This Christmas, Bill Belichick wants an injury report. He’ll smile with glee on Christmas morning while tearing apart the wrapping paper that’s covering paper, and then quickly scribble down the name of every Patriot.
No one truly expected Wes Welker to be inactive today, but it’s still a natural, instinctive reaction for fantasy owners to get concerned whenever a receiver of his caliber appears on the injury report, and misses the majority of the week’s practice sessions.
Never fear, young fearful fantasy fiend, because after we supplied other good news this morning regarding Owen Daniels and Julio Jones, more cheery vibes on the Welker front lead our roundup of the other most notable actives and inactives for the early games.
Wes Welker (ankle): He’s playing, although there may be some mild concerns about possible limitations after he was barely able to practice all week. That’s likely just worrying because worrying is instinctive, though, and Welker will probably receive an even higher volume of slot targets due to the continued absence of a certain still injured tight end noted below.
Pierre Garcon (foot): Owners who stashed Garcon and were patient while he missed seven games thus far this year are finally about to be rewarded. The connection between the Redskins’ top receiver and Robert Griffin III that we saw throughout the preseason will be renewed as we enter the stretch drive, but today I’d still be hesitant to start Garcon as anything more than a flex play. He’ll surely be limited and receive sporadic targets after not playing since Week 5.
Jordy Nelson (foot): After saying all week that he “feels great,” Nelson returns as expected. This means fewer targets for Randall Cobb and James Jones, although the true decline for those two won’t come for a few more weeks when Greg Jennings returns.
Joe Haden (oblique): This is massive for Dez Bryant and Miles Austin owners. A Browns secondary that was already mediocre even with Haden while allowing 247.9 passing yards per game (22nd) was regularly torched during their top cornerback’s four-game absence earlier this year due to a suspension.
Aaron Hernandez (ankle): Just as there was very little surprise with Welker, there’s even less shock here, but that doesn’t make the pain go away. Yes, we’ll see him during the fantasy playoffs, and he’ll therefore still make a meaningful contribution to many teams. But many more owners who spent any early-round pick on a tight end while passing on other high-end players at premium positions have now been left to scramble and fill a gaping hole. Hernandez will miss his sixth game of the year today, and he’s essentially only seen action in two games after initially suffering his ankle injury early in Week 2 against the Cardinals.