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Now roughly a quarter of the way through the NFL season, we have lost some big names — such as Nick Chubb and Aaron Rodgers — but been relatively lucky with avoiding major injuries. Week 4 saw quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Kenny Pickett and Justin Herbert troubled by minor injuries while talented receivers in Mike Evans, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Tee Higgins all suffered noteworthy ailments as well.
On the bright side, elite fantasy producers such as Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor have returned to practice after missing the first four weeks and both appear to be in line for a return in some capacity as early as this weekend. Rams head coach Sean McVay says Kupp will be full go, making it hard to keep him out of lineups, while the extent of Taylor’s involvement may come down to game flow. Week 5 also means the bye weeks have arrived, adding an additional wrinkle to the weekly lineup maneuvering that is necessary in fantasy. Let’s have a look at the biggest injury news heading into the weekend.
Week 5 Byes:
Matthew Stafford (hip), Los Angeles Rams
The consummate iron man, Stafford suffered a hip contusion against the Indianapolis Colts in week 4 but fought through it and did not miss any time. Don’t expect him to miss week 5’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, but this is a situation worth monitoring moving forward.
Justin Herbert (finger), Los Angeles Chargers
Herbert fractured a finger on his non-throwing hand against the Las Vegas Raiders, but a timely Week 5 bye gives him an additional week to rehab. This is not an injury that should limit his fantasy ceiling in the short or long term.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (abdomen), Detroit Lions
St. Brown was a non-participant on Wednesday and Thursday's practices, but this is a tricky situation to gauge currently after reports Thursday indicate he will play even if he’s not at 100%. If he is active come Sunday morning, he’s still a must-start against a vulnerable Carolina Panthers secondary given his 29.6% target rate, but it is recommended to have a solid alternative in the worst case.
Tee Higgins (ribs), Cincinnati Bengals
Higgins is dealing with a fractured rib that forced him to sit out of midweek practices and is officially considered day-to-day. Despite his optimism about his status for Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, a return just a week after such an injury only raises the chance of further exacerbation. With a Week 7 bye upcoming, it would not be a shock if the Bengals shelf him for a few weeks to get back to 100%, and even if he goes on Sunday, it's hard to endorse him as a fantasy starter with the injury and Bengals offensive woes.
Mike Evans (hamstring), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Evans missed the second half of the Bucs matchup with the New Orleans Saints due to a hamstring strain, which would not bode well for his Week 5 availability if Tampa Bay were to play. Luckily, the bye week could not have come at a better time for Evans, giving him an additional week to get back to full strength. Expect him to return for Week 6, but it is one we will watch heading into next week.
Pat Freiermuth (hamstring), Pittsburgh Steelers
After suffering a hamstring strain against the Houston Texans, it is unlikely Freiermuth will play in Week 5 after putting in DNPs on Wednesday and Thursday. With a Week 6 bye on the horizon, it doesn’t make much sense to rush him back to action. If he were to surprise and be full go for Sunday, he has drawn just 13 targets this season and a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens makes him a tough play regardless.
Kenny Pickett (knee), Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite the Week 6 bye upcoming, there have been no qualms from Pickett about his status for Sunday, as he told reporters Wednesday that he’ll be good to go against Baltimore, which has allowed the fewest passing yards per attempt (4.92) through four games. There is a chance the Steelers will play it safe and roll with Mitch Trubisky, but neither inspires much confidence behind an offensive line allowing pressure on 45.9% of team dropbacks.
Javonte Williams (quad), Denver Broncos
Reportedly day to day with a quad injury that was originally thought to be a hip flexor strain, Williams sat out practice Wednesday and his availability for Sunday against the New York Jets is unlikely. If he were to go, it would likely be on a pitch count, limiting his already low ceiling against a Jets defense that has allowed just one TD on the ground this season. It is worth monitoring once inactives are announced Sunday morning, but it is probably best to look elsewhere for RB help this week.
Miles Sanders (groin), Carolina Panthers
Averaging just 0.65 fantasy points per touch despite a 44.8% usage rate, Sanders popped up on the injury report this week with a limited participation on Wednesday and Thursday due to a groin injury that has reportedly been nagging since the preseason. Keep an eye on his practice status on Thursday and Friday, but there are better FLEX options as Sanders likely cedes additional work to Chuba Hubbard if he is able to play.
Others to monitor
Derek Carr (shoulder), New Orleans Saints
Despite uncertainty about his availability last week, Carr gutted it out to post some rough numbers (3.3 yards per attempt, 0 Big Time Throws, 0 TDS) against Tampa Bay. He practiced in limited fashion on Wednesday, and the further removed he gets from the original injury should improve the offense as a whole. However, a tough matchup in New England, which has allowed the 10th least yards after the catch and just three passing TDs thus far in 2023, keeps him in streaming territory for this week.
Zay Jones (knee), Jacksonville Jaguars
After missing the last two weeks, Jones put in limited practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, so his status is trending positively for Sunday morning’s London matchup with the Buffalo Bills, who have allowed just three passing TDs this season. With the nature of the early morning game, he is a tough endorsement unless he is greenlit by Saturday.
Deebo Samuel (knee), San Francisco 49ers
Deebo was clearly not at full strength last week against the Cardinals, failing to draw a target for the first time in his career. Keep an eye on his participation for Thursday and Friday but expect a limited role for Sunday night’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, who have allowed just 361 yards after the catch (eighth) and 62 completions (second) this season.
Saquon Barkley (ankle), New York Giants
Barkley remains day-to-day and was limited midweek with an ankle sprain that forced him to miss Monday’s matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. A Week 5 matchup in Miami likely does not present an encouraging game script for him, but it is hard to keep him on the bench if he is good to go.
Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Justice Hill (foot), Baltimore Ravens
Both Beckham and Hill put in limited practices this week, providing optimism for Sunday in Pittsburgh. While still worth monitoring the closer we get to Sunday, both should only be relied upon in deeper leagues where other options are limited.
Dameon Pierce (knee), Houston Texans
Pierce put in a limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, and his practice status appears to be more precautionary than cause for concern but is still worth watching the closer we get to Sunday.