Injury Bug in NFL through Week 6


Canva/Jacob Gollin

During the first half of the 2020 season, the number of players that had to be taken out of games rose 16% from the 2017-19 average

Injury Bug in NFL through Week 6

During the first half of the 2020 season, the number of players that had to be taken out of games rose 16% from the 2017-19 average. In total, there were almost 300 players placed on the injury reserve list. Star players like Giants running back Saquon Barkley, 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa, and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott all suffered season-ending injuries early in the year. Following the trend of the previous season, the first six weeks of the new league season has brought with it several important injuries. Here is a look at how the injury bug is hitting all 32 teams:


Arizona Cardinals: Coming into 2021, Arizona’s high powered offense, featuring star quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, was expected to light up the NFL. Throughout the first six weeks, the Cardinals have lived up to the hype, starting 6-0, which they can partially thank the injury department for. So far, the Cardinal’s biggest loss is 2x Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, who was placed on the COVID-19 IR on October 17th. Jones has five sacks and two forced fumbles already this season. He is not expected to be on the COVID list for a while, but in the meantime, Arizona will have to fill the hole left by their best defensive player. 


Atlanta Falcons: Unfortunately for Atlanta, it looks like they are in for a long rebuild. This new-look Falcons team (one without longtime franchise face Julio Jones) has started off the season 2-3, with wins over two poor teams. On the bright side, the Falcons don’t have much to report on in terms of injuries. Starting cornerback Isiah Oliver was lost for the year after injuring his knee during a loss to the Washington Football Team. The 4th year pro ends 2021 with 11 tackles and a forced fumble.


Baltimore Ravens: While expectations were high for the Ravens, the number of injuries certainly has added a challenge. Before the season even kicked off, the Ravens lost their top three running backs in J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. Due to this, the Ravens signed veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, and Le’Veon Bell. Aside from the running backs, Baltimore lost 2x First-Team All-Pro Marcus Peters in the offseason. Now, the Ravens will be without Ronnie Stanley, one of the game’s premier left tackles. This Baltimore roster is talented enough to win a Super Bowl, but they need to stay healthy.


Buffalo Bills: After seeing Josh Allen blossom in his third professional season, the Buffalo Bills came into the season as one of the favorites to take home the Lombardi Trophy. Currently, they hold the top spot in the AFC East through Week Six. Injuries have been sparse for the Bills with the only big injured player being Dawson Knox. The Ole Miss product was proving to be one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league before he broke his hand against the Titans. He had surgery on it and shouldn’t be out long.


Carolina Panthers: The name Carolina Panthers is synonymous with one player: Christian McCaffrey. As one of the game’s biggest home-run threats, McCaffrey can break a big play anytime the ball is in his hands. He has to be on the field to do so though, which has proven to be a problem over the past two seasons. In 2020, the two-time All-Pro only played in three games after suffering a high ankle sprain and shoulder injury. Hopes were high for the electric running back coming into 2021, but McCaffrey suffered a hamstring injury during a Week Three win over the Texans which has kept him out ever since. Rookie fourth-round pick Chuba Hubbard has stepped in to fill McCaffrey’s place but hasn’t provided the spark that McCaffrey brings to the offense. 


Chicago Bears: During the offseason, Chicago decided not to bring back quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. To fill his spot, the Bears went out and signed veteran Andy Dalton and traded up to draft Justin Fields. They hoped that the rookie from Ohio State would not be forced into action too early, but a knee injury to Dalton during Week Two did just that. Fields has looked like a rookie with some highlight moments, but lots of mistakes. The Bears running back core has been hit hard by injuries. Starter David Montgomery is expected to miss a month after hurting his knee and backup Damien Williams missed the Bears Week Six game against the Packers due to COVID. Rookie sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert has been named the starting running back for the time being.


Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. They are currently 4-2, matching their win total from 2020. Cincinnati can thank second-year quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie JaMarr Chase for this sudden turnaround. The two won a National Championship together at LSU and look like they haven’t lost a step. Burrow is coming off of a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, so it wasn’t guaranteed he’d look this good. The Bengals have been pretty fortunate on the injury front. Rookie linebacker Joseph Ossai is likely to be done for the year after having surgery on his meniscus before the season. Other than that, the Bengals have kept their key players healthy.


Cleveland Browns: With skilled players on both sides of the ball, the Browns came into the season with aspirations of winning a Super Bowl. On paper, these dreams don’t seem foolish as the Browns roster rivals any teams in the NFL. The only problem has been major injuries. Star running back Nick Chubb has missed back-to-back games with a calf injury and Kareem Hunt, who shares the backfield with Chubb, was put on IR after injuring his calf too. Furthermore, former first overall pick and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield tore his labrum and fractured his humerus. Mayfield is trying to tough it out for the rest of the season, but was pronounced out of Cleveland’s Week Seven game against the Broncos. Former pro bowlers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landy have also missed games due to injuries. Hopefully, the Browns can get healthy because they are extremely fun to watch at full strength.


