December 03, 2011
It's a win-or-go-home match for many of you, and some gamers are still fighting for the shiny golden ticket: a bye for the first week of the tournament. With the stakes raised, let's take a long look around the medical journal. First we'll tackle the running backs, with the rest of the cycle in this order: QB, WR, TE, PK, OL and defense.
Settle in, settler.
• Kevin Smith(notes) (ankle) took some Thursday and Friday reps and will probably be a game-time decision for Sunday night's match at New Orleans. Context clues point to Smith being a go (here's one beat writer that's banking on Smith playing), but it's far from a sure thing and you better have a late-game alternative if you're going to wait around for Smith.
• Broken foot and all, Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) wants to give it a try against the Pack. Bradshaw had a limited practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Sluggish Brandon Jacobs(notes) is the fallback plan; either way, you have to figure Eli Manning(notes) will be throwing plenty in this matchup.
• Michael Turner(notes) (groin) did some work Friday after skipping the two previous days. He's questionable on the injury report, though he's expected to start. The game at Houston is an early kickoff, so we can wait for Turner's status on game day, knowing options are available if he can't go.
• Cedric Benson(notes) (foot) had a full session Friday and should be fine to start at Pittsburgh. He's listed as probable. The Steelers rushing defense has rallied in recent weeks, allowing just one rushing touchdown over four games. No runner has topped 60 yards rushing on Pittsburgh since Week 6; Benson had a 15-57 line in the first meeting.
• Joseph Addai(notes) (hamstring) missed all of Friday's work and although the Colts call him questionable, I can't see how you dial him up at New England. Donald Brown(notes) has looked passable of late.
• Montario Hardesty(notes) (calf) had some work Thursday and Friday and might be on the field to steal some Peyton Hillis(notes) work Sunday. With the Ravens on the other side, it's hard to imagine any of these guys doing a lot.
• The Niners are taking it easy with Frank Gore(notes) and his sore ankle, but he should start as usual Sunday against the Rams. He's probable. If you need a home-run play in a deeper league, maybe Kendall Hunter can get in a long run or two against that awful St. Louis rushing defense. Remember, even Ryan Torain(notes) gashed these guys.
• Willis McGahee(notes) (illness) was at Friday's workout and is probable for the game in Minnesota. McGahee is averaging 5.1 yards a carry since Tim Tebow(notes) took over Denver's starting job, though he doesn't have a catch (or even a target) during that span.
• The Bucs might go with Josh Johnson(notes) as their quarterback against Carolina, though the decision isn't expected before Sunday. Josh Freeman(notes) (shoulder) had three limited days of practice and Johnson took most of the first-string reps. Johnson has shown running chops in his limited pro experience (148 passes), but he hasn't been a treat throwing the ball (5.5 YPA, 53.4 percent completions, 55.9 rating). If Johnson is confirmed to start, I'm downgrading all elements of the Tampa Bay passing game (despite Raheem Morris gushing over Johnson's practice week; coaches are generally like that).
• Sam Bradford(notes) (ankle) missed Thursday's practice and was limited on Friday. He might be spared the start at San Francisco, not that you should want Bradford or A.J. Feeley slinging it for your team. Brandon Lloyd(notes) has been consistent with everyone since joining the the club, so my rank on him won't change either way. Otherwise, stay away from Silence of the Rams.
• Tyler Palko(notes) is slated to start again for the Chiefs, though Kyle Orton(notes) saw a decent chunk of the first-team reps. You get the idea Orton will be the Week 14 starter, and he could be called into Sunday's game at Chicago if Palko loses his way again. Stay strong, Dwayne Bowe(notes) owners.
• Ben Roethlisberger(notes) (thumb), Rex Grossman(notes) (shoulder) and Colt McCoy(notes) (elbow) are all in line to start for their clubs after smooth Friday practices. They're all listed as probable.
