After a storybook start to their season, the Detroit Lions now find themselves in the midst of a two-game losing streak, and worse, with the health of their emerging star at QB, Matthew Stafford, in question. Stafford, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his young career, hurt is right lower leg on the last offensive play of Detroit’s 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons yesterday, and an MRI scheduled today will determine his prognosis.
Here are the key injuries from the week so far, and their potential impact:
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (ankle)
Those who witnessed images of Ryan’s third quarter ankle injury certainly would have thought it improbable that the Falcons’ QB would return to action anytime soon. But Ryan, whose left ankle was stepped on by teammate Will Svitek, missed limited game time and helped lead his team to a 23-16 win over the Detroit Lions. The question going forward is: how will the ankle respond in the upcoming days? It is not uncommon for an injury such as this to result in pain and swelling within 24 hours, and for this reason Atlanta’s upcoming bye week comes at an opportune time.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (knee/ankle)
Stafford, whose emergence – and lack of injuries – helped Detroit fly out to a 5-0 start this season, suffered an injury to his right leg on in the Lions loss to Atlanta yesterday while scrambling to avoid pressure at the end of the game. Stafford was brought down by the Falcons’ Curtis Lofton after throwing an incompletion and walked off the field with a noticeable limp. The Lions have only said they will be evaluating Stafford’s right knee and ankle, and the Detroit QB, who left the stadium in a walking boot yesterday, is set to have an MRI of the leg today.
Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Achilles tendon)
Based on early reports, Graham, who was starting in place of the injured LeGarrette Blount, tore his Achilles tendon early in the Bucs’ 24-18 loss to the Bears. If this is the case, his season is done and Tampa Bay will have to scramble to find help at the running back position, where Kregg Lumpkin is next in line after Graham and Blount.
Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins (knee)
Hightower’s left knee buckled awkwardly while making a cut in the third quarter of Washington’s 33-20 loss at Carolina, and the Redskins’ top rusher was carted off the field in obvious pain. While x-rays following the injury were negative, Redskins officials are reportedly concerned about an ACL tear, and an MRI is scheduled for today to determine the extent of the damage. Hightower's injury leaves the Washington running game in the hands of Ryan Torain and Roy Helu, Jr.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (back)
The Seahawks’ feature back, who was scheduled to play against Cleveland yesterday despite an ankle injury, tweaked his lower back during pregame warmups and did not take the field at all. There has been very little word out of Seattle regarding the severity of the injury, and it is unclear at this point whether further testing will be performed today. In Lynch’s absence, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington split carries in the Seahawks backfield, although neither did much at all.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (foot)
The injury-prone McFadden, who had held up well thus far in the 2011 campaign, left the Raiders’ 28-0 loss to Kansas City yesterday in the first quarter with a sprained right foot. McFadden hurt the foot on his second carry of the game and did not return, being replaced by Michael Bush. With Oakland on a bye next week, McFadden will have time to recover before the Raiders next game against the Broncos on November 6.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (hand)
Somewhat lost in the Tebowmania surrounding Denver's come-from-behind win over Miami yesterday was the fact that the reliable McGahee broke his right hand in the third quarter and may miss the Broncos' Week 8 matchup with Detroit. McGahee's status will be updated mid-week, but if his misses time, Knowshon Moreno would likely take the bulk of the carries for the Broncos.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals (knee)
Wells, no stranger to the injury list, hurt his right knee in the second quarter of the Cardinals’ 32-20 loss to Pittsburgh yesterday and did not return to action. It is notable that this is the same knee Wells had scoped last year due to a torn meniscus. While this injury has been described as a sprain, there has been little word out of Arizona regarding its severity, which will be further evaluated today.
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (hand)
The Redskins have been decimated by injuries over the past two weeks, and with an already thin wide receiver corps, Moss’s broken hand is especially unwelcome news. Washington’s top receiver left the game in the first half and did not return; it would appear unlikely he will be able to suit up next week at Buffalo. Without Moss, the Redskins are left with Jabbar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong as their most reliable receiving threats.
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle)
The reliable Pittsburgh receiver left the field on a cart in the third quarter of the Steelers’ win over Arizona with an ankle injury. There is no word at this time regarding the severity of the injury, and the prognosis depends largely upon which of the ankle ligaments are hurt. High ankle injuries tend to be more painful and more difficult to recover from than those in the lower ankle. With Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown having emerged as dangerous threats, Pittsburgh should be in good shape if Ward is unable to suit up in Week 8 against New England.
Jason Smith, St. Louis Rams (head/neck)
Smith, the Rams’ right tackle, suffered a head and neck injury in the first quarter of the Rams’ loss to Dallas yesterday when his helmet struck the hip of Cowboys defensive back Abram Elam. The Rams’ medical staff took every precaution to immobilize Smith’s head and neck while evaluating him and moving him to the training cart, and the positive news is that he was able to wave his hands to the crowd as leaving the field. The team released a statement last night saying Smith has a strained neck and possible concussion, which is far better than what was initially feared, and a bit of much-needed good news for a struggling Rams squad.