There's no such thing as good timing with an injury, especially in fantasy football. However, severe injuries that occur in the final weeks of the season can often effect two seasons as rehab and recovery can carry over through the offseason and into the following year. Several notable players suffered injuries in Week 16 that could affect their draft position in 2013.
The Steelers will finish out the year without Miller who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. The Pro Bowl tight end also sprained his medical collateral ligament (MCL) and likely his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) as well. The ACL and PCL are located within the joint and are orientated in a crossing pattern similar to the letter X. Together they prevent forward and backward movement of the lower leg bones on the upper leg bone. Often when one is significantly sprained so is the other and both are repaired together during surgery. The MCL and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) provide additional support on the outer aspect of the knee, stabilizing the side-to-side movements of the knee. They heal better on their own and do not always need surgical intervention.
Miller's injury will require surgery and be accompanied by a lengthy rehab. Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in Week 15 of the 2011 season and was able to play eight months later. However, Peterson's remarkable comeback following surgery is the exception not the rule. Miller's situation is likely more comparable to New England's Wes Welker, who suffered an ACL tear in Week 19 of the 2009 season was able to play the following season but struggled at times and didn't completely rebound until 2011. Even though it remains possible for Miller to be ready for the season opener in 2012, the injuries should knock him down a few spots on next year's draft boards.
Palmer has been somewhat of a fantasy surprise in 2012 but won't be on the field for Week 17 after taking a hard hit from Carolina's Greg Hardy. Hardy led with his helmet on the play and the top of his head struck Palmer in the midsection. He left the field and was taken to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with fractured ribs and a bruised lung. Any injury to internal organ has to be handled with the utmost care and cracked ribs are extremely painful. However, both injuries will heal relatively quickly and Palmer shouldn't be affected in the long-term. In the meantime, the Raiders remain noncommittal to their quarterback for the season finale. Both Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor are available. Leinart's uninspired play filling in for the injured Palmer opened the door for Pryor to make his first start as an NFL quarterback. Neither player is a safe play, but Pryor's ability to run would give him the most upside.
Forte reinjured his troublesome right ankle in Week 16 but not before collecting 95 total yards and a touchdown. Forte has dealt with ankle issues throughout the season and was seen wearing a walking boot after the game. The presence of a walking boot isn't always the best indicator of the severity of the injury. Often a protective boot is used to minimize the stress placed through the foot and ankle while allowing the injured athlete to ambulate without the need of crutches. It can be used for both severe and minor sprains alike. Given that that Bears' playoff hopes come down to Week 17, I suspect we see Forte in uniform. However, keep a close eye on his availability during this week's practice before inserting him into your starting lineup.
Foster experienced a scary situation Sunday in the team's loss to the Vikings. After rushing for 15 yards on 10 carries, Foster was removed from the game with an irregular heartbeat. Although Foster was cleared to return, the team elected to play it safe and keep their leading rusher out for the remainder of the game. Foster has since visited with a cardiologist and all tests were normal. An irregular heartbeat can occur as the result of multiple factors, some more serious than others. An arrhythmia associated with a heart attack or structural changes within the heart can be life-threatening, but other less-severe factors, including fatigue and electrolyte imbalance, can also cause the irregularity. If Foster has already been cleared than it is safe to say his irregular heartbeat is not considered serious and was likely the result of a minor issue. The Texans have stated Foster will suit up in Week 17 but don't be shocked if they limit his carries, especially if the score gets out of hand.
Randall Cobb: Cobb suffered an injured ankle returning a punt in Green Bay's blowout win over the Titans. However, the Packers seem optimistic he will play in the last game of the regular season, and coach Mike McCarthy said he has no plans of taking Cobb off special teams. With the possibility of a first-round bye still on the table, look for Cobb to play if the ankle injury is as minor as the Packers are suggesting.
Nick Foles: A fractured right hand will sideline Foles for the team's upcoming game against the Giants. Foles suffered a hairline fracture to his second metacarpal but will not require surgery. The injury opens the door for Michael Vick to return as the starting quarterback. However, Vick remains a risky play with the Eagles facing a Giants team fighting for their playoff lives.
Mario Manningham: Manningham will miss the remainder of the season and, like Miller, suffered an injury that will affect his 2013 value. He tore the ACL and PCL in his left knee and will undergo surgery in the near future.
Cecil Shorts: Jacksonville placed their emerging wide receiver on the injured reserve after he suffered his second concussion of the season. The is a wise move. Even if Shorts could complete the NFL concussion protocol for the second time, wide receivers are the position most prone to concussions and making him extremely vulnerable to a career-changing head injury. Justin Blackmon's stock improves, making him a viable option for Week 17.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for RotoWire.
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