Welcome to the semi-final round of the fantasy football playoffs. With so many guys to talk about, I’m including everyone here in one article to cover as much ground as possible. Lots of big decisions will need to be made prior to kickoff tomorrow, so choose wisely and good luck!!
Jay Cutler (ankle, probable): At least the guess work is gone, as we know Cutler will get the start this week after missing the last 5 weeks with a high ankle sprain. With as well as Josh McCown has been playing, it’s a calculated risk from the Bears’ standpoint as well as a risky proposition for fantasy owners out there. Cutler will have obvious rust, but the ankle itself stands to be in great shape after having 5 weeks to rest and rehab. Short of having difficulty with pushing off and lateral movements, Cutler should be fine from a physical standpoint, barring any in-game setbacks. I expect Cutler to be relatively close to 100%, but don’t be shocked if he has a lackluster start (due to rust) or finish (due to fatigue) in tomorrow’s game, as 5 weeks is a long time for a gunslinger like Cutler to be out.
Carson Palmer (elbow, probable): It was nice to see an effective Palmer during last week’s game, despite the elbow soreness and obvious pain/limitations that were most likely associated with it. Palmer didn’t appear to have much trouble throwing any type of pass and appears to be managing this condition just fine. With no reported setbacks during last week’s game and another week to rest and receive treatment, it stands to think he’ll be even better this week.
Adrian Peterson (midfoot sprain, game-time decision): Peterson’s status will likely not be decided until kickoff, making it difficult for AP owners who will have to sweat it down to the last second. I still think it’s hard to expect AP to be as effective as he normally is playing on a midfoot sprain, considering how important that midfoot stability is to lateral cutting and pushing off. He’s way too valuable to the Vikings and their season has already come to an end anyways, so it doesn’t make sense to risk your prized possession on a meaningless game. I expect him to sit this week.
Toby Gerhart (hamstring strain, questionable): Another game time decision for the Vikings backfield, but this one is more straight forward in my mind. Although Gerhart was only able to put in a very limited practice on Friday, he seems to have emerged from that just fine and even said he felt good afterwards. He’ll continue to get treatment over the weekend leading up to kickoff, as hamstring injuries are very responsive to hands on techniques, modalities (electrical stimulation, ice, heat, dry needling, etc), and rest, so the fact that he didn’t do much on Friday is actually a good thing for the healing process. I expect Gerhart to play, but this one will have to be confirmed prior to kickoff just to be safe, as stranger things have happened in the past.
Eddie Lacy (ankle sprain, probable): Lacy was able to practice on a limited basis on Friday and appears to be ready to go for this Sunday’s game, evidenced by his probable designation. He may not be quite full strength heading into this game, but do you really need to be against the historically-inept Cowboys’ defense? I think he’ll be able to manage just fine on a mildly sprained ankle that he had a full week to rest. And he was able to return to last week’s game after spraining it mid game, so all signs point to him being his normal, effective self.
Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring strain, doubtful): MJD was supposed to attempt to practice on Friday to put his strained hammy to the test, but apparently he wasn’t ready to do so as he was a no-show at practice. The recent reports are that he will test the hamstring prior to kickoff on Sunday to see how he feels, but having a full 10 days to recover and still not be able to get back on the field yet is a bad sign for his availability this Sunday. Again, as always, check the inactive list prior to kickoff, but I’d expect Jordan Todman (who is probable with a shoulder injury) to get the start and majority of carries.
Reggie Bush (calf strain, questionable): This is probably the toughest of all decisions for fantasy owners this weekend. Do you play Bush, who expects to play, with the risk of a in-game setback and the chance that he doesn’t finish the game? Do you sit him and feel foolish if he does in fact have a great day? Tough choices abound, but in my mind, with this being a win-or-go-home scenario for fantasy owners everywhere, you have to go with a capable, healthy backup if you do in fact have one available. I think going with a lesser player who will be out there for the full game is a lower ceiling, but you won’t get burned by Bush playing one series and having to be taken out, if that situation does arise. And with calf strains being very difficult to play through and hard to rehab from considering how active that muscle group is with running backs, this can turn out to be a big risk. Bush got close to playing last week until a pre-game setback, so watch out for how he responds to warmups and getting loose for the game, but I think there’s no doubt at this point that he will be active and play. But will he finish the game? That’s a question many fantasy owners will have in the back of their minds prior to making that final decision on Monday.
