Injuries becoming huge factor in games

As we study for another Sunday in the NFL, the injury report is required reading for all handicappers. The war of attrition is on and key players are dropping with regularity.

The Philadelphia Eagles were battered and bruised in an incredibly physical game last week against Atlanta. The starter at quarterback remains Kevin Kolb, but the absence of receiver DeSean Jackson severely limits the Eagles’ ability to stretch the field.

Tennessee, off a blowout win at Jacksonville, is a 3-point home favorite over Philadelphia today. The Titans might again be calling on veteran quarterback Kerry Collins, who played the majority of last week’s game after Vince Young went down with an ankle and knee injury. The Titans claim Young is a game-time decision.

The banged-up Falcons are 3½-point home favorites over Cincinnati, which is coming off a bye. The Bengals, a bit of a mystery, have lost two straight and sit in third place in the AFC North at 2-3.

New England visits San Diego, which is a 2½- to 3-point favorite. But the biggest factor might not involve the participants on the field. In terms of the wagering line, what is Patriots coach Bill Belichick actually worth over counterpart Norv Turner?

In addition, the Chargers (2-4) are adding injuries to insult. Tight end Antonio Gates and receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are all hobbled. Patrick Crayton may turn out to be quarterback Philip Rivers’ main target.

As bad as this looks for the Chargers, they are a different beast home and away, and the Patriots are traveling cross country off an emotional victory over Baltimore.

At some point, Rivers has to manufacture a late game-winning drive. Big passing numbers make fantasy players giddy, but legacies are developed with memorable wins. Just look across the field at Tom Brady.

In tonight’s game, Brett Favre returns to his former home, Lambeau Field. Green Bay is favored by 2½ to 3 points over Minnesota, but the Packers are beat up and coming off a tough loss to Miami.

Favre’s appearance in a purple jersey could serve as extra motivation to get the Packers back on the beam.

Favre has had a bounce in his step when facing Green Bay. Last season, he piled up big yardage and, more important, didn’t throw an interception in the sweep of the Packers. It was the Minnesota defense that chased Aaron Rodgers around relentlessly, sacking him 14 times in the two meetings.

In terms of importance in the weak NFC West, the Arizona Cardinals pay a visit to Seattle in a Week 7 matchup that means plenty. Both teams are 3-2, and the winner grabs the early tiebreaker edge. The Seahawks are 6-point favorites with the line creeping to 6½.

The Seahawks’ calling card includes a huge home-field advantage and a different look in the backfield. Newly acquired Marshawn Lynch is the featured power running back that coach Pete Carroll coveted.

Somehow, star receiver Larry Fitzgerald must return to prominence in the Arizona offense. This could be the day, as Fitzgerald faces Seattle rookie cornerback Walter Thurmond, who fills in for injured Kelly Jennings.

Brian Blessing, host of Sportsbook Radio on ESPN (1100 AM and 98.9 FM), can be reached at

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