Monday December 5th, 2011

After losing Jay Cutler in Week 11, the Bears' playoff hopes were dealt another devastating blow when Matt Forte went down with an MCL sprain. (AP)

You name a playoff contender, and there's a good chance that team is dealing with at least one serious injury. That list grew this week, with the Packers losing Charles Woodson to an apparent concussion. But Woodson wasn't the only star who limped out of Week 13.

Once again, we take a look at which key players needed some time with the trainers Sunday. Helping break down the impact this week’s injuries will have is SI.com’s injury expert Will Carroll.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears (knee): The Bears' season flashed before their eyes when Forte went down in a heap, after taking a shot from Kansas City's Derrick Johnson on his left knee. He managed to walk off but did not return to the game.

Carroll: It's a Grade 2 MCL with a secondary ACL sprain, so two to four weeks may be a little optimistic. We saw how well LaDanian Tomlinson came back and it's going to be very similar to that, but I think he's going to be more affected by it than Tomlinson. He's more important to his team than Tomlinson.

Who takes Forte’s spot?: Marion Barber would slide up to the No. 1 role, with Kahlil Bell picking up additional carries. If the Bears don't get better quarterback play, though, it won't matter who's running the ball.

Kyle Orton, QB, Chiefs (finger): Orton's Kansas City debut lasted all of one play. After replacing starter Tyler Palko in the second quarter, Orton dislocated the index finger on his throwing hand while attempting his only pass.

Carroll: The problem with a finger dislocation isn't really that you can't get it back in place -- the worry is the swelling you're going to get afterwards. It tends to be a short-term injury. The fact he didn't go back into the game Sunday doesn't surprise, but it shouldn't be a long-term issue.

Who takes Orton’s spot?: If Orton can't recover in time for Week 14, Palko would get his fourth straight start. But the Chiefs would take a banged-up Orton over the struggling Palko at the moment.

Nick Fairley, DT, Lions (foot): After getting off to a terrific start Sunday night, Fairley was carted to the locker room with an injury to his left foot. That's the same foot he suffered a stress fracture in during training camp.

Carroll: Anytime you get pain in the same area, especially with the stress fracture he had, the worry has to be that the process is starting over. Consider he's playing on turf and has added weight since the initial injury, there has to be worry in the short- and long-term.

Who takes Fairley’s spot?: Ndamukong Suh's suspension coupled with Fairley's injury left Detroit shorthanded Sunday. If Fairley can't play in Week 14, Sammie Lee Hill would get the bulk of the snaps next to Corey Williams at defensive tackle.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans (hamstring): Johnson crumpled to the turf untouched against the Falcons, the result of his left hamstring giving out on him. Texans owner Bob McNair said he hoped to have Johnson back within a couple weeks.

Carroll: There was a little bit of weirdness with the injury report this week -- Johnson was listed as questionable with a knee injury, and the team never explained it. That makes me wonder whether this whole hamstring issue is secondary. It's certainly problematic, but maybe the knee is more of a concern than we thought. The hamstring doesn't sound as bad as it could have been, but they'll have to be conservative with him.

Who takes Johnson’s spot?: Johnson has started just six games this year, missing half the season because of injury. Assuming he's out again, Jacoby Jones would jump back into the starting lineup, alongside Kevin Walter.

LaMarr Woodley, LB, Steelers (hamstring): Back in action Sunday for the first time since Week 8, Woodley tweaked his trouble hamstring and sat out the final three quarters.

Carroll: They pushed him back out there, and this is why it's so difficult with athletes -- they want to get back on the field, and they wind up reinjuring themselves. They can afford to be a little more cautious with him.

Who takes Woodley’s spot?: Jason Worilds replaced Woodley against the Bengals, just as he stepped into the starting lineup in The Wood's absence earlier. Worilds may see additional playing time going forward, as the Steelers try to get Woodley ready for the postseason.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Jets (knee): Tomlinson reinjured his left knee in the first quarter against the Redskins and headed to the sidelines for a good while. He returned and played sparingly from the second quarter on but was not at 100 percent.

Carroll: Tomlinson was back too quickly, too, and he took exactly the wrong kind of hit in exactly the wrong kind of way. He was back out there, so that's a good sign, but we'll have to watch him later this week to see if there's any additional swelling.

Who takes Tomlinson’s spot?: Shonn Greene's still New York's top option at running back, and he may get even more of a workout now, with Tomlinson and Joe McKnight ailing.

Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers (hamstring): The 49ers clinched the NFC West Sunday but may have lost Willis for an extended period of time. Like Andre Johnson, Willis fell to the turf and stayed down for several minutes after his hammy gave way. He did not return and was scheduled for an MRI Monday.

Carroll: It doesn't sound like a major injury. Unless the 49ers hear that Willis has a massive Grade 2-plus injury, they've got room to rest him and get him ready for the playoffs.

Who takes Willis’ spot?: Larry Grant stepped in Sunday against St. Louis and finished with six tackles and a sack. San Francisco may play it safe with Willis from here out -- the 49ers have a one-game lead on New Orleans in the race for a first-round bye.

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