NFL Injury Report: November 22
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 12 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
This is Week 12 of the NFL season which means that the fantasy playoffs are right around the corner. This is a critical week for GMs so the fact that the status of several key players is up in the air this late in the week is disconcerting. Uncertainty is arguably worse than knowing a player will be out because GMs are hesitant to make a roster move and run the risk of starting a player who may not ultimately play. The best advice is to keep checking for updates frequently over the weekend before kickoff on Sunday. So without any further adieu, let’s take a look at some of the walking wounded in the fantasy football emergency room.
Tyler Lockett (WR-SEA)
Things did not look good for Lockett after the Seahawks huge win over the 49ers last Monday night. He sustained a leg injury which caused him to be hospitalized, but he has returned to practice in a limited capacity this week and appears ready to play. Fantasy GMs would benefit tremendously from Lockett returning this week against a Philadelphia defense that has been decimated by injuries. Lockett has been a boom or bust receiver this year as most of his statistics have come in a handful of huge single game performances. Despite that, he will be a solid WR2 if he is able to take the field in Philadelphia. Check back in for updates over the next 24 hours.
George Kittle (TE-SF)
Kittle has missed the past two games due to ankle and knee injuries, but he returned to practice on Thursday and now expects to play this weekend. This is great news for fantasy GMs as Kittle will be a big boost in lineups during a crucial week of the season. Ross Dwelley filled in admirably for Kittle over the past couple weeks and provided great value as a streaming tight end option. Kittle’s return will relegate Dwelley back to the waiver wire. Fantasy GMs should hope for a big game from Kittle in the Sunday night showdown against Green Bay as he looks to find the end zone more frequently than he has all season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR-PIT)
Smith-Schuster still has not practiced this week after sustaining both a concussion and a knee injury on the same play in last Thursday’s game against Cleveland. No one expected him to suit up this week against the Bengals, and nothing has changed from that prediction. Smith-Schuster has been extremely disappointing for fantasy GMs catching only 38 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns. He should remain on your bench as Diontae Johnson and James Washington appear to be the primary targets for Mason Rudolph . Johnson himself is coming back from a concussion so it is questionable whether he will be 100% even if he does get cleared to play.
Brandin Cooks (WR-LAR)
The Rams offense has completely fallen apart over the past few weeks as Jared Goff has regressed and their wide receivers cannot stay on the field. Brandin Cooks has missed the past couple games with a concussion but he has been practicing this week and is expected to return on Monday night against the Ravens. Cooks has not had a great season as he has been limited to 27 catches for 402 yards and one touchdown in eight games. Fantasy GMs will want him back in their lineups, but they should temper expectations as this will be a tough matchup against a terrific Baltimore defense. Cooks is simply a WR3 or flex at this point until he proves he can stay healthy and the Rams can rediscover some of the magic they had in 2018. His return also sends Josh Reynolds back to the waiver wire.
Devonta Freeman (RB-ATL)
Things appeared to be heading in the right direction for Freeman earlier this week, but he has still failed to return to practice as of Thursday. This does not bode well for his availability this weekend against Tampa Bay. The Falcons will likely turn to Brian Hill again who did not impress fantasy GMs much last week. However, this should be a high-scoring game so Hill does remain a low-end flex option assuming Freeman remains sidelined. GMs should follow up for updates over the next 24 hours to confirm whether Freeman will play despite the gloomy outlook. He would be a must-start RB2 if he is able to return from his foot injury.
Mitchell Trubisky (QB-CHI)
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky practiced in a full capacity on Thursday and should be ready to go this weekend against the Giants. He was also a full participant on Wednesday which makes his hip injury seem even more suspect at the end of last week’s game against the Rams. Regardless, it certainly appears that he will be under center for Week 12 against a terrible Giants defense. The Giants have been the solution for many struggling players this season so fantasy GMs may want to stream Trubisky if their starter is out on a bye. It has been a miserable year for Trubisky as he has regressed significantly from 2018. This Week 12 matchup could be just what he needs to regain his confidence and keep the Bears’ playoff chances alive.
