Injury Report Insight, Week 14

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Thankfully for those of you who made it to your fantasy playoffs, Week 13 was not a devastating week for injuries. Aside from the surprise of the Saints putting Mark Ingram on the shelf, this was mostly a week where injured players inched a little closer to returning. The likely returns of Willie Snead, Allen Hurns, and Tyler Eifert could mean a few extra touchdowns this week, which might make all the difference in the world to fantasy owners.

Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning, plantar tear

If you're looking for clarity on when exactly Peyton Manning might return to the Denver lineup, you won't find it here. ProFootballTalk reported that Manning could begin throwing as soon as this week. Gary Kubiak has already said that Brock Osweiler will start Week 14, so at least we're spared the, "game-time decision," tag. This will mark the fourth game that Manning has missed, though he might indeed be getting closer to full health, as he's already been out of his foot cast for more than a week. The trouble is, this is one of those roster situations that involves much more than simple medical protocol. The Broncos don't appear to need Manning in order to win, and it's fair to think that they'd like to evaluate Osweiler a little more before trying to rush back a 39-year old who has had a mostly ineffective season thus far. Due to the severity of Manning's injury, the Broncos might chose to hold him out for as long as Brock Osweiler is winning, and that's impossible to predict. As for Manning's true health, I suspect that he'd be healthy enough to start in Week 15 should Denver wish, though practice reports over the next week will give us a better idea.

Eli Manning, ankle

I feel it's my duty here to point out that everyone seems to be prematurely downplaying Eli Manning's ankle injury. After Sunday's game, Manning admitted that he had an X-ray on his right ankle, but also said of the ankle, "It feels good." Has anyone ever had an X-ray because a body part felt good? Nope. Diagnostic scans are certainly common occurrences for NFL players, but it still indicates that the injury was severe enough that the Giants wanted to rule out a fracture. The best news is that this was to Manning's right ankle, not the left one which has a fair bit of injury history. There's a good chance that Manning is correct in downplaying the injury and that it really isn't a big deal. But we shouldn't believe him until we see him practice. Because the Giants play on Monday night, Manning's first official practice won't come until Thursday. Be sure to check reports late in the week to get a better idea of the severity of his injury.

Matt Hasselbeck, neck and rib injuries

If Matt Hasselbeck were any older or more banged-up, he'd be charged with stealing Peyton Manning's identity. To Hasselbeck's credit, he has played through his injuries, and been mostly effective. This week looks to be no different, as Hasselbeck is expected to start despite neck and rib injuries that he sustained last week. He was able to get in a full practice on Wednesday, so there's no reason to be too concerned here.

Matt Schaub, knee and shoulder injuries

According to the Ravens, Matt Schaub did not suffer a concussion in Week 13, though the NFL is looking into that matter. The team does admit that Schaub suffered knee and shoulder injuries though, and Schaub was held out of Wednesday's practice while backup Jimmy Clausen took the quarterback reps. It's too early in the week to get a good read on this situation, so be sure to check back on Thursday or Friday to see if it's cleared up. Unfortunately, according to beat reporter Jamison Hensley, coach John Harbaugh has already said that Schaub isn't expected to practice much this week, so we might have to wait until Saturday or Sunday for reliable information.

Running backs

Mark Ingram, shoulder

The NFL Network's Rand Getlin reported on Wednesday that Mark Ingram is dealing with a, "serious shoulder injury," and that there is some concern that it could be season-ending. Within hours, Ian Rapoport reported that the Saints were moving Ingram to injured reserve. Ingram has been listed with an unspecified shoulder injury since Week 10, but he's managed to play through it. If I had to guess, I'd say that the most likely culprit here is probably a torn shoulder labrum, similar to what Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd has been trying to play through. Again, that's just a guess based on what little we know so far. There's also a possibility that this could be a severe sprain, such as to his AC joint, though he likely would've missed time already if this was the case. Regardless, most people seem to expect his workload to be distributed among C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower.

