10 NFL Teams One Injury Away from Utter Disaster in 2012
Of course, every team wants to avoid the injury bug; but teams that have been well-stocked with depth are always more prepared to survive devastating injuries than "top-heavy" teams.
Every team will face some kind of setback if they lose a starter, particularly at quarterback. However, teams like the Chiefs and Titans are better prepared to move on without a starting quarterback than the Broncos or Eagles.
Last year's Colts were a perfect example of a team that was so reliant on one player that they went from Super Bowl contenders to picking first overall in the following draft.
Here are teams that need to avoid a devastating injury in order to ensure that they can compete for championships in 2012.
New Orleans Saints
Irreplaceable Player(s): Drew Brees
Assuming Brees is under contract by the time the 2012 season is underway, the Saints absolutely cannot afford to lose Brees under any circumstances.
This would be true in just about any season, but now that Sean Payton is serving a one-year suspension, Brees' leadership is more vital to the Saints' success more than ever. Brees is not only a terrific quarterback, but he also acts as a coach on the field. Such a trait is irreplaceable, even by a competent backup quarterback.
For everything that Brees brings to the table, it is shocking that the Saints have not given him the kind of money he wants, especially with all of the issues surrounding the organization right now.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Cam Newton
Although it may not have shown a ton of improvement in the win-loss column, the Panthers were a much-improved team in 2011, thanks to their stud quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton is one of the few quarterbacks in league history that is a threat as both a pocket passer and as a runner.
If Newton were to go down, the Panthers would have to hand their offense over to either Derek Anderson or Jimmy Clausen—not exactly an ideal situation for a team trying to break through and become legitimate contenders for the first time in five years.
New York Jets
Irreplaceable Player(s): Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis
No team in the NFL is more reliant on two non-quarterbacks than the Jets are with Revis and Mangold, and rightfully so—both players are the best in the world at their respective positions.
When Darrelle Revis was out for a few games at the start of 2010 because of a hamstring injury, the Jets defense took a nosedive in pass defense. As a result, the Jets once top-ranked defense dropped to third overall, despite a perceived upgrade in personnel.
Losing Revis will take away all of the unique coverage concepts the Jets use to compensate for their lack of a pas rush.
The Jets lost Nick Mangold early last year against the Jaguars, and proceeded to suffer two straight losses to the Raiders and Ravens.
Mangold's presence was especially felt in the Ravens game, where the Jets offensive line looked completely out of sync without their leader in the middle. The Jets manufactured just 150 yards of total offense with 35 yards rushing. Mark Sanchez had his worst game of the season and never mentally recovered from the beating he took.
Mangold's absence in those two weeks had rippling effects on the entire season.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Joe Flacco
The Ravens' roster took a beating this offseason. They lost key players like Ben Grubbs and Jarrett Johnson to free agency, and now their best player, Terrell Suggs, is out for at least the majority of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon.
Flacco will have to be at his best to compensate for all of the downgrades on his supporting cast. Any kind of long-term injury to Flacco will immediately crush any hopes of the Ravens taking the next step and getting past the AFC Championship game.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson
It is no coincidence that the Lions were able to make the playoffs the first year that Stafford was able to stay healthy all season long.
When healthy, Stafford is one of the top young quarterbacks in the game. The Lions are heavily reliant on their passing attack without a consistent running game; to lose their starting quarterback would be devastating.
On the other hand, Calvin Johnson, who is coming off a 1681-yard, 16-touchdown performance in 2011, is a rare commodity that cannot be replaced. Not only is he an incredibly productive receiver, but his presence opens up the field for the Lions' other weapons to get open.
There is a reason why the Lions made Johnson the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler may be one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the game. With Cutler under center, the Bears were poised to make a postseason run last year. But after suffering a season-ending injury making a tackle on an interception, the Bears' were exposed and ultimately missed the playoffs.
Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that Cutler could get seriously injured again. The Bear's line is among the worst in football and the Bears did not make and significant improvements to the unit.
If Matt Forte is not on the team by the start of the season, it is going to put even more pressure on the Bears line and Cutler to compensate for his absence.
St. Louis Rams
Irreplaceable Player(s): Sam Bradford
After going through a bit of a sophomore slump last year, 2012 is a huge year in terms of Sam Bradford's development.
With a new offense, head coach, and a few weapons, the 2012 Rams offense are (hopefully) going to look much different than in year's past. If Bradford is to miss any time, it would set his development back even further, which would be disastrous not just for this year's team, but it would set the franchise back even further.
If Jeff Fisher is going to succeed with his new team, he needs his quarterback to stay healthy and continue to develop.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Michael Vick
When the Eagles offense is clicking on all cylinders, they are virtually unstoppable. The problem is that it is hard to maintain continuity when your starting quarterback is constantly battling an injury.
No offense to Mike Kafka, but there are few players in the league that are as difficult to defend as Michael Vick, as his mobility adds another element to the game that infuriate defensive coordinators.
Without stud left tackle Jason Peters, Vick's mobility will be essential or the Eagles. Vick will undoubtedly face more pressure this season without Peters, and he will need a healthy set of legs to keep the Eagles' offense running at top speed.
New York Giants
Irreplaceable Player(s): Eli Manning
If it was not for spectacular seasons by Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, Eli Manning would have been a legitimate league MVP candidate.
As good as players like Victor Cruz were, they certainly benefited by having Eli Manning throwing balls to them.
The Giants offensive line did not do Eli any favors either, and the running game was ranked dead last during the regular season. Without Eli, the Giants' season will be nothing but a massive disappointment.
Irreplaceable Player(s): Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware
Romo takes a lot of criticism for his late-game blunders, but the truth is that he was the primary reason why the Cowboys were even in the race to win the NFC East.
If you cannot get over his fourth quarter blunders, flashback to Week 2 against the 49ers, where Romo went back into the game with a rib and lung injury. His late-game heroics were enough to beat the 49ers, who would turn out a 13-3 record with the best defense in football.
Without Romo, the Cowboys would be certain to finish dead last in the NFC East.
Meanwhile, DeMarcus Ware is arguably the best pass-rushing linebacker in the game. As the Cowboys break in a brand new secondary, they are going to need production from their front seven to make things as easy as possible for the secondary.
Ware also opens up opportunities for guys like Anthony Spencer to apply pressure. Without Ware, Spencer's production would take a nose dive as well, at least in terms of sack numbers.