fantasy RB2 while Thomas is barely a RB4/5. #3 WR Brandon Gibson should play week 5 despite being Questionable on the injury report with an ankle injury. He practiced on it all week so I expect he'll be okay. Through 4 games WR Mike Wallace has just 1 game with more than 25 receiving yards. The Dolphins are not using him the way they should be. Meanwhile his teammate, Brian Hartline, has 3 games with 50 yards or more and twice as many TD's (2 to 1) than Wallace. Hartline is the more reliable WR3/4. Expect the Dolphins to figure out they need to find ways to get Wallace the ball more often. He just has so much more playmaking potential than Hartline.
New England: I hate talking about the Patriots. Most of their injury report is a farce. He's the easy stuff: RB Stevan Ridley is OUT week 5 with a knee injury. I'm not sure if the Patriots are using it as an excuse to get their struggling starting RB out of the lineup for a week or two or not as I don't recall Ridley being really hurt in week 4, but no matter. With Brandon Bolden (knee) and Leon Washington (thigh) both Questionable and both likely to be limited even if active, LeGarrette Blount will start and likely dominate rushing attempts and playing time. Blount isn't an accomplished receiving RB but he may just get an opportunity to show whether he can be trusted in that capacity. Blount is actually a strong fantasy RB2 this week. Now for the not so easy: WR Kenbrell Thompkins is Questionable with a listed shoulder issue but he is fully expected to play and be fine. WR Danny Amendola is listed as Questionable with his groin injury and while he is tentatively expected to play, he may not be and is considered a game time decision. WR Aaron Dobson is Questionable with a neck injury and I was surprised he was able to practice in limited fashion all week. While it appears he will be active this week he may be limited some. WR Austin Collie was signed off the street this week to provide depth in case both Amendola and Dobson are declared out just before game time. TE Rob Gronkowski is listed as Questionable again but he is not expected to play despite getting in another week of practices in limited fashion. The new speculation is that Gronkowski will return next week. And that may hold true to a few more weeks at the pace he's going. One last thing of note, TE Zach Sudfeld was released this week. So much for all that off-season and pre-season hype we instinctively knew we shouldn't have bought in on.
New York Jets: Santonio Holmes is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a hamstring injury. Stephen Hill is expected to miss the Monday night game because of a concussion suffered week 4. That leaves Jeremy Kerley and Clyde Gates as the starting WR's for the Jets this week. Chris Ivory has been able to practice some this week but he is unlikely to be ready to return from his hamstring injury in time to play Monday night. But a week 6 or 7 return is likely. Mike Goodson returns from his league imposed 4 game suspension. He is likely to immediately claim the 3rd down RB role and top backup to Bilal Powell. What happens when Ivory returns in the next 2 weeks is anyone's guess. TE Kellen Winslow is fully expected to play despite sitting out most practices with soreness in his balky knees. While the Jets say they won't bench turnover prone QB Geno Smith, you would have to consider the Jets as one of the two likeliest landing spots for recently released former Bucs QB Josh Freeman. Freeman would be an immediate upgrade for the team.
Baltimore: 4 WR's are listed as Questionable for week 5: Marlon Brown (thigh; expected to play, possibly limited though), Jacoby Jones (knee; game time decision), Brandon Stokley (thigh; game time decision), and Deonte Thompson (concussion; not expected to play). While I think both Brown and Jones will play, I wouldn't recommend either and wouldn't be surprised if Tandon Doss actually got the bulk of the playing time opposite Torrey Smith. Expect Joe Flacco to bounce back after throwing 5 interceptions last week. That wasn't very Flacco like and the matchup this week is pretty decent. Neither Ray Rice nor Bernard Pierce is listed on the injury report. While I doubt Rice is 100% recovered from his hip injury, he is healthy enough to be a good starter again. The Ravens said they wanted to get back to making Rice the focal point of their offense like he used to be. If they're serious, it would bode well for his fantasy owners.
Cincinnati: We finally saw Giovani Bernard get a majority of the playing time over Benjarvus Green-Ellis in week 4 and likely we'll see that continue the rest of the season. Bernard is the primary RB now and BGE just a short yardage and power RB complement. Andy Dalton has been struggling and it has led to A.J. Green having poor yardage totals the last 3 games. Green has caught 17 passes for 138 yards and 1 TD in the last 3 games combined. Dalton needs to start taking more shots downfield and it should happen starting this week in a potential shootout with the Patriots.
