Injuries are an unfortunate, but unavoidable part of football. In such a physical game, there is going to be wear and tear on all of the players. Sometimes, the injuries are major, knocking players out for an entire season, but other times, the injuries are more of the day-to-day variety.

That creates a scenario where we occasionally won’t know a player’s status heading into Sunday. That’s where the Inactives Tool comes into play. Each team is required to announce which players on their active roster will not dress for the upcoming game, which is often the final word in a player’s injury availability.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to get the most out of our Inactives Tool.

What Are Inactives?

This is the most important concept to grasp for this tool. You might think that every player on an NFL roster is eligible to suit up on gameday, but that’s ultimately not the case. Teams have an official active roster size of 53 players, but only 48 of them are eligible to play in the game. That doesn’t include the new emergency third quarterback, who is only available to play if both of the top quarterbacks suffer injuries.

That means that for each game, both teams will have to submit a list of as many as seven players that will not be dressing for the upcoming contest.

In a perfect world, these players would be the seven worst players on your team. In reality, these spots are often used for players who have suffered short-term injuries and are not quite healthy enough to suit up. They’re not so banged up that they’ve landed on Injured Reserve, but the team does not want to risk their health in the upcoming contest.

Those inactive lists are often how we learn of a player’s final injury status.

What Are Injury Statuses?

Injury statuses are how we monitor the health of NFL players in the run up to gametime.

During the week, NFL teams are required to list the practice status for each player during the first two days. For Sunday contests, that means the teams have to list the players availability for Wednesday and Thursday. There are ultimately three different types of availability:

  • Out: The player was unable to participate in any portion of practice.
  • Limited: The player was able to participate in at least some team activities.
  • Full: The player was a full participant with no limitations.

Early-week practice statuses aren’t particularly important. Plenty of veteran players have limited practices on Wednesday only to be fully available by game day.

Practice absences later in the week have a much larger impact on their availability. A general rule is that a player needs at least one limited practice in order to suit up. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it happens pretty frequently. If a player is unavailable for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, there’s a good chance they’ll be inactive on Sunday.

On Friday – or Saturday for Monday Night Football contests – the teams will have to list their initial injury reports. If a player is not listed on the injury report, it means they have no status and are expected to play in full in their upcoming contest. However, the players that are listed can fall into three separate categories:

  • Questionable: The player’s status is uncertain.
  • Doubtful: The player is unlikely to suit up.
  • Out: The player is officially out of the lineup.

There also used to be a “probable” designation, but the NFL officially removed that a few years ago. That means that players who used to be listed as probable to suit up are now listed as questionable, so a questionable tag does not mean that you shouldn’t expect the player to play. In fact, if a player is questionable after logging a limited or full practice on Friday, they should be tentatively expected to suit up.

It should be noted that this only applies to players who have suffered manageable injuries. Players who suffer more significant injuries are typically placed on Injured Reserve. A player can be removed from IR after three weeks, so if the absence is expected to sideline the player for at least that long, they can be placed on IR and removed from the active roster. That allows the team to find an additional body either from the practice squad or outside of the organization to fill that spot.

As long as a player is on Injured Reserve, they are not going to be listed on the injury or practice report since they are technically not on the active roster.

What is the Inactives Tool?

This is the culmination of everything we’ve discussed previously. The Inactives tool allows you to keep tabs on the players whose statuses are uncertain heading into gameday.

Approximately 1.5 hours before kickoff – so 11:30 a.m. ET for 1 p.m. games – teams will have to submit their official inactives list. That is typically where we get the final injury decision on players who were previously listed as questionable or doubtful. If they were questionable heading into the day and are not inactive, it means they’re going to play in some capacity. It doesn’t guarantee that they’ll handle a full workload, but it means they’re going to at least be in the lineup.

If a player is listed as inactive, it means they are not going to dress for the upcoming game. Those are players that you obviously want to get out of your fantasy lineups in all formats.

The Inactives Tool keeps track of all this data in one location. It will note which players are officially active or inactive as the lists roll in, so you can keep track of all the players you care about in one location.

Before that, it will show any injury designations heading into game day, along with their most recent practice status. That means you’ll have a great idea of which players you need to monitor before kickoff.

Why are Inactives Important?

Injuries are arguably the biggest wrinkle in both fantasy football and sports betting. Losing a starter is going to have massive ramifications across the rest of the roster, which are important to keep in mind when constructing your lineups and betting cards.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. Let’s say that Stefon Diggs was questionable heading into the Bills’ game and was ultimately listed as inactive. That’s going to have an impact on virtually every other position on the team’s offense.

What happens to Josh Allen? You probably still won’t consider benching him for fantasy purposes, but is he now someone that you might want to target with an under on his passing prop? Does Allen possibly run more without his top pass-catcher, making his rushing overs better selections?

What about the rest of the Bills’ pass-catchers? Do you look to target guys like Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie at receiver, or possibly someone like Dalton Kincaid at tight end? Or is it possible that the Bills’ lean heavier than usual on their rushing attack?

Knowing which players are available and which are inactive could change your entire read on a certain game, especially if it’s a marquee player like a quarterback.

Fortunately, not only do we keep you updated with injury news at FantasyLife, we also help with everything else. Our Rankings Tool is constantly updated to reflect any potential injuries. Our Projections are refreshed with all the latest intel. Our Game Hub will let you know which props and sides our team thinks are the way to go. All of those tools help you navigate any injury uncertainty heading into kickoff.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if I bet on an inactive player?

If you bet a player prop earlier in the week, you can occasionally have a ticket on a player who ends up being inactive. Ultimately, a player needs to see the field in order for that bet to be declared a winner or a loser. That means that bets on players who are inactive will be voided.

If you bet a parlay that includes a prop bet on an inactive player, it will ultimately just be removed from the wager. For example, a three-leg parlay would have the prop bet removed, leaving a two-leg parlay.

How Long Can I Keep a Player on IR in my Fantasy Leagues?

This is going to depend on your league settings. Some leagues don’t have any IR spots, so you’re going to have to decide whether or not you want to stash the player on your bench or dump him on waivers.

However, if you do have IR spots, you can typically keep the player there for as long as they remain on Injured Reserve in real life. If they end up missing eight weeks before being activated, you can keep him there for the duration.