With the fantasy playoffs on the horizon now is the time for fantasy owners to start making some difficult decisions. Don't hesitate to drop an injured player even if you used a high draft pick on them. A player that doesn't accumulate points because they are dressed in street clothes cannot and will not help you win a league title. Carefully evaluate the severity of each injury and try to put personal feelings aside when electing to keep or cut a hobbled player.
Fantasy owners who used their first round pick on San Francisco's Frank Gore can drop the running back without hesitation, as Gore will miss the remainder of the season with a broken hip. Gore suffered a fractured right hip early Monday night. The severity of the injury is unknown but is significant enough to end Gore's year. Veteran Brian Westbrook took over for Gore and carved up the Arizona defense for 136 yards and a touchdown. The former Philadelphia stalwart becomes a viable fantasy option and should be scooped up immediately.
The situation isn't as cut and dry in Minnesota as the availability of running back Adrian Peterson remains up in the air. Peterson exited Minnesota's win over Washington after rolling his right ankle. The athletic training staff taped the ankle but elected to keep Peterson from returning to the game. The Pro Bowl running back later admitted the ankle was unbearably painful and throbbing by the end of the game. Throbbing is generally the result of swelling and inflammation as the body's natural line of defense floods the area with interstitial fluid. Ankle injuries can be tricky, particularly for running backs. Just ask Ryan Mathews owners who have seen the San Diego rookie sit for three games and limp his way through a handful of others. Peterson underwent a MRI on Monday that revealed no substantial structural damage. However Peterson will need to control the swelling and be able to move smoothly on the ankle before he is a safe play. Keep an eye on Peterson's participation in practice and expect a dreaded game-time decision.
The uncertainty of the situation makes Peterson's replacement Toby Gerhart a must-add in all formats even though he suffered a stinger in the Washington game. Stingers occur when a bundle of nerves in the shoulder, known as the brachial plexus, are put on tension and overstretched. A stinger or burner can happen in varying degrees of severity and Gerhart's appears to be on the minor side of the scale. If Peterson cannot suit up, look for Gerhart to be an active participant in the Minnesota offense. Fortunately for the Vikings they are set to take on the Buffalo Bills, a defense that ranks dead last in the league at stopping the run with 167 yards surrendered per game.
Dallas running back Marion Barber is expected to miss at least one week of action after suffering a strained calf muscle in the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day loss to the Saints. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles make up the calf and point the foot downward in direction known as plantar flexion. Calf injuries are fairly common in the NFL as the foot is forcibly pushed upward by turf or excessive force from an opponent. Forcing the muscle in the opposite way of its designed motion often causes the muscle to become overstretched and in some cases torn, resulting in a strain. Barber is listed as questionable for Week 13 when the Cowboys travel to Indianapolis. Expect to see more of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice in the coming weeks as Barber is allotted time to recover.
San Diego's Vincent Jackson didn't make it to halftime in his highly-anticipated return to action, suffering strains to both his calves. While some in the media aren't buying the injury as legit, it is reasonable to suggest the injuries occurred because Jackson's body was not ready or used to the speed of an actual game. While teams tend to practice hard, it is impossible to recreate the speed and energy required for a real game. Keep an eye on Jackson's workload this week at practice but it is hard to have confidence in guy who has yet to provide fantasy owners with anything but headaches.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is nursing a sprained right foot suffered in his team's overtime win over the Bills. The foot is compromised of four arches and four layers of muscles. Each arch and layer works together to support the body and absorb the various amounts of force placed through the foot with weight bearing and other activity. Multiple ligaments help arrange the various arches and are susceptible to being sprained if the foot is forcibly driven into the ground, exactly what Roethlisberger described when asked to detail the injury. The treatment is similar to that of a sprained ankle and will likely limit the quarterback throughout the week of practice. He is currently wearing a walking boot in order to better protect the injury. Nevertheless with the top of the AFC North hanging in the balance expect Big Ben to suit up against the Ravens. However, given the injury and Baltimore's effective defense, consider looking elsewhere for Week 13.
Oakland tight end Zach Miller has limped through the last four games with a tear in the plantar fascia on the bottom of his left arch. Plantar fascia injuries are difficulty to overcome, slow to heal, and tend to linger. While Miller was a top-rated tight end earlier in the year he has been nonexistent since suffering the injury in Week 8. Miller's injury is the same injury that is limiting his Week 13 counterpart, Antonio Gates. While he was held to a modest four catches for 46 yards after a two-game absence, Gates reported an improvement on Monday and is a much safer option than Miller. Scale back your expectations for both and consider dropping Miller for a more reliable option.
Giants receiver Steven Smith remains sidelined with a partially torn pectoral muscle. Smith had originally targeted Week 13 as his return date but is still experiencing muscle weakness. He should be available the following week when the G-men travel to Minnesota.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.