There's just one final week left in what has been a weird and wild NFL season. It started in training camp when Minnesota's Sidney Rice elected to undergo hip surgery after many fantasy owners utilized a top pick on the receiver. Mainstays on the injury report continued to be injury plagued as Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and Joseph Addai all missed time, not to mention will-he-or-won't-he-play Brett Favre. Other marquee names visited the injured reserve including Tony Romo, Dallas Clark, and Frank Gore. It wasn't just veteran players either as two promising rookies, San Diego's Ryan Mathews and Detroit's Jahvid Best, were slowed by injuries and Dallas wideout Dez Bryant fought through injuries all season before succumbing to a fractured ankle. The NFL's newest concussion policy was thrust into the spotlight and fantasy owners quickly realized independent neurologists could and did shape their fantasy rosters. Hopefully you were able to stay relatively healthy and active on the waiver wire. If so you are likely inching closer to fantasy glory or already sitting atop your league. Here are the injuries that will likely decide the fate of numerous fantasy championships.
Maurice Jones-Drew missed his first game due to injury at a very inopportune time. The Jacksonville running back has been bothered by a knee injury for a majority of the season but the joint recently began to swell more than normal and was ultimately the deciding factor in him not playing. MJD was unable to properly bend the knee due to the accumulated fluid and was forced to the sidelines for a Week 15 loss to the Redskins. Now, with their playoff lives on the line, it will be interesting to see what happens. The medical staff will likely focus on removing the swelling and diminishing pain so Jones-Drew can return for a showdown against the Texans. However the outlook does not positive. Monitor his workload throughout the week and expect a decision sometime around game time. Unfortunately the Jags play in the late game Sunday afternoon so be sure to handcuff Rashad Jennings to MJD if you haven't already.
To make matters worse, Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard will not be behind center for the game. Garrard will miss the finale after undergoing surgery Thursday on his middle finger. The digit was injured when he struck the helmet of another player when attempting a pass. Former Bills quarterback Trent Edwards will take over at quarterback and could be a decent option given he is facing a terrible Houston defense. However Edwards has not played since Week 6 when he tossed two interceptions against the Titans. Edwards' presence also has a trickle-down affect on the limping Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas making any player on the Jacksonville offense a dicey play.
San Diego's Mike Tolbert was involved in a scary scene on Sunday after he was carted off the field following a violent collision. He was diagnosed with a bruised shoulder and sprained neck but did having feeling in all extremities. The injury ends his season prematurely and fantasy owners that were not undone but his negative point total in Week 16 will have to look elsewhere. Ryan Mathews will become the focal point of the San Diego running game.
A quadriceps contusion hampered Michael Vick in the first Tuesday night football game in over 60 years. Vick injured the quad on the first play of the game and his status for Sunday's finale against the rival Cowboys remains in question. The Eagles have locked up the third seed in the NFC and coach Andy Reid could elect to rest his star. Remember a quad contusion is a significantly hampering injury and a similar injury knocked out the normally durable Adrian Peterson from a recent game against the Bears. It seems likely Vick will be a spectator on Sunday and the Philly regular season will end like it started, with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.
Fans attending the Cowboys-Eagles showdown will not see Tomy Romo versus Mike Vick and likely wont even see Jon Kitna versus Vick. Instead third-string quarterback Stephen McGee is in line to receive his first career start. Kitna suffered a left oblique injury in Dallas' Christmas Day game and is not expected to be healthy by Sunday. Oblique strains are painful in general but are even worse for quarterbacks. Kitna is a right-handed. When he delivers a pass his body rotates to bringing his right shoulder toward his left hip. To complete this motion, the right external oblique muscles must contract in conjunction with his left internal oblique muscles. The veteran strained the oblique muscles on the left side making throwing a football problematic. Kitna could make a surprise return but it appears more likely McGee will be the man for Dallas. He controlled the ball against Arizona but is unproven and not worth the risk.
Another NFC East team could be missing one of their offensive weapons as the Giants could lose wide receiver Hakeem Nicks to a broken toe. The broken digit is the latest injury to derail Nicks in his breakout season as he already missed two games with acute compartment syndrome. Broken toes are very difficult to overcome particularly for wide receivers that must push off their toes to create separation off the line of scrimmage and blow past defenders. Coach Tom Coughlin was not optimistic regarding Nicks' availability for New York's must win game against the Redskins. If he is still available in your league, teammate Mario Manningham would serve as a solid replacement.
The consulting neurologist for the Minnesota Vikings will be busy in the days leading up to Sunday as both quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Sidney Rice are recovering from concussions. Favre sustained his concussion in Week 15 and did not pass the initial portion of his concussion exam, making him ineligible to play in Week 16. Now that the league has handed down a fine and not a suspension for Favre's textversations with a former Jets employee, the only thing keeping Favre from starting in his final NFL game is his head. If he is able to clear the cobwebs and pass the ImPACT testing expect the wily veteran to suit up one final time. If he can't, rookie Joe Webb would get his second straight start. Webb looked respectable against the Eagles passing for 195 yards and rushing for a nine-yard touchdown. His wide receiver eligibility is an added bonus and could be a secret weapon worth employing. Rice will also follow the requirements of the NFL concussion policy and hopes to play in the finale. However with Minnesota's season lost expect the Vikings to be exceptionally cautious with their fragile wideout.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.