NFL Injury Report: December 27
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.
We are in the midst of the holiday season with New Year’s Eve right around the corner. There are still leagues out there that go through Week 17, so we will crown many new champions by Sunday night. Week 17 is always a tricky fantasy week because of NFL teams making roster decisions based on whether they have locked up their playoff seeding or simply because the game just does not matter. Fantasy GMs need to have players in games that have ramifications, so that is where the waiver wire focus should be if you are competing for a league title this week. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
Michael Thomas (WR-NO)
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas has already set the NFL record for the number of receptions and has had quite the historic season. He was limited in practice on Thursday with a hand injury, but as of now he is expected to play this weekend against the Panthers. The Saints are still fighting for playoff positioning so they will be motivated to finish the season strong. Thomas is an elite WR1 and should be able to eclipse the 150 mark for receptions in a season.
Julio Jones (WR-ATL)
Jones did not practice earlier this week but he did return in a limited capacity on Thursday. He is currently dealing with both a knee and shoulder issue, but he is expected to play the season finale against Tampa Bay this weekend. Jones is only eight receptions away from triple digits, so he will be highly motivated to reach that milestone. He has had a very solid year despite how poorly Atlanta has played, and he will be a very high-end WR1 this week against a suspect Tampa Bay pass defense.
Chris Godwin (WR-TB)
Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin suffered a hamstring injury a couple weeks ago and has yet to return to practice ever since. The Bucs have avoided placing him on season-ending injured reserve in the hopes that he could return to play before the end of the season. That now seems unlikely as he remains sidelined at practice. Fantasy GMs who are still playing in Week 17 should turn to Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson as viable fantasy options against Atlanta in what should be a very high-scoring game.
Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN)
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has practiced in a limited capacity this week, but he is not expected to play on Sunday. This game does not mean anything for the Vikings, so they will give Cook an extra week to get ready for the Wild Card game. Minnesota’s backup running back Alexander Mattison has also been practicing in a limited capacity, but he is not expected to play either. Look for Mike Boone to get another week as the featured running back despite his lackluster performance last Monday night against the Packers.
Deshaun Watson (QB-HOU)
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday as he is dealing with a back injury. Whether he plays or not likely will depend on the outcome of the Chiefs vs. Chargers game where Kansas City could determine Houston’s playoff seeding. That game will be decided before Houston kicks off, so it is possible Watson will be a game-time decision. Watson has had another solid season throwing for 3,852 yards along with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If he does not play, then A.J. McCarron would get the start against Tennessee for Week 17.
Dak Prescott (QB-DAL)
The Cowboys are in desperation mode now as they are no longer in control of their own destiny to win the NFC East. Dallas suffered a devastating loss to the Eagles last week and Dak Prescott certainly showed the effects of the shoulder injury he is dealing with. He has not thrown the ball in practice this week, but he is expecting to start throwing on Friday. He will absolutely be on the field and play against the Redskins, but fantasy GMs need to be concerned about his AC joint effecting his throwing ability. Dallas will likely turn to Ezekiel Elliott and the running game to take care of the Redskins and then hope the Giants can somehow defeat the Eagles.
James Conner (RB-PIT)
The Steelers’ season is on the line this weekend against Baltimore but they will likely be without their top running back. Conner still has not practiced this week after sustaining a thigh injury last Sunday against the Jets. He has been an unmitigated disaster from a fantasy perspective as he is about to miss his sixth game of the season. Pittsburgh will turn to Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell to shoulder the load in the backfield as they have an opportunity to do some damage against a Ravens team that has nothing to play for in Week 17.
Leonard Fournette (RB-JAX)
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has not showed up on the injury report all season until now. He did not practice on Thursday due to a neck injury, but he is still expected to play this weekend assuming things do not get worse before that. Fournette has had a very solid season despite the Jaguars overall performance as he has rushed for 1,152 yards and three touchdowns and also has caught 76 passes for 522 yards. He is a lower-tier RB1 option because he has barely found the end zone all season.
