NFL Power Rankings Week 11: How Injuries Will Impact NFL Landscape
Power rankings mean very little in the grand scheme of the NFL, but they start to have a bit more validity as the NFL season enters the final stretch. One thing that can greatly alter a team's standings down the stretch is injury issues—so Bleacher Report is looking at every roster to see how each team will be impacted by injured players.
Several teams already have injury issues that will haunt them over the final third of the season.
There are countless examples of teams that floundered after an onset of injuries, but only a few rare teams have excelled despite significant losses.
The 2010 Green Bay Packers are an example of impressive teamwork in the wake of rampant injury.
So which teams will fall out of the playoff picture in 2012? They are peppered throughout the rankings, but please share your thoughts on which teams should move up or down.
1. Houston Texans (8-1)
This team is mostly healthy and will be difficult to beat. They are near the top of the league in points scored and allowed.
The loss of Brian Cushing will hurt, but the defense is deep enough to respond. They'll also want Ben Tate back for the playoffs.
Otherwise, the injury report consists of a dozen players listed as "probable" and a few that are questionable.
2. Denver Broncos (6-3)
The only real injury worry that faced the Broncos in 2012 was Peyton Manning. For those that have missed it, he's doing quite well.
Denver has a few players on injured reserve they were expecting production from, but the losses aren't significant. The team is fairly healthy and ready to roll after playing most of their difficult competition early in the schedule. The Denver Post tweeted that both Elvis Dumervil and DJ Williams were back at practice:
Denver has two teams left on their schedule with a winning record. Baltimore with severe injury concerns is one, along with Tampa Bay.
3. Atlanta Falcons (8-1)
If even a few of the players on Atlanta's injury report were to miss any time, the team would be in trouble. But only two of the 12 players listed are out, and most of the balance are a form of gamesmanship that has become commonplace in the NFL.
FFToolbox.com (@fftoolbox) November 17, 2012
I'm not completely sold the Falcons should be this high, but not because of injury. I don't expect the injury report to lead to issues, and the injured reserve list doesn't raise red flags.
The reason I'm not sold on Atlanta is that they haven't played anyone. They won their first eight games, but only one of those teams has a winning record.
The problem is they have three games remaining, and they are against only winning teams.
4. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
The Packers' current injury report consists of almost a third of the team. They've had issues at wide receiver but have continued to work their offense. Greg Jennings isn't back yet, but the offense will be fine.
The issue is the loss of Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson this week. Green Bay's defense takes a step back without those two.
Cedric Benson's return is a needed. The Pack are lacking in the ground game, and losing Bryan Bulaga for the season makes matters worse.
But Green Bay has enough depth and options to continue winning.
5. Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
I thought we would see the Ravens stumble with their injury issues, but it hasn't happened. Their pending showdown with the Steelers could be decided because of an injury but not on their end.
Ben Roethlisberger isn't expected to be available on Sunday or for the Week 13 matchup.
The Ravens have lost Lardarius Webb for the season and Ray Lewis is on injured reserve, able to return. Other injury issues include Terrence Cody (NT), Pernell McPhee (DE) and Jimmy Smith (CB), with Smith missing most of the rest of the season following groin surgery.
If the team can limp along, they don't have a big challenge until Week 15.
6. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)
Part of San Francisco's success in 2011 was staying relatively healthy. What are the odds of that extending to 2012?
Pretty good so far, pending the ability of Alex Smith, who is expected to take the field on Monday.
The team has just one person on injured reserve, linebacker Parys Haralson.
7. Chicago Bears (7-2)
The Bears have some work to do in the coming seven weeks. They start a tough run of games without Jay Cutler, as they visit the 49ers.
No shock Jay Cutler is already pronounced out for Monday. Lovie Smith has often held guys out additional time for concussions— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) November 16, 2012
Chicago will also host Seattle and Green Bay, while playing the Vikings twice over the next five games. They will struggle if Cutler isn't back soon.
8. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
The Seahawks have been hampered with injuries in recent seasons, particularly on the offensive line. They've had further problems in 2012, primarily with their first two draft picks of 2011, but they have the depth to move players around.
The biggest concern is the absence of K.J. Wright, who sustained a concussion early in Week 9. The defense takes a step back without him, but a Week 11 bye and the Dolphins in Week 12 give him time to heal without being missed.
9. New England Patriots (6-3)
The Patriots pioneered using the discovery process of burying information within overwhelming injury reports.
Their biggest issue currently is Aaron Hernandez. The team is managing without him, but they'll need him down the stretch and for the playoffs.
New England also needs to get Logan Mankins back in the lineup.
10. Indianapolis Colts (6-3)
The Colts will likely miss Vontae Davis on Sunday against the Patriots. They have survived the loss of Austin Collie and should get Coby Fleener back soon.
The Colts are healthy, with Buffalo, Detroit, Tennessee and Kansas City remaining on the schedule. It is looking like a promising rookie season for Andrew Luck.
Who wins the NFC North?
11. Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
The Vikings didn't get the game they wanted from their No. 1 receiver in Seattle, but not many teams do. They won last week without Percy Harvin and should have him back after their Week 11 bye.
The only other notable injury story was the amazing return of Adrian Peterson.
