You would have sworn those coming into The Shop Monday were coming directly from a funeral given all the long faces and worse language. It seems like every year, injuries take a toll on NFL teams (and fantasy teams) that ruin seasons. What happened to the Giants wide receiver corps on Sunday is almost unprecedented – a team losing their top four guys in one fell swoop.
But they are far from alone. There isn’t a fantasy owner in The Shop league that hasn’t been impacted – some much worse than others.
We’re only five weeks into the season and the scorecard of injuries has been massive.
Arizona – David Johnson, the first overall pick/most expensive auction player, goes down in Week 1.
Baltimore – Versatile running back/receiver Danny Woodhead goes down in the first quarter of the first game.
Carolina – All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen went down in Week 2 – a crippling injury for those in TE-mandatory leagues.
Chicago – Not only did leading receiver Cam Meredith go down in the preseason, but Kevin White went down again in Week 1.
Cincinnati – Tight end Tyler Eifert hasn’t played since Week 2 and his absence has forced significant changes in the Bengals offense.
Cleveland – Wide receiver Corey Coleman was supposed to revive the passing game, but he’s gone for the year after having hand surgery.
Dallas – Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t missed time but still has a six-game suspension hanging over his head that could come at any time.
Green Bay – Running back Ty Montgomery has missed almost all of the last two games with a rib injury.
Houston – Tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was placed on injured reserve after suffering two concussions in less than a month.
Indianapolis – Andrew Luck has only recently started practicing and still looks a few weeks away from being ready.
Jacksonville – Allen Robinson’s season ended with one reception and a torn left ACL.
Miami – The Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill in the preseason and were forced to sign Jay Cutler out of the broadcast booth, which has showed with his three TD passes in four games and his average of 177 yards a game.
Minnesota – Rookie RB Dalvin Cook was off to an electrifying start before tearing an ACL that cost him his season. In addition, QB Sam Bradford missed three games with what is described as a chronic knee injury.
New England – Julian Edelman was lost for the year in the preseason and it has had a giant ripple effect on how the New England passing game operates.
New York Giants – Odell Beckham Jr. went down for the year and both Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall are dealing with ankle injuries that could sideline them for a while.
Oakland – QB Derek Carr got hurt in Week 4 with a back injury and, as we’ve learned from last season, the Raiders don’t win when Carr is out.
Philadelphia – Running back Darren Sproles was lost for the season in Week 3 with a torn ACL and a broken arm on the same play.
Seattle – Chris Carson looked to be the answer in the muddled backfield, but was lost for the season in Week 4 with a knee injury.
We’re only five weeks into the season and more than half the teams in the NFL have sustained significant injuries – and those are just to offensive fantasy skill position players. How much worse can it get? Stay tuned.
- Carpe diem, New York Jets! It’s the second week of October and you are tied with the New England Patriots. Seize the day while you can, fellas. They can’t take it away from you.
- We may be seeing the ascent of the new young star in the NFL is Philly QB Carson Wentz. Thrown in as a rookie last year when the Eagles traded Sam Bradford 10 days before the start of the season, Wentz was thrown to the wolves and struggled, throwing for 3,782 yards with 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a passer rating of 79.3. At his current pace, Wentz will throw for 4,350 yards with 32 touchdowns, 10 picks and a passer rating of 97.7. He can’t be dismissed as a top end quarterback – fantasy or reality – anymore.
- For those who wondered how Leonard Fournette would adapt to the NFL, he is the only running back in the league who has scored a touchdown in all five weeks of the 2017 season. He was drafted to be a starter (both by the Jaguars and in fantasy leagues), but few could have anticipated he would put himself in the can’t-bench category this soon.
The razor’s edge (R.I.P. Tom Petty edition)
- You Got Lucky – When a team loses a turnover battle by a 5:1 ratio, your team typically gets it booty kicked by 20 or more points. The L.A. Rams had a chance to effectively bury the competition in the NFC, building a two-game lead in the division with wins over Seattle and San Francisco to help cushion their lead. But, despite holding the Seahawks to 2.5 yards a run and under 200 yards passing, despite having five turnovers, the Rams had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. There are times when the better team doesn’t win and Sunday was one of them. I have more respect for the Rams now than I did before the game because they have shown that they have the talent to win even when the breaks don’t go their way.
- Time to Move On – Two teams that were dependent on two of their top stars saw both go down for the season Sunday, as an ankle injury to Odell Beckham Jr. and a knee injury to J.J. Watt has struck near-death blows to their respective teams. For Beckham, it has been a rallying cry to get accomplished young players paid sooner than later. For Watt, it is the second time in as many years as his season has ended almost before it could begin. With him being placed on season-ending injured reserve, after playing all 16 games in his first five seasons, he will have played just seven in the last two years – putting into question his future dominance. For both teams, it may be a death sentence – definitely the Giants and probably the Texans.
- The Waiting – The Cleveland Browns had won just two of their previous 32 games to tie the all-time record of modern-era futility, but there were signs of progress Sunday against the team many thought they would be battling for the first pick of next year’s draft – the New York Jets. For one, with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter, the Browns had the lead – the first time in five games this season they could say that. But, it only lasted five minutes, they benched DeShone Kizer and dropped their current streak of 33 games to 2-31, solidifying the malaise in Cleveland that never seems to stop.
