Andre Johnson, WR - Texans
If you're looking for a team that is impacted largely by the loss of one offensive player, it's this team. The Houston Texans made WR Andre Johnson the focal point of the passing game once they acquired QB Matt Schaub from the Atlanta Falcons.
Johnson got off to a great start this season with Schaub behind center and posted 14 catches along with 262 yards and three TDs though two games. But it was in that second game against the Carolina Panthers that the fifth-year pro suffered MCL and PCL sprains to his left knee. Since then, the Texan coaches have been going through various replacements such as rookie WR Jacoby Jones and journeyman WR Andre' Davis. Jones suffered a shoulder injury in the game against the Indianapolis Colts two weeks ago leaving Davis to take over the starting role.
In fact, things have gotten so bad that the team only will dress three receivers for this week's game. KR/PR Jerome Mathis (shin) now is out.
But make no mistake about it, without the threat of Johnson in the passing game, Miami's average secondary can play more man coverage. This will put more pressure on head coach Gary Kubiak to find other ways to score.
Marvin Harrison, WR - Colts
The Indianapolis Colts certainly aren't reliant on one offensive player to score each week. In fact, they have four to five players who make an impact in the run and pass game. But with veteran wide receiver Marvin Harrison not expected to play, offensive coordinator Tom Moore will have to get other players involved.
Seldom used Aaron Moorehead is slated to start for Harrison. The fifth-year receiver has good size but does not possess anywhere near the skill level of Harrison. With that being the case, you could see Moore get starting WR Reggie Wayne and especially TE Dallas Clark more involved in Sunday's game. Clark has already been their third passing option this season and now he could be the second in this matchup. And against the Cover-2 scheme that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use, tight ends usually can get open underneath since the safeties play deeper.
Dan Morgan, MLB - Panthers
It's a fact that when starting middle linebacker Dan Morgan is in the lineup, the Carolina Panthers defense is much better against the run. But that's the key phrase -- when he's in the lineup.
Panthers LB Dan Morgan
AP Photo/Bill Feig
The seventh-year pro has missed 37 seven games due to injury and he could miss the rest of this season due to an Achilles injury. The team has replaced him with second-year LB James Anderson who has played primarily on the outside.
Carolina has to really assess Morgan's future after this season. His recent contract extension will take him through the 2010 season. His salaries jump up from $750,000 for this season to $2.85 million in 2008, $4.25 million in 2009, and $5.38 million in 2010.
It will be very interesting to see how the New Orleans Saints approach this matchup since starting RB Deuce McAllister (knee) is out for the rest of the season. That will likely change their approach as Saints head coach Sean Payton could have dialed up more of a power-running game -- especially with Morgan out of the lineup -- with McAlister in the lineup.
Nathan Vasher/Charles Tillman, CB - Bears
Injury: Groin (Vasher), Ankle (Tillman)
We saw how the Detroit Lions were able to spread out the injury-riddled Chicago Bears secondary last week. Expect the same approach from the Green Bay Packers offense which is in shotgun formation almost 70 percent of the time regardless of what down it is -- a similar approach that the New England Patriots have taken this season.
With CBs Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher on the sidelines again, that will put nickel back Ricky Manning, Jr. and rookie seventh-round pick Trumaine McBride in as starters again for the second straight week.
When veteran WR Donald Driver goes to the slot (where he's most dangerous), this will present a very bad mismatch for the Chicago defense no matter who covers him. And rookie WR James Jones, who plays quite a bit for a third receiver, has too much size for McBride.
Green Bay's offensive approach forces defenses to go to their nickel package often and Chicago just doesn't have the personnel to handle it. And since QB Brett Favre will be throwing out of the shotgun frequently, it will be hard for the pass rush to get to him.