Bob Sanders, Safety - Colts
Injury: High ankle sprain
The 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will miss an important divisional matchup against the Jaguars on Sunday due to an ankle injury sustained during last week's clash with the Minnesota Vikings.
The loss of Sanders is both a physical one and an emotional one for the Colts. The take-no-prisoners style of play that Sanders brings to the field on Sundays inspires his teammates and reinforces their confidence. Sanders is a major force in limiting any opponent's rushing attack.
Melvin Bullitt will start for Sanders against Jacksonville. The second-year player out of Texas A&M has showcased his hitting ability as a member of the Colts' special teams units, but Sunday will mark his first NFL start.
Bullitt will be a capable fill-in, especially in run support. But make no doubt about it, he won't be Bob Sanders.
Fortunately for the Colts, Jacksonville's decimated offensive line hasn't been bullying opponents and opening huge running lanes for Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew with the same frequency that they did last year.
Packers safety Atari Bigby
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Atari Bigby, Safety - Packers
Injury: Strained hamstring
Bigby was the team's third-leading tackler in 2007, logging 84 stops and three forced fumbles. Tough against the pass as well, Bigby reeled in five interceptions and defended nine passes. But he'll be watching from the sidelines this weekend due to a hamstring injury.
Substituting for the third-year defender will be Aaron Rouse, who snared a pair of interceptions and made 23 tackles during three starts and 11 game appearances during his rookie season. The 6-foot-4, 223-pound safety out of Virginia Tech established a stronger reputation for his pass coverage than his run support while playing for Virginia Tech. But he's coming off of an ankle injury that has caused him some residual problems, so expect the Cowboys to test him deep.
Roy Williams, Safety - Cowboys
Injury: Broken arm
With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers next up for the Cowboys, Williams' injury couldn't have come at a worse time. He's expected to miss up to six weeks of action.
The Cowboys have shifted Pat Watkins, a reserve free safety, to Williams' strong safety spot opposite Ken Hamlin. Watkins, the team's nickel safety, has good coverage skills, but his run support is a bit suspect.
Brodie Croyle, Quarterback - Chiefs
Croyle still hasn't recovered from his Week 1 shoulder injury. And the team appears to have given up on Damon Huard as a starter, so a former Vikings seventh-round pick from the 2007 NFL Draft, Tyler Thigpen, gets his first career start. The 6-foot-1, 224-pound passer out of Coastal Carolina completed 14 of 33 pass attempts last week during a 23-8 loss to the Raiders. Thigpen managed 151 yards of passing, threw one touchdown pass and one interception, and was sacked three times.
A mobile quarterback, Thigpen can elude pressure, but he's simply not very accurate with his throws.
With Falcons rookie Matt Ryan struggling a bit, expect this matchup to be won by the team that gets its running game rolling.
Bengals safety Dexter Jackson
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Dexter Jackson, Safety -
Jackson, a 25-game starter for Cincinnati over the past two seasons, will be missed mightily when the Bengals take on the Giants on Sunday. A solid hitter who finished fourth in total tackles last season, Jackson has veteran instincts and a fearless attitude that come in handy when facing a bruiser like New York's Brandon Jacobs. And perhaps most importantly, Jackson is the voice of experience who provides on-the-field guidance and inspiration to a relatively young Cincinnati secondary.
Chinedum Ndukwe, who is coming off of a knee injury he suffered in early August during training camp, is expected to be healthy enough to step in and start. The second-year player out of Notre Dame can make big plays, but he lacks the consistency that Jackson provides to the unit. The former Notre Dame defender picked off three passes during his rookie year, forced a fumble and recovered one. But his absence from the secondary due to his injury could result in some communication miscues and blown coverage situations that Giants QB Eli Manning could exploit on Sunday.
Marques Colston, Wide Receiver - Saints
Injury: Torn thumb ligament
Against a high-scoring offense like the Broncos, Saints QB Drew Brees would certainly have a better shot at keeping pace if Colston was healthy and able to play. While 12-year veteran David Patten is no slouch, pulling in 54 passes last season, and Devery Henderson is an adequate receiver, neither one is likely to provide the big-play, quick-strike threat that Colston has provided while scoring 19 times during his first two seasons in the league.
If the Broncos are able to turn this into a horse race, the Saints could get left in the dust.
Travis Johnson, Defensive
Tackle - Texans
There was speculation that Houston's 6-foot-3, 311-pound defensive tackle would be able to rebound in time for this divisional matchup after sitting out last week's game, but he was a late scratch. As a result, veteran Jeff Zgonina will step into Johnson's spot.
While Zgonina has amassed plenty of game experience during his sixteen seasons in the NFL, he's 30 pounds lighter than Johnson — who simply eats up space in the middle more effectively. And the 38-year-old lineman hasn't sacked a quarterback since 2005 back when he was playing for the Miami Dolphins.
Should Zgonina struggle with the Titans' rushing attack — powered by rookie Chris Johnson — the Texans could insert rookie Frank Okam, a 6-foot-5, 342-pound rookie out of the University of Texas, especially on obvious rushing downs. Okam has been on the game-day inactive list the past two weeks, but there's been speculation out of Houston that he'll be active this Sunday to provide depth.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can contact him by email through this link.