High-Profile Injuries: Week 12

Scout.com's Senior NFL Reporter, Adam Caplan, provides his expert analysis on the impact that key injuries will have on this weekend's NFL action.

The focus of this article isn't to analyze how each team would be affected statistically, but to see what the impact tactically would be for each players' team and also for the opponents in this week's matchups.

Rashean Mathis, CB - Jaguars
Injury: Groin
Opponent: Bills

The fifth-year pro hasn't ever missed a start in his career, but that streak is in jeopardy. Mathis suffered a left groin strain during last week's win over the visiting San Diego Chargers.

The team lists third-year cornerback Scott Starks as his backup. Starks, though, is probably better playing in the slot due to his small size. So it's possible veteran cornerbacks Aaron Glenn and Terry Cousin share time with him. Starks runs better than the other two veteran cornerbacks, and that speed could come into play against the Buffalo Bills' top wide receiver, Lee Evans, on Sunday. Evans could be the fastest player at his position currently in the NFL.

Donovan McNabb, QB - Eagles
Injury: Right thumb/ankle
Opponent: Patriots

QB Donovan McNabb
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The veteran signal-caller was ruled out by the team after Saturday's walk-through. McNabb suffered right (throwing) thumb and ankle injuries during the first half of last week's win over the Miami Dolphins and he didn't return for the second half of the game.

No. 2 quarterback A.J. Feeley, who has played well when getting the chance to play for the team, will replace McNabb. The former fifth-round selection of the 2001 draft was traded from Philadelphia to the Miami Dolphins in 2004, but Feeley struggled there mostly because of poor protection from a shaky offensive line.

With Philadelphia, he has played behind perhaps one of the league's best lines. And that has helped Feeley since he's a true pocket passer. When Feeley has functional space to move around in the pocket, he has played quite well. It can be said that Feeley is a very good West Coast offensive quarterback, and when you take him out of that system or can pressure him, he's very ordinary — as he was with Miami.

Nate Vasher, CB - Bears
Injury: Groin
Opponent: Broncos

The fourth-year right cornerback is set to miss his eighth straight game. Vasher was first injured during the team's Week 3 home game against the Dallas Cowboys and hasn't practiced fully since then. He is listed as doubtful for Sunday by the team. To make the situation even worse, his backup, rookie Trumaine McBride, is listed as questionable with a hip injury.

This week's opponent, the Denver Broncos, will likely see the return of top wide receiver Javon Walker who hasn't played since Week 3 due to knee problems. Denver boasts the tallest starting receiver tandem in the league with Walker and second-year pro Brandon Marshall.

Look for Denver to attack Chicago's mediocre safety tandem in Adam Archuleta and Danieal Manning, as well as whoever plays at right cornerback. Chicago's secondary must hold up against the pass or it will be a long day for the team. If they can limit the big plays, they'll be able to keep the score close.

Larry Johnson, RB - Chiefs

Injury: Foot
Opponent: Raiders

The team received some bad news earlier this week when veteran running back Priest Holmes decided to retire after recurring neck problems. Johnson will miss his third straight game after being injured in Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers.

The team selected running back Kolby Smith in the fifth-round of this year's draft thinking he wouldn't have to play much this season. They wanted to develop him on the scout team, but that plan now has to be scrapped — he'll be making his first NFL start on Sunday against the Chiefs' archrival, the Oakland Raiders.

Interestingly, Smith lined up at fullback for a good portion of the Senior Bowl practices earlier this year, and he didn't get a chance to carry the ball much. Smith, though, is a powerful runner who fits Kansas City's power-running philosophy. He should get plenty of chances to run the ball this week against the league's worst run defense. And it's possible that the coaching staff will get a good look at Smith the rest of the season since Johnson's return is questionable.

Adam Caplan is the Senior NFL Reporter for Scout.com.  His breaking news and analysis, reports from Senior Bowl week, NFL Combine, and free agency have been featured for the past three years.

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