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Jake Long leaves with a back injury

Jake Long AP

The Dolphins’ quest to continue their rapid turnaround from 0-7 laughingstock to the owners of a respectable record took a hit in the first quarter of their game with the Eagles.

Left tackle Jake Long left the game with a lower back injury and has gone to the locker room. Long’s return is being called questionable by the Dolphins. Nate Garner replaced him in the lineup for Miami.

The Dolphins hold a 7-0 lead late in the first thanks to a blocked punt by Jimmy Wilson. The Dolphins got the ball in great field position and capitalized with a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall.

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Raiders missing key offensive pieces again this week

Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Raiders have a tall order in front of them on Sunday in the Packers and their chances of pulling off the upset don’t look much better after a glance at Friday’s injury report.

Their offense will again take the field without three key contributors. Running back Darren McFadden will miss his sixth straight game with a foot injury after another week that saw him unable to get on the practice field. Wide receivers Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore were able to do some work this week, but both were ruled out by the team for game action.

All of that means the roster will look pretty much the same for the Raiders as it did when they were routed by the Dolphins. That doesn’t spell a great outcome for them at Lambeau Field which, in turn, means their best chance of remaining in a tie for the AFC West lead might lay with Caleb Hanie and the Bears.

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MRI shows high ankle sprain for Maurkice Pouncey

Pittsburgh Steelers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

High ankle sprains are all the rage in Pittsburgh right now.

We already told you that Ben Roethlisberger’s MRI revealed that the Steelers quarterback sustained a high ankle sprain during Thursday night’s 14-3 win over the Browns. Now comes confirmation that his center Maurkice Pouncey is dealing with the same injury.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pouncey was diagnosed after his own MRI on Friday. Per Dulac, the injury isn’t the most severe Grade 3 sprain but a source told him that the results of the MRI were “not good.” Roethlisberger’s injury also falls short of the Grade 3 designation.

There’s a lot of time before the Steelers face the 49ers, but the severity of the injury means there’s a chance Pouncey won’t recover in time to take the field a week from Monday.

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Billy Cundiff will be a game-time decision

Ravens' Cundiff follows through on a field goal against the Texans in Baltimore Reuters

The Ravens are hopeful that kicker Billy Cundiff will be able to play against the Colts, but they have a backup plan in place just in case.

Cundiff has a sore left calf that is putting his availability for Sunday’s game in some doubt, so the team has veteran Shayne Graham standing by should they need to add him to the roster. Coach John Harbaugh gave his thoughts on Cundiff’s outlook on Friday.

“We’ll find out,” Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times. “I think so. I’m hopeful. I really am hopeful. We’ll have a backup plan for sure, and I think we’ll just see how it feels tomorrow and then maybe into Sunday. It’s not a major thing. Basically his calf cramped up, but we’ll take every precaution between today and Sunday.”

Cundiff has missed two straight days of practice, opening up the door for Graham to make his return to the NFL this weekend. Graham kicked for the Dolphins earlier this season and has played for five other teams over the course of a 10-year pro career.

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Andre Johnson won’t play on Sunday

Andre Johnson AP

We took a two week break from a Friday post reporting Andre Johnson wouldn’t be in the Texans lineup, but you can’t keep a good hamstring injury down.

Gary Kubiak said that Johnson won’t be in the lineup for Sunday’s game with the Bengals, a piece of news that wasn’t a tremendous surprise after Johnson missed practice all week with a hamstring injury suffered while trying to run down a T.J. Yates pass against the Falcons. It’s Johnson’s left hamstring that’s bothering him now, giving him a matched set after a right hamstring injury kept him out for six games earlier this year.

“I don’t know,” Johnson said when asked if he would be able to play next week. “It’s a day-by-day thing. Like I said before, it’s not as bad as it was the previous injury I had. We’re just taking it day-by-day.”

The Texans can clinch the AFC South crown with a win and a Titans loss on Sunday. It would be the first divisional title and playoff berth in the history of the franchise.

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Dallas Clark returns to full practice participation

Dallas Clark AP

Good news hasn’t been a regular occurrence for the Colts this year, but they got some on Wednesday when tight end Dallas Clark practiced fully.

Philip Wilson of the Indianapolis Star shared the good news about Clark’s return. He hasn’t been able to take part in a full practice since injuring his fibula against the Falcons on November 6th. With the Colts offense showing some life with Dan Orlovsky at the controls in New England last Sunday, Clark’s return could bode well for their chances of winning a game before the end of the season.

