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'Chuckstrong' Colts clearly fighting injury battle

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'Chuckstrong' Colts clearly fighting injury battle
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'Chuckstrong' Colts clearly fighting injury battle

Updated 9:40 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 3

The beatings go on.

Year after year, the inherent violence that is such an integral part of pro football turns seemingly legitimate contenders into decimated pretenders with a barrage of broken bones and torn ligaments that dramatically alter the league standings on a weekly basis.

Last year before the regular season started, down went four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, the victim of a neck injury that quickly set the wheels in motion for a major makeover for a Colts team that had become a model of steady success under the future Hall of Famer’s stellar direction.

This year before the regular season started, down went another NFL superstar on the other side of the ball, Ravens OLB and Pro Football Weekly 2011 Defensive MVP Terrell Suggs, who suffered a torn Achilles in early May, immediately triggering the likelihood that Suggs would, at the very least, miss a significant portion of the ’12 season.

In the months and weeks that have followed, injuries of all shapes and sizes have taken their toll on teams in varying degrees, setting the stage for Pro Football Weekly’s annual team-by-team injury analysis.

Using a formula that takes into account various factors (injured starters, quantity and quality of players injured, as well as specific input from a hand-picked group of established league talent evaluators), PFW has ranked the teams from those most affected by injuries to least affected, up through Week 13’s action.

After crunching the numbers and carefully assessing our extensive research, it would appear major injury epidemics have not nearly been as sure a recipe for disaster as in the past, with three of the top four hardest-hit teams in our rankings still very much alive for playoff berths with the season’s final month just getting under way.

At the top of the list, the Colts, of all teams, have weathered an injury storm of Hurricane Sandy proportions, having placed 11 players on injured reserve (tied for third in the league), including four starters, in addition to overcoming injuries to one key player after another.

“Perhaps it’s fitting that the team that lost its head coach (Chuck Pagano, recovering from leukemia) is at the top of the list,” one personnel evaluator told PFW. “I don’t think people realize how hard they have been hit by injuries and how well they have responded in the face of all the adversity that has struck.

“The way they have locked and reloaded is a credit to GM Ryan Grigson, (VP of football operations) Tom Telesco and the front office. They have done a remarkable job navigating through the depths of the league’s developmental talent and plugging holes to put themselves in contention for a wild-card spot.”

While the second-ranked team behind the Colts (Jacksonville, with a league-high 13 players on I.R.) is struggling mightily to make ends meet like one would naturally expect, the third- and fourth-ranked teams (Green Bay and Tampa Bay, respectively) have avoided the depths in the standings with the impressive depth on their rosters coming to the rescue.

“This season has an eerie resemblance to the 2010 season, when the Packers were decimated by injuries and went on to win it all,” noted the evaluator. “Their offensive line has been hit hard, and (they have lost) a lot of supporting talent. As long as (QB Aaron) Rodgers is in the saddle, they have a chance.

“For the Bucs, (OGs) Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks (both on I.R.) were huge losses, but with the rookie (Doug Martin) running as hard as he is, they have been able to overcome it. It trickles down from the head coach — Greg Schiano doesn’t look for excuses. And (GM) Mark Dominik has been one of the NFL’s best in finding replacements.”

Rounding out the top five is the Cowboys, with four starters among their nine I.R. casualties, led by talented ILBs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.

“Lee was playing at a higher level than any other linebacker in football when he was hurt. They are a different team when he and (NT) Jay Ratliff (five missed games with an ankle injury) are on the field,” the evaluator said. “You have to give (defensive coordinator) Rob Ryan a lot of credit for coaching around it. Also, the center’s absence (Phil Costa, eight missed games) has hurt more than people realize. He’s one of the most underrated players in the league.”

PFW’s findings indicate that the Packers and Steelers (ranked eighth, despite having only three players on injured reserve) have lost more impact starters than any team.

“It’s a credit to their coaching staffs and personnel departments that they are where they are right now,” the evaluator said.

As far as the single-most devastating blow, it would have to be the season-ending torn ACL suffered in Week Three by Jets CB Darrelle Revis, widely considered to be the league's most dependable defender when healthy.

What follows are complete injury rundowns for each team, ranked 1-32, accompanied by both up-to-date I.R. lists, as well as lists identifying other key injury victims, with starters on those lists designated in bold (players on I.R./designated-for-return lists are identified with asterisks).

Click here to see our annual All-Injury team, consisting of players who have either suffered season-ending injuries or missed a substantial portion of the season with injuries.

(1) INDIANAPOLISInjured reserve (11): NT Josh Chapman, WR Austin Collie, ILB A.J. Edds, OG Ben Ijalana, ILB Scott Lutrus, NT Brandon McKinney, DT Fili Moala, DT Drake Nevis, OG Seth Olsen, CB Jerraud Powers, WR Griff Whalen.

Other key injury victims: ILB Pat Angerer, RB Donald Brown, LCB Vontae Davis, TE Coby Fleener, OLB Dwight Freeney, OLB Robert Mathis, ORG Mike McGlynn, OLG Joe Reitz, C Samson Satele.

