As we spiral towards Week 5, make sure you’re up on Evan Silva’s appointment TNF reading, and the Lord’s Worksheet for your Thursday roster decisions. Like usual, we’ll take this midway point of the week to digest all of the early injury news for the upcoming slate.
Let’s hit it.
Rob Gronkowski was a late add to the Patriots injury report on Wednesday, as New England cited a thigh ailment for his limited practice. Gronk made the trip to Tampa Bay for TNF, however. In typical Bill Belichick fashion, the Pats’ have been mute on the severity of Gronk’s injury -- but this is the first time he’s been limited with a thigh injury this year. Gronk tweaked his groin earlier this year, too. It’s worth noting that, historically, Patriots players listed as “questionable” on the injury report played 77% of the time. Gronk is in a pristine matchup in Week 5 as the Bucs' are facing the fourth-most tight end targets per game (8.30). Plus, over the past five years, Gronk has averaged 1.0 receiving touchdowns per contest in games set with an over/under of 49.5 or above. The team total in Patriots-Bucs sits at 55.
The Packers' injury report has been a mess this season, but they may get healthy in a hurry for Week 5. Ty Montgomery (ribs) practiced on Wednesday, while Davante Adams (concussion) was limited, and Jamaal Williams (knee) suited up in full. Montgomery and Adams' involvement in practice on Wednesday was a real surprise. Media reports after the Packers' TNF home game vs. Chicago in Week 4 mentioned that Montgomery could be out a few weeks, but it sounds like he has a real shot to play in Dallas for Week 5. Meanwhile, it's incredible that Davante Adams was back on a limited basis on Wednesday after taking an unnecessary hit over the middle from Bears' LB Danny Trevathan. All three of Montgomery, Adams, and Jamaal Williams may not miss any games at all. Those Week 5 Aaron Jones waiver pickups look like they were all for naught.
In other positive injury news, Michael Crabtree (chest) returned to practice on Wednesday, and the Raiders are "optimistic" that he'll play in Week 5. It's a great sign. The bad news for the banged-up Crabtree and the slumping Amari Cooper is that E.J. Manuel will start under center against Baltimore this week. The thing about EJ Manuel is that he is, in fact, not good at football. (End of analysis.) Seriously, though -- Manuel owns a 2.8% interception rate and has absorbed a sack on 7.2% of his dropbacks during his career. For reference, Manuel's career interception rate would have ranked seventh-worst in 2016 while his sack rate would have ranked fourth-worst. Even though the Raiders at home and favored, this is a brutal opening start for Manuel and the Raiders’ pass offense. Through the opening month, the Ravens’ secondary has allowed the second-lowest completion rate, they own the league’s fourth-lowest adjusted yards per attempt average, and are 2nd in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA. Oakland needs Amari Cooper to step up and Michael Crabtree to get healthy in a hurry.
Despite beat writers and Jets' OC John Morton insisting New York would roll out a timeshare without Matt Forte (turf toe), the opposite came true in Week 4. With 66% of team snaps and 64% of team carries, Bilal Powell led rookie Elijah McGuire by a decent margin last week. As a result, Powell shredded the Jags for 21/163/1 rushing and 4/27 (on five targets) receiving in Week 4, earning his fourth top-10 weekly running back performance with Forte out (or severely limited). McGuire showed well, too, smashed the Jags for 10/98/1 rushing (and 2/38 receiving), but Powell appears to be the lead back based on usage. Matt Forte is still not practicing.The Jets travel to Cleveland in Week 5 to face a Browns team that has played stout run defense to-date, permitting the fourth-fewest yards per carry (3.08) so far against the Steelers, Ravens, Colts, and Bengals. Just like last week, even if the game script goes awry, Bilal Powell will get involved as a pass catcher. In now five games without Forte limited (or out) dating back to 2016, Powell is averaging 5.40 targets per contest.
Lastly, Marcus Mariota (hamstring) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Titans' HC Mike Mularkey said that Tennessee is "holding out hope" that Mariota can play in Week 5, but it sounds like he is more "doubtful" than "questionable." As a result, Matt Cassel took all first-team practice reps on Wednesday. Across 61 pass attempts since signing with the Titans in 2016, Cassel has thrown four interceptions, absorbed seven sacks, and is averaging an abysmal 2.70 adjusted yards per pass attempt. The entire Titans’ offense takes a massive hit with Cassel under center. Over the past three years, Marcus Mariota has missed five games. In his five missed contests, the Titans are averaging 1.04 offensive points per drive versus 1.94 points per drive when Mariota plays.
Offensive Quick Hits
Rex Burkhead (ribs) is out for Week 5 against the Buccaneers … Buccaneers SS T.J. Ward (hip) is doubtful for Week 5 against the Patriots. … Andrew Luck (shoulder) is out for Week 5 against the 49ers. … Kelvin Benjamin (knee) did not practice on Wednesday, but he should be fine to play in Week 5. … Coach Pete Carroll said Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are "going to take the load" at running back moving forward. … Paul Perkins (ribs) practiced on Wednesday. … Both Tyler Eifert (back) and John Ross (knee) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. … Wendell Smallwood (knee) did not practice Wednesday. … Marqise Lee (ribs) didn't practice on Wednesday. … Mike Williams (back) is out for Week 5 against the Giants.
Defensive Quick Hits
No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett (ankle) is expected to make his NFL debut in Week 5 against the Jets. … Cardinals first-rounder Haason Reddick will move to outside linebacker after the season-ending ACL tear to OLB Markus Golden. … NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Josh Norman suffered a broken rib and damage to the lining of his lung in the Week 4 loss to the Chiefs. Norman could be back for Week 6 after the Redskins Week 5 bye. … Seahawks coach Pete Carroll suggested DE Cliff Avril's neck injury could be career ending. Frank Clark will pick up Avril’s snaps for the duration of his injury.