NOTE: This column is a living document. I'll be updating as needed after team press conferences, imaging reports, Monday Night Football injuries, etc. Major changes to the content will be noted in red. I'll also be retweeting any key pieces of news and my own reaction and analysis, so make sure you're following @JeneBramel and checking my timeline on Twitter throughout the week.
I was pessimistic yesterday on nearly every injured player listed questionable. It's a natural bias for me. NFL players are elite athletes and will often push the limits of their rehab and recovery and return well before they return to full form. Aggravations and cascade injuries are common. And players returning before they're fully recovered generally see less than a typical workload or aren't as effective as usual.
I thought that would be the case yesterday with Alshon Jeffery, Steve Smith, Justin Forsett, LeSean McCoy, Martellus Bennett, and Dion Lewis. I'm still worried about Odell Beckham tonight. To be fair, I was optimistic about the prospects of Andrew Luck, Marshawn Lynch, and Arian Foster.
A few astute Twitter followers asked me about my optimism-pessimsm meter after today's misreads. It's a great question. It rarely makes it into these columns, but I'm continually searching for ways to improve my process and get better reads on injured players.
Here's what's on my mind as I examine yesterday's questionable calls in hindsight:
Alshon Jeffery: My concerns here may have been colored too heavily by Jeffery's missed Friday practice prior to Week 5. Three weeks of limited practice should have been more reassuring to me, suggesting a slow and successful reconditioning process. Choosing to active Jeffery ahead of a bye week was possibly a more promising sign than I gave credit, too.
Steve Smith: I'm wondering if Smith's injuries were less extensive than reported. More likely, Smith's return to effectiveness is just more evidence of how tough he is. Regardless, I bet he's sore today.
Justin Forsett: My process relies heavily on frame by frame video analysis when available and I still believe my eyes saw a high ankle sprain. As I tweeted early in the week, however, my analysis is missing two critical pieces of information -- physical examination and imaging results. I think I've been appropriately cautious on these low grade high ankle sprains in the pas, and I doubt Forsett's play this week will keep me from expressing caution in similar situations in the future.
LeSean McCoy: I dismissed McCoy's probable status too quickly because of his comments two weeks ago and the knowledge that aggravated muscle strains usually take at least as long to heal as the initial injury. The Bills' injury report hasn't been misleading this season, however, and 12-15 touches was likely a better projection than 8-10.
If you were swayed by my reservations yesterday, I hope your lineups did well in spite of my pessimism.
keenan allen | hip strain | week-to-week
Allen's injury was announced as a hip condition to the press box, but the mechanism of injury and where Allen localized his pain on the field more closely resemble a groin injury. Both factors closely resembled the adductor strains we've seen in players like Montee Ball, Danny Amendola, Arian Foster, and Jay Cutler in recent seasons. If that proves accurate, the grade of the strain and amount of bleeding to the area will determine whether Allen can return this week. A 3-4 week absence is possible if the strain is severe. If the video is deceiving and the injury is more of a hip flexor strain, Allen is less likely to miss time. Expect more details on Allen's injury on Monday.
545 PM: Allen's injury is the hip flexor. His MRI results are still pending, but barring a higher grade injury, his absence isn't likely to stretch longer than 1-2 weeks and it's possible he'll return without missing any time.
emmanuel sanders | AC sprain | week-to-week
Early reports on Sanders indicate a low grade AC sprain. Avoiding a broken collarbone or higher grade shoulder separation is the best case scenario for a fall onto the shoulder. However, as we've seen with Randall Cobb this year, recovery from this injury isn't always smooth and it's an injury that's prone to aggravation. Sanders will benefit from Denver's Week 7 bye, however, and will hopefully be fully recovered for Week 8.
jeremy maclin | concussion | week-to-week
Maclin lost consciousness after hitting his head on the turf and has a concussion. Loss of consciousness isn't always associated with a slower recovery from concussion. Maclin's return to play will depend on whether he has continued symptoms early this week. If he reports no symptoms on Monday, there's a chance he will recover in time to be cleared this week. As with all head injuries, it's unlikely we'll know much more until Wednesday and the team likely won't make a decision on whether to send Maclin to an independent neurologist for clearance until very late in the week.
