Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler made the biggest headlines Thursday on the injury front. Cutler was named the starter for Week 15 by the Chicago Bears, and Rodgers has been increasing his reps in practice. There was big injury news elsewhere in the league, however, particularly among running backs.
Reggie Bush is expected to be listed as questionable by the Detroit Lions for Monday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens. Bush missed practice Thursday with a calf injury he suffered while preparing to play the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend in the snow.
If Bush is forced to sit, the Lions can breathe relatively easy knowing that Joique Bell has a similar skillset and has already performed well in place of Bush this season. That said, Bush has been a pivotal source of production for a high-powered offense throughout the year. The Lions are clinging to a paper thin lead over the Bears in the NFC North, and can't afford many major setbacks this late in the season.
Jonathan Stewart is hopeful he can return for the Carolina Panthers this season despite suffering a partial tear of his MCL last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Ron Rivera has not ruled out Stewart, either, though a recovery timetable that could last up to six weeks may be too much to overcome.
Stewart has been plagued by injuries since 2008. He has appeared in just six games with the Panthers this season after opening the year on the physically unable to perform list to continue his recovery from offseason ankle surgery. While Stewart sits, DeAngelo Williams will continue to handle a heavy rushing load, with fullback Mike Tolbert and rookie Kenjon Barner available for support.
Brandon Jacobs underwent a more extensive knee procedure than expected when he was initially sidelined by the New York Giants this season. He had a cartilage graft to repair osteoarthritis in his left knee, a procedure that could signal the end of the 31-year-old's career.
Jacobs was unable to stay healthy due to knee problems over his career, and particularly his last three seasons. Since 2011, he has missed 23 total games and rushed for his three worst season rushing totals outside of his first two years in the NFL. This season, he was effective after returning to the Giants, rushing 58 times for 238 yards and four touchdowns in seven games before being sidelined.
The New Orleans Saints are the NFL's most effective pass rushing team with a 9.2 percent sack rate, a stat that is even more impressive considering they didn't have Victor Butler.
Butler was signed during the offseason and was expected to be a featured pass rusher in Rob Ryan's defense. Instead, he spent the entire season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from an offseason torn ACL, before finally being placed on injured reserve this week.
Butler is on a two-year contract with the Saints, so he should have a full offseason to work himself back into shape before proving himself in 2014.