Angerer, the Colts’ leading tackler a season ago, was lost in the preseason with a fractured foot, causing him to miss five games. Freeney and Mathis have barely been on the field together, with Freeney suffering a high ankle sprain in Week One before Mathis hurt his back and knee. Basically, pick a player on defense, and he has missed time. Powers just recently went on I.R. with a toe injury. Davis has missed the better part of seven games with an ankle injury. Two of the top three defensive ends, Moala and Nevis, have been placed on I.R. in the past two weeks. McKinney went down before the season. And that’s just the defensive side of the ball. The offensive line did not start its five intended players for the first time until a few weeks ago, with both guards, Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn, and C Samson Satele all missing time. Fleener had missed the past four games with a shoulder injury before starting in Week 13. Brown missed a couple of games after having his knee scoped.

(2) JACKSONVILLEInjured reserve (13): FB-RB Brock Bolen, TE Brett Brackett, C John Estes, QB Blaine Gabbert, CB William Middleton, DT Drew Nowak, RB Jalen Parmele, WR Taylor Price, OLG Will Rackley, WR Laurent Robinson, DT D’Anthony Smith, OG-C Jason Spitz, TE Matt Veldman.

Other key injury victims: CB Derek Cox, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Rashad Jennings, FB Greg Jones, DE Austen Lane, FS Dwight Lowery, DE George Selvie, SLB Daryl Smith.

The Jaguars have been hit hard since the beginning of the season. Daryl Smith (groin), arguably their best defensive player, just came off the I.R./designated for return list and has yet to play a game. “MJD” (foot), easily the team’s best player, has missed the last six-plus games (including Sunday). Gabbert played through a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder for several weeks, and Robinson missed four-plus games with concussions. Rackley was also lost before the season. Cox, the team’s best corner, has missed four games and is nicked up again. Lowery also missed five games. Jennings (knee) missed two games then was knocked out of the Week 13 game with a concussion. Parmele, just as he was starting to come on, and Middleton were added to the injury wreckage, being placed on I.R. this past week. Jones has missed the past four games with a thigh injury. Lane missed three games to being the season then was inactive in Week 13. Selvie missed the first five games of the season.

(3) GREEN BAYInjured reserve (9): RB Cedric Benson, ILB Desmond Bishop, ORT Bryan Bulaga, DE Johnny Jones, LOLB Nick Perry, TE Andrew Quarless, S Sean Richardson, RB Brandon Saine, ILB D.J. Smith.

Other key injury victims: WR Greg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, ROLB Clay Matthews, S Charles Woodson.

The Packers’ I.R. numbers aren’t as daunting as they were two seasons ago, when the team landed 15 players on I.R. on the road to the Super Bowl, including, seven Week One starters. But when you also take into account the extended injuries of star players Jennings, who just returned after missing seven games with a groin injury, Woodson, who has missed the past five games with a broken collarbone, and Matthews (hamstring), who has missed the past three games, there’s no denying the grave extent to which attrition once again has contributed to the team’s condition. The good news is that the return of both Matthews and Woodson is not far off, and, like two seasons ago, the fill-ins for the team’s injured players have mostly done an excellent job. The most devastating injury was the dislocated hip suffered by Bulaga — an injury that trigged two changes on the line (T.J. Lang from left guard to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith replacing Lang) that haven’t worked out all that well. Depth on the O-line remains perilously thin. Bishop’s physical playmaking presence has been missed in the middle of the defense. Benson was just starting to come on before suffering a Lisfranc injury Oct. 7 at Indianapolis. On Sunday, Nelson appeared to reinjure the hamstring that forced him to miss some time recently.

(4) TAMPA BAYInjured reserve (11): WR-RS Arrelious Benn, SLB Quincy Black, DRE Adrian Clayborn, DB Anthony Gaitor*, S Cody Grimm, ORG Davin Joseph, OLG Carl Nicks, TE Danny Noble, WR Sammie Stroughter, OT Jeremy Trueblood, OG-OT Desmond Wynn.

Other key injury victims: DLE Da’Quan Bowers, RCB Eric Wright.

The loss of four starters is a heavy enough toll, but the number could be five if you include Benn, who was the team’s top kickoff returner. Nicks (left foot), an All-Pro with the Saints last season before signing as a free agent this offseason, and Joseph, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason, were widely considered to be the league’s top OG tandem. Gaitor (hamstring) remains on the I.R./designated-to-return list and would be welcomed back. The secondary has been hit by a combination of injuries, suspensions and roster moves (trade of CB Aqib Talib). Wright missed the Week 12 game with an Achilles injury before he was suspended. Bowers didn't return until midseason after starting the season on the PUP list while recovering from an Achilles tear. A fact worth noting: the Bucs reportedly have a league-high $37.89 million in salaries on injured reserve this season.

