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Below, I give my Jock-to-Doc analysis on the key players who are hurt and how their performances will be affected. (An explanation of the Health Ratings is at the end of this report.)
Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns
Browns QB Jake Delhomme (ankle)
Jock to Doc Take: The former Panthers quarterback was limited in participation during Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury he suffered in Week 1. Delhomme has missed the last three games but is expected to be back in the lineup Sunday. He split time with Seneca Wallace during team workouts Wednesday and reported Thursday morning that he had no increase in symptoms. Coach Eric Mangini said he won’t make a decision until late in the week but Delhomme is expected to start as long as his ankle holds up as the week progresses.
The Falcon’s defense is expecting to compete against Delhomme. "Jake is a smart quarterback," Falcons defensive end John Abraham said. "We know he’s not mobile as he used to be, especially with his ankle injury. I think he still has something left. We just have to do a good job of pressuring him."
I think Delhomme will play, but the Falcons defense will pressure him all day with blitzes coming from every angle. Delhomme’s ankle will affect his performance.
Health Rating: Jake Delhomme @ 77%
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers
Bears QB Jay Cutler (concussion):
Jock to Doc Take: Cutler was limited in participation after sustaining a concussion last Sunday night against the New York Giants. He was sacked nine times in the first half and was knocked out of the game. Bears coach Lovie Smith was initially optimistic about Cutler’s return on Sunday against the Panthers (0-4), but the quarterback has subsequently been ruled out for this week’s contest.
I think it is absolutely the correct decision in handling the Bears’ franchise quarterback. The good news is that Cutler is practicing and thus should be ready to go in Week 6 against the Seahawks. Good offensive lines give up 10-20 sacks in a season, not 10 sacks in one game. I would be a little gun shy if I was Cutler going into Week 6. Every team in the league has the film and will use similar schemes to try to rattle the Bears top quarterback.
Health Rating: Jay Cutler @ 40%
Denver Broncos at Baltimore Ravens
Ravens RB Ray Rice (knee):
Jock to Doc Take: Rice was full participation even though he still has a bruised knee. He was limited to a backup role Sunday against the Steelers, carrying the ball just eight times for 20 yards. That was just as well given the Steelers’ stingy run defense and Rice’s ailing knee. He reported no soreness after the game and should be back in his starting role this weekend. With the Broncos defense ranked 12th against the rush, Rice should put up some respectable numbers this week.
Health Rating: Ray Rice 85%
Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins
Packers LB Nick Barnett (wrist)
Jock to Doc Take: The Packers linebacker injured his wrist against the Lions last Sunday and did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.
“Yeah, there is definitely a possibility (he could be out for an extended period). That’s why there is more information being gathered in Barnett’s case," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He’s been here every day getting treatment and he is going to see another doctor on Friday,”
It has been reported that the wrist injury is similar to the wrist dislocation suffered last season by Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, which required surgery and ended his season. So far, Barnett has not been ruled out for this week and he is getting a second opinion. It is likely that he is done for the season, and if he does play he will be limited using his hands and have difficulty getting off blocks.
Health Rating: Nick Barnett @ 23%
Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (ankle)
Jock to Doc Take: Jones-Drew had a great game last week against the Colts, but on Wednesday he did not practice. After the ankle injury, MJD was able to return to the game and he was back on the field for Thursday’s practice. It appears the star running back was given an extra day of rest and he should be full speed by this weekend’s games.
Health Rating: Maurice Jones-Drew @ 90%
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts
Colts WR Austin Collie (foot)
Jock to Doc Take: Collie did not practice Wednesday with a heel injury. He is an important part of the offense this season as evidenced by his 32 receptions for 398 yards in just four games. At first it appeared that he was just getting some extra rest and appreciation for his excellent performance. Now it seems things are more serious as he was seen in a protective boot Wednesday and did not practice again Thursday. Collie is looking like a game time decision at this point and his status should be watched closely by all his fantasy football owners.
Health Rating: Austin Collie @ 71%
New Orleans Saints at Arizona Cardinals
Saints RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)
Jock to Doc Take: Thomas did not participate in practice Wednesday and it remains a possibility that Thomas won’t play for the second consecutive week. The ankle injury is reported as a sprain and Thomas has been unable to run full speed. Coach Sean Payton is optimistic that Thomas will be able to join the team on the field this Sunday. Despite Payton’s cheery outlook, Thomas did not practice again Thursday.
