Happy holidays! For those of you who celebrate Christmas, this can be a stressful time of year. On top of all the gift shopping and holiday parties, there’s also the stress of playing in a fantasy football championship. One great performance (ahem, Todd Gurley) can have you singing carols like it’s the best Christmas ever, while a heartbreaking loss can have you wiping away tears with the shredded remains of wrapping paper. Whether you’re cheering or crying this week, there’s a good chance that your fantasy season is over. However, for a select few, the season marches on – most likely because you’re still fighting for a championship (yay!) and definitely because your league plays through Week 17 (boo!). Playing fantasy football in Week 17 has long been considered a foolish pursuit since a handful of teams tend to rest their starters, but for those who have the misfortune of playing in that type of league, we’re still here to help. Although a few fantasy studs may sit out in the final week of the regular season, there are also some solid waiver wire players who may earn starting opportunities due to injury. Here’s everything we know about this week’s injuries, including the fantasy impact:
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
Murray left Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams with a right leg injury during Tennessee’s final drive. He was helped off the field and couldn’t put any weight on his leg. After the game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the initial exam on Murray’s knee revealed an LCL sprain. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport subsequently reported that Murray is considered a long-shot to play in Week 17.
It seems that this injury will bring an end to Murray’s frustrating and inefficient regular season, but the good news for Tennessee is that it has a capable backup in second-year running back Derrick Henry. The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner has averaged a solid 4.7 yards per carry this season, compared to just 3.6 yards per carry for Murray. Henry will have a tough matchup against Jacksonville in Week 17, but he should receive a bell-cow workload, making him a high-floor RB2 option. Pick him up and start him if he’s available in your league.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Mixon left Sunday’s game against Detroit with an ankle injury in the first quarter. He was taken to the locker room and listed as questionable to return, but he did not re-enter the game.
Cincinnati has not given an update on Mixon’s injury, so his availability for Week 17 is unknown at this point. However, because Cincinnati has nothing to play for, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them opt to rest their talented rookie. If that happens, fifth-year back Giovani Bernard would once again step in as the starter. With Mixon’s recent injuries, Bernard has received a ton of playing time over the last three weeks, averaging 16 carries for 69 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game, while also adding 5.3 catches for 44 yards per game during that span. Those numbers suggest that he can be a high-end RB2 against Baltimore in Week 17. Pick him up if he’s available, and start him if Mixon is out.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Gordon suffered a left ankle injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, and he did not return for the Chargers’ final drive. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said that Gordon’s foot is in a walking boot and that his Week 17 availability is in question.
We’ll likely have to wait until the end of the week to know Gordon’s status, but with the Chargers still in the playoff hunt, the team has every incentive to put him on the field if he’s anywhere close to healthy. If Gordon is unable to play in Week 17, then Branden Oliver would most likely step in as the starter. Since pass-catching back Austin Ekeler has been limited to special teams due to a broken ring finger, there’s also a good chance that Oliver would receive a bell-cow workload. Although Oliver hasn’t received much playing time this season and has been unexceptional in the past, the workhorse role in a decent matchup (against Oakland) would make him a reasonable flex option.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Engram left Sunday’s game against Arizona with an abdominal injury in the first quarter. He was originally listed as questionable to return, but he was later ruled out with a rib injury.
Engram’s Week 17 availability is unclear at this point, so you’ll want to monitor the Giants’ practice reports closely. If the productive rookie is unable to go next week, then sixth-year tight end Rhett Ellison is likely to get the most work. With Engram out, Ellison led the team with 60 receiving yards on Sunday, hauling in four of his seven targets. Ellison has been a starter for most of the season due to his ability as a blocker, but Engram’s injury could pave the way for a productive receiving outing against the porous Washington defense in Week 17. Still, it’s difficult to trust anything about the Giants offense right now, and second-year tight end Jerell Adams (who had four catches for 31 yards on Sunday) is also likely to get mixed in. Consider Ellison a TE2 who can be started in deep leagues.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Nelson left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. After landing on his shoulder during a 5-yard reception, he remained in the game for one more play before taking himself out. He did not return.
The severity of Nelson’s injury is unknown at this point, but regardless of his health, he has been unstartable in fantasy ever since Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 6. If Nelson is unable to go in Week 17, then Randall Cobb would be the only starting receiver remaining for the team, unless Davante Adams can clear the concussion protocol in time. If Adams comes back, he has proved that he’s at least a WR2. If he doesn’t make it back, then Cobb could be a solid volume-based FLEX against Detroit next week, especially in points per reception leagues. Still, running back Jamaal Williams is likely the only Green Bay player you want to trust in Week 17, and Aaron Jones’ continued battle with a knee injury only further cements Williams’ status as an RB2.