NFL Injury Report: December 17
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 16 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
Week 16 of the NFL season is now upon us which means that it is championship week in many seasonal leagues. GMs who are contending for a title have been able to withstand and overcome the onslaught of injuries that inevitably happen every year. Timing and luck are huge factors when it comes to dealing with injuries as some GMs have the fortune of getting injured players back at the right time while others lose key players to injuries in the middle of a game. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
Chris Godwin (WR-TB)
Fantasy GMs suffered a huge blow this week as Chris Godwin was carted off the field with a hamstring injury he sustained during Tampa Bay’s win over Detroit. He came up limping after running a route in the second half and was taken out of the game. Tampa Bay’s head coach indicated that the injury did not look good, so Godwin’s status for Saturday’s game against Houston appears bleak. Godwin has been fantasy gold this season catching 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns. Breshad Perriman stepped up and had a huge game against the Lions, so he will be Jameis Winston ’s primary target for Week 16 against the Texans if Godwin is ruled out. Godwin is expected to get an MRI early this week so we should know more about his status in the next couple days.
Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN)
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook was taken out of Sunday’s game against the Chargers with a shoulder injury that he sustained late in the first half. The injury looked very serious as he appeared to be in significant pain. Cook injured this same shoulder a few weeks ago, so there is some concern about his availability heading into Week 16. Minnesota’s head coach indicated that Cook felt better on Monday and could possibly play next week. However, Adam Schefter had tweeted that he would not be surprised if Cook is shut down until the playoffs. This will be a situation to monitor throughout the week as the Vikings play next Monday night against Green Bay, so GMs may have to make a critical decision before we are fully certain what his status will be. Backup Alexander Mattison is also banged up with an ankle injury, so Mike Boone could be a streaming option if Cook does not play and you are desperate for a running back.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR-PIT)
Smith-Schuster did not play again on Sunday night against Buffalo as he continues dealing with his knee injury. He seemed on track to play Week 15 before re-aggravating the injury in practice last Thursday. There is no time table for his return at this point as the Steelers are limping their way towards a playoff berth. Smith-Schuster has been a huge fantasy bust this season, and even if he does come back for Week 16 he is barely a WR3 or flex option given that Devlin Hodges is under center and Pittsburgh’s offense just does not have any juice.
A.J. Green (WR-CIN)
It was reported by Adam Schefter that A.J. Green met with a foot specialist in Green Bay on Monday. It is unclear whether this was in an effort to get cleared to play over the final two weeks, but chances are it was not. It seems highly unlikely that Green will see the field this season making it a complete wash for the elite wide receiver. Green is a free agent at the end of the season and is likely focused on getting himself healthy in order to secure a contract with another team for 2020. Fantasy GMs in redraft leagues can drop him by now to clear a roster spot for the final two weeks.
D.J. Chark (WR-JAX)
Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark returned to practice on Monday and did some running drills as he attempts to come back from an ankle injury. He did not play this past weekend against Oakland, but he is hoping to get back on the field for Week 16 against Atlanta. This would be a big boost for fantasy GMs as Chark would have a favorable matchup against a lackluster Falcons defense. Chark has been extremely productive this season catching 67 passes for 956 yards and eight touchdowns. He will be a solid WR2 option if he is active, so GMs should monitor his situation closely throughout the week.
Jordan Howard (RB-PHI)
The Eagles have been completely decimated by injuries, yet they are very much alive to win the NFC East and host a playoff game. Jordan Howard has missed the past several games with a shoulder injury and has still not been cleared for contact during practice. Philadelphia has gotten a lot of production from Miles Sanders and Boston Scott over the past couple weeks, so they are certainly capable of scoring some points without Howard. Fantasy GMs should assume he will not be available for Week 16, but perhaps they can be pleasantly surprised later in the week if Howard’s condition improves.
Hunter Renfrow (WR-OAK)
The Raiders have been in free fall mode over the past month as they have seen their playoff hopes eviscerated right before their eyes. They just played their last game in Oakland and will ride off into the sunset until they are relocated in Las Vegas. One bright spot this season has been rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow who has 36 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. He has missed the past three weeks with a punctured lung and a fractured rib, but he is expected to return for Week 16 against the Chargers. This could be an appetizing matchup for Renfrow as the Chargers were just lit up by the Vikings and seemed to have mailed it in for the season. Renfrow is a viable WR3 option with upside if the Raiders can somehow right the ship this week.
Evan Engram (TE-NYG)
Fantasy GMs have been very frustrated by Evan Engram who just missed his fifth consecutive game with a foot injury. He apparently has not made much progress over the past several weeks and it would not be surprising if the Giants simply shut him down for the season. Engram is one of the most talented tight ends in the league, but he cannot stay on the field long enough to prove his value to fantasy GMs. Kaden Smith has played well in Engram’s absence and will be a viable streaming option for Week 16 against the Redskins assuming Engram remains out.
David Njoku (TE-CLE)
If you thought it was frustrating having Evan Engram on your fantasy team, imagine how GMs feel about David Njoku . He missed most of the season with a wrist injury and then came back for Week 14. Immediately after that, he ended up back on the injury report with a knee injury and sat out Week 15 against Arizona. Ricky Seals-Jones caught two touchdowns in his absence and is a more dependable option than Njoku over the final two games of the season.
Daniel Jones (QB-NYG)
Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones missed his second consecutive start this week with an ankle injury. This gave Eli Manning an opportunity to play at least one more time in front of the home crowd at Met Life Stadium, and he did not disappoint. The real question is whether Jones will get a chance to play the final two games of the season as the Giants finish out a lost season. The belief is that Jones will play if he is physically able to because the team wants him to get the experience in order to prepare for 2020. Jones has been a mixed bag in his rookie season throwing for 2,374 yards along with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has demonstrated plenty of ability to be an NFL quarterback, but he has a lot of growing pains to overcome. Jones will have an almost full assortment of offensive weapons at his disposal in a favorable matchup against the Redskins for Week 16 if he is able to play.