No seriously, I’m asking. Do you know? No? Dammit, I guess I’ll have to speculate wildly make some sort of proclamation then.

The problem in Oakland is a backfield in which the Darren McFadden question is lingering, which is the worst possible question imaginable. Even worse than “honey, did you remember the tarter sauce?” and “you forgot to pick up Johnny from school didn’t you? DAMMIT HE’S YOUR ONLY SON”. Yeah, no amount of rage beats the McFadden question, although today the Murray question is giving it a good run.

So please pick yourself up off the floor as we attempt to make sense of the most vexing injury problem heading into a crucial weekend on the fantasy calendar.

McFadden has missed the last three games with an ankle injury. In his absence, Marcel Reece has made his case for the waiver pickup of the year, with 495 total yards over his last four games (Reece began his emergence when both McFadden and Mike Goodson went down in Week 9). As such, Reece has been a great flex option, and he was even a decent RB2 for many teams dealing with either McFadden’s injury or one of the other running back injuries that have plagued owners over the past few weeks.

In fact, Reece has been better than McFadden due to his superior pass-catching ability, and it’s not even close. Over the past month Reece has averaged 123.8 yards per game from scrimmage, and if we exclude that Week 9 game against Tampa when he was hurt early, McFadden was averaging just 89.7 yards per game over seven weeks. Again, that’s total yards, and if we narrow that down to rushing yards, then McFadden was averaging only 62.6 yards.

The excuses were numerous for McFadden, just as they were earlier this year when Chris Johnson was struggling. Is it the zone blocking scheme? Or maybe it’s the general awfulness of the offensive line? We could begin the process of trying to answer those questions again Sunday, because McFadden will likely be ready to return, and therefore he could at least partially torpedo both his own fantasy value, and Reece’s.

McFadden will be a game-time decision, with Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune saying that he expects head coach Dennis Allen will “string it out until Sunday.” Basically, that’s coach speak translated through the media for a roster decision that’s being kept a secret from the opponent, but the head coach damn well knows the answer. McFadden practiced on a limited basis all week, leading ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell to express confidence in his ability to play. So optimism is increasing, and although Reece will likely receive the larger workload this week, we could be headed towards (*gulps*) a time share of some kind for the rest of the season.

The opposition here is the Browns, owners of a not great but still far from terrible run defense. There’s no catch-all procedure here, as your strategy in Week 13 should always be dictated by your playoff position, or lack thereof. If you’re a McFadden owner, you’re likely also a Reece owner, and even with McFadden playing the safe and most reliable play would be to slot in Reece and lean on his versatility, hoping it enables him to produce despite possibly decreased touches. The risk with McFadden is far too great in his first game back.

More injury news and strategy? More injury news and strategy…

  • Matt Forte (ankle): In what was a surprisingly quick turnaround from a potentially serious injury, Forte has practiced all week. He’ll play Sunday, and his owners should deploy him as you normally would, but be wary of your top running back possibly losing a few carries to Michael Bush as the Bears proceed with caution after Forte suffered his second ankle injury this season. That possible time share combined with the Seahawks’ strong run defense could produce some very undesirable results.
  • Miles Austin (hip, groin, thin bones): He’s officially listed as questionable, but since he’s been able to put in some work all week it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t play Sunday night.
  • Greg Jennings (groin): Mercifully, you’ll get Jennings back, but his participation against the Vikings will be determined by the flow of the game. Deploy him as only a WR3, and then hope for more.
  • Percy Harvin (ankle): Harvin tested out his ankle, but he’s still listed as doubtful. If you’re really bent on starting a Vikings wide receiver, make it Jarius Wright, who was targeted 10 times last week in Harvin’s absence.
  • Danny Amendola (heel): Just stay away. Amendola is listed as doubtful, which could mean nothing since he played despite receiving that tag last week too. But it was more of an attempt to play, as he lasted only seven snaps.
  • Sidney Rice (calf): Late-week additions to the injury report often lead to doom, and in this case, it’s a reason to inch Rice one step closer to your bench. He’s listed as questionable, and he has a terrible matchup against the Bears and likely Charles Tillman for much of the game after traveling across the country.

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