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Broncos lose Chris Kuper for rest of season

Chris Kuper AP

The Broncos won the AFC West title despite a loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, but they will have to stick around the playoffs without one of their starting offensive linemen.

Right guard Chris Kuper needed to be carted off the field after injuring his leg when right tackle Orlando Franklin fell on it from behind. After the game, Broncos coach John Fox told reporters, including Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post, after the game that Kuper broke his leg. He’s done for the rest of the season, no matter how long it lasts.

You can tell from the picture up top that the injury is a particularly nasty one. Kuper, who started every game this season for the Broncos, will likely be rehabbing all the way through the offseason. Russ Hochstein replaced Kuper on Sunday and is the likely replacement going forward.

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Giants looking healthier for Sunday night

Washington Redskins vs  New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants will be without tight end Jake Ballard again on Sunday night, but it looks like they will be otherwise healthy as they battle the Cowboys for the NFC East title.

Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham both practiced on Friday and are listed as probable for Sunday. Manningham missed the Jets win with a knee injury, but he has practiced all week and should be good to go for the Cowboys. Nicks didn’t practice before Friday because of a hamstring injury, but left feeling confident despite only taking limited reps.

I am confident. I am confident that I can get the job done and I will be full go,” Nicks said after practice.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora is officially listed as questionable, but is expected to play after making an unexpected return from a sprained ankle earlier this week. Linebacker Mark Herzlich was the only other player listed as out on the Friday injury report.

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Delanie Walker out “a period of time” for Niners

Delanie Walker AP

Delanie Walker isn’t the most famous tight end on the 49ers, but he’s been an important cog for the team this season.

So it’s a big deal that he’ll be out for a while. Walker injured his jaw when Seattle linebacker Leroy Hill unintentionally kicked him in the face while chasing Frank Gore on Saturday. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that Walker’s prognosis isn’t known yet, but that the team is planning to be without him for “a period of time.”

Per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the team will explore all of its options when it comes to replacing Walker but they won’t place him on injured reserve if there’s any chance he’d be ready to return before the Super Bowl. Walker only had 19 catches for 198 yards this season, including the game-winner against Detroit, but he played a big role in the team’s two tight end sets.

While Walker didn’t wind up with many catches, he was an option teams had to respect enough as a receiver that overloading against the run when he’s on the field wasn’t an option. Mike Sando of ESPN.com crunched some numbers and found Walker was on the field for 58.7 percent of the team’s snaps this season, including 40.4 percent of their third downs. The Niners gained 56 percent of their total yards with two tight ends on the field and got almost 64 percent of their rushing yards out of those formations.

The only other tight end currently on San Francisco’s roster is Justin Peelle and they have Konrad Reuland on the practice squad.

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Michael Huff vows to play on Sunday

Oakland Raiders v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

There are various scenarios that land the Raiders in the playoffs, but all of them require a victory over the Chargers in the season finale.

Safety Michael Huff, who has missed the last two games with a strained hamstring, plans to be in the lineup to help them get that win. Paul Gutierrez of CSNBayArea.com reports that Huff said he wasn’t “going to miss this one” on Monday. Huff had never missed a game in his NFL career before missing four this season.

“This is a one-game season,” said Huff. “I’m going to go out there and play and give my all. I don’t really worry about if I play this week that I may injure it for the playoffs because if we don’t win, the playoffs won’t happen. This is a one-game season.”

The Raiders secondary has been hit hard by injuries this season and Huff’s absence helped the Lions and Chiefs make plays through the air in the last two games. Stopping the Chargers passing attack will be crucial to Oakland’s hopes on Sunday.

The outlook is less clear for other injured Raiders. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group that he hopes to play and plans to lobby the coaches to get on the field if he’s less than 100 percent come Sunday. Running back Darren McFadden, who has missed eight games this year, didn’t speak to the media on Monday.

 

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Patrick Peterson escapes serious injury

Arizona Cardinals v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Peterson name almost took a double whammy of serious injury on Saturday, but Patrick Peterson was able to avoid the fate of Adrian Peterson.

The Cardinals cornerback left the loss to the Bengals early after injuring his Achillles. Peterson picked off an Andy Dalton pass on the play, but Adrian Wilson roughed Dalton so the play that led to the pain was all for naught. That double dose of bad news was tempered by the fact that the injury was just a strain that won’t require surgery to repair.

“That’s a huge relief,” Peterson said on the team’s website. “It’s something that can heal over the next week or so with rehab.”

With the Cardinals out of the playoff hunt, there’s little chance Peterson will play in Week 17. That means he won’t get a chance for a fifth punt return touchdown this season, leaving him tied for the NFL record with Devin Hester, Rick Upchurch and Jack Christiansen.

