Titans QB problems help Johnson, Moss; Upgrade Cutler, Garrard
Practice reports have been misleading on Roddy White, who will be near a full-go
Titans QB Rusty Smith, as with most backup QBs, will look to his WR1 more
With Hakeem Nicks out, Mario Manningham and Kevin Boss get more looks
Thanksgiving was a veritable football feast, and at my house we had three games in a row following the turkey and stuffing. Watching games with family can be fun, but when it's me and my father, we're watching it differently than most. We used TiVo to go back and forth, watching everything from a lineman getting rolled up from behind by his running back (and he didn't have a brace on) to Miles Austin trotting off for X-rays on his forearm (he's fine, but bruised) and more helmet-to-helmet hits than Matt Millen could praise. Watching Reggie Bush limp or Cedric Benson telling his teammate "it's just a cramp" as the sideline reporter tells us it's a strain really got things going with the medical discussion. My dad's a Saints fan, so watching that back-and-forth game involved a little plain ol' rooting, too. I can only hope you and all your family had as much fun, though I'll bet most of you don't watch games quite the way we do. Before we get to the injuries, I'd like to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers this week. They are appreciated. Now, let's look around the league:
UPGRADE: Jay Cutler
Both teams come into the game relatively healthy, something we often see from winning teams at this point in the year. Whether you want to call that luck or good planning, the fact is that there's a high correlation between keeping talent on the field and making the playoffs. The Bears once again have no significant injuries this week, while the Eagles have only one major issue, Asante Samuel. Samuel sprained his knee during the key fumble recovery last week, and he's been ruled out. LeSean McCoy is also on the official injury report this week due to his shoulder problem, but if it didn't hold him back last week, why would it this week?
UPGRADE: Roddy White
If the definition of MVP is how the team would play without that player, Clay Matthews has a good case for being this year's defensive MVP. His various injuries have shown just how key he is to the Packers defense. He's missed some practice this week with a bruised shin but will play. It's becoming clear that his all-out style is going to make him a bit susceptible to injury, but it's that same style that makes him so good. He'll be very needed against the balanced Falcons offense. The Packers should have Cullen Jenkins as well, who's been playing through a calf strain for the past few weeks. Practice reports on Roddy White are a bit misleading. While the Falcons are holding him out of some drills, the bone bruise on his knee is getting better. This is more caution than anything else, and White will be near full-go on Sunday.
UPGRADE: Fred Jackson
The safeties of the 2000s have been defined by the human heat-seeking missile types like Bob Sanders and Troy Polamalu. Unlike Chuck Cecil and John Lynch, it seems like taking that next step in speed and violence makes it so that the player just can't stay healthy. Polamalu is dealing with an Achilles strain that shouldn't keep him off the field, but that one source tells me is "bad enough that it could pop on any play." Polamalu's importance to the defense is enough that the team may be forced to limit his play in order to keep him healthy for the playoffs, as the Colts had to do with Sanders in previous seasons. The Bills will likely be without C.J. Spiller this week, but Jackson has been solid enough to make that not a big worry.
DOWNGRADE: Colt McCoy
Someone really needs to check the tape in the Browns' training room. McCoy has a high ankle sprain, the third QB from the team this season. Most tape jobs and ankle braces come up high enough to help guard against a sprain to the syndesmosis -- you can see why we call it a high ankle sprain -- so it's one of those questions I hope the Browns are asking, even if the answer turns out to be "bad luck." That puts Jake Delhomme back in at QB for the next few weeks, possibly through the end of the season if he can stay healthy. Injuries to Ben Watson and Josh Cribbs have to be watched, too. While Watson should play and Cribbs is unlikely to play, both are game-time decisions. The Panthers should get Jimmy Claussen back this week. He's been cleared from his concussion and will take over from Brian St. Pierre, who came out of last week's start with a sore shoulder. The team should also get Jonathan Stewart back, though it's likely he'll take his normal 1A role, this time to Mike Goodson.
Sunday Update: He's a kicker and inherently replaceable, but the Titans won't have to replace Rob Bironas. Watch out though if you're in a league where you get bonus points for distance. Owen Daniels, as expected, is INACTIVE. I'm not in love with Joel Dreessen as a fantasy option like some.
UPGRADE: Chris Johnson, Randy Moss
There are a lot of names on the injury report for both teams heading into Week 12, but this divisional battle won't be decided by who's not there. For the Texans, the biggest question isn't Matt Schaub or Andre Johnson, but Brian Cushing. The linebacker is having trouble recovering from week to week and is dealing with a sore knee that's remained swollen and painful well beyond the normal period. He's expected to play but might be a step slow in a week where he'll be chasing Chris Johnson from sideline to sideline. The Texans also look to be without Owen Daniels again, as his hamstring hasn't made much progress over the last couple weeks. The Titans QB injuries will force them to go to Johnson more unless Rusty Smith can surprise people with a passing game, but we've seen the Texans D/ST struggle against almost everyone else this year. We know backups go to WR1s more, so there's some small chance that Smith will make use of Moss. Otherwise, the Titans are relatively healthy.
Sunday Update: No worries with Maurice Jones-Drew. He's a must-start today.