Health Rating: Pierre Thomas @ 78%
New York Giants at Houston Texans
Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle)
Jock to Doc Take: Johnson has been dealing with a high ankle sprain and did not participate in Wednesday’s practice but was active in a limited capacity Thursday. The All-Pro receiver did not play last week against the Oakland Raiders in a close win for the Texans. Johnson’s injury limits Houston’s stretch-the-field offense and makes the Texans much more one-dimensional. Coach Gary Kubiak thought Johnson’s performance Thursday in practice was “very encouraging” but called him a game time decision for this week’s tilt against the Giants , who are coming off a 10-sack performance.
One person who anxiously awaits the status of Johnson is quarterback Matt Schaub , who will want every weapon at his disposal after dissecting the game film of the Giants annihilating the Bears.
Health Rating: Andre Johnson @ 70%
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Raiders RB Darren McFadden (hamstring)
Jock to Doc Take: During last week’s game against the Houston Texans , the Raiders’ 2008 first-round draft pick suffered a right hamstring injury. There are conflicting reports this week about his availability in the AFC West division game. Coach Tom Cable has said that this hamstring injury is not as severe as the left hamstring strain that cost McFadden three weeks earlier this season.
McFadden did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and I think is unlikely he will play this week given the duration of his absence after the strain of the opposite hamstring.
Health Rating: Darren McFadden @ 65%
St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions
Rams RB Steven Jackson (groin)
Jock to Doc Take: Jackson was limited in practice Wednesday. He was questionable going into last week’s game against the Seahawks, but ended up having a nice day. It was reported that Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo left the decision up to Jackson regarding his playing status last week.
Jackson should be closer to 100 percent this week against Detroit, even though he will almost certainly be limited in practice all week. Jackson is definitely one of the NFL’s premiere “Tough Men” and I expect him to be at the top of his game this week.
Health Rating: Steven Jackson @ 85%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals WR Jordan Shipley (concussion)
Jock to Doc Take: The rookie was viciously hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward last week. Ward was appropriately fined $15,000 this week for the hit. The fine was correct because Shipley was certainly a defenseless receiver at the time of the hit. However, I do not feel that Ward was in any way trying to intentionally injure Shipley.
Shipley did not participate in practice Wednesday or Thursday and he remains doubtful for Week 5. Given the magnitude of the hit and the obvious loss of consciousness, Shipley should not participate in this weekend’s contest.
Health Rating: Jordan Shipley @ 25%
Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (ribs)
Jock to Doc Take: The Cowboys are coming off a Week 4 bye and the time off has benefitted Bryant. He has been diagnosed with a stress fracture of his ribs suffered in the season-opener against the Redskins. Although he still has some soreness in his ribs and a bit of pain in his hip, he practiced without restriction Wednesday and Thursday and showed no signs of injury. The rookie wide receiver has shown flashes of his potential and should continue with his learning curve this weekend.
Health Rating: Dez Bryant @ 80%
Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers
Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (ribs):
Jock to Doc Take: McCoy, who suffered a rib fracture in the first half of the Eagles’ loss to the Redskins, played ridiculously well the rest of the way. Despite his return to action Sunday, McCoy did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. It remains questionable if he will play Sunday. I expect to see him on the active roster Sunday, but no action during the major preparation days certainly raises concern.
Health Rating: LeSean McCoy @ 70%
Minnesota Vikings at New York Jets
Jets CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring)
Jock to Doc Take: The All-Pro cornerback will be active from a hamstring strain he sustained in Week 2 against the New England Patriots while being beaten by Randy Moss for a touchdown. He has practiced in a limited fashion on both Wednesday and Thursday of this week and according to coach Rob Ryan he “looked good.”
Ryan went on to say it will be Revis’ decision whether he plays or sits. Revis has stated he will not play unless 100 percent. What makes this so compelling is that Revis injured his hamstring trying to cover Randy Moss and now his rival just was just traded to this week’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.
Health Rating: Darrelle Revis @ 85% (We’ll see if he rates himself higher than I do)
Health Ratings: So, what do the numbers mean?
100-85% = NFL players are tough and despite injuries they still perform at a high level. Let’s be honest, when is an NFL athlete really physically 100 percent? Practically never. With a rating in this range, expect players to perform at peak levels.
70-85% = In this range, a player’s performance will be affected but he can still get the job done.
55-70% = Players with a rating this low will require assistance to do their jobs. The team might be better served by placing these athletes on the inactive list. Only some All-Pros can get the job done when rated this poorly.
40-55% = These players need some more time to heal. Unlikely to be active, unless miraculous healing occurs or my rating was based on erroneous information.
25-40% = Players will not play but show signs of recovery, opening the door for a return to the active roster the following week.
< 25% = Players will not play and there is concern that additional games may be missed.