NFL

Biggest NFL injury questions for Week 6

NFL Nation reporters assess the biggest injuries across the league for Week 6.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West


AFC EAST

The bye week came at the right time for the Bills, who were healthy to start the season but have lost several players in recent weeks to injuries. Tight end Charles Clay (knee) is expected to be out a month or longer, while wide receiver Jordan Matthews (thumb) and linebacker Ramon Humber (thumb) both could miss more time after the bye. Cornerback E.J. Gaines (groin) also missed last week’s loss to Cincinnati and could be back for Buffalo’s Week 7 game against the Buccaneers. — Mike Rodak

Wide receiver DeVante Parker missed Wednesday’s practice due to an ankle injury. Chances don’t look good that he’ll play against the Falcons, so other players will have to step up. Second-year receiver Jakeem Grant could get his first career start in place of Parker. — James Walker

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed last Thursday’s win over the Buccaneers with a thigh injury, is expected to be back on the field for Sunday’s road game against the Jets. When I saw Gronkowski in the locker room early this week, he was in his typical jovial spirits as he’s transitioned back to practicing. Running back Rex Burkhead is also expected to make his return after missing the last three games with an injury to his ribs.– Mike Reiss

The Jets are hoping running back Matt Forte (turf toe) returns after missing two games. He practiced Wednesday, an encouraging sign. If he can’t play, the Jets have a big problem because running back Bilal Powell (strained calf) is a bigger question mark than Forte. Best bet: Forte and rookie Eli McGuire will be their top two backs on Sunday. — Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Running back Terrance West didn’t practice because of a calf injury, and he walked around the locker room with a protective boot on his left leg, which indicates he’ll miss at least a couple of weeks. The Ravens will lean on Buck Allen and Alex Collins in West’s absence. Allen will get a majority of the red-zone carries and figures to be more involved in the passing game. Collins is the more explosive runner, but he has an issue with fumbling (two in four games). –Jamison Hensley

Tyler Eifert is opting to have season-ending back surgery on Thursday that’s expected to keep him out four to six weeks, a league source said. That means Tyler Kroft will continue to have a bigger role in the offense once the Bengals return from their bye. — Katherine Terrell

The Browns had two offensive linemen who left or didn’t practice on Wednesday. Center JC Tretter and right tackle Shon Coleman both missed with knee issues. Coach Hue Jackson said he didn’t believe they were serious concerns, but would not commit to either or both playing in Houston. Missing one or two pieces on the offensive line would not benefit quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is making his first NFL start. — Pat McManamon

The Steelers can exhale over the return of right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), who says he’s playing in Kansas City and has “really fresh legs.” “I feel the urgency [to win],” Gilbert said. A few key Steelers missed practice time on Wednesday, including linebacker Ryan Shazier (quad, limited) and linemen Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster (chest and back, respectively; did not participate), but those injuries are not considered minor. The Steelers are much healthier than in past seasons. — Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

The Texans lost two key pieces on defense in the team’s Week 5 loss to the Chiefs — defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus — but are getting closer to getting some help in the secondary. Starting cornerback Kevin Johnson (sprained MCL) is “getting close” to returning, coach Bill O’Brien said Wednesday, but will not return for Sunday’s game against the Browns. There’s a good chance Johnson will be ready after next week’s bye. — Sarah Barshop

The Colts were without tight end Jack Doyle in their Week 5 win over San Francisco due to a concussion. Doyle’s replacements, Brandon Williams and Darrell Daniels, accounted for just four catches for 30 yards against the 49ers. Doyle, despite missing the game, is second on the team in receptions this season. The Colts won’t release their first injury report of the week until Thursday because they play Monday at Tennessee. — Mike Wells

Center Brandon Linder is still battling an illness and did not practice Wednesday. He missed last Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh and his availability against the Rams is in doubt, too. Tyler Shatley more than capably filled in for Linder against the Steelers — the Jaguars ran for 231 yards, including 181 by Leonard Fournette — but he’d face a much tougher task against Los Angeles’ All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The Jaguars will be using a lot more double teams against Donald if Linder cannot play. — Mike DiRocco

The Titans are optimistic that Marcus Mariota will be able to progress enough to play Monday against the Colts. He missed last week with a hamstring injury, but he was able to do the most he has in two weeks during Wednesday’s practice. Pocket mobility and getting the right depths in his drops are the last hurdles for Mariota to clear. Tennessee should have left tackle Taylor Lewan, who left last week’s game with a knee injury. Receiver Corey Davis and safety Johnathan Cyprien are out with hamstring injuries. — Cameron Wolfe

