NFL Week 1 Injury Report: Forecasting the Impact on Fantasy Football
For the benefit of those that still have the luxury of adjusting your fantasy football rosters between now and the games this coming Sunday, we are going to take a look at the fantasy football stars that are on the injured list and determine which of them you need to sit and which ones are safe to start.
When reviewing this presentation, realize that this is being published Thursday morning, so we will have to exclude the opening game of the New York Giants versus Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday evening from our consideration.
As a result of the Thursday publication, it is very possible that players can be upgraded by the medical staffs of the teams later in the week, or they can suffer a setback in practice later this week as well. So you are encouraged to check back on their condition late Saturday or early Sunday just to see if there has been any further movement that would influence your decision to sit or start them.
Also, please note that we will be focusing on the starting quarterbacks, top-two wide receivers, top-two running backs and the starting tight ends for teams, so you won't be seeing any injury updates on the third-string quarterbacks or the No. 5 and 6 wide receivers on a team. Also, we are focusing on the injured offensive fantasy football stars, so defensive players will not be featured here.
If we advise you to sit a player you were hoping to start, some leagues still allow you to pick up free agents mid-week. Hopefully you still have time to pick up a replacement. Or you can try to handcuff the injured player to his backup, so you will have a starter either when the team makes their final announcement prior to kickoff.
This presentation will feature 20 injured stars, and for each slide, we will conclude it with a START or SIT verdict for each player.
Good luck to you in your Week 1 games.
The Week 1 Injury Report
Since this list comes out on Wednesdays, there is obviously a few practice days where somebody's condition could improve or get worse, so you have to keep paying attention to the updates.
Some teams give injury reports that are meant to confuse the issue, while others will try to hide as much as they can. You only need to be concerned with the players on your fantasy team, unless somebody in your league is trying to push you really hard to accept a trade offer. Maybe he knows that his player is hurt and is going to go on the IR list any day.
New England RB Shane Vereen
This weekend marks the first game for the running back duo of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is now running for Cincinnati.
Vereen hurt his foot in practice this week and then missed practicing with the team Wednesday due to the injury.
As things stand now, Ridley is the starter, and Vereen is the backup. So let Vereen sit on your bench this week and see how the touches are divided between Ridley and Vereen. If the Patriots are still handing the ball off to Aaron Hernandez as they were doing late in 2011, then I would be thinking about releasing Vereen.
Shane Vereen Week 1 Fantasy Advice: SIT HIM
Miami Dolphins WR Brian Hartline
Okay, reality check time here.
You own Brian Hartline, who is looking like he will be the No. 3 wide receiver on the Miami Dolphins this year. You just learned that he has been trying to play through a calf injury and can't decide if you want to start him or sit him.
Before you do anything else, I would beg you to please stop what you are doing and join my fantasy league! Please!
Seriously, what in the world would you be doing with Brian Hartline on your fantasy roster? The Dolphins are going to have one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL this year.
The only possible way that I would consider starting Hartline is if you are playing your boss this weekend in your fantasy league, and he happened to fire the last two guys that beat him. Oh yeah, there is one more scenario, and that would be if you are playing against your wife or your significant other, and the last time you beat her, she...(okay, figure it out).
Brian Hartline Week 1 Fantasy Advice: SIT HIM AND THEN DUMP HIM
Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is suffering from back spasms. It is serious enough that he might not play on opening day.
Lynch was limited in practice Wednesday to the point that all he could do was participate in a walk-through, which doesn't give me a lot of confidence that he is playing. Apparently, Skittles don't do anything to alleviate back spasms.
If you were able to handcuff rookie Robert Turbin to Lynch, then you are well-positioned to play whoever gets the call to start.
This is one of those deals where you will have to keep checking in through Saturday and even an hour prior to opening kickoff to see what the latest updates are reporting. I will need to make a judgement call right now, however, so I am opting to play it conservative.
New York Jets TE Dustin Keller
Seriously, Keller and Santonio Holmes are really the only two options to even consider on the Jets passing game. While Keller would have been an attractive starting tight end option in prior years, the talk all summer has been that the Jets will turn to Tebow to run the Wildcat offense in the red zone. If you eliminate half of Keller's normal touchdowns receptions to Tebow and the Wildcat, you are eliminating a good percentage of his value.
For now, Keller is expected to play this week against Buffalo. The Bills historically have a hard time in covering tight ends, but their secondary does seem to be improved.
I am a little torn about this one due to the Tebow-Wildcat impact.
Dustin Keller Week 1 Fantasy Advice: START HIM
Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson
Trent Richardson, the star running back out of Alabama, is hoping to make his NFL debut this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles. He is listed as questionable, and this is especially one of those players that you want to be monitoring as we get closer to the weekend.
Richardson has been dealing with a bad knee this summer, and he required a scope of his knee, which has set him back some. If he does play in this game, it won't be at 100 percent.
When he is at 100 percent, Richardson will probably be a "must start" kind of player every week. What else do the Browns really have to offer on offense? We just don't know yet how much longer it will take for Richardson to be completely over his knee issues.
