Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
Each week in the NFL, 1,696 players put on their pads and go risk their personal well-being in order to make a living. It's a very nice living, as even the poorest of the poor NFL players make nearly $400,000 a season.
However, the bodily harm inflicted upon participants make playing football at the highest level one of the most dangerous professions one could ever take up. After Week 12, it's evident why the previous statement is valid.
Week 12 saw several concussions, multiple torn ACLs, ankle sprains, shoulder injuries, a broken fibula, broken ribs and the list goes on. It's just another week in the NFL, but some teams are hurting more than others right now.
Let's take a look at the four most injury-plagued teams currently preparing for their Week 13 opponents.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter.
The Dallas Cowboys have placed linebacker Bruce Carter on the IR with a dislocated elbow, reports Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. Carter is now the fourth Cowboys defensive starter to land on the IR this season along with linebacker Sean Lee, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and safety Barry Church.
Lee and Carter were both leading the Cowboys in tackles at the times they suffered their respective injuries. Dallas will more than likely start Ernie Sims and Dan Connor as their inside linebackers this weekend. However, no matter who Dallas plugs into the middle of their defense, there is going to be an immense gap in the second level of the Cowboys front-seven.
These injuries put an intense amount of pressure on Jay Ratliff to keep running backs from penetrating past the line of scrimmage. If the Cowboys want to make a push at the New York Giants for a piece of the NFC East divisional crown, they are going to have to do so with a shell of their usual starting defense.
On the offensive side of the ball, Miles Austin suffered a hip injury in Thursday's loss to the Redskins. He is planning on practicing this Wednesday, which is a good sign for Cowboys' fans as their team prepares for a divisional matchup with the Eagles. However, it's something to keep an eye on as the week progresses.
Pittsburgh Steelers third-string quarterback Charlie Batch.
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered injuries to two starters in Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley injured his ankle in the first quarter and offensive linemen Mike Adams went down in the third quarter with an ankle injury as well. Neither returned to the game.
Woodley is currently listed as doubtful, while Adams has been ruled out of Sunday's crucial matchup with the Baltimore Ravens. With Marcus Gilbert on the IR , the Steelers may have to rely on a combination of Kelvin Beachum, Doug Legursky, John Malecki and maybe even David DeCastro to fill in on the offensive line.
Beachum is a rookie, Legursky is a career backup and Malecki has spent all but one game this season on the practice squad. Those are not exactly the names you want on the field heading on the road to Baltimore. Willie Colon is also battling a knee injury that kept him out Week 12, but he seems to be on track to return on Sunday.
However, I forgot to mention that the Steelers don't know if Ben Roethlisberger (h/t Gary Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) or Antonio Brown will play this weekend. Even if one or both of those players can go, neither will be playing at full strength. Byron Leftwich is out again as well. Tomlin confirmed that Charlie Batch is going to take the reigns with an inexperienced, patchwork offensive line on Sunday.
On an encouraging note, safety Troy Polamalu may return to action this week. There is still a lot to be determined on who play and who will not play this Sunday, but perhaps Tomlin put it best during his press conference on Tuesday.
"We are looking to get some guys back potentially but we aren't going to hold our breath."
The Steelers still have a chance at making the playoffs. In fact, if the season ended today, they would be the sixth-seed in the AFC.
However, Pittsburgh has injuries all over the offensive line, at quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker. Those are some key positions that will inhibit the Steelers ability to compete with the good teams remaining on their schedule. It should be interesting to see if Mike Tomlin's team rises to the occasion.
Chicago Bears wideout Devin Hester.
The Bears lost six starters in their 28-10 rout of the Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday.
Defensive Player of the Year candidate Charles Tillman, running back Matt Forte and linebacker Lance Briggs all went down with ankle injuries. Offensive linemen Lance Louis is out for the season with a knee injury,Chris Spencer has torn cartilage in his knee (h/t Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure) and wideout Devin Hester suffered a concussion.
The Bears came away with an easy victory, but they paid the price for it. Reports indicate that Tillman's ankle is not going to be an issue going forward and Briggs should return to the practice field as well. Louis has been placed on the injured reserve and the other three players will presumably miss at least one week.
The Bears are fortunate that they have an 8-3 record and sit one game ahead of an injury-laden Green Bay Packers team. They have some time to get their players healthy and back out on the field, but losing Louis for the season is going to hurt the offensive line, especially with Spencer out for a few games as well.
It's impossible to know how well the team will respond to these injuries, but we do know that the door is sill wide open for the Packers to regain control of the NFC North.
Philadelphia Eagles wideout Desean Jackson.
For all intents and purposes, the Eagles' season is over. At 3-8, there is little left to do other than wait for Andy Reid to get fired. This team has nothing left to play for except pride, which is something we have seen little of from the Eagles in recent weeks. However, the Eagles have been starting a rookie at quarterback for the last two games.
Michael Vick has a concussion and his status is still in doubt for Week 13, LeSean McCoy is still in stage one of his concussion tests, Jason Avant missed Week 12 with a hamstring issue, DeSean Jackson is on the IR and the patchwork offensive line has not gotten the job done.
Injuries are not the only thing holding the Eagles back, but there's no way this team can be expected to win with the current healthy players on the roster.
There's no reason to expect the Eagles to suddenly show signs of life this weekend against the Cowboys. Philadelphia is a poorly constructed, injury-laden football team with controversies at both head coach and quarterback. Their implosion has been hard to watch this season and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.
However, injuries have not allowed this team to put their best players on the field in recent weeks. That has to be part of the equation while evaluating the Eagles' performance.