Week 15 NFL Injury Wrap: Saints return Drew Brees, lose Michael Thomas

Scott Pianowski

The NFL has done all it can in recent years to limit quarterback injuries, but there’s been plenty of QB attrition in 2020. The first few teams on our Week 15 status report all have news tied to their quarterbacks. Let’s take a good look around.

• Drew Brees (ribs) returns to action for the Saints, just in time for the critical home game against Kansas City. The game is far more important for the Saints than the Chiefs; Kansas City has the inside track to the AFC’s No. 1 seed with or without a win here. Michael Thomas (ankle) went on injured reserve, so he’s done for the regular season. The Saints are optimistic he can be close to 100 percent in the playoffs.

• Brandon Allen (knee) won’t be able to play Monday against Pittsburgh, which forces Ryan Finley back on the field. Downgrade all the key Cincinnati skill players.

• Alex Smith (calf) won’t play against Seattle, pushing Dwayne Haskins back into the starting job. Washington will try to win as ugly as possible against Seattle. Antonio Gibson (toe) is listed as doubtful.

• Daniel Jones (ankle/hamstring) is expected to miss the Sunday night game against Cleveland. The Giants will also be without OC Jason Garrett, setting up the ultimate revenge game for Cleveland alums Colt McCoy (starting quarterback) and Freddie Kitchens (temporary play-caller). TE Evan Engram (calf) was added to the injury report Friday and could be a game-night decision. His backup, Kaden Smith (knee), is also listed as questionable.

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According to Ian Rapoport, the Lions are preparing to have Matthew Stafford (ribs/thumb) start at Tennessee. Double-check before Sunday, but this would be a nice boost to the key Detroit skill players. Meanwhile, alpha WR Kenny Golladay (hip) is out for another week.

• Ezekiel Elliott (calf) is listed as questionable and missed the full practice week. Mike McCarthy continues to say all is fine, but Zeke could be compromised against San Francisco, and perhaps scratched on game day. Tony Pollard has been the team’s most efficient back this year.

• John Brown (ankle) didn’t make the trip to Denver. The Bills use three wideouts as their base offense, which means Gabriel Davis should have another healthy snap share again. Also keep an eye on TE Dawson Knox, who has been more involved over the last month.

• D.J. Moore (reserve/COVID-19 list) has been activated, and will play at Green Bay. Christian McCaffrey (thigh) is listed as doubtful.

• Although the Chiefs mentioned Tyreek Hill’s hamstring on the injury report, he had a full week of practice. Use him at New Orleans.

• Julio Jones (hamstring) is out for another week, but the Falcons took Calvin Ridley (foot) off the injury report, despite a limited week. Todd Gurley missed practice time for maintenance, as usual. He’s been sharing with Ito Smith and Brian Hill of late; all of them could be in for tough sledding against Tampa Bay.

• Ronald Jones had surgery on his broken finger, and also went on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tampa Bay has yet to officially rule out Jones, but we have to assume Leonard Fournette — a week after a healthy scratch — will be the primary back against Atlanta. Rob Gronkowski didn’t practice Thursday for non-injury reasons, but had a full session Friday. Start him as you normally would.

• James Conner (quad) had a limited practice Thursday, then a full session Friday. It looks like he’ll go at Cincinnati on Monday, but Benny Snell is mandatory insurance.

• Austin Hooper (neck) was back at full practice Friday and should play at the Giants, though he’s listed as questionable. David Njoku (knee) also carries the questionable tag, though he missed all of Friday’s work.

• Jamison Crowder (calf) missed Wednesday’s practice, then had two limited days. On the road at the Rams, perhaps the league’s best defense, Crowder is especially risky for the fantasy semifinals.

[Week 15 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

• Brian Flores learned at the lectern of Bill Belichick, and apparently that carries over to the injury report. The Dolphins list eight players as questionable after limited Friday practice, including four skill players — Mike Gesicki (shoulder), Salvon Ahmed (shoulder), DeVante Parker (hamstring), and Jakeem Grant (hamstring). Matt Breida came off the reverse/COVID-19 list, so he’s another backfield option. It’s impossible to make a call on this offense until we see Sunday’s news.

• Damien Harris (ankle) isn’t expected to play at Miami. There’s no obvious beneficiary here, though perhaps James White — more a receiving back — could pick up some extra work. Two-down grinder Sony Michel is another option.

• Duke Johnson (neck) won’t play at Indianapolis, but David Johnson is returning to the lineup. Either way, look for plenty of Deshaun Watson passes. WR Brandin Cooks (neck) is also ready to play.

• Kyle Rudolph (foot) won’t play against Chicago, which sets up Irv Smith for streaming purposes. The Vikings will also use Tyler Conklin as a blocking tight end, and he was surprisingly useful as a pass-catcher last week, but if you use someone here, Smith is the logical play.

• Brandon McManus (reserve/COVID-19 list) is out for at least one week. The Broncos do expect to have three questionable skill players — Melvin Gordon (shoulder), Jerry Jeudy (ankle), and Phillip Lindsay (hip).

• Marquise Brown (reserve/COVID-19 list) has a chance to be cleared before Sunday’s game against Jacksonville.

• Raheem Mostert’s week started with an MRI on his ankle but ended with full practice sessions. He’ll share the work with Jeff Wilson Jr. at Dallas; if I had to choose between them, I’d shade towards Wilson.

• Jimmy Graham (hip) is listed as questionable. Although Graham had a touchdown last week, if you have to play a Bears tight end, emerging Cole Kmet is the guy.

• The Eagles will be without three key cornerbacks at Arizona, including star CB Darius Slay (concussion).

• Chase Edmonds (ankle) should be able to handle his normal work, though he had a limited session Friday. He’s listed as questionable.

• Rashaad Penny (knee) should be in uniform at Washington, though he’s not expected to see extensive playing time.

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