The Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins are among the teams hoping to win their way into the playoffs on the final weekend of the NFL’s regular season Sunday. All three enter their games with key players on offense battling injuries.
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 105 yards last weekend and is confident he’ll be ready to face the New York Giants with the NFC East title still up for grabs. Miami wide receiver DeVante Parker is nursing a hamstring injury with a huge game looming against the Buffalo Bills. And Cleveland wide receiver Jarvis Landry is hoping to be activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Our NFL Nation reporters update the top injury question for every team heading into Week 17:
Cole Beasley was labeled as “week to week” by coach Sean McDermott, and Buffalo’s coach doesn’t usually exaggerate when he uses that designation. The Bills’ second-leading receiver did not practice during Wednesday’s walk-through with a knee injury suffered in Week 16 and is a near-lock to miss the team’s regular-season finale against the visiting Dolphins. The question is, how long will Beasley be sidelined and can the Bills remain the hottest team in the NFL without him? — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Cameron Wolfe reports that despite a crowded backfield in Miami, Myles Gaskin is still effective enough to be a must start in your fantasy lineup.
Wide receiver DeVante Parker has been a surprise inactive each of the past two weeks with a lingering hamstring injury, despite being able to practice during the week. Parker again will likely be a game-time decision, and it could go either way given how unpredictable hamstrings can be. But with Jakeem Grant out with ankle and knee injuries, Parker will be needed more than ever to lift the offense in a must-win game. If he’s close, I’d expect Parker to go. — Cameron Wolfe
Running back Damien Harris (ankle) seems unlikely to play for the third straight week, ceding way to Sony Michel and J.J. Taylor as the top options in the traditional running attack. Harris is one of several starters not expected to play in the season finale, as there are no playoff implications and a significant number of starters are on the injury report. — Mike Reiss
With Frank Gore (bruised lung) and La’Mical Perine (COVID-19) sidelined, Ty Johnson will get the bulk of the work in the backfield. He will be running behind an offensive line that could be at full strength for the first time in a month, with left guard Alex Lewis (non-football injury) and right guard Greg Van Roten (toe) back practicing and hoping to play. — Rich Cimini
Pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue is in danger of missing his first game with the Ravens. He didn’t return in last Sunday’s 27-13 victory over the New York Giants after injuring his thigh and then missed Wednesday’s practice. Ngakoue has three sacks in nine games with Baltimore. If Ngakoue is sidelined, the Ravens would lean on Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson to pair with Matthew Judon as the edge rushers. — Jamison Hensley
The last person the Ravens want to see was suited up for practice on Wednesday. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd returned to practice and was limited after missing last weekend with a concussion. His presence is a good sign of potential availability in the regular-season finale. Boyd caught the touchdown pass in 2017 that ended up knocking Baltimore out of the playoffs. The Bengals have a chance to help play spoiler at home this weekend. — Ben Baby
The Browns are still missing their entire receiving corps, as Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge have been on the reserve/COVID-19 list since Saturday. Coach Kevin Stefanski, however, is hopeful he’ll be getting all four back by Thursday, should they continue to test negative for the virus. — Jake Trotter
The Steelers came out of Sunday’s win against the Colts without any new injuries, and that will be a major goal in the Week 17 game at the Browns. The Steelers will be playing a lot of backups to preserve the health of the starters, but keeping the backups injury-free is just as important entering the postseason. The Steelers hope to get back Robert Spillane ahead of the playoffs to fortify the inside linebacker position. — Brooke Pryor
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who left the Texans’ Week 16 loss to the Bengals, did not practice on Wednesday. When interim head coach Romeo Crennel was asked about whether Tunsil (ankle) would play on Sunday against the Titans, Crennel said, “I hope he plays,” but that he’s “got to see what the trainers say.” — Sarah Barshop
The Colts’ struggling defensive backs are dealing with injuries to two starters, who could end up missing Sunday’s game. Safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are both in the concussion protocol. Kenny Moore would likely start on the outside if Ya-Sin isn’t cleared in time. Tavon Wilson could start at safety. — Mike Wells
Coach Doug Marrone said he wasn’t sure if wide receiver DJ Chark (shin) would be able to play against the Colts. It’ll depend on if or how much Chark is able to practice this week, but it makes the most sense to hold him out if he’s not close to 100%. If Chark doesn’t play, that should mean more work for rookie receiver Laviska Shenault, who would move into the top three of the rotation behind Keelan Cole and Chris Conley. — Mike DiRocco
