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Biggest injury storylines to watch for all 32 NFL teams

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Schefter believes in Texans to overcome injuries (2:02)

Adam Schefter expects Houston's offensive strides to make up for their depleted defense, but Ryan Clark doesn't expect them to recover this season. (2:02)

Following a week dominated by the news of Odell Beckham Jr.'s and J.J. Watt's season-ending injuries, NFL Nation reporters assess the biggest injury storylines to watch for each team.

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


NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have a few key players who they hope can either play through minor issues -- like offensive tackle Tyron Smith's back tightness -- or get over strains, like linebacker Sean Lee, who missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. By resting Lee for two games with a bye in Week 6, the Cowboys believe that should be enough time for their weakside linebacker to heal. Without Lee, the defense has given up 63 points and allowed two 100-yard rushers over the past two weeks. In the five games Lee has not played since 2015, the Cowboys have allowed three 100-yard rushers. For the defense to do its part, it desperately needs Lee. Note: The Cowboys have allowed 70 points in the past two games, but one touchdown came on a pick-six. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

The Giants' wide receiver position is ravaged by injuries, with the headliner being Odell Beckham Jr., who is out for the season with a fractured ankle. Brandon Marshall's season also ended Tuesday when the Giants placed him on injured reserve after he suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. It got so bad that the Giants had one healthy receiver by the end of the game. Dwayne Harris (foot) is also out for the season, and Sterling Shepard is nursing an ankle injury. It has reached the point that you wonder who Eli Manning will throw to the rest of the season. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles could get some key reinforcements at cornerback as the season rolls along. Ronald Darby, who dislocated his ankle in Week 1, was originally given a recovery timetable of four to six weeks. He could be back on the field before long. Meanwhile, second-round pick Sidney Jones continues to recover from an Achilles rupture. He is eligible to be activated from the non-football injury list after Week 6. The medical staff faces a big decision whether to allow him to play over the second half of the season, or keep him on ice until 2018. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

The main concern now is cornerback Josh Norman's fractured rib and how much time it'll cause him to miss. Norman could return this week, which would be soon, or miss the next three games against San Francisco, Philadelphia and Dallas. Washington would miss his experience, knowledge and instincts without a doubt. Another nagging issue would be tight end Jordan Reed's shoulder and whether he'll be able to hold up with 12 straight weeks of football after the bye. With inconsistent play by their receivers, the Redskins need Reed to be durable. Also, receiver Josh Doctson isn't hurt, but he has dealt with some minor issues this season. The more he stays healthy and practices (and plays), the more he'll take off. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

The Bears are decimated at linebacker. Already without team captain Jerrell Freeman, who is on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, the Bears lost two additional linebackers in the span of five days. First, veteran pass-rusher Willie Young suffered a serious triceps injury at practice last week, then inside linebacker John Timu, who filled in for suspended Danny Trevathan, was carted off the field with a knee injury during Monday's 20-17 loss to Minnesota. Former fourth-round pick Nick Kwiatkoski has also been inactive the past couple weeks with a chest injury. And don't forget, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is essentially a part-time player -- McPhee played 45 snaps in Week 5 out of necessity -- because of chronically bad knees. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

What happens at left tackle is worth monitoring. Taylor Decker (shoulder surgery) has been out since the spring, but appears on target for a return this season. That's huge for Detroit considering Greg Robinson hasn't been good as a fill-in. Robinson, in many ways, has gotten worse by the week. Detroit's offense has suffered, leading to injury issue No. 2: Matthew Stafford's hamstring/ankle. Stafford's injuries came after being sacked six times for the second straight week in part because of a struggling line. Decker's return, whenever it comes, should fix that issue. But until that happens, it's going to be a problem. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

