Injuries are an inherent part of football. How well a team is prepared to weather the inevitable loss of players usually dictates its success. FOX Sports Senior NFL Writer Alex Marvez ranks the most impactful injuries coming out of Week 4 and the effect these losses will have moving forward.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
1. Baltimore wide receiver Steve Smith
Injury: Smith sustained several small fractures in his back when hit by Pittsburgh LB Lawrence Timmons during a Week 4 win over the Steelers. Prognosis: Smith is out for several weeks starting with Sunday’s home game against Cleveland. Likely sub: Kamar Aiken slides into Smith’s role as the No. 1 WR with Marlon Brown elevated to starter. The Ravens also acquired WR Chris Givens last weekend in a trade with St. Louis. Impact: The receiving woes continue for the Ravens. Smith was single-handedly carrying the team’s passing attack with 29 catches for 373 yards and two TDs. The next closer receiver was Aiken with 11 grabs. The season-long absence of 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman (knee) continues to hurt the Ravens.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
2. St. Louis Rams OLB Alex Ogletree
Injury: Ogletree suffered a fractured right fibula in last Sunday’s win over Arizona. Prognosis: Fisher said that Ogletree would be out 'longer than eight weeks' after undergoing surgery but kept open the possibility of a return later this season. Likely sub: Akeem Ayers shifts from strong- to weak-side LB. The Rams re-signed Jo-Lonn Dunbar, a seven-year NFL vet who was cut at the end of the preseason. Despite his absence, Dunbar still could start at strong-side LB Sunday at Green Bay with two rookies (Cameron Lynch and Bryce Hager) the other backup outside LBs. Impact: Ayers is athletic but not in the same class as Ogletree, who was off to the best start of his three-year NFL career. Ogletree had registered a team-high 32 tackles along with two sacks as an emerging pass-rushing threat.
Getty ImagesNorm Hall
3. Buffalo running back Karlos Williams
Injury: Williams was diagnosed with a concussion following last Sunday’s loss to the Giants. Prognosis: Williams didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday was officially ruled out under the NFL's concussion protocol for Sunday's game. Likely sub: With LeSean McCoy (hamstring) also out, Anthony Dixon should get the start versus the Titans with the freshly signed Boom Herron receiving backup snaps. Impact: The absence of Williams and McCoy is huge for a team that prides itself on a “ground and pound” style of rushing offense. Williams, a fifth-round pick from Florida State, had a 12-carry, 110-yard performance in Week 3 against Miami.
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY SportsKevin Hoffman
4. Chicago center Will Montgomery
Injury: A fractured left tibia is what befell Montgomery early in last Sunday’s win over Oakland. Prognosis: Montgomery was placed on injured reserve and is out for the season. Likely sub: Left guard Matt Slauson and 2015 third-round pick Hroniss Grasu have split snaps in practice. Impact: The Bears may give Grasu his first career start if backup guard Patrick Omameh (ankle) isn’t healthy enough to fill in for Slauson. Fielding a rookie center on the road isn’t ideal, especially in the hostile confines of Arrowhead Stadium for Sunday’s game at Kansas City. Chicago’s O-line problems are compounded by LT Jermon Bushrod (concussion) missing two practices earlier this week.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
5. Detroit defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker
Injury: Walker has undergone surgery for a broken left leg and dislocated ankle suffered in last Monday night’s loss to Seattle. Prognosis: Walker is out for the season after being placed on injured reserve. Likely sub: Caruan Reid, a 2014 fifth-round pick from Princeton, should start alongside Haloti Ngata with recently re-signed Andre Fluellen contributing as a backup in the line rotation. Impact: A D-line already struggling to rebound from the offseason departure of Ndamukong Suh (Miami) took a major hit when Walker went down. He was doing a nice job after being signed when he wasn’t tendered as a restricted free agent by New Orleans. Walker only inked a one-year deal with Detroit, which makes the personal financial ramifications of this injury even worse.
