Welcome to Week 16 of the National Football League regular season. If you’re still reading, you are likely into your championship game, consolation game or still vying for a title perhaps in Week 17. Whatever the case may be, congrats on making it this far after the grind of the Fantasy regular season. And, while we’re at it, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, or Happy Festivus. Whatever you celebrate and enjoy, I hope you get to spend time with your family, friends, loved ones, etc.
This is my penultimate Injury Report column for RotoExperts.com, with a final piece coming next Friday for Week 17. After that, I must bid you all adieu, as I am moving on after six-plus absolutely gratifying and wonderful years with the excellent staff across FNTSY Sports Network, RotoExperts.com and, of course, the DailyRoto.com guys. I appreciate your readership for the past six years, the kind e-mails and tweets when I have gotten something right, and the constructive criticism when things haven’t exactly been on target. With some of them, I have learned interesting new insults. Ha. Without you, the reader, we do not have jobs and opportunities. So I wish each and every one of you a heartfelt and sincere thank you! Now, let’s get to it…
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff (concussion) cleared concussion protocol and is in line to start Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers, interim head coach John Fassel confirmed Thursday. Despite the clean bill of health, Goff is nothing more than a low-end QB2 in deeper Fantasy leagues requiring two starting signal callers.
San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon (hip, knee) was unable to practice Thursday, and he appears unlikely to play in Saturday’s game in Cleveland. That’s bad news for Fantasy owners, as the Browns present a very favorable matchup. If Gordon is on the inactive list again it will be RBs Kenneth Farrow and Ronnie Hillman holding down the fort. Farrow is a liability in run blocking, so Hillman is likely to see more snaps. However, Farrow had 17 touches to just seven for Hillman last weekend, so for Fantasy purposes Farrow is the guy you want as a ‘flex’ option. He could shine against a terrible Cleveland rush defense that’s yielding 155.7 yards per game with 17 touchdowns.
Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (groin, knee) was unable to practice for a second straight day Thursday, and it’s looking doubtful he’ll be able to play in Week 16, and he might not be motivated to play given the likelihood the Vikings are going to miss the postseason. He said all along that he would return to the team if they had a reasonable shot at the playoffs. Heading into last week’s game against Indianapolis, the Vikings were 7-6 and had a shot. They proceeded to get manhandled, and Peterson might be casting an eye to 2017 and getting himself back to 100 percent, rather than risking further damage. After his cameo last week, it’s time for Fantasy owners to move on without him again.
New York Jets RB Matt Forte (shoulder, knee) missed practice Thursday, and NFL.com is reporting that Forte will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game at New England. Forte is too risky a play for Fantasy owners. If RB Bilal Powell is still available off the waiver wire following last weekend’s stellar performance, grab him and play Powell as a ‘flex’ Fantasy option. He would again benefit the most with a limited or absent Forte.
Houston Texans RB Lamar Miller (ankle) did not practice Thursday for a second straight day, but head coach Bill O’Brien told the Houston Chronicle that Miller is “a very tough guy,” insinuating that he expects Miller to be ready to face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night, a team ranking 26th in the NFL in rush defense. It would be a tremendous Fantasy matchup for Miller if he is active, and 80-100 yards and a touchdown looks like a good possibility. If Miller is inactive, RB Alfred Blue would lead a three-headed rushing monster with RBs Jonathan Grimes and Akeem Hunt also likely to see snaps. Blue would be your best Fantasy bet in that scenario against a Bengals rush defense yielding 117.5 yards per game with 10 touchdowns.
Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick (wrist) did not practice Thursday and appears to be a question mark for Monday’s game in Dallas, although he still has several days to get right. If Riddick cannot go, RB Dwayne Washington would once again be the primary ball carrier. Against Dallas and their No. 1 rush defense, neither of the backs are worth using from a Fantasy perspective this week.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (toe) was listed as a limited participant in practice for the second consecutive day Thursday, but head coach Dan Quinn told the team’s official website that Jones will play Saturday in Carolina after missing the past two games due to a sprained toe. It’s uncertain whether Jones will play with a snap count or playing time cap, but Fantasy owners will obviously want him active regardless. He toasted the Panthers for 300 receiving yards in their first meeting in Atlanta back in Week 4, hauling in 12 receptions and a touchdown on 15 targets.
Bengals WR A.J. Green (hamstring) told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday that he will return to game action in Week 15 against the Texans on Sunday Night Football. Green is making his way back from a hamstring injury that forced him to the shelf for the past month. A matchup against Houston’s second-ranked pass defense is not exactly a favorable matchup, but Green is certainly worth using as a ‘flex’ Fantasy play in Week 16.
Jets WR Brandon Marshall (back, shoulder) was listed as a limited participant in practice Thursday, and he is a question mark for Sunday’s road game against the Patriots. If he is active, Marshall is a solid low-end WR2 or ‘flex’ play. He posted six receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting with New England Nov. 27, his only visit to the end zone since Week 5.
Cleveland Browns WR Terrelle Pryor (finger) has a finger injury that will require surgery at season’s end, but he vowed to play through the injury. He was limited in practice Thursday and is a shaky Fantasy play, however, as he has hit the wall after a great start to the season. It’s a guarantee former teammate Brian Hartline isn’t starting Pryor in his Fantasy league, and you shouldn’t either due to his injury.
Panthers TE Greg Olsen (elbow) is dealing with an elbow ailment, but head coach Ron Rivera said Thursday in his news conference that he has “no doubt” about Olsen being ready for Saturday’s game against the Falcons. He posted six grabs for 76 yards and a touchdown while tying a season-high with 13 targets in Week 4 in Atlanta. The Falcons have allowed 74 grabs, 868 yards and eight touchdowns by opposing tight ends, and tied for fourth in the NFL for Fantasy points allowed.
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (shoulder) was a shell of himself Monday against Carolina, limited to just one catch for six yards, and he was clearly not at 100 percent or anything close to it. Head coach Jay Gruden did not sound optimistic to have Reed in Week 15, according to NFL.com, so look for TE Vernon Davis to make the start against the Chicago Bears. The Bears rank sixth in the league against the pass, allowing just 219.9 yards per game, so V.D. is only worth using as a TE2 in most Fantasy formats if he draws the start.