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 suffered in Week 6 among the players who are out or not expected to play in Week 7.
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1: Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota
Injury: Mariota sprained his left medial collateral ligament when hit low by Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon in last Sunday’s loss. Vernon was fined $17,363 by the NFL for the blow. He plans to appeal. Prognosis: Mariota didn’t practice this week and is out Sunday against Atlanta. Ideally, Mariota will be back for a Nov. 1 matchup against Houston. Likely sub: Zach Metternberger will start. How he performs will impact his offseason trade value should the Titans have interest in swinging a deal. Impact: After posting a perfect QB rating in his NFL debut, Mariota has come back to earth the past three weeks with five interceptions. Two factors in the slide are growing pains that all rookie QBs experience along with a shoddy offensive line that is largely responsible for Mariota getting sacked 19 times.
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2: Pittsburgh quarterback Michael Vick
Injury: Vick strained his right hamstring during the third quarter of last Sunday’s win over Arizona. Prognosis: Vick is out this Sunday at Kansas City. Likely replacement: Landry Jones is slated to make his first NFL start unless Ben Roethlisberger (knee) convinces Steelers brass he’s ready to play again. Big Ben, who missed the past three games, is listed as questionable. Impact: With 168 yards and two TDs against the Cardinals, Jones exhibited a far better command of Pittsburgh’s passing game than Vick. Jones, though, has never made an NFL start and Arrowhead Stadium is well known as a difficult environment for opposing QBs even with the Chiefs (1-5) struggling. The fact Pittsburgh didn’t make a roster move at QB this week indicates Roethlisberger is at least ready to handle backup duties if needed.
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3: San Diego free safety Eric Weddle
Injury: Weddle hurt his groin during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Green Bay and didn’t return. Prognosis: Weddle is out for at least this Sunday against Oakland, ending an 86-game streak of consecutive starts that extended back to 2009. Likely sub: Special teams standout Darrell Stuckey is listed as Weddle’s backup on San Diego’s depth chart. Jimmy Wilson, signed as a free agent from Miami in the offseason, also should see action alongside strong safety Jahleel Addae. Impact: Weddle is one of the NFL’s top safeties and the glue to San Diego’s defense, averaging over 900 snaps a season since 2008. Weddle’s fill-ins must help the CBs stop Raiders receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who are QB Derek Carr’s main targets.
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4: Indianapolis safety Mike Adams
Injury: Adams strained his hamstring in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to New England and didn’t return. Prognosis: Adams will miss his first game since the 2010 season this Sunday against New Orleans. Likely sub: Colt Anderson, a six-year veteran who gained notoriety for his part in the botched swinging-gate play against New England, is slated to make his first NFL start since 2012. Impact: While the Saints’ aerial attack isn’t what it once was, Drew Brees is heeled to have success against the Colts’ 27th-ranked pass defense sans the ball-hawking Adams. He is tied with Oakland’s Charles Woodson and Carolina’s Josh Norman for the league lead in INTs with four.
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5: Buffalo wide receiver Sammy Watkins
Injury: Watkins sprained his left ankle making a touchdown catch during last Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati. Prognosis: Watkins didn’t make the trip to London for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. Likely sub: Chris Hogan, who started in Week 4 against the New York Giants, gets the nod opposite Robert Woods. Impact: After complaining about not getting enough passes thrown his way, Watkins was being targeted against the Bengals before getting hurt again. The Bills are battered at the WR position with Percy Harvin (hip/personal reasons) also out and Marquise Goodwin (ribs) being placed on injured reserve earlier this week. Other key offensive players missing Sunday will include QB Tyrod Taylor, RT Seantrel Henderson, RG John Miller and RB Karlos Williams.
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6: Pittsburgh left tackle Kelvin Beachum
Injury: Beachum tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when hit from the side during last Sunday’s win over Arizona. Prognosis: Beachum is out for the season after being placed on injured reserve. Likely sub: Alejandro Villanueva -- a former 6-foot9, Army Ranger who resumed his football career last season after three tours of Afghanistan -- will make his first NFL start. Impact: Beachum’s loss is costly for both him and the Steelers. The most underpaid veteran player in the NFL last season per the league’s performance-based-pay program, Beachum was in the final year of his contract. His free-agent market value in 2016 now takes a huge hit. Villanueva will be responsible for stopping Kansas City OLB Justin Houston, who leads the NFL in QB pressures with 30.
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7: Tennessee center Brian Schwenke
Injury: In one of this season’s more gruesome injuries, Schwenke suffered a dislocated ankle last Sunday against Miami. Prognosis: Schwenke underwent season-ending surgery earlier this week. Likely sub: Andy Gallik, a 2015 sixth-round pick from Boston College, mans the spot after playing 43 snaps versus the Dolphins. Impact: Schwenke’s absence is another blow to a beleaguered O-line facing Atlanta’s top-ranked run defense. Right tackle is another questionable area for the Titans as backup QB Zach Mettenberger starts for the injured Marcus Mariota (knee). Jeremiah Poutasi will be returning to the starting lineup after being benched for his struggles blocking Miami DE Cam Wake, who registered four sacks.
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8: New England left tackle Marcus Cannon
Injury: Cannon was forced out of last Sunday’s win over Indianapolis in the second quarter after hurting his toe. Prognosis: Cannon didn’t practice this week and was declared out for Sunday’s meeting with the New York Jets. Likely sub: Sebastian Vollmer will shift to left tackle with Cameron Fleming expected to replace him at right tackle. Impact: The Patriots continue to get hit with injuries along their O-line. Cannon was replacing Nate Solder, who landed on IR earlier this month with a torn biceps. Vollmer hasn’t started at LT since 2009. If there’s any rust, he better shake it quick. The Jets field one of the NFL’s most blitz-happy defenses.
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9: Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner
Injury: Zenner was hospitalized with four broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung after getting clobbered by Chicago rookie safety Adrian Amos in last Sunday’s OT win. Prognosis: Zenner is out of the hospital but also out for the season after being placed on IR. Likely sub: Amir Abdullah, Joique Bell and Theo Reddick will assume Zenner’s carries. George Winn was promoted from the practice squad to take his roster spot Impact: This marks an unfortunate end to one of the NFL’s best preseason stories as Zenner made the roster as an undrafted college free agent from South Dakota State. Zenner ranked second on the Lions with 60 rushing yards, a total that also speaks volumes about how much Detroit’s 32nd-ranked rushing attack is struggling entering Sunday’s game against Minnesota.
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10: Houston safety Lonnie Ballentine
Injury: Ballentine sustained a brutal left knee injury – dislocation and torn posterior and medical collateral ligaments, according to the Houston Chronicle – during last Sunday’s win. Prognosis: Ballentine isn’t just out for the season but his career could be in jeopardy because of the injury’s severity. Likely sub: Eddie Pleasant and Andre Hal are Houston’s top backup safeties behind Rahm Moore and Quentin Demps. Charles James, who gained acclaim on Hard Knocks this summer, was re-signed to fill Ballentine’s spot on special teams. Impact: Ballentine, who received Mr. Irrelevant honors as the last player taken in this year’s draft, received his most expansive NFL playing time on defense against Jacksonville and responded with three tackles and a pass deflection. If he can recover, Ballentine has shown promise for the future.