Matthew Stafford (QB-DET)
It remains status quo regarding Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford as he is still sidelined at practice and is considered week-to-week. Detroit has not made any affirmative statements that they intend to shut Stafford down for the season. He has indicated that he will play once he is healthy enough from his fractured back. The Lions are essentially out of the playoff mix so they have nothing left to play for this season. It seems foolish for Detroit to put Stafford back on the field in meaningless games only to risk further injury. Fantasy GMs should hold onto Stafford if they have the roster flexibility, but he can be dropped if you desperately need the slot for additional depth or a replacement. Backup Jeff Driskel is a viable QB2 option this week against the lowly Redskins.
James Conner (RB-PIT)
Conner has remained sidelined at practice all week due to the shoulder injury he re-aggravated last week against the Browns. It has been stop and start all season long for Conner who has disappointed and frustrated fantasy GMs to an extreme degree. Conner has been limited to parts of eight games and managed only 390 rushing yards, so he really has been a big bust despite his six touchdowns. It is not expected that he will play this week against Cincinnati, so fantasy GMs should be targeting Jaylen Samuels to have a big game. This is especially true given how bad the Bengals are along with the fact that Pittsburgh’s wide receivers are severely depleted due to injuries.
Jordan Howard (RB-PHI)
Howard missed last week’s game against the Patriots due to a shoulder injury and has yet to practice in a full capacity this week. Fantasy GMs should likely look elsewhere for a RB2 or flex option because it is up in the air whether he is able to play in Week 12 against Seattle. Howard has been extremely effective this season rushing for 525 yards and six touchdowns along with one touchdown reception. However, even if he was able to play this Sunday, he will likely be limited in his touches and Miles Sanders will carry most of the workload.
Sterling Shepard (WR-NYG)
Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard has missed the past five weeks with his second concussion of the season. He appeared ready to return a couple weeks ago before symptoms flared up again and he was immediately shut down. He has been practicing in a full capacity this week and seems ready to return to the field. He will have to be examined by a neurologist before he receives full clearance to play against the Bears this Sunday. His return will be a huge boost for rookie Daniel Jones who has yet to play with a full complement of healthy running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Mohamed Sanu (WR-NE)
The Patriots offense has not looked great the past few weeks thanks in large part to injuries decimating their wide receiver corps. Newly acquired Mohamed Sanu could be looking at an extended absence due to an ankle injury he sustained last week that has kept him out of practice. New England paid a hefty price to acquire Sanu from the Falcons, so this loss is even more devastating. He has 14 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown since joining the Patriots, but now fantasy GMs should relegate him to the bench or the waiver wire as he will likely be out multiple weeks. Look for N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to see expanded roles in the offense.
Phillip Dorsett (WR-NE)
While Mohamed Sanu ’s chances of playing this week are all but gone, there is a glimmer of hope for Phillip Dorsett to take the field. He sustained a concussion last week against the Eagles and has been in the league’s protocol all week. The good news is that he did practice in a limited capacity on Thursday so he is clearly making progress. It is unknown whether he will be cleared from the protocol in time for Sunday’s game against Dallas. Fantasy GMs will want to monitor this closely because he is a viable WR3 or flex option if he takes the field with Sanu unlikely to play. Either way, the Patriots will have to lean on N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers more.
Leighton Vander Esch (LB-DAL)
Cowboys’ second-year linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is dealing with a neck injury that will likely cause him to miss this week’s game against the Patriots. He missed a game because of this injury a couple weeks ago, and apparently it is flared up again. Dallas sent him for an MRI on Thursday and he could be shut down for the season. Vander Esch was having a very solid season with 72 tackles along with 0.5 sacks and one forced fumble. The Patriots will look to take advantage of his absence by continuing to utilize their running backs in the passing game.