Written by Tom Christ, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
The playoffs are here! Hopefully, this season you have utilized the valuable information the 32 Beat Writers have provided all season long to secure a playoff spot in your leagues. Now is the time to make a run. It doesn’t matter if you dominated all season or if you barely squeaked into the playoffs, it’s win or go home. If Joe Flacco and Nick Foles can win a Super Bowl, any team in the fantasy playoffs can win a championship! The week 15 fantasy football injury report is crucial this week to help make the proper roster decisions to advance in the playoffs. As always, more discussion can be found on the Fantasy Injury Team Podcast on all major platforms including Apple and Spotify!
Week 15 Fantasy Football Injury Report: Quarterbacks
Kyler Murray suffered an ACL injury on Monday night. Kyler’s ACL was a textbook, non-contact injury while attempting to cut, where we can see his knee go into vagus (caving inward), and we can see the tibia moving away from the femur.
Murray’s injury occurring in week 15, he will have to work his butt off to be ready for week one next season, just 38.5 weeks away.
Historically, QBs average 46.5 weeks from the time of ACL injury to the first game. This number, of course, can be skewed as the season has a firm starting point. Joe Burrow tore his ACL in week 11 of his rookie season and started week one the following year. However, Carson Wentz injured his ACL in week 14 and did not start week one the following year.
Quick recovery from an ACL injury favors a pocket passer. The challenge of returning from an ACL is often the lateral agility, starting and stopping. These athletic attributes are what make Murray special. Murray is a good pocket passer, but his athleticism is what makes him great. It will be tough for Murray’s legs to be 100% by week one next season, but he should be playing like himself by mid-season.
Wilson was dazed and confused Sunday after having his head planted into the ground while running. Right away, it was obvious that Wilson had suffered a concussion. His eyes were glossy, and he required assistance getting off the field.
Wilson did not practice to start the week, making him a long shot to play this weekend. With the Broncos’ season over, there is no reason for them to rush Wilson back. I discussed concussions in-depth in a previous article, and a summary is seen below:
With a concussion, there are changes in the blood flow and neuron activity within the brain. The damage to brain cells (neurons) leads to inflammation within the brain. However, there is decreased blood flow to the brain. The inflammation and blunted blood flow typically last 7-10 days and is a major part of concussion symptoms. The injury to brain cells can cause the symptoms of impaired alertness, concentration, sensitivity to light and sound, and a variety of other symptoms.
The NFL’s 5-stage return to play protocol is as follows:
Phase 1 – Light Activity: Simple stretching, light aerobic activity without the onset of symptoms
Phase 2 – Aerobic Exercise: 10-20 minutes of light to moderate intensity exercise on a bike or treadmill
Phase 3 – Sport Related Exercise: Sprinting, jumping, agility drills
Phase 4 – Non-Contact Team Drills: All Non-contact drills for the duration of practice
Phase 5 – Full Clearance: Full return to practice without the onset of symptoms.
Similar to Wilson above, Huntley suffered a concussion. Huntley must pass through the same protocol as Wilson. Unlike Wilson, Huntley appears on track as he did practice Wednesday. I mentioned my pessimism for Lamar Jackson’s outlook for the rest of the fantasy season last week as Jackson recovers from a PCL injury. Jackson has not practiced yet, putting Huntley in line for another start. Concussions do not typically have a negative carryover to performance when players return.
Brock Purdy, aka Mr. Irrelevant, has become quite relevant over the past two weeks. Purdy has played great in his two games, stepping in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Purdy himself deals with rib and oblique injuries heading into week 15.
This injury is similar to that of Aaron Rodgers a few weeks ago. Let’s recall how the ribs and obliques impact throwing.
The ribs attach to the thoracic spine (mid and upper back). The thoracic spine is where a large amount of trunk rotation during throwing occurs. During thoracic rotation when throwing, the ribs must also rotate slightly. When injured, the ribs may not have the capacity to rotate as well. This limitation will limit the amount of rotation a quarterback has during the windup or follow-through. Limitations in windup and follow-through will impact throwing power and accuracy.
The oblique’s job is to help the trunk rotate. They contract during both the windup and follow-through phases of throwing and help generate power. If injured, these motions become painful. Pain impacts function; therefore, an oblique injury often leads to less throwing power and accuracy. As Purdy deals with this injury, I would expect fewer deep balls, more dump-offs to McCaffrey, and quick routes to Kittle and Ayiuk.
White is dealing with essentially the same injury as Purdy above, and all the same analysis applies. We can expect White to tough through the injury but likely will not have the same throwing power and may be off-target on some routine passes.
