Week 6 Med Check: Andre, Calvin Johnson should be good to go
Despite his concussion last week, Aaron Rodgers will start for Green Bay
Matt Hasselbeck is facing a Bears defense that is dealing with injuries
Brett Favre says he's questionable, but you can count on him playing
Are you 6-0 or 1-5? It's always time to take a look into the deep dark truthful fantasy mirror. Too many times it's the injuries that knock a team aside. Did you lose Sidney Rice or Ryan Grant? Were you counting on Matthew Stafford to take a step up? Was Reggie Bush your big sleeper pick in the mid-rounds like he was for me? All those things and more can derail even the best draft. I see more and more people playing fantasy football, running down the lists and researching things, but then forgetting that winning takes more than just the draft. I don't have any trouble with people just playing for fun against friends, not spending hours pouring over charts and stats, but c'mon ... admit that it's more fun to beat your friends than just play with them. Reading this column, checking the news, following along with the projections or Eric Mack's Start/Sit work, that's what separates the winners from the players. You're here, so you don't want the participation trophy. I'll do my best to make sure none of the injuries ties you up this week. Let's get to it:
SUNDAY UPDATE: Clay Matthews out, Aaron Rodgers in.
UPGRADE: Ricky Williams
DOWNGRADE: Packers D/ST
The Packers have a lot of issues heading into Week 6, but QB isn't really one of them. Aaron Rodgers will officially be a GTD, but every indication is that he will be ready to play. After a concussion at the end of last week, Rodgers passed all the necessary tests and practiced late in the week. There's some discussion about how QBs do the week following a concussion, but there's very little data to work with. Expect the Dolphins to test him early with blitzes and confusing looks. The Packers have a real issue at TE with Jermichael Finley out and Donald Lee banged up. Lee is probable, but expect more three and four wide looks. The Packers D/ST has issues too. Nick Barnett is done for the year and Clay Matthews is definitely out this week. That could give Williams more touches and Chad Henne more time. The Dolphins might put Jared Odrick on the field -- he's a GTD -- but he's unlikely to start or get full looks.
UPGRADE: Malcolm Floyd, Steven Jackson
The Chargers have a couple injuries affecting the offense, but they're really more depth issues than problems. Legedu Naanee is unlikely to play this week, spreading the catches out, though Malcolm Floyd will continue to get the lion's share. He's really the WR2 with Antonio Gates soaking up the targets. Ryan Mathews continues to be limited slightly by his ankle sprain, so he'll continue to split carries with Mike Tolbert. The Rams have a long injury report, but those are mostly depth issues. With Mark Clayton out, the Rams will have to find targets somewhere. My guess is that with Steven Jackson getting further from that groin strain, he'll end up more involved in the short passing game. This could be the week where Jackson breaks out, not that he's been bad up to this point.
DOWNGRADE: Ray Rice
Coming into a big matchup, the Ravens have a much longer list of injuries than the Pats, even when you discount the continued ridiculous listing of Tom Brady as eternally probable. The major concerns for the Ravens are on the defensive side. Haloti Ngata is very iffy with a sore knee and will be a GTD. Even if he plays, the Pats can ease off him a bit, which opens up some more things in the running game or can shift blocking to the edges. The defensive backfield also lacks depth, but Ed Reed could be back as soon as next week, a big boost. Ray Rice is fine and should get the majority of touches despite his knee remaining sore. For the Pats, they know that Fred Taylor is out and will put the touches on BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, who give very different looks.
UPGRADE: Peyton Hillis, Josh Cribbs
It's all ankles for the first three QBs in Cleveland, meaning that Colt McCoy has to face down the Steel Curtain in his first NFL game. Josh Cribbs could see work in the Wildcat to try to take some pressure off McCoy, but Cribbs' ankle has him a GTD, though likely to play. If he's effective, that will help. Check your league rules to see if you'll get any passing yards from Cribbs. Jake Delhomme has a chance to be active, but only as a backup/emergency guy, much like he was last week. Peyton Hillis should be fine despite aggravating his quad strain last week. He was able to play three days after the original injury, so a full week of treatment should have him ready. The Mike Bell deal was more about getting rid of Jerome Harrison, who just didn't fit what the Browns were looking for. The Steelers have no significant injuries.
