NFL Injury Report: December 24
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 17 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
Week 17 is upon us as we get ready to conclude the 2019 NFL season. Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa to everyone out there. Most season-long fantasy leagues decided their champions after Week 16, but there are plenty leagues that run through the end of the season. This makes things a little more challenging since several teams know their playoff fate and choose to rest players. On the flip side, there is still plenty at stake for many teams so some players who are banged up are going to force themselves to play at all costs. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
James Conner (RB-PIT)
The long and winding road of James Conner ’s season took another turn this past weekend as he left the game against the Jets with a thigh injury. Conner just cannot stay on the field as he continues battling a variety of injuries. Fantasy GMs who drafted him are likely drowning themselves in egg nog because has barely played more games this year than there are nights of Chanukah (10 vs. 8). He has not come close to producing statistics commensurate with where he was drafted. The Steelers’ season hangs in the balance so Conner will definitely be needed on the field next week against Baltimore. Whether he actually suits up is another story. The Steelers will turn to Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell once again if Conner cannot play in Week 17.
Chris Carson (RB-SEA)
Seattle has lost another running back as Chris Carson is done for the season with a fractured hip. He sustained the injury this past weekend in a devastating loss to Arizona. The Seahawks were already without Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise , so they had to turn to Travis Homer after Carson got injured. However, the Ghost of Christmas Past showed up in Seattle and brought them Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin to replenish the backfield. Carson was a solid fantasy running back all season and finishes the year with 1,230 rushing yards and seven touchdowns along with 37 catches for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Carson’s biggest problem was being able to hold onto the ball as he fumbled seven times and lost four of them. He will be a top running back option again in 2020.
Derrick Henry (RB-TEN)
Tennessee played things very smartly this past weekend by resting Derrick Henry so he can be as healthy as possible for Week 17. They needed one win out of the final two games to make the playoffs, so they picked their poison and rested Henry against the Saints. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury, so the Titans need him to rest for as long as he can in order to be strong for this week’s matchup against Houston. While this was a smart move from a team perspective, many fantasy GMs think the Titans were acting like Ebenezer Scrooge for keeping Henry on the bench during the fantasy championship week. Henry has been incredible all season rushing for 1,329 yards and 13 touchdowns along with 18 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.
Zach Ertz (TE-PHI)
Ertz suffered a rib injury last week against Dallas that did cost him some snaps in the first quarter. He ultimately came back and finished the game, but he is scheduled to undergo further tests this week. The Eagles need the game against the Giants in order to clinch the NFC East, so it is expected that Ertz will be on the field no matter how much pain he is in. Plus, he should be able to pick apart the Giants shoddy defense again after having a huge game against them a few weeks ago including catching the game-winning touchdown in overtime on Monday Night Football. Ertz is unquestionably one of the top tight ends in the league as he has 88 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns. His ribs are tougher than spare ribs served to Jewish families at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day.
Kyler Murray (QB-ARZ)
This year’s #1 overall draft pick suffered a hamstring injury this past week and was taken out of the game against the Seattle. He underwent an MRI that confirmed it was simply a pulled hamstring and nothing to overly alarmed about. Murray’s status for Week 17 against the Rams is up in the air at the moment as it will depend on how quickly he can recover. The Cardinals have indicated that Murray will play if he is healthy enough, but if not they will turn to backup Brett Hundley . Even if Murray does play, it is safe to assume he won’t be at 100% so his running will be limited. He has had a very successful rookie season throwing for 3,397 yards along with 18 touchdowns and ten interceptions. He also has rushed for 544 yards and four rushing touchdowns.
Mark Ingram (RB-BAL)
The Ravens have locked up the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs so they have already declared Mark Ingram and company will not play in Week 17 against Pittsburgh. An MRI confirmed that Ingram did sustain a strained calf this past week, so his availability was going to be questionable anyway. The concern is whether Ingram will be at full strength by the time the Ravens play in the Divisional Round in a couple weeks. For purposes of Week 17, Baltimore will be going with Gus Edwards and Justice Hill in the backfield so make sure Ingram is out of all lineups.
D.J. Moore (WR-CAR)
Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore was taken out of Sunday’s game against the Colts with a concussion after his head got mashed like potato latke mix. The injury occurred very early in the game so fantasy GMs lost out after he had only one catch. Moore will be in the league’s concussion protocol this week so his status for next week against the Saints is up in the air. The Panthers have nothing to play for, so they could be inclined to just shut Moore down and avoid risking further injury. He has had a very productive season catching 87 passes for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns.
