The injury status of each player is one of the most key inputs into our lineup decisions each week. The question isn’t only if the player will play but how limited will they be if they do play. However, the most important thing to consider is who will pick up their touches if they are limited or miss the game completely. Each week our resident injury expert Jene Bramel will break down the injuries and Steve Buzzard will break down what it means for your cash and GPP lineups. See this article for definitions of all DFS terms.
Bramel: Week 17 tends to be the most straightforward week on the practice participation report. With the exception of the few instances where two teams are playing each other for a playoff spot, players likely to play will practice, those likely to rest with their injuries will not practice. So, it’s no surprise to see fewer players listed questionable this week than previously.
Buzzard: That’s a great point, Jene, and makes our decision process a bit easier this week on the injury front. The other thing that I will continue to endorse for week 17 is team and player incentives. This applies directly to the injury status of the player. If the player is already eliminated from the playoffs and his status is borderline I would expect him to sit or play a lesser amount of his normal snaps than normal unless he has a specific goal in mind. The same holds true but even more so for teams that are already in the playoffs. However, if the team is still playing for a playoff spot, basically just the Jets and Steelers this year, you can expect that they will be playing as much as possible.
One other quick note I want to make before digging too deeply into the injuries is that the other motivation that can keep players in the lineup and or give them more opportunities this week than normal is bonus incentives and stat milestones. Bonus incentives are harder to find but are typically more meaningful. For example, last year I came across 4 bonus incentives that kicked in based on a TD being scored. 3 of the 4 players scored a TD last year. I will be spending much of Saturday evening and Sunday morning looking for these tidbits as they often get leaked late in the week. Stat milestones are a little easier to find. A milestone goal needs to be hard enough to reach that it is meaningful to your score and mean enough that the player is going to give it a real shot to get it. This year a couple of them that I really like are Julio Jones ($8,500) being 16 receptions from the single year reception record, Doug Martin ($6,700) being 146 off of 1,500 yards and Odell Beckham Jr. ($9,000) being 104 yards from 1,500. Jones record may be the most intriguing because it’s a single season record so it is enticing for Jones to shoot for and it is high enough that he would be hitting GPP value for you if he really sets out to get it.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears - $6,200
Bramel: Matt Forte is the most difficult situation to read this week. He’s listed questionable with a back injury that sounds like spasms related to a painful quad contusion he had previously. On Friday, Forte’s locker room interview sounded very positive. But offensive coordinator Adam Gase implied that getting Jeremy Langford ($3,900) reps could take precedence this week. Tentatively expect Forte to start, but there’s a high risk of him seeing fewer snaps in committee than he has in recent weeks.
Buzzard: Forte is a great example of the motivation rule. Jene’s note in regards to Gase saying he wants to get Langford some reps is a red flag for me on Forte and I don’t think he has the upside that you want in a player at his price point. Additionally, if Forte is given some snaps it is going to limit the upside of Langford as well. With the uncertainty neither makes for a great back this week. But I will be more likely to have shares of Langford than I will to have shares of Forte.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals - $4,700
Bramel: The Bengals listed Tyler Eifert probable. Eifert fully practiced and will start. Expect him to play his usual role in the offense unless/until the Bengals put the game away, at which point he may be rested.
Buzzard: If things fall perfectly the Bengals could move up to the number two seed this week which would give them a bye next week. Seeding typically doesn’t matter much to the playoff teams when it comes to how much a player plays. However, a small exception is normally made for when a team can move up from a non-bye to a bye seed which the Bengals have the opportunity to do. They also have a favorable matchup against the Ravens who may take last week’s upset of the Steelers as a high point and be a little deflated after that. That said, I agree with Jene that Eifert will be one of the first players to the bench if the game gets out of hand. Throw in A.J. McCarron as the QB and I think Eiferts upside is limited. At a similar price point I would rather look at Zach Miller ($4,600) or Travis Kelce ($4,700). Kelce has a stat milestone of his own with 135 yards to get to 1,000 but unfortunately may be rested if the game gets out of hand as well which makes him a big boom or bust candidate.
Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots - $5,500
Bramel: Danny Amendola traveled with the team to Miami and I believe he’ll be active. But I don’t believe Amendola will play every snap or come close to his pre-injury target counts. The Patriots will look to get Amendola a few snaps at game speed and continue to work on his conditioning but it’s unlikely Amendola will do much more than that.
Buzzard: I completely agree with Jene’s assesment of Amendola. The Patriots have very little incentive to play him as they have already locked up a first round bye. However, the Patriots are one team that historically have played their players in week 17 more than normal even when there wasn’t much to play for. But this year they have so many injuries I have a feeling they won’t do that so much. I don’t like playing Rob Gronkowski for the same reason as Amendola as I think they play it safe with him as he is the player they absolutely can’t afford to lose. As an option to all the targets that I think can be available on the Patriots this week I like going with Keshawn Martin ($3,000) as a punt play.
Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals - $5,200
Bramel: Michael Floyd is questionable, presumably limited by the same nagging knee condition he’s dealt with intermittently this season. Reports on Floyd’s availability are very scarce this week, which probably works in favor of Floyd playing. The Cardinals have erred on the side of keeping their wide receivers out of practice this year, then activating them to their usual workload on Sunday. That’s likely the pattern this week with Floyd, and we’ll hopefully get an early Sunday morning note well in advance of the Sunday afternoon game.
Buzzard: Even if Floyd plays as expected the Cardinals have no reason to play him a full complement of snaps as they have already wrapped up a first round bye. If Floyd is active I would expect his snaps to be limited which makes him a good fade despite the fact that he will likely be pretty popular. In theory these limited snaps would give a target boost to Larry Fitzgerald ($6,600) or John Brown ($5,100) but even their playing time is not guaranteed and the Seahawks still have a great defense. I would rather fade the Cardinals passing game this week.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions - $6,900
Bramel: Calvin Johnson is listed questionable again this week. He looked more like himself last week against San Francisco and has another favorable matchup with Chicago. That should bode well for his targets, but his minimal practice time this week continues to suggest the ankle is a limiting factor.
Buzzard: Johnson has had a very disappointing season and as the highest priced wide receiver in the league he has something to prove with a solid outing in week 17. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Johnson play through this injury and reach the end zone once or twice to show that despite the down year he can still play at a high level going forward. Johnson has been cold lately and will likely be lowly owned so I don’t mind taking a shot on him or Golden Tate ($6,900/$5,700).
Check the DraftKings blog on Sunday morning for the latest injury expectations.