John Abraham, Justin Smith headline injuries to watch heading into NFL postseason

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

The Atlanta Falcons wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but played to win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Falcons suffered a 22-17 loss as a few key players exited the games with injuries that will be worth monitoring over the next few weeks. Cornerback Dunta Robinson left the game with a head injury and fellow cornerback Asante Samuel aggravated a shoulder injury that limited him to three snaps over a two-game stretch late in the season. Defensive end John Abraham was carted off the field with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

With a 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West and secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, giving themselves a bye week and allowing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith more time for his elbow/triceps injury to heal.

The Green Bay Packers are the No. 3 seed and will host the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Saturday night. Unlike Sundays' 37-34 in Minneapolis, the Packers should have leading receiver Randall Cobb, who sat out the game with an ankle injury. Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews limped off the field in the fourth quarter, but after the game said that he did not aggravate a hamstring injury that cost him a quarter of the 2012 regular season. Packers rookie defensive end Jerel Worthy was carted off the field with a left knee injury that is worth monitoring.

The Vikings lost cornerback Antoine Winfield in the first half after he aggravated his broken right hand. Whether he attempts to play through the injury Saturday will be determined this week.

With their 28-18 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins won the NFC East for the first time since 1999 and will host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET. The main injury situation to monitor is rookie quarterback Robert Griffin, who is less than a month removed from a sprained right knee and is playing with a brace. In his second start after missing a Week 15 win over the Cleveland Browns, Griffin was not as limited against the Cowboys, using his legs to run for 63 yards and a touchdown. Griffin would need to be helped off the field late in the game, however, and may be limited in practice this week.

The Seahawks rested linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring) and took a precautionary approach with cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) for Sunday's 20-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. The Seahawks emerged from that game without any major injuries and figure to have Hill and possibly Thurmond available for Sunday afternoon's game. Seattle will also get starting cornerback Brandon Browner back from his four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.

The Baltimore Ravens rested most of their banged up players for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, guard Marshal Yanda, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, and safety Bernard Pollard all sat. Fullback Vonta Leach aggravated an ankle injury early in the game and was removed. Rookie right tackle Kelechi Osomele was also nicked up, but head coach John Harbaugh said that both Leach and Osomele's injuries were not serious.

Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis injured his hamstring in pregame warmups and did not play. Green-Ellis finished his first season with the Bengals with 1,094 yards and six touchdowns rushing. His status for next weekend's game against the Houston Texans is unknown.

Once in control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Texans lost out on a first-round bye with a 28-16 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Texans inside linebacker Daryl Sharpton left Sunday's game with a hip injury, which is a major concern as the third-year linebacker opened the season on the physically unable to perform list due to an injured hip. Even though they were locked in as the AFC's No. 5 seed, the Colts played most of their starters throughout the game. Their most notable injury Sunday was a head injury to left guard Joe Reitz, who will have to pass through the concussion protocol tests to play against the Ravens on wild-card weekend.

The Denver Broncos earned the AFC's No. 1 seed with their win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and can use the week off to get a bit healthier along the offensive line. Right guard Chris Kuper (ankle/head) dressed on Sunday, but did not play on offense. Right tackle Orlando Franklin left the game with a left leg injury. The Broncos played the regular-season finale without return specialist Trindon Holliday (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion).

With the Texans' loss to the Colts, the New England Patriots earned a first-round bye with their 28-0 win over the Miami Dolphins. The win came with a price, though, as outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury. Ninkovich has a team-leading eight sacks and his absence for any stretch in the playoffs would create a major hole on a defense that has had a tendency to spring a leak in the playoffs. The bye week will help tight end Rob Gronkowski's left forearm heal, though we're still expecting Bill Belichick to list a considerable portion of the 53-man roster on the injury report.

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