Cecil Shorts (groin strain, questionable): Shorts suffered a re-aggravation of his previously strained groin. While he has played through a lot of pain this season (and admirably), this isn’t just a pain issue. A moderately strained groin muscle (I’m speculating its more of a grade 2 than a grade 1) can really limit a player’s force production, pelvic stability with cutting, and explosiveness with all dynamic movements, so his mobility may be significantly limited if he is in fact able to play this week. MRI done earlier this week on his groin muscle confirmed that he will need surgery in the off-season, most likely to repair the torn muscle fibers and/or surrounding soft tissue structures. Shorts, to me, is too risky to play this week, so I’d be looking elsewhere for a fill-in in this all-important playoff week. Ace Sanders is a sneaky sleeper this week if you need help, because, you know, someone has to catch those passes.
Roddy White (bruised knee, questionable): White’s on the injury report again this season? Give me a second to get over the shock….White suffered a bruised knee on Sunday when he landed directly on the knee. The good news is this isn’t a sprained ligament or strained muscle, so really what we’re dealing with here is pain, swelling, and inflammation. White appears likely to be out there and give it a go, and he really shouldn’t be considerably limited by this injury. He’ll have moments where there’ll be pain and little limp, but I expect him to be able to play the majority of his snaps this week.
Denarius Moore (shoulder injury, questionable): Moore was able to return to limited practice this week for the first time in 3 weeks. It appears there’s a lot of optimism about his potential availability this week. The major risk for WRs and shoulder injuries are landing hard on that involved side and reaching up overhead. He appears to be doing enough to warrant getting in a few days of practice, so if he’s active and you normally play him, it seems like this would be a good time to do so, despite the tough matchup against the Chiefs.
Michael Floyd (ankle, questionable): I guess that ankle sprain was more of an issue than we thought. He didn’t look 100% in Week 14 as he tried to play through a mild ankle sprain. The questionable tag placed on him indicates that there’s still some issue with his mobility, so there will remain some doubt heading into tomorrow’s kick off. This is one you’ll have to monitor prior to kickoff, but know going in that this week wasn’t enough time to get him to 100%. It may be enough for him to be productive, but there is some risk with this situation.
Kenbrell Thompkins (hip, questionable): Thompkins was able to put in limited practices all week for the first time since suffering the injury. Hip issues are not easy to play through, considering how much freedom the joint has to move. Any trauma or pathology to the surrounding structures can lead to a good amount of limitation in mobility. It looks like Thompkins has a chance of playing, but the likelihood of him being 100% in two short weeks is not high. Consider him and Aaron Dobson (also questionable with a foot injury) to both be risky plays if active.
Tavon Austin (ankle, questionable): When you can’t practice all week and are still sporting a walking boot as recently as yesterday, your chances of playing Sunday are not good. We’ll get confirmation in the AM, but don’t expect to have Austin in your lineup. Make sure you have a good replacement.
Delanie Walker (concussion, probable): After missing last week’s game, it appears that Walker will make his return to the lineup on Sunday. Walker has been a very popular target of Ryan Fitzpatrick and will be very involved in the offense against a Cardinals defense that gives up a ton of points to tight ends. Double check the inactive list in the AM, but Walker is expected to be in the lineup without restriction on Sunday.
Garrett Graham (hamstring strain, questionable): This will be another hamstring game-time decision, but the thought is that he will miss this game against the Colts. He did not practice at all this week, which is never a good sign for a guy’s Sunday availability. If he’s active, there’s always the risk that he re-injures during the game, especially with such a short period of time to get that hammy right. Look elsewhere this week, whether he plays or not.
Tony Gonzalez (sprained toe, questionable): They keep telling us his toe is sprained, but he just continues to perform. Don’t let the questionable tag fool you: he will play and he has a great matchup this week.