Monday December 12th, 2011

Greg Jennings gave a thumbs up as he was carted off the field Sunday, but it provided a scare to Packer fans everywhere. (AP)

Green Bay would love to finish the regular season 16-0, but at what cost? The Packers have the NFC North wrapped up and are just a win or 49ers' loss away from sewing up home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

They lost star receiver Greg Jennings to a knee injury Sunday, though, which should at least give the Packers pause as the regular season winds down. Is a perfect regular season worth risking Aaron Rodgers or any of Green Bay's other key players by keeping them on the field? Or are the Packers better off to follow the strategy of the 2009 Colts, who started 14-0, then cleared the bench in Weeks 16 and 17?

Of course, Green Bay is not the only team dealing with injury issues after Sunday's action. Here's a look at some of the key names feeling the pain in Week 14:

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers (knee): The joy over Green Bay's 13th straight win this season was stunted by Jennings' injury. He was hit while making a catch, was helped off the field in a great deal of pain, then had to be carted to the locker room. Initial reports indicated that he did damage to his MCL.

Carroll: Jennings' MCL sprain is the latest in a run of MCL issues around the league. LaDanian Tomlinson plays a different position, but is a good comparison for what we can expect -- they're similar physically as well. Jennings will miss a couple weeks, but should be ready to go for the playoffs.

Who takes Jennings' spot?: If there's any silver lining for the Packers, it's that they have depth at the wide receiver spot. Jordy Nelson and James Jones will have to carry the load, with Donald Driver and Randall Cobb getting into the mix more as well.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints (back): Graham did not start Sunday due to back spasms but still managed to make five catches for 55 yards. He was set for an MRI Monday to make sure there was not any additional damage.

Carroll: Back spasms HURT. Graham seems to be wearing down, something tough to get your mind around given his size and athleticism. The Saints want to get this cleared up and don't think there's a huge problem, but he could miss time as they prep for the playoffs. The key here is what the underlying cause is. As long as this stays muscular, it's a matter of maintenance and pain control.

Who takes Graham's spot?: With David Thomas placed on injured reserve in November, the Saints would be down to John Gilmore and Mike Higgins at tight end, if Graham's out any length of time. That's a pretty substantial drop-off.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders (foot): McFadden hasn't played since Week 7 because of a foot injury -- which the Raiders maintained all this time was a mid-foot sprain. Oakland coach Hue Jackson said Sunday, though, that the ailment is actually a Lisfranc injury.

Carroll: That McFadden's injury is a Lisfranc shouldn't surprise anyone. That it lingered shouldn't surprise anyone. The surprise is that it's still lingering and hasn't gotten much better. Hue Jackson is indicating that McFadden might not make it back this year. Durability remain the one hole in McFadden's skill set.

Who takes McFadden's spot?: This isn't going to change anything the Raiders have been doing. Michael Bush will continue to be the No. 1 back and carry the load. But any hope that McFadden could return to help Oakland's late-season push might be gone now.

Brian Dawkins, S, Broncos (neck): Dawkins left Denver's win over Chicago with a neck injury and did not return. He injured his neck earlier this season too, though he stayed in the lineup after Denver's bye.

Carroll: Neck injuries are always scary. Brian Dawkins was doing well after the game, but will have further tests to make sure there's no spinal issues. Teams are always very cautious with comebacks from this kind of situation, so he could miss time even if cleared.

Who takes Jennings' spot?: Rahim Moore, who did not even travel with Denver to Minnesota last week, wound up with five tackles Sunday. He might have to stay in the lineup, should Dawkins miss a game or two.

Kevin Kolb, QB, Cardinals (head): Kolb took a knee to the head in the first quarter of Sunday's game against San Francisco and was suffering from concussion-like symptoms. He did not return to action.

Carroll: Kolb suffered a concussion during the game and was immediately taken to the locker room for tests. This is standard, but interesting only in relation to the ongoing controversy with Colt McCoy -- McCoy suffered a similar injury Thursday against the Steelers but came back into the game. Kolb will need to clear baseline testing before returning.

Who takes Kolb's spot?: John Skelton stepped into the lineup again, just as he did when Kolb was hurt earlier this season. He'd start going forward.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys (ankle): Murray was taken down awkwardly on a first-quarter run, with both of his legs pinned underneath a Giants defender. He was diagnosed with a fractured ankle and high ankle sprain.

Carroll: Murray's fractured ankle ends his promising rookie campaign. He's out through the regular season and playoffs (if the Cowboys make it). It shouldn't affect him in any way by the time the 2012 season starts.

Who takes Murray's spot?: Felix Jones is Dallas' last remaining option as a featured back. He stepped up Sunday night and will see the bulk of carries through the end of the season.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans (calf): Hasselbeck suffered a dreaded non-contact injury, when he jumped to try to bat down his own deflected pass. He said he felt something "pop" and played just one more down in the game.

Carroll: Hasselbeck had a simple calf strain, one that doesn't appear to be serious. He could be back for next week's game against the Colts, but the Titans have an opportunity to have Jake Locker get a real confidence boost (and help the ticket sales for next year) by starting against a terrible defense.

Who takes Hasselbeck's spot?: Locker finished off Sunday's loss to New Orleans -- nearly rallying the Titans -- and could be back under center in Week 15.

Bobbie Williams, G, Bengals (ankle): Williams hobbled off the field after injuring his ankle Sunday, and Cincinnati placed him on injured reserve Monday.

Carroll:  Williams had his ankle rolled and ended up with a fracture. Reports conflicted on how serious the fracture was. Tibia fractures are 6-8 week heals for just the bone, assuming no ligament or tendon damage. This is the type we saw with Murray,. Fracturing the fibula can take as little as a couple weeks, as with Dallas Clark of the Colts.

Who takes Williams' spot?: Matt McGlynn replaced Williams Sunday on an increasingly-thin Bengals offensive line.

Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins (head): Moore was clobbered from the blindside during Sunday's game and exited with a concussion.

Carroll:  Matt Moore was knocked out in Sunday's game. This is an important distinction for concussions. The loss of consciousness, even a brief one, indicates a more severe concussion by definition. Fleeting loss of consciousness can be seen, such as the "fencer's response" by Ben Watson last Thursday. When a player's arms "lock out" in front of them, they're out. It's more apparent in a situation like Moore's and even more serious.

Who takes Williams' spot?: J.P. Losman took over against Philadelphia, and he would get the start in Week 15 if Moore cannot clear his baseline concussion tests.

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