There's a lot to be thankful for in this NFL season and beyond, but injuries aren't one of them. Even the teams that have avoided sheer numbers have had key injuries. Players line up outside the training room and coaches shift names on the magnet board, with seasons turning like ankles.
Maybe your fantasy team is the same, but for many of us, we're in the last week of that season and getting ready for the playoffs. The byes are behind us, there's not much more to the waiver wire and this is probably about seeding. That makes it—like every week—important.
Did you draft Arian Foster too high? You did if you drafted him at all. How about Reggie Wayne? Were you like me taking a flier on Ahmad Bradshaw? Well, his foot is fine, after all. I'd love to hear in the comments what your best move has been this season, or maybe your worst move makes for a better story.
At worst, you're waiting until next year. Hopefully you've had fun with your friends and you haven't stressed yourself out. There's no sport out there that should make or break your day, real or imaginary. If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that winning isn't everything and that Lombardi was wrong. Make sure your fantasy team isn't the most important thing in your life.
Of course, with the holiday and coming in a day early with the injury report, there's more that can change. That means it will be even more important to read the Med Check on Sunday morning and watch Fantasy Live at noon Eastern to make sure you get the latest and best info. But for now, let's take a look around the league.
No correlation between mustache growth and bone healing.
INJURY: fractured collarbone
OUTLOOK: out for Week 13, possible for Week 14
Early-week reports (and video!) had some thinking Aaron Rodgers could be back for the division battle with the Lions on Thanksgiving. Mike McCarthy put that to rest quickly, saying chances of a return this week were "slim to none." I'll go as far as saying it's the latter, but that Week 14 is becoming more of a likelihood.
Rodgers is throwing the ball, but that was never the worry. The doctors still haven't seen enough healing to let Rodgers take any contact, knowing that one wrong hit or fall could cause a significant and long-term setback. This is not something that can be rushed. The Packers have to do the hardest thing—wait and watch.
This week has also been a lesson that showing up at practice doesn't mean much. Players can participate in very limited ways while cleared for practice. Contact comes later, but for QBs, they're almost never hit in practice, so it's not instructive. It's that final game clearance that is all important.
Some were confused by comments I made on Twitter this week. I said there that the Lions would be smart not to hit Rodgers if he did play. I didn't mean that they should back off him, but that a standard "hit" or tackle isn't the best way to test Rodgers. Instead, merely pushing him would be more effective to test the collarbone's healing. The natural reaction is to catch oneself, even with a damaged collarbone, and that sort of outstretched arm to weight loading is the most dangerous test for Rodgers.
INJURY: bruised ankle
OUTLOOK: game-time decision for Week 13
Two factors that play into injuries more than any other are trauma and fatigue. Both were in play at the end of a frozen overtime game last Sunday. Knowshon Moreno had perhaps his best game as a pro in all phases of the game, but instead of fighting to the end, he was forced to hobble to the sideline.
Aqib Talib fell on Moreno's foot midway through overtime, and while Talib isn't the biggest guy in the world (and appeared in some pain himself after the incident), it was enough to hurt Moreno. The initial diagnosis is a bruised ankle, but there's some indication that the bruise is internal rather than a simple traumatic bruise. There are lots of possibilities here, so watch to see whether Moreno is back on the field.
Moreno is key to the passing game and has been given opportunities because Peyton Manning trusts his ability to pick up the pass rush. Without him, it's unclear who would come in, but it's worth noting that C.J. Anderson was in the game late and not Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball. Watch to see if Moreno is back at practice any this week, and even if he does play on Sunday, don't expect a full set of touches.
The Broncos might be forced to limit him to passing downs. They'll give him right up to game time to prove he can play, so don't think Jack Del Rio will make this easy on us.
INJURY: hyperextended knee
OUTLOOK: likely to play Week 13
"It could have been worse" is one of the most overused cliches in injuries. However, it can be true.
The knee injury suffered by Matt Forte certainly looked worse than it was. The mild hyperextension he suffered didn't do any significant damage to ligaments or tendons, but it's certainly sore enough to make his owners worry.
The news has been very vague on Forte's injury, with even my sources going quiet. About all that's been said is the official note you can see in this B/R article. That's a bit worrisome, but another possibility is that there's simply nothing to say quite yet. Forte's availability and limitations really aren't known just yet, making the upcoming practices even more key to judging where he is.
The Bears don't have much margin for error in these last few weeks, especially without Jay Cutler for at least another week. Forte is their best option at RB, but he may need to share carries, especially the power runs, with Michael Bush to make sure that he's healthy down the line. That balance of limitations and need is why coaches go nuts about injuries. Now if they'd only do something about them.
INJURY: strained abdomen
OUTLOOK: possible for Week 13
Sometimes a player doesn't know what he's talking about. Hakeem Nicks wanted to play and said he would, but the doctors disagreed with him. Nicks was shut down by the abdominal strain, not groin strain as reported on Sunday.
Moreover, it doesn't look like it was a true GTD. Tom Coughlin told the media it was lack of practice that kept Nicks out of the game, so that should be a clear signal for us ahead of this week's game.
