Sammy Morris, RB - Patriots
When a team's backup running back is unavailable for a game, that usually isn't a big deal. But in this case for the New England Patriots, it's a factor -- perhaps a large one.
Consider that Sammy Morris is one of New England's best special teams players and he has also been filling in for injured starting RB Laurence Maroney the past three games. And Maroney's status is still uncertain for Sunday's game against the division-rival Miami Dolphins.
If Maroney can't go, that would leave veteran RB Kevin Faulk and FBs Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel to handle the rushing load. If that happens, you'll see
less running and more throwing. And that's not such a bad thing for New England
as they operate out of shotgun formation around 70 percent of the time.
Javon Walker, WR - Broncos
WR Javon Walker
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Broncos were looking forward to getting No. 1 wide receiver Javon Walker back for Sunday night's game against the Steelers, but instead, Walker is set to have knee surgery and will miss at least a few weeks. With Walker out of the lineup, Denver will move slot receiver Brandon Stokley into his spot. The problem is that Stokley really is best used inside and not outside. The other issue complicating the situation is that they have no one else to turn to. Denver should have looked to acquire a veteran receiver by the trading deadline which went by on Tuesday.
With Walker out, look for Pittsburgh to try to use double-teams on second-year wide receiver Brandon Marshall -- which will make it more difficult for Denver to find their passing game. This could force the Broncos to get the ball to their seldom-used tight ends, especially when strong safety Troy Polamalu is in the box.
Deion Branch, WR - Seahawks
Since starting wide receiver Deion Branch got hurt two weeks ago early in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seattle Seahawks have struggled in the passing game. In that game against the Steelers, Seattle got shut out. And in their game last week against the New Orleans Saints, their passing numbers were deceiving. The team got behind and had to throw in order to catch up -- which, in the end, they weren't able to accomplish. Branch is their one true deep threat and Bobby Engram, who has replaced him, is a true possession receiver.
Throw in the facts that wide receiver D.J. Hackett hasn't played since early
in Week One and that the team's gotten very little production from the tight end
position, and you can see why QB Matt Hasselbeck is starting to struggle. And
they don't have the strong running game that they've had in the past to set up
the passing game.
Karlos Dansby, ILB - Cardinals
Fourth-year linebacker Karlos Dansby was starting to emerge as a force in his first year playing inside. The former Auburn University player gives the Arizona Cardinals physical play inside while also being able to give them some inside pass rush.
With Dansby likely out for a few weeks, the coaches will turn to backup Monty Beisel. The former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker doesn't possess Dansby's talent nor does he bring a physical nature to the position. That's not a good thing when the Cardinals will face what many would call a physical running game in the Washington Redskins.