Cleveland: And the Browns are back to Brandon Weeden as their starting QB. Brian Hoyer tore his ACL early in the Thursday night game and his season is done. Through 2 games Hoyer had looked pretty good so he could remain a dynasty league stash. Willis McGahee got a huge workload carrying the ball 26 times. But he barely averaged 2.8 yards per attempt and a rushing TD salvaged his fantasy value. McGahee looks slow and sluggish, but is clearly the top RB in Cleveland. He'll be a borderline RB2/3 most weeks going forward based just on sheer volume.
Pittsburgh: Le'Veon Bell was everything advertised in his first game action since suffering a foot injury in preseason. He certainly didn't seem bothered by it and he is instantly in the fantasy RB2 mix right away when the Steelers return from their week 5 bye. Ben Roethlisberger suffered a dislocated finger but will be fine when he returns. Rookie WR Markus Wheaton required surgery to repair a fractured pinkie finger and his status for week 6 is uncertain. Jerricho Cotchery likely will remain the Steelers #3 WR for the near future. It speaks volumes about how bad your offensive line is when a trade for an Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle is considered a big upgrade. Levi Brown will do a decent job run blocking but he's a turnstile in pass protection. Good thing Big Ben is used to that.
Houston: Despite being listed as Questionable with his bruised shin injury Andre Johnson is fully expected to start and be fine week 5. While QB Matt Schaub is being vilified by the Texans fans for his 3 consecutive games with a pick-6, he's in no danger of being replaced. Schaub has actually been a strong fantasy starting Q through 4 games, but he'll even out. His M.O. is to sprinkle a few great games around a bunch of mediocre games. The mediocre are coming, and could be as early as this week against the 49ers. Arian Foster is really starting to pull away from Ben Tate in the RB situation. Expect it to be a 70/30 split more weeks than not between them.
Indianapolis: Ahmad Bradshaw is OUT week 5 and is likely to be out at least one more week before making a decision on whether to have surgery to repair a neck injury or not. I expect Bradshaw will need to have the surgery and that he will miss the rest of the 2013 season, but that's just my guess. Donald Brown takes over as the handcuff to Trent Richardson and Richardson is a virtual lock to handle at least 75% of the Colts rushing duties each week. While the perceived matchup against the Seahawks is that it isn't good for Richardson, their fantasy run defense is ranked 15th; it's their pass defense that is far superior. That makes Andrew Luck a weak play this week for getting much going through the air. Reggie Wayne is not likely to be a strong fantasy WR this week because of the matchup.
Jacksonville: WR Cecil Shorts is Questionable and while he is tentatively expected to play week 5, he was unable to practice at all this week and could be very limited if active. I'm much higher on returning Justin Blackmon. Blackmon has completed serving his 4 game suspension and steps right back into the Jaguars starting lineup. At least his return means I don't have to waste time writing that two other Jags WR's (Mike Brown and Stephen Burton) are both OUT with injuries as that information is irrelevant for fantasy owners. TE Marcedes Lewis aggravated his calf injury in week 4 and he is out indefinitely. He can be dropped in all fantasy leagues. Blaine Gabbert was predictably horrible again last week failing to lead the Jags to a single TD for the second time this season. So far, in 2 complete games he's played, Gabbert has led Jacksonville to 1 FG. Chad Henne wasn't much better but at least he did well in garbage time; Gabbert's not even doing that. Don't be surprised if the Jags play musical QB's between Gabbert and Henne. However, if they never give Henne another chance, we'll know for sure they are just throwing in the towel and doing their level best to ensure they have the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. They shouldn't worry too much. They've already been beaten by the Raiders. They may accidentally win a game this year, but I won't be surprised if they don't either.
Tennessee: Jake Locker will miss anywhere from 4-8 weeks with his sprained hip and knee injuries. He's lucky it wasn't worse. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start in his place and while Fitzpatrick gets bashed for having a weak arm that causes him to struggle later in the season when it gets cold, he should be fine for the next few weeks as Locker's replacement and not hurt the Titans. He certainly has to be better than Matt Hasselbeck was last season. WR Kenny Britt is Probable after missing week 4 with neck and ribs injuries. Britt is on the trading block and the Titans would dearly like to move him to another team but in order to do that they'll need to showcase him. Currently Britt's believed to be no higher than 3rd on the Titans WR pecking order behind Nate Washington (who should be owned in all fantasy formats although he will not be consistent) and Kendall Wright. I expect the Titans to try forcing several passes each game to Britt and hope he does enough for another team to give them at least a 5th round pick in exchange for him. RB Shonn Greene is out at least one more game and probably 2 as he recovers from minor knee surgery a couple of weeks ago. Jackie Battle remains the Titans backup and goal line RB behind Chris Johnson. Speaking of Johnson, I support him in his derogatory comments about fantasy football earlier this week. Fantasy Football is supposed to be about FUN, and too many people take it way too seriously. Especially when they complain about how players are performing on that player's twitter account or any other social media outlet. I mean, really? Do you think Chris Johnson is purposely trying to screw fantasy teams by not getting into the end zone?
