NFL Injury Report: December 20
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.
Welcome to Week 16 of the NFL season which is also known as Championship Week for many fantasy leagues. Congratulations to those GMs batting for a title. Take a look at the rosters of the teams in the finals. Of course, many of them will have players such as Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey , but it is likely that these teams also had solid backups and roster depth in order to withstand and overcome the wrath of injuries. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
Derrick Henry (RB-TEN)
Henry has been one of the top fantasy players all year rushing for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns along with 18 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He has done all this despite being banged up with nagging injuries throughout the course of the season. The Titans have limited his reps in practice and given him maintenance days off to get healthy. This includes Thursday when he did not practice, but fantasy GMs need not worry about his availability for Week 16 against New Orleans. Henry will be on the field and should see plenty of action as Tennessee fights to keep its playoff hopes alive. He will unquestionably be one of the top RB1 options heading into the fantasy finals.
Chris Godwin (WR-TB)
Fantasy GMs expected the worst when it came to Chris Godwin ’s injury last week and sure enough he has already been ruled out for Week 16. Godwin suffered a hamstring injury in Week 15 and was carted off the field. The writing was already on the wall, and sure enough GMs will now head into the finals without their stud wide receiver. Hopefully you added Breshad Perriman off of waivers as he is coming off a monster game in which he had three touchdown catches. Tampa Bay has lost its best two wide receivers, but that should not stop Jameis Winston from still putting up crooked numbers in what should be a high-scoring game against Houston. Look for Justin Watson to also see a fair share of targets lining up opposite of Perriman.
Carlos Hyde (RB-HOU)
Texans running back Carlos Hyde has reached 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career and re-emerged as a viable fantasy option. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Tampa Bay with an ankle injury but is expected to play after practicing in a limited capacity on Thursday. Hyde has rushed for five touchdowns on the season and will be a RB2 at best this week against Tampa Bay’s stingy run defense.
Dak Prescott (QB-DAL)
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is dealing with an AC joint injury in his shoulder and has not thrown all week. While this sounds concerning, there is little doubt he will play on Sunday against the Eagles in a battle for first place in the the NFC East. Prescott has played at an almost elite level most of the season throwing for 4,334 yards along with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has proclaimed he will be ready to go for Week 16 against a vulnerable Eagles defense. Prescott should be considered a QB1 option in a game that is likely to be a shootout.
Jameis Winston (QB-TB)
Winston has been dealing with a thumb and knee injury that has limited him in practice this week. However, he did return to practice in a full capacity on Thursday which all but ensures that he will be on the field on Saturday against Houston. Winston has put up huge offensive numbers this year throwing for 4,573 yards along with 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. He will be without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin this week, but he already established a rapport with Breshad Perriman last week. Winston is a solid QB1 option for the fantasy finals.
Matthew Stafford (QB-DET)
The Lions have finally placed Matthew Stafford on injured reserve and ended his season. He has missed the past six weeks with a back fracture that never healed enough for him to resume playing. Stafford was in the midst of a solid season throwing for 2,499 yards along with 19 touchdowns and five interceptions before being shut down. He can be dropped in all redraft leagues for teams that were stashing him.
Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN)
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook did not practice on Thursday despite doing a lot of regular prep work throughout the week. He suffered a shoulder injury last week against the Chargers and his status is murky at best for this Monday night against Green Bay. The Vikings do not seem to want to rule him out just yet, but all reports out of Minnesota seem to suggest it is unlikely he will play in Week 16. Minnesota’s backup Alexander Mattison is also dealing with an injury, so the safe bet is on Mike Boone carrying the load this week. Follow up for more updates over the day because this will be a critical decision to make for the fantasy finals.
Josh Jacobs (RB-OAK)
The Raiders have been in free fall mode for several weeks and have already indicated that rookie running back Josh Jacobs will not play this week against the Chargers. He has been dealing with a shoulder injury for several weeks and tried playing through it. Now Oakland will give him some rest and consider where he is at for the Week 17 finale. Jacobs has been extremely productive this year rushing for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns. He will be a big loss for fantasy GMs who should consider DeAndre Washington as a replacement.
Joe Mixon (RB-CIN)
Mixon practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday with a calf injury. This seems concerning since it happened so late in the week, but right now there is no indication it will affect his status for Week 16. The Bengals have been atrocious all season, but Mixon has had a solid year rushing for 925 yards and three touchdowns along with 32 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He will have an appetizing matchup against Miami for the fantasy finals, so GMs should not hesitate to put Mixon in lineups and expect a big game. However, in the event this injury is more serious than we know, Giovani Bernard would be a smart waiver wire acquisition to make right now.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR-PIT)
Smith-Schuster appears ready to return for the first time in five weeks as he practiced in a full capacity on Thursday. The Steelers wide receiver has been out with a knee injury but will make his long-awaited return against the Jets this weekend. Pittsburgh’s offense has been a mess due to all of the injuries and inconsistency, so Smith-Schuster is nothing more than a WR3 option at this point. While GMs will be happy to plug him back in lineups, they should temper expectations on what he will actually produce with Devlin Hodges under center.
D.J. Chark (WR-JAX)
Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark practiced all week in a limited capacity as he looks to return from an ankle injury. He did not play last week against Oakland, but he is motivated to get back on the field this weekend against a suspect Atlanta defense. Chark has an excellent chance of surpassing 1,000 receiving yards if he is able to play, so that is motivation in and of itself. Fantasy GMs should plug Chark in as a solid WR2 if he plays as he will have a very favorable matchup for Week 16.
Nelson Agholor (WR-PHI)
The Eagles are heading into the NFC East showdown against Dallas undermanned as their entire wide receiving corps has been depleted by injuries. Nelson Agholor initially stepped in to help replace Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson , but he himself has missed the past couple games with a knee injury. He did not practice on Thursday and is expected to miss his third consecutive game. This leaves J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward as Carson Wentz ’s primary wide receiver options. Look for a heavy dose of Zach Ertz and passes to the running backs out of the backfield in this game.
Christian Kirk (WR-ARZ)
Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk has been dealing with an ankle injury for most of the season. He has been in and out of practice all year but did return in a limited capacity on Thursday. He is expected to play this week against Seattle in what should be a favorable matchup. Kirk has 61 catches for 649 yards and three touchdowns on the season at less than 100%. He has shown bits and pieces of being a potential fantasy stud, and he should be in lineups this week as a WR3.
Daniel Jones (QB-NYG)
In a lost season, the Giants were able to give Eli Manning one final sendoff in front of the home crowd last week due to Daniel Jones’s ankle injury. Now the rookie appears ready to return this week against the Redskins after missing the past two games. Jones had one of his best games earlier this season against Washington in Week 4, so he could be a sneaky QB2 option this week with almost a full complement of offensive weapons at his disposal.