Ferdinand was substituted within the opening ten minutes of Saturday's goalless draw at Fulham, and scans have revealed damage to the centre-half's hamstring.
He has therefore joined Titus Bramble and Michael Turner on the long-term injury list, with boss Steve Bruce rapidly running out of options as he prepares for the packed festive period.
It's a big disappointment,
said Bruce. That's three times it's happened to Anton in the first five minutes of a game.
With him out, we're a bit short defensively, but we'll have to deal with it. It seems to hit us all in the one position and at the moment our centre-halves are dropping like flies.
Nedum Onuoha moved from right-back to centre-half to cover for Ferdinand's absence at Craven Cottage, and the Manchester City loanee is expected to start alongside John Mensah when Sunderland entertain Bolton on Saturday.
However, Mensah is unlikely to be able to play four games in 11 days over Christmas and New Year, meaning Bruce could be forced to offer an olive branch to the out-offavour Paulo Da Silva.
Da Silva, linked with a possible January loan move to Spanish side Real Zaragoza, has made just one Premier League appearance all season, and Bruce is understood to harbour reservations about his ability to deal with the hurly-burly of life in England.
He might well be forced to use him before the end of the month though, unless either Bramble or Turner returns ahead of schedule.
In the short term, Da Silva could prove a useful asset. In the long term, however, it is hard to see the Paraguayan having a future at the Stadium of Light.
Despite the absence of a trio of centre-halves on Saturday, he was still unable to force his way into the first-team picture, with Bruce preferring to move Onuoha and introduce Ahmed Elmohamady from the bench.
Da Silva, who has a yearand- a-half of his current deal to run, was a free agent when he arrived from Mexican side Toluca, and Bruce will be keen to move him on in order to free up some room on the Black Cats' wage bill.
However, with a number of Spanish suitors likely to be reluctant to offer him a longterm deal on the same wage structure he currently enjoys on Wearside, a loan deal might be an option.
The same is true of Argentinian full-back Marcos Angeleri, who is still to make his senior debut for the Black Cats.
Angeleri was an unused substitute at the weekend, and Bruce will be willing to listen to offers for his services when the transfer window reopens at the turn of the year.