The news that the NFL has eliminated the “probable” designation and expanded “questionable” and “doubtful” has sent shock waves through the football-following world — specifically those who follow football primarily for the purposes of playing fantasy football.
The real impact will depend on how teams handle players who previously would have been listed as “probable.” If those players are simply removed from the final report, that aspect of the new reporting rules won’t be an issue. For example, players who didn’t practice simply because they received a veteran’s day off previously were required to be listed as “probable.” Now, they’ll be gone from the last report of the week.
But if players who previously would have been listed as probable due to a slim chance that they wouldn’t play are now listed as questionable because they fall into the range that has expanded from a straight 50-50 to 99.5 all the way down to 50, it will be difficult to separate those “questionable” players who are highly likely to play and those who are truly “questionable.”
Likewise, with “doubtful” now increasing from 25 percent to the full range from 49.9 to 0.1, there’s a chance that far more players getting that designation will actually play. Which means that players who would have been written off in past years actually may now suit up and go, on a more regular basis.
The daily practice reports will help to solve the puzzle, but they won’t be dispositive. Especially since the league also has scrapped the “out” designation from the two reports that come before the final report of the week. So if a player doesn’t practice at all in the days preceding a game due to injury, he will be listed as “questionable,” “doubtful,” or “out” on the final report of the week.
Some teams may be tempted to list no players as “out,” which will add to the cluster of ambiguity regarding which players will actually play.
Here’s the bottom line: Teams inclined to play games with the injury report will have more opportunities for gamesmanship, and those who need to know who will and won’t be playing will possibly be kept guessing up until 90 minutes before kickoff. Which will do nothing to decrease the very real availability of the kind of inside information that gamblers and high-stakes fantasy-football players will crave. And they’ll surely try to come up with ways to get it.
Meanwhile, the ever-growing hoard of reporters who chase the details about who will and won’t be playing will have even more opportunity to pester their sources for the truth on whether a guy will be playing — along with more opportunities to whiff on whether the information provided is accurate.