Sadly, injuries have been the biggest story (and downer) of this NFL season. More than national anthem protests. More than freezing out Colin Kaepernick. And even more than the Zeke-Jerry-Roger saga and declining TV ratings, though that last angle surely is correlated to the weekly falling stars.
Thus, we're dedicating our Week 10 fantasy six-pack to some key injury updates from around the league heading into the weekend. We'll also try and turn a negative into positive by naming our All-injury avoidance team, comprised of guys we normally expect to be letdowns by this juncture who've so far weathered this absurd injury storm.
1. The Jets' big backfield opportunity we alluded to in this week's exploit and avoid and waiver columns apparently belongs to Bilal Powell, not Matt Forte, in Tampa Bay on Sunday.
After his best fantasy game of the season in last Thursday night's win over Buffalo, Forte exited the mini-bye to miss all three practices and was ruled out Sunday with a knee injury. ESPN's Rich Cimini tweeted that Forte's injury could be a multiple-week issue.
Enter Powell, who ripped off a 51-yarder as part of his 7-74 rushing night vs. the Bills but curiously trailed not only Forte but Elijah McGuire in offensive snaps. Powell leads the Jets backfield in touches (101) and scrimmage yards (530) and is poised to punish a Bucs 'D' that's allowed seven combined touchdowns to backs over the past four games.
2. Sticking in the AFC East, Buffalo will welcome back Charles Clay from a three-game absence with a knee injury, which didn't prevent him from returning as the Bills leading receiver, with 258 yards.
Now Clay finds himself in the middle of a 'D' with not one but two big-bodied wideouts in Jordan Matthews and Kelvin Benjamin. Neither of them, however, can replicate the rapport Clay has built with Tyrod Taylor. New Orleans has been tough on opposing tight ends — league-low 26 catches allowed, albeit with four TDs* — so Clay may not return to the top-flight TE1 he was prior to his injury immediately.
* — Zach Miller was robbed of a would-be fifth touchdown by a tight end vs. New Orleans' 'D.'
3. Brock Osweiler should have his top two wideouts on the field together and healthy again, so he has that going for him (which is nice) when Denver entertains the Patriots on Sunday.
Emmanuel Sanders, who's been dealing with a high ankle sprain and returned to action last week but played just 29 snaps following a two-game absence, is listed as questionable. He practiced in full on Friday for a second consecutive day, however, and was Osweiler's leading receiver (6-113) when Denver knocked off the Patriots two Novembers ago.
Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), who snapped his season-long touchdown drought last week in the blowout loss to the Eagles, got two practices in ahead of squaring off against a Patriots secondary that's allowed five passing TDs and a 267-yard average its past four games — down from 11 and 324, respectively, the first four.
4. The alpha dog No. 1 wideouts in Atlanta and Dallas — Julio Jones and Dez Bryant — are poised to play Sunday.
Jones, whose stunning dropped touchdown last week may have overshadowed the fact he suffered an ankle injury before halftime, "looked explosive" on Friday in his lone Week 10 practice, coach Dan Quinn said, according to ESPN's Vaughn McClure.
That dropped touchdown you've heard so much about this week 99 times out of 100 would've given Jones a 39-yard score and easily his best game of the season (7-157-1). He instead settled for 6-118 receiving — still good for his second-best fantasy outing — while collecting a dozen or more targets for the second time in three weeks but just third time this season.
A wideout has finished in the top 15 of fantasy scorers in six of the past seven games vs. Dallas this season.
Bryant, meantime, practiced Friday, "moving well and even making a one-handed catch," according to the Dallas Morning News. Bryant has vowed to play Sunday, after suffering a knee injury in his 6-73 — both totals the second highest of the season for Bryant — vs. the Chiefs.
Indeed, while most fantasy eyes may be glued to Dallas' Zeke-less backfield, rest assured plenty of the Falcons' attention will be diverted toward Bryant. He'll draw Falcons No. 1 CB Desmond Trufant, who was limited early in the week by an ankle injury and has been on the wrong side of highlight reel plays by Cam Newton and Robby Anderson in recent weeks.
The wait is nearly over to find out just how much Dak will lean on Dez — banged up or not — with Elliott out of the equation.
5. Prepare to be hamstrung when it comes to your start/sit Washington quandaries again this week. Jordan Reed didn't practice Friday, a change from his Wednesday-Thursday status, after missing the rousing upset win in Seattle.
Jamison Crowder returned to practice Friday, his lone appearance this week, after also missing last Sunday in Seattle on the heels of his career-high 123 receiving yards vs. the Cowboys in Week 8.
Adding to the Washington skill fascination, or frustration: Josh Doctson, who came up with the sprawling grab late to propel his team past the Seahawks, reportedly had a terrific week of practice and "I think those days are coming" for him, coach Jay Gruden said of the stat-sheet fillers fantasy owners continue to clamor for.
Will one come Sunday for Doctson vs. Vikings stud cover man Xavier Rhodes? We wouldn't bet on it but we would suggest Reed owners cover themselves with Vernon Davis again this week.
On the Minnesota side, it's OK to exhale, Stefon Diggs owners. Yes, your guy had a root canal this week — at the root of his Friday absence, per Mike Zimmer. But Diggs, who returned before the bye in the London from a two-game absence with a groin injury, will be full-go. Just in time to reunite with a Washington secondary he destroyed for 164 yards on 13 catches last season.
The Vikings did rule out RT Mike Remmers, who's been a solid contributor to Minnesota's resilient rush attack this season. But against a Washington D-line that remains nowhere near full strength, Jerick McKinnon and even Latavius Murray remain viable.
6. If you're a believer in jinxes, you'll want to divert your eyes elsewhere as we unveil our All-injury avoidance team with every team now at least at the halfway mark of the season. We've seen too many All-injury team posts over the past several days not to try and put a positive spin on this injury-marred 2017 campaign.
QB — Josh McCown, Jets: After failing to get out of the gate and gain some traction in his previous three starting posts, McCown is QB10 overall, QB3 over the past month and looks to pile on his old team Sunday.
RB — Carlos Hyde, 49ers: He's started a career-high nine consecutive games en route to RB7 standing. In a contract year, he's battled injuries but hasn't succumb to rookie Matt Breida or Kyle Shanahan's supposedly square-peg, round-hole scheme.
WR — Alshon Jeffery. Eagles: Quietly, the new Eagles No. 1 wideout is WR5 overall, matching his 2015 total appearances (nine) and, with five touchdowns, finds himself one shy of tying his 2015-16 total. Also: contract year.
WR — Keenan Allen, Chargers: In Year Five, he's in search of his first 16-game season, and Allen is halfway home. Although the touchdowns (1) are disappointing, he's averaging a career-best 13.8 YPC and is on track for new peaks of 80 grabs and 1,096 yards.
TE — Cameron Brate, Buccaneers: As with everything else fantasy TE related in 2017, this one is trickier. But Brate, only in Year 3, has started eight consecutive games and remains on track to smoke his previous bests in catches and yards while matching his eight TDs last season. Brate hasn't scored in three straight but looks to turn it on again vs. Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye and the visiting Jets.