In the premier matchup of the weekend, Sunday night’s Dallas Cowboys-Washington Redskins game that will decide the NFC East, the Redskins listed right tackle Tyler Polumbus (head) and safety DeJon Gomes (knee) as “questionable”. Polumbus was cleared to practice on Friday, but whether or not he plays on Sunday will be determined over the weekend. If Polumbus is unable to go, Maurice Hurt will start in his place. For the Cowboys, nose tackle Jay Ratliff (groin) was ruled out, as expected, while linebacker Ernie Sims (concussion) is “questionable”. Everyone else on the injury report, including outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (shoulder) and defensive end Jason Hatcher (thigh), is “probable”. Ware is expected to play with a brace on his shoulder.
The Green Bay Packers can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers already ruled safety Charles Woodson (out) and running back James Starks (knee) will join him on the sidelines. Packers leading receiver Randall Cobb is “questionable” with ankle and knee injuries, which he tested on Friday. Whether or not Cobb plays will be determined by how he responds over the weekend. The Vikings, who can clinch a playoff berth with a win, listed defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (knee/hand) as “questionable”, but both are expected to attempt to play against the Packers.
If the Packers lose, and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals, the 49ers would clinch the first-round bye. The 49ers placed wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee) on injured reserve and signed defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie off the practice squad. The addition of Jerod-Eddie could be construed as bad news regarding the availability of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith, who has not played since suffering what Matthew Barrows of The Sacramento Bee reports is a partially torn triceps during the third quarter of a 41-34 win over the New England Patriots in Week 15. Smith is “doubtful” with a elbow and triceps injuries, but says he’d play if the playoffs started next week for the 49ers. Tight end Vernon Davis is “questionable” as he recovers from a concussion he sustained during the first half of last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks clinched a playoff spot with that 42-13 win over the 49ers last week and could win the NFC West for the second time in three seasons by beating the St. Louis Rams coupled with a 49ers’ loss to the Cardinals. The Seahawks ruled cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) out and outside linebacker Leroy Hill (hamstring) and right tackle Breno Giacomini (elbow) are “questionable”. Giacomini practiced fully on Friday and will likely attempt to play against the Rams. The Seahawks should have veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury.
Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher practiced for the first time since straining his hamstring against the Seahawks on Dec. 2 and is listed as “doubtful” for Sunday’s must-win game against the Detroit Lions. If the Bears do not reach the playoffs, it’s possible that Urlacher, a free agent in 2013, has played his final game with the club. The Bears ruled out safety Chris Conte (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (calf) and listed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton as “questionable” with a chest injury.
Back to the NFC East, the New York Giants are unlikely to have defensive tackle Chris Canty (knee) and cornerbacks Prince Amukamara (hamstring) and Jayron Hosley (quadriceps) for their must-win game against the Philadelphia Eagles. All three are listed a “doubtful”. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (knee) and defensive end Justin Tuck (shoulder) are “questionable”.
There are no open spots in the AFC Playoff picture as the divisions were clinched by the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens and the two wild card spots were wrapped up by the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals. Seeding, however, remains wide open.
The Texans can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs with a win over the Colts on Sunday. Houston’s injury report is lengthy – 21 players listed, but only cornerback Alan Ball is ruled out due to a foot injury, while outside linebacker Brooks Reed (groin) and safety Shiloh Keo (ankle) are listed as “questionable”. Running back Arian Foster practiced fully all week and is “probable” due to an arrhythmia. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano returned to the team this week after missing the last three months while undergoing treatment for leukemia and has vowed to not rest the team’s starters for the post-season. The club has ruled several players out for the Texans game, however, most notably defensive end Cory Redding (quadriceps), center Samson Satele (ankle) and nose tackle Antonio Johnson (ankle). Key players Donnie Avery (shoulder), linebacker Kavell Conner (hamstring), right tackle Winston Justice (shoulder) and safety Tom Zbikowski (knee) are “questionable” and considering to be game-time decisions.
Denver can clinch a first-round bye with a win and the No. 1 seed with a win coupled with a Texans loss. The Broncos ruled cornerback Tracy Porter out due to a concussion and wide receiver/return specialist Trindon Holliday is “doubtful” with an ankle injury. Right guard Chris Kuper is “questionable” and could miss a fourth consecutive game with ankle and head injuries.
The Patriots are on the outside looking in at a first-round bye and/or home-field advantage, but could one with a win over the Miami Dolphins and losses by Denver and/or Houston. New England’s injury report is lengthy with 20 players termed “questionable” by head coach Bill Belichick. Tight end Rob Gronkowsi, who has not played since Nov. 18 due to a broken forearm, headlines the list and has not yet received medical clearance to play.
Also questionable for the Patriots are wide receivers Brandon Lloyd (knee) and Wes Welker (ankle), tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle), offensive tackles Nate Solder (abdomen) and Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), guards Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) and Dan Connolly (back), defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle), defensive tackle Kyle Love (knee), linebackers Dont’a Hightower (hamstring/shoulder), Jerod Mayo (elbow) and Brandon Spikes (knee/ankle), cornerbacks Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring/knee) and safety Patrick Chung (shoulder). Most, if not all of those players, are expected to play on Sunday.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has borrowed a page from the Belichick book and has listed 16 players on this week’s injury report, seven of whom are “questionable”. Notable names on the list include wide receiver Anquan Boldin (shoulder), defensive end Arthur Jones (thigh), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) and guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder/knee). In a surprising move, inside linebacker Ray Lewis (triceps) is “probable”, but is not expected to play until the playoffs. Most of the Ravens listed as “questionable” on the injury report are unlikely to play against the Bengals, who placed kicker Mike Nugent on injured reserve due to a calf injury and listed cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin) and Jason Allen (hamstring) as “questionable” on their injury report. The Bengals will continue to use Josh Brown at kicker.