Will Fuller (WR-HOU)
There are only a few guarantees in life: death, taxes and Will Fuller being injured. The Texans speedy wide receiver has had a plethora of injuries throughout his career, so why should 2019 be any different? He suffered a groin injury during Saturday’s win over Tampa Bay and had to be taken out of the game. The Texans have already ruled him out for Week 17 and his status for the Wild Card game is questionable at this point. Houston believes he is likely a couple weeks away from returning, so look for Keke Coutee to step back onto the field in Fuller’s place. Fuller is extremely talented and explosive when he is on the field. The problem is he can never stay healthy long enough to be trusted by fantasy GMs.
A.J. Green (WR-CIN)
The Bengals have finally placed A.J. Green on injured reserve, thus formally ending his season. It was water torture for fantasy GMs all year waiting for Green to finally make it onto the field after he was drafted in the middle rounds and stashed. It seemed like a sound strategy at the time, but it was all for naught as Green never saw a single snap all season. Fantasy GMs are left red in the face about Green (see what I did there with Christmas colors?). He will be a free agent this spring and is looking for a huge contract. He will have even greater fantasy appeal next year if he signs with a more talented team and stability at the quarterback position.
Josh Jacobs (RB-OAK)
Somehow, some way the Raiders are technically alive for a playoff berth in the AFC. They need to win this week and then get a ton of help elsewhere in order for that to happen. The fact that they still have a chance bodes for well for Josh Jacobs ’ chances of playing in Week 17. The rookie running missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury that has been bothering him for quite some time. Coach Jon Gruden did indicate that there is a chance he could play against Denver this weekend, but fantasy GMs should be hesitant to anoint him back into their RB1 slot. Jacobs has had a stellar rookie season, but he would be less than 100% against a solid run defense for the Broncos. Follow this situation for further updates throughout the week before making any commitments to Raiders running backs.
Jordan Howard (RB-PHI)
The Eagles are getting a little healthier as they head into battle trying to secure the NFC East division title. Jordan Howard is expected to return for the first time since Week 9 due to a shoulder injury. This comes at the perfect time for Philadelphia who get a favorable matchup against the Giants in Week 17. Howard will rejoin a backfield that includes Miles Sanders and Boston Scott who have been very productive over the past few weeks. Howard is a worthwhile fantasy option for the final week of the season as he looks to build on his 525 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Judah Maccabee once conquered territory in Jordan, so fantasy GMs are hoping Jordan Howard can light up the Giants like a menorah.
Jamaal Williams (RB-GB)
Packers running back Jamaal Williams was taken out of Monday night’s game against the Vikings with a shoulder injury. He has been valuable at times this season as a RB2 or flex option with 460 rushing yards and one touchdown along with 39 catches for 253 yards and five touchdowns. He is questionable for Week 17 against Detroit at this point, but he will be on the field if humanly possible given that Green Bay is still fighting for a first round bye. Hopefully someone stuffed his stocking with a gift card for a massage so he can get that shoulder ready for the season finale.
Myles Gaskin (RB-MIA)
It has not been a wonderful life for Miami Dolphin running backs this year as it has been a revolving door of players at the position. The latest casualty is Myles Gaskin who suffered an ankle injury during the team’s win over Cincinnati this past weekend. Gaskin was in the midst of his best game before getting injured as he scored a touchdown and led the team in carriers. Miami has indicated that they do not think Gaskin will be ready to play next week against New England. This means that Patrick Laird will get almost all of the work out of the backfield, but that does not make him a viable fantasy option going up against a stellar Patriots’ defense in a game they need to win to secure a first round bye in the playoffs.
Dwayne Haskins (QB-WAS)
Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants this past weekend and will miss the season finale against Dallas. Haskins had been playing much better over the past few weeks and was on fire against the Giants going 12-for-15 for 133 yards and two touchdowns before sustaining the injury. This means that veteran Case Keenum will get the start in a critical game for the Cowboys with the NFC East title at stake. Keenum is not a viable fantasy option except in deep two-quarterback leagues. Haskins finishes his rookie season throwing for 1,365 yards along with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Mason Rudolph (QB-PIT)
Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was taken out of this past week’s game against the Jets with a shoulder injury that is expected to keep him out for a couple weeks. Rudolph was inserted into the game after Devlin Hodges was benched, and he played reasonably well until sustaining the injury. Rudolph should have plenty of time to play some reindeer games while he is out, but Devlin Hodges could be the one who ends up with a red nose against Baltimore during Week 17.