It's Thanksgiving week, which means plenty of food and complementary football on the cards. NFL franchises and fantasy football owners, alike, are approaching playoff crunch time with just five weeks of regular season action to go.
On the injury front, there is a cornucopia of food for thought with regards to some key fantasy assets this week. With three games slated for Thanksgiving day, fantasy owners should already be honing in on their week 13 lineups with much at stake this late in the season.
As this crucial week of football prepares to kick off, let's all be thankful for modern medicine and the Bill Belichick-inspired mandatory NFL injury report.
Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Roundup
Marshawn Lynch (back) will be a name to watch this week. Conventional wisdom says the Seahawks' backfield beast will surely be in uniform when Seattle squares off with their divisional rival San Francisco on Thanksgiving night, but the nature of the short week and the lingering issues with his ailing back may leave the 28-year-old's status in doubt to a degree. Lynch missed some time during his team's week 12 win over the Arizona Cardinals with a stomach illness in addition to his back problem, but toughed it out and piled up 82 all-purpose yards. Coach Pete Carroll was confident that his runner will be in uniform on Thursday night when speaking at his Monday press conference, and truth be told, it would take more than back pain or an upset stomach to keep Lynch out of this one. Fire Lynch up for this NFC West tussle, and expect him to deliver the goods with a much happier stomach in tow. Robert Turbin could see extra work to spell Lynch and keep him fresh, but all signs are pointing to a normal workload for Beast Mode. Marshawn Lynch should be good to go in week 13.
Ryan Mallett (pectoral) toughed it out for the Texans over the weekend, playing through the pain barrier after suffering an injury in warmups ahead of his team's loss to the Bengals. Mallett's name popped up on last week's injury report with a chest issue, which could almost certainly be linked to his torn pec. It is a tough blow for the 26-year-old, who had waited for his chance to become an NFL starter after three years of marinating behind Tom Brady in New England. It remains unclear at this point in time which path the Texans will head down. Coach Bill O'Brien could elect to go back to veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who endured his share of struggles before losing the gig to Mallett. Rookie Tom Savage is another option, though it is not clear if the Texans' staff feels he is ready to take the reigns. The team signed former Buffalo Bill Thaddeus Lewis this week, though he appears to be more of an insurance policy for now. Owners of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins may want to take a wait-and-see approach to how this all unfolds, though both players should continue to see a fair amount of targets. Look for Arian Foster (groin) to aim for a return as Houston tries to stay alive in both the AFC South and wildcard races.
Ryan Mathews has plenty to be thankful for, his durability notwithstanding. Fresh off a knee issue that cost him several weeks of action, the 27-year-old sustained a shoulder injury in the Chargers' week 12 victory over the St. Louis Rams. Mathews was hurt when two Rams defenders landed on top of him at the end of a 32-yard touchdown run. He wound up missing just over a quarter of action before returning in the fourth quarter, finishing his day with 105 yards and the aforementioned score across 12 carries. Mathews should be good to go for week 13, but given his checkered injury history, owners will want to ensure that he is handcuffed by Branden Oliver. Donald Brown would also inherit a larger workload in the event of another Mathews injury. Feel free to pencil him into your week 13 lineup, though he and the Chargers face a tricky matchup with the Ravens.
Julius Thomas (ankle) was forced to sit out of his team's 39-36 shootout win over the Miami Dolphins in week 12, but his chances of featuring in Denver's week 13 date with the Chiefs look much better. His replacement, Jacob Tamme, recorded just one catch in week 12, forcing Peyton Manning to look towards his receivers and backs more. Thomas appears day-to-day at this point, so keep an eye on his practice status throughout the week. If he continues to be limited and considered a game-day call, make sure to have a backup plan in place. Having sat last weekend, Julius Thomas appears to have a better chance of playing in week 13.
Another tight end who appears to be on the cusp of a return is Cleveland's Jordan Cameron (concussion). Cameron has endured a difficult year, battling another concussion and an early-season shoulder injury which cost him a game as well. Nevertheless, he is trending in the right direction with a good chance to play in the Browns' week 13 matchup with Buffalo, and having been dropped in most formats, Cameron could make for an intriguing late-season add at one of fantasy football's thinnest positions. Josh Gordon is back in the fold, which will keep defenses honest and leave the middle of the field less cluttered for Cameron. The 6'5 USC alum has the tools to be Brian Hoyer's best friend. Cameron's breakthrough 2013 campaign seems like forever and a day ago, but he has the skills to make for a potential late-season boon in all formats. Owners in need of a tight end should consider adding Cameron if he is available.
As akways, check back with Fantasy Knuckleheads for all the latest news, rankings and advice ahead of week 13. Happy Thanksgiving!