In the NFL’s constant war of attrition, injuries can decide games, seasons and a whole lot of futures. Here’s who will give it a shot, and who will not, as we head into Week 7 of the 2013 season:
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (shin): Johnson practiced in a limited fashion this week with the shin injury that has bothered him for a while, and he's active today. The Texans will need all the help they can get, as quarterback Case Keenum is starting his first regular-season NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs' top-flight defense.
Jabaal Sheard, OLB, Cleveland Browns (knee): Sheard missed three games with a knee injury, but he's ready to go against the Green Bay Packers today. Sheard had been enjoying a breakout early season in Ray Horton's defense.
Rob Gronkowski, TE. New England Patriots (back/forearm): "Operation: Patience" is finally over. Tom Brady will get his best target on the field for the first time this season, as Gronkowski is active for the first time this season. Expect New England to set Gronk against the Jets' relatively weak safeties on seam routes, and don't be surprised if Brady's pass protection gets a lot better. For all the talk about his pass-catching ability, Gronkowski is perhaps the best blocking tight end in the league. Brady, who has been a champ through a very difficult season, finally gets a guy who doesn't need training wheels.
Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans (hip): Locker is active and starting against the San Francisco 49ers. Locker hurt his hip in Week 4 against the Jets, was in crutches 13 days ago, and looked to be limping this week in practice. Against a 49ers defense that has been rejuvenated of late, don't expect much from Locker.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (hamstring): Blackmon will be all-go against the Chargers despite a balky hamstring. He caught 14 passes for 190 yards against the Broncos last week, and San Diego's defense has been vulnerable most of the season, through Monday's performance against the Colts showed some corrections.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers (knee): Both Jones and Randall Cobb were hurt against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, limiting Aaron Rodgers' options. Jones is expected to miss a week or two as opposed to Cobb's eight weeks (at least) after a broken leg.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers (concussion): For the second straight week, the Steelers' first-round draft pick will miss a game due to the concussion he suffered against the New York Jets on Oct. 13.
Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots (hip): Talib has been one of the game's best cornerbacks this season, but the Pats will have to do without yet another of their key cogs. Talib tried to go in practice despite a hip injury against the Saints last week. This is obviously a huge development for the Jets' passing offense.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (hamstring): The hamstring injury Vick suffered against the Giants in Week 5 will keep him out for a second straight week. Nick Foles had the best game of his young career against the Bucs last week, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Minte Kiffin's struggles against Chip Kelly's offenses go back to their recent Pac-12 days. We may see a longer-term changing of the guard here.
DeMarcus Ware, DE, Dallas Cowboys: Ware (quadriceps): Ware suffered a sprained quadriceps against the Redskins last week, which will sideline the star for the first time in his nine-year career. With Anthony Spencer already out for the season, George Selvie will have to step up as a pass-rusher against the Eagles. Linebacker Bruce Carter can blitz as well, but Ware's absence is very good news for Nick Foles.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (knee): The oft-injured Murray will miss today's game against the Eagles after suffering a sprained MCL against the Redskins last week. Joseph Randle will take the ball in Murray's place, and Randle didn't do so well against Washington. The Cowboys lead the league in empty sets, and you can expect more of that today. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (hamstring): Like Ware, White hasn't missed a game since he came into the NFL in 2005. Like Ware, White will see his streak come to an end today. He's been dealing with hamstring issues all season, which have made him tentative off the line of scrimmage and less than spectacular as a deep threat. It's all on Tony Gonzalez and an underwhelming group of backup receivers as the Falcons take on the similarly reeling Buccaneers.