The NFL regular season is finally upon us. As always, injuries play a crucial role when it comes to constructing fantasy lineups. Here’s the status of players with the most interest to the fantasy community heading into Week 1:
Joe Flacco, QB Baltimore Ravens – Flacco returned to practice on Saturday. He had been out since late July with a back injury. Flacco will start the opener against the Bengals. He could be rusty but Flacco at 75 percent is better than Ryan Mallett on his best day.
Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis Colts – Luck has been ruled out for Week 1 while he still recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Scott Tolzien will draw the start for the Colts. Luck’s absence is obviously a big blow to T.Y. Hilton and the rest of the Colts skill position players. The bigger issue is Luck’s availability beyond Week 1. He could miss multiple games. The Rams defense is worth a look this week even if Aaron Donald sits out.
Cam Newton, QB Carolina Panthers – Newton is expected to start the season opener against the 49ers. He attempted just two passes this preseason while recovering from shoulder surgery. Newton has a strong Week 1 matchup, so owners should feel comfortable inserting him into the starting lineup.
Tyrod Taylor, QB Buffalo Bills – Taylor returned to practice on Monday but he’s still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He worked in individual drills. Taylor should be considered questionable to start against the Jets. If he isn’t cleared, rookie Nathan Peterman will make his first career start in what promises to be an ugly game dominated by defense.
Leonard Fournette, RB Jacksonville Jaguars – Fournette is still listed as questionable for Week 1 with a minor foot injury. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone wouldn’t name Fournette the starter even though his practice reps have been increasing. Fournette will be all systems go as an RB2 if he plays against the Texans.
Odell Beckham, WR New York Giants – Beckham missed practice on Monday. He rode an exercise bike on the sidelines and the Giants are hopeful he’ll be able to play Week 1 against the Cowboys. We probably won’t know Beckham’s status right up until game time, which is bad news for fantasy owners because the Giants play on Sunday night. Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and rookie tight end Evan Engram will see more targets if Beckham is out.
Corey Davis, WR Tennessee Titans – Davis will play in the Titans opener and he’s not expected to be on a snap count. The rookie missed all of preseason and most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Davis has a chance to be a fantasy factor later in the season but owners shouldn’t rely on him in Week 1.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR Houston Texans – Hopkins had been sidelined with a hand injury but has declared himself “1,000 percent” healthy. It was always thought that Hopkins was dealing with a minor injury. He’ll be a WR2 in a shaky passing offense for Week 1.
Jordan Matthews, WR Buffalo Bills – Matthews is still dealing with a chest injury and hasn’t been cleared to play. He suffered a fractured sternum just minutes into his first practice with the Bills. Even if Matthews plays on Sunday, he could be working with a rookie quarterback. Fantasy owners can find a better option at receiver.
John Ross, WR Cincinnati Bengals – Ross sprained his knee in the Bengals final preseason game. He’s expected to miss a few weeks. Ross has dealt with injuries dating back to college and he’s missed almost all of training camp. The rookie isn’t likely to make a big fantasy impact this season.
Demaryius Thomas, WR Denver Broncos – Thomas remained sidelined at Monday’s practice with a groin injury. The injury occurred in the Broncos third preseason game and it was thought to be minor. Thomas is expected to practice Wednesday and play in Week 1. The Broncos don’t play until Monday night. Thomas is locked-in as a WR2 assuming he’s in the starting lineup.
Mike Williams, WR San Diego Chargers – The Chargers activated Williams off the PUP list. Williams is still dealing with a back injury and won’t play in the opener but it’s a clear sign that the Chargers expect him back before Week 7. According to reports, the team hopes Williams will return in Week 4 or Week 5. If Williams makes any kind of fantasy impact this season, it won’t come until the second half.
Travis Kelce, TE Kansas City Chiefs – Kelce was limited in Monday’s practice with a calf injury. There’s no reason to believe it’s anything but a precaution at this point. Kelce is a Top 3 tight end for Thursday night’s opening game versus the Patriots.