For all the debate about the horrid final slate of regular-season games with so many playoff contenders resting key players, it's injuries to several marquee starters that could shape the postseason.
Everyone knows the hit the Patriots took with the blown-out knee wide receiver Wes Welker suffered on a soft field in Houston. But a pair of injuries on the defensive side of the ball could have an equally devastating impact.
--Jets inside linebacker David Harris missed practice again on Tuesday, and his status for the wild-card game against Cincinnati is in doubt. He's the team's leading tackler and would be a huge loss for the Jets if he can't play. Ironically, the Bengals were criticized for not showing up last Sunday against the Jets. They rested several starters including running back Cedric Benson, who stands to be a major factor on fresh legs - especially if Harris isn't there to greet him at the line of scrimmage.
Even Harris' backup, Ryan Fowler, wore a red no-contact jersey during the portion of Tuesday's practice open to the media as he recovers from a head injury. If neither can go against the Bengals? The job would go to 2008 undrafted rookie Kenwin Cummings.
--The Saints certainly didn't travel to Carolina with victory foremost on their minds last Sunday. Not with quarterback Drew Brees on the bench. But many starters at least made an appearance. Once of those was defensive end Charles Grant, who left the game in the second quarter with what turned out to be a season-ending triceps injury.
Second on the team in sacks during the regular season, Grant is an eight-year veteran who will be sorely missed. New Orleans' front seven is already considered the team's biggest vulnerability as the Saints struggled to stop the run the second half of the season.
Grant's backup, Bobby McCray, has been slowed all season by a back injury. That could lead to meaningful snaps for Jeff Charleston and Anthony Hargrove, a longtime end who was moved inside during training camp. Paul Spicer was signed to add some veteran depth. He was cut in training camp after spending nine seasons with Jacksonville.
Grant's injury has to be extremely frustrating to coach Sean Payton, who held out Brees and six other starters in Carolina in an attempt to avoid injuries that could derail the Saints' quest to play in Miami next month.