I wish that the NFL would do more with pads and braces, but hey, I enjoy writing about this, so thanks to them. To the teams that play games with the Official Injury Report or talk in circles at press conferences, giving me things to explain, thanks. To the players who amp up the macho myth or try to play through injuries, giving me a chance to remind you that it's not just games missed, but opportunities missed, thanks. And to everyone who laughed at me for drafting Felix Jones, well ... who knows what he might have done without the hamstring strain. We'll call that one a push. On to this week's injuries:
The Titans lost to the Jets, but it wasn't because of injury. LenDale White didn't play because of gameplan, not because of a sore hand. Kyle Vanden Bosch played and the line was intact, but sometimes Brett Favre's magic is just too much. Now as the Titans face Detroit, they get a team that's looking for any bright spot in a lost season. With two QBs down and Daunte Culpepper reminding people why he retired, the one positive for them has been the solid play of Kevin Smith, a workhorse that hasn't hit the "rookie wall."
The Cowboys come in more or less healthy. The "more" part is that the key players will all be out there, with Tony Romo talking about playing without the brace. (Why? No idea -- it didn't affect him Sunday.) Jason Witten will be more involved now that his ribs are a bit more solid. The "less" is the possibility that Kyle Kosier will miss time with a recurrent foot sprain. Seattle is the healthiest it's been all season on offense, though that's yet to translate into effectiveness. The defense is still adjusting to the loss of Patrick Kearney, which also helps Romo. We'll see how it translates, but the health shouldn't factor into this too much.
The drama is all Donovan McNabb, but the trouble is all behind him. Directly behind him at RB, where Correll Buckhalter could be done for the season with an MCL sprain and Brian Westbrook is wearing down (more on these below.) With Arizona, Anquan Boldin has shown no ill effects of the plates in his head. Aside from that near-devastating injury, the Cards have been good this year largely because they've been healthy. They can put a stake in the Eagles with a short-week win that will give Philly 10 days to stew.
The Cardinals weren't happy that Brandon Jacobs was a late scratch, but let's look back at what I wrote here last Thursday: "The early word this week was that he was fine, but by Thursday, Jacobs was saying he could play "if needed." That points to the Giants going with Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw, using their depth to make sure that Jacobs is fully healthy and doesn't spiral down as the Giants fight for playoff position. A three-game cushion in the standings and depth means the conservative play with Jacobs is to keep him out."
Um, that's almost exactly what happened, which isn't me tooting my own horn, just noting that the Cardinals should have known what was likely to happen, despite some mild shenanigans. What it means now is that the Giants made the smart play and that Jacobs and his knee should be better going forward. I'd expect this to go much like last week, where Jacobs doesn't practice until late in the week and is a gametime decision. The Giants aren't just good this year, they're smart.
The Giants barely got Plaxico Burress on the field last week, and he'll be a gametime decision this week. "Not worse" is faint praise coming from Tom Coughlin. Moreover, the Giants think that Burress' taking himself out of the game is a big indicator of just how bad this is. The depth and their record allows them to be conservative here. I expect that Burress won't play this week and that they'll be very conservative with him leading up to the playoffs. That's good if you're a Giants fan, but bad if you needed Burress' fantasy points. Remember, even hobbled he can score TDs.
We've seen this before. Willie Parker tried to come back from his MCL sprain too quickly and re-set the clock on his rehab. Now the knee is swelling, indicating that there's more than just the now-healed sprain going on in there. His reaction to treatment will determine how much or even if he'll play this weekend, but either way, he'll lose carries to Mewelde Moore and could lose more in the future to Moore or Rashard Mendenhall. Mike Tomlin once talked about running Parker until the wheels came off. We may already have seen that happen. RB is the ultimate replaceable part in football.
Early reports on Steven Jackson are good, but Jim Haslett has to feel a bit like Phil Connors when it comes to his star RB. Every week, Jackson's quad/knee injury loosens and tightens with seemingly no rhyme or reason, based on his reaction to treatment and ... well, maybe the tides or his horoscope. There's really no way of telling whether or not Jackson will play at this point in the week, and it's not much easier at the end of the week. Keep an eye on the practice reports and remember that even when he is back, the Rams are very likely to use Jackson and Antonio Pittman as a RBBC. With Marc Bulger's availability in question, it's tough to say how Jackson will affect the game plan, in or out.
Besides the "atomic wedgie", the news on Brian Westbrook is actually pretty good. He didn't get much in the way of yardage, but he came out relatively unscathed after facing the Ravens defense. He's certainly healthier than Buckhalter, who has an MCL sprain that could keep him out as long as the rest of the regular season. As we saw with Willie Parker, trying to come back before the MCL is fully healed can create issues and even once a RB can play effectively, he's not out of the danger area.
With the QB situation in flux, the running game is going to be key in keeping the Eagles afloat. Look for Westbrook to sit out some practices but be ready to go on Thursday. Lorenzo Booker is the backup now, if you're desperate for some upside. The short week is a double-edged sword; if they make it through the game, the long week after it will be a big help.
Ahman Green is done for the year after spraining his MCL, ending my nightmare of wondering why Gary Kubiak kept running Green out there in place of Steve Slaton. Sure, Slaton is a rookie and he's got both chest and rib injuries, but he's a real NFL back, something that Green hasn't been for a few seasons before he came to Houston. This does put a bit more of a load on Slaton, but he's shown no signs of a slowdown despite the injuries. He'll continue to play through them and produce, though with the Texans all but out of it and admitting that Matt Schaub is likely done for the season, we'll have to see if they play out the string hard or back off Slaton a bit over the last few weeks.
The Browns miss another one. They said that Quinn was pulled due to ineffectiveness, though the team insisted that he would be back in the starting role next week, and that the broken index finger wasn't the problem. Again, we have semantics leading the way with the Browns. As Peter King reported over the weekend, Quinn also has a tendon issue that's preventing him from spinning the ball, and given the way his passes looked, this does look to be the issue. After heading down to consult with Jim Andrews, the opinion quickly flipped, and Quinn is now done for the year. Surgery doesn't look like it will be needed, and Quinn will be fine in the long term, but it's another black mark against the Browns.
Marc Bulger is likely to play this weekend. He needs to pass his neuropsych evaluation after a concussion ... Reggie Bush will play this week, assuming no setback ... Greg Camarillo is done for the year after tearing his ACL, leaving the Fins with a bunch of no name WRs ... Kevin Boss suffered a concussion during Sunday's game, but appears on track not to miss time ... The Saints insist that Marques Colston is healthy, but he's not playing like it ... Chad Johnson might not be suspended this week, but a sore knee could keep him out for a second straight game ... Carson Palmer will begin a throwing program in two weeks with a goal of playing before the season ends, likely in the final game ... Bob Sanders is once again unlikely to play, though sources tell me it's still possible and that this is more about facing Cleveland than the knee. Think 2006.