Dallas Cowboys: Like Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow, Dallas’s Dak Prescott has not shown any regression following a serious injury during the 2020 season. Coming off a compound right ankle fracture, all the Mississippi State product has done is throw for over 1,800 yards and sixteen touchdowns in the beginning stages of the season. While most of the offense is healthy, Prescott is without Michael Gallup right now. The wide receiver is expected to return in Week Eight. On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys have one of the best young defenses in the league. Improbably, second-year breakout star Trevon Diggs has recorded an interception in each of the first six weeks. He has a total of seven interceptions. The Cowboys front seven are without their best player in DeMarcus Lawrence. The two-time pro-bowler is expected to be out until Week Ten as he rehabs a broken foot. With a healthy team, this Cowboys team should run away with an NFC East title.


Denver Broncos: The only thing that is Mile High in Denver right now is the injury list. In their first game against the Giants, former Crimson Tide star and 2nd-year wide receiver Jerry Jeudy suffered a high ankle sprain. He can come off the IR list after Week Seven. Another 2nd-year receiver, KJ Hamler, tore his ACL in a Week Three win over the Jets and is out for the year. Moving over to the defense, star defensive end Bradley Chubb was put on to the IR due to a bone spur in his ankle. Like Jeudy, he can return after Week Seven. Currently, Denver is on a three-game skid. They need their key players to return soon or they are in trouble.


Detroit Lions: To be frank, the Lions are one of the NFL’s worst teams. At 0-6, they would need a miracle to turn their season around. For this to happen, Detroit needs some luck. So far in this young season, they have not caught a break. After losing receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones in free agency, the Lions started the year with one of the weakest receiving corps in football. Their corp has only gotten weaker as Quintez Cephus is likely out for the season with a broken collarbone and Tyrell Williams is on the IR with a concussion. Detroit’s best player, center Frank Ragnow, is also out for the year after having toe surgery. Detriot fans are in for a rough ride.


Green Bay Packers: This offseason, drama ensued in Wisconsin after defending MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers publicly stated his unhappiness towards the franchise. For a short while, it looked like Rodgers would no longer be playing at Lambo, but the Packers were able to restructure his contract. Nevertheless, this will be Rodgers last dance with the Packers. As a gift, Rodgers has been presented the challenge of carrying an injury-riddled team to the playoffs. Prior to the start of the season, first-team All-Pro tackle David Bakhtiari was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list. It looks like Bakhtiari is close to returning to practice. The defense has also suffered huge losses. Lockdown corner Jaire Alexander suffered an AC Joint injury in his right shoulder and cannot return until Week Eight. Pro-bowler Za’Darius Smith is out until at least Week Fourteen with back injuries. He’s only played eighteen snaps this season. The NFL would be naive to count out Rodgers and the Packers, but they are much more dangerous at full force.


Houston Texans: The biggest loss that the Texans suffered this season was not due to an injury. As of right now, three-time pro-bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing 22 civil suits alleging sexual assault. While the league has not suspended Watson, he is out indefinitely. Houston signed veteran Tyrod Taylor to take Watson’s place, but he injured his hamstring in Week Two. He is expected to return in Week Eight. Rookie third-round pick Davis Mills is currently under center for the Texans. Aside from the quarterback fiasco, Houston lost star offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil to a torn UCL in his left thumb. He is out until Week Eleven. The Texans are 1-5 and not very good, so not much is expected to change when these players return.


Indianapolis Colts: The Colts are going into Week Seven with a record of 2-4. Newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz has played fine, but he’s been at a disadvantage since his best offensive lineman, Quenton Nelson, has been on IR since Week Three. Luckily, Nelson is set to return this week against the Titans. This is a huge boost for the Colts as Nelson has made an All-Pro team in three of his four years in the NFL. Before Sunday’s game against the Titans, starting free safety Julian Blackmon tore his Achilles and is out for the season. The second-year pro is a vital piece of the Colts secondary, so this loss is a huge blow. Blackmon finishes the season with 34 tackles and a forced fumble.


Jacksonville Jaguars: In this year’s draft, the Jaguars had the first pick and took Clemson’s superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence. They also had the 25th pick and once again picked a player from Clemson, this time running back Travis Etienne. The rookie was expected to split carries with James Robinson, but he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his left foot during the preseason. Later, the offense was dealt another blow when top receiver D.J. Chark was lost for the season after breaking his foot in a Week Four loss to the Bengals. Aside from these two injuries, Jacksonville has stayed relatively healthy and will look to build on a Week Six win over the Dolphins.


Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have not looked like their normal selves in 2021. After dominating the AFC for the previous two seasons, the Chiefs are 3-3, putting them near the bottom of the AFC West. Fortunately, not all is bad in the Red Kingdom. The only major injury that Kansas City has been handed occurred during Week Five when running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire sprained his MCL. He was placed on IR and is expected to return in Week Nine. While Kansas City waits to get their leading rusher back, Darrel Williams will be the starter. 


Las Vegas Raiders: No Jon Gruden, no problem. At least that’s what Las Vegas showed in a gritty Week Six win over the Broncos to improve their record to 4-2. Minus their head coach, the Raiders are also without  Trayvon Mullen, one of the best press corners in the league. He is set to return from the IR in Week Nine. In good news, Vegas is expected to get back guard Richie Incognito this week. This gives quarterback Derek Carr some added protection. With a mostly healthy team, the Raiders look to just keep winning baby.


Los Angeles Chargers: After a historically great rookie season which was capped off by Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, expectations were sky-high for quarterback Justin Herbert. The Oregon product has not disappointed so far. He has thrown for 1,771 yards, good for 6th best in the NFL, and 14 touchdowns. As if things could not get better for the 4-2 Chargers, they are expected to get veteran tackle Bryan Bulaga back from the IR in Week Eight. Beluga has not played since Week One due to a back injury. They will also be getting linebacker Kenneth Murray back from IR in Week Eight. Murray was a first-round pick in 2020 and should help bolster a Chargers defense that already features Joey Bosa and Derwin James.


Los Angeles Rams: The Rams made the splash of the offseason when they traded quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick to the Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. As of Week Six, the Rams look like the winners of that trade as they are the team to beat in the NFC. They hold a 5-1 record and knocked off the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Week Three matchup. During training camp, lead back Cam Akers tore his Achilles. Darrell Henderson has done a nice job replacing Akers. He has rushed for 372 yards to go along with five total touchdowns. Other than that, the Rams are healthy and look like they have a good chance to reach the Super Bowl for the second time in Sean McVay’s time as head coach.


Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL. After finishing with a 10-6 record and narrowly missing the playoffs, it was thought that this young Miami team could be a wild card contender in 2021. Brian Flores’s team has played sloppy football though, resulting in an ugly 1-5 record. Some of the blame can be put on the injury to starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who fractured his ribs in Week Two. With Tua out, the Dolphins turned to backup Jacoby Brissett. He led the team to three losses. Tagovailoa returned from the IR in Week Six, but had an underwhelming performance against the Jaguars. Also, big free-agent signing Will Fuller has only played in two games this season. He only recorded four catches for 26 yards before breaking his finger in Week Four. Fuller is expected to return in Week Eight. It will be interesting to see if Miami can turn things around.


Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have been one of the least injured teams in the NFL through six weeks. Superstar running back Dalvin Cook has been dealing with a lingering right ankle sprain which kept him out Weeks Three and Five. The former Seminole had a huge Week Six game against the Panthers, so it looks like he is fine. Cook, who is playing in his sixth season, has yet to play in all sixteen (seventeen now) games. Other than Cook’s injury, the only other noteworthy loss is veteran corner Patrick Peterson. He injured his hamstring in Week Six and was placed on IR. Peterson is expected to return in Week Eleven.


New England Patriots: Life without Tom Brady did not treat the Patriots well in 2020. After having their playoff streak (11 straight appearances) snapped, the Patriots selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Though the fifth quarterback selected, Jones has looked like the most pro-ready rookie. It helps that the Patriots have avoided many serious injuries. The biggest blow was losing pass-catching back James White for the season due to a hip injury in Week Three. Veteran Brandon Bolden has taken over White’s role. New England currently sits 2-4.


New Orleans Saints: After future Hall of Famer Drew Brees’s retirement, the question of who would fill in the quarterback’s shoes arose. The answer turns out to be the first pick of the 2015 draft, Jameis Winston. “Famous Jameis” backed Brees’s up in 2020 following a tumultuous run in Tampa Bay. Winston lit up the Packers defense in Week One, but has not looked the same since then. Winston may be in luck though because 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas is expected to be activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list before Week Eight. The star pass-catcher immediately gives Winston a reliable target. New Orleans special teams will also get a boost as pro-bowl kicker Wil Lutz was activated off of IR and is set to play his first game of the season on Sunday. The Saints are 3-2 right now and if they can weather the storm for a little longer, they could see success in the near future.


New York Giants: The Giants are a complete mess. Poor decisions from an incompetent front office have led to a dismal display of football over recent years. Since 2017, the Giants record is 19-51, the worst in the league over that period of time. Nothing seems to be changing in 2021 as the Giants are 1-5 and cannot keep their players on the field. In Week Three, linebacker Blake Martinez was lost for the season after tearing his ACL. Martinez led the Giants in tackles in 2020. Their top three wide receivers, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton, have all missed games due to various injuries. To make matters worse, first-round pick Kadarius Toney had to be removed from Week Six’s game after only playing one offensive series due to a right ankle injury. Toney is doubtful to play in Week Seven. Their most skilled player, running back Saquon Barkley, has been forced to miss time with an ankle injury as well. There is no timeline for his return. It may be time to clean house in New York if the Giants continue to play ugly football.