AFC WEST

The Broncos are, for the most part, as healthy as they’ve been since the end of the preseason thanks to their Week 5 bye. Wide receiver Cody Latimer (knee), a special teams regular as well as a spot player in the offense, didn’t practice Wednesday and is not expected to play Sunday against the Giants unless his knee improves significantly in the coming days. Latimer has been the team’s kickoff returner as well and rookie wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie handled those duties when Latimer didn’t play in Week 4 against the Raiders. — Jeff Legwold

It’s not a good sign that tight end Travis Kelce didn’t work on Wednesday as the Chiefs began their practice week. Kelce is in the concussion protocol. The Chiefs would not only miss his production if he can’t play against the Steelers, but they wouldn’t be able to use the multiple-tight end formations they like as often. Kansas City has been productive when at least one other tight end is on the field besides Kelce, particularly when they run the ball. — Adam Teicher

Rookie receiver Mike Williams was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and still hasn’t been a full participant since the start of the regular season. The Clemson product is recovering from a lower back disc herniation suffered in May. Coach Anthony Lynn said Williams will get more of a workload this week and that the training and coaching staff needs to see what type of condition he’s in. “We’ve added more every single week and I think he’s really close,” Lynn said. “We’ll see where he is at the end of the week.” — Eric D. Williams

Officially, Derek Carr was limited in practice on Wednesday. Unofficially, it’s full steam ahead for Carr to start Sunday against the Chargers, just two weeks after suffering a transverse process fracture in his back at Denver. And no, Carr is not worried about taking a shot to his back. “I mean it just hurts,” Carr said. “There’s really nothing much more to it. It just hurts. It’s not like anything that’s like, ‘Oh, man, if I take a hit, I’m worried.’ It’s not like a worry. It’s just one of those things you have to deal with. Just like everybody in the NFL right now.” — Paul Gutierrez

NFC EAST

When the Cowboys come off the bye next week, all eyes will be on linebacker Sean Lee, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. His absence has been profound, especially against the run with the Cowboys allowing back to back 100-yard rushers in their two losses. He was able to take part in some of Wednesday’s practice, which was his first on-field action since getting hurt against the Cardinals in Week 3. Rookie defensive back Chidobe Awuzie will be limited this week because of a hamstring strain that has bothered him since the preseason. Like Lee, the Cowboys are hoping some rest will allow the injury to heal, but it’s too soon to say he will play in Week 7 against San Francisco. — Todd Archer

Where to start. So many choices. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris are out for the year. A host of others — including All-Pro safety Landon Collins — didn’t practice Wednesday. Collins would be their biggest concern this week with an ankle, considering the Giants defense will be counted on keeping them in games. Collins limped off the field for a few plays Sunday and was in obvious pain. It’s no certainty he’ll be ready for this Sunday night in Denver. — Jordan Raanan

Right tackle Lane Johnson has been ruled out of Thursday’s game in Carolina with a concussion. His replacement, second-year player Halapoulivaati Vaitai, will have his hands full against a Panthers defense that is third in the NFL with 17 sacks. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and running back Wendell Smallwood are questionable. The Eagles might opt to rest both of them with some extra time to recover before next Monday’s divisional matchup with the Redskins. — Tim McManus

There are several injuries worth worrying about. Running back Rob Kelley (ankle) is a longshot to play against the 49ers according to coach Jay Gruden. Corner Josh Norman (rib) did not practice and could miss the next three games, though the Redskins are unsure at this time how many he’ll miss. Left tackle Trent Williams (knee) also didn’t practice Wednesday, though there’s still a chance he’ll play Sunday. If he can’t play, then former Minnesota lineman T.J. Clemmings would take Williams’ place with veteran backup Ty Nsekhe sidelined with a core muscle injury. Kelley would be replaced by Samaje Perine and Norman likely by Quinton Dunbar. Perine has had a mixed start, running well out of shotgun formation (4.9 yards per carry), but not with the quarterback under center (2.1 yards per carry). He still gives them another power runner, with Chris Thompson sticking in his third-down role. — John Keim

NFC NORTH

Starting cornerback Marcus Cooper‘s stiff back caused him to miss last Monday’s game against Minnesota. Now coming off a short week, there’s concern about Cooper’s availability in Baltimore after he sat out Wednesday’s practice. Former first-round pick Kyle Fuller started in place of Cooper against the Vikings. It’s still early enough in the week where Cooper could return to face the Ravens, but even if that happens, the Bears might use a three-man rotation at cornerback featuring Cooper, Fuller and Prince Amukamara. — Jeff Dickerson

The good news is quarterback Matthew Stafford (ankle) practiced fully Wednesday. He seemed to have a little bit of a hitch occasionally when he ran, but a full practice coupled with no other quarterbacks being brought in is a good sign for his Sunday availability against New Orleans. Kenny Golladay (hamstring) and Dwayne Washington (quad) also practiced for the first time in a couple of weeks, too, after missing the last two games. All good signs for Detroit. — Michael Rothstein

