Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trust or Fade: Thursday Slate Injury Expectations

Steve Buzzard and I will be collaborating every Saturday on a feature spotlighting the week’s injury concerns. By Friday, we’ll have a full week of practice participation reports and media interviews to more accurately drill down on whether a player is likely to play, and play effectively, on Sunday.

But that doesn’t help you exploit injury edges in your Thursday-Sunday lineups.

So, I’ll be giving a quick “trust or fade” recommendation on the blog each week after the Wednesday practice participation report is released. It’ll be based on incomplete information, but I’m hoping to keep you from starting a player who is likely to be ineffective or take a smart risk on a player who others may be avoiding unnecessarily.

You’ll also want to check out our full midweek injury feature from Craig Zumsteg when it goes live late Wednesday night on our season-long article page.

Thursday Night Football Expectation

There are no questionable injury plays in tonight's game. Crockett Gilmore is the only skill position player with an injury concern and he's already been declared out. Your decisions on whether to roster or fade a Thursday night player should be entirely based on statistical expectation and salary.

Trust or Fade?

As of Wednesday night, I'd strongly recommend fading Andre Ellington, LeSean McCoy, and Sammy Watkins. Watkins and McCoy are likely out and I think Ellington is unlikely to play. Even if Ellington is active, his workload will be significantly limited.

Andrew Luck 9100  >>>>  (Shoulder | Limited)

In his Wednesday press conference, Chuck Pagano was adamant Luck will play on Sunday, but without knowing the specifics of Luck's shoulder injury, it's difficult to confidently make a recommendation. If you're risk averse, you should probably fade and wait for more information later in the week and hope to find a spot for Luck in your Sunday slate lineups. If you're willing to take on a little risk, Luck will undoubtedly be very low owned after three atypical performances and his appearance on the injury report.

Marshawn Lynch 8600  >>>>  (Hamstring | MNF / Thursday Practice Pending)
Cash: FADE

Don't risk Lynch in your Thursday slate cash lineups. I think there may be something to the argument Lynch was held out as a precaution last week, but we won't know that before Thursday roster lock. Pete Carroll called Lynch 50-50 to play on Wednesday and there are multiple nagging injuries (calf and back with the hamstring concern) capable of holding Lynch back on Monday night. Consider a little exposure in Thursday GPP, but Lynch shouldn't be a core play there either.

Julio Jones 9400  >>>>  (Hamstring/Toe | DNP)

I'm worried we're getting close to a tipping point with the cascade of injuries on Jones. Fighting through a nagging hamstring strain that has now limited him in two games, Jones added a toe injury last week. It's impossible to recommend fading Jones after watching him hobble his way to 25 catches on 35 targets over the past two weeks, and the minor questions around Antonio Brown (no Roethlisberger) and Odell Beckham (facing Stephon Gilmore) make Jones attractive in GPPs despite what's likely to be high ownership.

Arian Foster 8000  >>>>  (Groin | Limited)
Cash: FADE

These recommendations are likely to change by Sunday as I think Foster will play this week and see 15+ touches. But there's no reason to risk Foster in a Thursday cash lineup before knowing his Friday practice participation. Limited exposure in Thursday GPPs is reasonable. In his first game back last year, Foster's huge game propelled those bold enough to roster him to huge weeks in GPPs.

Alshon Jeffery 7600  >>>>  (Hamstring | Limited)
Cash: FADE

When a skill position player has missed multiple weeks of practice with a mid-grade muscle strain, I want to see a few consecutive practices before feeling comfortable using them in a lineup. That's where we are with Jeffery, who's already had one reconditioning injury this year.

Drew Brees 8400  >>>>  (Shoulder | Limited)
Cash: FADE

There's more optimism around Brees this week than last. Vegas making the Saints a sizable favorite is also telling. But until we're certain Brees' practice throwing regimen hasn't caused a recurrence of pain and weakness, he can't be trusted in a lineup.

DeMarco Murray 7600  >>>>  (Hamstring | Limited)
Cash: FADE

Murray may get back to a full practice by the end of the week, but there's a high risk of an aggravation while he reconditions this week and there's no reason to expect anything less than a heavy rotation with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles if Murray is on the active gameday roster.

Check back on Friday for our Injury Spotlight and Lineup Recommendation feature. Until then, follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking analysis on practice participation and media interviews. Finally, on Sunday morning, I’ll be adapting my Injury Expectations column for this blog to help navigate any tricky game time decisions.


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