Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Austin Ekeler (2021 Fantasy Football)
The fantasy football playoffs are underway in most leagues, which means that every decision affects how each of us will fare. Injuries remain an unfortunate obstacle we have to maneuver late in the season as teams gear up for playoff pushes of their own. Being able to decipher how to handle each injury and what players to target can be the edge you need to emerge victorious in your leagues. Following another week of action in the NFL, here are the notable injuries around the league and how we should handle each of them moving forward in fantasy football.
Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL)
Injuries have been mounting up for the Baltimore Ravens, and things got even worse for them on Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns. During the first half of Sunday’s narrow loss to the Browns, Lamar Jackson was escaping pressure and avoiding a sack by throwing the ball out of bounds. But while Jackson threw the ball away, he was tripped up by a defender, causing his ankle to twist awkwardly on his way to the ground. Following the game, John Harbaugh informed the media that the Ravens believe Jackson has a sprained ankle, and he will undergo further testing on Monday. If Jackson misses any time, anyone in need of a fill-in at the quarterback position should consider making a waiver-wire push for Tyler Huntley, who totaled 315 yards and a touchdown in relief of Jackson in Week 14.
Josh Allen (QB – BUF)
The Buffalo Bills were able to make an impressive comeback versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, only for them to fall short in overtime. Amid Buffalo’s torrid comeback in the second half, Josh Allen was able to eclipse 100 rushing yards on the day, becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards and rush for 100-plus yards in the same game. But on a run in the second half, Allen was tackled from behind, causing his foot to drag on the ground. Allen was hobbling a bit after the play and was getting his foot taped up on the sideline as he would finish the game injured. Ahead of his MRI on Monday, it’s believed that Allen could have a case of turf toe, which could limit his mobility.
Taylor Heinicke (QB – WAS)
On Sunday, the Washington Football Team made a valiant effort to make a comeback against the Dallas Cowboys, but they didn’t have their starting quarterback available. Heinicke sustained a knee injury during the contest and was unable to return. With a hip injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick has already been ruled out for the rest of the season, so Kyle Allen was asked to step in at quarterback for Washington on Sunday. It remains to be seen the extent of Heinicke’s knee ailment, but if he cannot suit up in next week’s pivotal divisional game against the Philadelphia Eagles, then Allen would draw the start. I would not go out of your way to grab Allen off waivers unless you’re absolutely desperate. The good news is that Washington doesn’t believe Heinicke’s injury is serious enough for him to miss any time.
Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)
The Los Angeles Chargers steamrolled the New York Giants, but they didn’t come away unscathed. While Keenan Allen missed Sunday’s game due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Austin Ekeler suffered an ankle injury during Sunday’s massive win over the Giants. Ekeler could not put any weight on his leg when the injury occurred, and trainers taped his ankle. The Chargers were up big when Ekeler got hurt, so it’s unknown if he would be able to return if the game was closer. We’ll have to keep a close eye on Ekeler early in the week to see if he’s limited at all with his ankle ailment. Los Angeles plays on Thursday night versus the Kansas City Chiefs, so it will be a quick turnaround for the Chargers. Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson will likely share the backfield work if Ekeler is forced to miss Thursday’s anticipated game.
Kareem Hunt (RB – CLE)
In recent weeks, the Browns have gotten their backfield healthy again, only for them to sustain another injury to a running back in Week 14. While Cleveland escaped with a win over Baltimore in a massive divisional contest, Kareem Hunt left in the first half with what is being described as an ankle injury. Hunt had his ankle/foot rolled on while he was being tackled on a reception from Baker Mayfield. If Hunt misses any time, Nick Chubb would likely see a slight uptick in carries for the Browns. At the same time, D’Ernest Johnson would probably take Hunt’s spot as the No. 2 running back in Cleveland’s backfield, which could make him flex worthy in deeper leagues against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15.
Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS)
Besides Heinicke, Washington was without arguably their best weapon on offense in Terry McLaurin for the fourth quarter. After a reception in the second half, McLaurin took a hit to his head, forcing him to be checked for a concussion. McLaurin would be ruled out with a concussion, making the Football Team extremely thin at the wide receiver position. The big-play wideout will need to clear the league’s concussion protocols before he’s able to return for next week’s game versus the Eagles. But if McLaurin cannot make enough progress, then Cam Sims, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, and Ricky Seals-Jones would become the go-to weapons in the offense for Washington. Antonio Gibson could also see a slight increase in his usage.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR – BUF)
The Bills’ offense was unable to find much of a rhythm versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday until the second half. As the Bills went down 24-3 at halftime, things got even worse when it was discovered that Emmanuel Sanders would miss the entire second half. In the first half, Sanders sustained a knee injury and was initially listed as questionable to return before being ruled out to begin the second half. Once we get more information on Sanders, we’ll know how to handle his situation moving forward. Stefon Diggs would see an even bigger target share if he misses time, while Gabriel Davis, Cole Beasley, and Dawson Knox would see increased roles in Buffalo’s pass-heavy offense.
Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN)
Things looked bleak for Dalvin Cook entering Week 14 as the Minnesota Vikings had a Thursday night game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. While he practiced in a limited fashion early in the week, Cook returned to the offense after missing just one game with his ailing shoulder. Despite having to wear a shoulder harness, Cook gashed Pittsburgh’s defense for 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns, showing that he’s not limited in any way due to his injury. Hopefully, Cook doesn’t re-aggravate the injury in the coming weeks as he handles his usual massive workload. But for the time being, don’t overthink it and keep Cook in your lineups for the playoffs.
Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ)
Elijah Moore was added to the injury report for the New York Jets midway through the past week with a quad injury. While Moore was questionable to play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints throughout the majority of the week, it was slightly surprising to see the Jets place him on injured reserve ahead of Sunday’s game. In the past couple of weeks, New York has placed Corey Davis and Moore on injured reserve, with Moore having an opportunity to return while Davis will miss the rest of the season. Seeing that the Jets aren’t competing for a playoff spot or anything, we could see Moore be shut down for the rest of the year, ending his rookie season prematurely. Jamison Crowder, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, and Denzel Mims are the top four wideouts on New York’s depth chart now, but good luck guessing which one has success each week. Crowder is likely the safest option of the bunch, while we could see the others rotate more in the offense.