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Patrick Willis out again for 49ers

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers will have to try to stay ahead of the Saints in the race for a first round bye without the help of Patrick Willis.

Willis is out for the third straight game with a hamstring injury, leaving the Niners without their defensive leader in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. Reports from San Francisco said that Willis looked good in warmups, but the Niners obviously went a cautious route with a player they will need to make noise come playoff time. They’ve won two of three without Willis in the lineup.

Ted Ginn, also listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, is also inactive for the NFC West champs. Braylon Edwards is active and will likely play a big role on offense. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, questionable with an ankle injury, will play for the Seahawks.

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Big Ben active for Steelers, Woodley isn’t

Ben Roethlisberger AP

Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out as the Steelers’ starting quarterback on Friday, but he’ll be in uniform for Saturday’s game with the Rams.

Roethlisberger was not one of the seven players placed on the team’s inactive list before kickoff. That doesn’t make him much likelier to play. Charlie Batch will start and Dennis Dixon is expected to be the next option should something force Batch out of the game against St. Louis. With the Rams starting Kellen Clemens and being the 2011 Rams, that should be enough for the Steelers to get a win and remain alive in the race for the AFC North title.

They won’t have linebacker LaMarr Woodley, however. Woodley, listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, is inactive for this week’s contest. This is the fifth game Woodley has missed this season and he left Monday night’s loss to the 49ers early because the problem flared up. As with Roethlisberger, the decision to sit Woodley is likely aimed at keeping the team as healthy as possible for the postseason.

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Concern “mounting” that Vincent Jackson will be out Saturday

Vincent Jackson AP

The Chargers’ late push for a playoff spot might have a serious obstacle to overcome.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that wide receiver Vincent Jackson’s groin injury is not progressing as well as the team has hoped, leading to “mounting concern” that the team could be without Jackson against the Lions on Saturday. Jackson has played all 14 games for the Chargers this year, a rare force of stability in a receiving corps that’s been ravaged by injuries in 2011.

Jackson, Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd played together for just six quarters this season before Week 13 when all three were in the lineup. That game kicked off the Chargers’ three-game winning streak that has put them back within spitting distance of a playoff spot and has also coincided with Philip Rivers‘ best performances of the season.

With Norv Turner and A.J. Smith potentially fighting for their jobs, Jackson’s injury couldn’t come at a worse time for those advocating continuity in San Diego.

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Kevin Smith expected to start for Lions

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Lions got a bunch of defensive players back at practice on Friday, which could mean that the team is close to full strength when they face the Raiders in Week 15.

It seems like a sure thing that they will have running back Kevin Smith back in the lineup. He practiced for the third straight day, leaving both the team’s website and the Detroit News to predict that he will be the starting tailback. Given the Raiders’ performance against running backs in recent weeks, that would be a very good thing for the Lions offense.

The fact that Smith practiced all three days makes him much less of a risk than he was when he played against the Saints after hurting his ankle on Thanksgiving. Smith couldn’t get through the game after a week of limited practices, but he’s been much more active this week and should be a better bet to make it through the contest.

On the other side of the ball, the team got safety Louis Delmas, linebacker Justin Durant and cornerback Eric Wright back at practice for the first time all week. All three are listed as questionable, although it sounds like Delmas is a good bit further away from playing than either Durant or Wright. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley is also questionable for the Raiders game, but he did not practice on Friday.

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Osi out, Tuck game-time decision for Giants

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Jason Pierre-Paul has become the best defensive end on the Giants this season, which is a good thing for them since it is unclear which other ones they’ll have playing for them on Sunday.

Osi Umenyiora has been ruled out for the third straight week with a sprained ankle and Justin Tuck is questionable with a toe injury that forced him to miss time in last Sunday’s win against the Cowboys. Tuck has been dealing with a variety of injuries this season, leaving him either on the sidelines or at a diminished level of productivity for a Giants defense that has been almost entirely reliant on Pierre-Paul for big plays.

Mike Garofalo of the Newark Star-Ledger reports that Tuck was wearing a t-shirt in the locker room that read “My Pain, Your Entertainment.” That could be a sign that Tuck is planning on answering the bell against the Redskins despite the injury or, as Garofalo suggests, it could just mean that Tuck enjoyed Russell Crowe’s performance as Maximus.

The Giants should be getting safety Kenny Phillips back after he missed last week with a sprained MCL, but center David Baas and tight end Travis Beckum have both been ruled out.