(5) DALLASInjured reserve (9): P Chris Jones, S Barry Church, S Matt Johnson*, RILB Sean Lee, LILB Bruce Carter, LB Caleb McSurdy, LB Orie Lemon, WR Donavon Kemp, DT Kenyon Coleman.

Other key injury victimsC Phil Costa,CB Mike Jenkins S Danny McCray, RB DeMarco Murray, NT Jay Ratliff, CB Orlando Scandrick, S Gerald Sensabaugh.

The back seven on defense has gotten battered pretty badly. At linebacker, both Lee and Carter were having excellent seasons. The loss of Lee, a PFW All-Mideseason selection, really hurt the unit’s pass coverage, and both Lee and Carter provided great athleticism. With Costa leading the way with eight missed games, almost all of the team’s offensive linemen have been playing through weekly injuries. The secondary has been a bit of a juggling act. Scandrick (broken left hand) got hurt in the Thanksgiving game, and the unit had previously lost Jenkins (right shoulder) for three games and McCray and Sensabaugh for one game each, plus Church (Achilles) and Johnson (hamstring). On the D-line, Jay Ratliff (ankle) missed five games. And in the backfield, Murray (foot) had missed six games entering Week 13.

(6) N.Y. JETSInjured reserve (7): DB Royce Adams, FB-TE Josh Baker, TE Dedrick Epps, WR Santonio Holmes, LB Josh Mauga, CB Darrelle Revis, CB Isaiah Trufant.

Other key injury victims: TE Dustin Keller, QB Tim Tebow.

The Jets’ list is small but quite noteworthy, considering it has Revis (torn ACL in Week Three), the best player on the team, period, and arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, at the top. Antonio Cromartie has played well in Revis’ absence but the defense is not the same without him. Second on the list is Holmes, the team’s top offensive playmaker who went down one game after Revis with a Lisfranc foot injury. Wide receiver was already a weak position for the Jets, and the team hasn’t been able to effectively replace Holmes. Mauga and Trufant are reserve defenders. Tebow, whose role on the team remains murky, is currently battling ailing ribs. Keller injured his left ankle Sunday in the win over Arizona, reportedly suffering a high ankle sprain.

(7) ARIZONAInjured reserve (5): OLT Levi Brown, RB Javarris James, OLB O’Brien Schofield, C Lyle Sendlein, RB Ryan Williams.

Other key injury victims: TE Todd Heap, QB Kevin Kolb, QB John Skelton, RB Beanie Wells.

The Cardinals’ major offensive problems this season are a direct result of the major hit they’ve taken at quarterback, running back and, most notably, on the offensive line. Things have gone from bad to worse for Russ Grimm’s OL unit, which lost Brown (triceps) and veteran reserve Jeremy Bridges (thumb, subsequently released) before the season and Sendlein, the line’s most reliable performer, with a torn MCL in Week 12. At quarterback, Skelton beat out Kolb in the preseason only to go down with a sprained ankle late in the season opener. Kolb held his own for four starts before suffering a rib injury vs. the Bills in Week Six from which he still isn’t fully healed. At running back, the promising Williams suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in early October, while Wells (toe) was knocked out in Week Three against the Eagles and just recently came back from the I.R./return-for-designation list. Heap (knee) has been a disappointing nonfactor since getting hurt in Week Two.

(8) CLEVELANDInjured reserve (9): LB Emmanuel Acho, DL Auston English, SLB Scott Fujita, WLB Chris Gocong, WR Jordan Norwood, OLG Jason Pinkston, DT Brian Sanford, DE Emmanuel Stephens, FB Eddie Williams.

Other key injury victims: WR Travis Benjamin, CB Joe Haden, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, CB Dimitri Patterson, RB Trent Richardson, DT Ahtyba Rubin, DT Phil Taylor.

The defense has received its share of big blows. Gocong (knee), who had been a steadying, durable influence, went down in the summer, and the Browns have had to go young at linebacker with Fujita (neck) also out for season, and possibly his career. Taylor (pectoral) missed the first half of the season but is back in the lineup and making an impact. Rubin (calf) has missed three games. Haden's games missed were mostly because of a four-game suspension, but he had an oblique injury that cost him a game. Patterson, the third cornerback, has missed the bulk of season with an ankle injury. On offense, Richardson has battled through ankle and rib injuries. Massaquoi (hamstring) has missed some time, as has rookie WR Benjamin (hamstring).

(9) WASHINGTONInjured reserve (12): S Jordan Bernstine, FB Dorson Boyce, DE Adam Carriker, TE Fred Davis, RB Tristan Davis, WR Darius Hanks, RB Roy Helu Jr., S Brandon Meriweather, CB Chase Minnifield, NT Chris Neild, OLB Brian Orakpo, LB Keenan Robinson.

Other key injury victims: ORT Jammal Brown, ILB London Fletcher, LS Nick Sundberg.

