Fantasy football championship games are here, and with them will come the most difficult start ’em, sit ’em decisions of the year for fantasy owners. Running backs like Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Gibson, James Robinson, James Conner, and Damien Harris have been banged up in recent weeks, and when all are healthy, they usually qualify as top-25 plays. Now, their potential returns or absences will have a big impact on potential sleepers and could prove to be the difference in many championship games.
For injury updates on players in the Dolphins-Raiders game, including Myles Gaskin, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Derek Carr, click here; for news on George Kittle and Chase Edmonds, click here; for the latest on injured receivers like Julio Jones, Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, John Brown, and Tyler Boyd, go here. For all the latest fantasy updates, follow us on Twitter @SN_Fantasy.
Is Ezekiel Elliott playing this week?
Elliott (calf) was inactive for last week’s Cowboys win over the 49ers, but it looks like he may be ready to return against the Eagles. Elliott told ESPN’s Todd Archer that “he is on track to play” in that contest, so it looks like any fantasy owners that have survived his absence will be able to use him in Week 16.
With Elliott’s return looking likely, Tony Pollard will be knocked down from being a potential RB2 with a high ceiling to a speculative flex play. He could split some carries with Elliott, but it’s hard to bank on him doing that. If Elliott suits up, sitting Pollard is probably the right move, but obviously, if Elliott suffers a setback and doesn’t play, Pollard can be trusted. Elliott is no more than a flex himself in this matchup.
Is Antonio Gibson playing this week?
Gibson (toe) has missed the past two Washington games, but he returned to the practice field on Wednesday. He only posted a limited session, but that should bode well for him as he looks to make his return to the field.
If Gibson can continue to practice on a limited basis for the rest of the week, he should be viewed as “questionable” for the game. That said, if he can log a “full” session later in the week, that should indicate that he’ll be able to play. As long as he doesn’t see any non-participant designations, owners can be confident that he’ll have a chance to play.
If Gibson can’t return, J.D. McKissic will continue to be the lead back for Washington while Peyton Barber functions as a TD-dependent flex. If Gibson plays, McKissic will still have value as a PPR flex, but Barber wouldn’t be anything more than a handcuff. And if he does return, Gibson will be a potential RB1 in a great matchup on a high-volume run team against a poor run defense.
Is James Robinson playing this week?
According to Jaguars reporter Ashlyn Sullivan, Robinson is dealing with an ankle injury that will keep him out of practice all week. At the same time, Marrone was told that Robinson feels like he can play against the Bears, so that’s a good sign. Of course, players have a knack for being overly optimistic about their abilities, so owners will have to watch Robinson right up until the inactives list comes out before Jacksonville’s 1 p.m. ET game against on Sunday.
If Robinson can’t go, some combination of Devine Ozigbo and Dare Ogunbowale will man the Jaguars’ backfield. Ozigbo was getting some buzz before the season started, but trusting either player in a fantasy championship game would only be a last-ditch, desperation move for teams with no talent at RB.
Is James Conner playing this week?
UPDATE: Conner practiced in full on Friday, which puts him on track to play this weekend.
Conner (quad) missed the Steelers’ loss to the Bengals, but it seems like he might be able to come back for this game. Per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, coach Mike Tomlin said that the team could “potentially have Conner” for Week 16 against the Colts. He was also impressed by Benny Snell’s effort in Conner’s absence.
While Conner may be back, there is a lot working against him in this matchup. First, he obviously is still a bit banged up, so that’s a negative. Second, Snell is emerging and could take some snaps away from him. Finally, the Colts have a good run defense, so Conner may have trouble getting things going anyway.
If Conner plays, he will be a high-end flex candidate, but nothing more given the questions surrounding him. If he’s out, Snell will be similarly ranked.
Is Damien Harris playing this week?
After logging two limited practices last week, Harris (ankle) was downgraded to out over the weekend for the Patriots. The team lost to the Dolphins and is now out of the playoff race, so while Harris’ injury may not have been severe, the Patriots could look to shut him down the rest of the season if he isn’t 100 percent.
The Patriots practice for the first time Thursday, so Harris’ status at the session will be telling. If he’s a non-participant, he may be out. Limited would indicate that he’s on track toward being “questionable” or playing. If he’s a full participant, then he will likely suit up against the Bills.
If Harris can’t play, Sony Michel will be the lead back with James White and J.J. Taylor mixing into the rotation a bit. Michel would be the only fantasy-viable option, though White could draw consideration as a low-end PPR flex because of his receiving upside.