Injury Report Insight, Week 7

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Fellow Footballguy, Dr. Jene Bramel started an interesting discussion this week in his Monday Injury Rounds that I'd like to lead off with here. In reviewing his takes on Week 6, it turned out Dr. Jene was pessimistic about a few players that went on not only to start, but to have significant contributions. If Dr. Jene was wrong, I was perhaps doubly wrong, as I spent much of the week telling anyone who would listen that Justin Forsett would not start. If it helps, I went down with the sinking ship, rostering Buck Allen in a few lineups. The case of Justin Forsett is a great example of a scenario that fantasy football owners face often, and I think it merits a discussion. For my explanation, I'll borrow Nate Silver's phrase, and the title of his fantastic book, "The Signal and the Noise."

In digesting injury information, there are two basic categories that reports can be sorted into. On the one hand, you have the signal. These are the details that are objective and truly mean something. A confirmed, precise medical diagnosis is in the signal category. How (or if) a player participates in practice is also a signal. Roster moves, such as signing a new backup, are obvious signals. In contrast, you'll receive plenty of information that belongs in the noise category and should be either dismissed or taken with a grain of salt. Player expectations as to availability, especially immediately after the injury, are the best example of injury noise. The same goes for most quotes from the team, as they are often trying to preserve their competitive advantage and have no responsibility to be 100% truthful.

In the case of Justin Forsett, the system got a little wonky. On the signal side, we knew Forsett had what appeared to be a serious injury, possibly a high ankle sprain. Broadcast video provided objective evidence not of the exact diagnosis, but at least that this high ankle sprain was a reasonable possibility. Forsett then went on to miss the first two practices of the week, a fact that falls firmly in the signal category. On the flip side, in the category of noise, we heard both coach and player downplay the injury and express their expectations that Forsett would start Week 6. Looking back on it, the only real judgement call was what to make of Forsett's limited Friday practice. Was that enough of a signal for us to think he would get the start, or was that noise that should be dismissed? I decided it was noise, and I don't regret that call. Yes, it was wrong. But I've been wrong before and I'll be wrong again. What's important is to evaluate the decision making process. I feel that this process did not fail in the case of Forsett, though ultimately the results were incorrect. I'm not a wizard operating from behind a curtain, and I'm always open to discussing these sorts of behind-the-scenes mechanics. But enough about Forsett, let's get to into Week 7.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota, MCL sprain

Marcus Mariota suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain of his left knee on Sunday, yet managed to play through the injury. This is either a testament to Mariota's pain threshold or a sign that his knee felt relatively stable. Either of those are good signs for his expected rehab. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt even said that Mariota looked fine walking around the team facility on Monday. Typically, I would suspect that this is a smokescreen, such as we would see in Chicago this season. But if this were a smokescreen, we'd hear the Titans proclaiming that Mariota has a chance to play this week, which we have not heard yet. In fact, there are already reports that Mariota will sit out Week 7 and that the Titans are taking his rehab conservatively by not rushing him back. As for the injury itself, historical data shows that a typical Grade 2 MCL sprain recovery might fall into the 2-4 week ballpark. I wrote more about MCL sprain return-to-play estimates here. So, while Mariota seems to be doing better than expected, we should wait and see how he practices next week before we pencil him back into our lineups. Mariota did not practice on Wednesday.

Ben Roethlisberger, MCL sprain, bone bruise

Ben Roethlisberger won't say that he's playing Week 7, but he also won't say that he's not playing Week 7. Fortunately for us, he gave a possibly insightful interview to CBS radio's, "The Cook and Poni Show." I'll just go ahead and say it, that's a terrible name for a radio show. In the interview, Roethlisberger wisely refuses to quantify his health with a percentage number. But he does say that he needs to go through a lot of his pocket movements in order to see if he's ready. He also makes the point that, if he's not going to play, he will not take much-needed practice reps from backup Landry Jones. So this week, rather than watch how Roethlisberger is practicing, perhaps we should be watching with whom Roethlisberger is practicing. If we take Roethlisberger at his word, a week of unlimited practice with the second team is a pessimistic sign, while a week of even limited practice with the first team is an optimistic sign. Unfortunately, NFL teams are not required to release this type of practice detail, but sometimes it leaks out anyway. Hopefully we'll have a good sign which way this is going to go by Thursday or Friday. Roethlisberger put in a limited practice on Wednesday. Mike Prisuta reported that guard Ramon Foster said that while Jones and Roethlisberger both took some first team reps, Landry Jones was, "the primary guy." Given Roethlisberger's words in that interview, it would appear that Landry Jones has the edge for starting this weekend, though that could obviously change.

Tyrod Taylor, MCL sprain

Much like Marcus Mariota, Bills quarterback Marcus Mariota seems to be on the mild end of the MCL sprain spectrum, and he might return to action for Week 7 against the Jaguars. On Monday, Taylor said that he had no limitations, and that he fully expected to practice on Wednesday. Looking at the Wednesday practice report, we can see that Taylor put in a limited practice, so perhaps he is on schedule to start. It should be noted that Buffalo has a Week 8 bye, so it's entirely possible that the Bills shut him down until Week 9 if there's any doubt or concern about his health. Hopefully we'll know more before the early Saturday morning start.

