Biggest injury concern: Orton, Turner, Brown or Benson?

Last week, several teams’ playoff hopes took major hits as key players all left their respective games due to various injuries.

The Broncos (Kyle Orton), Falcons (Michael Turner), Dolphins (Ronnie Brown) and Bengals (Cedric Benson) seem to be bitten he hardest by the injury bug but which injury should concern their respective teams the most? Let’s break down all four situations.

Broncos: Without Orton, Denver stands little chance of beating the Chargers at home this Sunday and even less of a chance of winning the AFC West. Orton isn’t Peyton Manning, but he might as well be the Broncos’ version of the star Colts’ QB because Chris Simms proved last week that he isn’t capable of keeping Denver afloat if Orton misses significant time. Now maybe with more preparation Simms will be better, but chances are the Broncos’ hopes of making the playoffs will fall flat with him under center. Orton says that he will play this weekend, even though he has torn ligaments in his left ankle. He admitted last year that he shouldn’t have tried to grit out a right ankle injury when he was playing for the Bears, so there’s a chance that he’s about to make the same mistake twice. This Sunday will be a good indication of how severe Orton’s injury really is.

Falcons: After getting off to a slow start, Turner was back in 2008 form the past couple weeks and even compiled 111 yards on only nine carries against the Panthers last Sunday before suffering a high ankle sprain. Usually those types of injuries take months to heel, but the Falcons don’t seem concerned about Turner missing more than a couple of weeks. The problem is that the Falcons are in the midst of a Wild Card chase in the NFC and they need their bruising back on the field – especially as Matt Ryan continues to struggle in his second year. Atlanta has capable backups in Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood, but the latter can’t stay healthy and the former doesn’t have much experience. If Ryan can step up and prove he can lead the Falcons through the air, then Turner can rest up and be ready in time for a late-season run. If Ryan falters again like he has been, then Turner might feel the need to rush back from his injury sooner than he (or the team) intends.

Dolphins: Miami had to end Brown’s season after he injured his foot in a win over the Buccaneers last Sunday. Ricky Williams has been superb this season, but Brown is the key to the Dolphins’ Wildcat success and he instills a toughness that can’t be matched by Williams alone. If Pat White can step up and help run the Wildcat, then Miami will keep its slim playoff hopes alive. But they need to win tonight in Carolina or else they’ll likely fall to far behind in a tight conference.

Bengals: Cincinnati is probably the best off because Benson’s hip injury doesn’t seem as serious as the alignments bothering Orton, Turner and Brown. He has been ruled out against the Raiders this week, but I imagine if the game had playoff implications that Benson would be on the field. With a solid two-game lead (tie-breaker included) over Pittsburgh in the AFC North, Cincinnati can afford to rest Benson this week and still beat a bad Oakland team this Sunday. Hopefully he’ll recover quickly and if he doesn’t, Cincinnati has capable backups in Bernard Scott and the recently signed Larry Johnson to help fill the void until Benson is healthy again.

Of these injuries, I would say Orton and Turner’s are of biggest concern given how they can affect the Broncos and Falcons’ playoff hopes. Losing Brown hurts, but even with him on the field the Dolphins’ postseason chances are slim at best and Benson should be back in a week or two for Cincinnati.

If Orton can play on the injured ankle and not suffer any setbacks, then Denver should be okay. But if they have to rely on Simms for longer than a game or two, they’re toast.


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