NFL Week 15 Injury Report: Fantasy Advice Heading into the Weekend
Anything happen while I was gone?
Wow, a lot happened. It's like I can't leave the house. I missed both the Adrian Peterson and Rob Gronkowski injuries while I was flying to Orlando for the baseball winter meetings. One turned out as bad as possible, while the other might be nothing. Injuries are like that.
In the heart of the fantasy playoffs, it's another week of some teams/owners needing surety and others needing upside. That makes injuries just a part of the context. In the playoffs more than any other time, asking anyone (even me) for fantasy advice is folly. You have to know your team, your players, your situation and find those out for yourself. Get the information, but process it in your own context.
Injuries, of course, are deciding factors, and there is much to get to. Special thanks to Dr. Dave Siebert for filling in on Tuesday's Injury Review. Now, let's look forward and around the league.
Injury: midfoot sprain
Outlook: likely to play in Week 15
I'm not sure he's human.
The way Adrian Peterson looked writhing on the turf made me think initially that he had a significant issue, perhaps a fracture. Foot injuries are painful. As most know, even stubbing your toe hurts like crazy.
In the modern NFL, with extremely light shoes and extremely heavy linemen, there's been an increase in midfoot injuries, especially Lisfranc injuries. That Peterson had something with all the hallmarks of a season-ender and is coming back tells us a lot about him. He's an outlier, and you don't base expectations on the outliers.
Peterson is expected to play, but as Brian Hall of Fox Sports North notes, watch his Friday practice for how much. With Toby Gerhart likely out or limited, there's not much behind Peterson and there's no way that the Vikings will risk Peterson in a meaningless game a week after an injury. His active status might indicate more about how much the front office trusts Leslie Frazier than it does about Peterson's foot.
Then again, if he gets 20 carries or more, he's definitely a Terminator.
Injury: high ankle sprain/strained groin
Outlook: will start in Week 15
Marc Trestman made his decision, and by making it early, he's exposed himself to second-guessing by the chattering classes. The thing to keep in mind here is that Trestman had all the information he needed to make the decision to start Jay Cutler over Josh McCown, as reported by Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, and it came down to one fact: Cutler was cleared by the medical staff.
We've seen that the team clearly thinks a limited version of Cutler was superior to McCown earlier, when the team started Cutler as he was recovering from a groin strain in Week 10. (That's healed now, by the way.) While we don't know yet if there are any physical limitations in place from the high ankle, we've also seen that Peyton Manning has played pretty well through an acute sprain of his own. Cutler could easily do that.
Expect Cutler to be wearing a significant brace, not unlike Manning.
The question now is whether Trestman can close up the gaps and get the line to keep Cutler more upright the way that the Broncos did after Manning's sprain. Two-tight end sets and holding Matt Forte in more might be part of the strategy, which could throw off the normal usage.
It's also very good for Brandon Marshall, who seems to mesh better with Cutler than McCown, while the opposite is true for Alshon Jeffrey.
Injury: fractured collarbone
Outlook: unlikely to play in Week 15
Aaron Rodgers told the media that he hasn't had any sort of medical scan this week.
If "scan" is Rodgers' word for imaging, which would include CT scans as well as fluoroscopes and X-rays, that's a very telling statement. The Packers are likely to be doing comparison scans all along. A doctor A/B tests for this—does A look like there's been a significant change since time of B? That's how radiology works.
Sources last week told me that Rodgers was very close, limited by some pain in the shoulder, which may be the articulation of some residual soft tissue damage around the fracture, or pain in the fractured area itself. The healing had progressed, but the function was not yet there. Pain can be managed, but the risk of using Rodgers was just too high.
It appears that hasn't changed this week, leaving Rodgers on the sidelines and Matt Flynn at the helm for another week. That means the prognosis hasn't changed either. Rodgers is week-to-week and could return for Week 16, 17 or not at all. He's got enough fantasy upside to hold him at this stage of the season, but there might be no payoff.
Then again, what QB2 on your roster has more upside?
