It’s Week 8 in the NFL, and running backs are predictably getting the bumps and bruises (and worse) that could keep them out or limit their effectiveness.
Aaron Jones missed the Green Bay Packers’ win at Houston and his calf injury could linger into Sunday’s matchup against Minnesota. The Seattle Seahawks might have to get creative against San Francisco if Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde miss time, and the 49ers have their own backfield issues as well. Joe Mixon (Bengals), Phillip Lindsay (Broncos), Devonta Freeman (Giants) and Justin Jackson (Chargers) could also miss more time.
On the positive side, two of the best running backs in the league — the Vikings’ Dalvin Cook and the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey — could make a return in Week 8, but it’s by no means a sure thing.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys might have to start their third-string quarterback and New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas still hasn’t played since Week 1. Is this finally his week to return?
Here’s a roundup of the biggest injuries from ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters.
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN
CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND
JAX | KC | LAC | LAR | LV | MIA | MIN
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF
SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Is linebacker Matt Milano healthy enough for a full workload? After missing two straight games with a chest injury, Milano returned to action against the Jets, playing just 33% of the Bills’ defensive snaps. With the Patriots coming to Orchard Park on Sunday, Buffalo will need arguably its most important defender in the middle of the field. He was limited in practice to start the week, as has become custom for him this season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Receiver DeVante Parker suffered a groin injury in Week 6 vs. the Jets and didn’t return, casting some initial worry about whether he would miss time. But the bye week came at the right time for Parker, who returned to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday and appears to be trending in the right direction for Sunday. — Cameron Wolfe
With starting receiver N’Keal Harry in the concussion protocol (Jakobi Meyers is his projected replacement) and seemingly unlikely to play, the biggest question comes with franchise-tagged left guard Joe Thuney. After missing the second half of Sunday’s loss to the 49ers with an ankle injury, Thuney was limited in practice on Wednesday and thus could be in jeopardy of missing a game for the first time in his NFL career. — Mike Reiss
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who sat out last week with a groin injury, is a question mark as the Jets prepare for their titanic challenge against the Chiefs. The hope is he will return to practice Thursday. If he does, he will have a chance to play. They really need him because they probably won’t have WR Breshad Perriman (concussion). Without Perriman and Crowder, their top wideouts would be Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios and Denzel Mims. Combined career catches: 37. — Rich Cimini
Running back Mark Ingram didn’t practice Wednesday after coach John Harbaugh expressed optimism last week that Ingram would be available for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This isn’t a good sign for Ingram because he had a full week to rest his injured left ankle due to the bye. But Ingram has been extremely durable and hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2015. If Ingram is sidelined, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins would share the workload. In fact, Ingram ranks third in snaps at running back this season with 104, behind Dobbins (130) and Edwards (123). — Jamison Hensley
Jamison Hensley breaks down Dez Bryant signing with the Ravens’ practice squad and when we could possibly see him suit up for games.
Running back Joe Mixon again didn’t practice with a foot injury. Mixon’s absence wasn’t necessarily felt in a 37-34 loss to the Browns last Sunday, but the Bengals certainly want one of their stars back as quickly as possible. Mixon’s availability has yet to be determined, but it’s worth noting the team didn’t protect running back Jacques Patrick on its practice squad this week. This indicates that Mixon’s outlook will be more optimistic than it was last week. Either way, it will be a situation to watch through the end of the week. — Ben Baby
Defensive end Myles Garrett sat out Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury. But coach Kevin Stefanski said holding Garrett out was merely precautionary and the star pass-rusher is expected to be good for Sunday vs. the Raiders. — Jake Trotter
The Steelers had a lengthy injury report Wednesday, but the only injury of significant concern is DB Mike Hilton, who missed Sunday’s victory over the Titans with a shoulder injury sustained against the Browns. Hilton is scheduled to work back into practice this week, but he missed Wednesday’s practice. Cam Sutton played exceedingly well in his absence, but the Steelers need all the help they can get to stop the Ravens’ offense. — Brooke Pryor
