• Extra banged-up: The New Orleans Saints, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans (among others) face serious tests of depth as multiple starters face significant injury concerns.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
In what is the final week for a majority of fantasy regular seasons and the ultimate chance to lock your seeding in for the playoffs, the injuries continue to stack with some fresh faces on the list as well as many reoccurring faces continuing the management of their injuries down the home stretch of the NFL regular season.
Rookie Tank Dell’s phenomenal debut season was sadly cut short with a lower leg injury while a couple young QBs in Trevor Lawrence and Kenny Pickett suffered ankle injuries that forced them out of Week 13. With several fun-looking matchups on the schedule this weekend, let's take a look around the league at how players are trending ahead of Sunday’s action.
Week 14 bye weeks
QB Trevor Lawrence (ankle), Jacksonville Jaguars
Lawrence returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday as he manages a high-ankle sprain suffered Monday night. While this is an encouraging sign, concern around his mobility is expected. While his status feels like a toss-up at this point, this game has serious implications with the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans hanging around just one win behind the Jags. In a worst-case scenario, Jacksonville will look to C.J. Beathard, who is managing a shoulder issue of his own. If the Jags are forced to roll out Beathard against this Cleveland Browns defense, their receivers would take a massive hit to their ceilings.
QB Derek Carr (concussion/rib/shoulder), New Orleans Saints
With three injury designations this week, Carr sat out Wednesday’s practice but returned Thursday in some capacity, giving some hope that he could get the green light for Sunday against Carolina if he can clear concussion protocol. In his stead, Jameis Winston would start, and with Taysom Hill (back) likely sidelined as well, Winston would get the entirety of the Saints' QB snaps. Winston would be more than capable of supporting the likes of Chris Olave, Alvin Kamara, and Juwan Johnson.
RB Isiah Pacheco (shoulder), Kansas City Chiefs
Pacheco missed Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder issue that could cost him Week 14 at the least. While he could bounce back between now and Sunday, expect to be without Pacheco in your lineup. Consider firing up Clyde Edwards-Helaire or last season’s fantasy playoff hero Jerick McKinnon for what should be a high-scoring matchup between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills this weekend.
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (concussion), Cleveland Browns
After missing last week's loss to the Los Angeles Rams, DTR returned to practice this week as he works through concussion protocol. His stand-in, Joe Flacco, could not quite lead the Browns to a win but was effective enough getting the ball out quickly to give the offense scoring opportunities. Cleveland remains banged up (see Kareem Hunt and Amari Cooper below), but if DTR is forced to sit another game, expect Elijah Moore, who played with Flacco in New York, to be featured heavily again.
RB Travis Etienne (ribs), Jacksonville Jaguars
Limited this week in practice, Etienne is managing a rib injury suffered Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. While it doesn’t sound like he’s in danger of missing Sunday’s matchup, a rib injury for a RB has a chance to be exacerbated, so some load management could be expected. Behind him, D’Ernest Johnson has mostly usurped Tank Bigsby as the primary backup, but Johnson is struggling with a knee injury of his own that has limited him in practice this week.
RB Kenneth Walker III (oblique) and RB Zach Charbonnet (knee), Seattle Seahawks
Walker has not played since his early exit in Week 11, opening the door for Charbonnet to dominate the Seahawks' backfield snaps, which he hasn’t exactly taken advantage of to this point. Averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and finding the end zone just once over the last three weeks, he has offset this a bit with 11 receptions over the same period. While their practice status for Thursday is unknown at this point, both missed practice Wednesday casting some doubt over their availability this weekend. Walker’s injury has been prolonged at this point with little updates while Charbonnet’s knee issue is a new addition to the list this week. Expect one or both to play against the San Francisco 49ers, but this situation will need to be closely monitored as we head into the weekend.
WR Tank Dell (fibula) [IR], WR Noah Brown (knee), and TE Dalton Schultz (hamstring), Houston Texans
As a third-round rookie, Tank Dell has exceeded all expectations and then some, tallying 47 catches for 709 yards and seven TDs to this point. Sadly, his season was cut short Sunday with a fractured fibula, which will cause him to miss the remainder of the season. Elsewhere on the depth chart, Noah Brown returned in Week 13 against Denver after his outbursts in Weeks 9 and 10 but did not record a catch on two targets, one of which was dropped. With Dell now sidelined and Dalton Schultz‘s status (DNP Thursday) trending in the wrong direction, C.J. Stroud and the Texans will need Brown to recapture some of that magic to alleviate pressure off Nico Collins this week against a New York Jets defense allowing the second-least yards per passing attempt this season.