New York Jets: At the moment, the most competitive competition in New York sports is who is worse: the Jets or the Giants? Like their neighbors at the Meadowlands, the Jets have a 1-5 record and are playing hideous football. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson has shown potential, but he has made plenty of poor decisions. It does not help that his best offensive lineman, Mehki Becton, has been out since Week One. He is expected to play this week. On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets lost free-agent acquisition, Carl Lawson, to a ruptured Achilles in training camp. Lawson will have to wait until next season to put on a Jets jersey. 


Philadelphia Eagles: In the offseason, the Eagles traded away Carson Wentz. Now Philadelphia is in the Jalen Hurts Era. Hurts has not been particularly great this season, but he has done enough to lead the Eagles to two wins. The Eagles biggest season-ending injury occurred in Week Two when defensive end Brandon Graham ruptured his Achilles. Not only is Graham known for making plays at crucial times, but he is also one of the leaders in the Philadelphia locker room. The Eagles have also been playing without three-time pro-bowl guard Brandon Brooks. He strained his pectoral muscle in Week Two and is not expected to return until Week Ten. 


Pittsburgh Steelers: As bottom dwellers of the AFC North, the Steelers need to pick it up if they want to get Big Ben one more ring. As of week six, the Steelers biggest loss is Juju Smith-Schuster. The wide receiver dislocated his shoulder in a win over the Broncos in Week Five and had season-ending surgery soon after. The Steelers are also without defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt, who had eleven sacks in 2020. Tuitt is expected to return in Week Eight. With Tuitt back soon, the Steelers defense, which has playmakers like T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick on it, is going to be scary good.


San Francisco 49ers: Following a 2-0 start to the season, the 49ers have found themselves in the middle of a three-game losing streak. One of the major problems with this talented team is the number of injured players. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missed Week Five after suffering a calf injury in a loss against the Seahawks. Garoppolo is expected to play in Week Seven’s game against the Colts. Star tight end George Kittle was placed on IR after he too injured his calf. Kittle cannot return until Week Nine as he was placed on the IR. Other than these big injuries, the 49ers have been picked apart by smaller injuries, which is reflected by their 2-3 record.


Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks may have the NFL’s biggest injury up to this point in the season. During Week Five’s loss to the Rams, superstar quarterback Russell Wilson injured his right middle finger. He was placed on the IR and is expected to return in Week Ten. Wilson’s backup, Geno Smith, is in charge of the offense now. While Smith is talented, he is nowhere near the quarterback that Wilson is. The Seahawks also placed their lead back, Chris Carson, on IR with a neck injury. Like Wilson, Carson is expected back in Week Ten. If Smith can keep the team afloat for four more weeks, they have a chance to make the playoffs.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: After signing Tom Brady and promptly winning a Super Bowl, the Buccaneers came into the season as heavy favorites to go back to the Super Bowl and possibly repeat. While the offense is firing on all cylinders, the defense is having some trouble staying healthy. Starting corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis both hit the IR earlier in the season. Murphy-Bunting is expected to be back this week and Davis next week. Tampa Bay is still 5-1, so nothing seems to be too bad right now, but it is something to keep an eye on.


Tennessee Titans: Tennessee is currently sitting atop the AFC South with a record of 4-2. Most of their success can be summed up by one name: Derrick Henry. Keeping Henry healthy for the rest of the season is going to be vital for the Titans if they want to make a deep playoff run. Injuries have not been too serious in Tennessee. Wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones both have dealt with small injuries that caused them to miss some time, but they both suited up in Week Six against the Bills. Rookie first-round corner Caleb Farley tore his ACL in Week Six and will miss the rest of the season. Another corner, Kristian Fulton, is expected to be back Week Eight after he recovers from a hamstring injury. Tennessee is a fun team to watch, so hopefully they stay healthy.


Washington Football Team: Coming into the season, the Washington Football Team’s defense was thought to be it’s strong suit, but through six weeks they rank 31st in total defense. For a defense with as good a front four as Washington has, more is expected. With such a poor defense, it comes as no surprise that the team currently sits at 2-4. Washington has suffered some big injuries already. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hurt his hip in Week One and was put on the IR shortly afterwards. Taylor Heinicke has taken over the starting job, but Fitzpatrick is supposed to be back soon. Logan Thomas, who broke out last season at tight end, was putting together another strong campaign, but he injured his hamstring against the Falcons and is expected to be out until Week Eight. Altogether, a healthy Washington team that gets more out of its defense could beat some good teams.