Three weeks into the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are missing their starting quarterback; the Seattle Seahawks could face a road block with the ground attack; and the San Francisco 49ers are without their first pick of the 2006 NFL draft.
Let's find out who's in the lineup, who's out and who might be added to the roster
After suggesting earlier that he was "feeling good enough to play," 2005 league MVP Shaun Alexander has been ruled out of Sunday night's game against the Bears. It was reported on Monday that the running back would miss at least two weeks with a small broken bone in his left foot. The Seahawks ordered another round of CT scans before making a decision on this weekend's game.
The running game could also take another blow after word came down that starting guard Floyd Womack (knee) will potentially miss another 4-6 weeks and fellow starting guard Chris Gray (knee) might be out 2-3 weeks after suffering a sprained knee on Sunday. The Seahawks would need to sign a free agent backup since reserves Chris Spencer and Rob Sims would both be starting this week's game against the Bears.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Rookie Brad Gradkowski will take over at quarterback when the Bucs return from the bye to face the Saints on Oct. 8. Regular starter Chris Simms had emergency surgery to remove his spleen, which ruptured after several big hits during a loss to the Panthers. If Gradkowski falters, veteran Tim Rattay could see time. Other possibilities: Tommy Maddox, who they have already worked out, Todd Bouman or even Shaun King. Bouman is an intriguing possibility since he most recently played for the Saints.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Frank Gore's strained abdominal muscle likely causes some concerns in the backfield, especially considering that fellow running back Maurice Hicks is suffering from a sprained ankle. Even worse, rookie tight end Vernon Davis fractured a fibula on the same play in which Gore got hurt and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.
Starting wide receiver Terrell Owens expects to practice later this week with the plate inserted to correct the broken finger on his right hand. If Owens gets enough practice time, he could play this week against the Titans. Fellow starting wide receiver Terry Glenn (hand) has not missed practice after suffering a cut on his hand earlier this week. Glenn's hand might be wrapped for the game in order to prevent the cut from re-opening, but they do not expect him to miss any time.
Even though wide receiver Matt Jones (groin) was active against the Colts, he failed to make a catch and his continued absence or limited role will hurt quarterback Byron Leftwich. Meanwhile, starting offensive guard Chris Naeole (knee) entered last week's game on the injury list. He might have made his knee injury worse during the game. He could be replaced in this week's starting lineup by reserve lineman Stockar McDougle.
The Pats might start to slide the balance of the ground game in the direction of rookie Laurence Maroney. Veteran Corey Dillon did not return after injuring his arm in the first half of last Sunday night's loss to the Broncos. Cornerback Randall Gay (hamstring) has been placed on the IR due to a hamstring injury, and will miss the rest of the season. The Patriots are currently checking out the waiver wire for available options, but initially have opted to bring back veteran Hank Poteat.
Starting quarterback Trent Green (concussion) has been ruled out of this week's game against San Francisco as he continues to regain all of his faculties. He suffered a major blow to the head in the season opener. The team will go with veteran journeyman Damon Huard, but don't be surprised if head coach Herm Edwards reaches out to former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who has apparently shown interest in returning as a possible backup with the Patriots.
Rookie defensive back Cedric Griffin could step into the starting lineup with cornerback Fred Smoot suffering from a concussion. Griffin is not as fast as Smoot, but he is tougher and is a better run supporter and tackler. Rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (knee) will miss up to four weeks after having his knee scoped. As a result, the team could opt to re-sign veteran Mike McMahon, who was released at the end of the preseason. Drew Henson was signed to the practice squad.
The secondary might also need some help after safeties Brian Dawkins (concussion), Michael Lewis (quad) and Sean Considine (hip) all suffered injuries against the 49ers. The good news is that starting cornerback Lito Sheppard (ankle) might return to practice later this week.
OTHER INJURY NEWS
The Oakland Raiders will once again be without starting left tackle Robert Gallery (calf) and the team's current depth chart now lists Kevin Boothe as the starting right guard. He has replaced fellow rookie Paul McQuistan, and should start against the Browns, who feature one of the league's top interior run stoppers, Ted Washington. They're counting on Boothe to be a wide-base blocker who has the ability to make some downfield blocks. … The Atlanta Falcons are likely to be without star defensive end John Abraham once again this week as he was unable to run at full speed on Tuesday. He is still feeling pain from the groin injury he suffered in Week 1. … The San Diego Chargers are hoping that starting wide receiver Keenan McCardell can recover from a slight hamstring pull and return to the practice field in time to be active for this week's game against the Ravens. The bye-week allowed All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman to recover from a broken nose. He expects to play without any problem, but could see a few less reps if his breathing gives him any trouble. … The Chicago Bears might be without tight end Desmond Clark after he suffered an ankle/foot injury against the Vikings. He is still wearing a protective walking boot, and will be re-evaluated later this week. They have lost rookie backup linebacker Jamar Williams for the season after he injured a shoulder while playing on special teams on Sunday. He had already recorded three special teams tackles and is bigger and stronger than linebacker Rod Wilson, who was promoted from the team's practice squad. … The New Orleans Saints will be without rookie backup defensive end Rob Ninkovich, who needs knee surgery after suffering an injury on special teams against the Falcons. … The Tennessee Titans will be without starting tight end Erron Kinney (knee) once again this week. Backup Ben Troupe will get the starting nod against the Cowboys … The Cincinnati Bengals will play without starting center Rich Braham (leg) for the next 4-6 weeks after he suffered a fracture in his left leg in last week's win. Second-year back up Eric Ghiaciuc will replace him and has done well in past starting assignments. … Cleveland Browns running back Reuben Droughns (shoulder), who sat out against the Ravens last weekend, is expected to be back in the lineup against Oakland.