Carolina’s backfield is a mess entering Week 5 while Arizona got some good and bad news on the injury front coming out of its bye. Here’s the latest on those situations and the playing status of some other key running backs.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
Probable – Foot
He’s still being limited in practice, but the hope is that the bye week allowed for Ellington’s foot to heal some. Either way, he’s listed as Probable and will be out there against the Broncos. Ellington’s owners are also hoping that the time off will benefit his production too, especially in what could end up being a relatively high-scoring affair with the Broncos. Ellington is a safe RB2 with the upside for much more.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
Probable – Ankle
Talk about your triumphant returns. Just two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, Charles was back on the field Monday night, scoring three touchdowns to fuel the Chiefs’ rout of the Patriots. He did tweak his leg or get a cramp at one point, but was able to return and apparently made it through OK. He was limited earlier this week in practice, but was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable for this afternoon’s game. Charles is a must-start RB1, and if Monday night showed anything, it appears there are enough touches available for Knile Davis to remain a safe flex option too.
Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
Probable – Thigh
Even though he was declared “ready,” Pierce did not see a single snap in last week’s win over Carolina. Whatever the reason for that decision, it did allow Pierce another week to recover, which seems to have paid off. Pierce was a full participant this week in practice and is listed as Probable. However, Pierce’s expected return only complicates the Ravens’ backfield picture since Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro have each been productive when given an opportunity. If I were to handicap this situation, I would categorize Pierce as a risky RB2, Forsett as a relatively safe flex option and Taliaferro as the odd man out for this week but still someone worth keeping an eye on. I told you it was complicated.
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears
Doubtful – Knee; Out – Ankle
The Panthers are digging deep to fill out their backfield, as injuries have clearly taken their toll. Mike Tolbert (leg fracture) is on IR while Williams, who missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a hamstring injury is now dealing with a high ankle sprain and has already been ruled Out. Stewart sprained his knee two weeks ago, but was back at practice on Wednesday. It was just a brief appearance, however, and he wound up just watching practice the next two days. He’s listed as Doubtful, but there’s no reason to count on having Stewart today. Carolina’s starting running back instead will be Darrin Reaves, an undrafted free agent from UAB who was elevated from the practice squad a few weeks ago. Backing up Reaves will be journeyman Fozzy Whittaker and recent free-agent acquisition Chris Ogbonnaya. Reaves should see the bulk of the carries, but even as porous as Chicago’s run defense has been early on, I’m not sure I would want to take a chance on an unproven guy who was doing scout team work just two weeks ago.
Already Ruled Out:
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals – The bruised nerve in his throwing shoulder will sideline Palmer for a third straight game, as Bruce Arians announced on Friday that Drew Stanton would start against Denver. After showing some signs of progress during the team’s bye week, Palmer experienced a setback earlier this week, which caused him to go seek a second medical opinion. While Palmer has said he doesn’t need surgery and this isn’t considered a season-ending injury, there’s not much else he can do other than hope his shoulder responds to treatment. In the meantime, Stanton has been steady in leading the Cardinals to back-to-back wins. He’s not likely to put up huge numbers on a weekly basis, but today’s matchup in Denver could be profitable, especially if the game develops into some short of shootout. Depending on your options, Stanton could merit QB2 consideration this week.
Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers – Mathews is expected to miss at least a month after spraining his MCL in Week 2 while Woodhead was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg in Week 3. Donald Brown will carry the load for the time being with undrafted rookie Branden Oliver listed next on the depth chart.