Zach Ertz (TE-PHI)
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz will likely be a game-time decision as he has still not been able to practice due to suffering a rib injury last week against Dallas. This week’s game against the Giants can clinch the NFC East division title, so Ertz will do everything he can to suit up and be on the field. He would be in line for a salivating rematch with the Giants defense, so fantasy GMs are hopeful that Ertz can play through the pain. Dallas Goedert becomes an extremely viable option as he would see a bulk of the targets meant for Ertz if he is unable to play or less than 100%.
Kyler Murray (QB-ARZ)
Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray has been practicing in a limited capacity this week making him questionable for this week’s game against the Rams. Murray suffered a hamstring injury last week and was removed from the game against the Seattle. The good news was that an MRI confirmed that the injury was not severe, so there is still a chance he will play in Week 17 to cap off an impressive rookie season. Arizona does not have anything to play for, so they will likely be conservative with Murray so as to not risk any further injury.
Mark Andrews (TE-BAL)
The Ravens already have the #1 seed in the AFC locked up, so they plan on resting most of their starters. This includes Mark Andrews who happens to be dealing with an ankle injury and did not practice on Thursday. Andrews is not going to play this week, even if he was completely healthy. He has been a very solid fantasy tight end all season catching 64 passes for 852 yards and ten touchdowns. Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst are expected to get a bulk of the playing time in Andrews’ absence this week with Robert Griffin III under center.
D.J. Moore (WR-CAR)
It seems unlikely that D.J. Moore will play this weekend against the Saints as he continues dealing with a concussion. He suffered the head injury last week and has still not returned to practice. Carolina has already declared options for who would replace Moore in the lineup, so clearly they are expecting him to miss the season finale. One of those options is veteran Chris Hogan who has not done much since joining Carolina and coming off injured reserve a couple weeks ago. Will Grier will be the Panthers quarterback so there is not much appeal in playing any Carolina offensive players besides Christian McCaffrey at this point.
Will Fuller (WR-HOU)
In a surprise to no one, Will Fuller will miss Week 17 with a groin injury. The Texans wide receiver sustained the injury last week against Tampa Bay and is expected to be out at least until the AFC Wild Card game. Fuller is an unreliable fantasy option due to all of the injuries he has sustained throughout his career. Houston will have Keke Coutee activated for the Texans game this week, but he is not a viable substitute for Fuller.
Josh Jacobs (RB-OAK)
Fantasy GMs were quite surprised to find out that Jacobs underwent an operation on Wednesday. The good news is that the operation was expeditious and simply addressed a skin infection. It is not expected that this procedure will affect his availability for Sunday’s game against Denver where the Raiders somehow still have a chance at making the playoffs. Oakland’s season has been filled with ebbs and flows, but they will reach the postseason with a win and a lot of help elsewhere. Jacobs is hoping to be able to play through the shoulder injury that has already cost him a couple games this year. However, he has not practiced this week so his status is questionable at best right now.
Jamaal Williams (RB-GB)
Packers running back Jamaal Williams still has not returned to practice this week after being taken out of Monday night’s game against the Vikings with a shoulder injury. Green Bay is still fighting for playoff seeding, so they are motivated for this week’s game against Detroit. However, they will likely keep Williams on the sideline in order to give him extra rest for the postseason. This means that Aaron Jones will carry an even bigger workload and is a high-end RB1 for Week 17.
Terry McLaurin (WR-WAS)
Redskins rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin is still in the league’s concussion protocol and is questionable for the season finale against the Cowboys. McLaurin has not been ruled out yet as he holds out hope to get on the field and reach 1,000 yards receiving since he is just 81 yards away from that milestone. Washington will have a big say in who wins the NFC East and will have Case Keenum under center with Dwayne Haskins out for the year. McLaurin’s status may not be known until the last minute but he would be a solid WR3 if he is somehow cleared to play.