allen robinson | leg contusion | week-to-week
Robinson's injury was a direct blow to the shin with a mild hyperextension mechanism of the knee. Robinson walked off the field and the team called the injury a contusion. That likely means x-rays showed no fracture and his knee exam was reassuring. If Robinson can avoid signficant swelling overnight, his recovery will primarily depend on pain management. Hopefully, we'll get a reassuring Monday update on Robinson.
marcus mariota | mcl sprain | week-to-week
Mariota's injury looked like a MCL sprain. Adam Schefter tweeted Sunday night that Mariota will have a MRI to define the injury. As with Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor, Mariota's recovery will depend on the stability of his knee. If he has a low grade injury and only limited pain and swelling early this week, a Week 7 return will be possible. Consider him questionable until the MRI details are known.
545 PM: Mariota's MRI confirmed a MCL sprain. Ken Whisenhunt told the media Mariota was moving around the locker room well today, but consider him questionable to play this week until we see reassuring practice reports.
sammy watkins | ankle | week-to-week
Watkins avoided an aggravation of his nagging calf strain but severely twisted his ankle on his late second quarter touchdown reception. The mechanism wasn't consistent with a high ankle sprain but the way his foot rolled often leads to multiple ligament sprains on the outside and top of the ankle. Higher grade low ankle sprains such as these are often multiple week injuries. Watkins had difficulty bearing weight and left the locker room on crutches. The bye week should be very helpful for Watkins as he recovers from both calf and ankle injuries. The Bills aren't on bye until Week 8. Watkins was still on crutches on Monday and isn't likely to play this week.
ben roethlisberger | mcl sprain / knee contusion | WEEK-TO-WEEK
Roethlisberger is now three weeks removed from his knee injury. He's been ahead of the usual rehab expectation for a bone bruise and mid-grade MCL sprain from the start. He was weight bearing in four days, cleared to do some light exercise in 10-14 days, and was participating in some team drills last week. Had the bone bruise proved more limiting to Roethlisberger's rehab, the recovery timetable would have been around the 5-6 week range. That may still be the case. But I think four weeks and a Week 7 return could be possible here.
The next 48 hours are critical for Roethlisberger. If the team medical staff feels his knee is stable on examination, they'll allow him to do more in practice this week. Then, it's up to Roethlisberger. If he feels no looseness when changing direction and is comfortable protecting himself in the pocket, he'll be cleared to play. I think we'll have a good idea of his status by Friday, and possibly much earlier.
dez bryant | metatarsal fracture | week-to-week
Until I see clear evidence to the contrary, I'm sticking with my original estimate of eight weeks as the most optimistic return to effectiveness for Bryant. Six weeks isn't entirely out of the question, and it's too soon to rule Bryant out this week. However, the average return to play for NFL athletes after a surgery similar to Bryant's is 8.9 weeks. The bone graft and subsequent stem cell injection don't inspire confidence that Bryant will beat the average by three weeks.
It won't surprise me to hear the Cowboys say Bryant has a chance to play this week in the early week press conferences. But he's yet to begin football related conditioning and returning before he's fully recovered risks a multiple week setback. Don't expect to see Bryant this week.
brandon lafell | foot | week-to-week
LaFell is preparing to return to practice and is eligible to do so this week. We still don't know specifics on LaFell's injury, but a report from Mike Reiss this weekend suggested LaFell is ready to return. LaFell could return to play in Week 7, but he'll likely need at least a week to recondition and prove his readiness to the coaches.
AROUND THE TRAINING TABLE
The bye week is coming at an opportune time for many players this week. The first version of this article incorrectly cited the Buffalo bye week as Week 7. My apologies.
Tyrod Taylor was closer than originally expected to returning this week and should recover well enough to play this week. through the Bills' bye to play in Week 8. Karlos Williams' progression through the concussion return to play protocol is less clear. We'll have to wait until we see his practice status before handicapping his chances to play this week. in Week 8. T.J. Yeldon gets two weeks to rehab and recondition from a Week 5 groin strain. And Davante Adams will get an extra week to recover from a lingering ankle sprain.
I'll also be watching for updates on Eric Ebron, Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Breshad Perriman, and Victor Cruz. None are guaranteed to return to practice this week.
I'll be updating this feature throughout the day. Footballguys Insiders will get a full update with additional fantasy perspectives on Wednesday, with analysis of the week's game-time decisions early Sunday morning. Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking injury news and analysis throughout the week.