The Redskins suffered a major double whammy in Week Two when two-time Pro Bowler Orakpo (torn pectoral muscle) and Carriker (quad tendon in right knee) suffered season-ending injuries. The defense has tried to hold serve since then and is doing a miraculous job, all things considered, but not necessarily good enough. The loss of Davis (ruptured Achilles) was a big one. He was starting to become a key target for rookie QB Robert Griffin III. Meriweather’s season was a nonstop nightmare because of knee issues, and the safety position has been a mess all season. Brown (hip) is still on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and his career could be toast. The overhyped Helu Jr. would have been a change-of-pace back only. The team used the I.R./return designation on Sundberg, who is back. Fletcher’s impressive consecutive-game streak of 235 (entering Sunday) appears to be in weekly jeopardy as he deals with an injured ankle.

(10) PITTSBURGHInjured reserve (3): LB Chris Carter, ORT Marcus Gilbert, LB Sean Spence,

Other key injury victims: ORT Mike Adams, WR Antonio Brown, OLG Willie Colon, WR Jerricho Cotchery, ORB Jonathan Dwyer, RB Rashard Mendenhall, SS Troy Polamalu, C Maurkice Pouncey, RB Isaac Redman, QB Ben Roethlisberger, CB Ike Taylor, OLB LaMarr Woodley.

While the Steelers have only three players on injured reserve, no team has been hit harder by injuries to players that are still on the roster, with Roethlisberger first and foremost. The rib and shoulder injuries that have forced “Big Ben” to miss the past three games can’t help but be a major concern, and Leftwich (ribs) has missed the past two games. On the other side of the ball, Polamalu (calf), one of the best playmaking defenders in the business when healthy, has missed all but three games, having returned to play against Baltimore in Week 13. But Taylor, the team's top corner, reportedly could miss 3-6 weeks after injuring his right ankle/lower leg in the first series against the Ravens. Woodley, who sat out Week 13 (ankle), had a hamstring injury early in the campaign. Mendenhall (knee, Achilles) was hurting most of season before being benched (fumbles, ineffectiveness) leading up to Week 13. Redman and Dwyer also have fought injuries at times, too. Adams (ankle) being out in Week 13 is a big issue with Gilbert out for season. Pouncey (leg) missed a game and a half, and Colon has battled a knee injury of late. Brown (ankle) missed multiple games, and Cotchery is currently battling rib injuries.

(11) BALTIMOREInjured reserve (11): RB Damien Berry, LB Ricky Brown, S Emanuel Cook, DB Anthony Levine, MLB Ray Lewis*, OLB Michael McAdoo, DT Ryan McBean, RB Bobby Rainey, WR Tommy Streeter, S Christian Thompson, CB-RS Lardarius Webb.

Other key injury victims: DT Haloti Ngata, CB Jimmy Smith, OLB Terrell Suggs.

The most significant injuries were suffered by Lewis (triceps), who could still return, and Webb (knee) — both hurt in Week Six vs. Dallas. Webb was playing very well this season, and is one of AFC's better corners. Lewis wasn't playing to great reviews before his injury, but his experience and leadership are still valuable elements. The groin injury Smith suffered in early November has stressed the depth in the secondary, but he could be back at some point. Corey Graham has stepped in for him. Suggs, a five-time Pro Bowler, had surgery May 8 to repair a torn Achilles and spent the first six weeks on the PUP list. He suffered a torn biceps in Week 13, but is seeking a second opinion and might continue trying to play. Ngata has battled through shoulder and knee injuries most of the season and was rested in Week 10. The offense has been fairly healthy.

(12) N.Y. GIANTSInjured reserve (10): RB Andre Brown*, CB Michael Coe, DT Markus Kuhn, OG Brandon Mosley, DT Martin Parker, DT Shaun Rogers, RB Da’Rel Scott, CB Terrell Thomas, DE Justin Trattou, CB Brian Witherspoon.

Other key injury victims: CB Prince Amukamara, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, DT Rocky Bernard, DT Chris Canty, ORT David Diehl, WR Hakeem Nicks, SS Kenny Phillips, LB Keith Rivers, LB Jacquian Williams.

The Giants’ secondary has taken a significant hit, with Thomas, the team’s leading tackler in 2009 and ’10, going on I.R. for the second year in a row with another knee injury. Phillips has missed six games (knee) and been hurt most of season, and Amukamara, a former first-round pick, missed the first two games (ankle). Nicks, who broke his right foot in the second OTA this offseason, has missed three games and barely practices with foot/ankle injuries. Bradshaw (neck/knee) has been playing hurt much of the season. The loss of Brown could be big. He was the yin to Bradshaw’s yang, and could provide a possible postseason boost. Kuhn was a surprise starter before Canty came back after missing the first six weeks on the PUP list (knee). Diehl missed three games, and Bernard missed four games. Coe was contributing as a dime CB. Rivers, a top reserve, has missed five games, and Williams, a key nickel LB/cover guy, has been out since mid-October.

(13) ATLANTAInjured reserve (8): FB Bradie Ewing, TE Tommy Gallarda, CB Brent Grimes, WR Kerry Meier, TE Adam Nissely, ORG Garrett Reynolds, S Shann Schillinger, OT Will Svitek.

