02 Sep Key Preseason Injuries that Change the Playoff Picture
Four Key Preseason Injuries that Change the Playoff Picture
This preseason has been filled with many key injuries (no not just to the Chargers) that may affect some teams originally game plans and possibly their shot at a successful season. Since we do not want to list all of the NFL’s preseason injuries here, we want to highlight some of the key injuries that will surely impact a team’s performance this season:
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Edelman has been one of the most consistent players for New England over the past few seasons. He is easily Tom Brady’s favorite target, as he has caught more first down passes than anyone else on the team by a wide margin the past few seasons. The real test will be on 3rd down and long situations, as Brady will no longer have his trusted safety net to rely upon. The good news for New England is that they are probably the most prepared team for an offensive injury in the league, as their depth chart is especially deep this season. With the addition of Brandin Cooks alongside Hogan, Amendola, Mitchell at WR and Gronk and newcomer Dwayne Allen at TE, Brady will surely have others to target to make up the yardage. However, trust is a hard thing to develop quickly, and Brady and Edelman had the kind of on-the-field and off-the-field bromance that just cannot be replaced instantly. Edelman also brought and intensity and leadership trait to the team that will surely be missed, and will force someone else to step up and take over the gauntlet.
George Fant, OT, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle has struggled the past couple of seasons on the offensive line. ProFootballFocus had already ranked Seattle’s OL as dead last heading into the 2017 season, and losing Fant will not help their chances at protecting in the running or passing game. The 2nd year tackle had his struggles as a rookie, but had gained some weight and shows signs of improvement heading into training camp for season 2. They were ranked last in snap-adjusted run blocking and snap-adjusted pass blocking, and with Russell Wilson trying to get back to full strength from a lingering leg injury in 2016 this will not help his cause. They also don’t have the bruiser at RB like Marshawn Lynch a couple years ago, and even though Eddie Lacy should help Prosise and Rawls in the backfield they surely can’t be expected to overcome a depleted OL. If Seattle is not able to acquire a new player at tackle or other areas of the OL, their offense may be in for a long season.
Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
There have already been questions about “lackluster” Alex Smith and if he is enough of a weapon to carry Kansas City’s offense in 2017. Spencer Ware figured to factor into the offensive production in 2017, and his loss will surely be felt this season. He led the team last season with 921 rushing yards with no other player on the team eclipsing 300 yards. Ware also had an impact in the passing game as well, as he had the 5th most receptions on KC and 5th most receiving yards at 447. In a wide open AFC West division the thought by most was that KC would be able to challenge Oakland for the division title after a 12-4 season in 2016. However, the Ware injury will surely be felt and may not only give Oakland an easy shot at the division title, but also may leave KC staring from the outside at the playoff picture.
Anthony Hitchens, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has an amazing season in 2016 with the emergence of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott in their offense. However, their defense has still been their Achilles heel and losing Hitchens for any significant time at the middle linebacker position may really impact an already depleted front seven. Sean Lee can still make an impact at LB as shown by having the most tackles on the team in 2016, but losing Hitchens alongside him will add more pressure as he was 4th on the team in tackles. Despite Dallas falling in the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of yards allowed, they were successful at limiting points allowed as they ranked 5th in the NFL. That was a big reason that the team was able to pull off a 12-4 season, and now without Hitchens for at least 8 weeks it’s hard to imagine replicating that type of success. Their first 6 games (likely without Elliott and Hitchens) are home against the New York Giants, LA Rams, and Green Bay and on the road against Denver, Arizona, and San Francisco. It’s easy to see how this team could start out slow out of the gate without some of their star talent on both sides of the ball, and this may lead to a big decline in Dallas’ overall standings this upcoming season.