Denver: Peyton Manning is well on his way to shattering most every single season passing record through 4 games. While I question whether he really can keep up a pace that has him pegged for 5,880 passing yards, 64 TD's, and zero interceptions, I think he can certainly try. His WR trio and new pass catching TE are all on torrid paces. Demaryius Thomas is on pace for 116 receptions for 1,572 yards, and 16 TD's. Wes Welker is on pace for 104 receptions for 1,064 yards, and 24 TD's. Eric Decker 96 receptions for 1,360 yards and 4 TD's. Julius Thomas 72 receptions for 948 yards and 16 TD's. While I think the TD paces for Welker and TE Julius Thomas will drop and the TD pace for Decker increase, I think these stats bear out something we all wondered about in preseason: can the Broncos offense sustain this many players with high fantasy value? The answer is a resounding YES. Decker is Probable on the injury report with a minor ankle/shoulder issue and he will be fine. Kicker Matt Prater had a minor calf injury but he is Probable and fully expected to be fine to kick week 5.
Kansas City: With Anthony Fasano Questionable again with knee and ankle injuries, and rookie Travis Kelce out with a knee injury, we could see Alex Smith checking down plenty again this week to TE Sean McGrath. While it was nice to see Dwayne Bowe get a TD last week Smith's inability to threaten opponents with deep passes is going to cost Bowe fantasy points. At least Jamaal Charles owners should be happy. Smith will make sure to dump off enough passes to Charles to make him a prime contender for leading all RB's in receptions in 2013.
Oakland: Terrelle Pryor returns after missing week 4 with a concussion. While the stats don't indicate it, Matt Flynn was so bad in week 4 replacing Pryor that he's been demoted to 3rd string behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. The Raiders are the very logical landing spot for Josh Freeman. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olsen worked with Freeman his first 3 seasons in the league and under Olsen Freeman was flourishing. Pryor has been a surprise, but Freeman could really be the QB the Raiders have been missing for several years now. I give a Freeman/Raiders signing by the middle of next week a 50% chance of happening. RB Darren McFadden will miss week 5 with a hamstring injury. He is officially Doubtful for week 5 but is expected to miss week 6 as well and with the Raider shaving the bye in week 7, McFadden is tentatively expected to return in week 8. With Marcel Reece Questionable with a knee injury, Rashad Jennings is likely to be the lead RB for Oakland Sunday night. Jennings isn't an exciting RB, and failed miserably in Jacksonville when Maurice Jones-Drew went down, but he'll get the majority of the RB load. Reece should be active, but limited in what he can do after his knee injury turned out to be less serious than originally believed.
San Diego: With Malcom Floyd having been placed on injured reserve with his neck injury, it solidifies the top 3 WR's in the Chargers WR corps: Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown, and Keenan Allen. I know Brown has been frustrating to owners but I still believe his superior talent is going to start making him more heavily featured in the Chargers offense soon. IT's been nice to see Antonio Gates looking better than he has in any of the last 2 seasons. Age and injuries have zapped some of his athleticism, but he's still a smart TE. After spending the first game behind Ronnie Brown, Danny Woodhead has blown past Brown as the top backup to Ryan Mathews and the preferred 3rd down RB. Woodhead has ppr RB2/3 value, but he will also have those games where he gets very little.
Dallas: Miles Austin is Doubtful on the injury report with a hamstring injury and he won't play week 5. Terrence Williams will start again opposite Dez Bryant and even though Dwayne Harris is listed as Questionable with a minor knee issue, he'll be the Cowboys #3 WR this week. With a lot of asses expected to be in the air against the high flying Broncos, Williams might make a serviceable emergency spot start this week.
