Injury Report Analysis: Week 17

This is it. For the Chicago Bears, their 2008 season comes down to Sunday in Houston. Lovie Smith and Co. need some help in Minnesota, but they've got to make sure they beat the Texans first. Michael Nudo breaks down all the bumps and bruises by taking a closer look at Friday's final injury report.

Chicago Bears

Player Injury Status
S Mike Brown Calf OUT
CB Marcus Hamilton Ankle Doubtful
LB Hunter Hillenmeyer Ankle Doubtful
RB Kevin Jones Hamstring Doubtful
FB Jason McKie Quadriceps Questionable
CB Charles Tillman Ankle Probable

Houston Texans

Player Injury Status
LB Xavier Adibi Groin Questionable
S Nick Ferguson Knee Questionable
DE Anthony Weaver Knee Probable

Bears Offense vs. Texans Defense
After missing a month with a quadriceps injury, fullback Jason McKie returned to practice this week. The Bears are hopeful to have him back in the lineup. Jason Davis has been keeping the seat warm in his absence. Running back Matt Forte played through a painful toe injury the last two weeks. He should be ready for this game. Backup Kevin Jones tweaked a hamstring last week. In the six games since quarterback Kyle Orton returned from an ankle injury, he has thrown six touchdowns versus eight interceptions and has only surpassed 200 passing yards once.

RB Kevin Jones
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Texans lost outside linebacker Zac Diles just after the midpoint of the season. He had really made great strides in his second season. Kevin Bentley has been starting since then. Strong safety C.C. Brown was lost early in the year. The Texans turned to veteran Nick Ferguson (knee) at that position. If Ferguson's knee is too balky, they'll need to turn to Brandon Harrison to step in. Harrison is a safety with very good size at 6-2 and 227 pounds.

The Texans have a low ranking in both stopping the run and defending the pass. This would be a great time to see an awakening of the passing attack from Orton and the wide receivers. They have all gone into a funk since the middle of the season. Help should be given to left tackle John St. Clair. He'll be working against defensive end Mario Williams (11 sacks), Houston's only serious pass-rush threat. The Bears would be wise to go back to some of the things that worked earlier in the season in terms of screen passes to Forte, no huddle and putting the offense in the right play options at the line of scrimmage.

Texans Offense vs. Bears Defense
The Texans are 5-5 in games started by quarterback Matt Schaub, including impressive victories over Tennessee, Miami and Green Bay. Nagging injuries limited wide receiver Andre Johnson to just nine games in 2007. He has been healthy this season and boasts eye-popping totals of 105 catches and 1,427 yards. The other key for the Texans has been the play of rookie running back Steve Slaton. Slaton (248 carries for 1190 yards) has been almost as important to the Texans as Forte has been to the Bears. Entering the season, many felt the 5-9, 203-pound running back would only be a niche player that couldn't carry a team on his shoulders. Season-ending injuries for Ahman Green and Chris Brown assured Slaton of the carries needed.

CB Charles Tillman
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Safety Mike Brown (calf) didn't finish another game last week. Brown's season came to an end Friday as he was moved to injured reserve again. Craig Steltz is likely to get the call in his stead. The Bears brought back Cameron Worrell on Friday for much needed depth at strong safety and special teams. Cornerback Charles Tillman (ankle) is expected to be ready for the challenge with Johnson. Tackle Anthony Adams continues to provide stout run support in relief of Dusty Dvoracek, who was lost a few weeks ago to a biceps injury. Cornerback Corey Graham starts for Nathan Vasher, who battled thumb and hand injuries for most of the season before finally landing on injured reserve. Graham is likely to be matched with steady wideout Kevin Walter (59 catches for 876 yards).

Schaub has been sacked six times in his last two losses. He also has 10 fumbles this year. To beat the Texans, the Bears will have to be more aggressive in terms of pressuring Schaub and sealing off Slaton on the run. It sounds like a recipe for blitzing. The player you should keep an eye on is Owen Daniels. Daniels has quietly put up excellent numbers for a tight end (67 catches for 825 yards). Look for Schaub to try beating the Bears' blitz by finding Daniels over the middle.

Michael Nudo writes his Injury Report Analysis feature every week exclusively for E-mail him at

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