Getty ImagesStephen Brashear
6. Dallas RB Lance Dunbar
Injury: Dunbar tore two ligaments (anterior cruciate and medial collateral) in his left knee in last Sunday night’s loss to New Orleans. Prognosis: The Cowboys have placed Dunbar on season-ending injured reserve. Likely sub: Christine Michael, acquired in a trade last month with Seattle, should receive more snaps behind Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle. Impact: Already without QB Tony Romo (clavicle) and WR Dez Bryant (foot), the hits keep coming for the Cowboys’ offense. Dunbar ranked second on the team in receptions with 21 and busted a 45-yard run earlier this season. Dallas doesn’t have a RB on its roster with Dunbar’s versatility heading into Sunday’s matchup against New England.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
7. Cleveland free safety Tashaun Gipson
Injury: Gibson hurt his ankle in last Sunday’s loss to San Diego. He was battling a groin injury headed into that game as well. Prognosis: Gibson was in a walking boot Thursday while missing his second straight practice, casting serious doubt upon his availability for Sunday’s game at Baltimore. Likely sub: Jordan Poyer, who plays primarily on special teams and packages featuring six DBs, would start with 2015 fourth-round pick Ibraheim Campbell serving as backup. Impact: The loss of a Pro Bowl talent like Gibson could be especially damaging against Baltimore because QB Joe Flacco is such a good deep passer. Cornerback Joe Haden (finger) also isn’t fully healthy. At least the Browns are getting nickel CB K’Wuan Williams back from a concussion.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
8. Washington tight end Jordan Reed
Injury: Reed sprained his knee and ankle and suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s win over Philadelphia. Prognosis: Reed is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and seems highly unlikely to play Sunday at Atlanta. Likely sub: More snaps are in store for Derek Carrier, who was acquired in a preseason trade with the 49ers. Impact: The Redskins already have lost TEs Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen to season-ending injuries. WR DeSean Jackson has been ruled out for this week. Reed’s leg injuries aren’t as big a concern as the one to his brain. His season ended prematurely last year because of a concussion. Plus, Reed has suffered at least three others dating to his college days at Florida.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
9. Detroit tight end Eric Ebron
Injury: Ebron suffered a bone bruise to his left knee in last Monday night’s loss to Seattle. Prognosis: Ebron told ESPN he expects to miss three weeks. Lions coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t confirm the report and made a 'Dr. Ebron' crack on the radio that indicates he wasn’t pleased about the sharing of medical information with the media. Likely sub: Tim Wright now serves as primary pass-catching tight end. The expected return of Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) helps although he is used mostly as a blocker. Impact: After a disappointing rookie season, Ebron had shown big improvement with 15 catches for 179 yards and two TDs through the first quarter of 2015. Ebron’s absence means struggling QB Matt Stafford has one less tool to work with in the passing game.
Getty ImagesStephen Brashear
10. New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells
Injury: Fells contracted an MRSA staph infection in his ankle. Prognosis: Fells was placed on injured reserve and is out for the season. The Newark Star-Ledger reported Fells has undergone four surgeries on the ankle and needs a fifth this weekend. Likely sub: Jerome Cunningham and Will Tye are the two other TEs on New York’s roster behind starter Larry Donnell. Cunningham should be able to play Sunday night against the 49ers after missing the past two games with a knee injury. Impact: The Giants lost their best blocking TE in Fells and will have to use an unproven backup in Cunningham or Tye. New York also was forced to sanitize its team headquarters to try to prevent MRSA from spreading to other players.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
11. New Orleans punter Thomas Morstead
Injury: Morstead couldn’t finish last Sunday’s OT win over Dallas because of a strained quadriceps. Saints kicker Zach Hocker filled in and hit a nice 43-yard punt in the fourth quarter. Prognosis: A source told FOXSports.com that Morstead is expected to miss 1-2 games. The Saints are currently on a bye week. Likely sub: As first reported by FOXSports.com, ex-Dolphins punter Brandon Fields was signed last Tuesday after winning a tryout against three others. Impact: There may not be much of a drop-off in punting as Fields has the fourth-highest gross average (46.8 yards) in NFL history. The bigger issue is kickoffs, as Morstead was enjoying a career-high 78.9 touchback percentage (15 of 19) through the first four games. Hocker likely will handle those duties until Morstead’s return.