New York Giants: After the Giants released RB Da'Rel Scott earlier in the week, it became apparent that they are going to finally bite the bullet and feed David Wilson the football going forward. Scott wasn't bad, but the only explosive player the Giants have at RB is Wilson and whether he has ball security issues or not, he's the only guy who is going to make plays from their RB's. I expect Wilson to be a strong fantasy RB2 this week against Philadelphia's weak defense. The Giants are talking up RB Brandon Jacobs as being part of a 1-2 punch with Wilson but Jacobs looks very much like a RB who was signed off the street two weeks ago. I hope they aren't serious about giving him many carries. If Hakeem Nicks doesn't get over his drops this week, I can't imagine him being more than a fantasy WR3/4 going forward. He has the talent to be so much better than he has been. Victor Cruz should be in line to feast on the burnable Eagles secondary but this is usually the exact type of game where Cruz pulls one of those confounding disappearing acts. You never sit Cruz, and the matchup dictates he should be in for a monster game this week, but he's come away with 2 catches for 25 yards before in games like this and therefore I'm just saying…
Philadelphia: Despite suffering a minor knee injury week 4, WR Demean Jackson is not on the injury report and he is fine. The Eagles get a gift this week in taking on a Giants team that has been pretty terrible at stopping any opponents from moving the football or scoring points. Michael Vick is easily a top 5 fantasy QB play, LeSean McCoy a top 5 fantasy RB, and DeSean Jackson likely a top 10 fantasy WR. However, outside of these 3, it's really difficult to trust any other Eagles players for fantasy purposes. None of WR's Jason Avant and Riley Cooper, nor any of TE's Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, and James Casey can be relied on as anything more than the fantasy football version of the "Hail Mary" pass play.
Washington: It's hoped that the bye week allows RB Alfred Morris to get over his rib injury. It won't be totally healed up, but maybe it will be healed up enough for him to start without issue week 6. That said, there's a reason why I've been pounding the table for Morris owners to have Roy Helu on their benches for the insurance. If Helu is still available, and you have Morris, go get Helu. The WR situation appears to be coming into focus. Leonard Hankerson's playing time has been on the increase and he is now the clear #2 WR both for the Redskins and for fantasy purposes.
Chicago: Despite missing practice on both Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury, Brandon Marshall is listed as Probable for week 5 and he is fully expected to start and be fine. Likely the Bears are just taking every precautionary measure necessary with any type of boo-boo Marshall incurs this season. TE Martellus Bennett is Probable despite a minor shoulder issue. While Matt Forte may not be the goal line RB, as long as it's further than 4 yards away, he should be the guy in the game over Michael Bush. Forte has fit the Bears new offense like a designer glove and is one the top fantasy performers at RB.
Detroit: Even though Calvin Johnson is listed as Questionable for week 5 with a knee injury it's not believed to be a serious issue and Johnson is fully expected to play without restrictions. Maybe Jim Schwartz just wants in on the fun the Patriots and Falcons have each week listing WR's as Questionable when they're really Probable or Doubtful. WR Patrick Edwards is Probable and will play and likely start this week after missing last week with an ankle injury. That pushes Kris Durham back into the 3rd or 4th WR role. Ryan Broyles so far has been an extreme disappointment despite getting on the field for good amounts of time the last 2 games. Reggie Bush isn't on the injury report at all and his knee injury appears to be well behind him.
Green Bay: The bye last week allowed Eddie Lacy to get past his concussion and he is Probable and will start week 5 and be the Packers primary RB. With James Starks OUT with a knee injury Johnathan Franklin will be the change of pace RB to Lacy. The return of FB John Kuhn shouldn't affect either one that much. Jermichael Finley is also Probable after using the bye week to get over his own concussion and he will start without issue. Start your Packers with confidence this week against Detroit.
Minnesota: There's a QB controversy in Minnesota after Matt Cassel looked a lot better in week 4 than Christian ever has. Cassel got both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson incorporated into the offense and threw the ball very well. Now the Vikings say there is no controversy and that Ponder is their starter, but expect them to use Ponder's fractured rib injury as an excuse to keep starting Cassel the next couple of games after they return from the bye next week. They will let Cassel either play his way in, or play his way out of the starting job. I've seen enough of Cassel to know he can look good for a while, but in the end is just another stopgap veteran QB.
Atlanta: RB Steven Jackson is out week 5 so Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will split up the duties Monday night against the Jets. The Falcons have the bye in week 6 and Jackson is expected to return at full strength in week 7. Both WR's Julio Jones (knee) and Roddy White (ankle) are likely to be listed as Questionable for Monday night. However both are fully expected to play and be fine. Actually, I am expecting White to start producing quality fantasy stats again here very soon. He played the vast majority of the offensive snaps in week 4 for the Falcons and that shows that his ankle is finally getting better. With the bye looming, it would be a smart move to target White for acquisition now before he starts putting up his usually high quality weekly fantasy stats. If White doesn't produce Monday night (and it's his turn to; just like I said Tony Gonzalez was going to last week in this weekly column) he's a sure bet to in week 8.