Since Cleveland is playing a quality opponent in Philadelphia, if the Browns don't score early, this could be a rout, meaning that the Browns would be forced to abandon the run game and throw the ball to play catch up. I don't like this matchup for Richardson, especially when we really haven't seen him play.
If you have a healthier option, who looks like he will get 12 to 15 touches, I would start that guy over Richardson. If Richardson winds up showing well, then plug him back into your lineup in Week 2.
Trent Richardson Week 1 Fantasy Advice: SIT HIM
Baltimore Ravens TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta
During the 2011 season, two of the top-five receivers for the Baltimore Ravens were their pair of tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. Dickson was No. 4 on the team, catching 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns. Pitta was ranked No. 5, and he caught 40 passes for 405 yards and three scores.
Both Pitta and Dickson have been injured during the 2012 preseason. Pitta had surgery on his hand, while Dickson has been dealing with shoulder issues. Coming into their opening game on "Monday Night Football" against the Cincinnati Bengals, it is looking like they will be a game-time decision.
I hate game-time decisions for players on my fantasy team because, unless you get the official word before opening kickoff, you could wind up getting zero points for that slot if your player is declared out. Since the game is being played Monday night, you really are stuck if the Ravens decide to sit either Pitta or Dickson.
As a result, give strong consideration to starting a healthy tight end that is playing on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills WR Steve Johnson
This Sunday marks the first game for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson since he signed his new long-term deal during the offseason. The last thing he wanted to do was start off the year with another groin injury.
However, Johnson was limited in practice this week and also took a hard fall at practice. We have a tweet from Joe Buscaglia, who covers the Bills, with this update:
Stevie Johnson limited at practice. The injury listed is 'groin.' He did take a hard fall at practice. Unsure if that is related. #Bills
Johnson has enjoyed success against Revis because the Bills aren't afraid to challenge him. Johnson is a difficult receiver to contain because he is allowed great freedom in how he chooses to run his pass routes, based off of what his defender is giving him or trying to take away.
Don't let the groin issue faze you; Johnson played through groin injuries during the 2011 season. If you were planning to start him before news of the injury surfaced, then by all means, start him this week.
Steve Johnson Week 1 Fantasy Advice: START HIM
Cincinnati Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham
With Jerome Simpson gone, Andy Dalton only has A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham to throw the ball to in 2012 in regards to players that he experienced strong chemistry with in 2011. Gresham, however, sprained his knee in the preseason and sat out a couple preseason games to get ready for the regular season.
As things stand now, Gresham will probably suit up and play for the "Monday Night Football" game in Week 1, but it will be roughly three weeks since he played in a game. Due to the limited options in the Bengals passing game, I imagine defenses will be trying to clamp down on Green, leaving Gresham as the next best target.
Gresham will be a decent tight end this year, but you can probably find another option that doesn't have an injury risk. If he is your best option, however, then go ahead and start him. I will advise you to conditionally start him only if you don't have another option.
Gresham (knee) is expected to be active for "Monday Night Football."
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall suffered a bad knee injury late in 2011 that made his return for the start of the 2012 season very questionable.
But here we are on the verge of starting the season, and Mendenhall missed every preseason game, but this week, he is participating in practice.
You are basically playing with fire here or rolling the dice—whatever you prefer. He hasn't taken any hits in a game, and we have to wonder what kind of football shape he is in. If you were able to draft Mendenhall, you probably secured him later in the draft due to his injury situation, so presumably you drafted another running back ahead of him to start in Week 1.
Assuming that this is the case, the advice here is to sit him this week, see what he does, what his role is and how many touches he gets. Is he running with a limp, or is he making people miss and breaking tackles?
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon
Justin Blackmon is dealing with a hamstring injury this week, which meant that he couldn't participate fully in practice.
Based on the lack of major weapons in the Jaguars offense, especially in light of Maurice Jones-Drew just reporting this week from his long holdout, you can imagine that Blaine Gabbert will be looking to throw the football early and often to Blackmon this week.
While it would be very smart to check in for a status update with your players over the weekend prior to opening kickoff, I am going to assume that Blackmon is going to play, and he is somebody that you will want to play on Sunday if you own him.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB Isaac Redman
When Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall went down late in the 2011 season, it was Isaac Redman that stepped up in the playoffs with 121 rushing yards against the Denver Broncos in the playoff game in Denver. That effort was enough to convince the Steelers that Redman could take over as the starter until Mendenhall made it all the way back from his knee injury.
Everyone figured Redman would play for the first month until Mendenhall worked his way back into shape, but now Mendenhall is practicing without a brace, and nobody is sure exactly who is starting.
If you drafted Redman thinking he was going to be carrying the load for the first month or so, I am not convinced that is the case any longer.
The entire situation appears too muddled to be able to have a clear decision, so if you have a decent alternate option, your safest play is to sit Redman for this weekend.
Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
During the majority of preseason, the Vikings were taking it very slow with Peterson, and rightfully so; he is the best player on the team.
