NFL Injury News: Players to Monitor Entering Sunday's Action

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2012

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 28:  Running back Darren Sproles #43 and tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints celebrate a second quarter Sproles touchdown during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on October 28, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Words like "questionable" and phrases like "game-time decision" are frightening for NFL teams and fantasy football owners alike.

Mystery surrounding any player's status with Sunday right around the corner is nerve-wracking, even more so if that player happens to be a major part of a team's game plan.

One key player can impact the outcome of a game. This time of year, every little thing matters as teams begin their playoff pushes.

Let's look at three players to monitor with Sunday right around the corner.


Julio Jones

Jones is listed as questionable, according to the Associated Press (via The Augusta Chronicle). The report states that "Jones sprained his right ankle in last week’s loss at New Orleans and missed practice this week."

It appears that Jones' status won't be determined until closer to game time. Because he's Atlanta's best downfield threat, it's worth noting whether he takes the field or not.

The Arizona Cardinals are going to be a very beatable team either way, but it's hard to tell how Atlanta will rebound after losing its undefeated season in Week 10. No one wants to lose twice in a row, and that could play a role in this one.

Obviously the Falcons will still have Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, and Harry Douglas isn't a bad option himself, but Jones is a potential game-changer. 

He's worth keeping an eye on for Falcons fans or fantasy owners.


Darren Sproles

According to The Times-Picayune reporter Larry Holder, Sproles is likely to play on Sunday versus the Raiders:

#Saints' Darren Sproles likely to play vs. #Raiders after fully practicing Thursday…

— Larry Holder (@LarryHolder) November 15, 2012

This is big considering that the Saints have won two games in a row without their dynamic weapon. It's not official that he's playing, but everything sounds encouraging.

New Orleans has been looking much better since its 0-4 start. After unseating the undefeated Falcons in Week 10, getting Sproles back couldn't come at a better time.

Until he's definitely in the lineup, it's worth monitoring him. As a fantasy owner, it's still hard to tell how many touches he will get and what role he will play. Don't be surprised if the Saints' coaching staff eases him in to things.

When healthy, he's arguably the most dynamic player in the league. He could give the Saints a huge boost if he plays this Sunday.


Ryan Mathews

According to ESPN's Bill Williamson, Mathews has a chance to play on Sunday:

The San Diego Chargers received good news Friday when starting running back Ryan Mathews practiced on a limited basis. It was his first work of the week in preparation for a key game at Denver on Sunday. 

The team is encouraged that Mathews has a chance to play Sunday. He was dealing with a neck injury, but it improved Friday. I’d think if there is not a setback, he should be able to play. 

If the Chargers have a chance to beat the Broncos, they must have a two-dimensional offense. If they don't, Denver's pass rush will pin its ears back, attack Philip Rivers and ruin his day rather quickly.

Mathews, although he hasn't been great, has nearly 500 yards this season. Even if he doesn't play well, he will always be a better option than No. 2 ball-carrier Jackie Battle.

Denver is above-average at both defending the pass and defending the run. San Diego has lost four of its last five games and it will need every ounce of its energy to defeat its AFC West rivals. Otherwise, a repeat of their matchup earlier in the season could be in order.

Mathews gives San Diego's offense an added element. That's huge, because Rivers cannot carry this team alone.