Ingram's InconvenienceThursday, December 08, 2011
Right as the movie was starting to get good, the projector skipped. Mark Ingram is just hoping it isn’t broken. Coming off his best two-game stretch of the season, New Orleans’ rookie back was revealed to be dealing with another injury setback on Wednesday, this time a case of turf toe. As anyone who’s followed football for long knows, turf toe can often be as debilitating as its name is nonthreatening. The malady is almost as poorly timed as Ingram’s previous ailment, a heel injury he suffered while racking up a season-high 91 yards on just 14 carries against the Colts in Week 7. That ended up costing him two games, and limited him for one more. For his part, Ingram did his best to project positivity Wednesday, suggesting his case of one of football’s more unfortunately named ailments was minor. "I'm feeling better. Better than I did yesterday," he said. "It's an injury that can vary. For some people, it can linger for a while. For others, it can turn the corner fast. Hopefully these next few days, it feels better and I can be ready to go." Hopeful words for fantasy owners. Unfortunately, hope rarely helps get a player back on the field. So what should you expect from Ingram in Week 14? Not much. Heading to Tennessee, New Orleans finds itself in command of the NFC South after the Falcons lost to a Matt Schaub-less Texans squad last Sunday. The Saints will be taking on a Titans team not particularly adept at defending either the run (21st in the league) or the pass (18th). In a perfect world, the Saints would again increase their first-round pick’s role in the running game as they look to remain within striking distance of the 49ers for a first-round bye. In the world we live in? They’ll probably be content to roll with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory instead of risking further injury to a player they plan to be relying on for years to come. What Ingram does today should go a long way toward determining his Sunday status, but if you’re a betting man or woman, you shouldn’t have your money on Ingram saddling up and finding the end zone for a third-straight week. NEWS OF THE DAY #2Missed Wednesday practices are nothing new for Willis McGahee. When you’re a 30-year-old back running as hard as he has this season, maintenance days aren’t just necessary, they’re inevitable. But McGahee’s latest Wednesday absence came with more intrigue than is usually preferable. First, he was simply missing without explanation. Almost always, that equals a rest, maintenance or personal day. Then, top Broncos’ beat reporter Linday Jones revealed McGahee was actually spotted limping near the end of Sunday’s win over the Vikings. Soon after, he was officially listed as out with a knee injury. Much scarier than the vague, and possibly nonexistent, “illness” that held McGahee out last week. Before fantasy owners could get worked up into too big of a tizzy, however, McGahee came out and said he is “planning” to play against the Bears. Not as strident of a guarantee as we typically get from players announcing their intention to play through pain, but still enough that you shouldn’t panic if McGahee misses his second straight practice this afternoon. As long as he’s at least limited by Friday and listed as questionable on the Week 14 injury report, you should have the league’s 10th most prolific back by yards and 14th most effective by yards per carry available for a tough matchup with Chicago’s eight-ranked run defense. NEWS OF THE DAY #3The disaster in St. Louis is quickly becoming a full-fledged cosmic nightmare. It would have been bad enough Wednesday were it just franchise cornerstone Sam Bradford missing another practice with his ankle injury. Where things really got ugly was when it became clear backup A.J. Feeley (broken thumb) is a long way away from not only practicing, but throwing a football. That means the Rams are currently on track to start would-be practice squader Tom Brandstater during their second national-television “showcase” of the season against the Seahawks on Monday. Brandstater has long been one of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ pet projects, and the Rams would surely like to find out what, if anything, they have in the former sixth-round pick. But in the midst of what has become a truly monumental ode to offensive futility (the Rams are averaging 11.6 points per game, and have scored only 11 offensive touchdowns all season)? On ESPN? Against a division rival? Not likely. Brandstater under center wouldn’t just be the latest embarrassment for an unacceptably bad team, but also disastrous news for owners of Steven Jackson and Brandon Lloyd. Jackson was already going to be in for a tough night against Seattle’s tenacious run defense. But with Brandstater starting, he’d find it darn near impossible to run against a unit that won’t have to bother respecting the pass (much like what happened in San Francisco last weekend). For Lloyd, the last thing he needs coming off his first dismal performance as a Ram is another downgrade at quarterback, but that’s exactly what he’ll be getting in Brandstater. If St. Louis is indeed forced to go with its third-string signal caller, Lloyd will likely be a no-go for the first week of the fantasy playoffs after doggedly turning himself into an every-week WR2 in his new home despite the mess around him.
If you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Rams, think again. STEELERS/BROWNS REPORTOver its past six games, Cleveland has held its opponents to an average of just 175.2 yards passing. The problem, of course, is that teams have racked up a weekly 183 rushing yards in the process. Can you guess what the Steelers’ plan of attack will be this evening? … Coming off his first one-catch performance since Week 6, Emmanuel Sanders (knee) has already been ruled out for tonight’s game. He is eyeing a Week 15 return. … Peyton Hillis (hip) is officially questionable after being limited in Cleveland’s only practice of the week, but will reportedly start as long as he feels good in pre-game warmups. Montario Hardesty (calf, questionable) will carry the load if Hillis can’t get loose, though he should be in for a decent workload either way. Neither back is more than a flex play in 10-12 team leagues for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. … Colt McCoy (knee) is listed as probable with his latest minor injury, and will be under center. Averaging 190 passing yards over his past four starts, he should be in for a miserable night against a passing defense allowing just 176.8 yards per game. INJURY QUICK SLANTS Michael Vick (ribs) was a full participant in Eagles practice, and will return against the Dolphins after missing three games. … His teammate Jeremy Maclin’s (hamstring, shoulder) status isn’t nearly as certain, but his arrow is pointing up after he was able to practice for the first time since November 23 on Wednesday. … Julio Jones (hamstring), Roddy White (shoulder) and Harry Douglas (groin) were limited in Falcons practice, but all three are expected to play against the Panthers. … Nate Washington (ankle) was held out of Titans practice, and is eyeing a Friday return. For now, consider him very questionable for Sunday. … James Starks (ankle) missed Packers practice, and has a lot of progress to make in the next two days if he’s to play against the Raiders. … Jacoby Ford (foot) and Denarius Moore (ankle) failed to return to practice. Both remain relative mysteries heading into Week 14. … Josh Freeman (shoulder) did some “light throwing,” but has a ways to go before being cleared for Sunday. … Miles Austin (hamstring) turned in a limited practice, and remains on pace to return against the Giants. … Kevin Smith (ankle) did not practice. What he’s able to do today will be critical.
Gregg Rosenthal takes a look at the key players to run with for the fantasy postseason.