What do the Packers do at running back now that Aaron Jones posted the team's first 100-yard game of the season? Is he the starter even when Ty Montgomery inevitably returns from broken ribs? Or does coach Mike McCarthy go to a one-two punch? McCarthy actually said he'd rather have a "1 [through] 4 punch," using all four backs on his roster, but that hardly seems feasible. Expect there to be some combination of Jones and Montgomery with a sprinkling of Jamaal Williams when everyone is healthy. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Even before he was sacked four times, Sam Bradford did not look like he was ready to play when he returned in Week 5. The quarterback re-aggravated the injury in his left knee, which could now cause him to miss even more time than he originally anticipated. Coach Mike Zimmer didn't specify how long this injury will keep Bradford out, and while Zimmer said he's still hopeful that Bradford will return, reinjuring a knee he has already had two ACL tears in isn't good for Bradford's long-term health and future in the NFL. (Reminder: He's a free agent in 2018.) Things only get weirder at quarterback after Week 6 when Teddy Bridgewater is eligible to come off the PUP list. At that point, if Bradford isn't experiencing setbacks from the Chicago game, the Vikings could have two starting quarterbacks competing in practice. -- Courtney Cronin

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Coach Dan Quinn expressed optimism regarding the injuries suffered by his top two receivers, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Jones pulled up with a hip flexor injury during a Week 4 loss to Buffalo, and Sanu suffered a hamstring strain in the same game. Quinn emphasized that both injuries were not long-term ones, and Jones was back practicing Monday after the bye. Meanwhile, Sanu, who sat out Monday, faced a two-to-three week recovery after undergoing an MRI on Oct. 2, so he's likely to miss this Sunday's game against Miami and possibly the Super Bowl rematch with New England in Week 7. But the Falcons should be thankful the injuries aren't too serious. And with star pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. back practicing following a hamstring injury, things are looking up for the Falcons. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers were thin at safety before the season, so the loss of Kurt Coleman (sprained knee) for a month is concerning. Veteran Jairus Byrd was signed to fill in, as defensive end Jared Allen did at the end of 2015. That worked out well. Colin Jones played more snaps than Byrd on Sunday at Detroit and did well, but the depth is extremely thin and the leadership Coleman brought was invaluable. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

The Saints need their offensive line to stay healthy from here on out after a rotating series of injuries to several starters that date back to the spring. Right tackle Zach Strief is on injured reserve with a knee injury. It's possible he could come back in December, but that's uncertain. So the Saints will be counting on left tackle Terron Armstead to come back strong from his June shoulder surgery, and rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk to make a smooth transition from left tackle to right tackle for the rest of the season. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs' biggest storyline on the injury front continues to be the absence of middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and weakside linebacker Lavonte David (ankle). Alexander has missed three games and David has missed two. Before the team broke for its mini-bye last week, coach Dirk Koetter was hopeful the Bucs could get some of their injured defensive players back. They'll have a walk-through Tuesday night and then will have a better idea of where those players stand when they practice Wednesday afternoon. They certainly could use both given that they now have to prepare for Adrian Peterson, whom the Cardinals just traded for. -- Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals' offensive line has gone from good to bad thanks to injuries at left tackle and left guard. Left tackle D.J. Humphries has been out since Week 1. Starting left guard Mike Iupati reinjured his right elbow in Week 1, missed the next two games, and then was put on IR before Week 4. However, his replacement, Alex Boone, played Weeks 2 and 3, then missed the past two games with a pec injury. The impact of their injuries have been felt throughout the offense. Arizona is last in rushing yards and yards per carry, and quarterback Carson Palmer is tied for the league lead in sacks with 19. The ineffective running game led Arizona to trade for Adrian Peterson and cut Chris Johnson. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Robert Quinn, a product of back surgery, has started only 15 games over the past two years. This season, the Rams have been limiting his snaps at outside linebacker. Quinn has played 188 snaps in the first five games. By comparison, Aaron Donald has played 25 more snaps in one less game. The Rams want to use Quinn largely on passing downs when he can rush the quarterback, but they also want to preserve him for the entire season. "He's got great get off," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "He plays with great effort. When you play the way that he does, and you have some confidence in the [backups] that can step up when they come in for him, you want to keep him fresh. I think we're doing a good job." -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are hopeful that rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will return to practice this week after nursing a high ankle sprain. That's meaningful for far more than just Sunday's game in Washington. Foster is considered a potential building block for the new regime, but he has been facing durability concerns since before the draft. Foster recovered from shoulder surgery and started the season as the primary weakside linebacker, but he lasted only about a dozen snaps before suffering the ankle injury. With the 49ers already cutting into NaVorro Bowman's snaps, Foster looks to be the heir apparent for the long term. But before the Niners can write his name into that spot, he has to show he can stay on the field. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are dealing with injuries to both of their starting defensive ends. Cliff Avril is out indefinitely with a neck/spine injury, and coach Pete Carroll did not rule out the possibility that he could miss the remainder of the season. Michael Bennett suffered a plantar fascia foot injury last Sunday and was "really sore" on Monday, according to Carroll. The Seahawks are on a bye this week, which won't impact Avril's status but should help Bennett's chances of being available for Seattle's Week 7 game against the Giants. "He's going to need these couple weeks here," Carroll said. Frank Clark is already starting and playing well in Avril's absence. He would become even more important if Bennett also has to miss time. -- Brady Henderson

