As the NFL’s Sunday and Monday night games approach, a number of key players have already been ruled out of action, including a quartet of Steelers for their matchup with Baltimore: QBs Ben Roethlisberger and Ben Roethlisberger, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, and RT Mike Adams.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (shoulder – questionable) TB (4-7) vs. CAR (3-8), 1pm Freeman injured his right (throwing) shoulder on a quarterback sneak during last week’s loss to Tennessee and has been limited to light throwing in practice this week. Although Freeman is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, Head Coach Raheem Morris has deemed him a "game-time decision," and backup Josh Johnson has received the reps with the starting unit this week. This would likely result in fewer targets for WR Mike Williams, although RB LeGarrette Blount may see more carries if Johnson gets the start.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (ankle – questionable) OAK (3-8) vs. CIN (6-5), 4:25pm McFadden suffered a high ankle sprain in the first half of the Raiders’ Week 9 loss to Tampa Bay and hasn’t been able to play since, let alone practice. However, he has practiced on a limited basis for the majority of this week and appears to be a game-time decision for tomorrow’s game with the Bengals. The recovery time for ankle injuries is notoriously slow due to the complex nature of the joint itself. A high ankle sprain involves injury to the syndesmotic ligaments of the ankle, which are responsible for holding the lower ends of the tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) together. Injuries to these ligaments are usually more serious than to other areas of the ankle, causing significant pain and difficulty bearing weight.
The severity of and prognosis for recovery from ankle sprains are often a source of confusion, primarily due to misunderstanding over what exactly the different "grades" of sprains actually mean. In brief:
• A Grade 1 sprain is a mild sprain that occurs when there is slight stretching and some damage to the fibers of the ligament. Individuals can usually place pressure on the foot and walk afterward.
• A Grade 2 sprain is a moderate sprain where a partial tearing of the ligament occurs. If the ankle joint is examined and moved in certain ways, abnormal looseness (laxity) of the ankle joint occurs.
• A Grade 3 sprain is a severe sprain in which a complete tear of the ligament occurs. If the examiner pulls or pushes on the ankle joint in certain movements, gross instability occurs. With multiple injuries in the Raiders’ backfield in recent weeks, the team has been relying heavily on Marcel Reese to carry the load. McFadden’s return will be a welcome addition to a team that has struggled heavily in recent weeks.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot – questionable) DAL (5-6) vs. PHI (3-8), 8:20pm Murray, who has missed the Cowboys’ past six games with a foot injury, has a good chance to return to the field tomorrow against the Eagles after returning to practice on a limited basis this week. Murray would be a welcome sight for the Cowboys, who have managed to rush for 100+ yards only once in his absence. In addition, backup Felix Jones is questionable this week with a knee injury, which would leave the Dallas backfield extremely thin if Murray can’t go tomorrow. All indications are that he will, and against a struggling Philadelphia defense to boot.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers (ankle – doubtful) CAR (3-8) @ KC (1-10), 1pm The Panthers’ RB suffered what is being called a high ankle sprain on the final play of the first half of last Monday’s win over Philadelphia and is listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s game at Kansas City. All indications are that Stewart is likely to have suffered a Grade 1 sprain, which could require anywhere from one to four more weeks of recovery time. The Panthers’ running game has been stuck in neutral the entire season, and although DeAngelo Williams will get the start tomorrow, it bears noting that QB Cam Newton, and not Williams, was the team’s top running option in the second half last week in Stewart’s place.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals (knee – questionable) ARI (7-7) @ NYJ (4-7), 1pm Wells, who had offseason knee surgery and then missed seven games due to a foot injury, finally returned to the field in last week’s loss to the Rams with 48 yards rushing on 17 carries, and two touchdowns. Now comes word that Wells has been limited in practice this week due to aggravation of the knee injury, although by all reports he should be able to start tomorrow against the Jets. Despite his strong showing last week, Wells is a dicey fantasy play even if the knee weren’t a question, due to the emergence of LaRod Stephens-Howling as a viable timeshare in the backfield.
Justin Blackman (groin) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring), Jacksonville Jaguars – both probable JAX (2-9) @ BUF (4-7), 1pm The Jaguars’ WR duo, who have flourished since the team switched to Chad Henne at QB, unexpectedly showed up on the team’s injury list after missing practice on Thursday with muscle strains. However, both were back on the field yesterday and are listed as probable. With Henne in the fold, Blackman and Shorts have emerged as low-end fantasy options, although as with any player with hamstring or groin strains, these injuries are particularly prone to aggravation if tested before fully healed.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings (ankle -- doubtful) MIN (6-5) @ GB (7-4), 1pm In a game that has taken on huge implications in the NFC North and NFC Wild Card races, it appears a foregone conclusion at this point that Harvin will miss another game due to the ankle injury he suffered in Week 9 against the Seahawks. Harvin has tried on several occasions since then to practice on a limited basis, but continues to have difficulty with pain as well as bearing weight. In Harvin’s absence, TE Kyle Rudolph has become an even bigger fixture in the Vikings’ passing attack, and last week WR Jarius Wright was featured prominently with seven receptions.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks (calf -- questionable) SEA (6-5) @ CHI (8-3), 1pm Rice was added to the Seahawks’ injury report mid-week due to a calf injury that was apparently sustained during practice. He is officially listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, although Head Coach Pete Carroll seems confident he will get the nod tomorrow against the Bears. Given the risk of aggravation with calf strains, however, Rice would not appear to be a solid fantasy option, with his counterpart Golden Tate a better one, if needed.