Outside linebacker Derick Roberson did not practice last Friday and was ruled out for the game last weekend because of a hamstring injury. Roberson was not on the field on Wednesday, either. The Titans are already extremely thin at outside linebacker and need all the help they can get rushing the passer. Being able to keep outside contain against a QB like Deshaun Watson is imperative, so not having a fast edge player like Roberson could hurt the defense. — Turron Davenport
Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb did not practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury, but did work off to the side with a strength and conditioning coach. Though the Broncos (5-10) are not in the playoff mix, Chubb has said he wants to finish the season on a strong note, so if he can make some progress over the next two days he’d like to play. He did not play in last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, but that was the first game Chubb had missed this season. — Jeff Legwold
The Chiefs, who have clinched the AFC’s No. 1 playoff seed, might have rested them for Sunday’s game against the Chargers anyway. But the fact that Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins (calf) did not practice on Wednesday because of injuries virtually guarantees it. The Chiefs will be cautious with both players in the hope of having them as close to 100 percent as possible for the playoffs. — Adam Teicher
No doubt quarterback Derek Carr should have won the game against the Dolphins. But did an obviously hobbled Carr, playing with an injured groin, give Las Vegas its best chance at success? That’s the question. And Carr’s health could decide whether a special Marcus Mariota package could be installed in the red zone this week. The Raiders had to settle for field goals from 23, 38, 20 and 22 yards in the heartbreaking loss to Miami and left a lot of points on the field. — Paul Gutierrez
Cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Rayshawn Jenkins and tackle Bryan Bulaga, who seems as though he’s had every muscle and bone injured this season, will all face challenges to play in Sunday’s finale, coach Anthony Lynn said. But it should give some young players some game experience, which Lynn said was helpful last weekend. — Shelley Smith
Running back Ezekiel Elliott continues to work through a calf strain, but he is not on the injury report anymore, although coach Mike McCarthy said the running back would be limited. Elliott said he felt good after last weekend’s win against Philadelphia, when he had 19 carries for 105 yards, including a season-high 31-yard run. While difficult, he said sitting out the San Francisco game in Week 15 was a benefit. “We saw last week just how fresh I felt and how fresh I looked,” he said. Elliott had 91 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the first meeting of the season against the New York Giants. — Todd Archer
Jordan Raanan breaks down Evan Engram’s fantasy value and how he continues to put up points.
Tight end Evan Engram (calf) was a limited participant in practice after being injured late in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. Coach Joe Judge was still relatively optimistic about the prospect of him playing in Sunday’s elimination game against Dallas. After seeing Engram move around fairly well on Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be able to play in what amounts to the most important game of his young career. — Jordan Raanan
Left tackle Jordan Mailata is in the concussion protocol. If he can’t go, Brett Toth could get the call and the Eagles would be working with their 14th different offensive line combination of the season. That could spell trouble against a Washington defense that ranks fifth in the NFL with 44 sacks. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (neck) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (ankle) were also sidelined to start the week. — Tim McManus
Quarterback Alex Smith did not practice Wednesday because of his strained right calf and his status for Sunday remains uncertain. If he can’t start, Taylor Heinicke would make the second start of his career. Smith said he was close to playing last weekend. The big key will be how he feels Friday or Saturday after working in practice. Also, wide receiver Terry McLaurin missed practice with a high ankle sprain. But he did work off to the side with trainers — something he did not do before missing the Carolina game on Sunday. Without him, Washington lacks a go-to receiver and must rely heavily on its backs and tight end Logan Thomas in the pass game. — John Keim
The Bears are awaiting word on the official status of cornerback Jaylon Johnson and nickelback Buster Skrine, both of whom have missed the past couple weeks. Reserve defensive backs Duke Shelley and rookie Kindle Vildor filled in admirably versus the Vikings and Jaguars, but Green Bay is another animal entirely. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers passed for four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Bears in Week 12 — and that’s when Chicago’s secondary was at full strength. — Jeff Dickerson
Matthew Stafford is the team’s biggest question mark with right thumb, ankle and rib injuries. Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said Wednesday that some of those injuries are resolving themselves and they’ll see how Stafford is doing at the end of the week, but the quarterback did not practice Wednesday. Stafford said Monday that if he’s healthy enough to play, he would like to play in the season finale against Minnesota and that the decision will be totally health-related. If he doesn’t start, Chase Daniel will be the team’s starter. — Michael Rothstein
Field Yates and Matthew Berry break down AJ Dillon’s and Aaron Jones’ fantasy value for Week 17 based off of their performances against the Titans.
