Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/1/12
Whether you are playing professional football or touch football with your family, there is always a risk of getting injured. Injuries happen in all sports and as many lifelong fans have seen, one injury can sometimes plague an entire team.

While football is a team sport, most teams usually have one or two players that they cannot afford to lose. This is especially true for the teams in the NFC West division as they look to free themselves from the title of the worst division in football.

After a breakout performance from the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, some of the stars from this division have now been recognized. This article will look two players that each NFC West team can ill afford to lose in 2012.

Arizona Cardinals

Offense: Larry Fitzgerald
If this isn’t the most obvious choice in the whole division, then I don’t know who is. Larry Fitzgerald has developed into one of the best players in football, proving time and time again that no matter whom the quarterback is he will still catch the ball.

Arizona drafted Michael Floyd to take pressure off of Fitzgerald and add another weapon for Kevin Kolb, but if Fitzgerald is injured then both of them, along with the rest of the offense will suffer.

Defense: Daryl Washington
From Darnell Dockett to Adrian Wilson, there is no shortage of talent on the defensive side of the ball. While Washington may not be the best player on the defense, he is the one who will be missed the most if he goes down to an injury.

The Cardinals run a 3-4 defense and with an aging Paris Lenon already starting and Stewart Bradley backing him up, it would hurt to lose Washington. Their defense would still be able to get by, but it would not be anywhere near as good as the top-10 defense that they will have with Daryl Washington in the lineup.

San Francisco 49ers

Offense: Alex Smith
The best player on the San Francisco 49ers offense is without a doubt Frank Gore. The thing is, San Fran has added running backs in the past two drafts and they now have Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James backing him up.

Alex Smith was not amazing in 2011, but he knew what his role was and he did it fairly well. Second string quarterback Colin Kaepernick probably isn’t capable of filling Smith’s role yet and the 9ers would be in some trouble if Smith went down.

Defense: Justin Smith
There is no doubt that Patrick Willis is the best player on the 49ers defense, but if he goes down to injury (like he did for a few games last year), then they have two solid players backing him up in NaVorro Bowman and Larry Grant.

San Francisco also has some decent second string defensive ends, but none of them would be able to fill the shoes of Justin Smith. Whether he gets to the quarterback or not, he is always finding a way to get under the skin of his opponents. The 49ers do not want to lose him next year.

Seattle Seahawks

Offense: Marshawn Lynch

With a three-way competition at quarterback and some depth at receiver, the only real choice here is Marshawn Lynch. Lynch broke out in 2011 and was a complete monster in the second half of the year. Last season also saw many running backs miss time due to injury. Seattle has no help behind the beast and they are done if he has to miss more than a couple of games.

Defense: Earl Thomas

The Seahawks secondary was a lot better than expected in 2011. Richard Sherman had a solid rookie year while Brandon Browner also stepped up. However, since Lofa Tatupu was let go, the leader of this defensive unit has been Earl Thomas. The 23-year-old already has almost 200 tackles and was named to the Pro Bowl last season. He is a player that will be dominant in this league for a long time if he can stay healthy. 

St. Louis Rams

Offense: Steven Jackson

Despite adding Isaiah Pead in the draft, the Rams still need Steven Jackson to remain healthy. A duo of him and Pead is the only thing that will keep the Rams offense out of the basement in 2012. Jackson has been their offense for a while now and he will continue to be their whole offense until Sam Bradford proves otherwise.

Defense: Cortland Finnegan

I am not a Cortland Finnegan fan by any means, but with what the Rams went through last year in their secondary, they could really use him. By adding Finnegan, Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis actually has a pretty good secondary. If they can stay healthy, then more than two wins is not out of the question in 2012.  

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