The absence of Peyton Manning this season meant that Clark wasn’t putting up his normal numbers before the injury. He has 28 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns on the year, but Orlovsky has shown more interest in throwing to the tight ends than Curtis Painter did when Clark was in the lineup.

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Josh Freeman hopeful about playing this week

Josh Freeman, William Hayes, Colin McCarthy AP

Josh Freeman still hasn’t been able to take part in a full practice since injuring his shoulder against the Titans in Week 12, but he’s feeling optimistic about his chances of playing against the Jaguars.

“Continually, it’s gotten better,” Freeman said, via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “It started out extremely painful, but my movement’s greatly increased. Right now, I’m feeling better than last week, for sure. I’ve thrown the ball around a few times and it’s day to day gotten better. So, if I can continue on this pace, then I really hope we can play this Sunday.”

Freeman did some light throwing in practice on Wednesday and coach Raheem Morris said he’s showing improvement over last week. While it makes little sense to expose Freeman to excessive risk by playing hurt, seeing him return and play well would be a positive way to end a disappointing season for both quarterback and team.

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Chargers place Luis Castillo on injured reserve

Luis Castillo AP

The Chargers are through waiting for defensive end Luis Castillo to make it back from a fractured leg.

Castillo, who was injured in the season opener, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. The team held out hope that he would be able to make it back for the stretch run, but coach Norv Turner said that his rehab hasn’t progressed quickly enough for the team to keep holding a roster spot for him. The Chargers signed defensive lineman Damik Scafe to take his place on the roster.

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wonders whether this is the end of Castillo’s run with the Chargers. The 2005 first-round pick has three years left on a contract that he signed in 2008, but Acee points out that he’s missed time with injury and thinks the team might choose to go with younger players at the position.Castillo is due to make $3.9 million next year with a $1 million roster bonus.

Acee might have more inside information about the Chargers’ view of Castillo — although that could be rendered moot by changes to the coaching staff and/or front office in the offseason — but it is hard to see why the team would drop Castillo. He had injury issues in 2006 and 2007, but missed just three games in the last three years. A fractured leg is hardly a sign of any chronic injury risk and the team has clearly missed his production on the line this season.

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Jerraud Powers done for season

Jerraud Powers AP

The Colts defense actually played well for stretches against the Patriots (the stretches when they remembered to cover Rob Gronkowski, anyway) on Sunday, but repeating that task over the final four games will be a bit tougher with the news that Jerraud Powers will miss the rest of the season.

Powers has been the best cornerback for Indy this season, but Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star reports that he dislocated his left elbow against the Pats. Powers, who has two interceptions this season, will go on injured reserve as will nickel corner Terrence Johnson. The losses mean that there’s even less standing between the Colts and a winless season.

Chappell also reports that the Colts claimed linebacker Zac Diles off of waivers from Tampa. Diles started 22 games for the Texans in the last two seasons, but didn’t see much action for the Bucs before they cut him over the weekend.

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Kubiak on Andre Johnson: We’re very fortunate

Atlanta Falcons v Houston Texans Getty Images

Earlier on Monday, we brought you Texans owner Bob McNair’s take on Andre Johnson’s status after his latest hamstring injury.

McNair said that he expected Johnson to miss a couple of weeks, but coach Gary Kubiak had a much more optimistic message when he met with the media on Monday afternoon. Kubiak said that Johnson has only a mild hamstring strain and that he’s being considered day-to-day.

“We’re very fortunate,” Kubiak said. “I’ll tell you today he’s day-to-day. I probably can give you a better answer once we give him a couple days here and get to Wednesday, but we do expect him back, and hopefully sooner than later. To answer today, we feel very fortunate.”

Kubiak also had good news to report on the status of linebacker Brian Cushing. He left the game with a knee injury, but Kubiak said that it is just a sore knee and that Cushing is expected to be in the lineup for Sunday’s game.

Not all the injury news was positive, however. Punter Brett Hartmann is done for the season after tearing his ACL while running downfield to cover a punt. The Texans could look to the past and bring back Matt Turk, their punter from 2007-2010, if they choose.

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The Rams could be down to Tom Brandstater

Dallas Cowboys v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Rams offense reached a new low in a season of futility on Sunday.