Week 15 Fantasy Football Injury Report: Running Backs
Walker no longer has an injury designation heading into Thursday night’s game against San Fransisco. Pete Carrol was very vague with his description of Walker’s injury, but I wrote last week about how I felt it was likely an ankle impingement.
If correct, this is when the ankle bends in a way that it pinches the tendons of the extensor digitorum longus and extensor hallicus longus muscles, creating pain and swelling but no true damage. I doubt this injury impacts Walker’s fantasy output Thursday night. The challenge for Walker is squaring up against the NFL’s top-rated rush defense.
Stevenson suffered a high ankle sprain on Monday night. High ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula bones become injured. The ligaments holding these bones together are called the Anterior Inferior Talofibular Ligament (AITFL), the Posterior Inferior Talofibular Ligament (PITFL), the Interosseous Membrane (which connects the tibia and fibula together), and the Deltoid ligament. When injury to these ligaments occurs, the tibia and fibula can separate from one another, leading to instability of the ankle. Instability makes it hard to create power when running and cutting.
Grading of the injury depends on how many ligaments are involved (or how much injury to a ligament occurs, there are different grading systems). In Stevenson’s case, he is unlikely to play this week against the Raiders but has not been given a lengthy expected absence. Running backs average missing 2.3 games due to high ankle sprains, but this duration can be much longer. Often when a grade 2 or grade 3 injury occurs, we will be given an expected absence of 4-6 weeks right away. This length of absence has not been reported for Stevenson, providing optimism that he can return for part of the fantasy playoffs.
Historically, running backs’ fantasy production is only moderately impacted when they return from a high ankle sprain, averaging a decline of 0.5 fantasy points. While Stevenson likely won’t play this week, he may be valuable next week or for the fantasy championship.
Like Stevenson above, Pierce is dealing with a high ankle sprain that does not appear to be too serious but is expected to miss week 15. By all reports, Pierce’s injury mimics Stevenson’s, so the same analysis can be applied. While he may miss this week, RB production does not take a significant hit when they return from this injury. Pierce may have value in rounds 2 and 3 of the fantasy playoffs.
Stevenson’s teammate Damien Harris has missed two games with a thigh injury. Harris has returned to practice, creating promise for his week 15 outlook. A thigh injury is going to impact the ability of the quad muscles to create power. Quad activation is essential for running, cutting, and jumping. Historically running backs see an average decline of 2.3 fantasy points compared to the pre-injury baseline when returning from this injury. That said, if Stevenson is unavailable, Harris would step into the lead role against a lousy Raider’s rush defense.
Similar to Harris, Robinson is dealing with a quad injury and was limited to start practice this week. At this time, this does not appear to be much of a concern.
The quad is made up of four strong muscles that are highly involved in running, cutting, jumping, and all athletic motions. A quad injury can slow down a player’s top-end speed, agility, and run power.
Historically, running backs score 2.3 points below their pre-injury average, with only 25% meeting or exceeding their pre-injury average in their first game after a quad injury. For a running back averaging 9.2 points per game, a decline of 2.3 would be significant. Fantasy players should monitor Washingtons’ practice reports and consider their options at running back.
Wilson is dealing with a vague hip injury and has not practiced this week. At this time, there is not much information on what Wilson’s hip injury is, however, any hip injury has the potential to impact speed and agility. Speed and agility are essential traits for a running back.
We will continue to monitor Wilson’s practice involvement and provide updates on Twitter on his availability this week.
Harris did not practice Wednesday with a hip injury. Like Wilson, the Steelers are not giving us much information on his hip injury, so the same analysis as Wilson above applies.
Harris has health with a number of minor injuries all season but has managed to play every week. It is unlikely that this injury puts his week 15 status in jeopardy.
Week 15 Fantasy Football Injury Report: Wide Receivers
Higgins frustrated fantasy players last week after playing one snap due to re-aggravating his hamstring injury. Unfortunately, this is often how hamstrings go. A previous hamstring injury increases the risk for a re-injury by 2.7x. Hamstrings create a powerful contraction with sprinting, especially when accelerating from 80-100% of a sprint. This is why we see so many receivers with hamstring injuries, as they have the space to get up to 100%.
Receivers average missing 1.8 games and see a decline of 2.8 fantasy points in their first game after a hamstring injury. Higgins has practiced in a limited capacity to start this week and will be one to monitor before Sunday. The challenge is that Higgins is an elite player, and it is hard to bench him. A decline of 2.8 points for a player of Higgins caliber is no big deal. However, we now cannot trust Cincinnati’s word on Higgins’s involvement this week. Additionally, Cincinnati may choose to be cautious with his return as they gear up for another playoff run. If Higgins plays, I cannot blame anyone for starting the star receiver, but caution is advocated.
