Matt Forte and Jay Cutler
A Bears team that, just weeks ago, seemed set to threaten the Packers is unraveling as their top two offensive weapons are sidelined with injuries. Cutler, out since Week 11 with a fractured right thumb that required surgery, recently admitted the injury could keep him out for the remainder of the year. The tricky thing with finger and wrist injuries is x-rays and even MRIs may not pick up the extent of a fracture until the remodeling of the bone is present in the image. It seems likely Cutler's injury is cut and dry, but his next appointment with team physicians should serve as better indicator of if he will play again in 2011.
A difficult situation got worse this weekend as Forte limped off the field with a right knee injury. Initial reports feared an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear but a MRI taken Monday revealed a sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) without ACL involvement. The results are a good news, bad news situation. The good news is the ACL is not torn and surgical intervention will not be required. The recommended rehab associated with ACL reconstruction at this junction of the season would easily spill into training camp and next season. For Forte, a free agent-to-be, this would have cost him tons of money on the open market. However a MCL can heal without surgery and shouldn't be a major sticking point in team's interested in signing the Tulane product.
Now on to the bad news. Forte's injury is classified as a Grade II sprain, meaning it is an incomplete tear. Reports suggest he will be out between two to six weeks and it's safe to bet it will be on the longer end of that estimation. With only four weeks left in the season, Forte's fantasy value takes a nosedive. There's no guarantee he will be available for the fantasy playoffs and if the Bears see their playoff chances continue to fall they will be less inclined to play Forte and Cutler. Marion Barber will take over in the Chicago backfield but shouldn't be counted on to put up Forte-like numbers. He struggled his last two seasons in Dallas as his physical style took its toll on his body. It's hard to imagine he will do much damage with the hard-hitting Denver defense on tap in Week 14.
Like the Bears, the Texans know a thing or two about injuries this season. With Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Schaub's replacement Matt Leinart all already out for the season, their top receiver is again hampered by a hamstring injury. Johnson missed six games earlier this year with a right hamstring strain and is now listed as day-to-day with a left hamstring strain. We've seen this before with Dallas' Miles Austin and it's possible that the second strain is the result of an imbalance developed during rehabilitation of the first injury.
The new strain isn't as serious as the earlier injury but is still very problematic. A weakened left hamstring could cause Johnson to overcompensate and place more stress and force through his previously injured right hamstring, making it vulnerable to reinjury. Johnson will likely be limited in practice and be a game-time decision. However any fantasy owners willing to play Johnson are taking a calculated gamble that he will be able to make it through an entire game.
The Vikings quarterback is day-to-day with a hip pointer sustained in the loss to the Broncos. A hip pointer occurs when the side of the hip is bruised following a direct hit. The area generally contused is the iliac crest, the bony ridge you feel if you place your hands on your hips. A hip bruise bone may not sound serious but a hip pointer can be very painful and often extremely tender to touch, primarily because a nerve runs along the crest. The pain alone can be very limiting but there is often associated muscle limitation, particularly the groin muscles. Look for Ponder to spend some additional time with the athletic training staff in the early portions of the week. If he remains limited on Friday and into the weekend, it may be time to consider Joe Webb.
Miles Austin: The Cowboys are set to welcome Austin back into the fold just in time for a Sunday night matchup against the Giants. Austin's spent four weeks rehabbing his second hamstring injury of the year.
Josh Freeman: The Buccaneers remain tight-lipped on the shoulder injury that kept Freeman out last week but are optimistic the young quarterback returns for their upcoming game against the Jaguars. Monitor Freeman's load during the week before playing him with confidence.
Jeremy Maclin: Maclin is planning on practicing Wednesday in hopes of playing Sunday after missing three weeks with a hamstring strain and a shoulder sprain. The shoulder sprain can be aided by a shoulder spica or wrap but could limit his range of motion. The hamstring strain is the bigger cause for concern and will be the thing to watch during his first few days back at practice.
Darren McFadden: Oakland's Week 15 game against the Lions is emerging as the most likely date for McFadden's return to action from a mid-foot sprain. He did not practice Monday and remains a long-shot for this week's game against Green Bay.
Kyle Orton: Orton's Kansas City debut last one play after he suffered a dislocated right index finger during a flea-flicker. Fortunately he was not placed in a cast, suggesting the injury isn't an open dislocation or needs surgery. However the Chiefs remain Tyler Palko's team moving forward.
Adrian Peterson: Peterson is nearing a return but will need to return to practice and test out his injured ankle before he can be considered game-ready. Even then fantasy owners will keep Detroit's Kevin Smith in the back of their minds. Smith, who suffered a similar injury, aggravated the ankle last week and missed a majority of the Lions loss to the Saints.
Michael Vick: Vick has returned to practice and is likely to start in Week 14 against the Dolphins. The Eagles quarterback is expected to wear a protective vest to protect his still healing broken ribs.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.