Gameday Injury Expectations: Week 8

Breaking down the fantasy expectations of today's injured players and gametime decisions, including Dez Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, John Brown 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.

It's setting up to be a straightforward morning on the injury front. Of course, the last time I wrote that on a Sunday morning, Jay Glazer tweeted a frightening note about Julio Jones in the early stages of his hamstring recovery. So cross your fingers I've not jinxed us today.

There's a long list of players who are dealing with minor injuries or in the later stages of recovery from injuries that have recently limited them. The vast majority are listed probable and should be near full strength this week. The list includes Marshawn Lynch, Odell Beckham, Adrian Peterson, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Ivory, and Steve Smith. Though an in-game aggravation can never be entirely ruled out, all of the above players can be expected to see their usual workload today.

The list of players I expect to be inactive is much shorter. Though not defnitively ruled out yet, Antonio Gates, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Vincent Jackson will not play today.

1130 ET: After an early morning report that Gates would test his knee in pregame warmups, he will be active today. Gates more or less admitted he wasn't 100% earlier in the week, and I expect he'll be more decoy than target. The Chargers will use him in critical third down and red zone situations, and only if the game is close. Gates can be considered a boom-bust TE option, but his floor is extremely low today.

1130 ET: Anquan Boldin is on the Niners inactive list today.

dez bryant | foot | questionable | late sun start

Bryant is listed questionable, but will play today. There are a few concerns here. First, Bryant noted some soreness in his foot last week and admitted he was willing to play at less than full strength. Since he's yet to participate in a full practice and only managed one week of limited football workouts after six weeks on the sideline. it's reasonable to believe he's returning at less than full conditioning. Also, Stephen Jones told reporters on Friday that Bryant would likely see his snaps and routes limited this week.

I don't think we'll see Bryant play every down, but I think we'll see him play more snaps and run more routes than others in similar situations (Jimmy Graham, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, etal) have in the past. Bryant's snaps will be high leverage and he's more likely to be target than decoy on those snaps. Were Tony Romo under center today, I'd have minimal concern about Bryant making good on his leveraged opportunity. Unfortunately, the Cowboys have another three weeks of Matt Cassel.

Fantasy expectation: Bryant's floor is much lower than usual this week, but I think his usual multiple touchdown ceiling is in play. Call him a boom-bust WR1 today.


I believe the Steelers were intially hopeful and then targeted this week's home divisional matchup against Cincinnati for Roethlisberger's return once his rehab progressed without issue. Roethlisberger has had two weeks of practice to recondition, get used to moving in the pocket, and get comfortable with his brace. While he may be a little rusty in his transition back to game speed, I think Roethlisberger is ready to move well in the pocket and allow the Steelers full access to their usual game plan.

Fantasy expectation: Use Roethlisberger as you normally would today.

john brown | hamstring | questionable | early sun start

Earlier in the week, Bruce Arians told the media the team wanted Brown healthy and wouldn't risk returning him to the field before he had recovered. After not practicing at all on Wednesday and Thursday following a Monday night game with a cross-country trip to an early East Coast start looming, it looked as if Brown would not play today. But Brown had a limited workout on Friday and Arians bristled at a suggestion the team would hold a limited Brown out knowing he would have an extra two weeks to heal through the Cardinals' Week 9 bye.

Brown's Friday workout was a test. If he responds well to the increased work through the weekend, he'll have a chance to be active today. There's been no report Brown didn't join the team on the flight to Cleveland, so he's still in play for today's game. He was effective last week despite the limited week of practice and has a favorable matchup.

I still think Brown is to the doubtful side of questionable, but the team will not make a decision until pregame warmups.

Fantasy expectation: The best case scenario for most fantasy owners is to hear Brown will be inactive today. That clarifies the role of both Brown and Michael Floyd and ensures Brown won't aggravate his injury headed into the bye. If Brown is active, consider him a boom-bust WR3 with a lower than usual floor.

1130 ET: Brown is active today after showing well enough in pregame warmups to go.

eric decker | knee | questionable | late sun start

Decker has a bruised knee that has limited him for two weeks, this week more than last. He told reporters he was still having soreness around the knee on Friday but was still planning to play. Assuming there was no additional swelling after his Friday practice, I expect Decker to play. How much he'll be limited is a difficult question to answer.

Fantasy expectation: Decker has generally been a quick healer and played effectively through pain, so he's a reasonably safe start if active against a favorable matchup in Oakland.

james starks | hip | questionable | sunday night football

The Packers usually hold players out of practice if they aren't expected to play. Starks increased his practice participation as the week progressed and had consecutive limited sessions on Thursday and Friday. I think he'll likely be active. That does not mean he'll see the same workload he's seen over the past 2-3 games, particularly if Eddie Lacy is finally over the ankle sprain that dogged him over the last month.

Fantasy expectation: With a very difficult to project workload, I'd consider Starks a flex play only today.

Best of luck in your fantasy contests this weekend. I'll be back on Monday morning to review all the Week 8 injuries in the Injury Rounds column. Follow on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.

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