It's unclear if this injury has been holding Nicks back, but sources tell me that he had not complained of the injury until recently. (This story from NJ.com has similar facts, plus a clear timeline.) That's always a worry.
Abdominal strains can linger, so its unclear whether Nicks will play or, if he does, whether he'll hold his WR2 slot. Rueben Randle is much more in the long-term plans of the Giants, it seems, so Nicks could be shuffled back some. Randle had more targets last week than Victor Cruz, but that's partly on coverage. It's definitely worrisome, so watch snap counts and targets closely as you head toward the playoffs.
INJURY: post-surgical Achilles strain
OUTLOOK: expected to play in Week 13
Michael Crabtree was activated on Tuesday as expected. In all likelihood, he'll be on the field for the 49ers' next game, but the question is about effectiveness. While we've seen players coming back more quickly from Achilles reconstruction over the past few years, effectiveness and some specific skills are tougher to recover.
For Crabtree, he's going to have to prove he can accelerate, beat press coverage, cut hard to both sides and jump and land safely. That's a lot, and it's unclear how the Niners will judge that.
Instead, they're more likely to try to ease him in, using routes and sets to keep him clear. Stack formations and crossed starts will keep defenders off him early. Routes that are quick or finish out of bounds will keep him from stopping hard.
Look to see if he's rounding off any routes or if he has any noticeable limitations in practice. The media's probably not going to get a great look at him, so keep your expectations in check.
Cam Inman says Crabtree looked quick last week, so don't let pure speed reports fool you. He'll get some targets, but it's much more likely to be along the lines of Percy Harvin in Week 11 than it is what the Niners are hoping to see from Crabtree in a month or so.
INJURY: post-surgical hip
OUTLOOK: will play in Week 13
Percy Harvin got to play in Week 11 against the Vikings, but he was barely used. That game isn't instructive for where Harvin is or what he can do. With the bye in between, it's even tougher to get a read on exactly where Harvin is right now.
He can still do what he did, which is go deep and be a decent decoy, but have a couple weeks improved things significantly?
As of yet, we don't know, though it's clear this was the game the Seahawks were targeting to have Harvin back, not the Vikings game. As with Crabtree, Harvin could be a big boost for teams that have stashed him as the fantasy playoffs come up, but Week 13 is going to be huge for both his confidence and the fantasy owners who will make big decisions come Week 14.
With Pete Carroll saying Harvin is "day to day," it's certainly not looking positive. Harvin still hasn't shown lateral movement or hard cuts in practice, so look for any news of that before playing him this week. Unfortunately, the payoff for holding on to Harvin may be at least a week away, if it comes at all.
INJURY: sprained ankle
OUTLOOK: likely to play in Week 13
I'm not going to call anyone out for guessing or speculating about injuries. I've done it. I've been right and wrong, but whether it's commenters or tweeters, it doesn't matter. If you guess 20 times and get 19 right, it's only the one you missed that people will remember. Even in situations with good sourcing, things change.
The speculation on Tamba Hali was that he had an Achilles injury. Smart guys in the sports med world saw it and largely agreed. The problem was, nothing was wrong with his Achilles. The Chiefs made a point of saying the problem was minor, confined to the medial (inside) aspect of the ankle, and that they knew immediately what the issue was because Hali was very clear on what it felt like.
Hali is a big man (6'3" and 275 pounds), and that weight, plus his job necessities, won't help him. That's not to say he won't play. A week of rest and treatment, plus a big game against the Broncos, means that he'll likely do everything he can to be on the field. How effective he'll be and how well the medical staff can get him functionally will be the key.
Expect Hali to be used more sparingly than normal and for the Broncos to test the ankle early with cutbacks, traps and even some roll blocks. We'll know early how he'll respond, but for the Broncos running game, anything shy of 100 percent for Hali is a big help.
The Bears won't get Jay Cutler back in Week 13, but the ankle is making enough progress that Week 14 is possible and Week 15 is likely. Given the fantasy playoffs and the close NFC North, a week could make all the difference. The groin is also getting extra time to heal, so whichever it is, he'll be better off than he was last time he was on the field next time out.
Stacy's concussion will have to clear up, and he'll have to pass the protocol. We've seen many times this season that players can come back the next week without short-term consequence, so unless we see a setback, Stacy is still likely to get the start for the Rams this week. He's been a solid second-tier RB since taking over the role.
Sproles' knee and ankle injuries didn't clear up in time for last Thursday's game, but the extra time before his next one should help. Sproles is an upgrade in the passing game and another weapon for Drew Brees. Assuming he practices late this week, he should be back in his normal role for the Saints and your fantasy team.
At best, McFadden is going to split carries with Rashad Jennings. At worst, he's not going to show enough in practice to be active. Late-week practices will be very telling for McFadden's future, but he's going to push to get back on the field and try to have a future.
Thomas tried to be ready for the big game with the Pats, but his knee was too limiting. That Peyton Manning shifted the throws to Demaryius Thomas in the intermediate routes was expected, which opens things up if Thomas doesn't make it back. That said, he should, but be sure he's not going to split targets with Jacob Tamme or lose out to the other Thomas before you lock him in your Week 13 lineup.