NFL Injury Report, Week 17: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger Probable

As the NFL’s regular season comes to a close, SB Nation Medical Expert Dr. Ali Mohamadi discusses some of the most significant injuries impacting Sunday's games and how they might affect the playoff picture.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (shoulder - probable)
NE (12-3) vs. BUF (6-9), 1 p.m. ET

Word out of New England has been typically unrevealing regarding Brady's left (non-throwing) shoulder injury, but NFL.com's Albert Breer reported last night that the Pro Bowl QB has a sprained joint that, while not affecting his throwing motion, may cause a significant amount of pain in a game situation. By definition, a shoulder sprain involves tearing of the ligaments holding the shoulder joint in place, with higher degrees of tearing causing more significant instability. While Brady's injury is likely to be a low-level sprain, his ability to absorb hits will depend on the pain associated with contact, and there is always the risk of aggravating the injury and further tearing the ligaments that hold the shoulder joint in place. With the Patriots playing for a first-round bye and home field advantage in the AFC playoffs against Buffalo on Sunday, Brady will almost certainly get the start. But if New England goes up by a big amount early, don't be surprised if he rests toward the end of the game.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle - probable)
PIT (11-4) @ CIN (4-11), 4:15 p.m. ET

The Steelers, looking to earn the AFC North title with a win coupled with a Ravens' loss at Cincinnati , are likely to start Roethlisberger at QB on Sunday, although it remains to be seen how much of the game he plays. Roethlisberger missed last week's win over St. Louis after toughing it out with a high ankle sprain in Week 15, and Head Coach Mike Tomlin hinted earlier this week that he may limit his starting QB's time tomorrow, especially if Baltimore jumps out to a big lead against the Bengals. It is a calculated risk for Tomlin, given the high susceptibility to aggravation of high ankle sprains if not fully recovered, and especially with the possibility looming that his Steelers may need to play in next week's Wild Card playoff round. If he takes the field, Roethlisberger will do so with a brace protecting the ankle.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (hand - probable)
DAL (8-7) @ NYG (8-7), 8:20 p.m. ET

Romo suffered a contusion to his right (throwing) hand in the first quarter of last week's loss to Philadelphia, but imaging studies were negative for a fracture this week and the swelling has subsided enough for him to be listed as probable for tomorrow night's NFC East-deciding showdown at the New York Giants. His workload in practice has been limited this week, but this has been precautionary and there is no reason to believe Romo won't be at 100% by game time.

Running Backs

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys (hamstring - questionable)
DAL (8-7) @ NYG (8-7), 8:20 p.m. ET

Despite being listed as questionable for Sunday night's game with New York and being limited in practice this week, Jones gave himself a clean bill of health today and is expected to get the start against the Giants. Jones has dealt with lingering hamstring issues most of the season but has held together following RB DeMarco Murray's season-ending injury several weeks ago. If Jones cannot handle the full workload tomorrow, backup Sammy Morris would take over at running back.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (calf - questionable)
SD (7-8) vs. OAK (8-7), 4:15 p.m. ET

Although the Chargers have been eliminated from playoff contention, their opponent, the Raiders, are still alive for the AFC West title depending on the outcome of Denver's matchup with Kansas City and therefore Mathews' status is of importance in the overall picture. The Chargers' oft-injured RB has been suffering from a calf strain that kept him out of practice yesterday, and is listed as questionable on the San Diego injury report. Mike Tolbert would get the start if Mathews is unable to go on Sunday.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (ankle - questionable)
PHI (7-8) vs. WAS (5-10), 1 p.m. ET

In a game that has no playoff implications but potential fantasy implications for those whose leagues haven't ended, McCoy is expected to play Sunday against the Redskins despite an ankle injury, although it remains to be seen whether he will be able to hold up for the entire game. If not, rookie RB Dion Lewis is likely to get the majority of the carries.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (hamstring - probable)
HOU (10-5) vs. TEN (8-7), 1 p.m. ET

Johnson was upgraded to probable on Friday after participating in practice and is likely to see some action Sunday against the Titans in hopes of tuning up for the Texans' playoff run. With Houston locked into the third seed and knowing it will host a Wild Card round playoff game next weekend, do not expect Johnson to see extended time tomorrow, as the last thing Head Coach Gary Kubiak needs is his star WR aggravating the injury for a third time this season.

Linebackers

LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers (hamstring- doubtful)
PIT (11-4) @ CLE (4-11), 4:15 p.m. ET

Woodley, who has missed a significant part of the season with a lingering hamstring injury, did not participate in practice on Friday after taking part the day before, and has been officially listed as doubtful for Sunday's game with Cleveland . With the Steelers potentially facing a quick turnaround and a Wild Card round contest next week if they don't win the AFC North, expect Woodley to sit another week in hopes of being ready for the postseason.

Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (hamstring - questionable)
SF (12-3) @ StL (2-13), 1 p.m. ET

Willis suffered a right hamstring injury in the first quarter of the 49ers' Week 13 win over the Rams and has not returned to action since. Although he is officially listed as questionable on the team's injury list, he has been limited at practice this week and may rest another game in order to be ready for the playoffs. That said, given that the 49ers need a win against St. Louis to clinch a first-round bye, don't be surprised if Willis sees some action Sunday in specific situations.

Safeties

Brian Dawkins, Denver Broncos (neck - doubtful)
DEN (8-7) vs. KC (6-9), 4:15 p.m. ET

Dawkins, who suffered a pinched nerve in his neck in last week's loss to Buffalo, is unlikely to suit up for Sunday's pivotal contest with Kansas City, with the Broncos needing a win to secure the AFC West title. A pinched nerve, or "stinger," often causes pain and possibly numbness at the site of the injury, which can travel down the arms and/or back depending on which nerve or nerves are affected. Given that such injuries can often take weeks for a full recovery, it is possible Dawkins's season could be over, even if Denver makes it into the playoffs.

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