Happy New Year everyone and welcome to the Wild Card edition of the NFL Injury Report. The regular season might be over but the fantasy football season never ends as there are a myriad of different leagues, contests and games to participate in. Therefore, we still need to pay close attention to injuries and how they may affect decisions heading into the first round of the playoffs. There are four Wild Card games this weekend and each of them will be impacted in some capacity by the health of key players. So, without further ado, here is the first edition of the fantasy football emergency room for 2018.
LeSean McCoy (RB-BUF) – It has been 18 years since the Bills made the playoffs and they may have to go into battle without their best player at 100%. LeSean McCoy was carted off the field last week after suffering an ankle injury during Buffalo’s dramatic win against Miami. He has indicated that he wants to be as close to 100% as possible but is apprehensive about being ineffective on the field if he is not fully healthy. McCoy rushed for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns to go along with 59 receptions for 448 yards and two touchdowns this season. He is undoubtedly the most important player for Buffalo so their fate will likely come down to a game-time decision before Sunday’s showdown with Jacksonville.
DeMarco Murray (RB-TEN) – While McCoy’s status is up in the air, we at least know for sure that DeMarco Murray will not play this Saturday against Kansas City. He is still dealing with a knee injury and never seemed like he was in a position to play at this point. Derrick Henry will once again be the primary running back and shoulder the load for the Titans. Murray finished the season with 659 rushing yards and six touchdowns but was marred by nagging injuries most of the year and also saw Henry emerge as the more dependable and viable fantasy option. Even if Tennessee wins, Murray still seems unlikely to be ready to return next weekend for the Divisional Round.
Antonio Brown (WR-PIT) – It’s a good thing the Steelers locked up the first round bye because that extra week off should be enough for Brown to be able to return to the field in the Divisional Round. He is currently rehabbing his calf injury which the Steelers have reported is progressing well. Despite missing the final two games of the season, Brown is still a legitimate MPV candidate finishing the year with 101 catches for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns. He will certainly do whatever he has to in order to make it back onto the field next week in some capacity.
Michael Thomas (WR-NO) – Great news for the Saints and fantasy GMs because Thomas practiced in a full capacity on Thursday which is a great improvement. He had been limited at practice the past couple weeks with a hamstring injury. Fortunately, the hamstring issue didn’t affect his play on the field so now that he seems to be 100% he should be in line for a big game against the Panthers this weekend. Thomas finished the season with 104 catches for 1,245 yards and five touchdowns. New Orleans relied heavily on their dominant running game this year, but Thomas was the man when Drew Brees needed to throw the ball. Look for Thomas to put up big numbers in what should be a high-scoring affair between these division rivals meeting for the third time this season.
Jay Ajayi (RB-PHI) – Ajayi was given the day off from practice on Wednesday and the Eagles indicated it was nothing more than some pre-planned rest. Ajayi has been dealing with a knee injury for most of the season and has a history with knee issues, so he has typically been given periods of rest throughout his career. The Eagles have a first round bye so they can afford to give Ajayi extra rest so he is ready to go for next weekend in the Divisional Round. Even though Nick Foles has played well since taking over for Carson Wentz, expect Philadelphia to try and establish their running game against whoever they meet next weekend.
Devin Funchess (WR-CAR) – Funchess has missed quite a bit of practice this season thanks to a shoulder injury. However, he has managed to always make it onto the field and this weekend will be no different. Funchess indicated the team was being cautious with him in limited his practice time and that he will be ready to play against the Saints. He became the team’s primary receiving target when Carolina traded away Kelvin Benjamin and also lost Greg Olsen to injury. Funchess rewarded fantasy GMs with 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns and could be in line for WR1-type statistics against New Orleans this weekend.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR-BUF) – Speaking of Benjamin, he is once again on the injury report thanks to his torn meniscus he has been trying to play through. He was limited in practice on Thursday which makes sense in order to preserve him for the matchup against the Jaguars top defense. This matchup does not bode well for Benjamin who won’t be 100% and will be going up against a great secondary while Tyrod Taylor will be busy trying to escape Jacksonville’s dominant pass rush. Benjamin finished the year with 48 catches for 692 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games combined between the Panthers and Bills. He will need to have a big role, especially if LeSean McCoy is unable to play. However, the fact is that Benjamin just cannot be trusted to do that.
Marqise Lee (WR-JAX) – The Jaguars have been depleted with injuries at wide receiver all season so Marqise Lee has stepped up and filled the role as the team’s primary target. He finished the year with 56 catches for 702 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers probably would have been greater with a better quarterback. He has not practiced this week due to an ankle injury and it is quite possible he doesn’t take one single rep of practice at all before game-time against Buffalo. It appears that Lee could be a last-minute decision but it would be very surprising if he did not at least give it a shot to play.
Taylor Gabriel (WR-ATL) – Gabriel has been limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury but then was taken off the Falcons’ final injury report ahead of Saturday’s game. This simply confirms that he will be on the field for the Wild Card showdown against the Rams in what could be a very high-scoring game. Gabriel caught 33 passes this year for 378 yards and only one touchdown, so he was not a big factor in Atlanta’s offense. Then again, Matt Ryan did have a down year and Atlanta’s offense took a big step backwards compared to 2016. Gabriel typically does not provide much fantasy value but he could be a sneaky inexpensive option this week.
Michael A. Stein, Esq. is the Chief Justice of Fantasy Judgment, the industry's premier dispute resolution service. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook and Twitter (@FantasyJudgment)