- Breakdown – The Oakland Raiders were projected by many to be the biggest stumbling block from preventing the New England Patriots from representing the AFC again in the Super Bowl, but after starting out 2-0 and outscoring their opponents 71-36, the Raiders have dropped three straight games – the most recent being a humbling 30-17 home loss to the Ravens. Baltimore scored the first three times it had the ball and once when it didn’t, opening up a 21-3 over the Raiders early in the second quarter and never looking back. The Raiders seemingly can’t win with Derek Carr, who has been injured twice in the last seven games and Oakland lost all four games he either didn’t play in or didn’t finish. They’re not dead at 2-3, but the plane is heading in the wrong direction – like locating the Black Box wrong direction.
- Don’t Do Me Like That – Every time you start to believe in the Detroit Lions that they’re ready to turn a corner and be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they do something that reminds you that they’re not. If you just look at the box score, you say to yourself that a 27-24 loss to the Panthers isn’t a bad thing. But, the reality is that Cam Newton dominated the Lions, scoring 24 unanswered points before Detroit score a couple of garbage time touchdowns at the end of the game to turn a 27-10 deficit into a 27-24 loss. The Lions have lost two games at home to NFC South teams that could have been defining games for the franchise. As it turns out, they have been, but not the kind of defining they were looking for.
- You Don’t Know How It Feels – The Arizona Cardinals have been trying to live off past success for some time now. Even with a veteran QB, a Hall of Fame receiver and the best young running back in the league, the Cardinals couldn’t string together more than two wins over the last two seasons – finishing with a losing record last year and getting off to a 2-3 start this season without David Johnson. In their last four games, Arizona has scored 16, 17, 18 and 7 points and have just seven offensive touchdowns in five games. Making matters worse, their two wins have come by three points against Indianapolis and San Francisco – two teams that have won just once when they aren’t playing each other – and their three losses have come by 12, 11 and 27 points. Getting done by the Eagles was the latest in a growing list of disappointments for a team whose window to win with this core group is closing fast.
- Even the Losers – It had been almost a decade since Ben Roethlisberger had thrown a Pick-6. He threw two of them Sunday, part of a five-interception performance in a humbling 30-9 home loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers aren’t hitting the panic button yet – nor should they – but Big Ben has been pretty brutal all season. Despite a dearth of offensive talent, he has just six touchdowns in five games and has losses to Chicago and Jacksonville that most people felt were almost sure victories. Keeping in mind that the Steelers struggled to put away the Browns, who everybody beats, by a 21-18 score in Week 1, the Steelers don’t have the swagger they came into the season with. Pittsburgh has too much talent to just fall off the table, but their start to the season, especially on offense in general and Roethlisberger in particular, has to be a legitimate reason for concern.
- Breakdown – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to stake a claim to the top spot in the NFC South and, after having their Week 1 game postponed because of Hurricane Irma, came out very strong in their Week 1 body slam of the Bears. But, in the last weeks, they have been pushed around by Minnesota and New England and barely squeaked out a 25-23 win over the hapless Giants as time expired to prevent a three-game skid. The Bucs aren’t going away completely – they have too much talent for that – but with Carolina at 4-1 and Atlanta at 3-1, if they have legitimate playoff aspirations, they can’t fall too far back because, as things currently stand, the tie-breakers have them in last place in the NFC’s toughest division and fourth-place teams can’t make the playoffs regardless of their record.
- Yer So Bad – The Giants were viewed by almost everyone as legitimate contenders for the NFC East despite not having a running game to speak of. They had as deep a receiving corps as Eli Manning had ever had in his career – from perennial Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. to veteran Brandon Marshall to budding star Sterling Shepard to playmaking rookie tight end Evan Engram. In the span of one series, Marshall and Shepard both left with ankle injuries that look to be serious enough to keep them sidelined for a while and OBJ was lost for the season with a fractured left ankle. Even reserve wide receiver/special teams ace Dwayne Harris was hurt Sunday – lost for the season with a broken foot. The Giants are 0-5, hopeless mired out of playoff contention and now this? We all thought a team from New York was going to lose 12 or more games, but we didn’t think it would be the Giants, who are currently three games behind the Jets in the standings.
- Free Fallin’ – The Cowboys lost just three games last year and were looking to finish their business this season. Through five games, Dallas has already matched its loss total for all of 2016, but even more troubling is how they’ve fallen to 2-3 on the season. At home against the Rams last week, Dallas built a 17-6 lead early in the second quarter and seemed well on their way to turning the Cinderella Rams into a pumpkin. Instead, Los Angeles scored nine times on 11 possessions for a 35-30 win. On Sunday, Dallas built a 21-6 second-quarter lead over Green Bay and looked dominant. But, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to four scoring drives (three touchdowns and one field goal) on the last five times they had the ball for a 35-31 win. Throw in their blowout loss to Denver, the Cowboys don’t have the look of a team ready to get the Super Bowl. At this point, they don’t look as though they can beat a legitimate playoff team.