NFL Preseason: 10 Injuries That Could Derail Entire Teams
Injuries are unfortunately part of the game of football, which means every preseason game has the potential of producing season-ending injuries.
Exactly this happened on Monday night when New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas tore his right ACL in the team's 41-13 win over the Chicago Bears.
Thomas’ injury is yet another hit to a Giants defense that has been struck by injuries over the past years.
However, what if injuries happen to key players on offense or defense?
Injuries to the following ten players could derail the whole team and turn 2011 into a nightmare.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
An injury to starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers would mean the end to any hopes of a possible Super Bowl repeat.
The 27-year-old Rodgers is the heart and soul of the defending champions. He threw for 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 2010 and had a QB rating of 101.2.
Rodgers’ backup Matt Flynn has started only one game in his three years with the Packers and does not seem to have the talent of Aaron Rodgers.
Without Rodgers, the Packers will struggle to make the playoffs in the NFC North.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
The situation is not much different in New England. The team stands and falls with quarterback Tom Brady.
The three-time Super Bowl champion is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He holds the single-season record for touchdown passes with 50 and has a career QB rating of 95.2.
His backup, Brian Hoyer, has thrown for 122 yards in two years with the Patriots. To expect him to replace Brady in the case of an injury seems ridiculous, but who knows, replacing Drew Bledsoe with Brady seemed ridiculous too.
Nevertheless, without their starting quarterback the Patriots are nothing more than an average football team.
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts
No other player in this league has more influence on a team’s performance than Peyton Manning has on his Indianapolis Colts.
The arguably best quarterback in the history of football is the Colts one-man show. If the 35-year-old quarterback has a good day the Colts can beat anybody, but if he has a bad day the Colts can also lose to anybody.
To talk about his backup would be a waste of time because there is no backup for Peyton Manning.
The four-time NFL MVP still has not fully recovered from a neck surgery he had in May. According to ESPN, Manning will not be ready to play in the regular season opener against the Houston Texans, which is a huge setback for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
4. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a lot going for them at the moment, but the Niners’ rush defense is one of the league's best.
In 2010, the defense around leader Patrick Willis was able to hold their opponents to 96.7 rushing yards per game—sixth-best in the NFL.
Without Willis, the 49ers’ defense often seems lost and disorganized. An injury to their leader could turn one of the best rushing defenses into a headless assemble of potential.
San Francisco needs Willis to have a shot at the playoffs, even in a weak NFC West division.
5. Troy Polamalu, DB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Over the last two seasons the Steelers are 15-4 with Polamalu playing, but 6-7 without him on the field.
He has tremendous instincts, which allow him to make plays that seem impossible to everybody else.
The 30-year-old Polamalu is the poster child of the NFL’s best defense and the one player that Pittsburgh needs more than anybody else to win its seventh Super Bowl in franchise history.
6. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan proved last season that he has arrived as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. He led his Atlanta Falcons to a 13-3 season and an NFC South division title.
He threw 28 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 2010. Atlanta’s triple threat offensive with RB Michael Turner and WR Roddy White presents a challenge for any NFL defense.
Losing to the eventual Super Bowl champions in the NFC divisional playoff round showed that Ryan, who’s going into his fourth NFL season, has to step up his game in those situations, but the future of the Falcons looks bright as long as Ryan stays healthy.
7. Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
What happened last season in Southern California? Philip Rivers had the best season of his career so far, but the team ended up with a 9-7 record missing the playoffs.
Rivers led the league in total yards with 4,710, yards per attempt with 8.7 and yards per game with 294.4. In addition he threw 30 touchdowns and held his interceptions to 13.
And now imagine the San Diego Chargers without a quarterback who puts up those numbers. Bye, bye San Diego and here we go L.A.!
8. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
2010 was a year of ups and downs for the Minnesota Vikings. They started the season as one of the Super Bowl favorites and ended up missing the playoffs by putting up a 6-10 record.
One of the few bright spots was the continuous improvement of Adrian Peterson, one of the top, if not the best, running backs in the league. He finished the season with 12 touchdowns and only one fumble.
Peterson has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of his first four NFL seasons and was able to work on his ball protection, which fueled doubters about his elite status.
Without Peterson, the Vikings offense will be as exciting to watch as one of Brett Favre’s jeans commercials.
9. Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens
I don’t think I have to say much about Ray Lewis. He is the leader of a defense, which has been among the best for over a decade now.
Yes, he’s getting older and yes, he’s getting slower, but just Ray Lewis’ presence makes everybody around play just a little bit harder.
Baltimore would lose its fear factor if Ray Lewis were not be playing.
10. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
The thing with Tony Romo is that you are not really sure what you get. Statistically, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but his postseason record of 1-3 is worrisome.
The 31-year-old quarterback has made more headlines with dating actresses, singers and models instead of leading America’s Team back to glory.
Despite all those doubts that come along with Romo, he seems to have the talent to make things happen.
His career QB rating of 95.1 should be proof enough that he just has to get rid of the monkey on his back they call postseason.
The Cowboys, without Romo behind the center, would most likely experience a déjà-vu of the 2010 season.