 

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Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker both miss Titans practice

Matt Hasselbeck AP

Rusty Smith was the only quarterback at Titans practice on Wednesday.

Matt Hasselbeck sat out with the calf injury that forced him out of Sunday’s loss to the Saints and Jake Locker missed the session with a sore chest courtesy of a hit he sustained after replacing Hasselbeck. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Locker is expected back on Thursday, but the outlook for Hasselbeck is a bit cloudier.

“There’s been a lot of Wednesdays where he hasn’t practiced because of soreness,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “As far as how he’s doing, there is no emergency before Friday until we see where he is at. Can he play? Can he not play? Right now I am assuming he is playing until we see otherwise.”

If Hasselbeck can’t go, Locker will likely make his first NFL start against the Colts. The Titans are still breathing in the playoff race, but will likely need to win out while getting help to grab a Wild Card berth.

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Cowboys place Jon Kitna on injured reserve

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Should something happen to Tony Romo in the next couple of weeks, the Cowboys will be fighting for their playoff lives with Stephen McGee under center.

The team placed veteran backup quarterback Jon Kitna on injured reserve Wednesday with a back injury that has hampered him for most of the season. He has been inactive for the last four weeks and the team obviously felt that there was no reason to hold a roster spot for Kitna. Wide receiver Dwayne Harris will take Kitna’s place on the active roster and they signed quarterback Chris Griesen to the practice squad.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this is the end of the road for Kitna. He thought about retiring before this season and, at 39 with a back injury, that figures to be an appealing option again in the coming offseason. Kitna has thrown for 29,475 yards in his career, good for 37th in NFL history.

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Report: Bradford will start at quarterback against Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

One of the myriad questions on the minds of the millions and millions of people waiting with baited breath for the epic Monday Night Football showdown between the Rams and Seahawks is whether or not Sam Bradford will be starting at quarterback for St. Louis.

The answer has arrived. Charley Casserley of CBS reports that Bradford, who has been hampered by a high ankle sprain, will indeed get the start. That means the legions of Tom Brandstater fans will have to wait a little bit longer to see their man get a shot on the big stage and it also means that Bradford should be in the running for most That Guys of the night from Jon Gruden.

Bradford’s sophomore NFL season has been a frustrating one, although it hasn’t been bad enough to knock offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels off the list of possible Todd Haley replacements in Kansas City. The Chiefs might not be the only Missouri team looking for a new head coach when the season comes to a close, although it seems unlikely that McDaniels would wind up replacing Steve Spagnuolo if the head man does get the axe.

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Report: Jim Leonhard to miss rest of season

Jim Leonhard AP

The Jets rolled to an easy win over the Chiefs on Sunday, but it didn’t come without a price.

According to a report from Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, safety Jim Leonhard will miss the rest of the season with a right knee injury. He’ll have an MRI Monday to figure out the extent of the injury, which is suspected to be a torn ligament, but Mehta’s source says the result will be Leonhard’s absence from the lineup the rest of the way.

Leonhard was hurt while trying to run away from Steve Breaston after a first half interception in Sunday’s 37-10 victory. Breaston held onto his ankle, causing Leonhard’s leg to turn awkwardly and it was immediately evident that there was a serious injury on the play.

If the report proves correct, it will be the second straight season that ends early for Leonhard. He broke his leg in practice last season and missed the final five games of the regular season as well as the playoffs as a result.

It’s a big blow to the Jets defense which relies on Leonhard to help set the unit before the snap. They will go with Brodney Pool and the much-maligned Eric Smith as the starters the rest of the way. They will also likely turn back to rookie Jeremy Kerley on punt returns. Kerley lost the job after a fumble against the Redskins, one of several recent miscues on returns for the Jets, but the team doesn’t have much other choice at this point.

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Jets rolling, but they lose Jim Leonhard

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Jets grabbed a 14-3 lead over the Chiefs in the second quarter with the help of an interception by safety Jim Leonhard, but it came with a cost.

Leonhard picked off a typically awful Tyler Palko pass intended for Steve Breaston, but hurt his right leg while trying to get away from Breaston on the return. He stayed down on the field for a short while, needed to be helped off the field and then pounded his fist on a cart while being wheeled to the locker room. Leonhard missed most of the second half of last season with a broken leg and this looked like another serious injury.

The Jets have announced Leonhard will not return, leaving them lacking at two spots. They are thin at safety, with only Eric Smith and Brodney Pool available to step into the lineup, and Leonhard has taken over as punt returner after a parade of other Jets candidates fumbled away chances over the last few weeks. Replacing Leonhard will be crucial if the Jets want to continue their playoff push in the final weeks of the season.

 

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