Michael Vick, hamstring strain

Michael Vick expects to miss at least one week with a hamstring strain. Unfortunately for Vick, there will be no starting gig available when he returns, as either Ben Roethlisberger or Landry Jones will be at the helm. It looks like it would take another injury ahead of Vick on the depth chart for him to get a start again this season.

Running Backs

Dion Lewis, abdomen

Since Dion Lewis plays for the New England Patriots, we might never know exactly how injured he is, or even what the exact injury is. What we do know is that Lewis first showed up on the injury report on Thursday, October 15th, with what the Patriots are only calling an, "abdomen," injury. Lewis took the majority of the running back snaps in the Week 6 game against the Colts, but ESPN's Mike Reiss was one of many to point out that Lewis seemed to be missing some of his usual explosiveness, and Reiss speculated that this was related to his injury. Since injury details rarely slip past Belichick's firewall, we might not ever get a better idea of what's going on with Dion Lewis. Thankfully, we still have practice reports. On Wednesday, Lewis had a limited practice, which keeps him on track to start Week 7.

T.J. Yeldon, groin

Remember all that crud I wrote in the intro up above? The story of T.J. Yeldon's groin injury is a perfect example of signal versus noise. Yeldon suffered a groin injury in Week 5 and could not finish the game. Both he and the team were optimistic that he would start on Sunday, despite the fact that he missed practice the entire week. Yeldon ended up sitting Week 6, making it obvious as to which information was signal and which was noise. This week, Yeldon has already gotten off on the wrong foot, as he did not participate in Wednesday's practice. If he continues to miss practices this week, it might be fair to wonder whether he has a larger issue. Hopefully Yeldon just requires more rest, and not any sort of long-term treatment such as surgery.

Justin Forestt, ankle

We've already talked this one to death, so I don't need to go into the backstory here. Forsett played well in his Week 6 return, and it appears that he avoided any re-injury or setback. Since the Ravens don't play until Monday night, the first official team practice report will come out on Thursday, though it was reported that he did not practice on Wednesday. Check the late-week practice reports just to make sure that Forsett has returned to practice.

Joique Bell, ankle/Achilles

Lions running back Joique Bell was expected to start Week 6 after putting in three consecutive full practices, but was ultimately held out. He has already admitted that this ankle injury is really more of an Achilles injury, as it's related to his March Achilles surgery. That's far more troubling to me than an ankle injury. Despite this severity though, Bell practiced in full on Wednesday, so there's no reason to think that he won't be able to suit up this weekend.

Carlos Hyde, foot

Carlos Hyde has been dealing with a vague foot injury the last two weeks, but coach Jim Tomsula has downplayed it by saying it's more of just a foot bruise. Whatever the injury is, everyone seems to agree that Hyde will continue to play through it and that it's zero danger to his status this weekend. Because the 49ers play the Thursday night game, we have some early visibility of their practice reports. Hyde was a limited participant in Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday practice, so this injury is probably not serious.

Wide Receivers

Marques Colston, AC sprain

Saints receiver Marques Colston was held out of his Thursday night Week 6 game with an AC sprain. It is hoped that his absence had more to do with the short week he faced than with the extent of his injury, though details on that are still scant. Historically, the majority of players miss zero time with AC sprains, though it was originally feared that Colston's injury was more severe, so we might be looking at a high-grade sprain. Also, as we've seen in the case of Randall Cobb this season, a quick return doesn't always indicate that the player is back to full health or effectiveness. Colston was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, so perhaps he's nearing a return.

Sammy Watkins, ankle

In his first game back from a calf injury, Sammy Watkins injured his left ankle making a touchdown catch in the endzone. There have been no details on the severity or location (high vs low) of Watkins' injury, so this is still a guessing game. Watkins traveled with the team to London, but did not practice on Wednesday. For what it's worth, coach Rex Ryan has been fairly honest and ruled players out early in the week, so perhaps the fact he hasn't done so with Watkins might suggest Watkins has a chance to play. But unless Watkins can get in at least a limited practice on Thursday or Friday, his chances aren't good for starting Sunday.

Allen Robinson, leg contusion

Allen Robinson seems to have escaped serious injury after a collision in Week 6. Robinson is reportedly dealing with a contusion, and has thankfully avoided any larger damage such as a fracture. It is still unclear if Robinson will play on Sunday, but at least he traveled with the team to London. On Wednesday, Robinson was able to put in a limited practice, and most reports say that he will be fine to suit up for Week 7.

Allen Hurns, ankle, thigh

By all accounts that I find, Allen Hurns will be available this weekend. He has been battling through thigh and ankle injuries lately, but has yet to miss a game. Still, Hurns missed practice on Wednesday, so this situation bears monitoring. Make sure he gets in at least a limited practice this week before making any roster decisions regarding him.

Jeremy Maclin, concussion

Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a scary looking concussion in Week 6, and his status for Week 7 is very much in doubt. On Wednesday, Maclin was held out of practice. With the NFL's concussion protocol, we have little visibility as to how quickly a player is progressing through the required steps, and we're left to wait for media reports. At this point, I would say that Maclin is questionable at best for Week 7.

