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Justin Houston set to return for Kansas City Chiefs

Outside linebacker Justin Houston racked up 10 sacks in the first seven games of the season as a first-half Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Since he suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 12, the entire Kansas City Chiefs defense has managed just 10 sacks.

Although Houston is expected to play for the first time since before Thanksgiving, there are still questions surrounding the ailing pass rush.

As we've pointed out on the Around The League Podcast, it's not just the missed games that hurt a team when a player is injured. It's also the decline in production as the player works his way back to peak form.

Even if Houston shakes off the cobwebs, fellow edge rusher Tamba Hali's swollen knee is a concern.

Hali and right tackle Eric Fisher (groin) were both held out of practice again Thursday. Coach Andy Reid has said that Hali can play without practicing, but the Pro Bowl player's effectiveness will likely be compromised.

Just two quarterbacks have taken more hits than Andrew Luck this season. The status of the Chiefs' bookend rushers will play a big factor in Saturday's wild-card round game.

Here are the rest of Thursday's postseason injury updates:

  1. The Packers' offense is getting healthy. Randall Cobb is absent from the wild-card round injury report, a sign that he's closer to the early-season form that saw him play more than 90 percent of the snaps while averaging 10 targets per game. Eddie Lacy (ankle) was limited in his first Thursday participation in nearly a month. Coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy looked good in the full-pads practice.
  1. 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said cornerback Carlos Rogers' hamstring injury is "not as bad as originally feared." Rogers has promised to be ready for Sunday's game in sub-zero temperatures against Cobb in the slot, but he remained out of practice again Thursday.
  1. Pierre Thomas' chest injury is beginning to raise red flags. Coach Sean Payton has yet to address Thomas' status for Saturday, but it's a concern that the versatile veteran was held out of practice for a second consecutive day. Thomas led all NFL running backs with 77 receptions this season.
  1. Eagles safety Earl Wolff returned to full practice after sitting out Wednesday with a knee ailment.
  1. Ryan Mathews (ankle) and Eddie Royal (toe) remained out of Chargers practice Thursday. Both players are expected to be fine for Sunday's game at Cincinnati. Mathews has averaged 25 touches per game since Week 11, including 24 carries while playing through the ankle injury last week.
  1. Both A.J. Green (knee) and Tyler Eifert (neck) returned to limited participation in Bengals practice. Green was just resting Wednesday. Eifert is practicing for the first time since suffering a stinger injury in Week 16.
  1. Great news for the Seahawks. Percy Harvin took his first step toward returning from hip surgery complications, participating in Thursday's practice -- as coach Pete Carroll suggested early in the week. "He's ready to go, I think," said quarterback Russell Wilson, per ESPN Seattle's Liz Mathews.
  1. The Patriots placed rookie wide receiver Josh Boyce (ankle) on season-ending injured reserve while re-signing Austin Collie to fill his roster spot. There's also some doubt about fellow wideout Aaron Dobson (foot) being ready for the Divisional Round Weekend.
  1. Ending his self-imposed silence, Wes Welker (concussion) confirmed Thursday that he will play in the Denver Broncos' Divisional Round Weekend game Jan. 12.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" provided a robust preview of Wild Card Weekend.

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