Many fantasy football players study NFL injury reports every week to try and decide which players to start, and which to sit. This is also important for sports handicappers to try and figure out which players will be playing in a given game. Obviously, if a star player is out, that will more times than not hurt the team.
Luckily for fantasy football players and sports handicappers alike, all NFL teams are required to provide on injury report every day. These reports file all of their players as either healthy or under one of the four possible standard injury designations: out, doubtful, questionable and probable.
The biggest reason it is required is because the information makes gambling on football and fantasy football games possible. The NFL would never come out and say that if you asked, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
All of these injury designations have a percentage tied to them. Probable means a player is 75% likely to play, questionable is 50%, doubtful is 25%, and out is 0%. A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an article that had the real percentages for these labels.
In fact, they discovered that doubtful players played 3% of the time, questionable was close to 55%, and probable was over 90%. This article was posted in 2011 and provided research back to 2006, and I don’t think much has changed since. Let’s take a look at the four designations.
Probable – If a player is probable, he is almost definitely playing. Players on this list usually miss some practice time or are bothered by a minor ailment. In a classic move from Bill Bellichick, he had Tom Brady listed as probable for a few years despite not missing any time.
Questionable – This designation is the only one that has proven to be legitimate. A player listed as questionable may or may not play, and it’s right around a 50/50 shot.
Doubtful – A player listed as doubtful is almost definitely not playing. Many teams like to leave the possibility open that the player will play, but as stated in the earlier study, only 3% of players listed as doubtful actually do play.
Out – This is as simple as it gets. If a player is listed as out, then he is definitely not playing in the upcoming game.
It is safe to assume that players listed as probable will play, and players listed as doubtful and out won’t. The tricky part is determining which questionable players will suit up, and which won’t. You can get an educated guess by reading some press clippings about each team to find out. However, your best bet is to pay attention closer to game time.
With smart phones these days, this is an easy task. If you are serious about fantasy football or sports handicapping, then you will almost certainly check on a players’ status before setting your lineup or placing a bet.