Need proof that the NFL is a brutal, brutal league? All you need to do is look at the list of injured players after just one week of action. Players should be fresh and healthy coming into the season, but a lot of players – big names – are already out for a few games, or even the whole season in some cases. Here’s a look at some of the bigger names to go down, and the likely impact that the injuries will have for NFL bettors. The important thing with injuries, of course, is not just to determine what the impact will be, but how that will differ from how the public will perceive the significance of the injuries. The bigger the gap between the real impact and the perceived impact, the more value there potentially is to be had.
Kris Jenkins, NT, New York Jets – After recovering from a serious knee injury last year, flirting with retirement, and then renewing his commitment to football and conditioning, Jenkins’ season lasted just six snaps. There’s no question that this is a big blow for the Jets – Jenkins is an elite talent at a key position. Still, it’s not like it was hard to see this one coming – a big guy with a seriously damaged ACL isn’t exactly bulletproof. Given the circus they have created it can be tough to give New York management a lot of credit for long term thinking, but they surely planned for this injury more than other potential ones. I strongly suspect that the impact of this will be overblown by the public.
Ryan Grant, RB and Justin Harrell, DE, Green Pay Packers – I have combined these two together because they are both significant and both scary. Grant has been a reliable and productive back through his career, but he is on the IR with an ankle injury and will miss the year. The Packers were clearly relying on him to fill a big role because they don’t have a lot of depth at the position. A big time replacement will be hard to find, too – the best option was New England’s Maroney, but Denver already snapped him up. Defensively the loss of Harrell – out for the year with a blown ACL – is just as bad. Harrell is a good player in his own right, and with Johnny Jolly already out for the year the Packers have some major depth issues on the defensive line. Neither of these injuries right now are enough to panic about – at least not too much – but the Packers are now just one injury in either position from things being dire. For a team with Super Bowl ambitions these are not two positions you want to have concerns about.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles – Kolb is officially day-to-day with a concussion. He failed his first concussion test on Wednesday, though, so there is a chance that this situation could linger. This is a unique and potentially bad situation for the Eagles. Kolb wasn’t good in his limited play in the opener, but the team has invested a whole lot in him being the starter. If he can’t play and Vick keeps playing like he did in relief on Sunday then there could be a first class QB controversy in Philly, and that’s the last thing this team needs.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions – Stafford has a separated throwing shoulder that hasn’t been duly diagnosed, but which could clearly keep him out of action for a while. That’s unfortunate for Stafford’s development. I think this is a situation, though, where the public could easily overreact. Stafford’s value isn’t significantly higher than that of Shaun Hill right now. Hill is no superstar, and he clearly lacks the upside of Stafford, but he’s older and more experienced, and he has been competent in his playing opportunities. It’s not like the Lions live and die on their passing game right now, anyway.
Bob Sanders, S, Indianapolis Colts – I don’t think a serious injury could be of less of a concern. At his best Sanders is as good as it gets. He hasn’t been at his best for so long, though, that it is hard to remember what he looks like when he is healthy. If the Colts got caught off guard by this injury then they deserve everything that happens to them.
Paul Posluszny, LB, Buffalo Bills – This is another one that could be overblown. Posluszny is perhaps the team’s best defender, and he was an absolute beast against Miami before he was injured. He’ll be missed, but not nearly as much as you might expect because he is so notoriously fragile. He has missed significant time already in his four year career thanks to leg and arm injuries, so the team is too used to coping without him. The more a guy gets injured the less the next injury affects a team, so the Bills should be reasonably fine – which is to say that they won’t be very good, but they weren’t going to be anyway. Besides, the team got lucky – what initially looked like a season ending knee injury is now only expected to keep him out two or three weeks.
Tyson Jackson, DE, Kansas City Chiefs – Jackson suffered a knee injury that should keep him out at least three weeks and could keep him out beyond Kansas City’s bye week. This is one of the more interesting injuries on the board. On one hand the actual impact of the injury isn’t huge because Jackson has been such a disappointment since the Chiefs spent a third overall pick to select him. On the other hand, Jackson’s development – or any hopes of development that there might be – will be negatively impacted by this missed time. He’s working with Romeo Crennel this year for the first time, and there are signs that Crennel is getting through to him. Now he’ll be set back by a few weeks, and it’s not clear how he’ll rebound when he can return.