The 49ers and Saints released their final injury reports for Sunday's Week 12 matchup and there are no real surprises. Alex Smith is listed as questionable, but rather than rehash the 49ers QB situation for the 100th time this week, I thought I'd focus on the other notable name on this week's injury reports: Darren Sproles.
The Saints running back and primary return man has been sidelined since fracturing his hand in Week 8. It sounded like he would be back last week against the Raiders, but he ended up a last minute scratch. This week Sproles has been a full participant in practice, and is listed as probable for Sunday's game.
Sproles gets some work in the running game, but he is more involved in the passing attack coming out of the backfield. I imagine a linebacker will be spying him for much of the game, leaving said linebacker with his hands full. Sproles brings great speed and athleticism, which could make for a fun matchup against either Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman, depending on who gets the assignment.
The other area where Sproles can make an impact is in the return game. Prior to his injury, Sproles was the primary kickoff and punt return man. He is fourth in the league in kick return average (28.7 ypr) and near the bottom in punt return average (6.6 ypr). The 49ers have improved in their return coverage, shutting down the likes of Devin Hester and Patrick Peterson in recent week. The Saints are plenty explosive on offense, so there will be no need to give them a further boost with solid field position on special teams. I think it's safe to say that!
Here are the final injury reports:
Questionable: QB Alex Smith (concussion)
Probable: CB Tarell Brown (knee), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), S Dashon Goldson (ribs, calf), LB Tavares Gooden (shin), RB Frank Gore (wrist, ribs), WR Randy Moss (finger), LB Aldon Smith (shoulder), S C.J. Spillman (finger), DT Will Tukuafu (wrist, wrist), LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)
Out: T Charles Brown (knee), DE Junior Galette (ankle), CB Elbert Mack (concussion), CB Corey White (knee)
Questionable: T Zach Strief (groin)
Probable: LB Ramon Humber (illness), RB Darren Sproles (hand)