Carolina: As expected, the bye in week 4 allowed WR Steve Smith to get over the hip injury he suffered in week 3. Smith isn't even on the injury report. The Panthers also will finally have rookie RB Kenjon Barner available for the first time this season. Barner won't get enough carries to be fantasy relevant though. DeAngelo Williams remains the lead RB, but is only a RB3 this week with a matchup against a surprisingly strong Cardinals run defense. The Cardinals allow the second fewest fantasy points on the ground and did a very good job stopping Doug Martin last week. But one player I expect to have a great game is QB Cam Newton. Newton cut his teeth in the NFL by playing Arizona in his first game as a rookie and torched them. For some reason, I get the feeling he's going to do it again.
New Orleans: RB Mark Ingram (toe) and WR Lance Moore (hand) have both been ruled OT for week 5. Ingram is in need of a change of scenery and I expect the Saints would take a 5th or 6th round pick in exchange for him since he simply does not fit their offense. Khiry Robinson appears to be doing well taking Ingram's role of power RB, but he won't get enough carries to be fantasy relevant. Pierre Thomas's role is inconsistent thusly making him an inconsistent fantasy play and not trustworthy as more than a flex option or RB3. Darren Sproles at least seems to have found his role again and hopefully it continues to be consistent moving forward. With Moore out, Robert Meachem is likeliest to start but he's inconsistent and I think Kenny Stills makes the better desperation WR play for those grasping at straws.
Tampa Bay: The divorce is final as the Bucs cut Josh Freeman. It was apparent that Freeman and Greg Schiano couldn't co-exist. The Bucs will sink with Mike Glennon at QB this year when they return from their week 5 bye. The bye should allow WR's Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams plenty of time to get over the injuries they played through week 4.
Arizona: For the first time all season RB Rashard Mendenhall is not on the Cardinals injury report. It's hoped that he truly is healthy so he can start being the "featured" RB the Cardinals have said they wanted. But I think we'll still see a bit of a split. I think Mendenhall will be the primary with Andre Ellington serving as the pass catching and change of pace RB. Mendenhall is a RB3 with Ellington a borderline RB3/4 in the ppr format. Larry Fitzgerald is not on the injury report either and he has put his minor hamstring issue behind him. It's rare that trading away your starting left tackle makes a QB feel better, but that's probably the case with Carson Palmer after the team traded away turnstile Levi Brown. Not sure Bradley Sowell will be any better but the consensus is that he can't be much worse.
St. Louis: Still no word on who the Rams will start at RB this week against the dead last ranked Jacksonville run defense. The general feeling is that Zac Stacy is the most likely candidate with Isaiah Pead the second most likely, and a committee between them to be expected. I also wouldn't be surprised if Daryl Richardson was made inactive after yet another pitiful rushing performance last week. But these are just my best guesses based on what I've read and using a little intuition. It's failed me before. Whoever the Rams trot out there is going to be worth at the very least flex consideration as the Jaguars give up an average of 164 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD per game. Sam Bradford should also be a strong bye week or injury filler at QB this week. The Rams need to make a statement against an opponent and the Jaguars are easy pickings.
San Francisco: WR Quinton Patton's fractured foot injury will likely cost him several weeks at least. This opens the door for Jonathan Baldwin to get playing time and I think Baldwin stands a very good chance of taking over as the starter over Kyle Williams opposite Anquan Boldin. Baldwin is simply more physically talented than Williams and the 49ers need some talent out there for Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball to. Currently, the offense is looking a lot like it did when Alex Smith was winning games as a game manager. Kaepernick is destined to be much better than that. While TE Vernon Davis is listed as Questionable, he played through the hamstring injury in week 4 and suffered no setbacks. I fully expect he'll be fine for week 5.
Seattle: Marshawn Lynch is Probable on the injury report but it says that it isn't injury related. Lynch is fine for this week. Last week showed that the Seahawks offense has its limits and outside of Lynch there is no one who is a reliable option each week. TE Zach Miller is Questionable because of a hamstring injury and will be a game time decision. Even if active you shouldn't trust him. It could open the door for backup TE Luke Wilson though. Wilson is an intriguing talent that is worth keeping an eye on.