You can blame the lockout which shortened training camps, or simply bad luck, but there seems to be more injuries than usual in the NFL this season.
Whatever the reason the fact is, this weekend, a number of high-profile players are either doubtful to play, or have already been ruled out.
The list starts with Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson, one of the league’s premier performers.
Johnson will miss Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with the same hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for weeks.
Johnson had made seven receptions in each of his first three contests before getting hurt.
He, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald are widely considered the best wide receivers in football.
Another pretty good pass-catcher, former Super Bowl MVP and all-time Steelers touchdown and receptions leader Hines Ward, is also considered unlikely for Sunday.
Ward is officially listed as questionable, but according to the NFL Network, it is “highly unlikely” that Ward will be able to return from a sprained ankle suffered last week against Arizona since he has not been able to practise since then.
The status of two of the NFL’s most promising young quarterbacks is also dicey.
Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall selection of the 2010 draft is a no-go thanks to his high-ankle sprain, while 2009’s top pick, Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, is questionable.
The 0-6 Rams have looked lost with or without Bradford, but there is no question the team is much worse with A.J. Feeley under centre.
The Rams have scored just 56 points all season — that’s less than two weeks’ worth of production from probable league MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Bradford remains in a protective boot.
While Stafford’s situation is more positive, his return to action is not a certainty.
Stafford was hurt last week in a loss to Atlanta and was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
However, Stafford made it through the entire practice on Friday.
“He’s better,” said Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
“Hopefully we can keep him on the track. I don’t know officially if he’s a game-time decision, but we won’t announce anything before then. A lot of things can happen between now and Sunday.”
Stafford told reporters he was not sure if he’d be available.
The oft-injured quarterback was in the midst of a superb season after missing 13 games last season and six as a rookie.
Meanwhile, Dallas will be without star running back Felix Jones for the second game in a row.
Backup Tashard Choice is questionable, but the Cowboys actually might be better off without them.
Rookie DeMarco Murray is expected to start after running for a franchise-high 253 yards last week.
Murray set the record against the hapless Rams.
Finally, Cleveland running back and Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis might miss another game due to a strained hamstring.
Cleveland beat Seattle without him and like Dallas, has a capable replacement in Montario Hardesty.
Hillis made it through a mid-week practice — his first since Oct. 16 — but not Thursday or Friday’s grinds.
FISH AFTER COWHER
According to the NFL Network, Miami has approached Bill Cowher’s agent.
The long-time Steelers head coach has been in demand for years and might finally be ready to get back into the game.
Of course, Tony Sparano still has a job with the Dolphins. For now.
It is considered a matter of when, not if, Sparano gets let go this season.
According to Yahoo!, Cowher had “planted seeds” that he had mutual interest in joining the Dolphins, but not until Sparano is let go.
If Sparano goes next week, Brandon Marshall thinks it will be following a rare win.
Marshall tweeted that the Dolphins will beat the New York Giants.
“To: Media When we win Sunday please don’t say the Giants didn’t take us serious,” tweeted Marshall.
Marshall and the Dolphins have not tasted victory since last season.
Seattle defensive tackle Red Bryant has been fined $15,000 U.S. for headbutting Cleveland tight end Alex Smith last Sunday. Bryant was ejected and afterwards claimed the Browns egged him on with a number of dirty plays ... St. Louis will not activate Mark Clayton from the PUP list. He has yet to make an appearance this season ... Pittsburgh linebackers James Harrison and Jason Worilds are out again ... Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis’ death has been attributed to heart failure ... Adam “Pacman” Jones has been added to Cincinnati’s 53-man roster after last playing a year ago ... Detroit running back Jahvid Best will miss his second game in a row with a concussion and first-round pick Nick Fairley probably won’t play either ... The Giants have listed defensive end Justin Tuck as questionable and Brandon Jacobs as probable ... Detroit picked up safety Chris Harris off of waivers, a day after he was let go by the Chicago Bears ... Arizona has lost its past 10 road games ... Aaron Maybin was a huge bust in Buffalo, but appears to have turned things around as a Jet. Selected 11th overall by the Bills in 2009, Maybin didn’t record a single sack in 27 games, but has had a sack the past two weeks and has registered three in four appearances for the Jets. Maybin has also forced three fumbles.