Sutton is also dealing with a hamstring injury and did not practice to start the week. With the Broncos playing for nothing, there is no reason for them to rush Sutton back to the field. Sutton is hard to trust for the rest of the fantasy season.
Deebo suffered a scary-looking injury and was carted off the field last weekend. Fortunately, Samuel suffered only minor injuries to the MCL and ankle. Present reports suggest he may be back by week 18. This, however, does not help fantasy players.
The MCL is designed to prevent the knee from caving inward while cutting. When injured, there is a great deal of swelling that inhibits knee motion, making the knee stiff and painful. Additionally, depending on the severity of the injury, laxity (loss of stability) may occur. This would render an athlete more prone to further injury, such as an ACL tear. Lastly, the combination of pain, swelling, and laxity impact an athlete’s ability to run and cut. The MCL does have a good blood supply, allowing it the ability to heal well. Receivers average missing 2.8 games and score 4.2 points below their pre-injury average in the first game after an MCL injury.
Deebo’s ankle injury looked like a high ankle sprain, though some reports dispute that. We can see the defender roll up on his ankle from behind and the outside. This is the classic mechanism of injury for a high ankle sprain. A high ankle sprain would impact an athlete’s ability to push off firmly while running and cutting.
Each of these injuries in isolation would be a challenge for Deebo to return in the remaining fantasy season. In combination, there is very little chance that Deebo will be effective for fantasy again this year. The good news is there is no reason to expect him not to be ready for week one next year!
Hill is dealing with a minor ankle injury but was a full participant on Wednesday. At this time, there is no concern about his week 15 availability. Ankle injuries do impact lateral agility and quickness, which is what makes Hill elite. Additionally, the weather forecast in Buffalo this weekend is calling for snowy conditions on Saturday. A slippery surface would pose more of a challenge for an injured ankle to gain proper traction. That said, Hill is elite, you simply cannot even consider sitting him.
Cooks is not practicing to start the week as he deals with a calf injury. The calf muscles are highly involved in running, cutting, sprinting, jumping, and all athletic moves. When athletes sprint, usually only the forefoot strikes the ground, and they stay in a plantarflexed (toes pointed down) position. The calves are the muscles that plantarflex the ankle, and therefore when sprinting they are constantly contracting. Infact, they function like a spring, bending and recoiling to produce movement. An injury to the calf impacts its ability to maintain this spring like property, therefore impacting speed and agility.
Receivers see a significant dip in their fantasy production after calf injuries, averaging a decline of 5.3 points compared to pre-injury baseline. If Cooks suits up this week, he will be hard to trust despite a nice matchup against Kansas City.
Moore injured his ankle in week 14 but began the week as a full participant in practice. The specifics of Moore’s ankle injury are unclear, but any type of ankle injury could impact a player’s lateral agility and deep speed. Speed and agility are Moore’s game, so it would not be surprising for his numbers to take a hit this week. He has been unreliable all season, and this certainly does not help his week 15 outlook.
Moore surprisingly was placed on the IR today, ending his 2022 season. Moore, who has dealt with a groin injury, should have no trouble being ready for week one next season. This comes as a surprise as receivers average missing only 1.5 games due to this injury.
Davis is in the concussion protocol, and did not practice Wednesday. Not practicing Wednesday does not bode well for his week 15 outlook. Fantasy players will have to continue to monitor his progress.
Week 15 Fantasy Football Injury Report: Tight Ends
Goedert was activated from the IR today and has an outside chance of playing on Sunday against Chicago. Details of Goederts injury never emerged, but the video is suggestive of an anterior dislocation, likely with a labrum tear.
In the video, we can clearly see the defender falls on the back of the top part of Goedert’s shoulder, and his arm lands on the front of Goedert’s upper arm, creating a fulcrum to pop the shoulder out of the socket. This type of injury can be managed conservatively, with rehab to re-train the rotator cuff muscles to compensate for the injured labrum and the use of external support such as a shoulder harness or tape.
I would not expect any decline in fantasy output from Goedert when he returns from this injury. Re-injury risk is a possibility, however. With the Eagles playing the miserable Chicago Bears this week, I would not be surprised if they let Goedert rest one more week before a divisional battle against Dallas on Christmas Eve.
Be sure to check out the Fantasy Injury Team Podcast, available on all major platforms for more information!