He did severe damage to his knee, and there was no point in rushing him back too soon, except that Peterson has such a high desire to achieve and a high tolerance to dealing with pain.
While the prevailing mood seemed to be that Peterson would be limited in the beginning of the season, he might be able to do a sales job on the coaches and convince them that he is ready to play.
You are highly advised to keep monitoring any news from the Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier about what they plan to do with Peterson this week. I would be tempted to start him because I suspect that most of you drafted him with an early round pick.
Going on a gut feel with this call.
Adrian Peterson Week 1 Fantasy Advice: START HIM
Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith was dealing with a bad infection in his foot that kept him out of practice for about 10 days. He was on crutches because the infection got that bad, but he has received medical clearance to return to practice.
The Panthers were worried that Smith might have a staph infection, but that never materialized. Instead, he is good to go by all accounts, so if you were planning to start him, go ahead and do so with full confidence.
Steve Smith Week 1 Fantasy Advice: START HIM
San Francisco 49ers RB Brandon Jacobs
The San Francisco 49ers running back Brandon Jacobs appeared on the NFL.com injury list that we referenced earlier with a knee injury, and he did not practice with the team on Wednesday.
That suggests on the surface that he is doubtful for the game Sunday afternoon at Green Bay. The 49ers will still be handing the ball off the majority of the time to Frank Gore, using Jacobs as the power back for short-yardage scenarios.
If you were thinking of plugging Jacobs into a flex slot due to the potential for vulture touchdowns, I would encourage you to check your other options.
Continue to monitor Jacob's progress throughout the week.
Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart
Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart looks like he might be coming down to a game-time decision this weekend. Stewart is dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of practice this week.
According to a tweet by Joe Person:
Here's what Ron Rivera said about #Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart's status after today's practice: http://sulia.com/c/carolina-panthers/f/27d72638-0961-4a06-8b9c-414f12c705c3/?source=twitter …
Part of the issue with Stewart is that he is playing in a backfield that has too many good players and only one football. He will have to share carries with DeAngelo Williams, and of course, Cam Newton has been known to run quite a bit as well.
While Stewart will probably play on Sunday, there is no guarantee that he will be all the way back or that he will start. This one is another tough call right now.
New York Jets WR Santonio Holmes
Santonio Holmes has been dealing with a rib injury this week, but he did return to practice. The question that we have to ask is, did you draft Holmes as a No. 1, No. 2 or your No. 3 wide receiver on your team?
If you drafted him as your No. 1, then I think you have to start him. If you drafted him as either the No. 2 or No. 3 and you have somebody else that is comparable on your bench, you might want to consider sitting him down this week.
The Jets, under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, are looking to return to a power-football attack, featuring an emphasis on the ground game. That doesn't necessarily bode well for Holmes' numbers in fantasy football.
While Holmes has enjoyed some success against the Bills secondary in prior years, there are some legitimate questions about how good the Jets passing game is in 2012, based on everything that we have seen so far.
Right now, I would be leery about starting Holmes until I saw a really good game from him that proves he is a viable contributor to your team.
Santonio Holmes Week 1 Fantasy Advice: SIT HIM
Seattle Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin
The Seattle Seahawks could very well be one of the surprise teams to emerge out of the NFC this year thanks to the emergence of rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.
One of Wilson's main targets will be wide receiver Doug Baldwin. Baldwin suffered a hamstring injury during training camp, and he needed to have some minor surgery performed on it recently.
But Baldwin has since returned to practice and is looking like he is ready to go for Week 1.
We can only assume that Wilson will distribute the ball like he has demonstrated and that the Seahawks will have a viable offense under Wilson. So start Baldwin and ride him out for now.
San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
It is a bad omen when your star fantasy running back breaks his collarbone on the first carry of the preseason, but that is exactly what happened to San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.
Mathews, since then, has been working out and trying to get healthy again to play, but it just doesn't seem like enough time has come and gone to heal up completely.
With that being the case, we are targeting Mathews to make his debut in Week 2 and advise you to place him on your bench for the game coming up on "Monday Night Football."
Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson
Houston Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson appeared on the injury report this week for Week 1. He had been dealing with a groin injury during training camp and then got the wind knocked out of him during the final preseason game.
But Johnson appears that he has fully recovered, and he was able to participate in practice this week, which allows us to recommend that he should be in your starting lineup this weekend.
Keep monitoring his groin injury to see if it continues to trouble him this year, as Johnson is starting to develop more injury history than we care to see.
Oakland Raiders WR Denarius Moore
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore is dealing with a hamstring issue. While he may be viewed as questionable for the Raiders Monday night game with San Diego, it is also telling that Oakland went ahead and signed free-agent Derek Hagan to a new contract.
Hagan played with the Raiders in 2011 as well, and his new deal might be a way of Oakland saying that they don't have complete faith that Moore or Juron Criner might be available to play. Criner has a new ankle injury.
Since the game is on Monday night, all you can do is check in for an update on Sunday morning to see what news has surfaced. If you are in doubt and have a healthy wide receiver you can plug in, I would opt for the healthy receiver. Carson Palmer has looked pretty brutal so far in preseason.