The Texans are hoping that cornerback Bradley Roby, who left after one series against the Packers on Sunday, is just dealing with a “short-term” injury. On Monday, interim head coach Romeo Crennel said, “They looked at the ankle and the knee. They’re looking at it today. I don’t have an update about what they found.” Houston is on a bye week before playing at Jacksonville on Nov. 8. — Sarah Barshop
Center Ryan Kelly was limited because of a knee injury in his first practice after the bye week. The fact that Kelly was able to take part in at least part of practice is a positive sign that his injury doesn’t appear to be too serious. Kelly has taken 99% of the snaps this season and hasn’t missed a game since the 2018 season. He missed a total of 13 games in 2017 and 2018. — Mike Wells
The bye week will give LB Myles Jack time to rest his injured ankle, which he aggravated against Detroit on Oct. 18. He didn’t play against the Chargers on Sunday and coach Doug Marrone said he thinks Jack will return against the Texans on Nov. 8. Dakota Allen filled in for Jack against the Chargers and had two tackles, but suffered an ankle injury as well. — Mike DiRocco
Jadeveon Clowney left last Sunday’s game against the Steelers because of a knee injury but returned a few series later. He didn’t practice Wednesday. The knee injury has caused him to miss some practices before the past three games. The Titans are still waiting for the three-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher to have a dominant game. — Turron Davenport
Running back Phillip Lindsay, who has missed three games this season and the second half of two others because of injuries, is in the concussion protocol and did not practice Wednesday. Broncos coach Vic Fangio said the team might not know until Saturday if Lindsay is medically cleared to play Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Lindsay has been a spark for an offense that has desperately needed one since wide receiver Courtland Sutton went to injured reserve after the team’s Week 2 loss in Pittsburgh. Lindsay has a 100-yard rushing game in one of his three starts and is averaging better than five yards per carry overall. If Lindsay isn’t available, Melvin Gordon would get the bulk of the work in the offense, with Royce Freeman getting a selection of snaps as well. — Jeff Legwold
Defensive end Taco Charlton returned to practice Wednesday as a full participant after missing last week’s game because of a knee injury. That speaks well for his chances of playing against the Jets. The Chiefs could use the snaps from Charlton this week. Two defensive ends, Mike Danna and Alex Okafor, are on injured reserve. Charlton played well as a situational pass-rusher before being injured. — Adam Teicher
While RT Trent Brown remains on the COVID-19 list after testing positive early last week, the Raiders are holding out hope that he can pass protocols and rejoin the team in time to play at Cleveland. Brown, who signed a four-year, $66 million free-agent contract in 2019, rarely practiced in training camp because of a calf injury and played only three snaps in the season opener before returning for the win at Kansas City on Oct. 11. The Raiders have had to play Sam Young, Denzelle Good and Brandon Parker at right tackle in Brown’s absence. A healthy Brown is a difference-maker not only in protecting QB Derek Carr, but in the run game for RB Josh Jacobs. — Paul Gutierrez
Running back Justin Jackson is listed as questionable because of a knee injury. However, he is expected to play, and that’s good news for the injury-riddled Chargers. With RB Austin Ekeler out longer than expected, Jackson is sorely needed. They have Joshua Kelley, who has been ineffective at best. — Shelley Smith
Quarterback Andy Dalton did not practice Wednesday and is a big question as to if he will be able to practice at all because of a concussion. As it stands, rookie Ben DiNucci is looking like the starting quarterback for Sunday at Philadelphia and is getting the bulk of the work, with Garrett Gilbert backing him up. It’s an unsettling time for the offense, although Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin (concussion) and Joe Looney, who opened the season as the starting center, returned to practice. What the Cowboys don’t know is the five players expected to protect DiNucci (or Dalton) on Sunday. The Cowboys will have their ninth different offensive line configuration of the season against the Eagles. — Todd Archer
Field Yates explains who would benefit on the Giants if Devonta Freeman is forced to sit Monday night, and Matthew Berry ponders the idea of adding Wayne Gallman.
Running back Devonta Freeman is dealing with an ankle injury. The Giants didn’t practice Wednesday — they play on Monday night — but Freeman was working on the side with a trainer during their Tuesday workout. That puts his status in jeopardy for this week against the Bucs. If he can’t go, expect a heavy dose of Wayne Gallman running the football. — Jordan Raanan
The Eagles’ offense is getting healthier. Rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (UCL tear in thumb) has returned to practice and is hopeful he’ll be medically cleared to play against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Left tackle Jason Peters (toe) is back as well and is expected to start against Dallas. — Tim McManus
Tim McManus and Todd Archer go back and forth discussing the injuries sustained by the Eagles and Cowboys leading into their Week 8 matchup.
