A number of key players whose teams will be playing for playoff seeding -- or for their playoff lives entirely -- went down to injury in Week 16 of the NFL Season. Here are the key injuries from Sunday's action, and their potential impacts on next week's action.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (irregular heartbeat)
Already playing from behind against Minnesota, the Texans took another one on the chin in the third quarter of yesterday's loss when Foster left the game with what was later determined to be an irregular heartbeat. Foster had been complaining of feeling ill during the game, and left after having amassed just 10 rushing yards. According to team officials, the symptoms subsided during the game and Foster -- who has suffered from an irregular heartbeat before in practice -- could have re-entered safely. But head coach Gary Kubiak chose to rest his star running back, with Ben Tate and Justin Forsett carrying the load the rest of the game.
An irregular heartbeat, or cardiac arrythmia, can be caused by a number of reasons that run the spectrum from benign to potentially life-threatening. These include dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, issues with the electrical impulse guiding the pacing of heart muscle contraction, structural abnormalities, or damage to the muscle. Symptoms can include nausea, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and/or a racing pulse, and can be transient in nature or require medications or surgical intervention to correct the underlying problem. To be clear there is nothing to suggest that Foster's irregular heartbeat was due to a medically concerning issue, and indeed it appears to have been a short-lived concern. Foster undoubtedly will be monitored closely this week in advance of next Sunday's regular-season finale against Indianapolis, but initial indications are that he will be able to play.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle)
With the Bears fighting for their playoff lives, Forte left Sunday's critical win over Arizona during the first drive of the second half with an injured right ankle. Although he had it taped on the sideline in an attempt to re-enter the contest, Forte was unable to bear weight without discomfort and did not return to action. Forte left the stadium yesterday in a walking boot, but indicated that the injury was not severe and that he believes he will be able to play next week against Detroit. However, ankle injuries are better assessed 24 to 48 hours after the injury, as swelling and tenderness tend to increase in the days that follow. With backup running back Michael Bush already on injured reserve, Bears fans will be holding their breath that Forte will recover in time for Sunday's do-or-die matchup with the Lions.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (ankle)
Richardson was carted off the field after suffering a left ankle injury on the final play of the Browns' loss to Denver. Initial X-rays showed that the rookie running back had not suffered a fracture, but he was placed in a walking boot, with the extent of the injury to be further elaborated following an MRI today. Richardson's status is very much in doubt for the team's finale against the Steelers, with Montario Hardesty in line to get the start as needed.
Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders (ribs/back)
Palmer left in the first quarter of the Raiders' loss to Carolina after taking a shot in the back from the helmet of Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. Palmer ended up suffering injuries to both the lower back and ribs from the hit, and was replaced by Matt Leinart. Although X-rays were negative, it stands to reason that Palmer is likely to feel the effects, including pain and swelling, for the next few days. That puts Leinart or even Terrelle Pryor in line for playing time next week against the Chargers.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (shoulder)
Weeden's up-and-down rookie season may have come to an end on Sunday after suffering a right (throwing) shoulder injury in the third quarter of Cleveland's loss to the Broncos. The injury took place on a hit by Denver linebacker Von Miller, with Weeden clearly in discomfort after the play. The Browns have not released any information regarding the nature or severity of the injury, with the recovery period from shoulder injuries varying widely based on the diagnosis. However, being the throwing shoulder, one could guess that backup Colt McCoy stands a good chance of getting the start against Pittsburgh in Week 17.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (ankle)
The Packers' all-purpose star went down with a right ankle injury in the second half of the team's blowout win over Tennessee on Sunday and left the field in significant pain. The injury took place on a direct hit to the right leg on a punt return, with his team already up 27 points. The Packers have not released any information regarding the severity of the injury at this point, and it is likely Cobb will undergo an MRI on Monday. Although they have already clinched the NFC North, the Packers can clinch a first-round bye with a win over Minnesota next week, making Cobb's status one to watch in the following days.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (concussion)
Davis left San Francisco's blowout loss to Seattle last night in the first quarter after suffering a concussion on a hit by Seahawks' safety Kam Chancellor. The hit, which resulted in an unnecessary roughness penalty for Chancellor, left Davis woozy, and he was officially diagnosed with the concussion in the team's locker room. Davis will undergo concussion testing later in the week to determine whether he will be able to play on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, which the 49ers will need to win in order to sew up the NFC West title after Sunday night's defeat.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (knee)
The Steelers' standout tight end injured his right knee in the fourth quarter of the team's loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, and head coach Mike Tomlin has already stated Miller is unlikely to suit up next week against the Browns. The injury was preliminarily called a sprain, but the grade and prognosis won't be determined until an MRI is performed later today.