For evidence that the ravages of a long NFL season are beginning to take their toll, look no further than the NFL Week 15 Injury Report.
As the playoffs approach, some teams are limping into the postseason while others are fighting for their playoff lives.
Which teams were hit hardest by the injury bug this week?
Let's take a look at each playoff contender, ranking them in order of who is feeling the most pressure as a result of their Week 14 injuries.
The following AFC postseason squads and hopefuls did not suffer any additional major injuries during Week 14's action:
Houston Texans (11-2), currently 1st Seed in AFC
Other notable Texans injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Linebacker Bradie James (hamstring) was active after being listed as probable.
- Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring) was active after being listed as probable.
- Cornerback Alan Ball (foot) was inactive after being listed as questionable.
- Linebacker Brooks Reed (groin) was inactive, as expected.
- Tackle Derek Newton (knee) was inactive, as expected.
Denver Broncos (10-3), currently 3rd Seed in AFC
Other notable Broncos injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Running back Willis McGahee (knee) remains out. He was placed on injured reserve in November due to an MCL strain and lower leg fracture and is eligible to return the week of the AFC Championship.
- Wide receiver Brandon Stokley was active Week 14 despite nagging hip and wrist injuries but was not targeted during the game.
Note: All team-by-team actives and inactives for Week 14 can be found here.
The following NFC postseason squads and hopefuls did not suffer any additional major injuries during Week 14's action:
Atlanta Falcons (11-2), currently 1st Seed in NFC
Other notable Falcons injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Cornerback Asante Samuel (shoulder) was active after being listed as questionable.
- Running back Michael Turner (elbow) was active after being listed as questionable.
- Defensive back William Moore (hamstring) was inactive after being listed as questionable.
San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1), currently 2nd Seed in NFC
Other notable 49ers injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Wide receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) was inactive after being listed as doubtful.
- According to the Associated Press, linebacker and special teams player Tavares Gooden suffered a rib injury during Week 14.
Green Bay Packers (9-4), currently 3rd seed in NFC
Other notable Packers injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and running back James Starks (knee) did not suit up Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks (8-5), currently 5th seed in NFC
Other notable Seahawks injury news (final Week 14 injury report here):
- Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) was active after being listed as probable.
Note: All team-by-team actives and inactives for Week 14 can be found here.
Aqib Talib, cornerback for the New England Patriots.
The anticipated Monday Night Football game between the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots ended up being a landslide 42-14 victory for the Patriots (via the Associated Press).
It was also mostly devoid of injuries.
However, according to the official New England Patriot's Twitter account, cornerback Aqib Talib suffered a hip injury:
#Patriots injury update: Aqib Talib left the game with a hip injury. His return is questionable.— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 11, 2012
Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com reported Monday night that Talib was seen jogging on the sideline after suffering the injury while defending Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.
There are sure to be updates on Talib's status throughout the week. That said, escaping a game against the Texans with only a seemingly minor injury to Talib is a victory unto itself.
Hakeem Nicks, wide receiver for the New York Giants.
Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com reported Monday that running back Ahmad Bradshaw underwent an MRI of his knee after being limited during the Giants' Week 14 contest against the Saints.
Also according to Youngmisuk, cornerback Prince Amukamara strained his hamstring during the game, and Hakeem Nicks had X-rays taken following the Giants' 52-27 victory, which were negative.
Nicks did not say what the X-rays were for, but one can speculate they were related to his knee.
Running back David Wilson offers a solid option in the backfield for the Giants if Bradshaw cannot go, and it sounds as if the injuries to Amukamara and Nicks are not serious.
A.J. Jefferson, cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings.
Jefferson must pass the league-mandated concussion testing protocol before returning to the field. Briefly, once his concussion symptoms have resolved for 24 consecutive hours, he will have to complete one day each of light activity, football-specific activity, non-contact practice and full practice without symptoms returning before he can rejoin the team.
He will also have to be cleared by an independent neurologist.
Minnesota's defense ranks 19th against the pass according to the NFL's official stats, and that will certainly take a hit if Jefferson is forced to miss any time.
