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How will injuries to key players like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Antoine Winfield impact Saturday's Wild Card games in the NFL?
With just hours remaining before the NFL playoffs kick off, SBNation Medical Expert Dr. Ali Mohamadi discusses some of the most significant injuries impacting today’s Wild Card round games:
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) @ Houston Texans (12-4), 4:30pm
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals (hamstring – probable)
Green-Ellis missed last week’s victory over Baltimore due to a hamstring pull he sustained in pregame warmups, a cause for concern early this week as he was limited in practice. However, he was able to practice fully yesterday and was upgraded to probable for this afternoon’s contest at Houston. Brian Leonard and Cedric Peerman shared carries at RB for the Bengals last week and would be likely to see significant action today if Green-Ellis’s workload is diminished or if he aggravates the hamstring strain, an ailment that is particularly prone to re-injury.
Minnesota Vikings (10-6) @ Green Bay Packers (11-5), 8pm
WR/KR Randall Cobb, Packers (ankle – probable)
Cobb injured his right ankle on a punt return in the second half of Green Bay’s Week 16 drubbing of Tennessee and missed last week’s "Round One" against the Vikings. That said, it was largely speculated that Cobb could have played last weekend if the stakes were higher (even though Green Bay was playing for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs), and Cobb has been able to practice without any setbacks this week. Expect him to be back to his old tricks tonight both as a receiver and on special teams.
WR Jordy Nelson, Packers (knee – probable)
Nelson has missed a number of games this season due to ankle and hamstring injuries and was added to the team’s injury report for tonight’s game, this time due to a knee injury. The Packers haven’t discussed exactly when or how Nelson hurt the knee, just that he has improved as the week of practice has gone on and that he should be ready to play this afternoon. With Nelson and Cobb near 100%, the Packers will be playing with as healthy a WR corps as they have dressed since early in the season.
QB Christian Ponder, Vikings (elbow – questionable)
The Vikings’ second-year QB has been limited in practice all week due to a bruised right (throwing) elbow sustained in the second quarter of last week’s win over Green Bay that punched Minnesota’s ticket to the playoffs and today’s rematch. The injury appeared to take place when the elbow struck the helmet of Packers’ LB Morgan Burnett, and although Ponder appeared to suffer from discomfort immediately following the play, he went on to play extremely well in his team’s 37-34 victory. For his part, Head Coach Leslie Frazier doesn’t seem concerned about Ponder’s status today, seemingly indicating that the pain and/or swelling that can impact velocity and accuracy with an injury such as this is not affecting the QB in practice. If for some reason Ponder’s status changes, backup QB Joe Webb would be in line to take the reins of the Minnesota offense, which may mean mostly handing the ball off to MVP candidate Adrian Peterson.
CB Antoine Winfield, Vikings (hand – questionable)
Winfield suffered a broken right hand in the Vikings’ season-saving Week 16 win over Houston and although he attempted to play through the injury wearing a soft padding last week against the Packers, he was unable to finish the game due to pain and swelling. It is probably no coincidence that the Green Bay passing attack picked up after Winfield left, and for this reason his importance tonight cannot be understated. Although he is officially listed as questionable, Winfield plans to play this week with a different protective device, a soft cast, in place. He has practiced with it this week and appears likely to gut it out in tonight’s rematch at Lambeau Field.