Jamaal Williams didn’t play last weekend and Aaron Jones was limited because of an undisclosed in-game ailment — thus leading to AJ Dillon‘s breakout game against the Titans — but all three running backs practiced on Wednesday. If Williams’ quadriceps injury allows him to play Sunday, it would give the Packers their full complement of backs for the season finale against the Bears. Williams was listed as a limited participant on Wednesday, but Jones wasn’t on the report at all. — Rob Demovsky
The Vikings are set to be without several starters in the final game of the season. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, which could very well mark the end of his tenure in Minnesota after a decade, while left tackle Riley Reiff was moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Running back Dalvin Cook will also miss the Vikings’ season finale as he deals with the unexpected death of his father. Five Vikings defenders — Cameron Dantzler, Chris Jones, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes and Eric Kendricks — did not practice on Wednesday. — Courtney Cronin
Wide receiver Julio Jones didn’t practice again because of a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 13. But even with Atlanta having nothing to play for, Jones could return for the finale at Tampa Bay. He did receive a platelet-rich plasma injection last week, and interim coach Raheem Morris said Monday that Jones will play if possible. He missed a game vs. Tampa Bay two weeks ago; the Falcons scored 27 points and threw for 332 yards, but that was sandwiched between two games in which they scored a combined 31 points without him. — ESPN
Coach Matt Rhule has said he doesn’t expect running back Christian McCaffrey (quadriceps), backup Mike Davis (ankle) and left tackle Russell Okung to play Sunday against visiting New Orleans. Wide receiver Robby Anderson missed Wednesday’s practice with a groin injury. It doesn’t appear serious, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater already is without his top two backs and is down to his fifth left tackle. — David Newton
The Saints are thin at safety. Marcus Williams missed practice Wednesday because of the ankle injury that also sidelined him in Week 16, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list (it’s unclear if he tested positive, which would sideline him for at least 10 days). The Saints have solid veteran depth in the secondary, with options such as P.J. Williams, D.J. Swearinger and Patrick Robinson. But Williams and Gardner-Johnson are key contributors the Saints would like to get back in time for the playoffs. — Mike Triplett
Running back Ronald Jones returned to practice Wednesday after being activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and coming off surgery to repair a broken finger, which forced him to miss the past two games. But he was limited. Coach Bruce Arians said he “caught the ball OK.” As far as starting cornerback Carlton Davis, he practiced Wednesday after missing Saturday’s game with a groin injury. Arians said, “Carlton got better and better. We’ll take it slow — day-to-day. He got limited participation, but he looked OK.” — Jenna Laine
Regardless of quarterback Kyler Murray saying Wednesday that he would play this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams in a win-or-go-home game for both teams, Murray’s leg injury will be something to watch — namely how it affects his ability to run. If Murray’s mobility is limited, he’ll become primarily a dropback passer, which changes the complexion of the Cardinals’ offense, putting more of an emphasis on Arizona’s run game. Murray averages about 10 fewer rushing yards in losses than in wins. — Josh Weinfuss
Matthew Berry suggests Malcolm Brown is a worthwhile add for fantasy managers because the Rams will be without RBs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. this weekend.
Rams rookie running back Cam Akers suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 15 and was inactive last Sunday, but coach Sean McVay is leaving open the possibility that Akers could return in Week 17 against the Cardinals. “Gave him another rest day,” McVay said Wednesday. “But this guy is making great progress … we’ll still see, his status is uncertain.” Running back Darrell Henderson was placed on injured reserve this week because of a high ankle sprain, so expect Malcolm Brown to play a large role and if Akers is unable to go, watch for rookie Xavier Jones to get some carries. — Lindsey Thiry
The 49ers are already without one first-round draft pick this week as wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has a high ankle sprain. But they might also be missing defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who is dealing with a knee injury. The No. 13 pick in this year’s NFL draft, Kinlaw did not practice Wednesday but still has a chance to play Sunday against Seattle. Kinlaw is an important piece of the 49ers’ future, so every game rep he can get is valuable moving forward. — Nick Wagoner
The Seahawks hope right tackle Brandon Shell is ready to return after sitting out a second straight game. Coach Pete Carroll said they had Shell active against the Rams for emergency duty only and that they gave Cedric Ogbuehi another start with the thought that it would give Shell’s ankle the best chance of healing in time to play in their regular-season finale against the 49ers. One of the NFC’s top two seeds would be in play for the Seahawks with a victory, provided the Packers and/or Saints lose, so there’s incentive to have all hands on deck. — Brady Henderson