WR Amari Cooper (concussion), Cleveland Browns
After missing his second day of practice Thursday, Cooper’s status for Sunday is firmly up in the air. Prior to being knocked out in the second quarter, Cooper caught three of his five targets for 34 yards against Los Angeles, and with him on the sideline, Elijah Moore saw nine of his 10 targets. Regardless of Cooper’s status Sunday, Moore could be in line for a big day while rookie Cedric Tillman has seen an uptick in targets the last two weeks as well.
RB Aaron Jones (hamstring/knee), Green Bay Packers
After suffering a knee injury in Week 11, Jones practiced Thursday for the first time, providing optimism he will be able to return Sunday against the New York Giants in some capacity. With Jones sidelined, A.J. Dillon has seen the bulk of the RB work with mixed results, although the Packers offense has had general success with 27-plus points scored in back-to-back weeks. Jones (and Dillon in deeper leagues) both seem like solid upside plays this weekend against a Giants defense that has allowed the most 10-plus yard rushes and second-most rushing TDs this season.
RB Jonathan Taylor (thumb), Indianapolis Colts
Taylor underwent surgery last week to repair a thumb injury forcing him to miss Week 13, and his status for Sunday is very up in the air with him not practicing this week. The original timeline given was at least two-to-three weeks, so another game off would be expected. Without Taylor in the lineup, the Colts turned back to Zack Moss, who managed just 2.5 yards per carry on 20 attempts against the Tennessee Titans, but an exploitable matchup against the Bengals run defense keeps Moss firmly in starting territory this week.
TE Juwan Johnson (quadriceps), TE Taysom Hill (back) & WR Rashid Shaheed (thigh), New Orleans Saints
Shaheed continues to miss practices with a thigh injury suffered in Week 12, and with the nature of his role being so reliant on his deep speed, expect the Saints to continue to slow play his rehab until he’s 100%. Johnson on the other hand sat out Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday in a limited fashion as he manages a quad injury that hampered him last week as well. Taysom Hill has struggled with a back injury over the same period. Hill missed practice Wednesday and Thursday however, so his status appears to be more of a toss-up.
WR Christian Watson (hamstring), Green Bay Packers
Watson went down late in the Packers win over Kansas City, tweaking his hamstring that he has dealt with all season. Without practicing this week, he would be hard-pressed to return in full by Sunday, but a return to practice Friday would certainly provide optimism. With him likely sidelined, Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs look to continue their solid pace while Dontayvion Wicks has seriously flashed the last several weeks as well. While difficult to give any serious edges between the three, Reed seems to have the most established rapport with QB Jordan Love of the three.
Others to monitor
RB Breece Hall (ankle), New York Jets
Despite missing both Wednesday and Thursday’s practice, Hall has stated he expects to play this weekend. Skepticism is fair, but optimism straight from the source is certainly encouraging. Keep an eye on his status come Sunday morning.
WR Puka Nacua (shoulder), Los Angeles Rams
Nacua has been on this list several times this season due to a variety of injuries and has yet to miss a game. This recent shoulder issue does not sound like it will cost him any time either but is at least worth keeping on your radar in case of re-aggravation down the line.
QB Tyrod Taylor (ribs), New York Giants
Now fully healed from his broken ribs suffered in Week 8, Taylor finds himself second on the depth chart behind Tommy DeVito ahead of the Giants Monday night game. In his two starts, Taylor was a marked improvement over Daniel Jones, but after a shaky start to his first NFL action, DeVito appears to have settled in a bit, posting a PFF passing grade over 70.0 in three of his four starts.
RB Kareem Hunt (groin), Cleveland Browns
Hunt sat out of practice Wednesday but returned Thursday, a trend that repeats from last week. Despite this, Hunt led the Cleveland backfield in touches against the Rams, edging out Jerome Ford despite playing fewer snaps. His touchdown upside remains, but a tough matchup with Jacksonville’s front seven sets his floor pretty low.
WR Joshua Palmer (knee), Los Angeles Chargers
Recently activated off injured reserve, Palmer has been limited in practice as he ramps up to return. If he’s back in the lineup against the Broncos this weekend, he feels like a solid FLEX play at a minimum.