DeSean Jackson, Hamstring strain

News is trending in the wrong direction for Washington's DeSean Jackson. Nearing a return from a serious hamstring strain, Jackson suffered a setback in last Thursday's practice. According to ESPN's Britt McHenry, Jackson is not expected to start Week 7. In the larger picture, this setback is even more ominous. Jackson was already four weeks into his rehab when he suffered the setback, leaving us to question how long this latest development could cost him. There is a very real possibility that Jackson will end up on injured reserve, though I don't yet have enough medical details to know how likely that is.

Dez Bryant, foot fracture

Dez Bryant will not play in Week 7, and the idea that he will is ridiculous. Bryant has resumed straight-line running, which is a great sign, but he has yet to try cutting on his repaired foot. I find it hard to believe that Bryant will progress to this very important step of his rehab and be green-lit for a game within a matter of days. To progress that quickly would be foolish and leave him susceptible to a devastating setback. There's a chance Bryant returns next week, but even that is a question mark. Bryant is still not practicing with the team, though he's doing some individual work on the sidelines. I'd need to see him having at least limited practice participation before thinking he had a realistic chance to return.

Keenan Allen, hip flexor

Keenan Allen suffered what Adam Schefter reported as a hip flexor injury in Week 6. Schefter is rarely wrong, and I love when he can give a specific diagnosis like this. The hip flexors are a group of muscles located at the front of the (you guessed it) hip. These are the muscles that are responsible for bringing your knee up towards your chest when you run. Historically, hip flexor strains are fairly minor injuries, as plenty of players play through them without missing time. Depending on the severity, even players that need strong bursts of speed and sustained sprinting, such as running backs, wide receivers, and defensive backs, are often able to avoid missing any games. A legitimate question though might be how much this injury could affect Allen's Week 7 performance even if he is active. Hopefully, Allen's level of practice participation will give us a better idea of how much this injury is affecting him. Allen did not practice on Wednesday, so we will need to see some improvement in the coming days before we believe he will start Week 7.

Nelson Agholor, shin muscle strain

Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor claimed he suffered a shin muscle injury in Week 5, and was not able to practice or play last week, despite his own early optimism. Without any new details, we're left to simply monitor the practice reports. On Wednesday, Agholor did not practice, which is not a great start to the week.

Cecil Shorts, hamstring

Uh oh. Cecil Shorts, fresh off a shoulder dislocation, appears to have a hamstring strain that has already caused the Texans to rule him out for Week 7. Shorts has a huge history with hamstring strains, as they limited him in both 2011 and 2014. The fact that the Texans ruled him out so early in the week indicates to me that this might be serious.

Tavon Austin, hamstring

Every week, there is at least one totally, "out of the blue," injury surprise. This week, that honor goes to Rams receiver Tavon Austin who, coming out of the Rams bye week, did not practice with a hamstring injury. There are exactly zero details so far, but this is a situation worth monitoring.

Julian Edelman, finger

Though viewers witnessed a broadcast shot of what looked like a pretty gross Julian Edelman finger injury, Edelman was not listed on this week's practice report with any issue. Perhaps he did not injure his finger at all, but regardless, it will not affect his Week 7 availability.

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas, ribs

Julius Thomas bruised his ribs falling on a football in Week 6, but, at least so far, there is no reason to doubt his availability for Week 7. He traveled with the team to London, and on Wednesday he was a full participant in practice. He is fully expected to be fine this weekend.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder

Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has missed four weeks already with a strained shoulder that Adam Schefter reported would cost him, "4-6 weeks." Seferian-Jenkins has said that he is close to a return, but he was held out of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, so he is doubtful for Week 7.

Eric Ebron, MCL sprain, knee bruise

Eric Ebron injured his knee in Week 4 and has not played since. It was reported that he had a legitimate shot to play last week, but was ultimately declared inactive. On Wednesday, Ebron was able to put in a limited practice. If Ebron doesn't play this weekend, it would be worth checking the status of fellow Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who missed Week 6 with a knee injury as well. In the absence of either of these players, Tim Wright would be the sole tight end on the roster.

Jordan Reed, concussion

Coach Jay Gruden has said that Jordan Reed is improving, but he has stopped well short from addressing Reed's chances of starting on Sunday. Reed has a scary history with concussions, and this latest one is thought to be at least the fifth of his career. He has missed two games so far, but there's really no telling how long his recovery could take. There is good news though, as Reed was able to participate in Wednesday practice, albeit on a limited basis. Be sure to check his practice reports on Friday for a better feel of whether or not he might return for Week 7.

Antonio Gates, knee

Antonio Gates finished his Week 6 game without any noticeable injury, but he did not practice on Wednesday with what the team is calling a knee issue. This is likely just a day of rest for a veteran, but be sure to check Thursday and Friday practice reports to make sure that this isn't a true injury.

Gary Barnidge, ankle

As with Antonio Gates, Gary Barnidge's injury is probably nothing to worry about. He injured his ankle in his Week 6 game, and was limited in Wednesday's practice. Be sure to check up on him later in the week though just to be sure.