Cruel 2011 NFL Injuries down the stretch

Joe Gibbs once said that it is not the best team that wins the Super Bowl, but the best healthiest team.

Injuries are always a part of football, but this 2011 season has seen some devastating injuries to teams that appeared to be cruising toward the playoffs. The sad part for those who root for underdogs is that several of these teams were franchises that have suffered for a long time and finally appeared to have light at the end of the tunnel before injuries kicked in.

Indianapolis Colts–This might be the biggest injury in the history of football in terms of impact. The Colts had several straight seasons of going at least 12-4. Then Peyton Manning was slow to recover from offseason neck surgery and would be out for most if not all of the season. They brought Kerry Collins out of retirement, and he got knocked out with a concussion. Curtis Painter has played so badly that the team is considering Dan Orlovsky, who was on the 2008 Detroit team that went 0-16. The 2011 Colts are 0-10.

The Houston Texans have never been to the playoffs, and Bob McNair has stuck with Gary Kubiak. This was finally the year they were going to break through, especially with Tennessee firing their quarterback and longtime head coach and Indianapolis losing Peyton Manning for the year. Several weeks in they lost Andre Johnson and now Matt Schaub is out for the year. The Texans are 7-3 but forced to start Matt Leinart. Life, like football, is so unfair.

The Kansas City Chiefs began 0-3 and clawed their way back to the edge of even with a 4-5 record and a game on Monday Night Football. Yet before that game Matt Cassel was injured, and he is now out for the year. Tyler Palko made his first NFL start and the Chiefs lost by 31 points. The Chiefs claimed Kyle Orton off of waivers but Palko will start again on Sunday Night Football. Kansas City has a brutal schedule down the stretch, and no Cassel is a killer. Also, early in the season they lost Jamal Charles to the freakiest injury in recent years as he was injured out of bounds stepping awkwardly on the first down marker.

The Chicago Bears had won 5 straight games and Jay Cutler was fantastic in that stretch. Yet last week in the fourth quarter of a game the Bears were winning, Cutler tried to tackle a defender after an interception and wound up breaking his hand. Cutler is out for the year as the 7-3 Bears turn to Caleb Hanie. Hanie has never started an NFL game, but he played well when Cutler was injured in last year’s NFC Title Game.

The Detroit Lions are another team in playoff contention who is hurting at a key position. The key to the Lions is a healthy Mattthew Stafford. He needs a balanced attack, but he will now be without Jahvid Best for the rest of the year due to concussion. Mr Best’s situation is so severe that he may never play football again. He has had concussion problems in the past. The Lions lost badly on Thanksgiving to drop to 7-4. They started 5-0 but are barely hanging on right now without an adequate running game.

The Buffalo Bills started 3-0 but have struggled and are now 5-5. Just when they need a ground game the most, Fred Jackson has gone down. He has been fantastic this season, and now the Bills are in a desperate situation.

The team that has probably been the most devastated by injuries is the Oakland Raiders. The 2-2 team started with the death of their owner Al Davis. Emotion carried them to 4-2, but in that 6th game Jason Campbell broke his clavicle and was lost for the year. Hue Jackson went out and immediately got Carson Palmer. Yet the Raiders have also been playing without Darren McFadden, with Michael Bush replacing him. They have not had Jacoby Ford. Darrius Heyward-Bey got hurt and did not return last week. All of those players are expected to return, and the Raiders lost a pair of games at home before winning consecutive road games to get to 6-4. The win last week was against a 2-8 Minnesota team that just lost Adrian Peterson for the year. The Raiders lead the AFC West by one game but are running out of bodies.

Hue Jackson keeps saying that there are no excuses, and those complaining should look to the 2010 Packers. They lost 15 players to injuries, including Ryan Grant in the season opener. They won it all, but some should remember that Aaron Rodgers stayed healthy, and Mike McCarthy is pass happy anyway.

Then again, look at the 1999 Rams. Trent Green went down in the preseason and some former grocery bagger named Kurt Warner replaced him and created the Greatest Show on Turf.

Yet the 1999 Rams are not the whole story. Again, look at the 2011 Colts.

For football fans everywhere, just pray for the health of your players. A Super Bowl could be riding on it.


Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions

Miami Dolphins @ Dallas Cowboys

San Francisco 49ers @ Baltimore Ravens

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

(Falcons by 9 1/2, they cover)

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals

(Bengals by 7 1/2, they cover)

Carolina Panthers @ Indianapolis Colts

(Panthers by 3 1/2, Colts win outright)

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Tennessee Titans

(Titans by 3 1/2, they cover)

Chicago Bears @ Oakland Raiders

(Raiders by 3 1/2, they win but fail to cover)

Washington Redskins @ Seattle Seahawks

(Seahawks by 3 1/2, they win but fail to cover)

New England Patriots @ Philadelphia Eagles

(Patriots by 3 1/2, they cover)

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers

(Chargers by 5 1/2, they win but fail to cover)

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs is the Sunday night game.

(Steelers by 10 1/2, they win but fail to cover)

New York GIants @ New Orleans is the Monday night game.

(Saints by 7, they win but fail to cover)


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