Outlook: out for Week 15
There is no rule that requires a player to sit out after a second concussion. We have to hope that a medical and coaching staff will use common sense for a situation like what we're seeing with Wes Welker, but there's no rule.
Many in the medical community will debate the overall significance of multiple concussions, concussion proclivity and other associated things, but the honest answer is "I don't know." There are conflicting theories surrounding everything and a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) on top of that. The answer now is to focus on function and keep a conservative, long-term view.
Welker's concussion isn't good, but we've seen that the Broncos have been conservative with players save for Manning. Getting Welker back and ready for the playoffs is much more important than Week 15, and if they have to hold him out another week or even two, they'll do it. (Week 17 is going to be a mess for Broncos players if you're in one of those crazy leagues that plays it.)
Right now, we know that Welker is out for this week. Everything beyond that, one can only speculate.
Injury: sprained knee
Outlook: out for season; return in question
There's no question that it was a devastating hit that took out Rob Gronkowski's knee. Dr. Dave Siebert did a great job of detailing that.
I'll leave the garment-rending and religious discussions about "sissification" to someone else. It's not like we haven't had similar hits for years.
The question for Gronkowski now is when he can come back. If it takes him a full year, as is standard, his 2014 season is in question. A lot of that will depend on how much associated damage to meniscus and articular cartilage is found when the surgeon gets in there.
Peterson isn't a good comparison. As I said earlier, he's an outlier. He's the best-case scenario, so while it's possible Gronkowski is back for the start of the 2014 season, it's not likely.
Another surgery for Gronkowski might raise long-term concerns, but this is hardly being "injury prone." Gronkowski's back is a chronic issue, but the rest of his problems have been traumatic or, in the case of the infection, bad luck. ACL surgery is no longer a career-threatening issue if the player wants to come back. There's little doubt that Gronkowski will be back, but a lot about when.
Robert Griffin III
Outlook: ruled out for rest of season, coach's decision
Look above. Injury: none.
While Mike Shanahan might be selling that Robert Griffin isn't healthy or that he's taking too many hits, he's not on the injury report. Griffin was cleared before Week 1 of this season, and while he didn't perform up to standards, it's not because of the knee.
No, Griffin was reluctant to run and limited by the brace at points, but that to me is more about not being given the proper time to adjust.
If there's a good sign here, it's that Griffin played a season at Baylor with the brace before his Heisman campaign. Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are two similar QBs who struggled in their second seasons as well.
Shanahan's petulant benching is not something that is truly injury-related. I'm glad there are so many out there on social media or message boards who know better than the Washington medical staff, which includes Dr. James Andrews, but forgive me for taking them at their word. Griffin wasn't Adrian Peterson, but who is?
I'll be watching to see where Griffin goes in next year's draft. My guess is it's going to be well below his true value.
Reggie Bush: Bush's unhappy accident in the pregame of last week's snow game left the Lions reliant on Joique Bell and a man down. They'll watch Bush closely, but it's the same thing as this week. He'll be a real game-time decision.
Michael Crabtree: Crabtree's mild ankle sprain isn't directly related to his Achilles, but there's the worry about cascade injuries in place. They'll be conservative with him, so watch both practice reports and Fantasy Live on Sunday to be sure he's playing and playing normally.
Percy Harvin: The Seahawks aren't shutting Harvin down yet, especially with the playoffs on the horizon, but there's no indication that the injections he got have reduced the swelling. If he comes back, it's likely be in Week 16 or later.
Randall Cobb: Cobb has been cleared to run, but getting back for Week 15 looks iffy. It's possible, but unlikely. Cobb is more likely to be shut down than Rodgers if the Packers are out of the playoff race, but he's a nice wild card if they end up in the postseason.
Rashad Jennings: Jennings has been cleared to play for the Raiders. Back at practice early this week, he should get the chance to be the Raiders' RB1 again this week. There may be a bit more sharing, but expect him to get the bulk of the carries.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Jones-Drew's hamstring strain is pretty low grade, but the team will wait until game time to make any decision. Expect the Jaguars to be conservative as they look at other options. Jones-Drew won't get normal touches even if he plays, so factor that in.