C.J. Anderson, ankle

It's too early in the week to know anything for sure, but I'll admit that I'm concerned about C.J. Anderson's ankle injury. Anderson was unable to finish Week 13's game, and was reported to be, "very sore," the following day. He was unable to practice on Wednesday, which is not a great start to the week. Part of my concern though goes back to earlier this season when Anderson dealt with a preseason ankle injury, later saying, "I wasn't as healthy as I thought. I had some old injuries that bothered me." Piecing everything together, it seems like there's a chance that the current ankle injury, while possibly minor, might be compounded by earlier injuries. If Anderson can return to a full practice soon, my concerns would be alleviated.

Andre Ellington, turf toe

Arizona coach Bruce Arians has already stated that Andre Ellington will not play on Thursday due to his ongoing turf toe injury. The short week certainly didn't help Ellington's chances, but turf toe injuries are notorious at lingering, and the Cardinals seem to have enough depth behind Ellington (and Chris Johnson) that they seem in no rush to bring him back early. It's notable that Ellington was reported to be visiting a foot specialist last week, as that's never an optimistic sign. Oftentimes, specialists are consulted only when standard rehab or care has proven ineffective, or when a team has reason for additional concern. Hopefully this is not the case with Ellington.

Ryan Mathews, concussion

Ryan Mathews has missed the last three weeks due to a Week 10 concussion, and it's still not clear exactly when he will return. He was only able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, which means that he probably hasn't been cleared for contact yet. Hopefully he will be cleared and practice in full later this week, though that bears monitoring.

Karlos Williams, shoulder

Karlos Williams has an unspecified shoulder injury which I would guess is likely an AC sprain. He sat out last week, and appears no closer to returning, as he missed Wednesday practice. Consider him doubtful until he can get in at least a limited practice.

Chris Thompson, shoulder

After playing through an AC sprain, Washington's Chris Thompson suffered another shoulder injury, possibly a setback to the same injured shoulder. He was scheduled to have an MRI, and was held out of Wednesday's practice, so he's looking doubtful for Week 14. Although his injury might not be severe, it wouldn't surprise me to see him moved to injured reserve this week, even if only to free up some roster space.

Carlos Hyde, foot stress fracture

Enough already, Jim Tomsula. Just move Carlos Hyde to injured reserve and be done with it already. Hyde hasn't played or practiced since October, and there's no reason to think that's going to change.

Marshawn Lynch, core muscle surgery

Nice to see that Pete Carroll is coming down to earth and admitting that his early expectations on Marshawn Lynch's recovery were not realistic. Lynch had core muscle surgery on November 25th, and Carroll initially said that Lynch could be back, "within 3 or 4 weeks or something like that." Both Dr. Jene Bramel and myself have written that the three week end of that spectrum was naive, and that somewhere in the, "4-6 week," range was more accurate, with Lynch being eased into the rotation possibly in Week 16 or 17. At this time, that projection still looks about right, as long as Lynch can return for some limited practice and conditioning in Week 15 or 16.

Wide receivers

Stevie Johnson, groin

Dontrelle Inman, neck

The Chargers are looking especially banged up at the wide receiver position this week. Stevie Johnson suffered a groin injury, and Dontrelle Inman was lucky to escpae with only a neck strain after being stretchered off the field in Week 13. Neither player practiced on Wednesday, leaving both of them questionable for this weekend. If neither one is ready by Sunday, it could leave Philip Rivers without too many weapons in Kansas City. That could be ugly, though at least he has two capable tight ends in Gates and Green.

Travis Benjamin, shoulder

Travis Benjamin injured his shoulder in Week 13, and was held out of practice on Wednesday. Without more details, it's hard to know what to make of this, though owners need to proceed with caution. Even an injured Benjamin might be able to capitalize on Sunday's matchup, with Johnny Manziel up against the 49ers, but we might not know anything more about Benjamin until late in the week.

