NFL Injury Report: November 15
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 11 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
Week 11 of the NFL season began with some major fireworks during Thursday night’s game between the Steelers and Browns. Not only was there an ugly brawl at the end of the game, but several players sustained potentially serious injuries which will have an impact on the fantasy season as we head towards the playoffs. Trading is all but expired in most leagues, so the waiver wire is the place to go to get that depth GMs so badly need on their rosters. Now is the time to be aggressive and plan ahead, so scour the waiver wire for handcuffs wherever you can. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR-PIT)
Thursday night’s loss to the Browns was a disastrous night for the Steelers in several aspects. Besides losing a critical game to their archrival in the division and the ridiculous melee that occurred at the end of the game, the Steelers suffered major injuries to some of their key players. JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game in the second quarter after taking multiple helmet shots trying to catch a pass. It was a scary looking injury, especially for a player who does have a history of concussions. He will have a few extra days to try and recover for Week 12, but his status going forward will be questionable at best while he is in the league’s concussion protocol.
Amari Cooper (WR-DAL)
Cooper was sidelined at practice earlier this week with both an ankle and knee injury, but he returned in a limited capacity on Thursday. He has had a great season heading towards free agency with 53 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. Even if Cooper is slightly banged up, he will be on the field for Week 11 against the Lions and he remains a solid WR1 option in all league formats.
George Kittle (TE-SF)
The 49ers suffered their first loss of the season this past Monday night and now they head into Week 11 all banged up. Kittle did not play on Monday night due to a knee injury, and his absence certainly had an impact on the game. He has not practiced this week and is expected to miss his second consecutive game. However, the 49ers should have a more manageable matchup this week against Arizona so they can afford to give Kittle some extra rest. He has not been able to replicate the elite season he had last year, but he is still a solid TE1 with 46 catches for 541 yards and two touchdowns. Ross Dwelley will get another chance to play in his place and could be considered a viable streaming option if you are desperate for a tight end.
Adam Thielen (WR-MIN)
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has been dealing with a hamstring injury for several weeks, and appeared to come back too soon a couple weeks ago. Minnesota has indicated that there was a possibility he could play this week against Denver, but the odds of that happening are not good. The Vikings would be foolish to put Thielen back on the field without being fully healed as we all know that hamstring injuries take time to recover from. Thielen was a highly coveted fantasy asset heading into the season but he has been limited to just 27 catches for 391 yards and six touchdowns in parts of eight games. GMs should expect to be without him at least another week.
Matthew Stafford (QB-DET)
Last week, Stafford missed his first game since 2010. Now it appears he will miss his second consecutive game as he remained out of practice on Thursday. Stafford is still dealing with his fractured back and will likely stay sidelined for at least another week. Jeff Driskel will get his second start in a row, and while he was not atrocious last week against the Bears, he is still not a viable streaming option in fantasy leagues. The Cowboys defense should have a big game against a severely banged up Detroit offense so look for a blowout in this game on Sunday.
James Conner (RB-PIT)
Conner has to be one of the most frustrating players to own on a fantasy team this year. He has been constantly injured and never 100% when he does play. He was able to take the field on Thursday night against Cleveland after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. However, he re-aggravated the injury during the game after managing only ten yards rushing. Conner acknowledged that he was not 100% heading into the game, so it is puzzling why the Steelers would activate him knowing how fragile he has been. Conner will have a few extra days to try and get ready for Week 12, but at this point Jaylen Samuels seems like a better fantasy option for next week.
Diontae Johnson (WR-PIT)
The third of the Steelers major injuries on Thursday night was to wide receiver Diontae Johnson who was crushed by a helmet-to-helmet hit on an attempted catch by Damarious Randall . Johnson was defenseless at the time and Randall was subsequently ejected from the game. It was a brutal looking hit and Johnson was seen on the sideline bleeding from his ear. He will be placed in the league’s concussion protocol and his status for Week 12 will have to be re-evaluated at some point next week. He was in line for more targets with JuJu Smith-Schuster also out with a head injury, but now James Washington should see his number called more frequently.
Alshon Jeffery (WR-PHI)
The Eagles have been decimated by injuries at the wide receiver position all season, and things do not seem to be getting better just yet. Alshon Jeffery did not practice again on Thursday and is very questionable for his availability on Sunday against the Patriots. He has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 9 but does not seem to have recovered as quickly as the Eagles would have hoped. Even if Jeffery is able to take the field, he will be at less than 100% against Stephon Gillmore who is one of the best defensive backs in the league.
David Montgomery (RB-CHI)
Bears rookie running back David Montgomery rolled his ankle at practice on Wednesday and then did not practice at all on Thursday. This is a concerning development heading into Sunday night’s matchup against the Rams. Montgomery has been featured more prominently in the Bears’ offense over the past few weeks and earned solid RB2 status with 466 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the season. GMs will need to monitor his status over the next 48 hours to determine whether he will be able to play.
Will Fuller (WR-HOU)
The oft-injured Texans wide receiver returned to practice this week for the first time since he suffered a hamstring injury several weeks ago. He is officially questionable for this week’s game against Baltimore but in reality it is a long shot to expect him back just yet. Fuller has a long history of injuries so the Texans may want him to continue progressing for another week before putting him back on the field. Fuller is a boom or bust fantasy option as he has the ability to light up the scoreboard as much as he can lay a goose egg.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR-SF)
Sanders suffered a rib injury this past Monday night against Seattle, and was taken out of the game. He has not fully practiced this week although he did participate in the team’s walk-through on Thursday. The veteran wide receiver could still possibly play this week if he can manage the pain from the injury. However, the smart money is on him sitting out Week 11 with an eye on returning next week. Sanders’ absence opens the door for Deebo Samuel to see a lot of targets, especially with George Kittle also out of the lineup.
Austin Hooper (TE-ATL)
The Falcons got multiple opinions on Austin Hooper ’s sprained MCL and the determination is that he will likely be out for a month. This means little for Atlanta as they are going nowhere, but there are huge fantasy implications because Hooper will be out until the middle of the playoffs. Fantasy GMs have struggled all season to gain consistency at the tight end position, and Hooper has provided that with 56 catches for 608 yards and six touchdowns. Hooper’s replacement will be Luke Stocker , but he is not a viable replacement from a fantasy perspective.
Jacoby Brissett (QB-IND)
The Colts stated that Brissett would play this weekend against Jacksonville if he was able to practice on Wednesday, and sure enough, he did. This means Brissett will return after missing the past couple weeks with a knee injury he suffered against Kansas City. The Colts sorely missed him last week as Brian Hoyer did not fare well against Miami. Brissett will be short-handed against the Jaguars as T.Y. Hilton and Parris Campbell remain out. He is only a QB2 option in two-quarterback leagues this week.
Ty Johnson (RB-DET)
Johnson suffered a concussion last week against the Bears and has been in the league’s protocol all week. He returned to practice on Thursday, which is a good sign for his availability this weekend against Dallas. However, it is not fully evident whether he has been cleared from the protocol just yet. Johnson has failed to step up and take advantage of his increased playing time since Kerryon Johnson was lost for the season. Ty Johnson is a borderline RB2 or flex option this week if he plays, but do not expect much in terms of production even if he does take the field.