UPGRADE: David Garrard
DOWNGRADE: Ahmad Bradshaw
Seeing Maurice Jones-Drew on the injury report is never a good thing, but his minor abdominal strain doesn't seem to be causing him much trouble. At worst, he'll give up a few touches, but even against a solid Giants D/ST, he's still a must play. The Jags could get Mike Sims-Walker back, but he will be a game-time decision. On the Giants side, there are a lot of injuries. Steve Smith is still at least a week away, and Hakeem Nicks is even further off, meaning that Mario Manningham will get more targets and coverage. Kevin Boss could also be a beneficiary, since Eli Manning likes throwing to tall targets. The defensive line could be a real issue, with both Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck missing practice. If both are out, Garrard will be a big upgrade play. The offensive line is also a trouble spot for the Giants, so watch to see how many are missing there, possibly downgrading the running game some.
Sunday Update: No word yet on Santana Moss - we'll know more by 11.30 a.m. -- but right now, you have to expect he's going to lose targets if he does play. Word from Judd Zulgad, one of the great Vikings beat writers, is that Brett Favre is dealing with illness this morning, but is expected to play. Zulgad says Favre is at "far less than 100 percent." Bernard Berrian is INACTIVE this week, which improves Percy Harvin as a fantasy play. Ryan Torain is INACTIVE, making Keiland Williams a solid fantasy play today.
UPGRADE: Visanthe Shiancoe
DOWNGRADE: Santana Moss, Donovan McNabb
Sidney Rice came through his first game back pretty well, showing no real problem with his hip. As expected, Rice was kept away from contact when possible. That's not going to change, but it's clear he can be productive at the same time. Whether it will be Brett Favre throwing to him isn't an injury question, but a personnel one. We'll have to see if a new coach deals with Favre a different way, but don't expect big changes. Jared Allen is sore and missed some practice time, but the sore neck isn't going to be enough to keep him out. Mike Shanahan took pity on fantasy players this week, or maybe he just got bored with messing with us. Clinton Portis went to the I.R., and Ryan Torain was ruled out early, so we know that Keiland Williams is the starter for this week and perhaps beyond. Santana Moss is also very questionable, though the 'Skins listed his issue as "knee" after he had a hamstring strain last week, so that's something to watch going forward. The offensive line is a bigger issue, with several members on the injury report up the middle, which could change the gameplan against a tough Vikings front. Finally for the 'Skins, Laron Landry is out, which should free up Shiancoe a bit.
UPGRADE: Chad Henne
The Dolphins are down several key players, including Brandon Marshall. Marshall hasn't practiced this week after straining his hamstring in last week's game. They could get a boost from the return of Henne, a very surprising return after spraining his knee just a few weeks back. Tony Sparano isn't saying it publicly, but he's going to go with Henne on Sunday. He's not a mobile QB when healthy, so losing some mobility is only a small issue. Henne is officially a game-time decision, but indications have been that if Henne could safely play, Sparano was going to go with him. If so, expect more Wildcat to help rest and to keep the defense honest. Also, Henne's knee is not so solid that he couldn't be forced out, either through re-injury or ineffectiveness. Jake Long practiced this week, and his health will be key to keeping Henne (or Tyler Thigpen) upright. The Raiders have two significant injuries this week. Zach Miller (foot) is much like last week, where he played but was less than 100 percent. It's looking like Nnamdi Asomugha will play this week after missing three games with his ankle sprain. Without Marshall, Asomugha's presence is going to make it even tougher on Henne and his WRs.
Sunday Update: Indications are Mike Williams is out.
UPGRADE: Matt Hasselbeck, Deon Butler
DOWNGRADE: Mike Williams
While injuries to Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki more clearly affect fantasy players, it's the loss of Eric Flowers that will have the bigger fantasy impact. Flowers' absence due to his hamstring strain will open up the passing game, which will help the Seahawks significantly. Deon Butler becomes a nice WR sleeper due to this and the likely absence of Williams. Both McCluster and Moeaki are officially game-time decisions, but both practiced well and should play normally. There's some question about how much "normal" is for McCluster and how much that will affect Jamaal Charles, who appeared to benefit most from McCluster's absence. Williams is listed as questionable, but being in a walking boot on Friday and Saturday gives us some answers, so don't play him. The Seahawks should get Golden Tate back to slot in after missing a couple weeks with a nasty ankle sprain.
Besides Ed Reed missing practice with an illness, neither team has a significant injury problem this week.
Neither team has any significant injuries.
Tons of injuries for both the Chargers and Colts. The Chargers will have a big game-time decision on Malcom Floyd, who didn't recover well after very limited work in Week 11, though they do get Vincent Jackson back this week. Antonio Gates is a game-time decision, but his foot has been very painful with any activity, and it would surprise me if he plays. Even so, Randy McMichael is also dealing with a hamstring strain, so he's not the great pickup some might assume. Ryan Mathews is likely out. The Colts will be without Austin Collie again, but the real issues are at RB, where Javarris James' knee injury leaves only Donald Brown as healthy and available. In Monday's game, the fantasy play to watch closely is Steve Breaston, who has missed practice but is expected to play.
Sunday Update: The Colts will only have Donald Brown tonight at RB which could force more passing. Peyton Manning becomes an even better play.
UPGRADE: Reggie Wayne
Reggie Wayne is questionable to play like Kate Beckinsale is questionable to be really hot. He'll play and get normal targets.
DOWNGRADE: Steve Breaston.
Wide receiver Steve Breaston is expected to play, but look at your options if you have any. Breaston isn't going to get his normal amount of targets due to his injury.
SI Now: Should NCAA Student Athletes be treated as pros?
SI Now: What role will Tim Tebow fill for the Patriots?