Week 14 fantasy football injury report analysis on Luck, Eifert and C.J. Anderson
NFL teams were surprisingly lucky in Week 13, with no new significant injuries to report. As a result, fantasy owners will enter the postseason managing pre-existing injuries instead of scrambling to fill a suddenly vacant roster spot.
Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck
The Indianapolis quarterback situation has been an injury-filled mess all year, as Luck has struggled with a shoulder problem, multiple rib fractures and a lacerated kidney. The kidney ailment continues to keep the Pro Bowler on the sidelines, but there is growing optimism he will be available for the end of the regular season. He has resumed throwing but a major hurdle remains. Luck will undergo a MRI in the near future to determine the extent of healing around the injured kidney. Any delay in healing would push back his timeline. Still, I'm a bit skeptical that Luck will have much of a fantasy impact even if he does return this year. The injury won't directly limit his abilities, but the time off could affect his timing, and it remains to be seen if he's comfortable absorbing contact.
Hasselbeck has performed admirably in Luck's place but took a step back Sunday against the Steelers. He was held to 196 passing yards and threw two interceptions before leaving with multiple injuries. After the game, the veteran quarterback was diagnosed with a stiff neck and a mild rib separation. Both injuries are considered minor, though they can be quite limiting. The term 'stiff' indicates his neck injury is muscular in nature and could therefore limit his range of motion in the area. As a result, Hasselbeck might have difficulty looking down field to locate receivers and effectively read a defense. Couple that with what is likely a very painful rib injury and it's hard to imagine the 40-year-old quarterback being a reliable option to lead your fantasy team into the playoffs. Charlie Whitehurst would be the next man up for the Colts, though he too remains an unappealing option.
Arizona Running Backs
Shortly after last week's column ran, the Cardinals opted to place Chris Johnson on injured reserve/ designated to return. The decision ultimately ends his regular season and makes him droppable in all formats. Andre Ellington would normally assume the starting role in Johnson's absence, but a lingering case of turf toe has kept him off the field as well. Instead, rookie David Johnson started against the Rams and proved he's more than capable of handling things. Johnson rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries and added two receptions and a receiving touchdown. Those fortunate enough to add Johnson should once again benefit in Week 14, as a quick turnaround plays in his favor. With the Cardinals hosting the Vikings on Thursday night, the odds of Ellington's ailing toe improving enough to warrant a start are slim.
Eifert's inclusion on the inactive list in Week 13 was a bit surprising, even though his limited participation in practice hinted at the possibility. The breakout tight end is nursing a stinger in his neck, an injury that occurs when a bundle of nerves in the neck and shoulder area are irritated. It often occurs when the shoulder is pushed down and the neck is forced in the opposite direction. The combined stress puts the bundle on stretch, causing a sharp "stinging" sensation. The injury can result in diminished sensation and limited muscle strength for the affected individual. In some extreme cases, temporary paralysis can occur. Fortunately, Eifert has not reported any of these more serious symptoms, though the Bengals are clearly monitoring his healthy closely. Time remains one of the best treatment options and holding him out against the lowly Browns was a smart play to insure his long-term health. Look for Eifert to up his workload at practice this week with the hope of playing Sunday against the Steelers.
C.J. Anderson: The Broncos continue to rely on a run-heavy attack with Peyton Manning still recovering from a foot injury. Unfortunately, Anderson limped off the field in the first half of the team's win over San Diego. The team downplayed the severity of the injury following the game and called the decision to remove him from play purely precautionary. However, Anderson does have a lengthy history of ankle and foot problems and will be a question mark entering Week 14's game against the Raiders. Ronnie Hillman will remain the starter and would see a bump in usage if Anderson were unable to play.
Allen Hurns: Jacksonville is expected to have the other half of its aerial assault back on the field in Week 14, as Hurns has completed the league-mandated concussion protocol. He did not play in Week 13, following a brutal hit against the Chargers that required him to be taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to a nearby hospital. Hurns had success against the Colts earlier this season, hauling in 11 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown back in Week 4.
Rob Gronkowski: The Patriots tight end continues to rehab a sprained right knee and his status for Week 14 remains undetermined. He's also dealing with a bone bruise in the area, an injury that often prolongs the recovery process. However, New England's loss to Philadelphia in Week 13 could force the team to adjust its timeline with a top seed in the AFC playoff picture suddenly up for grabs. Unfortunately, the Pats are often cryptic with their handling of injury information, so fantasy owners should protect themselves and have a serviceable backup plan available in case Gronk sits for a second straight outing.
Rishard Matthews: Matthews will likely miss another week due to "cracked" ribs sustained against the Jets. As a result, rookie DeVante Parker will get a chance to build on last week's success when he caught three passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Parker may still be sitting on the waiver wire and is worth a speculative add.