This Given Sunday will examine the biggest injury questions before each week of the NFL season. Here are the top five health-related storylines entering Week 1.
How strong will Adrian Peterson's left knee be?
Peterson plans on taking the field against the Jacksonville Jaguars only 260 days after blowing that knee up on Christmas Eve, 2011. That would represent a remarkably swift recovery from such a serious injury, and the concern is that AP will have barely endured contact and won't have taken any preseason snaps prior to suiting up against Jacksonville. He's finally practicing without a red jersey, which means teammates can finally hit him, but he's still limited in practices and will likely be questionable for the opener.
Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that Peterson will be limited regardless, though, so you might want to play it safe and stash the 27-year-old on your fantasy bench for Week 1. The advantage is that fantasy owners probably prepared for such a development by drafting Peterson's handcuff, Toby Gerhart, or by simply drafting the necessary depth to replace AP early on. As for the Vikings, they could be in some trouble against a Jaguars team that was sneaky good in run defense last season, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry (fourth in the league).
Same question applies to Trent Richardson in Cleveland
The rookie back who's often been compared to Peterson is also entering Week 1 with left knee issues, but it isn't expected to be as big a problem. The No. 3 overall pick in April's draft had the knee scoped exactly one month prior to the opener, but he didn't return to practice until Monday and was limited throughout the early part of the week.
Expect the 21-year-old Alabama product to start Sunday against a Philadelphia run defense that can be had, but you're always gambling when you're dealing with a) a rookie, b) the Browns, and c) a knee injury.
Oh, one more running back knee — this time it belongs to Rashard Mendenhall
Mendenhall tore his right ACL one week after Peterson suffered his injury, which is why it's equally amazing that he practiced fully Wednesday, according to the team. That said, there might be some gamesmanship at play here, because the 25-year-old didn't take a single snap in the preseason and was considered to be a candidate for the physically unable to perform list.
Indications, though, are that he's suddenly healthy, which either means the Steelers want the Broncos to believe that's the case or Mendenhall's been drinking vampire blood. He'll likely be called a game-time decision, which has to be scary because he'd be a great fantasy — or real-life — play against a sub-par Broncos' run defense.
Stevie Johnson's been dealing with a groin injury since, like, 1984
The thing won't stop nagging the Bills wide receiver, which is a little concerning when you consider that Johnson will have to go up against Darrelle Revis on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The 26-year-old has been limited in practice, and he says his groin is 90 percent. That means he's likely to play Week 1, but he'll probably be questionable and could be somewhat limited.
Johnson's presence will be crucial for the Bills, as well as fantasy owners, because he's proven that he can beat Revis. In two games last year, Johnson had 11 catches against the All-Pro cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus.
Back spasms could prevent us from seeing Beast Mode in Week 1
Marshawn Lynch continues to be limited by that pesky back of his, and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll isn't ready to say that he'll play in Arizona Sunday. He was limited in practice Wednesday, according to Danny O'Neil of the Seattle times, and might be a game-time decision for a late-afternoon start.
Back spasms might not seem overly concerning, but Lynch missed a game due to the exact same ailment last season and he now hasn't practiced in two weeks. Rookie fourth-round pick Robert Turbin would likely start in Lynch's place against a vulnerable run defense, so Lynch fantasy owners would be smart to claim him off waivers if he's still available.