Monitoring players' injury status is crucial to fantasy football, from draft preparation to in-season roster moves and, of course, 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 sixth 100-yard game of the season. With Jones likely to miss another week, don’t be surprised to see that streak extended to seven against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I’ll also read the tea leaves and analyze any teams that might be resting starters in Week 17. We could end up seeing major mismatches based on teams sitting key players.
It’s going to be extremely difficult to avoid jamming Lamar Jackson into lineups this week, especially if Bengals’ top cornerback William Jackson III doesn't clear the concussion protocol in time for Sunday.
WJ3 has missed one game this season (Week 7 versus the Browns) — the one where Baker Mayfield threw five touchdowns.
The problem with Jackson is that has to be above average with his throwing efficiency to hit his passing ceiling, but an undermanned Bengals secondary could make that quite likely.
Matt Ryan has disproven Rule No. 11, which states: “Thou shall not play Ryan without Julio Jones in the lineup.” Ryan has been exceptional in two recent performances without Jones in recent weeks. My major concern is whether or not he will be able get it done this week versus a fierce Buccaneers pass rush without starting center Alex Mack.
The Falcons’ QB was pressured on 44% of his dropbacks without Mack in Week 16, due in part to backup center Matt Hennessy posting an abysmal 34.2 PFF pass-blocking grade.
Tampa Bay ranks third in pressure rate (39%) this season.
Chad Henne is getting the start for the Chiefs this week, with the team resting Patrick Mahomes. Henne is an intriguing DFS option because he is cheap and benefits from playing in a QB-friendly offense.
Still, I'm hesitant to go dumpster diving for Henne — not having Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce makes a huge difference. If we take 2019 Chiefs backup QB Matt Moore’s starts from last season and assume Henne can at least match similar QB play, Henne initially looks like a steal.
Moore scored 19 and 15 fantasy points in his two starts — that would be right around three times his DFS salary. But he heavily relied on both Hill and Kelce to post a fantasy floor at the QB position.
Without those studs, I’m not sure we see Henne exceed more than 15 fantasy points.
The makes the focal point to this game Nick Chubb — he could absolutely go nuclear against a Steelers defense that has been hurt all season and will be without Heyward and Watt.
Those defensive superstars rank second and third, respectively, in PFF grades among all defensive players this season. Heyward is PFF’s third-highest-graded interior defender versus the run (90.3), and Watt is second to only Bud Dupree (on IR) in run stops among Pittsburgh defensive ends this season.
Chubb has averaged 20.8 fantasy points per game in the team's wins this year. The Browns are more than 10-point favorites at home.
Cleveland will also likely return key players on their offensive line, most notably Wyatt Teller and tackle Jedrick Wills. Stacking Chubb with Browns DST has to be one of my favorite mini-stacks on the main slate.
Shelby Harris is out this week — he is both the Broncos’ highest-graded defensive player (88.3) this season and its highest graded run-defender (76.1). He missed Weeks 9-12 earlier this year because of covid, and Denver’s run defense was absolutely gashed.
Over that span, they allowed the most rushing yards and most rushing touchdowns.
Wheels up for the Raiders ground game.
I wrote about Ty Johnson as a fade in my NFL Week 17 DFS Locks and Fades article, but I am certainly warming my stance on him entering Week 17. The matchup is good, and all indications are that he should be the featured back over Josh Adams.
If we peek back at Week 13 when Johnson played the lead role, he out-touched (24 versus eight) and out-snapped (63% versus 31%) Adams. He’s probably a strong GPP play because of his low projected ownership, salary and upside in the passing game.
The Packers lost starting left tackle David Bakhtiari this week, and I think his loss will be more felt in the run game than the passing game. He is the team’s highest-graded run-blocking tackle (86.7), and the team’s efficiency drops dramatically without him.
When Bakhtiari is run-blocking, Green Bay averages 5.1 yards per attempt. Without him, it falls to 4.0 yards per attempt. He missed several games earlier this season with a knee injury.
Alvin Kamara predictably went off last week when the Vikings were missing numerous starting players on defense. With Eric Kendricks and Jalyn Holmes already ruled out, we could see a huge game from the Lions’ rookie running back.