12. Dallas Cowboys (4-5)
DeMarco Murray could be back from his foot injury next week. He will be critical for a team that is poised to make a run at the NFC East down the stretch. The Giants have a better record, but Dallas has an easier remaining schedule and is playing better football right now.
13. New York Giants (6-4)
Who wins the NFC East?
The Giants have worked through temporary injuries at wide receiver and running back, but they have adequate depth at those positions. They are on a bye in Week 11 and should come out healthy next week.
Something has been wrong with the Giants since their thrashing of the 49ers in San Francisco, but it isn't injury related.
14. New Orleans Saints (4-5)
Hard to believe 10 wins are possible for a team that started out so poorly (0-4). If the defense continues to improve, they could get there, but nine seems more realistic.
They have welcomed a few key players back and shouldn't miss Greg Romeus too much.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4)
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)
This is the team hardest hit by injuries, even if it is just one person. I don't believe Pittsburgh can weather their upcoming schedule without Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers play Baltimore twice and have San Diego and Dallas coming up.
If the dire diagnosis ends up with a quicker recovery then Pittsburgh will jump back up the rankings.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said he does not believe his rib injury is season ending but he is unsure when he'll play again.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 14, 2012
There are several other issues facing Pittsburgh, though. Safety Troy Polamalu, wide receiver Antonio Brown, offensive guard David DeCastro and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert are all missing time. The team also has a pair of linebackers on injured reserve.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5)
The Bengals lost five members of their secondary for the season. They had a big win last weekend, and injuries don't currently look like an issue going forward.
This team should be 6-5 soon and in a position to make a move.
18. Buffalo Bills (4-6)
The Bills have had injury issues at running back, but between C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson that is a position with great depth. The team is fairly healthy and could make a run at a winning record.
Mario Williams is finally at full strength, and he's making an impact.
19. Tennessee Titans (4-6)
Jake Locker might have breathed a little life into the Titans when he returned from injury last weekend. However, his play was a bit rusty, and Miami's struggles are mostly to blame.
The Titans are fairly healthy and alive—but barely.
20. Detroit Lions (4-5)
It is hard to figure out the Lions, but it is tough to pin performance issues on injuries. They lost Nate Burleson, but that has only opened up opportunities for players that are performing better.
The Lions have their backs against the wall on Sunday.
21. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1)
The Rams started off quickly but have struggled in recent weeks. They are down a pair of offensive linemen, which makes life difficult for Sam Bradford.
22. Washington Redskins (3-6)
The Redskins were off to a strong start, and Pierre Garcon was a big part of their Week 1 win. They need him back and contributing. Fred Davis would certainly help too.
Protection has been an issue—which is where the loss of Jammal Brown comes in—but injuries aren't what will keep the Redskins from closing out strong.
23. San Diego Chargers (4-5)
So much talent, so few injuries and such disappointing results. The Chargers could make a stretch run but will need to get by Denver and Baltimore in the next two weeks.
They need Jared Gaither in the lineup, and Aubrayo Franklin would give the defense a boost.
24. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)
Injuries to the offensive line (Levi Brown) have led to injuries at quarterback, not to mention the lack of a consistent ground game. The team also misses Ryan Williams but mostly needs a healthy and capable offensive line.
This season could have been much different for the Cards.
25. Miami Dolphins (4-6)
I don't believe injuries have had much to do with the Dolphins going from contender to train wreck—neither will they have anything to do with a move to the top five in the draft.
That has more to do with the Seahawks, Patriots and 49ers coming up on the schedule.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6)
If Michael Vick missed the rest of the season would Eagles fans care? They were asking for Nick Foles, and now they'll get him, like it or not.
I had proposed an Eagles trade for Tarvaris Jackson to add a veteran for when Vick missed time this season. It doesn't matter at this point, as Philly is out of the playoff picture, so they might as well give Foles some experience.
27. Oakland Raiders (3-6)
I have asserted the Raiders were going to step up and surprise a few teams. It hasn't happened. The loss of Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson doesn't help, but their issues go well beyond one position.
They have missed Jacoby Ford and temporary losses of Richard Seymour, Tyvon Branch and Darrius Heyward-Bey certainly won't help.
28. Carolina Panthers (2-7)
The Panthers have 10 players out on injured reserve. Some of them weren't expected to make an impact, but they have pairs of interior offensive linemen, linebackers and corners that have been and will be missed.
29. New York Jets (3-6)
The loss of Darrelle Revis was certainly huge for the Jets; their defense centered on his abilities. Losing Santonio Holmes didn't help either, as it left the team without a true No. 1 receiver.
But the Jets' struggles can't be pinned on those two players. Some fans have hoped for a minor injury, so Tim Tebow could get some playing time.
30. Cleveland Browns (2-7)
The Browns were fortunate that Trent Richardson's injuries weren't serious. He easily could have missed more time, but would it have mattered?
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8)
The loss of Maurice Jones-Drew meant the Jaguars had to trudge on without their best offensive weapon. Rashad Jennings is a good backup, but he isn't in the same class as MJD.
Blaine Gabbert can't carry this team. Perhaps we should pretend Justin Blackmon is injured, and he'll be back next season to make an impact.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)
The Chiefs didn't have a decent quarterback to begin with, but bouncing injured starters around certainly didn't help.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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