A few injuries suffered during Week 14 action could have a major impact on several contests this week, starting with the 49ers-Seahawks game on Thursday night. Seattle, which clinches the NFC West with a win, will be without star wide receiver Darrell Jackson (turf toe).
Also of major significance, the Jones' (Thomas and Kevin) will have a tough time keeping up with anyone, while the Falcons' backfield duo of Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood is struggling with leg injuries of their own.
Let's go to the injury report and find out who's in, who's out and who might be getting signed!
Jake Delhomme, who missed the Carolina Panthers' loss against the Giants because of ligament damage in his right thumb, will attempt to grasp and throw the ball in practice this week. However, the team may still go with backup Chris Weinke against the Steelers. Weinke passed for a career-high 423 yards but also had three costly interceptions against the Giants.
Charlie Frye of the Cleveland Browns has been unable to practice or throw since suffering an injury to his right wrist two weeks ago. The team is expected to start Derek Anderson this week against Baltimore with Ken Dorsey serving as the team's backup. The taller Anderson (6-foot-6) added a dimension to the offense by throwing a few more plays down field in their lopsided loss to the Steelers a week ago, so the front office would like to make a long-term determination on his skill level before entering the offseason.
Daunte Culpepper of the Miami Dolphins was placed on the injured reserve list on Tuesday, which ends his first season with the team without him showing the past ability they had hoped for, but also leaving a lot of doubt regarding the position next season.
Thomas Jones of the Chicago Bears is dealing with a left ankle and groin injury that could limit him the rest of this week and keep him from being 100 percent this weekend against the Buccaneers. The Bears are prepared to give extended carries to Cedric Benson and also make use of third-string running back Adrian Peterson. Check back on his availability after the team's practice on Friday, but right now it seems like Jones will play in some role on Sunday.
Kevin Jones of the Detroit Lions has been placed on the season-ending IR list with what the team fears is a major, mid-left foot injury that could require up to a full year of rehab. Jones was expected to have an MRI and second opinion of the initial diagnosis done by a foot specialist, but insiders say that if it is indeed the same type of foot injury suffered by teammate Teddy Lehman, the Lions could be in the market for a veteran back for the start of next season.
The Falcons' Dunn will attempt to practice with his left calf injury later this week, but has been slowed since being dinged up in last weekend's victory over the Bucs. Meanwhile, rookie Norwood has also been sidelined after he suffered a right knee injury in the same contest. Norwood did not suffer any major damage to his knee, but he seems less likely to practice and play this weekend, which could lead to more carries for fullback Justin Griffith.
Carolina's DeShaun Foster, limited to 23 yards on eight carries against the Giants, figures to start against the Steelers as he continues to heal from a dislocated left elbow. The Panthers feel that he should be back to full stride this week, so he will continue to start ahead of rookie DeAngelo Williams.
Chester Taylor of the Minnesota Vikings, who missed last week's game because of injured ribs, will try to practice this week. The Vikings turned to former Lions back Artose Pinner, who ran for 125 yards and three touchdowns against his former team, but will likely split the load between Pinner and Ciatrick Fason if Taylor is out against the Jets.
Miami's Ronnie Brown has yet to practice as he continues to heal from a broken hand and has been ruled out against the Bills, according to one team official. There is a chance the Dolphins could see Brown return to practice or at least attempt to do some light work with the team, but veteran Sammy Morris is expected to get a bulk of the carries this week.
Laurence Maroney of the New England Patriots was knocked out of last week's game against Miami with the lingering effects of a concussion and back injury from the week before. The team hopes to have him back in action this week, but look for veteran Corey Dillon to see the bulk of the carries unless Maroney has a great rest of the week in practice.
Seattle's Jackson has not practiced because of an injured toe. The Seahawks are hopeful that he can return in Week 16, but they may also have a less-than full-strength backup as Bobby Engram, who is recovering from a thyroid condition. Key reserve receiver D.J. Hackett could become a much more prominent weapon in the matchup, especially with the 49ers having had to put cornerbacks Sammy Davis and Donald Strickland on the IR this week.
Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers has started to show signs of recovering from a knee injury that has sidelined him for the past three weeks. He hopes to practice later in the week, but has been able to run and cut on the leg in recent days. If he plays against the Panthers, it could mean less playing time for either rookie Santonio Holmes or Nate Washington depending on the availability of fellow starting receiver Cedrick Wilson, who also sat out last week's game with an ankle injury.
Carolina's Steve Smith suffered an ankle injury in last week's loss to the Giants. He will attempt to practice on Wednesday, but may not be full speed until later this week if nothing new arises with what was said to be a mild ankle sprain.
Brandon Stokley of the Indianapolis Colts has been placed on IR after suffering a right Achilles tendon injury that will require surgery and could keep him out into part of next year's training camp. The Colts recently signed veteran wide receiver Ricky Proehl, who could now see more action than initially expected by replacing Stokley as the team's primary slot receiver.
Miami's Chris Chambers expects to be fully recovered from a possible knee/ankle injury he suffered when he got rolled up in a pile last week. He was helped from the field, but later returned. He expects to practice today and start against Buffalo on Sunday.
Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris has been placed on IR after his hamstring injury was deemed serious enough to require surgery in order to correct. The Bears will sorely miss his presence inside as he was often too quick to block one-on-one, plus he was their best interior pass rusher. Cornerback Nathan Vasher is hopeful that he can return from a hamstring injury, but is still listed as questionable.
Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark continue to rehab from their respective leg injuries, but while Clark seems likely to practice and play this week, the same cannot be said for Polamalu. He has not been able to practice this week, and the team is preparing to play without him in Week 15. If the Steelers get back to .500 this week, he could push it to come back in Week 16. However, a loss this weekend could lead the team to keep him idle the rest of the way. Rookie Anthony Smith will be in the starting lineup once again.
The New York Giants are preparing to play without cornerback Corey Webster again this week after a toe injury sidelined him last weekend. They also seem aware that the chances of All-Pro defensive end Michael Strahan returning to the field this season will only happen if the team is able to secure a spot in the playoffs. He has yet to get back to the point where he can practice with the team after suffering a sprained right foot last month.
St. Louis Rams outside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is likely to miss the rest of the season after suffering a broken right hand in Monday night's loss to the Bears. He most certainly should find his way onto someone's "All-Tough Man" team as he has battled through a wide variety of injuries, including a dislocated elbow and bounced back to perform admirably for a defense that has struggled most of the season.
Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders is still attempting to return to practice after missing last week's loss to the Jaguars because of a knee injury. However, it does not seem likely at this point that he will return to action this week against the Bengals.