• The Colts made a change at quarterback: Dan Orlovsky(notes) picks up the start at New England. Curtis Painter(notes) showed occasional flashes during the first half of the year, but he's been horrendous over the last five games (one TD, eight picks, 47.4 rating). It's easy to make fun of Orlovsky, sure, but I don't imagine he'll be any worse than Painter has been recently. Maybe there's a tiny ray of hope for Reggie Wayne(notes) and Pierre Garcon(notes) owners.
• Donovan McNabb(notes) has cleared waivers, if you wanted to know, though it doesn't seem like anyone is lined up to grab him. Maybe Houston could be talked into a backup gig for McNabb, given that the Vikings made a claim on Sage Rosenfels(notes).
• Miles Austin(notes) (hamstring) won't return in Week 13, so it's business as usual for Dez Bryant(notes) and Laurent Robinson(notes) at Arizona. Austin is optimistic about his chances of returning next week against the Giants, but typically any player will talk about his rehab encouragingly. Either way, I feel good about Robinson for the rest of the year; the Cowboys like him and trust him at this point, and we should as well.
• Jacoby Ford(notes) (foot) and Denarius Moore(notes) (ankle/foot) are both out for the game at Miami, which means Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) and Chaz Schilens(notes) are in line to start. The Dolphins secondary has rallied nicely in recent weeks, so it might be a good time to bench Carson Palmer(notes).
• An illness kept Percy Harvin(notes) out of Friday's practice and has him questionable on the injury report. Apparently it's not a migraine, but it's still something we have to follow up with on Sunday. Harvin has also been playing through a rib injury in recent weeks. With Michael Jenkins(notes) (knee) out for the year, Devin Aromashodu(notes) should pick up extra reps.
• Mario Manningham(notes) (knee) missed another session Friday and the Giants are listing him as doubtful. He's no guarantee to be a December contributor; if you're desperate for a warm body, you might want to consider dropping him. The other main New York wideouts are dinged up but nonetheless probable after practicing Friday: Victor Cruz(notes) (hip) and Hakeem Nicks(notes) (ribs, post-concussion).
• Malcom Floyd(notes) (hip) has been moving well in practice and might be able to handle a start at Jacksonville on Monday. I'm not bullish on Floyd, but the encouraging news on him makes me less interested in Vincent Brown(notes).
• The Jaguars have been cleaning house all week, firing head coach Jack Del Rio and releasing receiver Jason Hill(notes). Mike Thomas(notes) is the biggest WR name on the roster, followed by a cast of thousands: Jarett Dillard(notes), Cecil Shorts(notes), Chastin West(notes). Blaine Gabbert(notes) has just six touchdown throws and 1,371 passing yards on the year, so stay away from this receiver group. Heck, skip Monday's game altogether if you can. (Why did the Jaguars get three Prime Game games this year? I'll never understand it.)
• Dallas Clark(notes) (leg) isn't ready to go yet, so Jacob Tamme(notes) will continue to start. Tamme has been the target in six of Orlovsky's 21 pass attempts this year, for whatever that tiny sample means.
• Sebastian Janikowski(notes) (hamstring) is listed as questionable and was limited in the Friday workout. Oakland has yet to pick up an alternative kicker, which suggests Janikowski will probably go at Miami, but stay posted for weekend updates.
• Dan Carpenter(notes) (groin) returned to practice and the Dolphins waived Shayne Graham(notes), so it looks like all is back to normal with the Miami kicking game. That said, I don't want to risk anything on an ordinary kicker who's off an injury, no matter how promising things look during the week.
• Chargers LT Marcus McNeill(notes) (neck) is out for the year. You never want to lose depth on the offensive line, but McNeill hasn't been an effective player this year anyway (go watch the tape at Kansas City again; McNeill was the phantom tollbooth).
• Despite Tuesday's surgery on his right thumb, Von Miller(notes) wants to play at Minnesota. He had a limited practice Friday and will be a game-time decision on Sunday. Even if Miller can go, he'll probably see less snaps than usual.
• The Patriots are listing three key secondary members as questionable: Devin McCourty(notes) (shoulder), James Ihedigbo(notes) (shoulder) and Patrick Chung(notes) (foot). All three of them did some Friday work, which makes you think they'll go against Indianapolis.
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