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

The Bills gained only 36 yards in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Bengals after losing tight end Charles Clay to a knee injury. Clay could miss a month or longer with a torn meniscus and sprained MCL, which puts more pressure on an offense already missing top receiver Jordan Matthews (thumb injury) to find ways to move the ball. Tyrod Taylor was leaning on Clay because the quarterback's wide receivers are on a historically poor statistical pace, averaging only 4.8 catches and 63.2 yards per game. Those would be the lowest averages for any team's receivers since at least 2001. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry this season, and the primary reason is the play of their defensive tackles. Miami has been able to overcome an ankle injury to starter Jordan Phillips, who missed the past two games, but this group must stay healthy with a three-man rotation of Ndamukong Suh and rookies Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. One more injury at defensive tackle before Phillips' return would unravel Miami's run defense. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Whenever tight end Rob Gronkowski (thigh) misses a game, and quarterback Tom Brady misses a practice, as he did on Tuesday, that's significant news for the Patriots. Gronkowski is expected to be ready for Sunday's road game against the Jets, and Brady promised, "I'll be there next Sunday." But the bigger picture issue with Brady is whether he can keep taking as many hits; he has been hit 32 times so far, including 16 sacks. He was sacked 15 times in 12 regular-season games last year. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

The Jets' sputtering rushing attack, which produced only 34 yards last week, could be without top backs Bilal Powell (strained calf) and Matt Forte (turf toe) on Sunday against the Patriots. This could put a lot of pressure on rookie Elijah McGuire, who shows promise but never has carried the load. It could have a domino effect on quarterback Josh McCown, who could be in trouble without the support of a running game. It'll be hard to upset the Patriots with a one-dimensional offense. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have lost their best overall player -- six-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) -- in addition to three other offensive linemen for the season. It has made Baltimore vulnerable in the middle, where the Ravens are left with three first-year starters at their positions: left guard James Hurst, center Ryan Jensen and right guard Matt Skura. The only starter remaining from last season's team is left tackle Ronnie Stanley. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are still waiting on tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver John Ross, who have seen minimal playing time because of injuries. The return of both could ignite an inconsistent offense, particularly a red zone threat like Eifert. While the bye week could help, coach Marvin Lewis did not give a timetable for either player's return. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

