Many factors go into how long it takes a player to recover from an injury. Their age, physical condition, the type of injury, whether it's a recurring issue and their body's ability to heal all play a role. But there's another factor which might be just as important when determining whether and when a player comes back: The team's record. And if it doesn't look good, you might lose your player for the rest of the season, whether the injury warrants it or not. Some of the guys you're hoping return for a stretch run simply aren't coming back.
Full disclosure: I saw my season hang in the balance when Cooper Kupp went down with an ankle injury on Sunday. Never mind that we had an unnecessary scare when he came up limping at the end of a loss a couple weeks ago. This new injury looked bad, and head coach Sean McVay admitted as much. Then reports came in that it wasn't as bad as it could have been, so while he's expected to "miss some time," he should be back in time for the fantasy playoffs, right?
Yeah, sure. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't expect him back this season at all. It's not the extent of the actual injury as much as the Rams' 3-6 record. Looking at their schedule, there's a good chance they're sitting at 4-8 in three weeks, and out of the division race. Why bring him back? Maybe they go on a win streak and actually have a shot at the playoffs. Maybe he has a bonus clause in his contract (he's fewer than 200 yards from 1,000). But Sean McVay isn't on the hot seat. They can shut him down and the coaching staff will still be there in 2023. They weren't winning with him, so how will they win without him? Throw in uncertainty with Matt Stafford, and the speculation about Kupp's availability seems like a moot point. I'm not dropping him, but I'm moving on. Thanks, Cooper. Get well soon. The league needs more talents like you.
The news is more dire if you're waiting on Darren Waller to come off IR and help your team. The Raiders are a mess, five games out of first place in their division, and there's little optimism they'll turn it around this season. You've heard the phrase "if the season ended today?" If it ended today, Raiders' fans would probably be relieved. What would the team gain by throwing Waller out there at the end of a failed campaign? Unlikely to come back, in my opinion.
The Bengals, on the other hand, will get Ja'Marr Chase back. They're in the thick of the division race and have all the confidence in the world that they can compete with anyone if they make the playoffs. They look much better than the team that beat them in the Super Bowl. Nobody is shutting down a difference-maker like Chase unless it's absolutely necessary.
And going forward, these developments are going to get worse, not better. A lost season is a strong disincentive to put a valuable asset at further risk. And don't be fooled; these players are assets in billion-dollar companies. They don't care about your fantasy team. They don't even care about the short term. Winning a couple extra games means little to them if they're not making the playoffs. And as the weeks go by, more and more teams will write off what's left of the season.
Here's what it means for you: If the team is losing with little chance of a turnaround, expect injuries to take longer to "heal." Don't count on your player coming back in 2022. Yes, they're professionals and they have a job to do. Yes, they love the game. Yes, they want to perform well. But no, none of that really matters. Management isn't going to risk injuries to players they'll need down the road. A team with three wins or fewer is close to folding their tents, unless they're in the NFC South.
I know there isn't much you can do about an injured player. But mentally, don't buy into optimistic scenarios if the team is out of the playoff hunt. Last-minute trades, the waiver wire, and whatever you have on your bench will have to carry you through. But if you think these guys are coming back, I think you're going to be disappointed. Just say adios, wish them well, and move on.
I could be wrong, of course. Maybe they come back and make a difference for your team. I hope that's the case. But realistically, there isn't enough time left in the regular season for an out-of-contention team to rally back into relevance. Add in a couple more losses, and they're going to weigh the value of trotting someone out there against getting them ready for 2023. And in most cases, your fantasy team will come up short in that equation.
In a few more weeks, I expect garden-variety injuries to land some players on IR. Even healthy players will take a back seat while the coaching staff gets a look at their younger guys. So when you're evaluating your fantasy team, take team records into account as well. They could play a role in whether you're saying "see you soon" to your starter, or saying goodbye. Good luck this week.
Do you expect these guys to come back and contribute to a fantasy title? At what point do you write them off? Which player is most likely to come back and help your team? Share your thoughts below.