Matthew Stafford Injury: What Fantasy Owners Should Expect in Week 4

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the game at LP Field on September 23, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Matthew Stafford has been dealing with a bothersome hip injury that has left his playing status for Week 4 in question. However, he returned to practice on Thursday, which should provide fantasy owners with confidence he'll be ready to face the Minnesota Vikings.

Chris McCosky of the Detroit News reports Stafford looked no worse for the wear during practice. He was able to move without any noticeable limitations, making it appear like he's on track to play in Sunday's game barring a setback.

As long as Stafford remains on his current track, it will be safe to slide him right back into fantasy starting lineups for Week 4. Owners are still waiting for his first big game of the season after three solid, but not great, performances.

He's averaging nearly 290 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the league, but the problem from a fantasy perspective has been a lack of touchdowns. Stafford has thrown just three in as many games, with exactly one each week.

It wasn't until Week 7 last season that Stafford had less than two touchdown passes in a game, and he had just four occurrences during his entire breakout campaign. So owners were clearly expecting more when they drafted him with an early pick.

The Vikings defense would give him a golden opportunity to get back on track. Even though Minnesota is only allowing 209 yards per game, it has yet to face a potent passing attack. The secondary still has flaws that Stafford should be able to expose.

In two games against the Vikings last season, Stafford threw for over 600 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers are more in line with what he was expected to produce on a pretty consistent basis this season.

Since the injury doesn't seem like it's holding him back in any significant way, fantasy owners shouldn't have any reservations about playing him. Unless something changes before Sunday, he should be viewed as a top-tier option like usual.

The presence of Mikel LeShoure should help open the passing lanes and, given his track record against the Vikings, he should be able to produce his best fantasy game of the season by breaking the 20-point barrier.

Even though Stafford hasn't lived up to the high standards he set last season and is dealing with the hip injury, he has too much potential against Minnesota to leave him on the bench if he's active.

Continue to track his progress through Sunday morning. If he's active, start him and have confidence he'll put together a strong showing.