Injuries Plague NFL Playoff Contenders
By Dan Lagnado
With week 16 now in the books, those teams that have clinched will gear up for their playoff run while several others prepare to attempt a “win and they’re in” game. However quite a few of these teams will be without important players.
The most notable of these teams is the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys may be playing for the NFC East championship without the quarterback. Of course Tony Romo has been heavily criticized by fans of the game for being unable to win important games in December. If the reports of his injuries are correct, Romo might not get the chance to prove them wrong next weekend. The report is that Romo has a herniated disc that will require surgery and so will not play against the Eagles, or beyond if the Cowboys win. Kyle Orton has been Romo’s backup all season but has not started a game since 2011. It is rumored that the team will look to sign another quarterback this week. Notable free agent quarterbacks include former college stars Vince Young, Matt Leinart, JaMarcus Russell and of course, Tim Tebow. There are also some proven veterans who are available such as David Carr, Byron Leftwich, Trent Edwards and Charlie Batch.
Another serious injury inflicted star pass rusher Von Miller of the AFC leading Broncos. Miller tore his ACL early in the game and will be out for the remainder of the season. Miller is one of the league’s most prolific, young, defensive stars and his absence will be felt by an inconsistent Denver defense. However, Denver performed well without Miller early in the season (Miller missed the first six games but Denver was 6-0), however it remains to be seen if the offense can make up for the loss against more talented teams in the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers are fighting not only for a division title but for a possible first round bye. However, they will be doing so without their star wide receiver Steve Smith. Smith strained his PCL in Sunday’s victory over the Saints and has been declared doubtful for the season finale. It is unclear if Smith will miss any time beyond week 17. Smith is a vital part of the offense and a popular option for Cam Newton. If Smith is forced to miss any significant amount of time it could cause problems for the Panther offense.
The New Orleans Saints had one of the worst defenses in NFL history last season. Rob Ryan was brought in and managed to recreate the defense and it has helped the Saints to return to contention. However, young, talented safety Kenny Vaccaro broke his ankle in the loss to Carolina. Vaccaro had over 90 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble, and a sack. Vaccaro had performed at all aspects of the defense and a group that has started to struggle in recent weeks will feel his loss.
And there is the ongoing question of Aaron Rodgers and his collarbone. Rodgers has missed seven games and is still waiting to be cleared to play by the Packers’ medical staff. Rodgers has practiced and has stated that he feels that he could play but team doctors have not cleared him for full football. The Packers will face the Bears with a chance to win the NFC North and if Rodgers is held out again, Matt Flynn will once again be asked to lead the team against a good Bears team with Jay Cutler back in the lineup.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995