NFL Injury Report: December 6
Michael A. Stein recaps the injury news heading into Week 14 and offers up potential return timetables and suggestions for replacement players for fantasy football.
The fantasy football playoffs are here for many leagues, so the stakes are even higher. Injuries can make or break a season for fantasy GMs. What really separates the good from the great GMs is the preparation for playoff time by assembling a roster that is filled with depth and flexibility. Now is the time where those waiver wire acquisitions will really pay off because it is better to start a player who may get some points rather than risk starting a player who ultimately will not play. 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 Steelers have already ruled out James Conner for Week 14 against Arizona. This will be his third consecutive missed game due to a shoulder injury at the worst time of year for fantasy GMs. Pittsburgh will once again turn to Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels to carry the load against the Cardinals. The Steelers have done an incredible job playing through devastating injuries to their top players. While the team is winning football games on the field, that does not translate into fantasy relevance. Conner is a candidate to drop if you need the roster space heading into the first round of the playoffs.
Marlon Mack (RB-IND)
Fantasy GMs will get a boost heading into the first round of the playoffs as Marlon Mack is expected to return from a hand injury. He missed the past few weeks after fracturing his hand but practiced in a full capacity on Thursday and appears ready to go. He does have a tough matchup this week against a Tampa Bay run defense that has been very stingy all season. Mack is still a solid RB2 option in his return while his backups Jonathan Williams , Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins are all candidates to send to the waiver wire.
Dalvin Cook (RB-MIN)
It was reported earlier this week that Dalvin Cook expected to play in Week 14 after suffering a shoulder injury during Monday night’s loss to Seattle. This appears to be an accurate proclamation as Minnesota’s coaching staff confirmed that he will indeed be on the field against the Lions this weekend. This is great news for fantasy GMs who have relied upon Cook’s tremendous production this season rushing for 1,046 yards and 12 touchdowns along with 48 catches for 490 yards. Fantasy GMs should keep in mind that Cook may be limited in his snaps somewhat, especially since they should easily dispose of the banged up Lions and the fact that backup Alexander Mattison has emerged as a very solid handcuff.
Julio Jones (WR-ATL)
Things are continuing to trend in the right direction for Julio Jones who practiced all week in a limited capacity. He missed last week’s game likely because it was a short week with the Falcons playing on Thanksgiving. Fantasy GMs were relieved to hear that Atlanta has no intention of shutting down their stars for the rest of the season. Jones will be on the field this week and is a must-start WR1.
Josh Jacobs (RB-OAK)
The Raiders surprised many people over the first half of the season by hanging around the top of the AFC West. A big reason for the early success was the performance by rookie running back Josh Jacobs . He has been a workhorse despite suffering a fractured shoulder back in Week 7. Every week, Jacobs would seemingly miss some practice yet found his way onto the field for game time. He did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but that was nothing new. However, with Oakland’s playoff chances dimming by the minute, it would not be surprising if Jacobs was given the week off to continue resting and recovering. This would be a big loss for fantasy GMs who have benefited from his 1,061 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard would split duties if Jacobs does not play.
T.Y. Hilton (WR-IND)
Hilton has still not practiced this week so all signs are pointing to him missing his second consecutive game and sixth overall this year. He is dealing with a calf injury and fantasy GMs are pulling their hair out at this critical juncture of the season with the playoffs beginning in many leagues. Indianapolis does get a boost with Marlon Mack and Parris Campbell set to return, but Hilton’s absence will be felt by GMs who were depending on him to be a low-end WR1 heading into the postseason.
Golden Tate (WR-NYG)
The Giants are expected to have a full complement of offensive weapons for Eli Manning on Monday night as Golden Tate is set to return from his concussion. He has been highly productive in the seven games he has played this year catching 36 passes for 450 yards and four touchdowns. The Eagles secondary has been abysmal, so the Giants do have an opportunity to score some points on a national stage. Tate is a solid WR3 option for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Evan Engram (TE-NYG)
Speaking of Giants returning to the field, Evan Engram is also expected to play on Monday night in Philadelphia. He has missed the past few games with a foot injury. The question will be how much Engram will play thanks in large part to the emergence of Kaden Smith over the past couple weeks. Smith filled in admirably for Engram, so it should be expected he will also see his fair share of snaps. The Eagles have been stingy against tight ends this season, so Engram may not be as attractive a fantasy option as one would hope.