At least we now know what’s wrong with wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who did not play on the game-winning drive last Sunday at Dallas. He appeared on Wednesday’s injury report with a back problem although the fact that he was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice indicates it might not be much of a problem at all. Nelson said he will be “practicing all week and playing on Sunday.” Running back Ty Montgomery also practiced in full, but given that they weren’t in pads, it’s too soon to say whether he can play Sunday at Minnesota with those broken ribs. If he’s full during Thursday’s full-contract practice, then he might have a chance. — Rob Demovsky

Five starters didn’t practice on Wednesday, but Sam Bradford‘s absence was expected after the quarterback re-aggravated his injured left knee in his Week 5 return. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs sustained a groin injury against the Bears, which held him to a season-low 70 snaps in Chicago. Also missing from practice were left guard Nick Easton (calf), safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson (knee). Diggs is the Vikings biggest concern based on his history with these types of injuries. The receiver said he was never 100 percent after injuring his groin in 2016, which continued to bother him all season. — Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Both Julio Jones (hip flexor) and Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring) were limited at practice Wednesday. Jones typically shakes off injuries quickly and the initial word was the star receiver wouldn’t miss any game action. As for Beasley, the reigning NFL sack champ hasn’t played since suffering the injury in Week 2 against Green Bay. Beasley still looks a little hobbled and wore a compression sleeve on his right leg during practice. His status is unclear, but Beasley doesn’t look ready for game action. — Vaughn McClure

The good news is wide receiver Devin Funchess (knee) is expected to play against the Eagles on Thursday. The third-year receiver out of Michigan is off to his best start and has 14 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. With teams double-teaming Kelvin Benjamin and paying a lot of attention to Christian McCaffrey, Funchess has become an integral part of what Carolina does offensively. — David Newton

The Saints took an injury hit in Week 4, when starting right tackle Zach Strief, starting linebacker Alex Anzalone and fullback John Kuhn all went on injured reserve. But the Week 5 bye was good for everyone else. Every player on the current roster practiced Wednesday, with only left tackle Terron Armstead (shoulder) and receiver Willie Snead (hamstring) listed as limited. They’re likely to play against Detroit on Sunday, though both could take a little time to shake off the rust after not playing yet this season. — Mike Triplett

A number of injured players returned to practice Wednesday: linebackers Lavonte David (ankle) and Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and safeties Keith Tandy (hip) and T.J. ward (hip). The biggest question now is who will be ready to play against Arizona on Sunday. Alexander hasn’t played since Week 2 and David since Week 3. Both showed no signs of injury during drills — they changed directions well, both front-to-back and laterally. Getting them both back into game condition will be a priority this week against a Cardinals’ team that smoked them 40-7 last year and just traded for Adrian Peterson. — Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

The Cardinals had 13 players on their injury report Wednesday when they held a walk-through to start preparing for Sunday’s game against the Bucs. The only player who didn’t practice was defensive tackle Olsen Pierre, who suffered a sprained ankle last week against Philadelphia. Coach Bruce Arians said right tackle Jared Veldheer‘s left knee is sore. Arizona will have a better idea of his and defensive tackle Corey Peters‘ status for this week after Thursday’s practice. Peters also suffered a knee injury against the Eagles. Adrian Peterson, who practiced Wednesday, will play Sunday and is expected to be the featured back for the Cardinals. — Josh Weinfuss

The Rams have to feel lucky about their injury situation through the season’s first five weeks. They’re expected to get safety Lamarcus Joyner back for Sunday’s game in Jacksonville, which means they’ll be fully healthy. Joyner missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but coach Sean McVay expects Joyner to be ready for Week 6. With Maurice Alexander waived earlier this week, Joyner will probably start alongside rookie John Johnson at safety. The Rams also use Joyner as a slot corner at times. He’s as valuable a defensive player as they have. — Alden Gonzalez

The 49ers welcomed linebacker Reuben Foster (high ankle sprain) and safety Eric Reid (knee injury) back to practice on Wednesday. Coach Kyle Shanahan is hopeful both will be available to play in Washington, but that decision won’t be made until they get through the week of practice. Getting either or both back would be a boom to a Niners defense that has been hit hard by injuries recently, especially in the secondary. — Nick Wagoner

With the Seahawks on a bye, left guard Luke Joeckel is having an arthroscopic procedure to help with lingering effects of his major knee injury from last season. Coach Pete Carroll said it will likely keep Joeckel from playing in Seattle’s Week 7 game against the Giants. The Seahawks are hoping that the week off will give defensive lineman Michael Bennett a chance to rest the plantar fascia foot injury he suffered Sunday, which Carroll said left him “really sore” the next day. “He’s going to need these couple weeks here,” Carroll said. Seattle is already playing without its other starting defensive end, Cliff Avril, so Bennett coming back from the bye healthy is all the more important. — Brady Henderson

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