Defensive end Myles Garrett got 19 snaps in his first game after he incurred a high ankle sprain before the opener. Garrett was explosive early, and had a sack on his first play. But in the second half, he was laboring noticeably on the ankle. It's worth watching him closely to see if he regains full health while playing with the ankle at less than 100 percent. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers need Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) back in the worst way. One of the game's best right tackles has missed half the season, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on pace for 29 sacks this season. Gilbert practiced early last week but suffered a setback, so the team likely needs to see him go through a full session on Friday. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Losing defensive end J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) and linebacker Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral muscle) is a huge blow to a Texans defense that struggled in Houston's 42-34 loss to the Chiefs after losing both on the opening drive. Houston finished No. 1 in total defense without Watt in 2016, but relied heavily on Mercilus, who had a team-leading 7.5 sacks. Now, the spotlight on the front seven will turn to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who had the best season of his career in 2016. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts' biggest injury storyline will remain Andrew Luck until the quarterback makes his 2017 debut following right shoulder surgery in January. Luck practiced for the first time last week. The goal is for his workload -- number of passes and type of passes -- to increase in practice this week. He has already been ruled out of Indy's Week 6 game at Tennessee, and the Colts will not put a timetable on when he'll play in a game. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are relatively healthy five weeks into the season. Nobody has any long-term injuries -- center Brandon Linder missed last week's game with an illness and wide receiver Marqise Lee is battling sore ribs -- and that's one of the reasons the Jaguars are considered the favorite now in the AFC South. Keeping running back Leonard Fournette healthy is the No. 1 goal because he's the key to the offense. That's why the Jaguars have been so careful about monitoring his reps, though he did have a career-high 28 carries against the Steelers last week. He takes a pounding, too, because of his running style and the fact that the Jaguars have run the ball against more eight-plus man boxes than any other team in the league (31 percent of their carries). -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn't played 16 games in an NFL season yet, and he won't this year after missing Week 5 with a hamstring injury. The Titans are going nowhere without Mariota, so it becomes essential to keep him upright or they'll be at home come playoff time once again. Backup Matt Cassel won't get it done. There is optimism that Mariota will return in Week 6, but can he stay healthy? That's the Titans' biggest remaining question mark, and the fact there's uncertainty reflects the overall vibe toward this team. -- Cameron Wolfe

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Coming off their Week 5 bye week, the Broncos' injury situation isn't too big a worry at this point. But they have three offensive linemen -- Garett Bolles, Menelik Watson and Max Garcia -- who have dealt with injuries in recent weeks and will bear watching as the Broncos practice. All three participated in Monday's practice, the team's first day back after the bye. Wide receiver Cody Latimer (knee) was held out of the practice, so the Broncos might be forced to make some adjustments on special teams if he can't play Sunday against the Giants. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have been missing two starters in their defensive backfield, safety Eric Berry and cornerback Steven Nelson, for most of the season, so their secondary depth has been tested. That will continue to be the case as both players are on injured reserve. Berry is done for the season and Nelson can't return until November at the earliest. The Chiefs have survived without both players, but they have and will continue to miss Berry's playmaking ability and Nelson's steady down-to-down presence. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Out since May after suffering a lower back disk herniation, wide receiver Mike Williams could make his NFL debut as early as Sunday against the Raiders. However, the rookie out of Clemson has not been a full participant in practice during the regular season. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco indicated in a conversation on the team's pregame radio show that Williams is progressing, but there's still time to go. While the Chargers have one of the top passing offenses in the league, they still average just 19.8 points a contest, tied for 19th in the NFL. The talented Williams would give quarterback Philip Rivers another big target in the red zone. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

Since Thanksgiving weekend of 2016, quarterback Derek Carr has suffered a broken pinkie on his passing hand, a fractured right fibula and most recently a transverse process fracture in his back. The Raiders, who are riding a three-game losing streak to fall to 2-3 after an impressive start to the season, believe Carr will play this weekend against the Chargers after missing Week 5's loss to the Ravens. But you have to wonder just how many more hits Carr can endure, especially with his offensive line having so much trouble protecting the quarterback this season. Carr and EJ Manuel have combined to complete just 40.0 percent of their passes for 2.7 yards per attempt with one interception and no touchdowns against the blitz during the losing streak. -- Paul Gutierrez