Some teams are lucky enough to make it to the playoffs with their rosters virtually unscathed. More often than not, however, teams have an important injury that they have to learn to deal with. That will be the case with the majority of the teams playing on Wild Card Weekend as they will have to find an alternative option.
The Green Bay Packers proved last season that injuries don't necessarily have to derail a playoff run, though, so there is reason for every team to be optimistic. Here are the three most impactful injuries of the Wild Card Round that will have some effect on the outcome of the respective games.
Denver Broncos veteran safety Brian Dawkins missed the team's regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs this past week and his status remains in question for the team's playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Make no mistake, Dawkins' skills have certainly diminished from the time when he was considered to be one of the best safeties in football, but his presence is still extremely important.
Due to his experience, Dawkins is the heart and soul of the Denver defense, along with cornerback Champ Bailey. He has been in the postseason many times whereas younger players like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil haven't. Also, from a tactical standpoint Dawkins is very important in run support at this juncture of his career, so if he can't go then it will open up lanes for Isaac Redman and the Steelers' running game.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
On Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers proved why sitting your stars in Week 17 tends to be a pretty good move as running back Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in what turned out to be a meaningless game against the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers were still playing to win the AFC North at that point, but since the Baltimore Ravens won, they ended up taking the division anyway.
Now the Steelers are without their reliable back and will have to turn to backup Isaac Redman. While Redman has proven to be effective in spurts, Pittsburgh always knows that it's going to get a consistent effort out of Mendenhall. The Steelers are a pass-first team so they may be able to get past the injury, but Mendenhall is a big factor in opening up the pass for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Which injury will have the biggest impact on the Wild-Card round?
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints
With the way New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is playing right now it almost seems like his entire supporting cast on offense could get injured and he would still continue to dominate. Realistically, though, that isn't the case and that is why the potential absence of slot receiver Lance Moore could be a big loss for Brees and the Saints' offense.
Moore missed last week's game with a hamstring ailment and seems unlikely to play against the Detroit Lions this weekend. Brees has enough other weapons in Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson to get by, but Moore is a very reliable red-zone and short-yardage target for him. His absence would certainly be felt to some degree.