Samson Satele, center for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Indianapolis Colts offensive line took a huge blow when two of its starters left the game on Sunday due to injury, a game that ended as a 27-23 victory for the Colts over the Tennessee Titans.
According to Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports, both center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winston Justice (biceps) could not finish the game.
If either misses extended time, Andrew Luck could be in serious trouble. According to NFL.com's stats page, Luck has already been sacked 32 times this season, good for the 24th highest total in the NFL.
That would likely only get worse with injuries to two more offensive linemen.
Marshal Yanda, right guard for the Baltimore Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens cannot seem to stay healthy.
According to ESPN.com, Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda, fullback Vonta Leach and linebacker Jameel McClain also suffered injuries during the Ravens' 31-28 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
Yanda and Leach both suffered sprained ankles, and McClain injured his neck.
Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported on Sunday that X-rays of McClain's neck were negative, meaning there was no bone fracture.
However, while they sit at 9-4, the Ravens have now lost two games in a row, and injuries have played a large role in their slide.
Willie Colon, left guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' (7-6) injury-plagued 2012 season may end without a playoff berth.
Pittsburgh's most recent injury is to guard Willie Colon, occurring just one week after the Steelers lost star cornerback Ike Taylor to a fractured ankle.
Ben Roethlisberger and company do not have much room for error during the season's final three weeks, as the 7th-seed Cincinnati Bengals (also 7-6) are right on their heels.
Dez Bryant, wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys.
Monday evening news of an injury to wide receiver Dez Bryant, arguably one of the Dallas Cowboys' best offensive weapons, tainted an emotional, last-second Week 14 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to ESPN.com, Bryant suffered a fractured left index finger during the game.
Bryant originally thought that it was only a sprain, meaning an over-stretch or tear of a ligament, but a hand specialist determined otherwise.
If Bryant needs surgery, he will miss the remainder of the season. Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne also left the game Sunday when a collision left him with a facial laceration.
An injury to Bryant would be a devastating blow to the Cowboys, a team that has been scratching and clawing for a playoff spot for several weeks but currently remains out of the postseason picture.
Jay Cutler, quarterback for the Chicago Bears.
In Week 14, Cutler again left a game due to injury, this time to his neck.
Fortunately, Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com reported after the game that Cutler does not expect to miss any time.
However, Cutler is only the beginning of the Bears' injury woes.
According to Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune, place kicker Robbie Gould, arguably one of the best at his position, strained his calf during pregame warmups. Safety Craig Steltz (chest) and defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) also suffered injuries on Sunday during the Bears' 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
The once vaunted Bears defense now looks quite thin, and the Bears are suddenly in danger of missing the postseason altogether.
When Robert Griffin III hit the turf after taking a vicious hit to the front of his right knee, the entire Washington Redskins fanbase held its collective breath.
RGIII's MRI results helped it breathe again.
The Associated Press reported on Monday that RGIII suffered only a grade-one sprain of his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and no other damage.
In other words, RGIII's LCL, or the ligament that connects the femur (thigh bone) and fibula (one of the bones of the lower leg) and also serves to coordinate their motion, was over-stretched.
Simply put, this is the best possible scenario that Redskins fans could have hoped for, as a grade-two strain (a partial tear) or grade-three strain (a complete tear) would have almost certainly sent RGIII to the sidelines for the rest of the season.
Erik Brady of USA Today Sports even reported on Monday that RGIII has not yet been ruled out for Week 15.
Nevertheless, even a grade-one strain can cause problems. The over-stretch of the ligament temporarily weakens the ligament until it heals, and a weakened ligament is prone to additional, more serious injury.
As mentioned, additional injury most likely would end RGIII's season, taking the Redskins' playoff chances with him.
The Redskins must handle the situation very carefully.
At 7-6, the Redskins are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, despite their 31-28 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Clearly, they need wins.
However, they also need a healthy RGIII.
Dave Siebert is a medical/injury Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and soon-to-be Family Medicine resident physician with plans to specialize in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine. The injury and anatomical information discussed is based on Dave's own clinical experience in the evaluation and management of sports injuries and concussions under the direct supervision of Sports Medicine physicians and concussion specialists.