David Montgomery (RB-CHI)
The Bears finally figured out that they have to utilize David Montgomery in their offense, and the results have been very positive over the past several weeks. He had a solid game against the Cowboys on Thursday night rushing for 86 yards, but he was removed from the game with a leg injury and never returned. It should be noted that Montgomery previously dealt with an ankle injury earlier this year, so it is possible he re-aggravated that late in the game. The Bears will have several extra days to get ready for Week 15 so Montgomery should have plenty of time to rest and heal.
Daniel Jones (QB-NYG)
The Giants have been in freefall mode for two months as rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is learning on the job. Despite his fumble problems, he has had a very solid rookie season throwing for 2,374 yards along with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Jones suffered an ankle injury late in last week’s game against Green Bay and has missed practice all week. He was in a walking boot as he is dealing with a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss Monday night’s matchup against the Eagles. This means that two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will get a chance to play again in a Giants uniform. Manning has not played since Week 2 and will have a full complement of offensive weapons at his disposal. He is a sneaky QB2 streaming option against Philadelphia’s depleted secondary and with a chip on his shoulder to show that he can still play.
Austin Hooper (TE-ATL)
Hooper continues practicing this week in a limited capacity but all signs are pointing towards him returning to the field this weekend. Fantasy GMs will get a big boost at tight end because Hooper has been one of the most productive at the position all year. Atlanta will have a matchup against the Panthers who are playing in their first game since Ron Rivera was fired, so there is no telling what their frame of mind is coming into Week 14. Hooper is a must-start in what should be a high-scoring game between two disappointing teams going nowhere this season.
Adam Thielen (WR-MIN)
The Vikings are being non-committal when it comes to Adam Thielen ’s status for Week 14. He has missed multiple games with a hamstring injury and continues to miss practice this week. Minnesota indicated that he would play when he is ready, but it is anybody’s guess whether that will happen this weekend. The Vikings should easily have their way with the Lions this weekend, so it seems foolish for them to rush Thielen back on the field when they can win without him. Fantasy GMs should plan on another week without Thielen unless we hear otherwise over the weekend.
Jamaal Williams (RB-GB)
The Packers added Williams to the injury report late in the week with a knee injury. He only practiced in a limited capacity on Thursday so his status for this week’s game against Washington could be murky. We do not know the extent of the injury, but it is never a good sign when something happens later in the week. Williams is a solid RB2 or Flex option as he has been a force in the passing game catching 36 passes for 227 yards and five touchdowns. If he cannot play, then look for Aaron Jones to shoulder an even bigger workload against the Redskins.
Greg Olsen (TE-CAR)
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen still has not practiced this week after suffering a concussion in last week’s game. It does not appear that he will play against the Falcons as Perry Fewell takes over coaching duties after Ron Rivera was fired. Look for Ian Thomas to see the lion’s share of snaps at tight end and could be a viable streaming option this week against Atlanta’s abysmal defense.
Darrel Williams (RB-KC)
We just reported a few days ago that the Chiefs backfield is a revolving door of injuries after Darrel Williams was the latest to go down with a hamstring injury. Kansas City has now placEd Williams on injured reserve, thus ending his season. They just re-signed Spencer Ware to join their backfield rotation which includes an already injured Damien Williams , a sparsely used LeSean McCoy , and rookie Darwin Thompson. Fantasy GMs should try to avoid Kansas City running backs because of all the uncertainty, as well as the fact they are going up against the Patriots this weekend.
Jamal Adams (DB-NYJ)
The Jets defense has been worthy of starting in fantasy leagues during several weeks of the season. This coming week would have been one of them as they get ready to play the Dolphins. However, Jamal Adams , the Jets best defensive player, seems unlikely to play due to an ankle injury. He has played like an All Pro and is very valuable in IDP leagues with 64 tackles along with 6.5 sacks, one interception and two defensive touchdowns. If Adams does not play, then Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker become even more valuable for Week 14.
Adam Vinatieri (K-IND)
Father Time seems to have finally caught up with Adam Vinatieri . He will likely miss this week’s game against Tampa Bay with a knee injury as he is plugging through a very difficult season. The legendary kicker has missed eight field and six extra point attempts, so it seems like the end may be near for the future Hall of Famer. The Colts have brought in Chase McLaughlin who played a few weeks for the 49ers earlier this year.