Other key injury victims: WR Julio Jones, DT Corey Peters, CB Asante Samuel, OLB Sean Weatherspoon.

The biggest loss has been Grimes, the team’s franchise player who went down for the season in Week One with a torn Achilles. The secondary has managed to survive pretty well without Grimes, but Samuel aggravated a shoulder injury early in the Thursday-night victory over the Saints, and could make things dicey for the defensive backfield moving forward. The defense has also done a good job overcoming the extended losses of Peters (six games missed with left foot injury) and Weatherspoon (three games missed with a right ankle injury). Jones has been banged up with an ankle injury, and he had to miss significant portions of games in November. The O-line has been very thin at offensive tackle with Svitek going on I.R. in the preseason with an upper arm injury.

(14) PHILADELPHIAInjured reserve (4): WR DeSean Jackson, C Jason Kelce, OT Todd Herremans, WR Ron Johnson.

Other key injury victims: RB LeSean McCoy, OT Jason Peters (reserve/non-football injury list), QB Michael Vick, ORG Danny Watkins.

The big ones currently are the injuries to Vick and McCoy (concussions), but the Eagles can thank O-line injuries for ruining their season. First, Peters, a five-time Pro-Bowler, ruptured his right Achilles tendon back in late March while working out in his hometown in Texas. That led to the signing of Demetress Bell, who has been a bust. Then, Kelce (knee) went down in Week Two, and Herremans (broken bones, torn ligaments in his right foot) followed suit in Week Nine. That’s your top three linemen right there. Plus, Watkins missed three games. Jackson’s disappointing season ended when he suffered fractured ribs early in the Monday-night loss to the Panthers. For the Eagles, it’s not the sheer number of injuries they have suffered, which is not that high. It’s the pound-for-pound impact of the guys who got hurt that must be carefully weighed.

(15) TENNESSEEInjured reserve (11): C Eugene Amano, DE Dave Ball, DE Keyunta Dawson, LB Zac Diles, DE Leger Douzable, RB Darren Evans, ORG Leroy Harris, LB Kevin Malast, WR-RS Marc Mariani, LB Gerald McRath, RB Javon Ringer.

Other key injury victims: WR Kenny Britt, QB Jake Locker, MLB Colin McCarthy, ORT David Stewart.

With the exception of Locker, who missed five-plus games with a separated non-throwing shoulder, the Titans haven’t been that banged up in terms of key players until Stewart suffered a broken leg in Week 13. Amano suffered a season-ending torn triceps injury in training camp, and Harris (partially torn right ACL) went down for the count a few weeks ago, but their replacements, Fernando Velasco and Deuce Lutui, respectively, aren’t really big drop-offs. Ringer (left knee) went on I.R. about a month ago. McCarthy, who missed four games early in the season with a high right ankle sprain, sat out Week 13 with a concussion. Britt (knee) missed the start of the season and still isn’t his old self. Mariani, a Pro Bowl return specialist as a rookie two seasons ago, broke both bones in his lower left leg late in the preseason, but Darius Reynaud has done well in his place.

(16) CAROLINAInjured reserve (11): WLB Jon Beason, NT Ron Edwards, CB Chris Gamble, C Ryan Kalil, DE Thomas Keiser, CB Nate Ness, LB Kenny Onatolu, KR-WR Kealoha Pilares, OG Mike Pollak, RB Tauren Poole, OT Lee Ziemba.

Other key injury victims: WR David Gettis, S Sherrod Martin.

Carolina’s offensive line and defense have both been hit pretty hard with Kalil (torn ligament in his left foot), MLB Beason (knee, torn labrum in his left shoulder) and Gamble (torn labrum in right shoulder) going on I.R. pretty early in the season. Kalil, who has been to the last three Pro Bowls, had started 16 games in each of the last three seasons and is also a prominent figure in the locker room. Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler, has played in only five games since receiving a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension in 2011. Gamble is the team’s all-time leader in interceptions. A key target for Carolina in 2010, Gettis (hamstring) has not really been a factor and started the season on the PUP list. Edwards (dislocated elbow), whose inside presence along with Dwan Edwards had enabled the Panthers’ pass rush to get better, was just placed on I.R. this past week. Losing Pilares, the team’s top kickoff returner when he went down, also hurt. Martin suffered a season-ending torn ACL and MCL in Week 13.

(17) HOUSTONInjured reserve (7): PK Randy Bullock, OT Rashad Butler, ILB Brian Cushing, LB Keyaron Fox, NT Ra’Shon Harris, DE David Hunter, DE Tim Jamison.

