Monitoring players' injury status is crucial to fantasy football, from draft preparation to in-season roster moves, sit/start decisions and DFS plays. In this week's injury report cheat sheet, I'll comb through the official injury reports for each game and offer updates and analysis for not just fantasy-relevant players, but for all players whose availability could influence another player’s fantasy rankings.
Just last week, we saw Calvin Ridley continue his streak of dominance without Julio Jones in the lineup, with his fifth 100-yard game of the season. With Jones out for Sunday, don’t be surprised to see that streak extended to six.
Injuries matter, folks.
MATT RYAN, ATLANTA FALCONS ($5,800)
We have a strong sample size of Matt Ryan this season with and without Julio Jones in the lineup. With a fully healthy Jones, Ryan is averaging north of 23 fantasy points per game. Outside of last week, fantasy managers have not been happy with Ryan’s production in games minus Jones.
K.C. has allowed the third-most fantasy points to QBs over the past two weeks, but this is a situation to avoid during championship week with Ryan missing his alpha WR.
TONY POLLARD, DALLAS COWBOYS ($6,500)
The second-year back played a 90% snap share, totaled 18 touches and scored two touchdowns on his way to a 31-point fantasy performance. Pollard's final score was a long touchdown run in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory for Big D.
He would be a top-15 running back play this week versus the Philadelphia Eagles should Elliott miss a second-straight game. His involvement as a pass-catcher (31 routes run, nine targets in Week 15) is too good to pass up. Pollard rushed for 40 yards on seven carries (5.7 yards per attempt) the last time he faced Philly while playing a backup role.
Eagles stud interior defender Fletcher Cox is also dealing with an injury, and his absence could open up the Dallas running game.
NICK CHUBB, CLEVELAND BROWNS ($7,800)
The Browns will be undermanned on the offensive line when they face off against the Jets this weekend, which could spell trouble for the ground game. But New York was just forced to place Quinnen Williams on injured reserve, and his loss could be huge for Nick Chubb.
Williams ranks third in the NFL in run-stop percentage and first in total defensive stops among interior defensive linemen.
The Jets also have major issues at linebacker now that Harvey Langi is on IR, further bolstering Chubb as a great DFS play.
David Johnson is an RB1 this week after commanding 11 targets and going for over 100 yards in Week 15. DJ has gotten the volume all year long and would maintain a high ceiling as a pass-catcher should Duke Johnson Jr. be sidelined for another week.
He will fall in the ranks if Duke is deemed healthy because the Texans’ run game cannot be trusted in any matchup. Houston ranks 29th in rushing yards created before contact, demonstrating why their RBs have failed to have any boom weeks.
Johnson scored over 20 fantasy points for the first time on DraftKings last week because of the insane usage as a receiver.
It doesn’t help that the Texans just placed their starting RT Tytus Howard on IR.
JONATHAN TAYLOR, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS ($7,300)
You’d be crazy to start Jonathan Taylor this week against the Steelers, right? Well, the Steel Curtain may not be as formidable as it seems — this defense has suffered injury after injury from Devin Bush to Bud Dupree, and things are looking grim for Sunday.
MELVIN GORDON III, DENVER BRONCOS ($5,600)
It blows my mind that the Broncos don’t just rest Phillip Lindsay, who clearly has not been healthy in quite some time. He has not practiced all week and looks uncertain for Sunday. If he can’t go, we’d see Gordon close in on 20-25 touches and 75% snap share.
That’s the workload he saw in Weeks 2-5 when Lindsay was hurt to start the season.
ANTONIO GIBSON, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM ($6,600)
Gibson might play again this week, but I’d be wary of putting him back into my starting lineup. J.D. McKissic has performed exceptionally well in relief the last few weeks and turf toe can sap a player’s explosiveness.
AARON JONES, GREEN BAY PACKERS ($7,500)
Aaron Jones could be in for a huge workload with Jamaal Williams not practicing due to a thigh injury. After he left last week’s game, Jones played a season-high 90% snap share, which all but locks him into top-five running back production.