UPGRADE: Andre Johnson
The Texans have an extensive injury report, but things are looking better for them. Andre Johnson has another week of practice and treatment under his belt, meaning his ankle has to be better. He could be joined on the field by Jacoby Jones (calf) who was able to get back on the field on Friday. Most of the rest of the report are depth guys or defensive players. There's a lot of probables, all of which should play. Don't expect health to stop the Texans this week. The Chiefs don't have any significant injuries, but will need to adjust after a loss at Indy that could serve as a blueprint. The Texans' pass defense could help make Matt Cassell look better this week too.
SUNDAY UPDATE: The Lions have Calvin Johnson active today. Still unsure if he's going to be a great start for fantasy owners.
UPGRADE: Calvin Johnson
DOWNGRADE: Giants D/ST
With Matthew Stafford out through the bye week, Shaun Hill gets another start against a tough defense. He'll have to do it without his best weapons being full-go. Calvin Johnson is the big worry, with his shoulder limiting him throughout practice this week. He was making clear progress and was able to use both arms on Friday, so things point to him playing, though you should be ready with a backup if you have Johnson as your WR1. If he plays, his limitations shouldn't stop him from being a red zone target. Jahvid Best is still somewhat limited by turf toe, but he should be able to go much like last week. The worry is an early game recurrence. Dean Kleinschmidt and his staff deserve some notice for their work in minimizing the injuries that the Lions have had early. Most of the Giants' issues are on defense, where there's some depth issues. The Lions showed they can score on a bad team, but injuries can make a good team like the Giants look a lot worse than they are. Kickers don't normally make the Med Check, but Lawrence Tynes is out. Make sure you replace him with ... well, almost anyone.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Michael Vick is the emergency 3rd QB. He's making progress and this is a "reward" for his hard work. Jerome Harrison is a bit of a surprise inactive.
DOWNGRADE: LeSean McCoy
First, Michael Vick's not playing. He's making progress, but rib cartilage injuries only become a pain tolerance issue after they've healed up enough to take the kind of hits that a QB is going to take. Vick will be back in the discussion, but what he's done has kept him close to Andy Reid's mind. That's smart. The Eagles have a run of injuries that seem minor, but could stack up on them. Jason Peters is out for a month after minor knee surgery. Add Trent Herremans and Nick Cole and that line could be a real issue. The rest of the probables, including LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek, should all be fine to play. Atlanta is relatively healthy, with only some depth issues on the defensive side.
UPGRADE: Matt Hasselbeck
DOWNGRADE: Jay Cutler, Bears D/ST
While the Seahawks are more or less healthy -- or as healthy as any team can be at this stage of the season -- the Bears are pretty much the opposite. Cutler's return from concussion has been well documented, but the line in front of him is going to be the real issue. The concussion came because the defense had so many shots at him. The line continues to be a problem, with Robert Garza out and Chris Williams limited. On defense, things are also problematic. Lance Briggs was at practice on Friday, but he wasn't allowed to have a helmet with him. A lot of times, trainers will take away the helmet on the sidelines to make sure a player doesn't put himself back in the game. I've never seen that happen at practice. With Briggs and Brian Urlacher banged up, it would seem like a perfect time for Marshawn Lynch to assert himself in the Seahawks running game, but he's still learning the playbook. No, the defensive absences will mean a lot more for Matt Hasselbeck, who should get some easier reads.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Mike Williams will play and is expected to get full targets after a good pre-game workout.
UPGRADE: Drew Brees
DOWNGRADE: Julius Jones, Saints D/ST
Brees is bothered by the knee brace, or the underlying injury that necessitates the brace. That's the easy answer, but is it the correct one? It's impossible to know without Brees telling us, but Peter King does a great job breaking down all the reasons the Saints are having some issues trying to repeat. I think that against an upstart Tampa team, Brees is going to show he's not the problem. The Bucs defense is nicked here and there, with Sean Jones likely to be back, keeping Sabby Piscatelli off the field. With 20 guys on the injury report, the Saints have plenty of issues around the field. The running game adds Julius Jones, but Chris Ivory and Ladell Betts are likely get most of the carries, while Pierre Thomas remains out. Marques Colston will play despite a rib issue. Colston's size could be a big issue for the Tampa D/ST. The defensive injuries for the Saints are mostly ones of depth, with a lot of probables. Will Smith is a GTD with a groin. Indications are that Smith will play, spotted in obvious passing siuations.
