Last week was particularly unkind to quarterbacks in the NFL, and to this point three starters have already been ruled out of action for Week 11 due to injury: the Bears' Jay Cutler and the Eagles' Michael Vick due to concussion, and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger due to a rare but serious rib dislocation that could threaten the remainder of his season. This, on top of players such as Antonio Brown, Darren McFadden, and DeMarco Murray being unlikely to suit up makes it a challenging week for many fantasy owners. Here's the scoop on other key injuries, and their impact, for the rest of this week's games:
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (concussion)
Monday night Smith was pulled in the second quarter of the 49ers 24-24 tie with the Rams last week after experiencing blurred vision, and he was later diagnosed with a concussion. While it is unclear exactly which hit caused the concussion, Smith finished out the possession during which it occurred before yielding to backup Colin Kaepernick for the remainder of the game. Smith has participated in non-contact drills this week, and early indications are that he is likely to get the start on Monday night against the Bears, who themselves have already announced Jason Campbell as their starter at QB in place of the concussed Jay Cutler. If not, it's Kaepernick time again for the 49ers.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (neck)
The oft-injured Mathews suffered a neck strain in last week's loss to Tampa Bay, ironically during a collision with Quincy Black that resulted in a scary neck injury for the Bucs LB himself. While Mathews missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, good news for Chargers fans was that he participated in Friday's session and although listed as questionable appears likely to play at Denver. The Chargers can ill-afford to enter the game shorthanded, as it may be their last stand if they hope to contend for either the division or a wild-card playoff spot.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints (hand)
Sproles has been back at practice this week for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a fractured left hand that has kept him out of the past two games, and although he is listed as questionable on the Saints' injury report, all indications are that he will play at Oakland. Head Coach Joe Vitt said this week that Sproles still has some swelling around the site of the fracture, and therefore he is likely to wear a protective brace or a form of padding on the hand this week. The Saints are at no loss for talent at RB, with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and Chris Ivory all in the fold along with Sproles as the team attempts to make an improbable run toward a postseason berth.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (groin)
Turner has been limited in practice the entire week due to a nagging groin injury and is listed as questionable on the team's injury report. Although it appears likely that he will get the nod against Arizona, groin injuries can be particularly slow to improve and prone to aggravation if tested before fully healed. With backup RB Jacquizz Rodgers showing flashes of brilliance out of the Falcons' backfield in recent weeks, it would not be a surprise if Turner's workload decreases somewhat, even if he does start.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot)
Garcon, who had a dominating first half of action in the Redskins' opening-week victory over New Orleans, left that game due to a mysterious foot injury that has allowed him back for only one additional game this season and by all reports may never get to 100 percent this year. Nonetheless, Washington's top receiver has participated in practice this week, and the team seems willing to put him on the field even at less than fully healed for Sunday's Waterloo game with the Eagles. It remains to be seen whether Garcon will actually be able to contribute, given it is likely he is not at top speed, but with WRs Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson struggling to make a name for themselves this season, Mike Shanahan and staff likely figures he provides their best shot at production from the position.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (ankle)
The Falcons' explosive WR, whose career thus far has been slowed only due to minor injuries, suffered an ankle injury during last week's loss to New Orleans and had missed the entire week of practice thus far. Although Jones did return to action after hurting the ankle last week, the team has taken no chances of risking aggravation. The Falcons' staff has been tight-lipped about his chances of playing against the Cardinals, only to list him as questionable on the official injury report. Looks like a game-time decision for one of QB Matt Ryan's many targets.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (hamstring/ankle)
Nelson, who missed Week 8 with a hamstring injury and then left in Week 9 with an injured ankle appears ready to go tomorrow against the Lions after the team's Week 10 bye and a full week of practice. Nelson caught his right foot in the turf while catching a pass from Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter of Green Bay's Week 9 win over Arizona and did not return to action. While this adds another weapon to Rodgers' already-impressive arsenal, it remains to be seen how it affects the fantasy values of WRs Randall Cobb and James Jones, who have been impressive for the Packers in Nelson's absence.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (hip)
The Texans' TE missed last week's victory over Chicago due to a hip pointer and has been limited in practice this week. The injury occurred during Houston's Week 9 victory over Buffalo, and hip pointers -- which result from trauma sustained in the area of the hip bone -- often result in significant pain and limited range of motion. With Daniels back at practice, there is optimism out of Houston that he will be able to suit up against the Jaguars, but it is likely to be another game-time decision.