Defensive end Montez Sweat exited Sunday’s game to be evaluated for a concussion, but with Washington on a bye week, there’s no update on his status and there won’t be until next week. Tackle Geron Christian (knee) missed Sunday’s game vs. Dallas but could be ready for the Nov. 8 game vs. the New York Giants. If not, Cornelius Lucas would start again in his place. — John Keim
Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, coach Matt Nagy announced on Wednesday. Robinson, 27, would be a key loss for the Bears (5-2), who host the New Orleans Saints (4-2) on Sunday. Robinson leads Chicago with 44 receptions for 544 yards. Last year, Robinson had a career-high 98 catches for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns for one of the league’s worst offenses. The Bears are also bracing for the possibility of not having center Cody Whitehair in Week 8. Whitehair, who has started 71 straight games since he entered the league in 2016, is day-to-day after suffering a calf injury against the Rams. — Jeff Dickerson
The Lions, for being close to midseason, are fairly healthy. The only injury listed for Detroit is cornerback Desmond Trufant, who continues to miss time because of a hamstring injury. This is good news for a team that dealt with a bunch of injuries throughout the year. The biggest thing to watch will also be at cornerback and who might come back, as Justin Coleman began practicing last week in hopes of coming off injured reserve at some point. — Michael Rothstein
There was some thought that the Packers held out top running back Aaron Jones last week against the Texans simply as a precaution so his calf injury didn’t turn into something worse. But Jones wasn’t back at practice Wednesday and now there’s legitimate concern that it will cost Jones a second straight game. “He’s got to continue to improve and get better each and every day, and I know he’s doing everything in his power,” coach Matt LaFleur said Wednesday. “We want to be very, very careful with him and not put him in a position where he misses significant amount of time.” It could be another week with Jamaal Williams as the Packers’ top back — Rob Demovsky
Running back Dalvin Cook is still dealing with a groin injury but returned to practice Wednesday after two weeks of rest. That’s the good news. But Minnesota didn’t come out of its bye week anywhere near full health, especially in the secondary. Backup safety George Iloka was put on IR last week because of a torn ACL, and Mike Hughes (neck), Holton Hill (foot) and Cameron Dantzler (reserve/COVID-19) didn’t participate on the first day of practice this week. Right now, it’s looking as if Jeff Gladney, Kris Boyd and Harrison Hand will be tasked with covering the Packers’ Davante Adams in Week 8. — Courtney Cronin
The Falcons, according to ESPN”s Jeremy Fowler, are planning to sit defensive end Takkarist McKinley for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers in part because of a lingering groin injury and also to explore trade options. The pass-rush specialist wasn’t a factor in the first meeting between these teams, playing only five snaps as the Panthers held Atlanta without a sack. — David Newton
Running back Christian McCaffrey was designated for return from injured reserve after missing five games because of a high ankle sprain. The Panthers have until 4 p.m. on Thursday to decide if that return will be this week. McCaffrey has practiced only two days with no contact on a short week, but coach Matt Rhule says a return is “possible.” If McCaffrey returns, he’ll add a boost to the red zone offense that needs to find a way to run inside the 20. McCaffrey had four rushing touchdowns in less than two games before the Week 2 injury. — David Newton
Wide receiver Michael Thomas has been the Saints’ biggest injury question since Week 1. But now he has half the WR room with him. Thomas (ankle/hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (reserve/COVID-19) and undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway (ankle) all missed practice Wednesday. Sanders can’t return to any activity before Sunday, which makes him unlikely to play. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week that Thomas would be questionable for this week’s game. Callaway might have the best chance of playing, as he expressed optimism after his breakout game in Week 7. But all of their statuses will be in doubt until we see them practice. That leaves RB Alvin Kamara, TE Jared Cook and WR Tre’Quan Smith as New Orleans’ three top options in the passing game. — Mike Triplett
Matthew Berry discusses how Tom Brady and other Bucs pass catchers could be affected in fantasy with Chris Godwin sidelined in Week 8.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin will not play against the New York Giants, but he could be available for a crucial Week 9 game against NFC South rival New Orleans. Godwin underwent surgery for a broken finger Tuesday and coach Bruce Arians expressed some doubt that he could return in time for Week 9. “I think it’s very optimistic that he’ll be back in a week. But it could be possible. We don’t really know how long, but yeah, so that’s why we have the insurance policy [Antonio Brown].” — Jenna Laine
The Cardinals will use their bye week to get a lot of players healthy for their nine-game final stretch, namely guys such as linebacker Jordan Hicks and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. The extra time off will also help safety Jalen Thompson get back from injured reserve. — Josh Weinfuss
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Tight end Tyler Higbee is dealing with a bruised hand that kept him inactive in Week 7, and it’s uncertain if he will return Sunday against the Dolphins. “It’s not really in an isolated area, it’s kind of all over,” Rams coach Sean McVay said about Higbee’s bruise. “He doesn’t say anything and plays through about as much as anybody, so I know it’s bothering him pretty good right now.” If Higbee is unable to play, Gerald Everett and Johnny Mundt will again have increased roles. — Lindsey Thiry
The 49ers are banged up at running back with Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson Jr. dealing with injuries. But Coleman could return in time for Sunday’s clash with the Seahawks. Coleman has spent most of the past month on injured reserve but had his 21-day practice window opened Wednesday and he practiced on a limited basis. Coach Kyle Shanahan has expressed some hope that Coleman could be available in Seattle, which would be helpful for a team that currently only has Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty available at the position. — Nick Wagoner
The Seahawks hope safety Jamal Adams (groin) is on track to return Sunday against San Francisco. They also hope to avoid the potential emergency that’s brewing in their suddenly banged-up backfield after Chris Carson (foot), Carlos Hyde (hamstring) and Travis Homer (knee) all got hurt against Arizona. The Seahawks will rest Carson for much, if not all, of this week and see how he’s feeling closer to Sunday. Carroll said Hyde’s injury isn’t a major one and that Homer is moving better Wednesday than he was Tuesday, but there’s no clarity on their statuses either. With COVID-19 protocols precluding teams from signing free agents for immediate reinforcement, Seattle might have to get creative against the 49ers and use another skill player at running back. — Brady Henderson