By Sunday night, the matchup for Super Bowl XLIX will be set in stone, as the AFC and NFC Championship games come to a head this weekend. The Indianapolis Colts travel to Foxboro to play the New England Patriots, while the defending champion Seattle Seahawks play host to the Green Bay Packers in the Pacific Northwest.
For those taking part in the action over at FanDuel and DraftKings, there are a handful of injuries to discuss ahead of Sunday's games. From Aaron Rodgers' calf to Brandon LaFell's shoulder, we've got you covered for week 20.
Conference Championship Injury Roundup
Aaron Rodgers continues to be limited in practice by the calf injury he sustained in December. The sore muscle is in no way, shape, or form going to call Rodgers' NFC championship game status into question, but may affect him against Seattle's smothering defense. A healthy Rodgers struggled at times in the Pack's season-opening 36-16 loss to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, on a night where the 31-year-old mostly settled for the safe throws while hoping to avoid pressure and tight coverage from the Legion of Boom. Rodgers went 23-33 for 189 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception, a quarterback rating of 81.5, and was sacked 3 times. Seattle will surely look to bring the heat up front in an attempt to make Rodgers move around in the pocket. They can afford to rely on their downfield coverage from the secondary while disguising blitzes in the front 7. Coach Mike McCarthy insists that his quarterback looks much better than he did at this time a week ago, so there is hope that the injury will not hinder his mobility as it has in the last three games. Rodgers, when healthy, is very mobile and has the added element of being able to pull the ball down and scramble when the pocket congests and he finds an escape lane. Look for more snaps out of the shotgun from the Packers' offense. In addition, weather conditions should be ideal to attempt to get the ground game going against the tough Seattle defense, which would help take some pressure off of Rodgers while simultaneously forcing Seattle to commit numbers to stop the run. While all systems here are a 'go,' if anything were to force Rodgers from the game, former Seahawk Matt Flynn would be the next man up under center for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers will play against Seattle as he continues to battle a nagging calf injury.
Speaking of the Packers' run game, RB Eddie Lacy's asthma should not be an issue this week as it was in Green Bay's divisional playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys last weekend. Lacy's health issues can be magnified by cold weather, and he was forced from last week's game for stretches, though he still managed to put up a 19 carry, 101 yard and 1 touchdown performance against the Cowboys. Lacy was pulled from Green Bay's Thursday practice with a knee complaint and was subsequently added to the team's injury report, though McCarthy insisted he expects Lacy to be fine. "I was just being conservative, so I pulled him in the middle of the practice," McCarthy said. It's something to file away, as Lacy will have a tough matchup on his hands against Seattle's stout defense. Nevertheless, he should be in line for a giant role on Sunday.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, will not have the services of rookie wideout Paul Richardson, lost for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered against Carolina in the divisional round. Richardson, who seemed to be coming on late in the season, will be racing against time to be fit for the start of the 2015 campaign, due to the timing of his unfortunate injury. The team has high hopes for Richardson, but it is worth noting that the injury occurred to the same knee which he hurt while in college at Colorado. Even if healthy, the 22-year-old was unlikely to be much of a worthwhile fantasy play this weekend. Brandon LaFell will continue to fight through his shoulder injury and play against the Colts.
One player who is likely to suit up for the 'Hawks this weekend is tight end Tony Moeaki, who missed last week's win over the Panthers with a calf injury. Moeaki has been practicing in full this week, and should return to his number 2 TE duties behind Luke Willson, who has blossomed into one of QB Russell Wilson's favorite targets. Moeaki, who has skills for days but an equally impressive injury history, will be a touchdown-dependent play this weekend.
Brandon LaFell continues to battle the shoulder injury that has bothered him throughout the season. The LSU alum has also been dealing with a toe injury and remains limited in practice, but neither ailment will keep the Patriots receiver out of Sunday's AFC championship game against the Colts. LaFell, who has enjoyed a career year in his debut year with New England, should continue to operate as one of Tom Brady's top targets behind Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. This game has a certain 'Pats will look to establish the run' feel to it, but even if things were to unfold in that manner, the 6'3 28-year-old will have a big part to play on Sunday, excelling as one of the more unheralded perimeter blockers in the league.
As always, be sure to check back with Fantasy Knuckleheads for breaking news and rankings ahead of conference championship weekend. Enjoy the penultimate weekend of Football, and good luck to all those managers participating in fantasy games on Sunday!