Other key injury victims:  NT Shaun Cody, TE Owen Daniels, S Quintin Demps, ILB Tim Dobbins, ILB Bradie James, WR Lestar Jean, RCB Jonathan Joseph, CB Brice McCain, RB Ben Tate, SLB Brooks Reed

With the exception of Cushing, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week Five, and Tate, who had missed five games entering Week 13 with both toe and hamstring injuries, the Texans had been relatively unscathed — until the past two weeks. Losing Reed (groin) for at least a month on Thanksgiving hurts. Joseph (groin) didn’t play against Detroit and played through the injury earlier in the season. James (hamstring) and Dobbins (shoulder) also missed the Lions game and Newton (right knee) missed time in that game. The Texans were without their dime safety, Demps, for three games earlier this season. Swing OT Butler went on I.R. before the season with a knee injury. Jean missed a few games after having his knee scoped. Cody and Daniels both missed the Bears game. All in all, still not nearly as bad as last season, although the loss of Cushing, the defense’s leading tackler and emotional leader, was a real tough one. McCain, who started with Joseph out, had surgery for a broken foot Monday and is expected to be placed on I.R./designated for return, which would knock him out until the Super Bowl, if the Texans make it that far.

(18) OAKLANDInjured reserve (7): WR Duke Calhoun, WR-RS Jacoby Ford, LB Travis Goethel, OT Zach Hurd, P Marquette King, WR Mario Kurn, CB Shawntae Spencer.

Other key injury victims: ORT Khalif Barnes, LCB Ron Bartell, RB Darren McFadden, RB Mike Goodson, DLT Richard Seymour

McFadden, who has missed four consecutive games with a high ankle sprain is the big one. Fellow RB Goodson also has been out with a high ankle sprain. Barnes was out for eight weeks recovering from groin surgery. Ford was the team’s top kick returner. Seymour has missed the past four games with hamstring and knee injuries. Spencer (foot) and Bartell, who broke his shoulder blade in the season-opening loss to San Diego and did not come back until Week 10, were the team’s top two corners.

(19) NEW ENGLANDInjured reserve (9): CB Will Allen, S Josh Barrett, RB Jeff Demps, CB Ras-I-Dowling, LB Dane Fletcher, TE Brad Herman, OL Kyle Hix, FB Spencer Larsen, OL Jamey Richard.

Other key injury victims: WR Julian Edelman, TE Aaron Hernandez, TE Rob Gronkowski, DLE Chandler Jones. OLG Logan Mankins.

The Patriots have been walking a tightrope at tight end much of the season. First, Hernandez missed six games with an ankle injury, and now the team must get by for an extended period without Gronkowski (surgery on broken forearm), who was having a second consecutive spectacular season before recently getting cut down. Fletcher, Ras-I Dowling, Allen and Barrett were all reserve players, but would have factored in the defense. Dowling is notable because the team had high hopes for him, and it’s his second season in a row on I.R. He was the third or fourth corner when he got hurt. Fletcher has been a key special-teamer. Demps is on I.R., but it almost could be considered a redshirt year for the former track star. The team never got a chance to see what Allen or Larsen could have contributed. Jones (ankle) has missed the last two games (he’s been ruled out Sunday). Mankins, a four-time Pro Bowler, has missed six games, most recently with ankle and calf injuries, but the line has done well without him. The versatile Edelman, who has become an increasingly valuable contributor, was sporting a walking boot after the Pats' win over Miami Sunday.

(20) NEW ORLEANSInjured reserve (8): LB Chris Chamberlain, WR Chris Givens, OT Bryce Harris, OT Marcel Jones, DE Greg Romeus, OG Andrew Tiller, WR Nick Toon, OT Fenuki Tupou.

Other key injury victims: OT Charles Brown, TE Jimmy Graham, RB-RS Darren Sproles, ORT Zach Strief, WLB Jonathan Vilma.

The Saints were without Vilma early in the season as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. They have been banged up at right tackle, with Strief, Brown and Harris all missing time. Sproles, who set a league record with 2,696 all-purpose yards last season and is a key cog in both the offense and on special teams (starting kick returner), missed three games after having surgery to repair a broken hand. Graham, one of the league’s elite tight ends, missed Week Seven at Tampa Bay and was limited throughout the San Diego game in Week Five after suffering an ankle injury.

(21) DENVERInjured reserve (9): DE Jeremy Beal, OG-C Philip Blake, SS Quinton Carter, RB Mario Fannin, DE Jason Hunter, MLB Joe Mays, RB Willis McGahee*, C J.D. Walton, DT Ty Warren.

Other key injury victims: ORG Chris Kuper.

The big name here is McGahee, though he is designated to return (available for the AFC title game). The Broncos have plenty of backs to help replace McGahee, who was ranked fifth in the AFC in rushing, (731 yards, 4.4 avg.) before being placed on I.R. Warren’s replacements (Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Mitch Unrein) have played well, and the same goes with Walton’s replacement, seasoned vet Dan Koppen. Mays had lost his starting spot to Keith Brooking before going down. Carter was expected to battle for a starting spot before going on I.R. and would certainly help the secondary. Hunter was a top reserve on the D-line. Kuper missed the first month of the season recovering from preseason surgery on his left forearm and has missed a total of six games.

