Gameday Injury Expectations: Week 14

Breaking down the fantasy expectations of today's injured players and gametime decisions, including Rob Gronkowski, Calvin Johnson, Brandin Cooks, and others

NOTE: This column is a living document and will be updated throughout the morning. Major changes to the content will be in red. Check back often for additions as gameday inactives are announced and lineup / depth chart changes are reported. I'll also be immediately retweeting any breaking news with quick bits of analysis, so make sure you're following me at (@JeneBramel) and checking my timeline on Twitter on Sunday mornings.

rob gronkowski | knee | questionable | sunday night

Gronkowski spent the week working on his conditioning and getting used to the brace he'll wear when he returns. Limited practices on Thursday and Friday went well enough that Gronkowski was brought with the team to Houston. Reports from Will Carroll and multiple beat writers late Saturday evening are that Gronkowski will be watched carefully during pregame warmups but is expected to be active and play. What isn't clear is how many snaps Gronkowski will play or whether he'll be used only to occupy defenders. Carroll's expectation is that Gronkowski will be used in high leverage and red zone situations only.

Fantasy expectation: Anything is possible with Gronkowski tonight. The Patriots won't show their cards until gametime. The most reasonable projection for Gronkowski is 2-4 targets, giving him a very low floor. But the ceiling on any single Gronkowski target is high enough to consider him in all situations. DFS owners can consider him a risky contrarian deep GPP play. Season-long owners who are underdogs in a playoff  matchup should roll the dice and hope to hit. 

calvin johnson | ankle | questionable | early sunday start

Johnson didn't practice on Friday and was listed questionable. In most situations, that would be seen as a late week downgrade and cause for concern. Johnson told reporters on Friday he would play. I think it's most likely that Johnson got a day of rest later in the week. With the early Sunday start, we'll get confirmation on Johnson's status in time to make an educated decision. Watch for any doubt during pregame warmups.

Fantasy expectation: If active, use Johnson as you normally would.

tyler eifert | neck | probable | early sunday start

Eifert was cleared for full contact by mid week and fully practiced on both Thursday and Friday. The Bengals' medical staff would not have cleared Eifert unless they were very comfortable with his strength and range of motion. An aggravation cannot be ruled out, but Eifert will start the game without limitation.

Fantasy expectation: Use Eifert as you normally would.

julio jones | knee | probable | early sunday start

deandre hopkins | hamstring | probable | sunday night 

amari cooper | foot | probable | late sunday start

Jones is probable but is working through nagging knee soreness and facing the toughest cornerback matchup in the league in Josh Norman. Hopkins was added to the injury report on Friday with hamstring soreness. All reports suggest it's a minor injury and Hopkins has been effective when listed probable with muscle strains this year. Cooper had consecutive limited practices this week and should also be close to full strength.

Fantasy expectation: Use each of these wide receivers as you normally would. Jones has a lower ceiling than usual.

brandin cooks | concussion | probable | early sunday start

willie snead | calf | probable | early sunday start

Regardless of the confusion surrounding Cooks' concussion / non-concussion late this week, Sean Payton told reporters Friday that Cooks was cleared to play and will be active today. Snead had three consecutive limited practices and is also listed probable. Snead's risk of aggravation is higher than Cooks' risk of recurrent symptoms, but the status of both should be monitored though the release of inactives just in case.

Fantasy expectation: Cooks can be used as you normally would. Snead carries some risk and should be considered a boom-bust WR3.

ronnie hillman | foot | questionable | late sunday start

c.j. anderson | ankle | questionable | late sunday start

Anderson has been unable to practice this week and was still "very sore" on Friday. He's much closer to doubtful than questionable. I'll be surprised if he's on the active roster. Gary Kubiak told reporters on Friday that Hillman would start but he's been hinting that Juwan Thompson will have a big role all week. Expect Hillman to be active but see less than his usual rotational workload.

Fantasy expectation: Hillman is a flex with low upside.

philip rivers | illness / foot | probable | early sunday start

The Chargers didn't change his injury designation, but reports late Saturday suggest Rivers' flu-like illness could be significant enough to limit him today. If Rivers is too uncomfortable or not hydrated enough, the team may choose to leave him on the inactive roster.

Fantasy expectation: Check the early game inactives before sticking with Rivers today.

Best of luck in your fantasy contests this weekend. I'll be back on Monday morning to review all the Week 14 injuries in the Injury Rounds column. Follow on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.