Some of the NFL's top superstars made news for the wrong reasons when they were injured in Week 16.
These injuries will undoubtedly present a difficult challenge for their respective teams heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
It's never easy for teams to overcome the loss of a star player, but it's even more of a challenge when it happens in late December. This is a challenge that a few playoff-caliber teams are facing with the postseason looming, and it's going to be interesting to see how each one responds.
Here's a look at the stars who suffered critical injuries in Week 16, along with an examination of what will likely happen with their teams going forward.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Everybody watching Tony Romo hobble around in Week 16 against Washington could tell the Cowboys quarterback was suffering badly.
After the (conflicting) reports coming out of Dallas on Monday, Dec. 23, it's easy to see why.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported Romo would miss the rest of the season with a back injury, and ESPN colleague Chris Mortensen revealed the news that Romo is believed to have suffered a herniated disk:
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports noted his sources as saying a determination for Romo's status was yet to be determined, adding Kyle Orton would likely start in Week 17:
This report backed up what head coach Jason Garrett said publicly, as relayed by Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com.
Regardless of what course of action Romo takes—surgery or no surgery—it appears he's not going to play in the team's regular-season finale at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.
That means Kyle Orton will be starting, which isn't great news for Dallas.
Orton has proven himself a competent passer over the years, accumulating 14,661 career passing yards with 81 touchdowns and 57 interceptions.
That said, this is the same quarterback who was so ineffective for the Denver Broncos in 2011 that he was supplanted by Tim Tebow.
Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon has come concerns about Orton's lack of playoff experience and his tendency to make big mistakes. He expressed them during a radio appearance with CBS Sports Network's NFL Monday QB show, via the Dallas Morning News:
The thing that concerns me a little bit with Kyle Orton, he has never started a playoff game. This is going to be like a playoff game and if they’re able to win, he’s going to get his first ever start in a playoff game. So it’s different. It’s a different speed. It’s a different tempo. The other thing that concerns me about Kyle Orton, if you really study his career, it’s the three of four poor decisions that seem to creep into his game that really hurt him and the team.
As much as people like to pile on about Romo's January struggles, there's no doubt the Cowboys are better off with him in the lineup than without him. Orton will play well in Week 17, but he won't be able to carry the Cowboys into the playoffs against the red-hot Philadelphia Eagles.
Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
Unlike the conflicting reports regarding Romo, the Denver Broncos have no doubts about Von Miller's season-ending knee injury.
Miller went down in Week 16 against Houston, and it was revealed after the game that he tore his ACL, as the Broncos confirmed on Twitter:
Miller's absence isn't going to have much of an impact on Denver's playoff run, though head coach John Fox knows it won't help his team, as Mike Klis of The Denver Post relayed:
It's a blow. Much like losing a guy like (left tackle) Ryan Clady earlier in the season. But our guys will deal with it. We'll sort it out with a possible roster move and those kind of things. Those take a couple minutes to move on and we'll sort that out as we go.
Since making his return to action in Week 7 (Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season), the speedy linebacker has struggled to make a huge impact for Denver, logging just 27 solo tackles, five sacks, seven tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles.
Those aren't poor numbers, but they don't come close to the kind of splash Miller made in his first two seasons with the Broncos. He hasn't been the only defender to struggle this season, though. Denver's defense ranks No. 23 in total defense and No. 22 in scoring defense.
As a result, Denver's playoff hopes rest solely on the capable shoulders of Peyton Manning. When he's sharp, the Broncos are unbeatable. However, when Manning struggles, a loss is almost inevitable.
Miller will be missed, but the Broncos can still win without him.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy was forced out of Week 16's critical contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers with an ankle injury, and the Packers announced on Twitter after the game that it was the same ankle he's been dealing with throughout the year:
On Monday, Dec. 23, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Lacy was "sore" and that he'd know more on Thursday, Dec. 26 when the team practices, as reported by NFL: Around The League:
Green Bay (7-7-1) will be in Chicago (8-7) with the NFC North on the line in Week 17.
Aaron Rodgers doesn't appear to be in play after it was revealed by ESPN's Ed Werder that the quarterback's collarbone injury was still an "extraordinary risk" before the Packers played the Steelers in Week 16:
While Rodgers has been out of the lineup, Lacy has become a critical offensive weapon for Green Bay. Before getting injured against Pittsburgh, the rookie had racked up 84 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries.
He broke a franchise record in the process, too, as pointed out by ESPN's Numbers Never Lie:
The remarkable performance capped off a six-game stretch in which Lacy scored six rushing touchdowns. If he's unable to play, or if he's playing hurt, then the Packers will likely get blown out at Soldier Field in Week 17, thus ending their season.
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