(22) KANSAS CITYInjured reserve (8): TE Kevin Boss, DE Glenn Dorsey, C Rodney Hudson, DB Kyle McCarthy, CB DeQuan Menzie, TE Jake O’Connell, TE Martin Rucker, QB Alex Tanney.

Other key injury victims: OLT Branden Albert, QB Matt Cassel, RB Peyton Hillis, FS Kendrick Lewis, QB Brady Quinn.

Unlike last year, when they got bombarded early by season-ending injuries to key players (S Eric Berry, RB Jamaal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki), the Chiefs have suffered shockingly few major injuries this season. Dorsey (calf) was the team’s best D-linemen, but close team observers believe he could be gone after this season. The biggest loss was probably Hudson (broken bone in his left leg), whose departure triggered a reshuffling on the O-line. Albert, the team’s best offensive lineman, missed the Week 12 game (back) and played but didn’t start in Week 13. Both quarterbacks have suffered head injuries, but neither Cassel nor Quinn has turned heads with anything resembling consistently positive play. Boss (concussion) was slated for a key role. Lewis (shoulder) missed the first five games. Hillis missed three games. Of course, the suicide of ILB Javon Belcher, who started 10 of the 11 games in which he played this season, must be acknowledged, the ramifications of which are immeasurable.

(23) BUFFALOInjured reserve (7): C Colin Brown, CB Terrence McGee, WR David Nelson, ORT Erik Pears, OG Chad Rinehart, OT Zebrie Sanders, DT Torell Troup.

Other key injury victims: DE Mark Anderson, RB Fred Jackson, LCB Aaron Williams, DLE Mario Williams, C Eric Wood.

Nelson and Pears are the key names here. Nelson (torn ligament in right knee) was the team’s second-leading receiver last season and could have been a weapon, especially in the red zone, where the Bills have struggled. Pears had a solid year in 2011 and got an extension, but he wasn’t healthy from the start of 2012 after offseason hernia surgery, and his replacement, Chris Hairston, is a downgrade. McGee is familiar with the I.R. list (three of past four seasons ended on I.R.), and if healthy could have helped a banged-up CB group. Rinehart is the team’s top interior reserve and started a few games this season. Jackson (concussion) has missed three games, but C.J. Spiller has excelled with more playing time. Anderson, who was supposed to amp up the pass rush, has been out since early October with a knee injury. Aaron Williams has been out since Week 10 with a knee injury. Mario Williams had a mid-October surgical procedure on his wrist, but never missed any playing time. Wood suffered an MCL injury in Week 13 and is expected to miss some time.

(24) DETROITInjured reserve (5): CB Bill Bentley, RB Jahvid Best, WR Nate Burleson, OG Bill Nagy, S Amari Spievey.

Other key injury victims:OLT Jeff Backus, WR Ryan Broyles, FS Louis Delmas. LCB Chris Houston, DT Corey Williams.

The secondary has been hit the hardest. Delmas’ injured knee, which has forced him to miss most of the season, has been an ongoing issue. The Lions were counting on Bentley (shoulder), and Houston, their top CB, missed time earlier in campaign with an ankle injury. Williams (knee) has missed multiple games. On offense, Backus (hamstring) had a long consecutive games streak snapped in Week 12. Burleson was effectively replaced by Titus Young and then Broyles before Broyles suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 13.

(25) CINCINNATI Injured reserve (10): DE Jamaal Anderson, C Kyle Cook*, S Tony Dye, CB Brandon Ghee, WLB Thomas Howard, CB Shaun Prater, CB Taveon Rogers, S Robert Sands, RB Bernard Scott, OLG Travelle Wharton.

Other key injury victims: C Jeff Faine, WR Andrew Hawkins, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, WR Marvin Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu.

There have not been huge injury concerns for the Bengals. Faine has filled in adequately for Cook (right foot) most of the season before suffering a hamstring injury that forced him to miss three games. Injuries at wideout — Hawkins (knee), Jones (knee), Sanu (foot) — have been problematic at times. Sanu is out for the season, it appears, while Hawkins and Jones are back. The Bengals had become increasingly dependent on Sanu in recent weeks in the red zone, where he scored four TDs in a three-game span before his injury. On defense, the costliest injury was suffered by Kirkpatrick (broken bone in left knee), who was inactive the first seven games.

(26) CHICAGOInjured reserve (3): S Brandon Hardin, ORG Lance Louis, OG Nick Pieschel.

Other key injury victims: WR Earl Bennett, QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forté, WR Devin Hester, WR Alshon Jeffery, CB Tim Jennings, DE Shea McClellin, OLG Chris Spencer, MLB Brian Urlacher.

The Bears’ O-line has been hit hard of late. Louis, who injured his left knee in Week 12, was widely considered the team’s best lineman. Spencer (knee) is out for Week 13, and Gabe Carimi, who started the season at right tackle but has moved to right guard to replace Louis, has really struggled in his return from knee surgery. OLG Chilo Rachal is on the non-football injury list. Cutler missed a game and a half with a concussion, and the offense struggled mightily without him. Forté has missed a game with a high ankle sprain. At receiver, Bennett was out with a hand injury early in the season, Hester is recovering from a concussion and Jeffery is on his second injury of the season (broken hand, knee surgery). McClellin missed a game with a concussion. A bunch of Bears were unable to finish the game Sunday against Seattle with Urlacher (hamstring), Jennings (right shoulder) and Bennett (concussion) all going down for the count.