UPGRADE: Eddie Royal, LaDanian Tomlinson
DOWNGRADE: Knowshon Moreno, Laurence Maroney
Kyle Orton's on an unsustainable pace right now, just shy of Drew Bledsoe's record 691 attempts in 1994. Then again, he's healthy, which is more than we can say for the Broncos running game. Moreno practiced some this week, so there's a chance he'll be in the mix, but don't expect a full load of carries. Without a running game, Orton's been forced to put the ball up early and often. Moreno's return to production could limit that. He's a downgrade because I feel that too many fantasy players will rush to put him in, thinking he's ready to put up the big numbers they drafted him for. He's not. Damaryius Thomas is a GTD after a concussion, but he did practice. The Broncos D/ST is banged up as well, which could help both Mark Sanchez and LaDainian Tomlinson. For the Jets, Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace are both GTDs. I'd expect Pace to be spotted in, while Revis is more likely right now to not suit up. He's one I'll be watching closely, but keep in mind this is a late game. If you're looking to play Orton or Royal, go ahead. Revis's presence will be a diminished one if he plays at all, so make your decision absent his effect.
UPGRADE: Louis Murphy
The big news is that Bruce Gradkowski is out, putting Jason Campbell back in. Gradkowski's shoulder was not making sufficient progress and Tom Cable's staff made the call to go with the guy who'd seen practice time. Darren McFadden is a GTD, but will be at best a RB2 behind Michael Bush. Campbell looks like he'll be without Johnny Lee Higgins as well as Chaz Schilens, who remains out. The Niners don't have any significant injuries.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Dez Bryant is going to play, according to NFL Network. He's still the fourth target for Tony Romo and not a good play.
UPGRADE: Visanthe Shiancoe
DOWNGRADE: Dez Bryant
I do not for a second believe Brett Favre is truly questionable. Favre's elbow tendonitis is the very definition of smokescreen. In the videos of Favre throwing that I saw this week, he was able to pronate and snap his wrist when he put something behind the pass. Tendonitis is one of those injuries that is "self-limiting" -- as in the pain keeps the body from doing more damage to itself. That type of motion is precisely what would put more pressure on an inflamed tendon. Favre will start. How he plays is Brad Childress' problem. Shiancoe should be ready to go, though his hamstring is still an issue. Playing on a dry field will help him this week. For the Cowboys, the biggest question is Bryant, who continues to have lingering issues with his ankle. Bryant's played through this for the first five weeks, but it seems like the Cowboys are ready to give him a week off in hopes of getting ahead of the issue. Center Andre Gurode is also a GTD, which is a big deal against the interior of the Vikings D. If he's limited, it could be a long night for Tony Romo.
SUNDAY UPDATE: If you're worried about Joseph Addai, know that Donald Brown didn't make the trip. Colts lineup will look much like last week all around.
I don't normally do Sunday night games. The inactives and other information comes in so much later than others that I leave it to Peter King and the rest of the Sunday Night crew to keep you filled in. The RB situation is going to bear some watching. As of Saturday, Joseph Addai and Donald Brown were both GTDs. Addai looks to be ready to play through his shoulder injury while Brown is a bit more iffy as he still is limited by his hamstring. The same is true for the Colts WRs. Both Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie practiced in full on Friday after resting, while Anthony Gonzalez will be out, giving him through next week's bye to heal up. On D/ST, the Colts will have both DEs in despite missing practice, but Gary Brackett is a GTD with a groin strain. The defensive backfield remains a mess, but they found a way to get the job done against the Chiefs last week. The Redskins don't have any significant injuries. Laron Landry practiced all week and the continued listing of Donovan McNabb as "questionable" should be drawing NFL scrutiny by now.