NFL Football Column: Last Minute Decisions
Week 16 Injury Questions
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As we get set for kickoff, we’ll be scouring the league for nuggets and will post it on our relentless News Page. We’ve also got rankings from Chris Wesseling/Mike Clay here and Evan Silva’s ridiculously mind-blowing Matchup Column here. Inside the Season Pass, you’ll find flex rankings and exact projections for every player. If you want to draft a new team just for this week, check out SnapDraft.
OK, let’s get to the hurt folks:
SATURDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
FALCONS at LIONS
* Roddy White (knee) played 50 snaps last week and appears healthier this week.
* Brandon Pettigrew’s (ankle) absence leaves slot man Tony Scheffler as the No. 2 option once again.
SUNDAY 1PM GAMES
TITANS at PACKERS
* Jordy Nelson (hamstring) remains out. Don’t be surprised if he rests until the playoffs.
* Alex Green (concussion) is still trying to get cleared in time to play. If he can’t go, Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris and John Kuhn would form some kind of ugly committee. James Starks (knee) remains sidelined.
* Kendall Wright (rib) is expected to give his fracture a week to heal. Nate Washington is the beneficiary.
RAIDERS at PANTHERS
* Jonathan Stewart (ankle) made a surprise return to practice Friday. Assuming he’s active Sunday, he’ll take a big chunk out of DeAngelo Williams’ value.
* Brandon LaFell (foot) is going to be active again, but he might rotate with Louis Murphy again.
BILLS at DOLPHINS
* Davone Bess (back) is out. Meanwhile, Brian Hartline (back) is expected to play through a questionable tag. Anthony Fasano should see another boost in targets, but he’s still a desperation play only.
* Dan Carpenter (groin) is out and Nate Kaeding is in.
BENGALS at STEELERS
* Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) is ready to go but he’s playing well behind Mike Wallace once again.
PATRIOTS at JAGUARS
* Rob Gronkowski (forearm) isn’t quite ready yet. Maybe Week 17.
* As usual, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are fine to play through questionable tags.
* Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Rashad Jennings (concussion) remain sidelined. It’s Montell Owens’ backfield, but the matchup is brutal.
COLTS at CHIEFS
* Delone Carter (ankle) is still out and Mewelde Moore fumbled a goal-line chance last week. The Colts will ride Vick Ballard until the wheels fall off.
* Brady Quinn will start despite some sore ribs. He won’t have Tony Moeaki (head).
SAINTS at COWBOYS
* Chris Ivory (hamstring) appears headed for a game-time call. If he plays, Mark Ingram’s role will be decreased.
* Dez Bryant’s finger should feel a little better for this dream matchup.
REDSKINS at EAGLES
* LeSean McCoy (concussion) is back and will start. Expect a 60-40 split with Bryce Brown.
* Robert Griffin III (knee) has full clearance. He’s impossible to sit after torching the Eagles for four touchdowns and no picks the last time they met.
* Brent Celek (concussion) is back and will start. Clay Harbor (back) is done for the year.
RAMS at BUCS
* Steven Jackson was sick this week and missed a couple practices, but he’s fine.
VIKINGS at TEXANS
CHARGERS at JETS
* Dustin Keller (ankle) is still out, giving Jeff Cumberland another start.
* Meanwhile, Stephen Hill (knee) is also out and Braylon Edwards (hamstring) is playing at less than 100 percent. Greg McElroy isn’t exactly set up for success.
* Ryan Mathews (collarbone) is out for the year. Look for Jackie Battle to get the start but Ronnie Brown to be mixed in often. Brown’s hamstring is healed.
SUNDAY 4PM GAMES
BROWNS at BRONCOS
* Jordan Cameron (head) is out. Ben Watson gets a boost.
GIANTS at RAVENS
* Ahmad Bradshaw (knee) is tentatively expected to play. Expect a relatively even timeshare with David Wilson.
* Torrey Smith (concussion) is expected to get full clearance before kickoff. He’s a high-upside play in a potential shootout.
* Hakeem Nicks (knee) hasn’t been 100 percent in weeks, but hasn’t missed a game. Nothing new this week.
* Ed Dickson (knee) is back, but he won’t cut into Dennis Pitta’s snaps too much.
BEARS at CARDINALS
* Earl Bennett (concussion) is still awaiting clearance. Even if he gets it, Alshon Jeffery is a better desperation flier.
* Early Doucet (concussion) is out.
* Rob Housler (knee) should play through a questionable tag, but he can’t be trusted just like all the Cards’ pass-catchers.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
49ERS at SEAHAWKS
* Mario Manningham (shoulder) appears headed for a game-time call. He’s not worth waiting for.
* Sidney Rice (knee) is officially a game-time call as well. He’ll probably play, but is a weak option at less than 100 percent in a potentially low-scoring game.
MY TOUGHEST DECISION OF THE WEEK
The inconsistency and mediocrity at the tight end position has been extremely difficult to manage all year. So it’s no surprise that it is where my toughest decision of Super Bowl week come in.
My decision came down to Dennis Pitta or Tony Scheffler. I hate “chasing” points from the previous week, but I’ve still chosen to go with Pitta.
Over the last two weeks, Scheffler has predictably drawn 17 targets as the No. 2 option in the Lions’ pass-heavy scheme. But he’s turned that into just six catches, 56 yards and one touchdown. He’s having trouble getting open.
Pitta, meanwhile, is a major beneficiary of the Ravens’ more up-tempo scheme and the change to Jim Caldwell at offensive coordinator. He’s also more explosive and athletic than Scheffler. It’s a roll of the dice weekly at tight end, so I’ll gladly tag the guy with the higher ceiling.
SURVIVOR PICK OF THE WEEK
If you’re still in Survivor, consider yourself a genius. You certainly don’t need help from the likes of me, someone that has been out for weeks.
Perhaps my greatest service at this point can be suggesting a spot to avoid. Last week, I guessed that the Cardinals would show up against the Lions. This week, I think the Redskins are a team I would try not to use. The Eagles’ players genuinely like and feel badly for coach Andy Reid. Expect them to come up with a rousing effort in Reid’s final home game. I’d feel much better using the Panthers, a team most people still alive probably have in the chamber.
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