It wasn’t the most enjoyable bye week in Patriots history for sure. At 2-8 and all drama from the season basically lost, it was an opportunity to take a peek around the league to try to gauge which teams are contenders, pretenders or something in between.
Unfortunately, in many cases that opportunity never fully materialized thanks to a rash of injuries to key players all across the league.
Week 11 began last Thursday night when the Ravens and Bengals went at it in what was supposed to be an important AFC North clash. But the game fizzled quickly when each team lost one of its best players in the first half, and Cincinnati’s hopes for the season were likely dashed as a result.
Ravens All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews was sent to injured reserve with a cracked fibula and ligament damage to his ankle after being tackled following a catch. Shortly thereafter, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow was wincing in pain due to ligament damage in his right wrist. He also was placed on IR and will be lost for the season.
Losing Burrow obviously figures to have a far greater impact on Cincinnati’s postseason chances as the Bengals sit at 5-5 without their star quarterback, but Andrews’ injury is a huge blow to the 8-3 Ravens as well. Lamar Jackson relies heavily on the tight end, and his absence will force the Ravens to adjust in order to remain in contention in the deep AFC.
Those were just two injuries that have made a significant impact on the season. Starting quarterbacks have been lost in droves, starting with Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles’ tendon tear just four plays into the Jets Monday night opener. In addition to Rodgers and Burrow, a list of starting quarterbacks lost for the season (or at least significant time) includes Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins, Anthony Richardson, Daniel Jones, Justin Fields and Ryan Tannehill. Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo and Derek Carr have also been banged up and missed starts for their respective teams.
Every NFL season is filled with injuries that negatively impact their teams, but the rash of quarterback maladies has been alarming. And the major health problems haven’t been reserved for quarterbacks either. Minnesota wideout Justin Jefferson has missed several games with a hamstring issue. The Ravens lost running back J.K. Dobbins in September to a torn Achilles while Buffalo’s Matt Milano and Tre White, Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, Dallas’ Trevon Diggs, Philly’s Dallas Goedert, the Rams Cooper Kupp as well as the Patriots Matthew Judon all went down with serious injuries and missed large chunks of the season. That’s just a sampling of the big names that have been affected by injury so far this season.
Again, the injuries themselves aren’t anything out of the norm but the amount of health issues that have had serious repercussions across the league definitely seems to be on the rise. That’s what made watching the slate of games during the bye week difficult. Trying to imagine how teams might look down the stretch is difficult with so much key personnel on the mend.
The league is so powerful that it will carry on business as usual as it continues to rack up huge ratings and generate plenty of excitement as the playoffs approach. But the amount of star power lost to injury has been an unfortunate byproduct of the game.