Alexander Mattison looks to be starting in place of Dalvin Cook, as he does not have an injury designation coming into Sunday’s game. I am fully confident he will get the lion’s share of work versus a defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to RBs this season.
Mattison was the team’s bell-cow back when they played Atlanta in Week 6. He looks like a great play, especially on FanDuel where he is very under-priced.
I like him more if Stafford doesn’t play — that will almost ensure that the Vikings will be playing with a positive game script. Mattison’s fantasy potential could get nuked if for some reason Minnesota falls behind. That’s what happened when they played the Falcons.
Kenyan Drake is going to potentially flirt with 20-25 touches because there's a strong chance Chase Edmonds doesn't play in this game. The matchup is obviously less than ideal, but if Drake is seeing 100% of the targets, carries and goal-line touches in the Cardinals’ backfield, he can easily return value on his cheap price tag.
I’d like Drake much more if Arizona gets blocking tight end Maxx Williams back after missing last week’s game with an injury. Drake averaged a meager 2.5 yards per attempt in Week 16.
I mentioned in the DFS primer that there weren’t any Jaguars worth playing this week, but I must admit it’s difficult to ignore Ogunbowale’s 19 opportunities from Week 16. He is super cheap and would likely see plenty of targets in the passing game with Jacksonville chasing points.
Ogunbowale is the clear RB1 in this offense with James Robinson sidelined.
The matchup would be much easier for him as a runner if stud interior defensive linemen DeForest Buckner doesn't recover from his ankle injury in time for Sunday.
Le’Veon Bell hasn’t been practicing all week, so the Chiefs are likely to rest him with nothing to play for in Week 17. That would put Williams into a starting role, but that’s hardly a reason to chase him even at low salary.
KC has struggled to run the football all season, and that's not going to change with the starters out. We could also see more of a committee in the Chiefs’ backfield with Darwin Thompson likely activated for this game.
Gibson looked fully recovered from his turf toe injury in Week 16 and reportedly would have seen more work had the game script not gone south. I expect him to be full-go for Sunday night versus a banged-up Eagles defense.
I’m not sure there is a cornerback on planet Earth who can slow down Adams right now, but the Bears gave their best effort the last time these teams played. Staring slot cornerback Buster Skrine and rookie Jaylon Johnson held Adams to two catches for 16 yards on five targets in Week 12.
The bad news is that both of these CBs are out this weekend, almost ensuring another 30-point fantasy game for Adams.
The wide receiver/running back hybrid could easily flirt with 15 total touches in this game, which makes him a slam-dunk play across all DFS formats.
He should also see ample opportunities from the slot because the Saints have allowed the second-most targets to slot WRs over the past four weeks.
Golden Tate missed practice on Thursday, making it unlikely he plays in the big game on Sunday. This gives an immediate target boost to Slayton, who saw eight targets last week and has notoriously great splits in his career without Tate in the lineup.
The Giants’ second-year WR posted 31.2 fantasy points back in Week 1 with Tate out.
The Falcons’ third-year wide receiver has been the highlight of this article the last few weeks — he's been on an absolute tear with Julio Jones out. Ridley has basically become a lock for 100 yards per game, and that should continue with Carlton Davis looking unlikely to play for Tampa Bay.
That would create a WR/CB mismatch in favor of Ridley — he will see plenty of coverage against Sean Murphy-Bunting on the outside. SMB is by far the team’s lowest-graded cornerback this season (50.1 PFF coverage grade).
Marvin Jones has the potential to absolutely go nuclear in this game, but so much of his upside relies on whether or not Matthew Stafford plays. If Stafford is in, you will want exposure to Jones in DFS.
The Vikings will be without their top cornerback Cameron Dantzler — the rookie has has posted an 83.9 coverage grade since Week 11, which ranks seventh among all CBs. Minnesota will also be down another cornerback, Chris Jones, who has also been ruled out.
Washington could be a potential value — he has a built-in rapport with quarterback Mason Rudolph and has also been productive versus the Browns in his career.