JARVIS LANDRY, CLEVELAND BROWNS ($6,100)
There aren’t many Browns that don’t have plus-matchups this week, but nobody has it better than Landry. CB Javelin Guidry, who has played the slot in recent weeks, is banged up. If he can't play, the Jets will be down to their third-string slot CB.
Giddy up Jarvis.
TEE HIGGINS, CINCINNATI BENGALS ($4,700)
Higgins owns a team-high 34% target share from Finley this season. With targets aplenty, he could be in for a massive day against a very beatable Houston Texans secondary. Houston has allowed one opposing wide receiver to score at least 24 fantasy points in each of the last three weeks.
Tyler Boyd might not play because of a concussion, making Higgins the best bet to keep that streak alive. As of Thursday, he has yet to clear concussion protocol.
And for what it’s worth, I would still play Higgins this week even if the Bengals start Brandon Allen at quarterback, as long as Boyd is inactive.
CALVIN RIDLEY, ATLANTA FALCONS ($8,500)
I hit on Ridley in the open to this article because the man has been a fantasy machine operating as the team’s true No. 1 wide receiver. With Julio Jones out, the Falcons’ third-year WR should get all the work he can handle.
Ridley was the WR1 last week with 10 catches, 163 yards and a touchdown.
Russell Gage is also in line for increased snaps and targets coming off a 5-68-1 line last week (WR17). Keep in mind that the matchup is tough, though: K.C. has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to WRs this season.
DARIUS SLAYTON, NEW YORK GIANTS ($3,800)
Golden Tate is dealing with a calf injury. If he's out, I think we would see more targets for Darius Slayton. He notoriously sees spikes in production whenever Tate or another Giants primary pass-catcher misses time.
Slayton stood out in my high-value targets article this week, so I am intrigued by him with Daniel Jones coming back. The Giants’ outside receiver has underperformed versus expectation in his last four weeks because the opportunities for him to perform have been there.
The Ravens have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs over the past four weeks. Baltimore has been dealing with a plethora of injuries in their secondary. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters are both extremely banged up.
He’s only $4,000 on DraftKings this week and would be a plug-and-play option versus an extremely banged-up secondary that has allowed the most fantasy points to WRs over the past two weeks.
Johnson has surpassed 50 receiving yards in six games this season primarily as a backup.
D.J. CHARK JR., JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS ($4,800)
However, I may be willing to take a shot on Chark if Bears starting cornerback Jaylon Johnson misses another week. If Johnson is unavailable, Chark would see much more of Kindle Vildor, who has allowed the second-most fantasy points per route this season (0.49).
TERRY MCLAURIN, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM ($6,700)
I am seriously bummed out about Terry McLaurin’s bad ankle. This is something he has been dealing with the past few weeks and is negatively impacting his production. To start the season, McLaurin led the NFL in yards after the catch.
Over the past three weeks, he ranks outside the top 50 in yards after the catch per reception (3.7). The ankle is holding him back, and seeing him miss practices because of it has me worried that he doesn’t have a high fantasy ceiling in him for Week 16.
HAYDEN HURST, ATLANTA FALCONS ($3,400)
Julio Jones‘ presence is typically helpful to Hurst — his best stretch of games this season was Weeks 6-9 with Jones active when he averaged 13 fantasy points per game.
Still, there should be enough volume to support the Falcons' talented tight end this week. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to TEs over the past four weeks.
DONALD PARHAM JR., LOS ANGELES CHARGERS ($2,500)
Hunter Henry is out for Sunday’s game with COVID, so it will likely be DPJ getting the start. For those who aren’t aware, Parham played in the XFL before impressing enough to get back into the NFL.
He’s been used as a red-zone target at times this season, so he’s a great way to save salary at the tight end position.
Five of his 13 targets on the season are end-zone targets, and he commanded four targets playing in garbage time when the Chargers were resting starters against New England.