It would be a Christmas miracle.
No, not the Jets actually finding an offseason trade partner for Mark Sanchez. And no, not Rob Gronkowski suiting up for Week 16. We’re talking about the Patriots giving any inkling as to Gronk’s actual status.
Out since breaking his arm on the final extra point of New England’s 59-24 Week 11 blowout of the Colts, Gronk has now shed his cast and participated in back-to-back practices. Typically, that would be a sign a player is on the verge of returning. But this is New England, where “limited” tags can mean anything from “potentially career-ending injury” to “not hurt at all,” and the amount of “questionable” players outnumber the “healthy” ones.
If you’re reading the tea leaves, don’t bother with Bill Belichick, as the most he might offer is a guttural “we’ll see” or “refer to the injury report." Or maybe it will be a barely audible whisper. It depends on the day. The point is, the Patriots are a first-hand source that can be completely disregarded.
The second hand ones? At the time of Gronk’s injury, the Boston Globe reported he would “almost definitely” miss at least four games — which would be the four he’s already missed — but that there was some “thought" he might return in Week 16 to contribute as a receiver, but not a blocker.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter, meanwhile, has maintained it’s been the Patriots’ plan "all along" to hold Gronk out until Week 17, where he would return for a "playoff tuneup."
So we know what the first and second-hand sources say. What about the extenuating circumstances? Like the fact that the Patriots have gone 3-1 in Gronk’s absence, and averaged 37 points in the process. Or that they’re traveling to Jacksonville this weekend to take on a 2-12 Jaguars team that can’t stop the pass or run, has major holes on every level of its defense and has been outscored by 164 points this season. That adds up to “the Pats don’t need to rush Gronk back for Week 16.”
If this were a playoff game, Gronk would likely play. But it’s not, and everything — from trusted reporters to common sense — suggests Gronk won’t be giving his fantasy owners a Christmas gift in the form of a return for championship week.
Of course, this is the Patriots, so be sure to check back on Sunday.
RGIII And Me
The news is far less ambiguous with Robert Griffin III (knee). Barring a setback, he will play on Sunday.
That was the word via both coach Mike Shanahan and "sources briefed on the team's medical status.” RGIII himself went to great lengths to gussy up his status after he got in a full practice Wednesday, saying he went “full speed” and feels "no weakness or instability" in his knee.
Griffin did allow that the decision isn't up to him, but according to the people it is up to, he’s going to play against the Eagles barring something unforeseen happening. That means he’ll be available for your lineup in championship week, and that you should start him. The temptation to go “safe” and start, say, Matt Schaub or Andrew Luck will be great, but this for all the marbles. Riding the brakes doesn’t work on the interstate, and it certainly doesn’t work in fantasy football.
It’s boldness that wins championships, and there would be nothing bold about benching a player who’s played a massive part in getting you there. Don’t forget, this for all the marbles in Washington, too. They wouldn’t be starting Griffin if they thought he wasn't ready to do his thing. We have Week 15 — which was an equally important game for the long-beleaguered Redskins — as evidence of that.
Washington is going to start its stud, and so should you.
Gimme Some Shade
LeSean McCoy (concussion) is finally ready to return from his four-game absence and start against Washington.
The No. 4.6 player by ADP this summer, McCoy has averaged 98.5 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game this season.
So it should be a no brainer to start him for the fantasy finals, right?
Well, not quite. Although it’s highly doubtful you’ll have 3-4 better bets than McCoy for Week 16, you could certainly have 1-2. The Eagles have made a point of saying McCoy will start over Bryce Brown against the Redskins, but coach Andy Reid has also allowed he "won't be (in for) a normal workload like you'd see during the season,” and that he’s planning to “keep a close eye" on his No. 1 back.
“Down” year or not, McCoy remains one of the most dynamic talents in all of football. But there’s no reason not to take Reid at this word, which suggests McCoy will be in for “only” 13-15 touches. That’s still a plenty hearty number, but with everything on the line, McCoy might be best suited to your flex spot as opposed to his usual RB1/2.
Quarterback/Pass Catcher Quick Slants: Jordy Nelson (hamstring) still isn’t practicing. At this point, he’ll be hard pressed to return before the playoffs. … Cecil Shorts (concussion) missed Wednesday’s practice...until he didn’t. The Jags somehow mistakenly listed their breakout second-year receiver on the injury report. He will play Sunday, and needs just 75 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. … The Jets will reportedly attempt to trade Mark Sanchez this offseason. They’ll get to that once they’re finished teaching pigs to fly. … Michael Vick reportedly believes he has "another four years left in the NFL," and plans to hold out for a starting job this offseason. We think he’ll be able to get one. … Jay Cutler (neck, knee) is absent from this week’s injury report. … As is Danny Amendola (foot, heel). … Torrey Smith (concussion) has yet to be cleared. … Jets’ second-round pick WR Stephen Hill has been sent to injured reserve with a sprained LCL. A raw speedster out of run-first Georgia Tech, Hill was able to notch just 16 catches for 163 yards in 10 games after exploding for a fluky 5/89/2 line in Week 1. … Brady Quinn (ribs) will be starting in Week 16, after all. That's not good news for Ricky Stanzi, as he apparently isn't good enough to start over Brady Quinn. … Sidney Rice missed Wednesday’s practice with a knee issue. It’s a new injury for Rice, but doesn’t appear to be one that will hold him out against the 49ers.
Running Back Quick Slants: The bad news? Alex Green was a surprise absentee from Wednesday’s practice with a concussion. The good news? Coach Mike McCarthy is “encouraged” he’ll be ready for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. The Packers would be down to Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris and John Kuhn at running back if he wasn’t. … Ahmad Bradshaw (knee) has yet to return to practice. … Daniel Thomas (knee) was sent to injured reserve. … Rashad Jennings (concussion) has yet to be cleared. With Maurice Jones-Drew (knee) still sidelined, look for Montell Owens to start against New England.
Coaching/Front Office Quick Slants: Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli have reportedly been informed they’ll be out at season’s end. … Soon to be ex-Chargers coach Norval Turner is expected to be in the running for “at least” five offensive coordinator positions. … Trent Richardson would be “shocked” if his college coach Nick Saban bolted (back) to the NFL. … Josh McDaniels would reportedly "jump at the chance to coach the Browns.” Tim Tebow time in Cleveland?
Random Thought of the Week/Top Three NFL Teams That Need New Uniforms: Broncos, Texans, Panthers.