2012 NFL Predictions: Stat Predictions for Top 10 Players Coming off Injuries
Every team in the league faces injuries, some way more than others.
Injuries may just be part of the game, but they can cripple a team for a season or even help them grow together.
After the lockout last season, the league saw a wave of major injuries that crushed some teams, like the Chiefs and Colts, to the bottom of the NFL.
It's always interesting to think about how players will come off injuries, and that's what this list is intended to do. So let's take a look at some stat predictions for 10 players coming off injuries.
Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
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Maybe no team was hit with the injury plague more than the Kansas City Chiefs of last season, and it cost them possibly their top defensive player.
In just the team's first game of the year against the Buffalo Bills, Berry tore his ACL, costing him the entire 2012 season without recording a single tackle.
Berry is already one of the league's best safeties and is going to be a great piece to a defense that was already extremely talented. On a defense that already features Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Brandon Flowers, Berry could push this defense over the top and help lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs.
2012 Stat Prediction: 105 total tackles, 2 sacks, 5 interceptions
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
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By the time the Titans entered their Week 3 matchup with the Broncos, wide receiver Kenny Britt was on his way to his best season as a pro.
He had caught 17 passes for 289 yards and three scores in two-plus games.
But one hit ended that all and Britt tore his ACL and MCL, unable to return for the rest of the season.
Tennessee has been waiting for Kenny Britt to explode into one of the league's best receivers for a while now, and it looked like he was poised to do so in 2011. If he can come back in 2012 at full strength and keep himself out of trouble off the field, there's no reason Britt won't be a household name following this season.
A healthy Nate Washington and rookie Kendall Wright should also help draw coverages away from Britt, leaving him as the Titans' clear No. 1.
2012 Stat Prediction: 75 receptions, 1,250 yards, 12 touchdowns
Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo Bills
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The Bills landed the second-most popular free agent this offseason by signing Mario Williams, who only played in five games during the 2011 season.
In those five games, however, Williams accumulated five sacks and was on pace to have one of his best seasons to date before tearing his pectoral muscle against the Raiders.
Williams will go back to his natural position of defensive end in Buffalo where he'll play on a pretty stacked defensive line. 2012 could add up to a great season for the former No. 1 overall pick.
2012 Stat Prediction: 55 total tackles, 14 sacks, 5 forced fumbles
Matt Forte, HB, Chicago Bears
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Like most of the other players on this list, Forte was on pace to have his best season of his career before spraining his knee in the team's Week 12 game against the Raiders.
Forte was averaging a career-best 83 rushing yards per game, four catches per game and 40 receiving yards per game, as he accounted for almost half of the Bears offense.
Chicago had already been hit by the injury bug, but losing Forte was the final nail in the coffin. He'll be playing for a new contract, possibly not even for the Bears. Even with new weapons on the outside, I still expect Forte to be the main cog in Chicago's offense.
2012 Stat Prediction: 220 carries, 1,050 rushing yards, 5 rushing touchdowns, 50 receptions, 450 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns
James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Since the two became a starting tandem in 2008, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have combined for 89 sacks, recovered 11 fumbles and led a Steelers defense that has routinely been amongst the league's best.
But last season, Woodley and Harrison suffered hamstring and eye injuries, respectively, and were hardly on the field at the same time.
Still, despite the injuries, each player recorded nine sacks in limited time and took Pittsburgh back to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
With all the changes on the Steelers defense, one of the biggest constants has been the Woodley/Harrison combination. Barring any injuries, the two should continue to find success on the field.
2012 Stat Projection (Harrison): 95 total tackles, 11 sacks
2012 Stat Projection (Woodley): 70 total tackles, 13 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
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Maybe no QB in the game today takes more of a beating than the Bears' Jay Cutler who, before leading Chicago to a 7-3 start, broke his thumb and watched from the sidelines as his team imploded and missed the playoffs.
Cutler had been averaging about 230 yards per game with a poor receiving corps, and had thrown 13 touchdowns before going down with the thumb injury.
Chicago did a great job in the offseason re-vamping their wide receiver unit, by re-uniting Cutler with his favorite target in Denver, Brandon Marshall, and drafting Alshon Jeffrey—both of whom will help the quarterback this coming season.
2012 Stat Prediction: 3,600 pass yards, 25 touchdowns, 17 interceptions
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
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2011 was an injury-filled year for the Texans and, despite it all, the team reached the playoffs for the first time and won their first postseason game.
Star receiver Andre Johnson was no exception to the injury bug.
In the game against the Steelers, Johnson injured his knee and ended up appearing in only seven games for Houston in all of 2011, failing to record 1,000 yards for the first time since 2007 when he only played nine games.
Even when Johnson played last year, it seemed to be in small doses. He'll also have his starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, back this season.
He got sort of lost in the discussion as one of the league's best receivers after being injured last season, and I think he'll be determined to regain his status amongst the NFL's elite.
2012 Stat Prediction: 100 receptions, 1,450 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
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In 2010, Jamaal Charles established himself as one of the league's premier young running backs by rushing for over 1,000 yards for the second straight year.
In 2011, Charles was determined to make it a third straight season.
But the injury bug swarmed the Chiefs, and Charles was caught in the cross-hairs.
In Week 2, Charles tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season, finishing with only 91 total yards on the year.
Kansas City finished the year strong and will regain prominent offensive players like tight end Tony Moeki and quarterback Matt Cassel. I see no reason why Charles can't rebound in 2012, as long as he's fully healthy.
2012 Stat Prediction: 230 carries, 1,400 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
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The Vikings were absolutely putrid last season, and the only thing they had going for them tore his ACL in Week 12.
2011 was the first season of his career that Adrian Peterson failed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and the first he wasn't named to the Pro Bowl team, but he still managed to find the end zone 12 times in just over 11 games.
Peterson plans on being ready for the season opener of the 2012 season, but in my opinion won't be at full strength until at least a few games into the year. By Week 4 we should be seeing the Peterson of old, but until then, Vikings fans may be a little disappointed.
And don't worry about the supporting cast. Peterson is the best back in the league and could run for 1,000 yards on any team...even the Browns.
2012 Stat Prediction: 300 carries, 1,510 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
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By now, everybody knows the Peyton Manning injury saga, so I won't bore you with the details and I'll get right to the point.
Manning joined a Broncos team that's coming off their first playoff win in some time but, to me, really isn't ready to contend right now.
The future Hall of Famer makes any team he's on better, but he doesn't have the receivers or the offensive line he did in Indy—not to mention that John Fox (although a very good coach and one of my personal favorites) is no Tony Dungy.
Denver does supply Manning with his first legitimate rushing attack since Edgerrin James and a defense that he's never had but, to me, the Broncos aren't as good a team as Kansas City and will most likely be contending for a wild-card spot.
If Manning wanted to go somewhere simply to win, he should've gone to San Francisco.
2012 Stat Prediction: 4,320 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions
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Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers
Even with Kuechly coming in, "Beast"-on should still be the Panthers' leading tackler on defense.
Stat Projection: 140 total tackles, sack, interception
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans
Texans made the playoffs for the first time without him. With him, they're the most complete team in the AFC.
Stat Projection: 4,500 pass yards, 33 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Nate Kaeding, K, San Diego Chargers
Coming off a torn ACL in Week 1, Kaeding should be ready to roll come the start of the 2012 season.
Stat Projection: 24/30 FGM, 56 long
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
He became the Cowboys' go-to back last season and figures to do the same in 2012.
Stat Projection: 225 carries, 1,140 rush yards, 11 rush touchdowns