It was a relatively tame Sunday on the injury front in the NFL, with only a few major injuries to report (but don’t tell that to fantasy owners of the players listed below). Here are the key injuries from Sunday's action, and their potential impacts:
Mathews, who has been injury-prone his entire career, suffered a season-ending fracture of the left clavicle in the second quarter of Sunday’s 31-7 loss to Carolina. For Mathews, the news was especially cruel given that he had been expected to take a larger share of the carries in the absence of the injured Ronnie Brown, and given that he had already recovered from a fractured right clavicle sustained in the preseason.
The clavicle, which bridges the scapula (shoulder blade) and sternum (breastbone), serves as a means to keep the upper arm away from the midsection, allowing for maximum range of motion of the shoulder. A fractured clavicle limits normal motion of the effected side’s arm, making it difficult to carry the ball (and impossible to stiff-arm) until fully healed. It is unclear whether Brown will be able to return for Chargers' Week 16 contest at the New York Jets; if not, backup Jackie Battle is likely to get a good amount of action for the Chargers, who are playing out the string at this point.
Add Smith to the list of players who have suffered game-ending concussions this season, with the injury taking place in the third quarter of Baltimore’s blowout loss to the Denver Broncos when he hit the back of his head on the turf while attempting to haul in a sideline pass from Joe Flacco. Smith was notably dazed after the play, taking some time to clear the field, and retreated to the locker room for a neurological evaluation before being ruled out.
Although the Ravens did clinch a playoff berth after the Pittsburgh Steelers lost in Dallas on Sunday, the team has not yet wrapped up the AFC North, making Smith’s status for next week’s home game with the New York Giants of importance to the team and fantasy owners entering the championship game in their leagues. Stay tuned later in the week to see whether Smith clears concussion testing and is able to take the field in practice.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers (ribs)
Sanders suffered a rib injury on a first quarter shot during the Steelers’ heartbreaking OT loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and did not return. Sanders’ status for a crucial divisional contest Week 16 with Cincinnati is unclear at this point, and one would assume he will be receiving further testing Monday to better understand his prognosis for recovery. If Sanders is not able to play, backup WRs Jerricho Cotchery would be next in line behind Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.