Allen Hurns, concussion

Allen Hurns is fully cleared from the concussion protocol and will start Week 14 after missing last week. Hurns has played through plenty of injuries this year, but it appears that he's as healthy as can be expected now. He is still listed on the injury report with a thigh injury, but practiced in full, which is a sign that the ailment is minor.

Willie Snead, calf strain

Willie Snead missed Week 13 with a calf injury, likely a muscle strain. Calf strains can be hard to shake for wide receivers, as we saw earlier this year with both Alshon Jeffery and Sammy Watkins. Snead was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, which is an optimistic sign. It'd be more comfortable giving him the green light if he was able to put in at least one full practice this week, but three limited practices would certainly still be a good sign.

Rishard Matthews, rib fractures

The Dolphins don't play until Monday night, so they won't release their first official practice report until Thursday. But based on the reports that Rishard Matthews suffered multiple fractured ribs back in Week 12, I wouldn't expect him to practice or play this week. The Miami Herald has already reported that Matthews is expected to miss the game against the Giants, and I have no reason to doubt it due to the severity of his injury. I suspect that this week's practice reports will only confirm that. Looking beyond Week 14, I'd say that Matthews has a decent shot of returning for Week 15, though I'm basing that on historical injury comparisons, not anything specific about Matthews' condition.

Eddie Royal, knee

Marquess Wilson, foot

After missing the last five games, Eddie Royal might be ready to come back from his still-unspecified knee injury, as he was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, marking his first practice in any capacity since October. Hopefully he can return this week, as it looks like fellow Chicago receiver Marquess Wilson is in danger of missing another game with a foot injury. Wilson did not practice on Wednesday, meaning that his status is very much up in the air.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski, knee

Despite avoiding serious injury, it has been mostly reported that Rob Gronkowski will miss his second-straight game this weekend. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday, and has made it clear that he will not return until he's 100%. I would expect him to start putting in limited practices next week, but even that might not signal that his return is imminent.

Tyler Eifert, stinger

Tyler Eifert looks like he's on track to return for a juicy match-up against the Steelers this week, as he was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday. As long as he doesn't suffer a setback and practice downgrade, he should be fine for Sunday.

Vance McDonald, concussion

With 49ers tight end Vance McDonald in the concussion protocol, Garrett Celek on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, and Vernon Davis traded away, San Francisco is running low on tight ends. If McDonald can't clear the concussion protocol in time, we'll likely see Blake Bell, as well as perhaps a free agent or practice squad player as insurance.

Jermaine Gresham, knee

Jermaine Gresham suffered a knee injury in Week 13, and is listed as doubtful for Thursday's Week 14 game. Without knowing anything more specific about Gresham's injury, it's impossible to speculate as to when he might return.

Heath Miller, ribs

Heath Miller missed Week 13 with a an unspecified rib injury, and he was held out of practice on Wednesday. Unless his practice participation improves later in the week, he will likely miss another week.

Crockett Gillmore, back

Maxx Williams, concussion

The tight end situation for Baltimore's Week 14 is still very much up in the air. Crockett Gillmore suffered a back injury in Week 13's game, and Maxx Williams was inactive due to a concussion. Gillmore was held out of Wednesday's practice, and Williams was only able to put in a limited practice, suggesting that perhaps he has not fully cleared the concussion protocol. Both players should be checked up on later in the week.

Martellus Bennett, ribs

After returning from a Week 11 rib injury, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett appeared to have re-aggravated the injury. Although Bennett was able to play through the injury, the Bears moved him to injured reserve on Tuesday. This is pure speculation on my part, but I would guess that the injured reserve decision might have more to do with conflict between Bennett and head coach John Fox than anything health related. To be sure, there are rib injuries where it would be appropriate to shut a player down for the rest of the season. But, given the fact that Bennett played through the injury, and given reports such as this one by the Chicago Tribune's Dan Wiederer, of Bennett voicing frustration with his role, I would think that this is not entirely a medical decision. Regardless, even a severe rib injury shouldn't spill over into next season, so Bennett should be healthy for 2016.