10 Big-Name NFL Injuries That Could Be Costly in Week 16

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10 Big-Name NFL Injuries That Could Be Costly in Week 16

green bay fan
Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the NFL season, it’s often not who has the best roster but who has the healthiest roster that finishes strong heading into the playoffs. Four months of punishing hits take their toll and even the best athletes succumb to injury from time to time. But in the crunch time of Week 16 with playoffs on the line for many teams across the league, those injuries have to be overcome.

The Chicago Bears have been a great example of weathering the storm of injuries that come from an NFL season. Jay Cutler missed multiple games this season with injury but the Bears finally got a capable backup in Josh McCown who stepped in and bridged the gap while Cutler recuperated. Now, Chicago sits atop the NFC North at 8-6 with the inside track to winning the division and locking up a spot in the playoffs.

Other teams and players have not been as fortunate. So many times, an untimely injury to a key contributor can completely derail a team’s chances to make a run to the Super Bowl. It happened to the Bears multiple times before this season before they were able to find a way to prevent another collapse in 2013. Elsewhere in the NFL, teams won’t be so lucky and promising seasons will get wasted away with nothing to show but an early start to the offseason.

This week, there are a number of stars nursing injuries. If they are unable to go, they will put their teams at a considerable disadvantage as they try to find a way to win. With that said, let’s count down 10 big-name NFL injuries that could be costly in Week 16.

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10. Maurice Jones-Drew, Hamstring

maurice jones-drew
Phil Sears - USA TODAY Sports

Maurice Jones-Drew has struggled to overcome a hamstring injury and it ultimately sidelined him in Week 15. His status for Week 16 remains unclear as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for the Tennessee Titans. In his absence, Jordan Todman did well, carrying the ball 25 times for 109 yards and catching four passes for 44 yards, but he is no MJD. Pocket Hercules is still the best player on the Jags’ offense and his absence hurts their chances for a win.

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9. Donald Brown, Stinger

donald brown
Pat Lovell - USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Indianapolis Colts went out and paid heavily for a running back via trade, it has been Donald Brown who has sparked the team’s rushing attack in recent weeks. He was putting together a breakout-caliber couple of weeks before suffering a stinger in Week 15 that kept him out for most of the game. If he can’t go in Week 16, Indy will have to rely on Trent Richardson and his modest 3.0 yards per carry average to carry the running game on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.

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8. Victor Cruz, Concussion/Knee

victor cruz
Robert Deutsch - USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have slipped into an epic tailspin that was punctuated last week with a 23-0 shutout that was low-lighted by an injury to Victor Cruz. After going up for a catch and getting smashed to the ground, Cruz had to be helped to the locker room with a concussion and sprained knee. He is highly questionable to play this week and could just be shut down for the rest of the season to avoid putting Cruz’s health in greater risk in a meaningless game which gives the New York passing attack even less firepower down the stretch.

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7. Antonio Smith, Knee

antonio smith
Matthew Emmons - USA TODAY Sports

Things have gone south for the Houston Texans in 2013 in a major way, Losers of 12-straight games, Houston suffered injury on top of insult in their Week 15 loss when defensive end Antonio Smith suffered a sprained knee that forced him out of the game. This season, Smith ranks No. 3 on the team in sacks with 5.0. As a key part of the Texans’ pass rush, his presence will be especially missed if he can’t go this week when Houston welcomes the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning to town.

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6. Joe Haden, Hip

joe haden
Andrew Weber - USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns have enjoyed a tough defense in 2013 thanks to the shut-down cover ability of cornerback Joe Haden. In Week 15, however, he was forced from the game with a hip injury that has put his status for Week 16 in question. The Browns must travel to take on the New York Jets this week who are prone to turning the ball over via interceptions in 2013 but Cleveland may struggle to generate turnovers without their best DB.

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5. Adrian Peterson, Foot

adrian peterson
Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings got by without the services of Adrian Peterson in Week 15, but that isn’t something they hope to have to do again. The reigning MVP has rushed for over 1,200 yards this season and been the focal point of the Vikings’ offense. If he misses a second straight game due to the scary looking injury suffered two weeks ago, don’t expect the Minnesota offense to explode like they did against the Philadelphia Eagles.

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4. Larry Fitzgerald, Concussion

Larry Fitzgerald
Don McPeak - USA TODAY Sports

Surprisingly, the Arizona Cardinals are just one game out of the wildcard race with two games left to play. In winning last week, however, they lost wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a concussion. Depending on how quickly he passes protocols, his status for Week 16 is very much in doubt. Without one of the best receivers in the NFL in the offense this weekend, Arizona can kiss their playoff chances goodbye.

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3. Sean Lee, Neck

sean lee
Andrew Weber - USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys do not have a very good defense and they are now without their best player, Sean Lee. The sprained neck appears to be serious for Lee who missed last week’s game against the Green Bay Packers and is “week-to-week” at this point, though Jerry Jones expressed pessimism at Lee’s chances of making it back this season. Without their best player on defense, it’s going to be very hard for Dallas to make a push for the NFC East title.

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2. Wes Welker, Concussion

wes welker
Chris Humphreys - USA TODAY Sports

After suffering a concussion in Week 14, there was not a lot of optimism that Wes Welker would clear protocols to get back on a short week for the Denver Broncos in Week 15. But Welker has still not been cleared to practice heading into Week 16 with the Denver offense coming off their worst performance of the season and going on the road against the No. 2 pass defense in the NFL. Welker would provide a huge boost for the Broncos as they try and wrap up the No. 1 seed.

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1. Aaron Rodgers, Collarbone

aaron rodgers
Jeff Hanisch - USA TODAY Sports

It is the collarbone that just won’t heal for the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers. While the team is still in the mix for the NFC North Division title thanks to a mad rally against (or second half collapse by) the Dallas Cowboys last week. Matt Flynn played the hero in the second half but he just can’t be relied on to win out down the stretch. The offensive struggles of Green Bay could be helped out greatly by the return of a healthy Rodgers as they make their push to the playoffs in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.