Washington caught four of seven targets for 68 yards and a touchdown in the team’s first game this season against Cleveland. Last year, Washington had his only 100-yard game of the season versus the Browns.
In the games Washington has played this season with at least a 50% snap share, he has averaged 10.8 fantasy points. He will surely hit that snap rate in Week 17, so he is a great salary-saver who could fly extremely under-the-radar.
Also consider that the Browns’ top cornerback, Denzel Ward, was just placed on the Reserve/Covid list, so Pittsburgh should be able to generate some plays through the passing game, likely through Washington.
During Weeks 12-14 when Ward was out of the lineup, the Browns rank 31st in explosive pass play percentage (30%), 30th in yards per target (10.3) and 28th in TD percentage allowed (7.4%).
Parker’s salary has taken a massive hit because has missed the last few games, making him a sneaky value as the team’s true No. 1 wide receiver. He has averaged 18.7 fantasy points in his last three games versus the Bills and still leads the team in end-zone target share (31%) despite not playing since Week 14.
My main target in the Chiefs’ passing game is Mecole Hardman. The speedster has seen 15 targets over his last two games and would presumably slide right into the Tyreek Hill role in the Chiefs’ offense.
Hardman offers a ton of explosive upside for a dirt-cheap price.
Heading back to Tee Higgins isn’t the worst option at just $5K after his 99-yard performance in Week 16, but the rookie’s upside increases dramatically if Marcus Peters and/or Jimmy Smith are held out another week.
The last time Higgins faced the Ravens, he caught four of eight targets for 62 yards. I’d only play him if some of the Ravens’ CBs are out because his target floor may not be has high with Tyler Boyd expected to return.
Williams commanded a 30% target share without Keenan Allen last week — the second time all season he saw at least eight targets when Allen was inactive or on a limited snap share.
Allen is not going to play in Week 17, so we have to love the fantasy prospects for Williams against potential backups.
Cole Beasley is not going to play in Week 17, and I doubt we see much of Stefon Diggs because the Bills don’t have much to play for. That leaves rookie Gabriel Davis as the team’s projected No. 1 wide receiver — the Bills don’t have enough WRs rostered to bench him this week.
I’m sure Buffalo still wants to get their rookie more reps and looks in the passing game, so even Josh Allen leaves after a half and Matt Barkley takes over, expect Davis to see eight to 10 targets in this spot.
D.J. Chark Jr. is out for Sunday. We have seen this play out before when Chark has missed weeks this season — most times we just see Chris Conley and/or Keelan Cole just get more targets. I’d avoid Shenault because his ownership increase will likely be overinflated and unwarranted.
If there is any player the Buccaneers should rest in Week 17, it would be Gronkowski. Gronk is on pace to play a full 16-game season for the first time since 2011, and Tampa Bay might be pressing its luck with the big guy in a relatively meaningless game.
Gronkowski’s target share has also dipped to fourth on the team (11%) in the team’s last three games — he's seen only two targets in two of his last three games.
The volume might not be there for Gronk to smash even in a plus-matchup versus Atlanta.
Hunter Henry does not look like he will come off the Reserve/Covid list in time for Week 17, thrusting former XFL superstar Donald Parham back into a starting role. Parham led all Chargers tight ends in routes run and snaps last week. He also added two catches for 47 yards.
Jack Doyle popped up on the injury report late this week with quad injury, so he could easily miss Week 17. That would slide Burton back into the TE1 role in an extremely favorable matchup.
The Jags have allowed the most receiving touchdowns to TEs this season.
Dallas Goedert is not practicing, so Zach Ertz should reclaim the No. 1 tight end role this week. He has seen seven targets in back-to-back weeks and would be a top TE option in DFS for Week 17 if Goedert sits.
The Eagles’ offensive line has been atrocious all season because of injuries. The one bright spot in recent weeks has been left tackle Jordan Mailata — he's the seventh-highest-graded LT in the NFL since week 10. It’s as hame he is going to miss the team’s finale due to a concussion.
Without Mailata, Jalen Hurts is going to be running for his life Sunday night versus the WFT defensive line.