As a springboard off of the Just thought that this could bring some enlightenment to what to expect when a player is given a certain injury status classification by the team.
When 'Doubtful' Means There's No Doubt
Here's a quick lesson in NFL injury-report semantics:
"Probable" means definite. "Questionable" is closer to probable. And "doubtful?" If a player is listed as doubtful, like the Colts' Peyton Manning is this week, then there's virtually no doubt whatsoever that he's going to sit out.
It's long been known that injury reports aren't to be taken totally literally. The official NFL definitions are that "out" means a player definitely won't play that week; doubtful means at least 75% chance the player sits; questionable means 50-50 and probable means it's a virtual certainty he'll play. Indeed, the Patriots famously have listed quarterback Tom Brady as "probable" for years, even though he made 111 straight starts at one point.
But how do the numbers actually work out?
Last year, only 0.9% of players who were listed as doubtful wound up playing that week. Of the NFL's 32 teams, 30 (including the Colts) didn't have a single "doubtful" player see action. Players listed as "questionable" played 57% of the time, while 94% of "probable" players saw the field.
In the case of Manning, who is sidelined because of a slower-than-expected recovery from neck surgery, perhaps listing him as doubtful is a signal that he's merely out for the time being. If Manning progresses, perhaps he'll eventually be upgraded to "questionable" (meaning probable) on his way to "probable" (meaning out of the injury woods). A downgrade to "out," though, could signal a more definitive setback and thus a very long season.
Here is how often players who were listed on the NFL injury report played last year and since 2006:
CLASSIFICATION / PLAYED THAT WEEK
Probable / 93.8%
Questionable / 56.9%
Doubtful / 0.9%
Probable / 92%
Questionable / 57.8%
Doubtful / 2.4%
Source: Stats LLC