During last week's action, the Giants lost another blocker, the Redskins were left taking "Betts" on how to replace their leading rusher and the Falcons' pass rush being was brought to a standstill thanks to the loss of another starting defensive end.
The merry-go-round of health issues has created a lot of voids for several playoff contending teams. However, a few other star players seem to be close to returning to the field over the next two weeks.
Let's go to the injury report and find out who's in, who's out and who might be getting signed!
The Kansas City Chiefs' Trent Green will start against the Raiders, his first appearance since suffering a major concussion in Week 1 vs. Cincinnati. Coach Herm Edwards is hoping his veteran starter can lead the team to a possible playoff berth after Damon Huard struggled in a loss to Miami last weekend. But Green doesn't have star tight end Tony Gonzalez (shoulder injury) in the lineup and is playing behind an injury-plagued offensive line. The Chiefs will run the ball early and often on Sunday, then use Green's accuracy to make short passes and find a few play-action opportunities to go deep. They want to get Green back in the flow, but his health bears watching as the struggling line faces a decent Raiders pass rush.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been slowly working his way back onto the field as he returns from a sprained knee. He worked out earlier this week, but still had a few limitations. If he continues to progress by Saturday morning, there is a chance he could see some first-half snaps against the 49ers on Sunday. If he does not start/play this week, it is almost a guarantee that Hasselbeck will be back under center at home against Green Bay in Week 12.
The Oakland Raiders will turn back to former starting quarterback Aaron Brooks when they face the Chiefs. Brooks was highly ineffective before hurting his right shoulder, but the inconsistent play of Andrew Walter has created the chance for the veteran. If the Raiders are to get more production, Brooks needs to get wide receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter more involved in the offense early and hope the offensive line can open better holes for running back LaMont Jordan and Justin Fargas. At some point, they are likely to put the ball back in Walter's hands before making a final decision on how to address the quarterback position headed into 2007.
Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis was placed on injured reserve with a broken bone in his right hand, which required surgery earlier this week. The team will observe backup Ladell Betts down the stretch. Betts has shown a flair for producing big plays during the chances he has had to fill in for Portis in recent years. He also seems to be an ideal fit for coordinator Al Saunders' offense thanks to his fine hands out of the backfield. It will also be interesting to see if reserve T.J. Duckett, who has logged just seven carries this season, gets more short-yardage or goal-line carries over the rest of the season.
Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander is close to getting cleared to rejoin the team for this weekend's game against the 49ers. Coach Mike Holmgren intends to have him practice the rest of this week and then make a final decision on how much playing time he will receive this Sunday. If healthy, expect him to get 15-20 carries. While they won't overlook the 49ers, the Seahawks want to have a fresh and healthy Alexander down the stretch as they make a run for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
New York Giants running back Tiki Barber is set to play this week after re-injuring his thumb against the Bears. Barber has had some past issues with fumbles, but says that this injury will not create any issues with his security of the ball. It could however keep the Giants from using him as a focal point of the passing game, and provide Brandon Jacobs with a few extra carries against the Jaguars.
The San Francisco 49ers still expect to have running back Frank Gore in their game against the Seahawks after he suffered a mild concussion against the Lions. Gore, who had 159 running yards (148 in the first half) in the win over Detroit, missed the end of the third quarter and all of the fourth. Considering he has become the team's go-to weapon on the offensive side of the ball, the 49ers are being protective of his future, but team doctors have said he did not suffer any post-game effects from the concussion.
Cleveland Browns running back Reuben Droughns has missed practice time this week due to a foot injury he suffered against the Falcons on Sunday. The team has used Jason Wright and rookie Jerome Harrison in his place this week and Wright should get the starting nod if Droughns is ruled out against the Steelers.
Minnesota Vikings fullback Tony Richardson will likely be put on the IR after suffering a fractured forearm against Green Bay. The Vikings plan to use backup tight end Jeff Dugan and starter Jim Kleinsasser in his place this coming week, but will look to find an experienced West Coast-style fullback on the free agent market to add for the rest of the season.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
Kansas City All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez will miss at least this week's game against the Raiders with a sprained left shoulder. Backups Jason Dunn and Kris Wilson will see additional action this week and the Chiefs are projected to use more formations that will help better protect quarterback Trent Green.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian is expected to return this week after missing the game against the Giants with a rib injury. His replacement, speedy Mark Bradley, scored a long touchdown a week ago, but Berrian has provided the team with a great vertical threat all season, and would be welcomed back to the starting lineup against the Jets.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn could be limited the rest of the season by his quad/knee injury that has been slow to heal. He missed last week's game and is probable for the contest with the Colts. Backup Patrick Crayton had a huge afternoon against the Cardinals and rookie Sam Hurd has gained the respect of the team's coaching staff, so they could opt to give Glenn another week off.