They were shut out, never advanced the ball past the 49ers’ 35-yard line and gained just 157 yards all day. As bad as that was, things might get even worse next Monday.

Seattle isn’t as good as San Francisco defensively, but the Rams might be starting Tom Brandstater at quarterback. Sam Bradford is battling a high ankle sprain and A.J. Feeley fractured his right thumb in Sunday’s loss, leaving the third-year man from Fresno State as the only healthy quarterback on the roster. Brandstater has never played in a regular season game and was elevated from the practice squad shortly before the 49ers game.

In his Monday press conference, coach Steve Spagnuolo conceded that he’s concerned about the fact that the team has little idea what they will do at quarterback in a week’s time. Spagnuolo is hopeful Bradford will be able to go, but Brandstater will take on a heavier load in practice in the event he’s forced into the lineup.

The only intrigue left in this Rams season is whether the avalanche of losses will wind up costing Spagnuolo his job. Owner Stan Kroeneke wouldn’t give any indication after the game, but Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes that there will be changes coming to St. Louis when the year is over. He cautions that those changes might “not follow the whims of popular opinion,” but that Kroenke is evaluating the entire organization to decide what changes need to be made to move the team forward.

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Mario Manningham, David Baas out for Giants

Mario Manningham AP

The Giants will get Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Boley back for Sunday’s attempt to derail the Packers express, but two other starters will miss the game.

Wide receiver Mario Manningham is out for the second straight week with a knee injury and center David Baas, who wasn’t expected to be a game-time call, is also out. The Giants say that Baas was forced out of the lineup by headaches. That leaves the team awfully short on the offensive line because tackle Stacy Andrews is in the hospital with blood clots in his lungs. Kevin Boothe was expected to start at left guard, but he may now move to center with Mitch Petrus playing guard.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, linebacker Mark Herzlich, running back Da’Rel Scott and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy are also inactive. The Packers had no big surprises among their inactives as we already knew they would be without linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop and tackle Chad Clifton.

 

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LaDainian Tomlinson leaves with leg injury

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson’s return to the Jets lineup after a sprained MCL didn’t last very long.

Tomlinson is out of the game after grabbing his left knee at the end of a 16-yard gain on a screen pass. He was tackled awkwardly by Redskins safety O.J. Atogwe and stayed down for a few moments after the play. He was able to walk off the field unassisted despite a noticable limp, but went right to a training table to get worked on by the Jets medical staff.

That’s the same knee Tomlinson hurt late in the loss to the Patriots in Week 10. Tomlinson missed the last two games and was expected to give the team’s playoff hopes a boost down the stretch.

UPDATE: The Jets have announced Tomlinson is questionable to return.

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Von Miller inactive against Vikings

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Broncos defense will have to find a way to stop the Vikings without standout rookie linebacker Von Miller.

Miller is inactive for Sunday’s game in Minneapolis thanks to a thumb injury he suffered in last week’s overtime win over the Chargers. Miller had surgery on the thumb earlier this week, but both player and team held out hope that he would be able to play. Coach John Fox told the NFL Network Sunday morning that there’s some fear of infection, though, and Miller will get a day off to heal before trying to return to the field.

The decision means Mario Haggan will get the start in Miller’s place. Denver will need Elvis Dumervil to handle the load in the pass rush solo this weekend if they are to win their fifth straight game.

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It’s looking good for Kevin Kolb’s return

Arizona Cardinals v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Cardinals’ plan all week has been for Kevin Kolb to return to the starting lineup and it looks like that’s what will happen Sunday against the Cowboys.

Kolb said Friday that he feels the best he’s felt since getting hurt and doesn’t see any reason why his toe injury would get in the way of his return to action. Coach Ken Whisenhunt stopped short of guaranteeing Kolb will be in the lineup Sunday, but he didn’t offer much reason to believe we’ll get another dose of John Skelton.

“It looks pretty good that he’s going to play,” Whisenhunt said. “I’m not going to say, ‘Yes, he’ll play’ and then something happens between now and then with his foot, because it really comes down to the soreness. But it looks like he’ll play.”

The Cardinals won three of the four games Skelton started, but Skelton didn’t play particularly well in that span. He was at least as good as Kolb was in the first seven games, though, so Kolb will have to step up his game to quiet those second-guessing the decision to trade for him in the offseason and then hand him a contract extension that paid much more than his resume seemed to warrant.

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