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Week 8 injury watch: Gronk returns to help ailing Patriots

Last week, the Patriots escaped Chicago with a 38-31 win, a feat made more impressive by the offense operating largely without Sony Michel in the backfield. The rookie tailback suffered a knee injury early in the second quarter, leaving New England without a traditional between-the-tackles runner. While James White and Kenjon Barner did an admirable job in expanded roles, the Patriots offense lacked an important element after Michel went down.

The Patriots have yet to determine Michel's status for Week 8 and their AFC East tilt with the Bills. Still, even if he can't play, New England could see the return of All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk became a surprise scratch a week ago when back trouble forced him to miss the team flight.

While the Patriots have plenty of players to monitor, numerous other fantasy contributors could miss Week 8.

Bears: Allen Robinson (groin) - The Bears could play without their No. 1 receiver for the first time all season. Allen Robinson missed the Bears' final three possessions last week and only returned to practice Friday, suggesting that the injury could significantly limit his effectiveness this Sunday. If Robinson lands on the inactive list, rookie Anthony Miller could see double-digit targets for the first time in his career.

Bills: LeSean McCoy (concussion) - LeSean McCoy practiced in a limited capacity this week, he has yet to clear the concussion protocol. That could happen between Friday and game time, but fantasy players have no way of predicting the outcome. Chris Ivory, who produced 106 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches last week, would once again take over the lead role in the backfield if McCoy can't go.

Broncos: Royce Freeman (ankle) - Royce Freeman has landed on the wrong side of the Broncos' backfield timeshare often in recent weeks, and now an injury could further entrench Phillip Lindsay as the team's lead back. Freeman hasn't practiced this week and looks like a long shot to play. Certainly, Lindsay would benefit from more work in Freeman's absence, but Devontae Booker expects to see more touches as well.

Colts: Jack Doyle (hip), Marlon Mack (ankle) - After nearly six weeks sidelined with a troublesome hip, tight end Jack Doyle will return to action. The Colts removed the tight end from their injury report after he participated in a full practice Friday. Meanwhile, Indianapolis labeled Marlon Mack as questionable to play with an ankle injury, though the running back returned to practice on Friday.

49ers: Matt Breida (ankle) - After missing practice earlier in the week, Matt Breida returned in a limited capacity Friday. While meaningful progress, the 49ers declared Breida questionable to play this weekend against the Cardinals. Though Alfred Morris remains the nominal top backup, Raheem Mostert received more touches each of the last two weeks.

Lions: Theo Riddick (knee) - The Lions ruled out Theo Riddick for the second straight game after the running back missed the entire week of practice. Riddick's absence yields more opportunities for rising star Kerryon Johnson, who produced a career-best 179 yards from scrimmage last Sunday in Miami.

Packers: Geronimo Allison (hamstring), Randall Cobb (hamstring) - After multigame hiatuses, wideouts Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb appear ready to return. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said the duo "look like they're ready" to play during a press conference earlier in the week, and no reports of have surfaced to suggest a setback for either player. Green Bay needs all the offensive firepower it can muster to match the high-powered Rams.

Patriots: Rob Gronkowski (back), Sony Michel (knee) - All signs point to Rob Gronkowski returning to action, especially after the tight end practiced for the second consecutive day. The opposite appears true for Sony Michel, who hasn't participated in any of New England's practice sessions this week. As of yet, the Patriots haven't made any roster moves in the backfield, so James White and Kenjon Barner will split the workload in Buffalo.

Rams: Cooper Kupp (knee) - The knee injury that sidelined Cooper Kupp last Sunday appears likely to do so again in Week 8, with the Rams listing the second-year wideout as doubtful to play. Assuming he sits, expect fellow receiver Robert Woods slide into Kupp's role. Woods ran over 60 percent of his routes from the slot in Kupp's absence a week ago. That bodes well for him against a Packers defense that has struggled with slot receivers all season.

Redskins: Chris Thompson (ribs, knee) - In each of the previous two weeks, Chris Thompson saw limited work in practice and a questionable injury designation. Both times, he ended up on Washington's inactive list. Thompson has followed the same script in advance of Sunday's game against the Giants. At best, he looks like a true game-time decision.

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