Over the next few weeks, analysts great and small are going to make their predictions for the 2016 NFL season. They will vary to great extents from one to the next because everyone has a team they are high on.
You will hear pontification directed at teams like the Jaguars, Raiders, Buccaneers and Cowboys, making outrageous claims because, in many ways, that is what makes the NFL what it is.
The great equalizer in the NFL is injuries. Take Aaron Rodgers away from the Packers and they’ll lose all three games played against division opponents at Lambeau like they did last year.
A year later, the Vikings aren’t in such dire straits – coming off a division title-winning season. Defensive lineman B.J. Dubose (pictured above) is the only Vikings player who is already on injured reserve to date.
They’ve taken a couple of “don’t ask, don’t tell” injuries, but nothing to the point of shutting it down.
That isn’t true everywhere.
The Buffalo Bills have already seen their defense ravaged. Aside from defensive tackle Marcel Dareus being suspended the first four games of the year, the 2016 draft already seems like a washout with first-round pick defensive end Shaq Lawson expected to miss at least the first six games with a shoulder injury and second-round linebacker Reggie Ragland expected to miss the entire season with an ACL injury. In addition, the Bills have already placed two other not-as-consequential players on injured reserve.
No matter how you look at it, the gods aren’t smiling on the Ryan brothers.
Of the other 31 teams, ironically, the only team yet to put a player on injured reserve is Green Bay.
As for the rest? As with most wars, the underlings are the first casualties. Not including players on the Physically Unable to Perform list and those who have been shut down for the remainder of preseason because they are much too valuable to risk when “W” and “L” don’t mean all that much.
For the record, while Green Bay is the only team that has yet to place a player on season-ending injured reserve since the start of training camp, others have been “victimized” – some legitimately and others by stashing players they like on the IR to get a second look at what they liked in the first place.
It would seem the Vikings’ immediate past and future have been hit the hardest with having players sidelined for the season or a good portion of it due to injury or suspension.
As of Week 2 in the preseason, here’s the running total of players already on injured reserve:
8 – San Diego, Seattle
6 – New Orleans
5 – Pittsburgh (not including wide receiver Martavis Bryant)
4 – Baltimore, Dallas (not including Demarcus Lawrence, who is suspended four games, and Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain, both of whom didn’t report)
3 – Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Tennessee, Washington
2 – Carolina, Cleveland, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco
1 – Arizona (not including linebacker Daryl Washington, who is serving a one-year suspension), Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, Jacksonville, New England, Oakland (not including linebacker Aldon Smith, who is suspended for one year), Philadelphia, Tampa Bay.
To date this year, the numbers are smaller for some than others, but there hasn’t been a devastating injury scenario outside of upstate New York’s favorite defense and the Bears’ plan at center for the other 30 teams.
But, it’s coming.
Everybody plays hurt. Not as many play injured. For the rich and famous, precaution is king. For those fighting for a job, suck it up and make the most of it.
From the team perspective, Dubose is thankfully lonely on the Vikings’ I.R. list. He won’t be for long. That’s the nature of the beast. But, the longer he remains sitting solo, the better for the 2016 Vikings because Super Bowl teams tend to be hit less by catastrophic injuries.
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Minnesota went 11-5 last year when, at this time last year, two starting offensive linemen down were already down and duct tape and Gorilla Glue were at the ready.
If they stay healthy? Get your popcorn ready.