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 9 of the 2013 season:
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (concussion): Between Michael Vick's hamstring injuries (he's inactive this week against the Oakland Raiders) and rookie Matt Barkley's disastrous performances of late, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly couldn't wait for the return of Foles, who had been dealing with concussion issues since Philly's Week 7 loss to the Cowboys. Foles passed all the required tests and will go against Oakland's vulnerable pass defense.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (knee): Murray missed the Cowboys' last two games with a sprained MCL, but practiced every day this week and was listed as probable on the team's injury report. He'll be facing a Minnesota Vikings defense that currently ranks 22nd in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware and receiver Miles Austin, however, are both unavailable today.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers (ankle): Stewart has been activated from the physically unable to perform list, and he's expected to see 6-10 touches against the Atlanta Falcons. Stewart hasn't played since last November.
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams (ankle): Stacy injured his ankle late in the Rams' Monday Night Football loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and that injury clearly affected St. Louis' offense on its unsuccessful red-zone drive at the end of the game. He's expected to start against the Tennessee Titans today. Stacy ripped Seattle's defense for a career-high 134 yards on 26 carries before the injury.
Jonathan Vilma, LB (knee); Jimmy Graham, TE New Orleans Saints (foot): The Saints activated the veteran linebacker from the injured reserve/designated to return list this week, and he'll be active for the first time this season against the Jets. Tight end Jimmy Graham, who scored two touchdowns on just 18 snaps last Sunday against the Bills, is also active, and hopes to see more action against the Jets.
Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots (hip): As expected, the Patriots will hold Talib out against the Steelers on Sunday, with an eye toward having him return to the field after the team's Week 10 bye. Talib, who injured his hip flexor against the New Orleans Saints in Week 6, is by far New England's best pass defender, but the rest of the Patriots' defensive backfield has stepped up in recent weeks, and this shouldn't be a major hit against Pittsburgh's inconsistent passing attack.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, New England Patriots (healthy inactive): Thompkins played just 14 snaps last Sunday against the Dolphins, and his once-relatively secure place on the starting roster has been taken by Aaron Dobson. It's an interesting statement by a team that's been short on targets all season long.
Dashon Goldson, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (knee): Goldson left Tampa Bay's Week 7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons with a knee injury, but returned to the game. He did not play against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 24, and did not make the trip to Seattle for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. Keith Tandy is expected to take most of the snaps in Goldson's absence.
Thad Lewis, QB, Buffalo Bills (ribs): Lewis was limited in practice this week with a combination of the flu and the effects of the beating the New Orleans Saints defense put on him last Sunday. Undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel will start today against the Kansas City Chiefs, and that's an easy matchup for Bob Sutton's ravenous defense.
Josh Freeman, QB, Minnesota Vikings (healthy inactive): Freeman showed in one horrible game against the New York Giants on Oct. 21 that he wasn't yet ready to run the Vikings' offense, and he'll be a healthy scratch against the Cowboys today. He was set aside last week because of concussion-related symptoms, but this particular inactive status doesn't appear to have any medical reasoning behind it. The Vikings signed Freeman to a one-year, $3 million contract on Oct. 6, three days after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Christian Ponder will start today, with Matt Cassel backing him up.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints (knee): Colston was listed as questionable after missing practice Friday, and he will not go against the Jets. The Saints will also be missing defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, and that will affect Rob Ryan's complex blitz packages.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (hamstring, ankle): Quarterback Matt Ryan will once again be without White in the lineup -- this is the third straight week that the veteran receiver has been unable to go with the injuries that have affected his game all season. Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas will continue to be Ryan's main men when the Falcons take on the Panthers. Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets (hamstring, foot): Holmes, who hasn't played since Sept. 29, is eyeing a return to action after the team's Week 10 bye.