Any bruises and breaks suffered in Week 16 come with some added pain for teams still clawing toward the playoffs or jostling for position. So that’s where we turn our attention this week during the hurt rundown.
Teams that have either clinched or are looking to with key games during season finales mostly survived Sunday without any serious injuries. But there are still two causing concern early in the week.
Steven Jackson is old and broken
There was a time when Steven Jackson could power through a hole while making anyone who stood in his path immediately regret that decision.
That time was 2011, and in nearly 2015 Jackson has become little more than a large plodding body in the late stages of his career. And now an already slow running back will be limited further by a quad injury as the Atlanta Falcons prepare for an NFC South play-in game against the Carolina Panthers.
Jackson missed the second half of a Week 16 win over the New Orleans Saints. This sounds cold and horrible, but the injury worked out quite nicely for the Falcons because they were forced to feature rookie Devonta Freeman more prominently.
Freeman has been on the field for only 19.6 percent of Atlanta’s offensive snaps this season. But on just eight touches (five as a runner, and three as a receiver) he finished with 84 total yards Sunday. His afternoon was highlighted by a 31-yard touchdown run when he hit an off-tackle hole hard, and then quickly evaded a crashing safety by bouncing to the outside.
Freeman is slippery, and has forced 18 missed tackles on 87 touches, according to Pro Football Focus. So what will the Falcons lose if Jackson has to miss a crucial game? Not much, with Jackson averaging only 3.7 yards per carry. Freeman has far more burst, as does Jacquizz Rodgers. Those two would form a solid tandem.
The loss would be felt around the goal-line, where Jackson is still a productive pounder with his six rushing touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers is a little gimpy
You wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score, but Aaron Rodgers wasn’t quite Aaron Rodgers during the Packers’ 20-3 win over the Buccaneers. He was gimped up by a calf injury, though he still managed to throw for 318 yards with a touchdown.
If Rodgers can post that kind of yardage while far less mobile and receiving treatment, he might just be the MVP this year (yeah, he’ll probably be the MVP this year). But if the injury lingers as calf problems so often do, there’s concern heading into Week 17 and a showdown for the NFC North against the Detroit Lions.
Led by Ndamukong Suh, the Lions have one of the league’s most powerful and athletic defensive fronts. They’ve logged 41 sacks (sixth) and have four defenders with at least 20 quarterback hurries.
So being his usual mobile self will be rather important for Rodgers after the Lions held him to a pedestrian 162 yards on 6.0 per attempt during a loss back in Week 3.