NFC North Injury Epidemic

NFC North Injury Epidemic

At this time of the year, virtually every fan from each NFL team is bemoaning how injuries have been hurting their team this season. But, the cries of pain have been loudest in the midwest. And, those howls are perfectly justified as each NFC North team has dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries.

ESPN Insider (subscription needed) recently ranked the top five teams most affected by injuries. Kevin Seifert wrote that his list was a subjective attempt, “to connect team weaknesses to the personnel losses they’ve suffered.”

Topping his list is:

1. Minnesota Vikings

In a post back in August, after visiting the Vikings training camp for two days, I wrote that the Vikings were ready to make their first Super Bowl appearance since 1976. Unfortunately, injuries have stopped that. Seifert writes, “It’s remarkable the Vikings have won six games after losing their quarterback in August, their best player in Week 2 and both starting offensive tackles by Week 4.”

When Teddy Bridgewater went down with a non-contact knee injury in preseason so did the Vikings. Yes, they won their first five games of the season, but that was a testament to their excellent defensive coaching. defensive players and the adrenaline of high expectations and a new state-of-the-art stadium. Seifert rightly points out that the Bridgewater injury will impact the team for years. First, he may not be ready to play a full season next year. Secondly, in an effort to meet their Super Bowl expectations, the team had to sacrifice next year’s first round draft pick to replace Bridgewater.

Adrian Peterson’s absence since week two has dramatically affected the running game which is on pace to have the worst rushing yards per attempt average in the Super Bowl era. The offensive line lost both starting offensive tackles, Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, and this after Phil Loadholt retired in preseason because his battered body could not continue.

The Vikings injury list doesn’t end with the aforementioned players, but their Super Bowl hopes did when those athletes went down.

2. Green Bay Packers

The Packers went through a horrible four game losing streak that pushed them back to third place when running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks became injured. An ankle ailment ended tailback Eddie Lacy’s season after five games, and backup James Starks suffered a knee injury the previous week. Starks is back, but his production isn’t. The 30 year old looks done. Lacy was on track to have his beast season since his rookie year.

Injuries (and lack of quality depth) have deadened the Packers run game as Seifert writes, “… the Packers have by far the NFL’s fewest rushing attempts (163), yards (615) and touchdowns by running backs (one) this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, leads the league in dropbacks (502).”

On defense the Packers defensive backfield has been shorthanded all season. Number one cornerback Sam Shields has been suffering from concussion aftershocks since game one and his career may be in peril. Number two and three corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins (both groin injuries) missed a combined total of eight games and as a result the Packers defense allowed 153 points over their four game losing streak. “Since Week 6, a period when all three corners missed time, the Packers have allowed the NFL’s highest opposing QBR (76.4). They are 2-5 in that span,” writes Seifert.

3. Chicago Bears

16 players have been placed on the Bears Injury Reserve list, the most be any NFL team. Coming into the season, the Bears were expected to improve on their 6 win season from 2015 primarily because of improvements made to the defense. But, Seifert writes, “Defensively, the Bears are missing some of their primary playmakers. Cornerback Kyle Fuller (knee) hasn’t played yet, although he has returned to practice. Defensive end Lamarr Houston (knee) was lost in Week 2, and linebacker Danny Trevathan is questionable for the start of 2017 after tearing his patellar tendon.”

On offense the news is even worse beginning with the team’s stating quarterback, Jay Cutler; 2015 No. 1 draft pick, wide receiver Kevin White; and multiple injuries throughout the offensive line. Critics of the Bears will contend the team was headed to mediocrity anyway, but when you look at the individual talent affected by injures (Pro Bowl guards Josh Sitton and Kyler Long to name two) it’s fair to think the Bears could have achieved a nine-win season.

Detroit Lions

The Lions did not make Seifert’s list (again, he only listed his top-five), but he likely would have found a spot in his next five. The Lions sorry run game was greatly affected by the loss of Ameer Abdullah early in week two. The second-year player was averaging 5.6 yards per carry and was a dual threat having caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in week one. Also lost in the week two game was Ezekiel Ansah who had 14.5 sacks in 2015, third in the league. The defensive end missed almost all of game two and games three through five with an ankle injury. Since his return he’s not looked himself and has still to record a sack.

DeAndre Levy the team’s leading tackler in 2014 has been injury riddled since then and has yet to take the field. Tight end Eric Ebron has battled injuries since the preseason and has missed three  games. He was showing signs of finally becoming the big playmaking tight end everyone expected he’d be when he was drafted 10th in the 2014 draft.

The Lions are allowed to cry, too.

[graphiq id=”9WUvOiFIjZz” title=”NFC North Standings” width=”640″ height=”406″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/9WUvOiFIjZz” ]

 

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.



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