(27) SAN DIEGO Injured reserve (7): SS Atari Bigby, WR Vincent Brown*, OG-OT Brandyn Dombrowski, OLT Jared Gaither, WR-KR Richard Goodman, OG Johnnie Troutman, LS Mike Windt.

Other key injury victims: OLT Michael Harris, ORT Jeromey Clary, OLG Tyronne Green, PK Nate Kaeding (released), RB Ryan Mathews.

Gaither and Bigby, both recently put on I.R., were big losses. Gaither (back) wasn’t healthy all season, and Harris. an undrafted rookie, has struggled protecting Philip Rivers’ blind side. Head coach Norv Turner said after the Week 13 loss to the Bengals that Harris (ankle), Clary (knee) and Green (hamstring) could all miss the Chargers' Week 14 game with injuries. Bigby (groin) had started every game and exceeded expectations, and the onus likely will fall on special-teamer Corey Lynch, who started in Week 13, or rookie Brandon Taylor to fill the void. Windt and Goodman were key special-teams players. Kaeding kicked in the first three games before injuring his groin, which led to the signing of Nick Novak and Kaeding’s release. Mathews (collarbone) was inactive the first two weeks of the season. Brown broke his left ankle in mid-August and placed on I.R./designated for return after impressing in the preseason. Dombrowski (foot) was on the reserve-non-football illness for much of the season and Troutman (arm) was on the reserve/non-football injury list. Both came off their lists on Nov. 6 and practiced with the team but didn’t show enough and went on season-ending I.R.

(28) MINNESOTAInjured reserve (4): WR Greg Childs, CB Chris Cook*, OT DeMarcus Love, DB Nick Taylor.

Other key injury victims: WR Percy Harvin, SS Mistral Raymond.

Why have they won games? Good health. The one major injury has been to Cook, who broke his arm vs. the Buccaneers in Week Eight and could be back in a few weeks. Of the other three players on I.R., only Childs is considered a potential significant contributor. Harvin (ankle), who has missed the past three games with an ankle, has obviously been missed. Raymond (ankle) missed six games.

(29) MIAMI Injured reserve (2): CB Richard Marshall, S Kelcie McCray.

Other key injury victims: OLT Jake Long.

Until Long, a perennial Pro Bowler, suffered a likely season-ending torn triceps Sunday in the loss to the Patriots, Miami had been relatively healthy. Marshall was a Day One starter who allowed Miami to part ways with Vontae Davis. The team has had trouble replacing him outside with Sean Smith, so it’s been a big loss.

(30) ST. LOUISInjured reserve (3): S Matt Daniels, DT Trevor Laws, OLG Rokevious Watkins.

Other key injury victims: WR Danny Amendola, SLB Mario Haggan, OLT Rodger Saffold, C Scott Wells.

While Amendola might be the Rams’ best player, he also might be the most injury-prone. That’s a trait that could directly affect his future in St. Louis. After coming back much quicker than expected from a scary collarbone injury, missing only three games, the feisty slot specialist was listed as doubtful heading into the last two games with a foot injury (he played and caught one pass in Week 12 and was inactive in Week 13). The offensive line did a decent job getting by without Wells (fractured foot), who just returned from the I.R. list after being out since Week One, and Saffold, who missed six games with neck and knee injuries. Haggan (elbow), who has started only game, has missed five games.

(31) SAN FRANCISCOInjured reserve (3): OLB Parys Haralson, RB Kendall Hunter, WR Kyle Williams.

Other key injury victims: WR-RS Ted Ginn Jr.

The high-flying Niners were enjoying remarkably good health for the second season in a row until Hunter (torn Achilles), and Williams (torn ACL) both went down in Week 12 on the same play. Hunter was providing featured back Frank Gore welcome relief and the team welcome production (5.2 yards per carry). Williams was a gutty force in the slot and special teams. In both cases, the team appears to have adequate depth to replace them. Ginn missed the first three games and is currently bothered by an injured wrist.

(32) SEATTLEInjured reserve (3): DE Dexter Davis, WR Ben Obomanu, TE Cameron Morrah.

Other key injury victims: OLG James Carpenter, CB Marcus Trufant, SLB K.J. Wright.

Injuries have not been a big problem at all for the Seahawks. Wright missed a game and a half with a concussion. Carpenter, who came back quicker than expected from a serious knee injury, missing only the first three games, also had a concussion that forced him to miss two more games recently. The costliest injury could be the one to Trufant, who came up with a late-week hamstring injury in advance of the Week 13 game in Chicago. Trufant figured as the likely replacement for LCB Richard Sherman should Sherman get suspended for four games after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

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