The Giants have lost starting left tackle Luke Petitgout for at least 6-8 weeks after he broke his left leg against the Bears. Veteran tackle Bob Whitfield replaced him, but struggled to contain defensive end Alex Brown, which could become a season-long problem if he's required to help on the left side to protect quarterback Eli Manning's blind side. The Giants have limited options as Whitfield and rookie Guy Whimper are the only two tackles on the roster outside of starting right tackle Kareem McKenzie. As a result of being overwhelmed by injuries throughout their defense and the loss of wide receiver Amani Toomer for the season, resources are starting to get tight in terms of signing a street free agent to help the line.
St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace will miss the rest of the season with torn triceps muscle in his left arm. The Rams used veteran journeyman Adam Goldberg in his place for the rest of their game against the Seahawks, but they could use Todd Steussie at that spot, as well. Earlier this year, the Rams lost starting center Andy McCollum for the season, so the team is thin on the O-line.
Miami Dolphins offensive guard Jeno James is expected to miss at least a week after undergoing his second procedure on his right knee in the past month. James, the only interior lineman to start all nine games this season, will be replaced by veteran Kendyl Jacox against the Vikings. The team also recently signed offensive guard Toniu Fonoti, a second-round choice in 2002 by San Diego, who has nearly eaten his way out of the league by having his weight go as high as 380-plus pounds this past offseason.
Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney is out for the season after suffering a torn right pectoral muscle against the Browns. Un-drafted rookie Paul Carrington and journeyman Josh Mallard will replace Kerney, the second starting defensive end to be sidelined. John Abraham continues to rehab from abdominal surgery that will keep him out for at least the rest of the month.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis hopes to return to the lineup on Sunday after missing last week's game against the Titans with a back injury. Lewis, who has not practiced yet this week, would be replaced by Dennis Haley at middle linebacker if he's unable to go against the Falcons. Key reserve Mike Smith, who started against Tennessee, is out after suffering a dislocated shoulder last week.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu has every intention of playing this week despite suffering a sixth concussion. His five previous concussions occurred before he started his NFL career. The Steelers face the Browns on Sunday, but it is more a matter of security as the team does not want him to face any long-term or lingering effects from his latest head injury. The Steelers could use Mike Logan, Tyrone Carter or rookie Anthony Smith in his place.
Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker/defensive end Greg Ellis will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles tendon injury. That will allow first-round pick Bobby Carpenter the chance to possibly enter the starting lineup. Carpenter, along with backups Al Singleton and Kevin Burnett, will be closely evaluated this week as the Cowboys' defense prepares to face the high-powered Colts offensive unit. They could use Carpenter as a situational player, but he is the long-term answer at the spot. Meanwhile, they are also in the market to add a veteran defensive back after releasing safety Marcus Coleman following his arrest for a second DWI offense last weekend.
The Houston Texans have lost the services of defensive lineman Travis Johnson with a calf injury, the second major blow to their defensive line. They lost Seth Payne earlier this season. They have signed journeyman run stuffer Cedric Killings to replace him on the depth chart, but playing down the stretch with less-talented players could also stunt the growth of rookie No. 1 pick Mario Williams. The Texans were forced to sign offensive tackle Mike Pearson and defensive back Von Hutchins after they also placed veteran lineman Zach Weigert and Lewis Sanders on the IR list with knee and hand injuries, respectively. Rookie lineman Eric Winston could see additional playing time at tackle, while recently signed Dexter Wynn could become the team's new nickel back.
Giants cornerback Sam Madison could miss at least this week with his second hamstring injury in a month. Madison re-injured his hamstring last week against the Bears. They have started to evaluate the waiver wire for possible free agents in the secondary, but have also spent time looking at potential wide receivers, including David Boston.